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Last week, we dreamed endlessly of the wooden house, of the things we'd do there and how we'd tweak it to fit our needs over time. By mid-week we'd discovered that we could, in theory, get a mortgage on it (thanks tobi_dancer13 for her research assistance there) so we arranged for my parents to come down for the day yesterday so that we could have a second viewing with them in tow. Although we doubted we'd be able to get planning permission to build another bungalow on the site for them it was something we could at least look into and if it wasn't to work then they'd be wanting to move somewhere very nearby so they wanted to scope out the area too.

Then on Friday my Dad threw a spanner in the works by spotting a 2.6 acre registered smallholding closer to Rae's work (near Newport) with potentially enough space for all of us. We couldn't get to view it yesterday, but we went to nosey over the fence and walk round the outside of the property. It's got bags of potential. It would be a lot more work but it's a lot closer to the original dream we had: hence the confusion.

We will be spending this week trying to get to view it and quizzing the planning department about how likely it might be that we'd get permission to turn the lovely brick barn into a home for my folks. There's an annexe anyway, but it looks a bit on the small side for them, more like a studio. If we find that we really could fit us all on there then I think the wooden bungalow will be let go. I do still love it. Seeing it for a second time felt like coming home. I can so easily picture us there, less so than this small holding, which is right on a main road and where the only mature trees are a single short row of conifers, but then I haven't seen inside the smallholding yet so that may change. Our brains are feeling a bit frazzled right now.

Still, it's better to have more than one option than none I guess...

Current Mood: confused confused

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There are a couple of other bits and bobs I wanted to make a note of. They are:
  • We're now just over a week into our new diet and I've lost 7lbs (R's lost 4). I haven't fallen off the wagon once.
  • I've just had my first proper post-ovulation period since having Ember and, to be frank, the ovulating part was more painful. Still wowing at this.
  • And, had I become pregnant at this first post-Ember opportunity, the age difference between Ember and the new baby would be pretty much exactly two years. Textbook or what? (We're not trying by the way.)
  • My oldest friend (our mums met at their antenatal class) is currently in labour and it's very exciting. Please send happy birthing thoughts to Ormskirk, or just out into the world generally if you have any to spare.
Noting completed. :)

Current Mood: excited excited

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It's been a week since we accepted the offer on our house and we've started looking in earnest at the properties that are out there again. It's quite exciting, and a little stressful, though mostly in positive ways.

We spotted a place near Wem that has 4.5 acres that we were really hopeful about. We haven't managed to arrange a viewing yet but will hopefully see it this weekend. It's right on a main road though, one with no pavements and a 60mph limit. We've driven past and although the house is set back from the road a little way and we could easily screen it, it's an isolated property with the nearest villages being about a mile away in either direction along the road. It would be really hard to leave the property on foot, and although I think we'd cope with that for now, this will be our long term home and I can just imagine the problems we might face when a 9 year old Ember wants to go out on her bike to visit friends.

However, last week, it was our favourite of all the places we found with a bit of land. When we learned we couldn't see it this weekend we decided to view a couple of others, mostly to rule them out as contenders. And wouldn't you know, one of them has gone and got all our juices flowing. The only down side is that it's made of wood - totally - even the shingles on the roof are cedar. We love this, but mortgage companies apparently don't. We've set our mortgage man the task of trying to find us something but until he comes back to us with a yay or a nay we can't really arrange another viewing, as much as I'd like one.

It's not what we expected to go for at all. It's in Staffordshire for a start, not Shropshire. It's not far from Market Drayton, and would be about a 35 minute journey each way for R for work. It's a bungalow, in a village - and not just on the edge of the village - it's on a residential street with houses on either side of it and a cul-de-sac full of small retirement-style bungalows over the road. However, it has 0.68 acres of garden that have been lovingly tended by the current owners for the last several decades and include veggie beds complete with full irrigation system, two long rows of apple and pear tree cordons (R's favourite way of growing fruit trees), numerous other fruit and nut trees, a green house, a polytunnel and a 200 year old oak tree. At the back of the garden there is nothing but fields, and a public foot path through them which the property's back gate opens on to. The village itself looks lovely and both the vendors and the bloke we stopped to ask for directions were very friendly. There's a local primary school that has about 30 pupils, so if Ember wanted to go to school at any point she'd have an option that would include an excellent teacher-pupil ratio. The house itself has everything we need. There's tons of storage, three bedrooms plus a large walk-through dressing room that could easily become a fourth with the help of a partition wall, a lovely big lounge with a multi-fuel burner and a dining hall!

And we may have to walk away from it because of the anti-wood policies of mortgage lenders... Though we shall see.

If nothing else it's heartening that we are finding things that we like that we can afford, that meet all our needs. This is going to be an exciting year!
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Last week, I went away to Center Parcs in Cumbria for my birthday with a motley crew of family plus a redandfiery . As a result I ended up celebrating my birthday over three days instead of just one, and I had a very, very lovely time. The cabin we had was a fancy one with a sauna and a hot tub (it also had a steam room but we never actually got it to work) so much time was spent enjoying those. We also had snow, which was glorious. My favourite memory of the week was when my parents took Ember out for a few hours in the afternoon and, following a lovely long sauna, R and I had a soak in the hot tub together. As we lay in the swirling water, chatting and staring up at the tree tops above, it started to snow. We watched the flakes get bigger and fatter until they were falling on our faces, an icy contrast to the warm water we were floating in. It was heavenly! There was also good food, good company and lots of family fun time with E in the pools and play places. Definitely a holiday to repeat.

So that was a good start to my thirties. They got better today when we received not one but two offers on our Birmingham house, both of them barely below the asking price. One of them has been accepted, a first time buyer with a 75% mortgage already arranged and a solicitor in place. We just need to hope that we don't hit any snags this time.

So far so good! If the rest of the decade continues like this then I'll be a very happy bunny!

Current Mood: happy happy

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I guess only time will tell if I'm going to be a more consistent LJer this year, but here's a start.

Last year was busy, involving amongst other things moving home and witnessing our daughter evolve from baby to toddler. That alone ranks it as one of my best.

As for this year, all being well we'll be moving again, this time into our long term family home and the toddler bit looks set to continue in full swing. The main other thing I'd like to see happen this year is some reasonably significant weight loss on my part. I'm still a good few stone heavier than I was when I got pregnant, and that was a good few stone heavier than I'd been a few years earlier. I'm not going to aim to lose it all. I like myself on the curvier side. However, my fitness levels are not where I want them to be and I would like to be able to buy clothes from regular shops again instead of having to rely purely on the plus size and maternity ranges. The other big incentive, and the one that is most likely to help me stay on track is that I would really like to become an egg donor.

It's something I've wanted to do ever since I realised I was only going to have a child myself with the help of donated sperm. Before we could consider getting pregnant as a same-sex couple we had to think long and hard about the implications of raising a donor conceived child and get our heads around the idea that biology and family could be entirely unrelated. As a result it feels as though a lot of the hard work is already done in terms of feeling grounded with the emotional and spiritual aspects of being biologically unrelated to a child I may parent or being biologically related to a child I may not. Now there's just the physical side to deal with. For that, I need to have a BMI of 29 or less and I need to lose 35-40lbs to get there. I've spoken to a local clinic and they're happy to consider me even though I have PCOS as long as I can drop the weight. I'm giving myself a goal of June.

So that will be my big personal adventure for the year. I'll be following Neris and India's Idiot-Proof Diet, basically because it's worked wonderfully for several friends of mine over the last few years and as someone that has never been on a diet it seems like it's going to be very doable without a lot of measuring, weighing or calorie counting. It's essentially a low-carb, high protein one with an emphasis on organic, unprocessed grub. Once I've dropped a bit of weight I'm going to try to get into running again too. I hate running, so this may or may not be successful but regular badminton sessions with R, which I'd love, are out due to childcare issues.

Anyway, none of this is going to start for another week because on Monday we're off to Center Parcs for five days for my 30th birthday. R, E, my parents, my sister and her boyfriend and a redandfiery are coming too. I intend to spend at least part of the day itself in a hot tub drinking champagne and I will indulge in whatever other things take my fancy without restraint. Being virtuous can wait another week.

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Current Mood: bouncy bouncy

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Taken last night, the setting of the sun on the shortest day.


We have decided not to go for the Berrington House. In theory we could have, but it was too much of a risk in our current circumstances. However, the perfect house has come up once. It can come up again. :)
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This an entirely selfish plea on behalf of myself and my family but if anyone has any spare energy to offer encouragement to the universe then we'd welcome the support. Since the sale of our Birmingham house fell through things have been a bit tough as we've had to continue paying the mortgage as well as the rent on our new rental place. We've been just about managing it though and figured we'd be able to stick it out until the Birmingham house sold. We reduced the price again last week to try and help that process along but there have been no nibbles as yet. It hasn't been a problem waiting as we hadn't found the place we wanted to move to. That was until our dream home hit the market this week.

It's a beautiful cottage a few miles outside Shrewsbury in the village of Berrington. It's right next to Berrington Hall, a co-op where a few people we know live. It's the old gardeners cottage of the hall, but is now independently owned. Part of the boundary is the wall to the hall's organic walled garden - what better neighbours could we ask for? The house itself is lovely. It needs a bit of updating but it's perfectly habitable in the mean time and it's a really good size. It also comes with 1 3/4 acres of grounds, and about 2/3 of that is very well established woodland. The rest is either lawn or vegetable beds. It even has a polytunnel! I went to view it this morning and took a load of photos.

We've spoken to our mortgage person and although it's a bit more than we were originally aiming for we will be able to afford it - as long as we can get rid of having to pay for the Birmingham house. This means we need to have sold it or got a tenant in before we could take ownership of this place. The main problem is it's not just our dream home, but lots of people's. There have been loads of viewings already and there's already an offer on the table. They're giving it until Monday and then taking the best offer.

We can't bid unless we get an offer on the brum house (or win the lottery) between now and Monday. It's highly unlikely that either will happen, but I know I won't give up entirely until we know they won't for sure.

So please, universe, help us out.

Current Mood: hopeful hopeful
Current Music: snotty child sniveling

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Since the article about our lotus birth appeared in the Guardian the other week I've been contacted a number of times by other journalists who are interested in taking up the topic. One of them was from BBC Three Counties Radio and I'm going to be interviewed live on air tomorrow (Monday) at around 10:20am. I had some practice last week when I was interviewed for an Irish station so I'm hoping it'll flow reasonably easily but the thought of live radio is still a bit scary. If anyone is interested you can listen live online here.

We just spent the evening watching Mama Mia. It was fabulous. My tummy muscles hurt from laughter and E slept right through our guffaws. It actually felt like a bit of a date night and they're rather rare these days so it was all very lovely. Just what we needed before a bit of a manic week. On Tuesday it's the first Telford & Wrekin Home Birth Support Group meeting and we're hosting it (so we've been cleaning manically most of today). Wednesday involves friends for dinner, Friday a trip to Brum and the weekend will be spent up in Manchester exploring the crimbo markets with friends.

Better get some sleep then!

Current Mood: busy busy

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Well, someone didn't like it.

Current Mood: amused thick skinned

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It seems the placenta article we're going to be featured in will appear in the Guardian G2 supplement tomorrow (Friday). A photographer came round yesterday to capture an image of us to go with it, but he unfortunately arrived just as E was getting knackered and ready for a nap so we had lots of whingey baby and not a lot of the smiley one that lives here most of the time. Hopefully he'll have managed to get something moderately decent.

And the article on our lotus birth that was going to feature in January's Practical Parenting magazine has been put back to the March issue, just in case anyone was considering buying it for that reason alone.

And in other news, last night R was out and I managed to get E down early so I spent several hours doing a freelance graphics job. I haven't used those bits of my brain for ages and I really enjoyed it. Might try to do a bit more if it...

Current Mood: sleepy sleepy

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General busy-ness has stolen me away from LJ again. Tch.

All is well though. E has just started standing herself up, though she's not walking yet. I'm sure it won't be long. She looks ever so tall all stretched out like that. (She is tall anyway. She keeps falling off the top of the 98th percentile whenever they measure her. I think my body must have been storing away all its potential height to pass on to the next generation.) She's also gone and gotten all communicative. There are few recognisable words yet but she can clearly indicate what she does and doesn't want at any time, where things are, and we're developing new little rituals all the time. She just loves to help me put my socks on in the morning (she loves socks generally) and to say goodnight to her toothbrush every evening. It's all joyous. :)

A few recent pics under hereCollapse )

 
I've started to get to know some other local mums - I've found a few that are on a similar enough wavelength to myself to feel understood but not so much as to be boring. I'm setting up a home birth support group with one of them. One of the others has inspired me to try and do something a bit more adventurous with my crocheting. She fell in love with a tank top I made for E (the one she's wearing in the top picture above) and has paid me to make one for her daughter. I'm now developing designs for a few I might pop online and offer to make for folk on commission. I might as well get a few pennies out of my habit if I can. The green and blue one (third photo down) is another design I think I might try to market, but I'm new to doing this sort of thing commercially. Any feedback or ideas would be welcome. I'm still trying to figure out a brand name so I can buy a domain and get some labels made...

And I'm still courting the media. Someone from the Guardian's G2 section is ringing me tomorrow to talk about lotus birth and we'll be in the Shropshire Star again this week after winning a competition in the local shopping centre. We won a family photo shoot at one of these contemporary photography studios. We had it on Saturday and it was really good fun, we chased E around on the floor mostly. We go back next weekend to select our £500 worth of photos. It's not something we'd ever have paid out for ourselves (and it's SO expensive when you've not won a competition), but it was much more enjoyable than I'd anticipated and they got some lovely shots. I'm really looking forward to seeing how they turned out. Maybe I'll post a few here...

Current Mood: happy happy

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This is getting to be a habit!

Current Mood: chipper chipper

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It was Ember's first birthday yesterday. We've been parents for a whole year. In that time we've learned that a whole night of uninterrupted sleep is a luxury we may not know again for a long time, that the amount of joy and entertainment that can be provided by an empty envelope is almost limitless and that every saying and cliche about parenting is absolutely and utterly true. Particularly the ones about love. The intensity of love, along with the intense pleasures and fears that accompany it cannot be put into words, but it is truly amazing. We are so very, very lucky.

And before I overdose on gooiness, the fun stuff. Ember's birthday caught on camera. See it here if you're interested.

In other less parent-related news I am having my first proper post-baby period and am experiencing virtually no pain. They always said that having a baby could cure endo symptoms. I was always hopeful but never really believed it could be true. I still don't know if I do, it seems too good to be true. So far the signs are good. Watch this space. Wow. :)

Current Mood: cheerful cheerful

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We are now moved! And we have internet access. Well, we've had it for a few weeks now but we were without it for long enough for me to get a massive backlog of email that I've only now caught up on. The whole getting back online saga was complicated by our computer dying a horrible death somewhere in the process of moving. We're now on a shiny new machine but I've lost all my old email contacts. I might do another post shortly to follow up on that.

So we're in Shropshire again! I'm liking it. I found the move a little more unsettling than I thought and it's taken a month or so to feel grounded again but as from about a week or so ago I can officially state that I'm very happy being here. Since being here I've taught another Natal Hypnotherapy course and have managed to get down to some marketing for it. I'm going to be in the Shropshire Star about it next Tuesday for those who are local. I've also been courting the press in other ways and Ember's lotus birth story will be appearing in January's Practical Parenting magazine. We're popular bunnies!

In other work (aka pregnancy and birth) related news, a very lovely woman that I've just started to get to know over here and I are setting up Telford's first home birth support group. The first meeting will be in December and we're in the process of getting things up and running. It's exciting stuff. The most exciting bit for me though is the prospect of returning to doulaing. I've begun to get a trickle of enquiries and although I'm still not sure how we'll tackle the childcare issue I'm determined to find a way through it. I've missed it, and I can't wait to find out how much having giving birth myself will have altered the way I work with other labouring women.

Ember will be one this coming Sunday. This year has just flown by, and watching and being a part of her transformation from a small and totally dependent being to a child that mobilises, communicates and has a very strong sense of self has been magical. I love being a parent even more than I imagined I would. And now R doesn't have the commute to deal with i'm also getting the opportunity to work again in the field I'm most passionate about. Things are pretty good.

The only negative in our lives is the fact that the sale fell through on our house due to problems further down the chain. We took the risk of moving before the contracts were signed because we didn't want to lose this rental house and we got stung, so now we're paying for two houses and will be until the Birmingham house sells. In this market that isn't likely to happen quickly. So it's tighten the belt time, but then at the moment that's not exactly an uncommon tale.

OK, I'll round this up for now with a few pictures of our almost one year old daughter, shoved under a cut for those who would prefer not to have to oggle someone else's child. :)

Clicky clickyCollapse )

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I've gone and taken aeons to post again haven't I? Oh well. Life is extremely hectic these days, but in good ways for the most part. I'll briefly summarise the key points from the last few months in a bit but the big news is that we're finally moving. Our house bucked the current property trend and sold three weeks after we put it on the market. We've found ourselves a lovely little rental place in Telford, a whole mile away from R's office to hang out in for next six to twelve months until my folks can sell their place and we can find our long-term dream home.

I'm rather excited about it. We've been ready for this move for a long time but it'll give us so much more quality family time, as well as more opportunities for us both to have more time for ourselves too. I'm anticipating a much improved quality of life once we're rid of R's 45 mile-each-way commute. Yey! And I'm looking forward to our new house too. It's just a bog standard ex council house but it has one bedroom more than our current home and little perks like a walk-in cupboard under the stairs, an old scullery, a second WC and a gate at the bottom of the garden that leads out onto the green between the housing estate and the main road with a footpath that leads to the local shops. It's all very civilised and I'm really looking forward to it. For those who know the area we're just over the road from TCAT, just a stones throw off junction 6 of the M54.

We're moving on Monday (August 11th). The new address is in my memories under contact details for those on my flist.

While E still sleeps, the other recent events of note include:

  • My Dad having a few mild strokes last month. He's making an almost complete recovery and is now getting established a selection of medications and lifestyle changes that will hopefully ensure he's around to make mischief for a good while yet.
  • E saying her first words. 'Dog', 'Digger', 'Mama', 'Light' and 'No' so far. She also shakes her head enthusiastically in response to almost any question which can be quite hilarious, claps in response to all kinds of things she likes and she will eat fruit, any and all fruit, until it comes out her ears. (It sometimes gets smeared in them in her enthusiasm too.) At nine months old there's still no sign of even a hint of a first tooth and she's just started being mobile in the last week - she's a bum shuffler rather than a crawler it seems. She can also repeat phrases of music she hears - in tune! That one really blew us away. We're still loving every minute of this parenting journey, even though she's recently decided to wake every hour in the night after spending her first seven months or so only having one or two night feeds. I guess we were due some decent sleep deprivation at some point.
  • My Lotus Birth article being accepted by The Mother magazine.
  • My first post-pregnancy period arriving. It was a very light one, so I don't think it was a 'proper' one, just a trial run, but it was completely pain-free. I'm really hoping this bodes well for the future.
  • E and I getting filmed as part of a series of breastfeeding DVDs being produced by Art of Change to help train midwives.
  • Me finally having shrunk enough to fit into the larger of my pre-pregnancy jeans. Well, it's a start!

And on that note I'm going to head bedward to try and get some sleep before E starts her waking routine

Current Mood: tired tired but happy

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I'm selling off some of my paintings as I don't have room for them all any more. If you're interested, you might just be able to grab yourself a bargain: www.ginaroberts.com/artforsale
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Hokey cokey. Given that we're going to be moving house sometime soon, R and I have decided to do some major clearing out. It was essential, really, as the years worth of accumulated stuff meant our home was permanently cluttered - not a problem when you live in it and are happy that way, but not so hot if you're trying to convince strangers that they want to buy the place from you. Plus that cathartic feeling that comes from getting rid of everything excess is quite nice. :)

The up shot of all this sorting is that we now have some stuff that needs a new home, particularly the crafty stuff that won't fit in the one large chest I'm allowing myself for such things. Freecycle and local charity shops are where its all headed eventually but I thought some of you lot might also find this stuff appealing so I'm giving you first dibs. We're getting photos taken by the estate agent next week so if you want anything, you need to claim it by commenting to this post by the end of Monday (the rest gets freecycled after that) and be able to come and get it before Thursday (or be happy to pay postage). Here's what's on offer:

  • Several bags of balls of yarn, various colours, weights and styles. Includes the odd bundle of balls that would be enough to make a garment but mostly odd balls, so more suited to small projects.
  • A very well worn but still serviceable peachy coloured king size duvet cover and pillowcases.
  • Numerous old bed sheets, probably only good as dust sheets/child play tents etc.
  • Random pieces of material that are left over from or were once going to be sewing projects including a heavy grey fabric with plenty to make a good sized pair of office type trousers, some light indian print fabric, enough for a table cloth or other similar item, and smaller pieces of pink velvety fabric, light embroidered cream cotton and other bits and pieces.
Any takers?
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My goodness. Second post in a week. Who'd have thought it?

I have really wanted to write this one for a little while though. We've been planning exciting things for years, these particular exciting things since last summer, and now that we're beginning to implement the exciting things I figured I really ought to let people know about them.

R and I have been planning to move back to Shropshire pretty much since we moved to Birmingham nearly six years ago. In that time the desire to do so has grown with each year. R is still working over there and the 45-60 minute commute each way takes its toll as well as taking up a lot of potential family time. Now that I'm not working much, and that the work I'm doing isn't location-reliant there's no professional reason to be here at all. Aside from all that, since completing her horticulture diploma, R has harboured a desire to manage her own cider orchard and we both love the idea of living as much of the self-sufficient 'good life' dream as we can. However, we're now a one-income family and properties with land don't come cheap. Over the last few years we've explored all kinds of ideas to try and find a way to be able to live somewhere with land on a budget that would also allow us to actually have some time to enjoy it. These have included building our own place, converting or renovating something with land, living in a caravan in a field, buying a home and land separately and the one we explored the most, finding other people to do it with. The latter always appealed most for all kinds of community-minded reasons, but we never found an existing community that worked for us and the people who were interested in coming in with us all had no money to contribute to setting things up - something we sorely needed. And the lottery win never came.

Then, last year, my mum popped down one day to visit and she made us a proposition. She and my father were considering downsizing now that they were nearing retirement and my sister and I were all grown up. However, I was large with (their grand) child, they didn't just want to move into a box somewhere (her words), they were aware we'd been struggling to find a way to get our dream and they thought we might all get more for our money if we pooled resources. We were stunned, and we spent all of half a second deliberating before pouncing on the idea with great enthusiasm. Needless to say, R and I have a great relationship with my folks, and the prospect of living close to them is in no way scary. In fact, it has so many plus points for all of us we've stopped counting them.

So, nine months and many, many conversations later we're now just about to put our house on the market and my parent's place is being crawled over by handy-people to get it ready to sell too. We've drawn up a list of requirements for our dream home, including a plan of how we can share space that we all feel happy with. We've spoken to mortgage people and we have an approximate budget. And most excitingly, we've started looking for our dream home. And we've found a few that might just fit the bill. We're going to see two of them this weekend (one with two, the other with seven acres). It all seems to be coming together and I can't believe it might just work out at last. We're going to have a huge veggie bed! We're going to have chickens (living in the orchard - organic pest control and providers of eggs combined)! I'm going to have a lovely farm-house kitchen to cook up amazing things with our home produce whilst Rae makes cider and E and the dog run wild in the fields!

It's all amazing, but it's not just a dream that R and I have had in the last few years. For as long as I can remember my fantasy for my future has been to have a loving partner and a family, and live somewhere rural where we could be as self-sufficient as possible, ideally with others. It's looking quite conceivable that I might have all of that by the end of this year - before I'm 30. I feel so amazingly lucky, and extremely happy. It's a good job I've been fostering some new dreams for the future or I might have just spent the rest of my days simply wallowing in my personal paradise. Am I a jammy sod or what?

Current Mood: excited excited

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It's been a long time since I updated properly, but then I have had, and continue to have a reasonably understandable distraction.  I'm aware that my posts could have easily become extremely mundane for anyone not in a new parent frame of mind, so on the occasions when I've been tempted to jump on here and announce one of the many minor milestones in E's development I've held myself in check. This is my journal after all. My life is extremely E-centric these days so she's going to be present in whatever I write about, but I understand that anyone not immediately close to E probably won't be that interested in hearing about the fact that she just rolled over or slept through the night. So here's a pledge: I can write about things to do with E as long as they focus on my experience of life as her parent and primary companion and I will attempt to avoid making random announcements unless they have genuine entertainment value. Here's hoping I can stick to it.

Having got that out the way...

I'm loving motherhood. I'm sure that won't surprise anyone who knows me even remotely. I feel extremely happy in it, and if E's calm and happy nature is anything to go by I'm at least not terribly bad at it (the baby-stages part of it at least). I've been pleasantly surprised at how relaxed I feel about things that it wouldn't be hard to get anxious about. I think it's down to being absolutely bullish about trusting my instincts on things even when they (reasonably often) go against the mainstream grain, which I'm managing most of the time. I've had the odd wibble, but it usually hasn't been long before something has come along to remind me to listen to E and trust my gut on how to be and things have resolved themselves.

One thing that has definitely helped with that has been working out with R that for the foreseeable future at least I'm going to be a mostly stay-at-home-mum. Come June I'll be teaching Natal Hypnotherapy one weekend a month, plus the odd one-to-one evening course, but other than that I'm on childcare and home-maintenance duty. We have a fantasy of one day being able to split the childcare/home educating (something we've planned to do ever since we considered becoming parents) and income generating somewhere down the middle, but R has some great opportunities coming up at work and she can earn much more than I could ever hope to, so at the moment it makes more sense for her to be the main breadwinner. The fiercely independent parts of me have had a bit of a job getting over the fact that someone else is going to be 'providing' for me but I eventually managed to find peace in that by remembering that earning money to pay for stuff is only one way to contribute to a family. I've also had to learn to see myself as much more a part of that family rather than a stand-alone unit to make this fit. It does fit. Rather well I now feel. It's taken a while to click together in my head and heart but now I'm there I really am extremely happy in my role as mother and domestic adventuress. I feel extremely lucky to have the opportunity to focus on it so greatly when many of my gave-birth-last-autumn peers are having to put their babies into childcare and go back to work. It might work for them but my choice is this, and I'm a jammy enough sod to be able to have it.

I've been keeping my hand in though. In February I travelled down to London for a day (with E strapped to my front) and gave a presentation to a bunch of Natal Hypnotherapists on lotus birth following our experience of it with E. After that I was asked by the editor of the Doula UK newsletter (who had been there) if I could write it up as an article for publication. I finished it last week and have been asked by two of the local NCT newsletters if they can print it too. I've popped in onto my work site in case anyone fancies having a read.

I have much more to update on, but although I could type until the wee hours I no longer get to choose to have a lie-in if a particular small person decides she wants to be awake, so I will save the rest for next time. Hopefully it'll be sooner than the last time as exciting things are afoot and I'm itching to tell all.

Current Mood: happy happy

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I've just noticed that [info]hieroglyphe has posted a comment on Ember's photo site, particularly noting one of the recent pictures. I thought I'd pop it up here in case anyone else fancied a giggle.

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It's been a bust week for my family this week. My sister's famous too.

Current Mood: proud

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Ember and I are in the local paper today, enthusing about home birth. The online version is here for those who are interested, although the photo they used in the printed paper is nicer than the online one (see a scan of the paper version here). Note the new look me too...
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This has taken a long time to write - its been completed in many stages. But for those of you that are interested, here is the story of Ember's birth. Be warned, it's a long one.

Current Mood: busy busy

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I'm sorry that it's taken me so long to get on here and make this announcement. The last week or so have been rather busy, but in the nicest possible way.

Our daughter, Ember Joy, was born at 5:54 am on October 19th, at home after a 27 hour, completely natural and un-medicated labour. It was extremely tough, which I'd expected, but as these things are inclined to be it was tough in ways I hadn't in any way anticipated. However, my wonderful birthing team consisting of R, our midwife and my sister and cousin kept me on track. They were all fantastic, and by the time I was pushing her out on my knees over our sofa I was thoroughly enjoying myself. Ember weighed in at 8lb 11oz and although she was born 5 days over her hospital due date she came along 40 weeks to the day from the day we inseminated last, the day I believe I ovulated. Punctual little lady! It took 5 hours to deliver her placenta, but we get it out eventually and we gave her her lotus birth. Her cord and placenta came away naturally when she was two and a half days old.

Since the birth we've had some problems feeding and are currently syringe feeding expressed breast milk. She is finally beginning to get the hang of the breast for short periods though, so hopefully eventually we'll get there. Until we do we're shutting the door to all visitors as we need the time and space to focus on her and her needs, and on getting her to the breast in a calm and relaxed way. As lovely as doting visitors are they don't help that natural flow very well.

We are loving being mothers, and loving our daughter more than we ever thought possible. And on that note, it's time for our bath, so I'd better go.
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I'm just coming up to hour 40 of a lovely prolonged stop-start labour. In the last nearly two days, I've had times of lovely hard contractions with which I've been very vocal, with barely a break between them and once, two hours of nothing at all, and then everything in between. I'm currently having medium strength ones about 5 minutes apart (the kind that make me stop and think about them while they're happening, but otherwise let me carry on as normal), and have been like this all morning. After hanging around yesterday R has gone into work today. My sister is here as our lovely other support person/doula and we're going to go out to do some shopping shortly in the hope that a bit of ambling around a shopping centre will kick things along. Aren't you supposed to get free stuff if your waters go in certain stores? Or something...

This is clearly still early - look, I'm sitting typing for a start, but I'm loving the fact that it's happening. The midwife saw me yesterday an announced that the head wasn't going to get any lower until it came out and that my uterus had dropped considerably in the previous 48 hours. I was hoping for a baby today. 5/10 feels like a really nice birth date, however, it's going to have to get a shift on to make that now I think.

And it could all stop of course. I'd be extremely disappointed if it did though. I'm really enjoying this.

Send your birthing vibes this way please.
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I'm not going to make it to 40 weeks. Well, I'll be extremely surprised if I do. I've been having contractions on and off for some time, starting about a week ago. As from about 2am this morning, they've started to get quite uncomfortable. There's no regular pattern to them yet. Sometimes an hour or more can go by without one, other times they're every ten minutes, but slowly and surely over the last few days, they've been getting more frequent.

I've realised that I've had it in my head for so long that we're having an October baby that to give birth before Monday somehow feels inappropriate. That thought alone might keep things in check until then, but I'm beginning to think our midwife might have been quite perceptive to have predicted a 38 week baby.

Of course, this could go on for weeks, but I can't imagine that when they're as strong as the one I had to pause for during that last paragraph that they're not doing something productive.

We shall see...

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

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I've just had my first taste of the frustrations that I have heard discussed a plenty by those who have more experience at dealing with the world of tax, benefits and the like. I'm not yet annoyed or frustrated particularly, but I hope for my own sanity that today has just been a minor blip and not a sign of things to come.

Two weeks ago, I started my maternity leave. As a self employed person, I'm entitled to maternity allowance which is a not-very-much-but-better-than-nothing weekly payment that lasts for 39 weeks. I sent off my forms a few months ahead of time, I got a reply a few weeks before my leave was due to start confirming everything was in order. I returned their confirmation note as requested and duly stopped working at the date specified. Two weeks later, I've had no money, despite having had it confirmed that I'd be getting weekly payments into my bank account. I've spent a hapless hour chasing what's going on, and I now have to wait until next week to get it sorted because no-one in the Birmingham Department of Work and Pensions Incapacity/Maternity Benefit office today has any clue about how maternity allowance works and they need to get someone who does to call me back, but there'll be no-one available to do that until next week. Lovely. I'll just have to rely on my overdraft for a little bit longer.

My other task for today was to be all industrious and well prepared, and to get my self-assessment tax return done before the baby arrives - I officially have until December if I do it online, but I figured I have more time and concentration to give to the task now than I will in a few weeks. After battling with their online system for some time I give up and ring their technical support people and learn that their entire log-in/registration system for 'self assessment online' has packed up. They're working on fixing it, but maybe I could try again tomorrow...

So I'm officially giving up and going to do the washing up instead. At least that's a task I can maintain control over! Fingers crossed this baby stays put until I get a chance to get all this sorted!

Current Mood: blah blah

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We are now home from our holiday in Wales - it was stunningly beautiful as always, though I struggled with many things more than I thought I would. The poor quality caravan mattress, the worsening of my pelvis pain and the arrival of an unsettled stomach that had me up in the night plenty, and that doesn't seem to be settling still. I think it's all just late pregnancy, and possibly my body gearing up for labour.


I have no sense that it's absolutely imminent though. I'm still just shy of 37 weeks and I've always expected to reach at least 40, if not 41 and beyond, but my midwife is now openly suspecting a 38 week baby might be on the cards, and I'm beginning to wonder. Watch this space though. I'll probably be saying exactly the same thing in a month's time.

But, back to our holiday. I was unable to do much, but I did sit on beaches and enjoy the sheer power of wind and surf and spray. The power of nature at it's rawest, a wonderful reminder of the power I will be experiencing coursing through my body before long. I sat in organic cafes and outside visitor's centres, whilst R and the dog walked the favourite routes that normally we'd all walk together. And during this time I read, or crocheted, or simply sat and was at one with the world. I realised the week before we left that we hadn't really got any toys for this child, not that new babies really need any toys, but I felt I wanted to have something for them. So my holiday project became to make one. As it turned out, I made two, as I used less wool than I thought I would for the first and I decided a smaller companion might work quite well. I even had enough wool left over at the end for a pair of slippers for our 7 month old nephew who was staying in the caravan opposite, and who's mother had forgotten to pack him any socks.

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I read with interest parallelgirl's postings on her feelings about having, and then not being able to have (and now being able to have again) colourful hair recently, and this morning I find myself pondering not unrelated things. I have had dreadlocks and facial (nose and lip) piercings for some 6-7 years at least now (in fact, the nose piercing goes back much longer) and those two small metal rings and the knots in my hair are things that I consider to be defining features of myself. If asked to describe my physical appearance to someone I may be about to meet for the first time they always get 'blonde dreadlocks and facial piercings' and so far no-one has failed to pick me out of a crowd. These relatively minor appearance choices are things that can make me stand out a little or a lot, or allow me to integrate seamlessly into different groups of people and for the most part, the assumptions people make about me based on them are reasonably accurate. (I do however find it intriguing that almost everyone, regardless of context or prior knowledge of my dietary habits, assumes me to be vegetarian. I'm sure it must be linked to the dreadlocks in some way, but I have no idea why that connection seems to happen for so many people.)

Anyway, a few days ago my lip piercing became sore all of a sudden. I imagine I knocked it or caught it somehow, though I have no memory of doing so, but the skin inside my lip became tender and a little inflamed. After a day or so of waiting for it to pass and finding the relatively minor discomfort surprisingly irritating, last night I removed it. This morning the inner lip side of the piercing has already healed over. I no longer have a lip piercing. Until yesterday evening, I hadn't considered removing that piercing at all, so it's been a rather swift evolution, but I'm choosing, at the moment at least, to live without it for a while. I will be giving birth soon, and the idea of being able to kiss our baby without a strip of metal in the way feels somehow more appropriate than being able to hold on to my lip ring - for the time being at least. (Though I strongly suspect that the ring will return one day, eventually.)

I've also found myself increasingly considering the long term future of my dreads. They have taken years to cultivate, so this is a big one, but I do find they tend to get in the face of babies I hold (which many don't seem to like very much), and I fully expect to be dealing with baby sick and other baby body fluids down me on a relatively regular basis before long, and there's no way I'd be able to keep my dreads out the way all the time. Washing them means planning - they take 24 hours to fully dry, and I'm just finding myself questioning whether keeping them is the most practical choice given the other life changes that are going on here. They are, without a doubt, the most defining thing I see about myself physically. Losing them would be like losing part of myself, and I do wonder whether if I did chop them off, I'd be growing them back as soon as I could, but I do find myself considering losing them with increasing frequency.

The one thing that does interest me about losing them is something that I've only noticed in the last few days. It seems as though pregnancy has changed my hair colour. My roots, and the first inch or so of each dread is decidedly darker than the rest of them. If I were to chop them off, it would only be this last inch or so that would remain attached to my scalp and by the looks of things I'd find myself becoming a brunette overnight. I have no idea if this change is going to be a permanent one or not, but both my parents have brown hair, so I assume I have at least a little genetic inclination that way. Suddenly realising I'm not blonde any more (or at least at the moment) is a strange one. No-one (not even me until this week) has noticed this change at my roots, because appearance of the rest of the dreads seems to be dominant enough to keep it hidden. Still, I'm reeling a little at the discovery that, suddenly and out of the blue, I'm not a natural blonde any more.

So in the last week I've lost half my facial piercings and my ability to honestly refer to myself as blonde, and despite some sense of unease, I also find myself feeling a little excited about the changes. My identity is about to change more dramatically than it ever has before. It's probably a good thing to have a few minor identity shifts to practice integrating before the real biggy.

Current Mood: blank evolving

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Over the weekend, I submitted some of the photographs from the photo shoot I had with my sister the other week to The Mother magazine (to which I've subscribed for the last year). I had an email this morning to say that they were going to use one of the on the cover in a few months! I'm not sure which one, but the three I sent are the second and third ones from this post, and one that is similar to the fourth, but minus the dog.

I'm going to be a cover girl again. First BCN, now The Mother. Except this time I'm a significantly more curvy cover girl, baring her breasts.

In other exciting news, I'm just about to head off to pick up our order of lovely washable nappies from our local Lollipop nappy rep. I wonder how many more exciting things can I fit into today...

Current Mood: excited excited

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