Fear and worrying in the last trimester

*Fair warning – this is a pretty serious post. I will post a happy entry about the 3rd trimester soon. But I think it’s important to acknowledge these feelings, too.*

P1090733I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve been lucky to have a straightforward pregnancy. Physically, after the first trimester, I haven’t had real issues – no pelvic girdle pain or feelings of imbalance or even heartburn. Now, in the last trimester, some of those complaints are coming back – I can’t sleep, I’m a bit nauseous most days again, I’m getting lightheaded, my lower back is achy, and my hips ache when I’ve been for long walks.

And yet I still found myself in hospital on Tuesday, getting a scan (as I understand it, normally you don’t get a scan after 20 weeks in the UK unless there’s something to be concerned about). Everything’s absolutely fine – the baby & I are both healthy and well. We were there because apparently also standard to get a scan when your baby has been monitored for reduced fetal movement twice.

There it is: I am one of those paranoid pregnant women. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, for the past couple of months I have been absolutely terrified that when it’s all over, I will not end up taking a baby home with me. It’s particularly strange to feel like this when I’ve had so many people tell me I seem really calm about the pregnancy. And I guess I am in a lot of ways, but there are a couple of key reasons for this. One is that I feel very fatalistic about it; what will be will be, and there’s little I can do to change it. The other is that when I’m nervous, I’m really aware of how I come across to others, and work hard to seem level-headed. The truth is that I won’t allow myself to get excited. At this point, I am starting to get excited – I can’t wait to meet our little one! But every time I start to feel really excited, I make myself take a step back and remind myself that there are no guarantees. I wonder if this is normal, or if I am slightly defective. I guess it’s hard to be optimistic when you’ve already had a miscarriage. The truth is that we were so excited about that first pregnancy; we’d wanted it for some time and it was like a little marvel just for us. Having that taken away was a shock, and while I know that from a physical perspective it could’ve been much worse, we were so heavily emotionally invested, even at 8-10 weeks (contrary to what you hear, miscarriage isn’t necessarily something that happens all at once) it was devastating. So how will we cope if something happens now, at 36+ weeks? I can’t bear to think about it, yet it seems I can think about little else these days. This may be part of the reason I’m struggling to actually slow down despite being on maternity leave; I do want to relax, but being active  keeps me distracted. And it is harder and harder not to think about the miscarriage; I can’t help thinking about the fact that I should have been experiencing this trimester all the way back in February, and feeling sad about the fact that it feels like my opportunity to be excited has been stolen.

Anyway, all this means that I pay a lot of attention to the baby’s movements. Feeling it move is one of my favorite things about being pregnant. It’s even weirder when you can suddenly see the bump move, but I think it’s so cool! Unfortunately, my anterior placenta means that the movements are often muffled. Plus, I think our baby is just quiet in general. And this feeds the paranoia! It’s so hard to know whether the movements are actually reduced or it’s just behind my placenta, or whether it’s just napping more than usual. But twice I have been concerned enough to call the hospital. I am so grateful for the care the NHS have provided – not once have the midwives or doctors made me feel silly or paranoid. They’ve all been brilliant and assured me that I’ve done the right thing to call/come in. I couldn’t be more grateful for this, as it has been so reassuring & made me feel a lot less neurotic.

And if you are also pregnant, I would also encourage you to do the same – the midwives really do mean it when they say they want to see you if you are worried. Stillbirth isn’t hugely common & isn’t likely to happen to me, but it’s also not that unusual; in 2015, 1 in 227 births was a stillbirth, or around 9 per day. This means that most people won’t be affected, but if you are, obviously it would be hugely devastating. It is so, so much better to be cautious and use the healthcare that is available to you. This is not to make you as paranoid as me, but I think it is important to be aware of this. I don’t think I’ve had any conversations about this with pregnant friends and it has made me feel a little lonely, to be honest.

To get support around stillbirth or neonatal loss, do contact the charity SANDS. Tommy’s is another great organisation that funds research into baby loss. And more information on baby movement is available from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

 

 

Work in progress: baby blanket update

The center of the baby blanket is done! As you know, I’ve used some special yarn: hand-dyed and handspun in Devon. This means there’s not much of it, though, so I wasn’t able to make an entire blanket out of it. P1090723

But isn’t what I have so far pretty? I used the Indian Cross Stitch. It seems like the ideal solution to wanting some openness and yet having yarn that doesn’t really suit a lace pattern (I tried several, and none looked right).

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And I love the colors so much! They are soft & perfect for a baby without being wishy washy.

The next step is to block this, and ideally condition it to make the wool even softer. Does anyone have recommendations for something to soften it?

Now the big challenge is picking out a border. I’ll be knitting it in an undyed yarn, and it should be a really nice contrast. The hard part is picking out the pattern! I borrowed a book of edgings from work and have narrowed it down to about 6 choices, but I’m really struggling now. I really wanted to ask your opinions, but I had to return it on my last day (I’m on maternity leave now!!) and forgot to take pictures – though I did remember to photocopy the instructions, never fear. I couldn’t find pictures of most of them online. I guess I will just have to cope with the stress of decision-making this time, and you will have to be surprised. Though if you do have any favorite stitch patterns, I’d love to hear them.

25 hours in York

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At the end of August, R and I decided to take a last minute trip to York. We’d booked one earlier in the month, but unfortunately had to cancel due to a family emergency. Fortunately all went smoothly this time. This was our last trip away before the baby arrives, and I’m so glad we decided to go, even if it was a shorter visit than we would have liked.

We managed to fit in some of the classic sights – the Shambles & Betty’s. I tried a fat rascal, but unfortunately didn’t like it as I really don’t like dried fruit.

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We had a delicious meal in the evening & I can highly recommend Source if you visit. The service was brilliant. They also had the best pickles I’ve had for ages! I liked them so much that I hoped they didn’t make them in house so I could buy some (they do make them in house, unfortunately for me). P1090629

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The next morning, we had an incredible breakfast. I had pancakes with perfectly cooked bacon, while R had a black pudding stack – it was basically a full English, though. The black pudding was SO GOOD. I regretted not having some as well. I am grateful Amanda from Rhyme & Ribbons had mentioned Brew & Brownie on her blog, or we might have ended up elsewhere.

I then headed to the Minster while R wandered around some more bookshops. Don’t worry, I went to lots of bookshops, too. Books were, unsurprisingly, our main purchases in York. There are some brilliant shops in York!

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This gravestone did make me cry.

I loved that the city was full of color. I spotted lots of bunting and even some yarnbombing in the Micklethwaite area, where our hotel was. I also loved the views from the city walls.

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Overall, I loved York! Our train arrived at 1:30 one day and left at 2:30 the next, so obviously I really didn’t get to see much of it. However, we have already decided we will have to go back & see some more of Yorkshire (I am desperate to visit Brontë country).

What should we do next time we visit?

Down at the plot: July/August/September

This is likely to be my last allotment post of the year; there’s still more to be done, but frankly I’m not capable of any of it. Every now & then I might go down to see how it’s looking, and I do have plans to meet up with the friends I’m sharing with so we can talk about what will happen next year. But I have to say that I’m really disappointed with myself for not contributing more this year. I keep trying to tell myself it’s not my fault; my body’s busy making a baby, and digging, etc are probably not the most important things to be using my energy on. Nonetheless, I have a non-stop guilt complex and feel bad for making my friends do so much.

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Our courgettes and patty pan squash did really well; we’ve had so many! My cauliflower, alas, got demolished. My friend has since cleared this properly and planted some broccoli.

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The Victoria plum tree was incredibly productive this year. This is from our old plot; I am going to miss this tree so much next summer!

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We finally got around to harvesting our potatoes. The Kestrels did really well as always, but unfortunately the Rockets didn’t turn out so well. There were lots of worms and quite a few rotted. To be fair, this may be because we left them in about 6 weeks longer than we really should have.

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I spotted this mint in our new plot; I think it might be apple mint. It’s definitely not peppermint or spearmint, but it smells amazing whatever it is!

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Finally, at home, the tomatoes finally came around. I had quite a few yellow tomatoes, but the others weren’t great. I think I might give up on growing red tomatoes after this year; they never seem to do as well.

Kiftsgate Court: my new favourite English garden

This is a very delayed post, as my friend and I visited Kiftsgate Court on a whim back at the beginning of July. We had a day with no plans, but the beautiful weather meant that a garden visit was the obvious choice. Living in the Cotswolds, we really are spoiled for choice; Kiftsgate is literally right across the road from Hidcote Manor, for example!

I’ve not been to Hidcote yet, but I must say that Kiftsgate, which I’d never heard of (though it is apparently renowned for a variety of rose), shot to the top of my list of favorite country house gardens. Everyone has their own favorite style of garden, and Kiftsgate definitely captured mine. I mean, if you asked me to describe a dream garden, it would probably look like this. There was some structure, but the plants themselves were abundant, spilling out of their containers, effusive. The types of flowers really appealed to me, too, with a lot of large bushes with feathery leaves and light flowers. It’s also on a hill and had the most incredible view of the woods below! For a bit of variety, there were also some more modern aspects to the garden, such as a reflecting pool with lily pad sculptures where the tennis court used to be, and a new walk (not pictured) with modern stonework. There is of course a cafe, and while the mains were a little expensive, the cake was reasonably priced and everything we tried was clearly very fresh. The different areas of the garden aren’t always huge, which proved a challenge at times with two coachloads of German garden tourists there, but it still felt open, quiet and easy to navigate. Kiftsgate also sell some of their plants, so I came away with a meadow rue (a plant) and some angel’s fishing rods (seed) for my own garden. I’ll never have one as nice as this, but I can try!

Right, that’s enough gushing. Hope you enjoy the pictures. I’m looking at them and wishing it was still summer so I could go hang out there for another day. Have you ever visited a garden that summed up your own attitude toward gardening?

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Some good books

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I wrote about anything I’ve read. How has it been 5 months? I have definitely been doing plenty of reading; I’ve just gotten too distracted to write them up. This is, therefore, an unintentional roundup of some of the most memorable books I’ve read so far this year. Feel free to pop over to my Goodreads page to see a full list of what I’ve been reading.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo

I am terrible about keeping up to date with fiction, but as I have an interest in anything to do with Lincoln, and have heard great things about Saunders, I wanted to try this one. It takes place over one night, and to me it read more like a play than a novel. Saunders skillfully transitions between conflicting voices; each of the characters were distinctive, well-rounded, and introduced/developed at a good pace. Having a novel that is set in only 2 places is also a challenge that Saunders handled really well. It’s hard to believe many authors could set a novel in a mausoleum without making it feel morbid. I particularly admired how well emotions were conveyed throughout the book; writing about the loss of a child can so easily be overly sentimental, but I thought Saunders portrayal was really authentic and quite heartbreaking. Overall, I found it a thought-provoking novel that I felt I needed to re-read to absorb fully, yet struggled to put down while I was reading. I would definitely recommend it to others who are in the mood for a challenging yet engrossing book.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

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The Power has been everywhere this year, and why not? With an endorsement from Margaret Atwood and the Bailey’s Prize, it is hard not to be persuaded to at least read this book. And for me, it did live up to the hype, even if I am not sure it will be a long-term favorite. The Power is a dystopian sci fi story where the women of the world, starting with the teenagers, suddenly find they have skeins of power (literally, as in electricity). The story then follows what happens, both in the lives of a few specific characters, and the wider world. It was a thought-provoking book, and I loved the detail of the illustrations, but the structure didn’t quite work for me. I’m really glad I read it, though.

East West Street by Philippe Sands

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Having really enjoyed reading a ton of non-fiction a few years ago, I recently realised how much I missed it. I think I read a review of East West Street on the NPR book blog and decided it would be a good one to try to get me back into the habit. It tells the stories of three people – the author’s grandfather, Hersch Lauterpacht (who introduced the term crimes against humanity), and Raphael Lemkin (who originated the word genocide). All three were originally from the same city, now Lviv in Ukraine. The book starts off as 3 biographies, each of which are interesting on their own, but overall the book didn’t pick up for me until the second half, where Sands discusses the impact of Lauterpacht and Lemkin’s work on the Nuremberg trials. The story of Sands’s grandfather was really interesting, but for me it didn’t have a strong enough connection with Lauterpacht and Lemkin to fit in this book. Perhaps it would’ve worked better on its own as a short book. Nonetheless, I’m really glad I read this & would recommend it. It was a well-written book with a compelling narrative, and I learned a lot while reading it.

The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being by Alice Roberts

The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being: Evolution and the Making of Us

A friend loaned this to me shortly after I told her I was pregnant. It’s not a pregnancy book, though; it’s about evolution and how that is reflected in human development. It was fascinating! And it pretty much blew my mind, too. I mean, the development of the heart in a fetus? Wow. Just wow. It made me understand exactly why I was so shattered during the first trimester in particular. I’ve not read anything by Alice Roberts before, and haven’t seen any of her documentaries, but she was a very persuasive writer. The bibliography was extensive, too, which is always important to me when evaluating the quality of a non-fiction book. I have to be honest & say I may not have enjoyed this quite as much if I weren’t pregnant…but I still would have given it 4/5.

The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

The Sunlight Pilgrims

Set at the beginning of a modern ice age, The Sunlight Pilgrims takes place in the far north of Scotland and tells the story of Dylan, Estella, and Constance, who are living in a caravan park as an iceberg approaches the Scottish coast. It’s a surprisingly gentle book focusing on human relationships in spite of huge, overarching things happening in the wider world. So basically, it’s quite relevant to real life in that sense. It’s both apocalyptic and personal, quite a hard balance to capture. I picked this up because I loved The Panopticon so much. I didn’t like this novel quite as much, but still found it quite an interesting one.

Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love by James Runcie

Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love (The Grantchester Mysteries #6)

Ah, Grantchester! I love this series. All the characters seem so flawed and human. Also, I’m a sucker for a clergy detective. I do watch Grantchester on TV, but I prefer the books. The last one was a bit disappointing, though, so I was unsure about picking this one up. I’m glad I did, as it was back to the feeling of Runcie’s earlier books. The stories aren’t overly complicated, and this was a perfect summer read, which I got through in about a day sitting in my garden. There are some very sad (and shocking) events in this particular volume of Grantchester, yet it was still a comforting read – just what it should be.

Vienna

At the end of July, R and I jetted off for 4 days in Vienna. I’ve always wanted to go; it seems like such a romantic city, and anywhere that is famous for a cake is an ideal choice as far as I’m concerned.

I had, however, underestimated just how big the city is. Silly of me, given that it’s a capital city. Big cities aren’t a problem for us generally; however, given that we prefer to explore cities on foot and I’m not exactly at maximum capacity it may not have been the best idea. We still had a great time, but I definitely overdid it. On our first day we must have walked about 11 miles! Predictably, that meant I really just was too tired to enjoy things that I had been looking forward to. It was certainly worth visiting, but I think I may have to go back to get a real feel for the spirit of the city.

Nonetheless, I thought it’d be nice to share a few of my favorite pictures.

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The Naschmarkt is an amazing food market & was definitely a highlight for us. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this hilarious spelling mistake, though.
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The Prunksaal, National Library of Austria, was sooooo incredible. I didn’t want to leave!

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Could this be the most elaborate roof ever?
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Apple strudel and Sachertorte on our first day. Mmmm, cake.
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Oberes Belvedere. Another highlight for me. The gardens, fountains, and art collection were all equally impressive.
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The inside of Oberes Belvedere. Such a beautiful stairwell.
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This wasn’t my favorite Klimt painting out of the collection (I really loved his flower paintings, actually), but isn’t this the most amazing frame?
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We loved this memorial fountain, too.