Monday, 31 October 2011

1st Scan

Soon after our booking-in visit with the midwife, we received our letter from the NHS informing us of the date and time our ultrasound would be taking place.  The refer to it as a "scan" here and it generally takes place at the local hospital.  And you read right, they tell you when to come.  No "What works best for you?"  There's a number to call if you need to reschedule, but you're pretty much expected to come when you're told.

We were super excited to finally see the baby and have it all seem more real!  I read a fair number of blogs and most of the pregnant Americans I know get to see the baby way earlier than 12 weeks.  We were holding off on going public with our announcement until we'd seen that everything looked to be developing ok.

We arrived in the antenatal department and were told to take a seat and wait for our names to be called.  I looked around the room and was shocked by what a depressing sight it was.  None of the couples scattered around the room looked particularly happy.  And the toothpaste colored walls didn't help.  I felt conspicuous in the fact that Ross and I were smiley and holding hands.  At 32, I think I was closer to most of the grandmother's ages than the mothers.  I looked at him and said "Where are the happy couples?"

I realized pregnancy is a complicated time for people and that people are sometimes not getting good news during their visit.  This point was hammered home when I saw a large-ish family making their way out of the area.  The very-pregnant mother and her mom were both in tears and everyone else was huddled around.  I'm not sure what had happened, but I still think about them and wonder if they're ok.

Finally, we were called back to the dark scan room.  The technician started up the process and soon enough we were looking at our little baby.

Sept. 1st scan

And it actually looked like a baby!  I get the appeal of waiting this long to take a look.  As the technician explained to me, you can't really see anything earlier anyway.  I was amazed that at 12 weeks, we already had a little person.  Not a blob or a bean, but a person!

I wasn't prepared for how hard the technician would have to push to get this image.  Man, that hurt!  She was really digging in.  I'm sure my "layer of belly insulation" wasn't making things any easier for her.  We couldn't hear it, but we could see the little heart beating.  I just kept thinking how pretty our baby looked.  The technician tried to get the baby to move so she could take all the measurements she needed, but was unsuccessful.  I was told to go drink some more water and walk around a while.  I followed instructions and was called back after a bit.  The baby cooperated a little more and they were able to take all the measurements they needed.  The technician proclaimed that everything was developing on track and that my new due date was March 5th (2 days earlier than my original).  

Then we waited to be called for blood work.  A short wait later, I was taken over and weighed.  At this point I found out that my decreased appetite had really had an impact- I was down about 10 pounds from my starting weight.  I thought I'd gotten a little slimmer, but was surprised by how much.  I was swapping belly for baby.  Sounds like a good trade to me!  Not that I was trying, but I'll take it...

Finally, some quick blood work from a very friendly midwife and we were all set.  She told me that they'd be in touch if something was wrong and we'd receive a letter if everything was fine.  We went to the desk to pay our 4.50 to get our baby's first picture.  Yep, the healthcare may be free, but a picture of your little one will cost you.  The letter we'd received had explained that we needed exact change, so we were prepared.

What was your first scan like?
Was there anything surprising about it?

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Cheerful Sunday

Feeling our little one kicking makes me very happy... even when the kicks get extra vigorous and Ross has to have a word.


Ross getting to feel the baby kick for the first time last night makes me cheerful indeed.

*Edited to clarify, post-husband complaint.  Ross didn't actually say that.  And he's not bald.  It was more a gentle "Be nice and stop kicking your mother" and a kiss on the belly.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Word of the Week

Dumptip


Definition:  a centralized location, where one can dispose of rubbishtrash 
Used in a sentence:  Ross and I went to the dumptip this week, but they'd closed it down!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Family Tradition

As Ross and I are starting our own family, I've been thinking a bunch about family traditions.
I think they are so important.  They create a mythology for your family unit.  It ties you together through ritual and a sense of intimacy.

Of course any family should have these things naturally, but the rituals, the "way we do things", is so important.  When I think about growing up, there are so many little ways that we did things that were special.  My parents really made an effort to make even small moments special.  We had terminology and traditions that I never questioned or thought were in the slightest bit strange... until I got older and tried to explain them to friends.

Then, when Ross joined our family, I experienced that strange sensation of viewing ones family from the perspective of an outsider.  I suddenly realized that some of the things I'd taken for granted are kind of weird!  But in a wonderful way :)  Of course, some of our rituals are fairly normal.

Our family, circa 1986 (?)

So here are some of my family rituals:

1. Sunday Lunch:  Every Sunday, after church, we'd go out to lunch.  The choice of restaurant rotated between the four of us. The only rule was that if you complained about someone else's choice, you lost your next turn.
2. The Bears and The Bees.  Ok, this is one of the weird ones.  Somehow, it came to be that my mom and I were "The Bees" and my dad and my brother where "The Bears".  To this day, my dad will still refer to my brother as "The Bear" or "The Beary-Boy" or "Bear-o-toosh-nia".  (What can I say, may dad is big on nicknames).  Which brings me to...
3. Nicknames.  I have never in my life heard my dad call me or my brother by our actual names.  My nicknames include:  Cheeser, The Baby, Jonella, Pookieloo, and (the most common) Redbird.  My brother's are:  The Normal One (also derivatives such as Normiso and Normoto), the bear related ones mentioned above, and Jaybird or Jay.  I have no idea where most of these names come from, but they are ingrained in our family.

A "Family Tree"
I had a friend's husband design this for my family just before Ross and I got married.
We're all represented in animal form.

4.  Saturday Adventures:  Every Saturday morning we'd have a "Family Adventure".  These adventures included things like going to the downtown public library to get books or to a museum.  Sometimes it would even be as simple as going to the grocery store.  My parents worked really hard to make even simple activities seem like fun "adventures".  As we got older, I started having ballet class on Saturday morning, so we began splitting up and having "Bee Adventures" and "Bear Adventures".  It was so fun to make an event out of every day happenings.
5.  Family Dinner:  Soon after dad came home from work, we'd all gather around the table to eat together. We'd eat dinner and talk about our weeks and what was going on in our lives.  As we got older, we'd talk about current events.  Sometimes my dad would do "Ethical Dilemmas".  He ran a department for the city, so he'd bring home work problems and describe them to us.  After we had the basic outline, we'd debate what we thought he should do.  He'd come back later, and tell us how things had actually shaken out.  It was a great way to get us to think critically about problems and address issues that we might face later in life.

Then there is the whole other matter of Christmas Traditions.  I was going to include them here, but I think they deserve a post of their own.  (Watch this space.)  My family are VERY serious about Christmas!

Did you have any family traditions growing up?
Were any of them particularly strange?
How are you incorporating them in your new family or grown-up life?

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Epiphany

You guys!
Last week I had an epiphany.  For real.  Like a life changing revelation.

I was reading Badgers with Knives (a blog written by an Expat living in Liverpool) for the first time.  She linked in her post to a post on another blog.  That linked post was the source of my epiphany.

It seems ridiculous, but this post really opened my eyes to a problem that I'd never fully understood.  I think it's going to change my life.  Go read it now.

Did you read it?  Is your mind blown?


Small talk is not the same in every country!  It's very different in the US and the UK!
What?!?!  Why didn't anyone ever tell me this?  I'm a friendly, cheerful, chatty person with good social skills.  I even have a masters degree in Counseling.  That means I know how to listen and communicate with people.

Confession time:  I haven't made any friends in the UK.
I've lived here for a year and three quarters.  It doesn't help that I work with Ross in our business, so I don't really have an "in" to meet people.  I've tried a couple of times to initiate small talk when out and about, but it's never quite worked.  People (everywhere, not just here) are set in their routines and it takes a bit of doing to get them to veer from their normal course.

I'd heard that being pregnant/having a baby would be a great entrĂ©e into the sisterhood of women.  I figured that had to be true.  I've been attending a weekly aqua aerobics class.  There are usually 20 or so women, all at different stages of pregnancy.  I thought, "Awesome!  Built-in things in common.  Pregnant women love to talk about being pregnant... and stuff... right?"

I arrived early for the my first class, awkwardly standing around, not knowing where to go or what I was supposed to do.  I stood around waiting for the midwife to arrive and offer me some guidance.  Eventually the midwife showed up and had me fill in a sheet with my info and we stood waiting for other women to arrive.  The women were all perfectly pleasant, but in a distant abstract way.

There's a period of time during our workout where we pair up and there's opportunity to chat.  I've had the same conversation with each partner every week.  "When are you due?"  "Is this your first?"  "Boy or girl?"  "Where are you giving birth?"  No names.  No personal info of any kind.

I thought maybe after-swim chat would be where it was at.  (Unintentional rhyme!)  In every (American) group class or meeting I've ever been to/participated in/heard of there has been a period of lingering and chit chat after the fact.  You know what I'm talking about.  You leave a meeting and you linger in the parking lot talking about your upcoming week.  You grab a coffee and talk about what you do for work.  Something...
Every week, I've gotten out to the pool and headed to the changing rooms and immediately lost sight of every single woman.  I don't know how it happens!  There must be some sort of magic or David Copperfield illusion involved to make this feat physically possible.  The place is semi-maze-like, but still.  Not a single pregnant woman to be found!

So every week I change clothes and head out to the parking lot, slightly dejected.  But now!  Now!  I know what part of the problem has been.  It's me!  Well sort of.  My expectations of small talk.  I keep expecting it to go somewhere.  To follow the familiar patterns that I'm so used to.  When it doesn't, I feel wrong-footed and awkward.

Since reading this article I have attended aqua aerobics once and prenatal yoga for the first time.  Both times, I was able to feel new confidence and freedom in my epiphany.  I changed my expectations and relaxed.   I still haven't made any friends, but hey... at least I didn't feel awkward the whole time.  I'm just accepting it for what it is.

By the way, wondering why Ross had never explained this cultural difference to me I read the article to him.  He had the following reaction:  "Huh.  Yeah I guess that's probably true.  It explains why I've never been good at small talk either.  I'd rather have a conversation that matters."
British cultural liaison fail!

Have you ever found out a simple piece of information that totally blew your mind?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

WFW: Post Ceremony Portraits

Once the ceremony was over, Ross and I floated on a cloud of love into the Fellowship Hall for a quick semi-private moment.

I love how Melanie (the church's educator and wedding coordinator) is standing guard.

All of the wedding party and family joined us in the Fellowship Hall so we could let the crowd head on to the cocktail hour at the reception while we took pictures.


And now, possibly the greatest and best representation of how my dad was the whole day.  So sweet!

Awkward side hug, avoiding eye contact to avoid tears.

Side glance and a laugh.

Tears after parting.

After the narthex cleared, we hustled back into the sanctuary to knock out the boring posed family pictures.  I have our photographer instructions to power through and get us done in 30 minutes or less.  I am happy to say we easily accomplished this goal!

With my Grandmother

With my G'ma and Papa

With my family

Just us with my parents

Everyone at the wedding who was related to us.

It was at this point that Ross started to get a little emotional.  He'd warned me that he thought this would be one of the hardest parts of the day for him.  He was really missing his parents and sister, so he looked at me with slight panic in his eyes and said "Say something to distract me".  I couldn't think of anything to say to I just made a silly face and said "Wacka, wacka!"  It worked a charm and got him smiling for the rest of the pictures.

My dad's side of the family.

My mom's side of the family.

Us with our ring bearers.  I love how Lliam is playing with my veil.

...and adding in their parents.  It had been a long day for the boys and these pics took 
the very last bit of their ability to be well-behaved.

Us with the Bridesmaids.

And a silly one with Ross and the girls


Us with the groomsmen

A silly one with the maids and men

A sneaky shot of the newlyweds

Look how much we like each other!

Rings in place!

And with that we were done with the formal portraits.  I hustled to get bustled (heh!) with some help from my maids and house party.  It was no mean feat, considering my dress had something like 12 ties.  Once that was done, we hoped on our trolley and headed to the Starlight Room to join the party!

(As always, all photos in my wedding posts are by Shari Hunt Photography, unless otherwise stated)



Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Second Midwife Visit

So after my first visit with the midwife, I didn't have anything to do but read the information she'd given me and wait.  For a month.  It seemed like torture, especially as I read blogs of pregnant Americans who were seeing the doctor, having ultrasounds, and doing all sorts of baby-related things!  Not for me.  Here in the UK it's just wait and see.  At 9 weeks I had my "booking in" appointment, thus named because the main purpose is to "book you in" to the system and decide where you want to give birth.

As I mentioned, this visit took place at our home.  I was slightly nervous about this.  I felt compelled to bake something.  To prove that I was nurturing?  Or something?  I didn't, which was a good thing as Mandy declined even a tea (a standard offering to all British visitors, including repairmen).  Ross said he thought the home visit served as another level of check.  The midwife can see what kind of home environment you have and if you are likely to need other services, either before or after the baby comes.  It sort of makes sense.

Mandy took several vials of blood and collected my syringe full 'o urine to take for testing.  Yep, a syringe.  Instead of peeing in a vial and bringing it with me, the midwife provided me with these syringe things.  You take the little yellow straw bit and put it on the end of the syringe.  Then you pee in a cup, (so now I have 2 cups in my house that I've peed in) and syringe the urine up.  Then you remove the straw, replace the cap and snap off the plunger.


Then we went through my green book and filled in the relevant info.  There were questions about whether I drink, smoke, or use drugs.  Questions about my ethnic background.  Questions about my medical history of myself, Ross, and our families.  Since all these questions were really straight forward for us, we quickly moved on to the fun stuff...

Where to give birth!  With the National Health Service (NHS) there are basically 3 options:

1.  A hospital
2.  A home birth
3.  A midwife-led birth centre

Ross and I already knew that our preference was strongly for one of these options, and after we spoke to Mandy, we were sure.  Thankfully, I met all the requirements of being low-risk to qualify for our choice- midwife-led birth centre.  I could tell that Mandy was pleased with our choice.  She told us that we would be able to give birth (assuming that I stay low risk) at the brand new, birth centre that was only just being completed.  We felt good that, by the time we needed it, the centre would still be new and shiny, but would have had enough time to get any kinks worked out.

The reasons we wanted to use the birth centre were:
1. Minimal intervention.  It is important to me to have as few interventions as I need.
2. Alternative therapies available.  I'm hoping to have a natural, medication-free birth and I believe that the midwives at the centre will help me accomplish this.  There will be no option for an epidural (yikes!), but will offer plenty of alternative pain relief including massage and birth pools.
2. A relaxed environment, supervised by women whom I have gotten to know over the course of my pregnancy.  The centre should feel less sterile and clinical and more relaxing.  There is usually one-to-one care from a midwife throughout the entire birth process.  We will most likely have a private room and bathroom.
3. Post-natal care.  At a birth centre you are encouraged to stay until you feel ready to go home, rather than getting the boot ASAP like in hospitals here.  There is lots of help, particularly with breastfeeding.
4. The centre is connected to our local hospital, meaning that if something goes wrong it would be quick and easy to get transferred.

Where are you giving birth?
What were the contributing factors to your decision?

Monday, 24 October 2011

Target Dreams: Maternity Style

You all know already of my deep and abiding love for Target.

Since I've been pregnant, I've lamented the loss of my beloved store all over again.
I've always thought the maternity clothes available at Target were an awesome combo of stylish and inexpensive.  As the weather turns chillier, I'm dreaming of cute and cosy new clothes.

This sweater dress is so awesome!  A sweet ruffle detail makes it special.  A wrap design makes it practical.  And hot pink makes it fun, fun, fun!  Perfect for looking dressed up and being cozy all at the same time.


I'm totally in love (no, make that luuurve) with this sweater.  It's so cheerful and cute and if you can't wear horizontal stripes when you're pregnant, when can you?


And yes, I realize shoes aren't technically "maternity clothes", but how adorable would these be with the sweater above?!  Besides, flats become more and more necessary as pregnancy progresses, so that sort of counts, right?

You'd think maternity coats would be everywhere, living in a colder climate like England, but I haven't found that to be the case.  For now, my old coats are working, but I'm not sure how long that will last!  I could channel my inner Little Red Riding Hood in this bold jacket.


So far, my maternity clothes have mostly come from Next which has gotten the job done.  It's pretty frustrating to me the lack of brick and mortar maternity clothing stores.  It's hard enough to order clothes online usually, but when you're pregnant you really do need to try things on to see if they fit!  There are a couple of places, but the have a small selection and tend to be expensive (Mamas & Papas, I'm looking at you!).

And finally, I'll leave you with something else from Target.  Perhaps little Baby Ameringlish needs this for the nursery to remember where mom comes from!


Did you have a hard time finding maternity clothes?
What are/were your favourite places to find cute clothing?

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Cheerful Sunday

Ross and I love Strictly Come Dancing.
It is vastly superior to it's American counterpart, Dancing with the Stars.

This season features a contestant who never fails to make me smile.  I think it's impossible to be grumpy whilst watching him dance.

Russell Grant is an astrologer who came to public attention in the 1980s.  He was always larger than life in personality and size.  Before appearing on Strictly, he lost 10 stone (140 pounds!).  Ross says he's always found him really irritating, but can't deny that he's a joy to watch dance.

Check it out for yourself.


Good Lord!  Those facial expressions are adorable!  I think mostly, I love how much he's obviously loving it.
Isn't it fun to love doing things!?!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Word of the Week

Diapernappy


Definition: The item used to cover a baby's bottom and contain anything that might come out of their bottom half.
Used in a sentence: We may be crazy, but Ross and I are going to attempt to use cloth diapernappies.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Midwife Care

So after I got on the doctor's books- via a brief check up with a nurse,  (Urine in a purse update:  I decided to just arrive early and fill the jar once I was at the doctor's office.) I went to my first appointment with Mandy on August 9th.  I was about 5 weeks pregnant.

Me on August 9th.  Having lunch at our favourite deli after seeing the midwife.*

Mandy is the community midwife affiliated with my doctor's office.  She's based out of a Children's Centre which is next door to the doctor's office.  The Centre seems like a really neat place.  Besides the midwife's office, there are all sorts of community services (like educational and recreational classes for parents and kids) available.  It's a cheerful little building that I can see using as a resource quite a bit after Baby Ameringlish arrives.

Mandy struck me straight away as just the kind of person I want involved in my prenatal (or antenatal, as it's called here) care.  She exudes a sense of professionalism and competence, while still remaining warm and friendly.  She gave us a giant packet of materials to look through later.

The packet 

The contents of said packet 
(Mostly useless. Lots of flyers and coupons and wasted paper.) 

Then she explained some of the general timeline to us and walked us through our official paperwork.

Our official maternity paperwork.  Apparently, this green packet is so official that it legally 
proves I'm pregnant.  The diary on the top right corner is just there to cover the section with
my personal information.  The packet is 21 pages long and is filled in with all my relevant 
information throughout my pregnancy.  

After a brief visit, and scheduling our next visit for 5 weeks later, we were on our way.
Yep!  That's right.  No physical exam.  No weighing.  Nada.
We left and it still felt more than a little surreal.  I hadn't known what to expect, but it certainly wasn't that.
I kept thinking that surely, someone should DO something.  Like CHECK that I was ACTUALLY PREGNANT.

Next up.  Our second midwife appointment.  AT OUR HOME.  Yep.  That's right.  They make house calls here.

Did anything about the prenatal process surprise you?
Did you want reassurance that you were actually pregnant from a medical professional?

*Funny story.  Ross posted this picture to Facebook and my Uncle commented that I was glowing.  Ross said, "Your mom wouldn't have told him?  Would she?"  I didn't think so.  After going public, we confirmed that it was just a coincidence.  I think the light in this deli is just really good :)

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

WFW: Let's get married!

I stood behind the doors to the sanctuary with my dad and anxiously awaited the swell of music that would start my walk down the aisle.  Melanie (the church's Educator and wedding coordinator) had recruited two of the boys from the youth group to help by opening the doors for me.  As I stood there with my dad, they looked at me like they'd never seen anything like me in their lives.  Their sweet, goofy, teenaged boy grins will stick with me for a long time!  To be fair, I looked a fair bit different than my normal Sunday attire :)

And then the walk.  

Ah!  This face!

And that one!

So handsome!

I loved seeing all those smiling faces as I walked down the aisle.




If you look closely, you can see the tear in my dad's eye.

The hand off.

It was so nice to see each other after being apart all day!


Ben started off with welcoming everyone and a brief statement on the gift of marriage.  It was touching and funny and personal.  Ben did a really great job incorporating what he'd learned about us during our time together into the ceremony.




After we declared our intent to marry, Ben asked who presented me for marriage.  I didn't want to be "given", but I figured "presneted" was ok.

Mom and dad stood and Dad answered, "Her mother and I do."

Next, Ben asked the whole congregation to stand and affirm that they would support our marriage.


 It was a really cool feeling to have all our friends and family actively take part in the ceremony.





And then, my wonderful friend Ian sang Dodi Li.  It was a nod to Ross' Jewish roots to have this song sung in Hebrew.  The translation of the lyrics was printed in our program.



My beloved is mine and I am his,
The shepherd [grazing his flock] among the lilies.
Who is this, rising up from the desert.
Who is she, rising up?
Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense
Myrrh and frankincense.
My beloved is mine and I am his,
The shepherd [grazing his flock] among the lilies.
You have captured my heart, my sister, my bride.
You have captured my heart, my bride.
My beloved is mine and I am his,
The shepherd [grazing his flock] among the lilies.
Awaken, north wind, and come, south wind.
My beloved is mine and I am his,
The shepherd [grazing his flock] among the lilies.

It was really wonderful and so many people commented to me how lovely his voice is.  He's very talented and we were very happy that he had a special role in our day.


And then it was vow time.





And then ring time.


And then kiss time!


We were so happy!


And Ross just had to give me another kiss.


And another...


He's so silly!  All the congregation were loving our spontaneous extra kisses.  Ross actually turned to Ben and said, "This is a good crowd!"



This is one of my favourite pictures from the ceremony.


One last kiss.


And it was all over!  Time to head back down the aisle.


Mr. and Mrs. Ameringlish!


I loved our ceremony so much.  It was just about 30 minutes, which to me is the perfect length.  Not too long, but not so short that it completely whizzes by.  I do wish that I had it on video, because as I look back I remember the overall feeling more than exactly what was said.  That said, the feeling is pretty damn good, so it'll do.  It'll do.

Did you have a long ceremony or a short one?