Thursday, 27 April 2017

What do baby's movements feel like?

Today marks the mid point of pregnancy Week 34. So for me somewhere between 4-5 weeks before we meet our little one (I'm having a planned C-Section due to Major Placenta Previa, but that story is for another day).   When I was 5 weeks pregnant I didn't even know about our little Pickett's existence... which is when I realise just how few days are separating our lives from totally transforming into something very new. Five weeks is not very long at all...

As I've been getting bigger, I've had the odd person put their hand on my bump. I know some ladies really hate it but, for me at least, it's not something that has happened regularly, or particularly intrusively - it's just one of those things. And Pickett tends to be quite contrary - if they get a sniff that someone might want them to move, they freeze.

I've also had a number of people ask me what it feels like to have a little one growing inside you, and what a good-old-baby-kick feels like.  I feel proud to be part of the club of women who have experienced this, but I'm sure that it other ladies will know what I mean when I say that it's hard to explain... particularly to someone who has no sense of comparison.  How would you explain what a cough feels like?  Or a sneeze?  It's just one of those things that as you grow up you start to associate with the action.  Baby movements are similar - as your bump grows you start to realise all those little flutters were something a whole lot more important than trapped wind...

But, where as an itch is an itch, and generally feels the same wherever on the body it appears, what I've come to realise is that 'baby kicking' does not mean just one thing.  There are a variety of different sensations that I experience, and that I have learnt to associate with the little life in my tummy:

The Drummer

- What: A good solid thwack to the middle of my abdomen. 
I was a very active teenager, with an impressive social life of clubs and activities.  Monday was Guides, Thursday was Drama, and Wednesdays was Marching Band (I've heard all the 'Band Camp' jokes... you can stop right there! ;) ).  To be honest my spell in the Marching Band wasn't my finest - I tried my hand at colourguard (that's pompoms and flags to the uninitiated), discovered I wasn't naturally a brass player eventually saving everyone's eardrums by getting braces and moving on the Glockenspiel... but the team I always secretly wanted to join were the drummers.  With their big bass drums I loved the sound that these boys (I can't recall any girls in the drumming section) made as we marched.  And now, in a strange way I feel part of that club... sometimes Pickett's movements seem to make the whole of my tummy vibrate - like when a drummer hits a kick drum, and you can almost feel the vibration across the taught skin.  I tend to experience these as solid isolated movements - so for someone wanting to feel the baby kick they need to strike it lucky and really be in the right place at the right time if you want to feel Pickett's Drumming.  Maybe they will take up my secret desire to be a drummer one day...

The Snowflake Kiss

- What: Small little movements that can be anywhere over my tummy

Some people would probably call these nudges.  These always make me smile.  They aren't necessarily shocking, and to me much more like a little greeting, a little hand reaching out for attentions: "Hi Mum, don't forget about me!"  It reminds me just how lucky I am to have been able to experience this closeness, and what a gift pregnancy is - in our case, it's long fought for, and very much wanted.  In a strange way, these little bumps remind me of the feeling of when the first snowflakes fall, and gently melt away on your cheek.  Yes, I do realise how smushy and romanticised that sounds, but there is something about that feeling that is both a reminder and a promise.

The Humpback Bridge

- What: A full on flip of the tummy

When I was a little girl I used to visit my grandparents every Sunday.  They lived in a village a few minutes drive from my parent's house, so every weekend I'd sit in the back of the car and my Mum and Dad would drive us the very familiar route to their home.  On the outskirts of that village was a little humpback bridge that I remember vividly - not only did it signify that we were close to Nanny and Grumps' House, but I learned to love the tummy-flipping feeling that cresting that bridge would cause.  My grandparents sadly passed away, and as a result I've not been on that road for years, but our little Pickett has been making me think of those Sunday journeys often... Every once in a while our little one seems to summersault, clearly practicing some form of gymnastics or synchronised swimming,  for a split second I'm transported back to the feeling I got on that bridge - like I've  somehow continued to move forward but have managed to leave my tummy behind on the other bank.

 The Too-Tight-Jeans

- What: A growing sense of pressure pushing outwards

When you're pregnant you get used to the idea that nothing really fits.  Or if you do manage to wriggle in to something it will feel very different than you expected. Leggings, and maternity jeans become your new best friend.  You look forward to warmer weather and the excuse to dig out the old maxi-dresses, because those bad boys have so much material that they cover even the biggest of swelling bumps.  With this movement I'm forced to reflect on bad wardrobe choices.  For me it only happens occasionally, but when it does it's quite uncomfortable.  Not painful, just 'bulky.'  I would presume that Pickett is probably having a good old stretch and pushes the bottom of a belly outwards.  I feel a constant regular pressure outwards (not downwards, which I'm lead to believe is much more common for labour!), just like when you're wearing your skinniest of jeans and go and eat too much lunch.  Only this time you haven't got access to the instant relief of popping open a button!

The Snake

- What: When baby wiggles past

Pickett isn't much of a mover really.  Quite happy floating around in their watery armchair.  But every-so-often they go on a bit of an explore (or at least that's how I like to imagine it).  A little adventurer  sidling off to the other side of my womb just to see what the view is like from over there... and the result is this amazing sense of sideways movement.  Sometimes my whole stomach ungulates as Pickett checks out the most comfortable position.  When you're sat their quietly with you hand on your tummy, there is something very bizarre about feeling movement sideways - I can't think of anything that naturally internally moves left to right or right to left.  If any of the baby-moves reminded me of a little alien, then it's got to be this one.

There is something magical about feeling your baby move inside you.  Whether you're at home, in the bath, delivering a presentation, at the supermarket, for that microsecond that you feel that movement your brain snaps back to your little one.  That's special - and a constant reminder that I'm truly very lucky to have had this experience. 

What are your experiences? What would you compare baby movements to?  How would you explain it to someone?

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Bath Thermae Spa: Watsu when Pregnant - Review

Things have been a bit rocky recently. For the last few months I've struggled. Not so much physically, but with this constant swell of pregnancy emotions that feel like they are battering me from all sides.
So Hubby and I decided that it would do us both good to have some time away. Away from work emails, from painting the nursery, from the need to visit Ikea, again, and away from the constant merry go round of hospital appointments...

The long Easter weekend came along at just the right time so we planned a couple of days in the beautiful city of Bath. It was just what we needed - time to disconnect, to be a couple, to recharge our batteries, a mini-babymoon... and what could be better for that than a trip to Bath Thermae Spa?

I've been lucky enough to go to the spa on a couple of occasions but never with Hubby - and he was insistent that I indulged in a treatment whilst we were there. Being 33 weeks pregnant, there aren't that many treatments to pick from, but after a long chat with the reservations team I plumped for something called 'Pregnancy Watsu.'

I gathered it had something to do with water, and being moved around... to be honest I was more than a bit sceptical. I can move myself around in water thanks very much, in fact that's what is been doing already in the spa that day, so paying an extra £65 (gulp!) to have someone move me around seemed excessive. I was definitely on the fence.

But in the end, it turned out to be possibly one of the most beautiful experiences I have had during pregnancy.

You enter a private pool along with your therapist, they add a couple of floats to your legs for added bouyancy and then you spend the next 50 minutes cradled, like a baby, in their arms in the warm mineral waters. Yes, I know how this sounds. Really bloomin' odd... But it's also truly beautiful.
With my ears under the water, and my eyes closed I spent my 50 minutes in almost a meditative state - seeing only the gentle pink light filtering through my eyelids, hearing only the sound of the water supporting my body, feeling the gentle ripples tickling my skin as the therapist slowly tugged me through the water and gently moved my relaxing limbs, I became  more aware of my body than I have been for months - the strange almost alien pregnancy body felt like something I could connect with again.

And our little bump seemed to feel the same way too. My tummy was dancing. It was like we were both floating together in our little safe watery cocoons, and Pickett wanted to show their appreciation by being incredibly active. It really was like we were sharing something together and bonding. Our first piece of family time.

The more I relaxed, the more movement I felt, and I know that should probably not surprise me. But for someone who isn't used to relaxing, who is constantly on the go and practically hard wired into work emails, this was precisely what I needed. Not 50 minutes focused on myself, but 50 minutes focused on my baby. Not what we needed to do/buy/make before their arrival, but just quality time focusing on what it must be like for that little life inside my tummy.

So would I recommend Watsu?

Most definitely. Yes, okay, so being in a private pool with your eyes closed and essentially having different 'cuddles' with a total stranger does take a while to get used to, and I've no idea what it's like if you're not pregnant... but for me it was a truly magical experience. Exactly what I needed.
I left the pool feeling very at peace, and with every pleasant emotion related to our baby absolutely jangling. I felt overwhelmingly in love with my child.
Somehow my baby and I felt really tethered together beyond our obvious physical connections... My one regret is that it's not something that Hubby could experience. I would love to share that sense of commitment, and love for our little family with him.

This post has not been written in collaboration with Bath Thermae Spa or any other third party.  No incentive has been received for writing this post and is completely based on my own experiences and thoughts.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Harry Potter - Warner Bros Studio Tour Review - is it worth a second visit?

I've always loved Harry Potter. I am from the generation that grew up with the Hogwarts adventures running almost parallel to my own life (although sadly without the magic and decidedly fewer owls). I borrowed the first book from the school library in my second year and was hooked... then when the final book drew closer to hitting bookshelves, I was of those fans that queued all day for the midnight release.

My love of HP crossed mediums - one of the first evenings out that that Hubby and I went on together was to see the Chamber of Secrets at the cinema for a mutual friends birthday... And so it continued, with the films taking us through uni and beyond.
Then back in 2013 after the last film wrapped, a friend and I decided to continue our exploration into the Wizarding World with a visit to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour. We had a great day finding out more about how the films had been brought to life... but since then our Harry Potter journey has been a bit patchy. We've been lucky enough to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the theatre and Fantastic Beasts at the cinema (in fact Hubby and I have nicknamed our bump after one of the characters...), so to scratch the HP itch was friend and I  decided to revisit the Studio Tour, and see what had changed in 4 years.

What are the differences?  And is The Warner Brothers Studio Tour worth a REvisit?

Fewer people 

The Tour has always been very clever at managing crowds, with staged entry times, and a clear clockwise momentum.  When we visited originally, everything was shiny and new and drew lots of excited PotterHeads. Directions were clear; once you left a section you could not revisit, you must continue forwards.  However our second visit was much more relaxed. Want more time in the Great Hall? No problem, just clear the staging area when requested hang around a bit, wait for the next group to enter and simply step back into the room. The story was the same throughout the Tour. Staff  were more than happy to accommodate visitors that wanted to spend a little more time on their favourite sets, as well as take photos for that all important group shot!

More interactivity 

Anyone who has visited WBST will be aware of the green screen area. Ride a broom through London, have a photo as you hover over Hogwarts - explore the magic of film. We actually skipped this on our first visit as the queues were just too long, but this time we donned our cloaks and were on a broom in under 5 minutes.  And the interactivity is not just restricted to the one area - the interactive elements have been built further into the exhibits. Want to try your hand at broomstick lessons? In the right area simply put your hand over a broom and say 'Up'. Wonder how they made Robbie Coltrane's Hagrid so big on camera? Take a seat in the perspective set. Even the Creature Effects area has become more dynamic. Stand on a square on the floor and see how Dobbie  the House Elf can be made to mimic body movements.

More security  

I don't remember security checks being quite so  extensive the first time we visited. Maybe they were, but they certainly don't spring to mind... Maybe that just says a lot more about how the world has become a bit more fearful in the last few years. Expect a thorough bag check and a body scan before you enter.

New exhibits 

The Warner Brothers team have dusted out a number of additional sets/props in the last four years. New to us were the impressive Hogwarts Express (which you can climb aboard and look at carriages dressed for 6 different films), and why join the often lengthy queues at Kings Cross for a photo at Platform 9 3/4 when the Studio Tour offers you the same opportunity (in fact three different photo call opportunities!).  The newest area that opened at the end of March is the Forbidden Forest - a place where many naughty Hogwarts student would spend detention - wander through the Hogwarts gates and see a model Hagrid lighting the way, bow to a Hippogriff under the trees, and have a guided tour through the darker areas to experience some of the Creature Effects.  To be honest, this new area was a bit disappointing... it seems as though the team have moved some of the exhibits from the 'Creature Effects' area to the new 'forest' - so really apart from a bit of window dressing very little felt 'new.'  In fact, we noticed in the Creature Effects area that the explanation video still mentions the giant model Aragog, with the recording of Warwick Davis  indicating to wear the model had previously lived, before the giant spider had be found a new home in the Forest. Maybe the team will update the video at some point...

New Butterbeer 

Only 4 places in the world sell Butterbeer so the queue is always long. Personally I wasn't a fan, and decided not to spend £3-6 on a second experience of the creamy fizzy beverage... however Butterbeer too has evolved over the last few years, with your menu choice now including Butterbeer ice cream. At nearly £5 a cone though it's not cheap

The old stuff 

To be honest, the old exhibits are still just as fascinating as they were before. We didn't spend as long gazing at the Griffindor Common Room or hanging out in Diagon Alley, but at the same time we did get the chance to experience different things. We were able this time to go into the Privet Drive set  (rather than just peek through the windows) and seeing  Alan Rickman's old Shape costumes took on a much more poignant tone after his death last year.


So really, was it worth a second visit? With a £40 ticket price, it's not a cheap day out, and the second visit was a lot of the same stuff. But actually we found that there was enough new to keep us interested. The team have clearly worked hard to evolve the Tour to make it less of a passive museum experience (with some greenscreening) to something where the guest has the opportunity to be a lot more actively involved in the exhibits.

Would I go a third time? Probably not. I think 2 times is my limit. But would I recommend a second visit to people that have been before? I think it would very much depend on when you last visited. It worked for us because there were enough changes, and new things to do. And I can't imagine what else could be added to  justify forking out another £40 for the ticket price.

This post has not been written in collaboration with Warner Bros Studio Tour London or any other third party.  No incentive has been received for writing this post and is completely based on my own experiences and thoughts.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

WEEK 31: Three Days. Three Hospital Visits

We'll  chalk this week up to experience. It's been a bit full on in one way or another...

At my 20 week scan they'd noticed my placenta was a bit on the low side, so on Tuesday I had a scan appointment to see whether there had been any change in 11 weeks.

Hubby was particularly excited to see our little (*strange bump nickname alert*) "Pickett" again.

Turned out our darling little one isn't quite so little...

The scan showed a very tall baby. Not 'big' but Pickett's legs in particular are on the lengthy side. Also baby seems to be in the totally wrong position. And has apparently  been enjoying a swimming pool of amniotic fluid (we're almost double what you should have - no wonder I'm developing a waddle!). Okay, so these things aren't ideal but I didnt care - It was magical to feel the baby somersault around, and to simultaneously see it on the screen.  Something I will never forget I'm sure.

Oh, and the placenta? We've nick named it the Great Wall. There's no way that thing is likely to budge.

The consultants were great. They explained things to us. A ceasarean is likely, they wanted to do lots more tests because of the water volume and Pickett's size, to make sure that both I and the baby are well.

So Wednesday saw me back at hospital for my tests. 7 vials of blood,  1 super sweet drink, and 2 hours of waiting later we were finally sent on our merry way with the information that someone would call us the next day to let me know whether the results showed any sign of gestational diabetes or infection, and that, regardless, they'd see me in a couple of weeks for a follow up.

But then when I was at work on Thursday I had a little bleed.

I'd only been told on Tuesday that this could happen and that if it did I should call for advice. It wasn't much, so nearly dismissed it... But I figured a quick telephone call wouldn't hurt.

I called the Maternity Assessment Clinic (MAC) from a corner office at work expecting advice along the lines of 'keep an eye on it," or "We'll make a note on the system." The line was engaged the first few times, so again I nearly gave up and went back to my desk. It was more pink discharge than blood really.

Instead what I was told was to grab some things together and to come straight in...

A colleague offered to drive me to the hospital. Hubby was reached at work, and scrambled to go back home, pack a bag (Yes, I know we probably should have already done that!) and then meet me at the hospital. 30 mins later I was sat in a tiny, but rather warm,  (and packed) waiting room.

I was seen quickly. I was clearly prioritsed over some of the others waiting there. I explained again that it was only a slight bleed. And it had pretty much died down. But they were having none of it. My placenta previa is "major" meaning that the whole placenta is blocking the cervix. I'm at risk of sudden significant  bleeds  that would be dangerous for both me and the baby. They wanted to check us thoroughly.

Blood pressure, temperature, urine test, ECG, medical history, internal exam (where they thought for a moment that my waters had gone...), swabs, scan. They threw everything they could at me to check the situation.

We had three doctors in our tiny cubicle at one point. It felt excessive. They reassured me that it was not. Calling and coming in was absolutely the right thing. They checked the blood test results from the previous day, elevated sugar levels, but still normal and nothing too concerning (I breathe a sigh of relief there when I discovered one of the infections they checked for was syphilis!).  After 4 hours they decided they were happy to let me go. I was fine, Pickett was fine. My cervix was closed. The bleeding had stopped. Probably caused by slight hormone surge.

Huge sigh of relief. Honestly I couldn't value the NHS more at this point. The care I've had has been amazing.

The challenge now is that the doctors recommended that I am not ever left by myself in case I needed to immediately come into hospital.  Not hugely practical as we don't have family in the area but I'm sure we'll cope.

I feel fine, so went back to work yesterday.  I've had a chat with my boss so he's aware of the situation and that there's a chance I might suddenly need to down tools and go.

I started this week with a simple scan appointment and ended up in the hospital 3 days in a row. Each time understanding more and more of my situation.  I can't thank the Maternity teams enough. Where as I was dismissive they were responsive and systematic.

I'm pleased to be in their care.

I have another scan in 2 weeks where I think they might make the decision on what to do next. But in the meantime Hubby is doing an excellent  job of looking after me.

Even though it seens that things have got a bit more complicated for us, strangely I  now feel more confident about the birth. I have to trust in my care team.

The other positive thing to come out of this week is that it's made us pull our finger out and get some baby bits together.... We went straight from the hospital to Sainsburys to pick up some baby grows... just in case!