Our little Christmas Pudding has arrived

I never thought the end of my Pudding club hunt would come at Christmas. In the UK we typically have Christmas pudding as our dessert at Christmas dinner. I don’t think this could be the most apt end to 2016 on the Great Pudding Club Hunt.

 Aviana Ruby arrived safely on 21st December at 9.21PM (21/12 @ 21:12!!!!) weighing a teeny 5lbs 1oz and measuring a staggering 19.5″ long!!!! 


I will write my birth story another time but quickly here is what happened. I was admitted to the hospital at 9PM on Tuesday 20th December, to be induced at 38 weeks because the doctors felt Aviana would thrive better outside of my body as she was suffering from intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). I was given Cervidil to ripen my cervix, the doctor likes it to be in for 12 hrs before it is removed (it’s kind of like a tampon thing that hurts like hell). On Wednesday 21st at 10AM our doula arrived and the cervidil was removed. I began labour naturally, so the doctors held off giving me Pitocin, but unfortunately at around lunchtime my contractions slowed down and I had to start the Pitocin induction. 

The contractions got stronger and harder and more painful, but Chris and my Doula coached me through the pain. We tried almost every birthing toy in the box in the hospital and every position possible to survive without pain meds. I started pushing at about 8.45PM. Unfortunately several times Aviana’s heart rate was decelerating dangerously and there were a couple of moments when it looked like C-section was on the cards. At one point all I could think of was do whatever is best for my baby to survive, I don’t care what needs to be done, just save my baby! 

I only pushed for 37mins, but this was mostly because her head was so low already and a lot of amazing work from the team, I was coached to push and she had to be vacuumed out. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) team were on standby – a terrifying feeling – but they weren’t needed in the end. The feeling of her coming out in the last and final push was euphoric. She was a lovely sticky warm gooey mess and she was placed on my abdomen and Chris cut the cord. Yes she was tiny and super skinny, but her APGAR scores were 8 & 9!! So amazing. We were able to do skin to skin after she was thoroughly checked and NICU team sent away. I was also able to breastfeed within the first hour too. 

On Friday 23rd at lunchtime, we were all discharged from the hospital. Having a pain med free vaginal birth meant I was able to leave earlier than was expected. Many people were surprised at how healthy Aviana was and how quickly we were allowed to leave! When we left Aviana was just 4lbs 12oz. On Christmas Eve we followed up with our pediatrician and she weighed just 4lbs 8ozs, my milk hadn’t come in by then, so we are supplementing breastfeeding with some formula now, hoping she starts to thrive.

Aviana Ruby truly is the best Christmas gift I could ever receive. We have been so fortunate that things have worked out so well despite hurdles thrown at us along the way. My heart is simply full of extreme gratefulness and happiness to finally meet Aviana, AKA Rocky, AKA my little sweet Christmas pudding.


Wishing all of you a Christmas full of love and joy XX

Advertisements

Champagne for Breakfast?

People ask me all the time – What have you craved this pregnancy?  And I can’t answer them, except with what food do I have aversions to….

….Roast chicken, BBQ pizza, lettuce leaves (especially Arugula/Rocket), herby tomato sauces.

In the past few weeks I have slowly been able to add these foods back into my diet.  Except for lettuce leaves.  I am hoping that after Rocky arrives that I get my appetite back for salad!

But interestingly what has also happened in the past few weeks I have woken up with a craving!  Yes I have finally experienced a craving!  This craving appears with no warning, it is sudden, there is nothing around me that makes me think oooooh I fancy some of that, it just appears in my head.  I can smell it, I can taste it, I can imagine it in my hand, I can imagine it slipping down my throat and satisfying my big brain itch I have for…..CHAMPAGNE!  FOR BREAKFAST!!!!

I promise you drinking champagne for breakfast is not something I would ordinarily do…ever really…except for in a bucks fizz or a mimosa.

The cool, crisp bubbles slipping down my throat, making me feel a little giddy from the alcohol has been my one and only craving so far.  And as this is a craving I really shouldn’t be satisfying at this later stage of my pregnancy, I have not given into it. Not that I have champagne lying around my house or that I could go out at at the crack of dawn to buy some – which is just as well really because if Chris woke up to find me drinking champagne (on my own) with my cereal and toast for breakfast, I think he would send me to the mad house!

Rocky….your eviction notice has been handed to you – mummy needs some champagne! Stat!

dani-and-chris-375

A slightly cheerier note

Some of you have already voted on Instagram….but I am intrigued what my non IG friends think!  Which is your favourite name?

names

Matilda means “Powerful fighter”, Aviana means “Fresh”, Evelyn means “Optimistic”

Interestingly, Matilda Lucie came out high from Instagram, but when we have verbally said the list, most people prefer Aviana Ruby.  Maybe it’s the way we say it and people pronounce it differently when they read it compared to hearing it.

Chris has a favourite out of the three names, I don’t really have a preference, I like them all.  We will decide when we see Rocky’s face!  BTW Chris….’squishy placenta face’ is not a good name, the kids at school will be mean.  Although, not sure there are any worse names they could call her than that!

It’s quite a responsibility choosing a name for your child!!!

Same old story – it’s just unexplained

PC Diary @38Weeks 0 Days

The unknown doctor came in, shook our hands and looked at us in turn, he looked concerned.  But after a strange pregnant pause he managed to get the words out….”Everything looks good with the flow to and from the placenta”. Phew…a sigh of relief! From the look on his face, we both thought he was going to say something bad.  Another awkward pregnant pause and he said to us “We don’t know why your baby is measuring small.” (This doctor had very a very strange and awkward bedside manner)

Chris and I had bets on how this appointment with the Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialist would go.  We both bet it would be ‘unexplained’, because that just seems to be the way the cookie crumbles with us.  Unexplained infertility has done that to us, it has better prepared us for accepting the unknown.  By the way the unknown SUCKS.  But nevertheless, we seem to be able to handle it a lot better now.  We think that the doctor was expecting us to give him a hard time about not knowing why Rocky is measuring small.  But instead we just said, OK so there is nothing obviously seriously wrong? Although, she was even further behind than our past growth scan in the 3rd percentile (She was in the 5th percentile the week before), but these measurements have error inaccuracies, especially at this late stage of the pregnancy. There was no denying the fact that she is still very small and behind.

The doctor recommended that she be delivered in my 38th week so we can get her out of me and feed her up.  Later that day I went back to my OBGYN for another non-stress test and an ultrasound to check on my amniotic fluid levels.  All was looking good.

It was an emotional roller coaster day of nerves and relief.  We don’t know exactly how healthy Rocky will be when she arrives into the world and what the impact of the growth restriction has been on her, if any.  Perhaps my anemia was the culprit, perhaps it has been my bowel problems not getting the right nutrition to her or perhaps she is just a naturally skinny thing.  We don’t know, but that’s OK, because we are going to meet her very soon and hold her in our arms.

At my next appointment with my Obstetrician we talked about the induction process.  We had been penciled in to arrive at the hospital on the evening of the 20th December to have my cervix ‘ripened’ overnight.  Rocky is currently head down and engaged at Stage 0 right now, and I am still 1cm dilated and 50% effaced, which is a good thing and may mean I don’t need to have my cervix ripened.  If that is the case, then I may be asked to come into the hospital in the morning of the 21st December and they will put straight onto the drug Pitocin (it mimics oxytocin, the hormone which causes contractions).  The doctor warned us how long this process can take 12-24 hrs, and there is no way of knowing how my body will respond.  Sometimes a small baby can be a good thing and time can go quicker and I may have an easier time pushing her out!  Or sometimes not….  they will keep a close monitor on Rocky because sometimes growth restricted babies struggle to keep their heart rate up during contractions.  If Rocky’s heart rate decelerates then there is a very good chance I would end up having a cesarean section.  But the great news is, there is no reason for me to not have a vaginal birth.

My birth plan is that I wish to avoid pain medication at all costs.  However, I am now being induced using Pitocin and this can cause contractions to be a lot stronger and successive far quicker than a natural labor would be.  This means that there is a higher chance of this being painful!  My current feelings are that I will try my dammed hardest to not ask for the pain meds – in whatever form.  Chris is well versed in my desire, and my doula will be there to help me get through it too.  Although I want a vaginal birth, I have spent some time thinking about how to cope with an unexpected c-section.  I am now feeling ready for that moment because I know Rocky’s health is the most important thing to think about.  Luckily I will be on one of my favourite obstetrician’s service that day and I feel like I can trust her.

All this being said, the past week has been strange.  I had some plans for my maternity leave…I was excited to be taking some time to myself and thought 4 weeks before Rocky’s arrival I would have some time to do these things – Christmas dinners with friends and colleagues, executive development program study, knitting, Christmas card writing, email sorting, Christmas shopping, housework, blogging and more.  But with being on ‘rest’, many doctors appointments and not knowing what is going on has actually been exhausting and I have done very little on this list.  Even the things that don’t require me to leave the house for I haven’t been able to focus on, I have just been lethargic and brainless.  It doesn’t help that I am not even sleeping well and having lots of pregnancy related nightmares.  I might be physically well rested, but my brain sure isn’t.

Finally, just one more thing.  Now when people say to me, oh you look so good for 37/38 weeks pregnant…I actually feel bad inside.  I now know that my bump is small and I have put on little weight to the detriment of Rocky.  Until I meet her and hold her safely in my arms, that guilt is not going to stop, no matter how much people will tell me it’s not my fault.

But guys….I am almost at the end of all this…I am on the brink of exploding with happiness about that!

From a High to a Low: Fetal growth restriction

My obstetric appointment didn’t go quite as exactly as hoped for.  The doctor measured the fundal height and asked me if I had an ultrasound yet, I said no.  So she said well you are going to have one today, you are measuring a small.  Since I entered the third trimester I have had comments about my small bump, but the doctors say that because I am tall and have a long torso Rocky has more room upwards which is why I don’t go outwards.  But then there is my weight issue, I have only put on 1lb in the past 8 weeks.

The doctor did a pelvic exam and Rocky’s head is very low down (yeh my poor bladder knows this well!), she had troubles getting to my cervix – ouchie that hurt a lot!  I am 1cm dilated (how much the cervix is open, from 0-10cm) and 50% effaced (how much the cervix is thinned and shortened that means the cervix can dilate more ready for labour, from 0-100%.).  Well that doesn’t mean much at 36 weeks and is perfectly fine.

I had more blood drawn and we headed in for our ultrasound.  Really at this point in the pregnancy it is very difficult to tell body part from body part.  These technicians are very skilled!  She pointed out a head of hair….really it looked like white mess and I couldn’t tell there was even a head!  As she measured Rocky’s tummy, the size was measuring 29 weeks and 30 weeks…she took the measurement several times, and everytime is showed between 29-30 weeks, way behind.  But when she measured her thigh bone it measured spot on 36 weeks.  Rocky’s head is way down in my pelvis so she had a hard time getting a measurement, but when she did it measured 36 weeks.  With all these measurements, this meant that Rocky is weighing in at 4lbs 10oz – just under the 5th percentile for 36 weeks. Anything less than the 10th percentile is considered as growth restricted.  Her tummy size is in the less than 1 percentile. That is scary.  The technician confirmed that yes she was weighing in small, so went to give the results to the doctor.

We were then sent to have non-stress test.  I had heard about these, where you wear two monitors, one that measures contraction strength, the other the baby’s heartbeat.  You sit in a chair, relax and press a buzzer every time you feel the baby move.  This monitoring goes on for at least 20 minutes depending on how active the baby is, assessing baby’s reactivity and changes in heartbeat.  Rocky performed well!

After the non-stress test the doctor came back and explained her thinking.  Rocky has asymmetrical intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR).  Asymmetrical means that her head and length is normal, but not the stomach.  In more than 70% of cases, this indicates a likely problem with the flow to and from the placenta and baby not getting enough oxygen or nutrients.  Rocky diverts the energy for growing the brain and bones, meaning that the liver and fat build up doesn’t happen, which is why her tummy is so skinny. This form of intrauterine growth restriction usually occurs in the third trimester. (The other form of growth restriction is symmetric where the baby is small all over).  There are other causes of this type of restriction, but most of those we can rule out.  So we need to rule out the placenta problem and I have to go to Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist to have a special ultrasound to look at the flow to and from the placenta using a doppler.  The catch is I have to wait for an appointment.  The doctor said that I will be induced in either week 38 or 39 because the baby will do better outside my body.  But if I have placenta problems she will want to induce me ASAP.

I am now on twice weekly appointments including a non stress test twice a week and an ultrasound to keep an eye on Rocky…particularly as the amniotic fluid might reduce over the coming weeks they want to monitor that and ensure that Rocky isn’t struggling getting the oxygen she needs.

I am also on ‘rest’ not bed rest exactly, but just resting and preserving all energy for Rocky.  So I would have been signed off work if I wasn’t on maternity leave already.

There is no medical intervention that will stop this from happening, all that can be done is that we are both monitored closely and assess the right time to deliver Rocky.

What does this all mean for my labour, delivery and Rocky’s health?  We don’t know.  We know that there is an increased risk of her having problems during labour, I am more likely to need a cesarean section, there is an increased risk of still birth and perinatal mortality, she is also likely to have a number of health problems after being born in both the short and long term, or she may just be perfectly fine…but life is like a box of chocolates and you don’t know what you are going to get.

I have to remember and keep telling myself that there is nothing I did to cause this and that Rocky needs us to be strong and positive to help her make it into this world safely.

Now I just wait for my appointment with the specialist.  Until we know the placenta issue, we are helpless and not knowing is quite frankly scary 😦

Maternity Photo Shoot Session

I ummed about doing a maternity photo shoot, especially as Chris has done some maternity photo shoots before, I wasn’t sure if he would be offended that I didn’t want him to take the photos.  But actually it made a whole lot of sense to hire a photographer because it would have been challenging and time consuming for Chris to run a shoot with both of us being in the photos!  So I selected five photographers in the local area that I liked their style, then let Chris choose the one…after all they would have high standards to live up to, and for me personally, I just like the pictures and have no clue what is actually good quality or not!  I didn’t tell Chris how much each one cost, but let’s just say, he did pick the most expensive.  Of course her photos were pretty amazing, so they demand a higher price naturally!  Each photographer offers various options and so it is difficult sometimes to compare prices, but the one Chris chose was definitely going to cost us a bit more.  But I am very glad we went with her because she made it so easy…if you are in the hampton roads area, I highly recommend her…

www.melissablissphotography.com

We chose our shoot location as First Landing State Park (it got it’s name from where the settlers first landed in the US, then moved up the bay to Jamestowne).  We love this park a lot and discovered this particular location when our family came to visit earlier this year.  It has a small beach, a swamp and some of the most incredible spanish moss you have ever seen.  With it being fall, the colours were spectacular, and luckily for us, the weather was perfect…the sun was out without a cloud in the sky – the lighting is quite a challenge for a photographer so I have been told, but our photographer had no problems creating some beautiful memories for us.  Chris went at around the same time the week before to scout out some spots he thought would work at that time of day, it was such a good idea because he really found some unique spots!

Deciding what to wear was a bit of a challenge because of the Virginia weather you never really know you are going to get!  Fortunately, it was warm enough to wear just a shirt and jeans.  By the way, my bump was still not really prevalent even though I was 32 weeks, so it was just as well I was wearing something light and tight for the silhouette and laying down shots!  I was considering wearing a dark purple top, and I am so glad I didn’t in the end!

So here are some of my favourites…all photos by Melissa Bliss Photography!!

Fenning Print-10-ZF-3904-24086-1-001-031.jpg

Fenning Print-4-ZF-3904-24086-1-001-005.jpg

Fenning Print-12-ZF-3904-24086-1-001-032.jpg

Fenning Print-14-ZF-3904-24086-1-001-022.jpg

Fenning Print-16-ZF-3904-24086-1-001-024.jpg

Fenning Print-21-ZF-3904-24086-1-001-030.jpg

MBP-Film-Maternity-2-ZF-3904-24086-1-001-019.jpg

Fenning Print-35-2-ZF-6874-48011-1-001-002.jpg

Fenning Print-18-ZF-3904-24086-1-001-026.jpg

Fenning Print-1-ZF-3904-24086-1-001-002.jpg

 

Now I’m feeling ready!!

PC Diary @ 36 weeks 2 days… R-26 days

What a whirlwind of a past ten days or so.  It may have been crazy, but every minute was worth it!

First of all, I owe a few people some passwords for my last blog.  I forgot that with almost 200 followers on wordpress and a few more  who follow from instagram and facebook that maybe they would like to read my password protected blog and I would need to reply to every email request – whoopsie  (embarrassed face!)

Here is why it has been a whirlwind…

Doulas!  We met our two Doulas, they work in pairs to make sure that one of them is available when the time comes to meet Rocky.  We have hired them for the birth and 50 hours of post-partum support.  They are perfect for us.  We left it very late to finally select who we wanted, we meet them again later this week to go through our birthing plan and any other questions we have.

Thanksgiving.  I hope you all had a lovely thanksgiving!  It is a holiday that doesn’t mean anything particularly special to us, so it is a little bit strange to celebrate.  But we were kindly invited to join our friends for a fabulous Turkey dinner.  Nom nom nom…

Boudoir Maternity Shoot.  Chris and I researched, prepared and then did my maternity shoot, boudoir style.  Although I won’t be showing any of the more risque pics, I will definitely share some of them with you on a separate post!  Chris did a fantastic job, and he really enjoyed it too.  I was nervous we would fight about it, but nope it was just fun!  Like it should be too ;-p

2016-12-01 12.38.34.jpg

One of my faves!

Infant care class.  We thought we had better educate ourselves on how to actually look after a newborn baby!  Although much of it we mostly knew already, we did learn some handy little hints and tips.  Also it was helpful to know things we might expect to see as soon as the baby is born, what is normal and what is not normal.  We also got a neat little book too ‘The Joy of parenthood – your personal journey through newborn care’.

Transatlantic visitors.  A friend of ours was visiting the US for work, so we did the proper thing and took him and his colleague to a Southern style restaurant, and of course ate fried chicken skins, pickles, chicken coated fried bacon, burgers and meatloaf! It was so good to catch up.  I felt a bit homesick talking about our friends back in the UK and how everyone is doing 😦

Breastfeeding class.  We had to go to another hospital for this class because all the ones being run at our hospital were full.  Within the first five minutes the consultant told us that ‘you may have difficulties breastfeeding if you had difficulties getting pregnant’.  What the?!?! I had never heard this before.  I was a little bit surprised and it threw me off concentrating on the beginning of the class.  I didn’t question the consultant and thought I may ask her afterwards more about what she had said, but when it came to the end of the evening I was exhausted and just wanted to go home.  This class threw a lot of new terms and info at us in the space of three hours.  The consultant barely stopped to breathe let alone let us poor preggers people go pee!  But it was really useful and very glad we both went.  Another free book and some free nursing goodies to go.  The group of doulas we went with have a lactation consultant who will come to my house if we need to, so that is handy.

2016-12-01 21.16.54-1.jpg

Weekend Child birthing class.  Another intense education session!  We had a very passionate nurse who was excellent at making the class practical and interesting.  It really helped us firm up our birth plan together and worth every minute.  I practically cried at every film where they showed the actual birth!!!!

2016-12-03 16.49.03.jpg

Birthing positivity board

Housewarming, baby and birthday party.  This was our big party to celebrate our new home, semi-baby shower-esque style celebrations, and both our birthdays.  We have been preparing the past few weeks, knowing how chaotic the past week would be.  We were expecting about 80 or so people, fortunately they didn’t all arrive at once, and at one point we probably had about 20 kids running around!  It was so much fun to have everyone there.  I was truly overwhelmed with all the gifts and cards we received.  I’m kind of glad I didn’t have a baby shower after all, I think I would have just blubbered my way through it.

2016-12-06 14.40.09.jpg

Haha someone guessed 14th Jan!!!!

2016-12-04 17.00.32.jpg

The post party chaos 🙂

Maternity leave.  It was my last week at work, so I tried to wrap things up as best I could.  It was a little strange because not all of my branch was in the office, so there wasn’t really a formal goodbye.  Technically my maternity leave started today!!! Although I will be going back for the plethora of Christmas parties that are happening, assuming Rocky doesn’t arrive early.  And I will be going back in to the office every other week for a lunchtime toastmasters club meet whenever I can to keep up my public speaking skills!  When the baby comes, Chris will work from home those days and I will get to escape the baby for a few hours.  I started my leave off to a good start by getting up at the same time as Chris as he got ready for work, then after I showered I accidentally fell asleep for 1.5hrs!  I did some relaxing yoga (it felt soooooo good to stretch), adult colouring in, an episode of scandal, ate left over party food, washed all of Rocky’s new clothes and did some shopping.  Will I keep up this good balance of chillaxing with productivity?!?! I have my suspicions not….!

Pregnancy symptoms.  Lower back pain is plaguing me along with my hemorrhoids getting a whole lot worse.  They are now super big 😦  I am on my weekly obstetric appointments now so I’ll see what the doc says tomorrow, but I fear there will be little that can be done.  I think that when I go into labour they are almost certain to burst.  And I still haven’t put any more weight on, I’m sticking around the 140-141lbs mark.  I don’t understand how it is possible, my tummy is getting bigger and I’m eating plenty!

2016-12-04 18.49.03.jpg

36 weeks and feeling prepared!

Phew…..it has been crazy, but I am feeling really ready for Rocky to arrive now.  Not much longer til she is considered full term! Wooohoooo!!!!

 

 

 

Creating a family friendly culture in the workplace

How important are family friendly policies and benefits in organisational culture?

Is there a correlation between a high performing organisation and a family friendly workplace?

It seems obvious that the answer is yes…and yet, there are many organisations who put family friendly policies and benefits at the bottom of the pile.  Family friendly policies and benefits are known to increase retention, recruitment, morale and productivity.  Arguably, these policies and benefits come at a cost to the organisation, so do the benefits outweigh the costs?  It can be difficult to put a figure on this type of benefit and return on investment.

There is also the unseen or lesser known part of family friendly policies and benefits that organisations can adopt; these are related to family building options such as infertility treatment insurance coverage, adoption grants, sick leave (for miscarriage or medical treatments), flexible working and egg freezing.

Simply having these policies and benefits will certainly contribute to a family friendly culture…but there is something deeper than these – a family friendly organizational culture that builds on the policies nd benefits.

You may have heard the saying – “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. This simply means that no matter how good the policies are they need to be supported by the organisation’s culture.

Going beyond the policies and benefits, leaders and staff need to develop the values and behaviours that make up the family-friendly culture:

Open Communication – on both work/life needs and institutional priorities.  Staff need to be able to freely communicate to their leaders and vice versa without incrimination or judgement. The ability to give 360 degree feedback freely about what works and what doesn’t contributes to this open communication environment.

Flexibility – at all levels of the organisation.  Creating an environment that makes it OK to ask for flexible working or time off by creating space to.  Believing that employees are less loyal or productive for asking for these creates will creates negative culture.

Commitment – recognition that a good work/life culture benefits everyone.

Fairness – fair doesn’t mean equal; leaders need to understand that one size doesn’t fit all, applying family friendly policies consistently is important.

These values can’t be written down in policy or given away as a benefit…they have to be enacted out by the people we work with every day and inspired by our leaders in our day to day lives.

What other values and behaviours do you think make up a family friendly culture that we can live by in our workplaces, including family building?

Do your leaders say they are family friendly but don’t live by the values they preach?