The End

This blog is now closed. The story continues over on Flip Flops and Flying Carpets.

Thank you for reading.

Missing Her

"I love my sister very much," she is eager to say. I correct her and say that Adam is her brother. Sometimes she'll agree, other times I am told "Actually, my sister" - the little knowitall.

She's been incredible. She has adored Adam from the first moment she laid eyes on him when he was one day old. She showers him with hugs and kisses and, now that she's no longer terrified of the sound it, tells him it's all going to be ok when he cries.

For a few days, it was myself and David she seemed to feel betrayed by. She didn't appreciate our disappearing act one bit, although she accepted it because she was prepared. But even now, she still talks about how I went away to get Adam out of my tummy. The shouting and hitting which greeted us upon our return from hospital has calmed down now, but her insecurities still resurface every now and then. She is a sensitive soul.

And I miss her. I miss being able to do things with her at any time, I miss being able to drop everything and read to her or be silly with her. I know I can still do all this - and I do, but it's not always at a time when she is open to it, so I often miss the window of opportunity. I miss being able to be the one to take her to the park at the drop of a hat. I hate having to send her off with others to have her fun because I haven't had the chance to get dressed yet and the very thought of getting everyone and everything together makes me cry.

It's all about balance, I know. She won't remember a time when it was just about her, she's already adapting perfectly to having a little brother around who also has needs, and she supports that. But I remember that time, and I am the one struggling with it.

Adam's Birth Story, Part II

Disclaimer: I won't try to deny it. This is a birth story, there will be talk of things some people find disgusting, even unmentionable. You are free to read on, or you are free to close the window now. It's your choice and I take no responsibility for it!

[Read Part I]

So we slept. And just before 3am, I woke up to use the loo, just like I always did. I stumbled into the ensuite in darkness (the only way I could afterwards ensure I'd get back to sleep), and sat on the loo. Something felt weird. Something wasn't right. This was way too much wee. And it didn't seem to be coming out of the right place either. I sat there wondering what to do - darkness and semi-conscious state not helping. I'd worn a maternity pad the night before because of the bleeding, which came in useful. I decided there's no way this could be my waters, so I got back up and tried to get back to bed.

I barely made it to the bathroom door and my pj trousers were drenched. I think I may have stood there, light now on, wondering what to do for a few moments. I stared at myself in the mirror, confused. I'd mentioned it several times before to friends - I didn't think there was any chance of my waters breaking early this time. Despite the "Hollywood Gush" we so often see in movies, it's actually a very small percentage of pregnancies where labour starts off with waters breaking. It had already happened to me with Emily. There was no way it would happen again.


This time, at least, David wasn't two hours away and unreachable.

I shouted his name and he was awake. "I think my waters have broken." (Stupid statement of the year right there.) "I don't know what to do, should I call the midwife?"

No, I called my mother. I couldn't bring myself to wake a relative stranger up at 3am. My mother encouraged me to call her, and the midwife, Anna, knew it was me right away. She asked me to head to hospital just to monitor baby and ensure all was well, as I wasn't yet contracting although I could feel that the cramps had gotten slightly worse. The plan of action was to meet her there after my mother arrived to take care of Emily

Emily. Oh God. I couldn't leave her, I couldn't do this. Adrenaline pumping through my body, I began shaking uncontrollably (I remembered this well from last time) and couldn't think straight. I decided it was the right time to bring some more of Emily's books out of the storage bags they'd been in for weeks. Yes, that irrational.

I then dressed up and ate an apple. I went into Emily's room to say bye and whisper an explanation to her sleeping self, trying not to cry. And I waited for my mother to get here.

The first contraction hit around 4am as I got into the car, but there were no others after it, just cramps. We got to the hospital and all I could think of was the amazing smell of baking bread coming from the bakers' in the pjazza.

At around 5am, Anna checked me and I was 2cm dilated. Good start, considering it was on the back of just one proper contraction. We considered going back home to wait until the contractions really kicked in, but with rush hour looming and my instincts telling me I should stay put (they haven't failed me once recently), we decided to stay.

I wanted an active birth this time so I stood back up and that was when the contractions began in earnest. We never got round to timing them this time, not properly anyway. There was a point where we acknowledged that, hmm they were coming quicker now, but I was coping well, many times carrying on the conversation through contractions, and tweeting in between. If I laid down or sat down, the contractions stopped. Once I stood back up, they came back with a vengeance. Not your typical labour, but it was certainly happening.

By 6am I was at about 5.5cm and still coping very well. My TENS machine wasn't even out of it's bag yet. I wasn't quite talking through contractions any longer though. I randomly mentioned to David that I had a feeling we would be done by 9am.

By 8am I was at 8cm, but getting very tired and annoyed at myself for going to bed so late. The Lucozade was what kept me going, and I finally asked for the TENS. I know I was also aware that Emily would now be awake and I suspect this put me on edge slightly.

And then transition. At this point, things changed. I started saying (daft) things I have no recollection of, and I began to lose confidence. Anna had explained that although he was engaged, Adam wasn't low enough. This is possibly what made Emily's second stage last so long too. So she had to help him out a little bit with every contraction. I was in no mood to cooperate, especially because this hurt more than the contractions themselves.

I started feeling the need to push, but I was stuck at 9.5cm, so more help. For most of third stage, I was squatting, leaning against David. As had happened with Emily, my contractions weren't strong enough so I was given a Syntometrine injection to help things along (as well as to ensure my placenta delivered this time), and another one soon after as the first wasn't doing enough. I asked David to get the TENS off me, damn wire kept getting tangled in my arm.

Soon I was too tired to stay on my feet any longer. All I wanted to do was curl up and sleep. I know the thought crossed my mind to ask everyone to leave at one point. I just wanted to be done with it, I was bored of being in pain, fed up, and just so very tired.

Suddenly I noticed everyone getting excited. He was coming. What? We hadn't been at this for hours yet! Somewhere deep inside, something woke up and helped me through that last bit. Within a few pushes, his head was out, then his body, then suddenly - what seemed to be out of nowhere - I was holding my beautiful, vernixy, wailing baby. And I fell in love all over again. Madly.

I asked David what time it was. He checked his watch. "What time did you say he'd be here by?" "Nine," I replied. "It's 8:58!" I had been pushing for all of about 25 minutes.

My placenta delivered within minutes - a moment full of relief after over two hours of waiting last time! We had asked Anna earlier for the cord to be left to pulsate before it was cut, and when it did stop, David again wasn't keen to cut it, so I did instead (and quite pleased about it too!)

Adam was still screaming away, we managed some skin to skin but he wasn't pinking up fast enough so he was transferred to an incubator for a while until he warmed up enough. In the meantime I was given the happy news that I needed no stitches and tried to relax, but the contractions kept going and were getting worse again. About an hour later, several very large blood clots were delivered (!) and then it all thankfully calmed down.

We had a room ready for me and Adam next door, and were eager to be transferred there, but I needed a shower first. I looked like I was part of a murder investigation. I felt fine so Anna helped me up and into the shower and suddenly, everything almost went black. So quickly back to bed it was and I had a quick flannel wash and then really quickly moved next door (near black out again). Some lunch solved the problem but I was unable to get back out of bed on my own until very late that evening, simply due to being too achey!

I am told that one of the things I kept going on about during transition was the lack of perfection. I wasn't doing it well, it wasn't as perfect as it should have been, I should be doing this, I should be doing that. I don't even recall saying these things so I can't possibly begin to understand what I was on about, but looking back, if there was anything this birth was, it was perfect. I am so pleased to have fought for this and to have been given the chance to do it all over again. And more than anything, I am grateful to the people who supported me in getting a natural birth, safely, and for delivering my beautiful son to my arms.

Adam John
Born 21st March 2013 at 8:58am
Weighing 3.4kg / 7lbs 5oz

With special thanks to the team at St James Hospital, Zabbar,
my parents and in-laws for taking care of Emily while we were "checking Mummy's tummy",
and of course, my super, amazing husband for being a rock and never leaving my side.

Adam's Birth Story, Part I

Disclaimer: I won't try to deny it. This is a birth story, there will be talk of things some people find disgusting, even unmentionable. You are free to read on, or you are free to close the window now. It's your choice and I take no responsibility for it!

The morning of Wednesday 20th March, I woke up in an excellent mood. That was the day I should have been going under the knife in a planned c-section had my original gynae had her way. I had escaped it and I felt supported by so many friends, family members and medics alike, and finally I even felt confident again that my body could do the job it was designed to do. I was having an "I am woman, hear me roar" day. To top it off, I had even had a good night's sleep, only having woken once to use the loo (as opposed to the three and sometimes even four times of more recent nights).

I then went to the bathroom before breakfast and realised I'd had a show, and there was fresh blood. I took this as a good sign. Emily's show involved old blood and she was born a week later. Considering my cervix was already well on its way to being fully effaced the Saturday before (when my midwife told me she didn't quite think I'd make it until my appointment on the 23rd), I took it as a sign that things were happening. I even told David to ensure he'd handed things over at work, just in case.

See, 21st March was my gut feeling day. I'd even noted it in the due date sweepstakes a few weeks before. My mother also had a feeling it would be that day, and when her work got cancelled for the rest of March a few days earlier, thus freeing her schedule completely, our gut feeling grew substantially. Sometimes the universe just knows.

Emily and I had an excellent day that day, just chilling out and having fun. There were no arguments, just fun times. I fell asleep in the afternoon and she let me sleep well beyond her own nap time. She waited for me, reading in her dark room, and then greeted me with a big hug and a kiss. It was the perfect day, and all the more perfect - unbeknownst to us - because it was the last day we'd spend together as just us girls.

I reinforced what we'd already been telling her for several weeks throughout the day: "Soon, it will be time for Adam to come out of Mummy's tummy, so Mummy and Daddy will go to the doctor and Emily will have fun with Nannu and Nanna." It was language she understood, having explained it to us in those (almost exact) words herself. We didn't dare drift too far from what she understood, and it paid off. She'd then carry on and excitedly tell me about how we'd put him in his little cot, and especially about how he would be bringing her a present.

David got home and we bathed her and read her favourite book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, and put her to bed, all the while very much aware we may not be there to do so the next day. I'd been having very particular cramping throughout the day, and a few very strong Braxton Hicks (although no regularity whatsoever), and the bleeding continued.

We then chilled out and watched the last few episodes of Mr Selfridge and then remembered it was Grey's Anatomy night so we watched that too. We went to bed at midnight (in hindsight, not the smartest of moves), and on my way, as usual, I stopped by Emily's room where I completely lost my cool and started crying. On some level, I knew she wouldn't be my only baby after that night and my heart broke a little bit. I was grateful for the fun day we'd had together, but I was worried about her reaction, and worried that she may be upset when she didn't find us there in the morning. I shrugged it off, gave her a quiet kiss, and went to bed.

[Read Part II]

Then There Were Four

It turned out I didn't have too long to wait. I'll go into detail when I write up his birth story, but for now, suffice it to say that Adam arrived ten days early on Thursday 21st March 2013 at 8:58am, weighing 3.4kg / 7lbs 5oz. It was the natural birth I had fought for.

Emily has met him and is as much in love with him as we are. And if I was ever concerned about not bonding with him, I needn't have worried. It all fell into place within seconds of his birth and all I want to do is hold and cuddle him.

Welcome to the world, little man :)

[Read Adam's Birth Story here]

Once Again, Emily's Room

Less than a year after I showed you her last new room, and for what will not be the final time (we move again later on this year), here is Emily's new room. She loves it. It is the first time we've been able to spend hours playing in a room of hers. I read in the armchair while she colours, or we play together. She will sometimes stop and look around her and exclaim with glee, "My room!" Yup, she likes it here.

As this is a rented apartment, we have not painted the walls or hung up all her wall decorations, but they are being saved for her next room, which is approximately the same size. I do miss her pink walls though!

Behind the Scenes - The Ongoing Battle

There's a lot I haven't said over the past few weeks. I can't and won't keep quiet any longer. Here goes. 

When I was an Emma's Diary blogger for a short time, one of my posts focused on the excellent maternity care I experienced at Medway Maritime Hospital in Kent. Here is part of that post.

Dear Midwives,

A short thank you note. For listening to my every request (coherent or otherwise). For taking the time to read through every word of my birth plan and discussing points you were unsure of with me. For offering advice, but not forcing it upon me. For speaking to me calmly and encouragingly. For our chats and jokes between contractions. For always being there and for explaining every little thing that was happening. For never letting me feel scared. For trying your very (very) best to honour my every request. For your caring, calming, smiling faces.

For my toast and tea once Emily was born. Nothing has ever tasted so yummy.


[Full post here]

Reading that back right now has me in tears. It's nothing to do with hormones, sadly. And they're certainly not happy tears. My situation at the moment couldn't be more different...

This time, in Malta, I am dealing with a gynaecologist, not a midwife.

This time, my sheer mention of a birth plan has been smirked at. "Rip it up," I was told.

This time, I am fighting to be allowed the chance to labour naturally. Excuse after excuse has been crafted to push me into having a c-section. And when that failed, more reasons found, this time to attempt to convince me an induction would be needed. All still hypothetical of course but not exactly the start you want. (The first time my gynaecologist talked to me about the non-surgical childbirth procedure at the local hospital was yesterday, at my 36 week appointment - because I specifically asked her for details.)

Last time, I was relaxed and focused on what was about to come. This time, I am fighting what feels like an often losing battle simply to give me the chance to labour without unnecessary intervention.

Medicine is an amazing thing - but to support, and not replace, nature.

Sadly it seems that here in Malta childbirth has been turned into a production line, with surgeons waiting, scalpel in hand, for any little reason they can find to cut. I've spoken to so many woman over the past few weeks who have been pushed into c-sections for very vague (and sometimes unknown) reasons. It's shocking. Childbirth and nature are a beautiful thing, and so many women here are denied the chance to ever experience it.

These last couple of weeks, I have felt like a helpless, caged animal. I am full of despair and very much saddened. And the worst part is that because of everything they've tried to convince me will go wrong, it has begun to affect my confidence in my body's ability to do what it was made to do. Don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to be irresponsible. I am in no way trying to put my life and that of my son at risk. Should intervention be necessary, I will welcome it. But I want to know that the people making the decisions can be trusted not to be too scalpel-happy. I need to feel like I am in safe hands, which I currently don't. And to be told that intervention will happen regardless... that just doesn't sit right with me.

And to those who will still try and convince me that it doesn't matter, that all that matters is that me and my baby are safe (which is of course of utmost importance too, but still no reason to override nature for absolutely no reason), I only recommend that you read this: The Pot Plant Analogy

And if you want to argue that I am hallucinating or paranoid (as my gynae tried to do), remember that the C-Section rate in Malta in 2011 was 32.3% of births, and currently the highest rate of inductions in the EU. And here's some more light reading: 
Malta almost sees pregnancy as an illness (MaltaToday, 2012)
Induced births and high rate of births by Caesarean section (Times of Malta, 2011)
Malta's C-Section rate needs to be halved  (The Independent, 2009)

I should be able to be focusing on Emily during these last few weeks, enjoying our time alone - just me and her for the last time. Instead my every waking moment seems to be filled with research to find the information I need - information my gynae has warped, seemingly to support a different agenda.

Why was I told my placenta was low lying when it wasn't
Why have I been told I have an average amount of amniotic fluid, only to be told in the same breath that I'm carrying too much fluid?
Why am I being told that the baby not yet being engaged is a problem? Second and subsequent babies very rarely engage before labour begins.
Why am I being told I need to head to hospital at the first sign of labour and not be allowed to labour at home? The more time spent labouring in hospital increases the risk of intervention being necessary.

I've done the research, I'm no fool. I know this is all wrong! Why am I being treated like an idiot and told off for being informed? Why am I paying a gynaecologist to misinform, confuse, and upset me? My instincts scream bloody murder every time I think of all this.

So at this late stage in my pregnancy, we are looking into our options. As quickly as we possibly can. And there aren't very many options here in Malta. But we're trying. We have to. I will not sit back and take it. That's what created this mess in the first place.

And all the while, all I can think of is that brand spanking new midwife-led unit at Medway Maritime.... and the tears return. I shouldn't need to fight this battle, not at this late stage in the pregnancy, not at all, not when I had a perfectly normal delivery last time. I have to win this war. 

UPDATE, 08/03/2013
This morning I met a doctor who hugely supports natural birth. He rescanned me and could see no problem whatsoever with letting labour progress naturally. My placenta is very high and thus completely out of the way, the amount of amniotic fluid is perfectly normal, baby is in the position he needs to be and thriving. He also confirmed that engagement generally happens during labour with second babies onwards. We spoke the same language and were looking at things through the same lens. I will be continuing under his care and am now very excited about it all. 

I'll be clear - I am not saying that my previous gynae is a bad person. She probably has orders from above which she needs to follow. However, I firmly believe that patient and doctor need to be on more or less the same page about the way things are done in order for a patient to feel safe. I certainly believe that a patient should not be ridiculed or belittled for having certain opinions. A relationship like that will never work, in whatever scenario. 

So I'm glad I fought. I'm glad I found people to support me and give me the chance to have a second natural birth. They know who they are and I cannot ever begin to thank them enough. They have kept me sane throughout this. And Emily... well, I realised today just how awful I've been lately. Today I feel like a new person, on a new lease of life, and my relationship with her has already seen the benefits. Here's to the next few weeks until Baby A chooses to arrive, as naturally as possible.

I sit here writing this with a big smile on my face, celebrating with a piece of chocolate, while Baby A bounces with hiccups.

Dear Baby A

I've wanted to write this letter for a long time, and yet I can never quite find the words. The words still aren't there now, but the feelings finally are. It's been a hard pregnancy, though not in the traditional way. It's been full of change and big, sometimes difficult, emotions to deal with. I've cried lots, and I've ignored your playful dancing at times, waving it away - I'm too busy to enjoy this. But lately, now that we're settling in and the worst of it all is behind us, I have slowly come to appreciate your clumsy tumbling around, and I have taken note of your sleep patterns and your excitable reaction to your sister's voice.

Slowly, you have become a person to me. You're not just an annoying bump that has made the move so much more impractical, so much more frustrating. You are a living, loving, playful little boy. You seem to have my nose and your Daddy's love for football (or whatever sport it is you're practicing in there). You adore your big sister already and she loves showering you with hugs and kisses, and "checking" in on you with various play doctor's equipment, making you react to her often cold hands.

And it's become exciting again. Just as it was in the beginning, when we knew we wanted you so badly. And when we found out you were on the way. And when the pregnancy turned out to be so much easier than your sister's was. Before I forgot to be excited because so much else took over, and needed to be dealt with. And I'm sorry about it, I really am. I promise I'll make up for it all with so many cuddles and kisses once you're in my arms, you won't know what's hit you.

I'm eager and I'm excited. I want to know what you look like, what you feel like. I want to discover how completely different you are to Emily (I already know you are!) and get to know you in your own right. I want to watch you and her get to know each other, learn each other's ways and adapt to each other.

So whenever you're ready, Little A, you needn't be scared to join the fold. We're looking forward to getting to know you.

Don't forget to have a guess at Baby A's arrival date and weight here!

Baby Sweepstakes II

It's that time in pregnancy again. Feels like just last week I was organising sweepstakes for Emily's arrival! But now that I've been given the all-clear for a natural delivery (placenta has been hugely cooperative and has moved well out of the way, even by Maltese standards (long story)), when Baby A will turn up is anyone's guess!

I'll be 37 weeks on Sunday, and due on 31st March, so let's get guessing. You can guess date of birth and weight, or just date, or just weight. Up to you. It's just for fun. (Use metric or imperial - whichever you're more comfortable with)

Winners will get a shout out on twitter and facebook. (I'm too kind, I know.)

Here are the facts you may want to know:
I'm 5'3"
Emily was born 5 days early and weighed 6lb10oz / 3kg
According to my scan at 36+2 weeks, Baby A is currently estimated to weigh 6lbs6oz / 2.9kg and is measuring a few days ahead

Now for some comparison pictures...

Yikes! So now it's over to you. Have fun and be nice to me!! 

Springtime Treats

Featured Above
Speckled Egg and Twig Wreath by The Seasonal Barn
Watermelon Pink Resin Ring by RosellaResin
Vintage Butterfly Wall Hangings from VintageLoveJunk

Other Ideas
Hen Egg Cup by Katie's Originals
Melamine Pot Covers by Burton + Burton
Springtime Cushion by Sleepyheads England

Featured Below
Nello Spring Earrings in Aqua from Amrita Singh
Ella Red by Mia Tui

And have you come across the new Fruit Pastel Collection by Models Own? It's perfumed polish!
Pre-order the entire set for £20.00 (This is when I really begin missing shopping in the UK!)

The Big Boat Arrives

You might remember my newsflash that day (seems like weeks ago right now)... The Big Boat arrived a day ahead of schedule. This was excellent news because it meant we had a whole extra weekend to get some unpacking done. 

And so, on Thursday 21st February, we were at our rental apartment nice and early, ready to greet our 185 or so boxes and packages. It went smoothly, everything was in shortly after midday and most things even made it in one piece.*

The first van arriving. Yes, first. There were two.

First boxes on their way into the second floor apartment

The carnage

Emily was just happy to be reunited with her slide!

The following week is a complete blur. It was back and forth between apartments trying to unpack as many boxes as we could and still keep to Emily's routine as much as was possible. Nobody wants a cranky toddler around and we didn't feel it would be fair on her to unsettle her any further than we already had. With the help of several babysitters (grandparents), we pulled it off. 

Within three days, we'd set up Emily's room so she was able to nap in her new bed (which she LOVES), and within five days, we'd officially moved into the apartment. Eight days after the boxes arrived, we had a handful of boxes full of DVDs lying around the living room, and the spare room/study/storage room is, as the name suggests, a storage room for some more boxes - most containing baby clothes. Twenty or so others have gone into storage until we move into the new house in Summer, and in the meantime we can live in some sort of order. 

I'll post pictures of the apartment in all it's organised glory soon. 

* For the record, you may have seen a certain company's name on the boxes in the photos: I will make it very clear that they do not come recommended. I don't know if it was our two packers in particular that did an appalling job, in which case it's a huge pity as they let the entire company down, but I couldn't find it in me to recommend them to anyone planning an international move. So steer clear.


Ladies and Gentlemen

At almost 36 weeks into this pregnancy, I have finally been able to pack my hospital bags. General advice is that they are packed by 28 or so weeks. With Emily, they were packed by 25 (and repacked, and repacked, and repacked some more). This time, I was going slightly insane knowing I had nothing ready, then the Big Boat arrived (more about this later) and at long last I had access to my stuff. Yet still it took days until I could gather enough from various boxes and bags to create the hospital bag I needed.

Last night, when Mr Braxton Hicks was in a particularly teasing mood, David asked me to go get packed, "just in case." I didn't want to tempt fate much longer so I listened, and that's what brings us to today. I am packed. Baby A's crib is built, as is his changing unit (See what I did there? Aren't I such a tease?!) He is due in 4 weeks' time but I don't really believe he'll wait that long. We shall see. But until then, whenever he decides to make an appearance, I'm finally ready for him!

And relax.