Friday, August 24, 2012

Tutorial: Bathing your Mouse in the Sink

For all of my readers who have spent years wondering how to give their Mouse a bath in the bathroom sink, I've put together some step-by-step instructions. I hope you find them helpful :)

1. Fill the sink with warm water. Strip your Mouse and wet her head. Pause to give her some kisses.

2. Massage shampoo in your Mouse's hair. Enjoy her reaction. Pause to give her some more kisses.

3. Rinse. Be careful not to drown your Mouse! Kiss her wet nose when you're done.

4. Now immerse your Mouse in the warm water. Make sure to keep her head out. This will keep her airways open, and also provide you with a handy area of skin to kiss!

5. Give your Mouse a good rub. Don't forget to clean the fluff between her toes to keep them extra kissable.

6. Pour some warm water over your Mouse's body to keep her warm. We advise you to refrain from kissing her during this stage, as it may lead to coughing.

7. When you have finished cleaning her, wrap your Mouse in a dry towel. You can take advantage of  the time she needs to dry to give her the kisses she missed during step 7.

8. This is a tricky step. Put a nappy on your Mouse BEFORE you kiss her. Lots of novice Mouse owners forget this crucial bit of advice, but hopefully you can learn from our mistakes.

9. There. Now kiss away.

10. Put some clothes on your Mouse. Decide she looks adorable and kiss her some more.

11. Tada! Congratulate yourself on having such a clean and well dressed Mouse.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Ramona: Bringing sunshine into your lives. (Est. 2012)

My Uterus says "You're welcome."

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Mouse of Great Importance

Mouse has been here for two months already. She has well and truly settled in and we believe she is now planning a hostile take over. She is a fairly easy baby (as long as you keep her mouth plugged with a boob most of the time!) but still not an especially smiley one. Instead she observes the world around her with a slight frown, like a miniature anthropologist trying to decipher the ways of an amazon tribe. (The rainforest, not the online book shop. Wait, this is our family I'm talking about, maybe the online bookshop is where our tribe really belongs!)

The Frown:

Other times she lets her rebelious nature shine through even more.

She has found her niche in the family life, which largely consists of her hanging on my boob most of her waking hours, and sleeping next to my boob the rest of the time -much like her big brother and sister before her. The main (and VERY significant!) difference is that Ramona actually SLEEPS during the night! After having two babies that... how to put this kindly... DIDN'T (Teddy doesn't count, he came to us already broken-in) I, of course, take no credit for her good sleep habits. It must be God's way of making it up to me for the hellish pregnancy and labour.

Ramona after yet another session of binge-milk-drinking:

Luckily, her facial expressions are not restricted to frowning disapprovingly at the universe's choice of parents and threatening us:

"You want a piece of me punk? Huh? Do you?"


Here she is, showing her, shall we say, NON-DELINQUENT side.

"If I try really really hard.... hhhhnnnnhhh.... I can levitate!"

"Don't be scared of me... I'm only a little Mouse!"

Coming next time: How the rest of the family is doing, and what we all think of Ramona.

Y'all take care for now... and

"Thank you. Thank you very much."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Of Mouse And Me

Or a belated birth announcement.

As you may recall I went into hospital on Tuesday 22 May to begin Clover's extraction process. I was being induced at 37 weeks because of Clover measuring small for dates (due to, as yet, undetermined reasons.) In the days leading up to the induction I had a couple of sweeps, acupuncture (Matilda walked in on one session and had the shock of her life; "Why does mummy have needles stuck all over her?!") and consumed copious amounts of raspberry leaf tea and evening primrose oil hoping to at least make the process easier.

So on Tuesday I was admitted, given a pessary and an attempt at a sweep, and left to rest. Not that I did rest an awful lot. I had a lot of stomach pain (I thought it was a relapse on a stomach bug that had plagued me the previous weekend) and I was actually sick, plus I was regularly woken up for a CTG on Clover because of her being a high risk baby.

On Wednesday I started having mild but regular tightenings. In the evening I was examined again and given another sweep by a doctor who will be remembered forever more as "Dr Fingers;" He was very tall, very good looking, and introduced himself as simply "Olly." The intimacy made sense, too, since he then proceeded to try to tickle my tonsils, but not via my throat. If you catch my drift. He said I was a couple of centimetres dilated, and he *could* manage to break my waters, but because it was then going to be the night shift when I delivered and the delivery was considered high risk, it would be best to insert another pessary and check again in the morning.

On Thursday morning, having had very little sleep, my stomach ache had returned and my tightenings had died down. I asked when the doctors were going to be in to check me, and I was told they normally wouldn't check again until the evening, because they would want to leave the pessary in for 24 hours. Agh! But Olly The Fingers had made it very clear I would be checked the next morning! After a lot of pleading, a (much more petite and gentle-fingered) doctor came in and agreed to examine me again. By that point my nether regions were extremely sore and uncomfortable. I assumed it was a combination of "The Finger's" not-so-gentle attentions and the hormonal pessary that had been increasing the blood flow in the area for the past two days, but whatever the reason, this examination was much, much more painful. As in scream during and be left sobbing afterwards painful. She then declared I was still only a couple of cm dilated. She wanted to leave me until the evening (which would mean Friday morning, since they still wouldn't want to start labour in the evening if they could help it.) By then I'd really REALLY had enough. I was in a lot of pain, I hadn't slept in three days and I desperately felt this baby had to come out. I insisted quite a lot, and in the end we decided that I was going to be taken to delivery ward, given an epidural, and then she would break my waters after that. (Despite having coped fine with two drug free births before, the excruciating pain during the exam combined with the fact that I was going to be strapped to a monitor in bed due to worries about Clover made me sure I wasn't doing this drug free this time around.)

All this was at about 11:00 am. By 1:00 pm Becky my doula had arrived, we were in labour ward and they were starting the pre-induction checks. This is when all hell broke loose. (Note: If the following account seems very disjointed and confusing, that's what it felt like to me at the time too. Unfortunately I have trouble remembering what exactly happened and when it happened, so this will have to do.)

When they took my blood pressure they found it was elevated. The midwife said that some times elevated blood pressure can make your platelets low, so they would order some blood work and let the anaesthesiologist know if the results were off. They took some blood, sent it off, and went on observing me and taking my blood pressure. Two measurements later my blood pressure had gone up to 190/120. It's all a bit of a blur now, as there were so many people coming and going. Clover's heart rate was being constantly monitored, and she appeared to be happy, thankfully. I was given some medication to bring down my blood pressure for a while. The midwife tried to chase up my blood work, and found out that it had accidentally been sent to the wrong place -so they sent it off again, to the right place this time, but this would delay the results by another hour. In the meanwhile, they tried to place venous access on my arm (this would be needed to give me the pitocin for the induction, and more importantly, medication to control my blood pressure and liquids and blood if things got seriously wrong -which they were becoming increasingly worried about, as I found out later.) During my entire pregnancy, no one had any trouble getting a needle in my vein, but this time I was so ill and dehydrated and the needle was so large that they just couldn't do it. (The venflon needle they were trying to put in was literally as long as a small pen.) Various people of increasing seniority were called in to try in the next couple of hours and failed until a senior anaesthesiologist finally arrived in a state of mild annoyance (I think he was very busy) grabbed my arm and stuck it in with very little fuss. A second blood sample was taken and sent off. The first blood sample arrived. My platelets were indeed very low, and some other things were off too. The anaesthetist was called again. The second blood sample results came in, and my platelets were even lower (I think they were 10 by then. It was so low that I was even getting bruises by the blood pressure cuff they used.) Midwives were coming and going, saying things like "Well, we'd like the baby to be born as soon as possible now," and "We don't want to worry you, but we've reserved you a bed in the Intensive Care Unit just in case." (Worried? Me? What would make you think that?) The anaesthesiologist arrived and explained that because of my low platelets, and epidural would have a high risk of causing a bleed in my spine and leaving me with neurological problems. Instead I was offered a type or patient controlled pain relief called remifentanil. This is a drug similar to morphine that takes effect and is metabolised very very quickly. I was connected to a drip with it, and I could administer a dose by pushing a button I was given to hold. As soon as I pushed the button it took effect, and it wore off in about 5 minutes.

What can I say? Remifentanil was GOOOOOD. As soon as it got started, things started looking up again. The OB arrived and tried to break my waters again, however he still couldn't manage it, so we decided to start the pitocin without doing the ARM (artificial rupture of membranes) and check again in 4 hours in the hopes that the pit would  move things along enough to make ARM possible. This was at about 6:15 in the evening. The pitocin drip was started, I had my remifentanil button and I was actually pretty comfortable and happy that things were actually happening at this point. (Did I mention the Remifentanil was GOOOOD? I was probably to stoned to worry, but I was finally calm, in no pain, and I could see my contractions on the monitor. Plus, unlike an epidural, I could let it wear off from time to time and change position or allow myself to feel a couple of contractions to see how I was progressing. The only strange side effect was that from time to time I'd hear strange whispering voices in my ear, but when I opened my eyes there was no one near me and no one in the room was talking. Nothing another dose of remifentanil couldn't solve though. Mwahahahaha.) The pitocin dose was slowly increased in the next hours, and my contractions became more regular and stronger on the monitor, although I was still not especially uncomfortable. At 23:15, the OB arrived again and this time he managed to break my waters. He said I was STILL only 2 cm dilated, but "things" felt a lot better/effaced/stretchy etc down there. Still, we probably had a while to go yet.

Allow me to laugh. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA HA HA Heeee. Ahem. At 23:30 I felt a bi strange. More uncomfortable, like. Clover's heart rate started dipping quite a lot at that point (it had been dipping since the ARM, but recovering.) I tried turning on my side to help, and realised -I was pushing. I said "Hold on! I'm pushing!" The midwife turned around in shock and tried to rush to the bed, but she was too late.

At 23:40 on Thursday 24 May, Ramona Bernadette Joy slid out on the hospital bed with one push. She weighed 5lbs 4oz (2380g) and her Apgar was 8 at 1 minute and 9 at 5 minutes. She was a whole 1lb lighter than what they had predicted she would be, and smaller than 97% of babies born at the same gestation.

We were later told that I developed "sudden onset severe pre eclampsia and HELLP syndrome."  My liver was failing, my kidneys were almost not functioning at all and my platelets were so low I was covered in huge bruises. In retrospect, I had lots of signs. Small size of the baby is often a result of pre eclampsia, and my blood pressure was taken and urine checked for protein etc twice a week since week 30. I had leukocytes and increasing amounts of protein in my urine towards the end, but because I never did get high blood pressure until labour day, they thought I must have some sort of infection and kept sending in urine samples for a culture although nothing came of it. I did have swelling and water retention (towards the end when I did acupuncture, the needle holes would leak water like a little stream) but because I am bigger and don't wear rings etc, the swelling was hard to spot. And the stomach pain I was having is a classic sign of HELLP, only we didn't know about it. I really think that my lack of high blood pressure completely sidetracked the doctors and midwives from correctly interpreting everything else that was happening. Trust my body to leave out the most important symptom of my illness! :P

I may write about the week after the birth and our hospital stay on another post, as THAT saga is not something I feel like going into right now. The short version is that Ramona had trouble latching on and lost 12% of her body weight, going down to 4lbs 10oz (2100g.) We stayed in for a week trying to establish breastfeeding as I was determined to do it, and saw many, many, MANY people with different, often conflicting advice. It was not a good time as I was really tired and in a lot of pain, worried, not really understanding what was happening (no computer! No Dr Google!) and Ramona kept some-times-gaining-some-times-losing and being threatened with SCBU. In the end I managed to get her to gain for 2 days in a row just with breastfeeding, so we were released. Unfortunately, after a week at home she had been losing again -at that point we started using the Medela SNS to supplement her feeds and her weight gain took off. As I write she is about 3/4 breastfed. :)

For now, pictures!

Poor Ramona! The first picture mummy posts of you on the blog, and you look like the creature from the black lagoon!

That's better!

So small but so alert!

Yes, I took a picture of my placenta :) The midwife said it was "gritty" which apparently explains her small size -it means it wasn't functioning well.

First ever picture with clothes on!

You can really see how small she is here... I love this photograph.

Having a cuddle

 Ramona has a trademark frown. Every-single-person who met her in hospital commented on it.

This tiny little face with the lively dark eyes is why I call her Mouse!

That's it now... I'm tired of blogging. See you next time everyone!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lips that Touch a Kidney Pie Shall Never Touch Mine

The Premise:

If you're Greek, have lived in England for the past seven years and miss a good "sykotaria" (lamb offal including the liver, kidneys and lungs) you may have looked for some at the supermarket. And if you have failed to locate any but have managed to spot some pig kidney instead (the *should have remained* secret ingredient to the traditional steak and kidney pie) you may, like me, have decided it's worth buying some to see if it makes a suitable substitute.

The Discovery:

A few days after that fateful purchase I was innocently walking through the house when my nostrils were assaulted by an overpowering smell of piss. The likes of which I haven't smelled in 7 years of nappy changing, rabbit- hamster- and cat-litter box cleaning. My immediate assumption was that one of the pets had died, released its' bladder in the process, and was decomposing somewhere in the house. When all 4 of them proved to be alive and well, I (reluctantly) followed my nose down the stairs... to the kitchen... where my mother was found hunched over a pot of pig kidneys.

The Revelation:

Obviously the toxin-processing organ of a milk fed, grass eating animal like lamb smells very different from that belonging to 200 lbs of fully grown, omnivorous hog. Why that didn't occur to me before, I don't know. As I fled from the kitchen, retching and calling over my shoulder to my mum to please throw that away, it was clearly a bad idea, she was merrily showering it with oregano and lemon juice, saying "Well, let's see what it's like when it's cooked."

The Perennial Question:

Even if cooked piss smells better than raw piss, why would you want to eat it? MUM? WHY?!

The Narrow Escape:

Shut upstairs in the bedroom rubbing scented skin lotion around my nose, I could still smell it... clinging to me... inside me. It was like olfactory rape. Sending Peter down to tell mum again to THROW THEM AWAY didn't work either, and the only thing to do was to open all the windows and make a  run for it. Out for a walk. In the rain. It was preferable to smelling what might as well have been the incinerator contents of the incontinence ward of a geriatric hospital. Eau de Eau. (I know at this point you think I'm exaggerating for comic effect. How I wish I was. Although Peter found the entire thing highly entertaining.)
When I gathered my courage and returned to the House of Piss about half an hour later, the smell was indeed muchly improved. Which was simultaneously cause for relief and a new kind of horror. Every time I had a steak and kidney pie at a pub, just what had I been eating? 

The Resolution: 

Lips that touch a kidney pie shall never touch mine. Peter.
(And I managed to get my mum to throw it away in the end. Phew.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Wheel of Fortune, It Ran Us Over

When I was pretty much due to pop with Matilda, our car irreparably broke down. We had to scramble frantically to find a new car we could afford asap or risk having no transport when I go into labour. Luckily we managed to get a new car, and all was well.

In the month I was due to give birth to Philip, our *new* car irreparably broke down. Deja vous of the above mentioned frantic scrabbling was narrowly avoided when Peter's parents offered to give us their old car. But we were not naive. We could see the pattern forming.

So last month, when our *latest* car started making a strange rattling noise and we realised it was due for a service right around the time I was due with Clover in June, Peter did the prudent thing. He booked it in for an early service over Easter. My due date is two months away, I don't have to drive Philip to school, no fuss, right?


So, back track a little bit. About 3 weeks ago, I had a routine growth scan. The sonographer was happy with the measurements, but after I left the room, she came out and asked me to come in again. It turned out that even though Clover's measurements were within the normal ranges, they weren't normal when she plotted them on my customised growth chart (the chart created taking into account mine and Peter's heights, and the lengths and weights of our previous babies.) On that chart, Clover was really really small. No biggie, I was just going to have to come in two weeks later for a re-scan, to see if she'd had a growth spurt. In any case, there was a good chance there was some degree of error in the measurements.

Last Thursday was the date of my re-scan. Which showed that Clover had not grown in those two weeks. At. All. Apart from her head, which is still following the appropriate growth curve. At the moment there seems to be about a month's size worth of difference between her head and her body, which wasn't there at my 20 week scan. This pattern (asymmetrical and appearing in the third trimester) of growth restriction usually means there is some problem with the placenta. The consultant thinks for some reason my placenta is not working very well, and as a result Clover's body is directing all the (limited) nutrition she gets to her most vital organ, her brain. The risk with this is that if my placenta deteriorates any more, Clover's oxygen supply will also be affected.

So at the moment, this is where we stand. I have to go in at least a couple of times a week for a CTG (this is where they strap me on a monitor and record Clover's heart rate and movements for at least 30 minutes to assess her well being.) I have to be very careful about keeping track of how active she is every day. (Apparently one of the first signs that she's getting more poorly is that she'll slow down.) Any change in movements and I'm supposed to go in for yet more monitoring. I have to go in at least once a week for a Doppler scan to measure the blood flow through the umbilical cord and the levels of amniotic fluid around Clover. (If the placenta deteriorates these things will probably be affected.) And on next Friday, two weeks since the last measurements, I have to go for another growth scan to see if she has grown at all.

As I understand it after talking to the Consultant and a couple of midwives, if her movements slow down and/or the CTG isn't good, they'll likely deliver her right away. If the next Doppler scan (in two days' time) shows the liquor volume and/or cord blood flow is deteriorating, they'll likely deliver her right away. If by the next growth scan next Friday she still hasn't grown, they'll likely deliver her right away. If she has grown (a bit) they may decide to leave her in for a bit longer and keep a very close eye on her. Any deterioration and she's out. And even if everything goes really well, they would DEFINITELY not want to keep her in any longer as soon as I hit 37 weeks (considered full term.)

The bottom line is, this baby is likely to be born in the next three-four weeks if not sooner. And until then I'm going to be needing to make a lot of trips to the hospital.

In our car.

Which is sitting in the garage as we speak. Because they have found that the rattling noise was something (far far beyond my understanding) which means it's not really safe to drive or reliable. AND it may be too expensive to be worth fixing (we'll know in the next couple of days.) So we may well need to....

...wait for it...

...frantically start scrabbling for a new car, when I'm likely to give birth at any day.

To quote Terry Pratchett: "Most gods throw dice, but Fate plays chess, and you don't find out until too late that he's been playing with two queens all along."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Lowdown

This is a desperate attempt to ressurect my poor blog. (Hey, it's Easter, right? Seems appropriate...) Unfortunately I'm really out of practise and don't quite know how to go about it, so stick with me while I try to guide you through...



Yaya finally made the move from Greece to join us. It was a bit of an operation involving a chaperone (her friend Anna) and a taxi ride from London, but it worked and she's here. Transition went amazingly smoothly, and she has been getting a lot of help from physiotherapy and occupational therapy. Since she arrived, she has actually gained so much in mobility and independence. As of now, she is largely self sufficient around the house. She can get in and out of bed on her own, dress/undress without help, shower by herself, get in and out of the car (almost) by herself (she has a step stool to stand on, because our car is very high, so someone needs to put that in and out of the car for her, and a sort of nylon band to help her lift her leg high enough, which she handles herself,) go up and down the stairs to the kitchen, and generally potter around the house as normal. We even managed to get her to go out a few times! ;) When she arrived in August she could do none of these things, so this is massive improvement.

She has been getting to know the children, and she is responsible for feeding Philip when he refuses to eat his dinner :P


Philip started school. Since he had his Asperger's diagnosis before starting, we were able to spend a good amount of time meeting with his teacher beforehand, talking through Philip's needs and the ways we use at home to help him through things he finds challenging. He started with one-to-one support in the mornings only, since that was when most of the "structured teaching" would take place; but the school soon decided that Philip would do better with more support, and that it was especially the more "unstructured" and more chaotic times in the school day that he struggled with. (There were a few incidents, such as him trying to escape or hiding away during play time and refusing to come out.) His one-to-one support was expanded to include the whole day. Philip's One-to-One, Mr E, is fantastic, and Philip is very fond of him -and so am I! He has shown on many occasions that he really takes the time to figure out what makes Philip "tick" and I am 100% sure that this school year would have gone a lot less smoothly without him.

As it is, Philip loves school and is actually very popular -especially with the little girls! :P It is a constant source of amusement that Philip will be walking down the road to school and any number of little girls will start waving at him from across the street, or rushing over to hug and kiss him (sometimes in groups!) Philip would happily accept the attention and enjoy it, then I'd ask "Who was that Philip?" and the response would be "I don't know." (Friends and playmates are fine, names are not so important in Philip's brain!) His closest friends are 3 girls, all of whom claim he is their boyfriend. (Philip: "No Erin, I'm not your boyfriend. I'm your friend.") One of them likes giving him a bearhug, getting really close to him and saying "Philip, you like me, don't you? You really really REALLY like me!"

Of course, as much as some things about school are genuinely challenging for Philip, he does also try to "play the system" some times. ;) Example: Philip hates going to assembly, because it's too loud. They are working with him to help him find ways to manage it, and have a timer so that he *has* to stay in for a set length of time (gradually increasing.) Recently, Mr. E approaches me and asks if Philip has any snesitivities or aversions to specific colours -why? Because he has been saying he doesn't like the assembly hall, because of the colour of the walls. Hmmmmmm... That's the first time I've heard him mention that! Later that day, the following discussion takes place.

Me: Philip, Mr. E said you don't like the assembly hall.
Philip: Yes.
Me: What don't you like about it?
Philip: I don't like the walls. They're too brown. I don't like brown.
Me: Ok. Chocolate is brown. So now you don't like chocolate.
Philip: No! I like chocolate!
Me: Ok. But Bingo is brown. Does that mean you don't like Bingo anymore?
Philip! Nooo! I like Bingo!
Me: Mummy's hair is brown. Don't you like mummy any more?
Philip: No, I like mummy.
Me: Philip, I think you're trying to play a trick on Mr E. I don't think you don't like the colour of the walls in assembly. Tell me what it is you REALLY don't like.
Philip: The walls. They're....erm...too FLAT.
(Translation: Telling them it's too loud isn't working that well any more, let's try coming up with other things I don't like, it will buy me time!)


Teddy turned 2 years old, and started crawling. We encouraged him to do that by placing him on the floor and piling all his toys out of reach at the other end. Yes, we're mean :P Here is a video of him figuring it out (he started doing it proficiently a couple of weeks later.)

We also found out we're expecting baby #4. Currently nicknamed "Clover" and due around the 9th of June.


...passed in a blur of nausea and extreme tiredness. I suspect I may be having twins because the symptoms are so much more intense than they were with Matilda and Philip, but when I have my 12 week ultrasound we find out we're only having one baby. The whole of the month is filled with worry because I keep spotting blood (this happens on-again-off-again until January.)

Clover's first picture!


Nanny comes to stay and we host Christmas for the first time ever! It actually goes really well, I manage not to burn the food and everyone likes their presents. (Quote of the season: Matilda, upon opening her present from Yaya: *excited squeal* "Congratulations Yaya, you made a good choice!" (Erm... Thanks?)

We also get to go on the steam train and meet Santa, thanks to Teddy's special needs team! :)

Getting ready to board the Hogwards Express:

Teddy and his baloon:

Slightly underwhelmed by the party favours...

Tuckered out at the end of the ride:


This is the month that we will find out if Clover is a boy or a girl! Philip is absolutely convinced it's a girl and refuses to discuss the alternative. I'm counting down the days to my scan.

On the day of the scan, Philip is at school but we take Matilda with us so she can have a sneak peek of her baby brother or sister. The sonographer tells us she'll try and see the sex, but it's not always possible to say. But as soon as she looks, it's obvious -Clover is lying with *her* legs in the air, flashing the world!

February and March:

...are largely uneventful. Philip has a birthday party but no photos because the camera wasn't being cooperative. I start feeling Clover move and think about the birth. I want to have another homebirth like I did with Matilda.

The highlights of the month do include a few memorable Matilda quotes (where would we be without them?)

Quote #1:
Matilda: Mummy, I hope you're not planning to hoover the stairs, because playing with all that dust is very entertaining to me." (Errr... We aim to please!)

Quote #2:
Matilda: "When I grow up I'm going to be a police woman. And Philip can be my police brother. That's like a police dog, but a brother."

Aaaaand ACTION!