Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Three Days in the Marais

Last week we went to Paris. Two nights beckoned without the Pip. In the 1150 days since he’d been on this mortal planet, I’d spent one night away from him.  Last week, the total moved to three; one for each year of his life.

As Pip departed to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for a ‘sleepover’, Husband and I boarded the Eurostar for a mini break to mark our 10 year wedding anniversary. Paris was not chosen particularly for it’s romantic connotations, but rather for it’s ease of accessibility, the relatively short travel time, and the fact, we’d been there before and rather enjoyed it.

One of the things I like best about revisiting a city I’ve been to before as a tourist, is that second or, in my case, third time around, you have more time to relax and enjoy it. The first time we visited Paris, we virtually collapsed in sheer exhaustion at the end of our trip. Eiffel Tower, tick. Sacre Coeur, tick. Arc de Triomphe, tick. Notre Dame, tick.  I remember us walking towards the gleaming, golden roof of Sacre Coeur at the end of a long day on the tourist trail, intent on completing our 'must view' list.  It was like a mirage; never quite within our reach. When finally we got there, our shoe leather steaming, we stayed a while and then returned to the guide book with a ‘where to next?.  Reflecting afterwards, I vowed never to be that sort of tourist again.

Fifteen years or so later, this trip couldn’t have been more different.  We booked into our favourite hotel, located at the Place Des Vosges, in the Marais.  I love Place Des Vosges; one of the oldest squares in Paris, built by Henri IV, it’s grand and imposing. Tall impressive buildings, sit on top of pillared arcades. Grey blue roofs reach up as if never ending towards the sky, with dormer windows that observe the central square below with tall trees and flowing fountains at the centre.  Victor Hugo was one of it’s most famous residents. I like to think of him writing the story of Esmerelda and the Quasimodo, sitting in the window of one of those tall, grand buildings, a mere stone’s throw from Notre Dame.

Our discreet, elegant hotel was located in a peaceful courtyard. It was almost hard to believe that the hustle and bustle of Paris was beyond the doorstep.  A comfortable bed, a room so dark that not even a finger of sunlight could find it’s way through the curtains to wake us early. An uninterrupted nights sleep. Another uninterrupted nights sleep. Heaven.  Breakfasts of coffee, pastries and confiture that couldn’t possibly taste as good anywhere else in the world.

We wandered, lots.  Map in pocket but rarely looked at.  We meandered through the medieval streets of the Marais, marvelling in the windows of the many art galleries, intrigued by vintage homeware shops, enchanted by perfumeries and noses still in air, salivatingly drawn to boulangeries, patisseries and creperies.  I confess, there was nothing mini about the gastronomic proportions we consumed whilst on this break.

Still on foot we eschewed the metro, and ventured further, perusing the delightful shops of the Ile Saint- Louis sat in the middle of the River Seine. The tale of Notre Dame drew me in once again, and after walking through it’s precinct, and snapping the same photograph - 15 years on, we walked across the Lover’s Bridge; the Pont l’Archeveche.

Set behind the cathedral, thousands of padlocks adorn the bridge, engraved with lovers initials. The story behind the bridge is that lovers cement their love by securing their personalised padlocks to the bridge and then throwing the key into the Seine.  The collection of padlocks must amount to thousands, but it struck me, that personally, I would rather someone made a more original declaration of love for me, than merely padlock my name etched on a piece of metal, onto a bridge with many others.  I decided that possibly I was guilty of romantic snobbery.  Perhaps if all you want is love from a person, love that might not be forthcoming or seem uncertain, then any declaration of love from them seems wonderful - even if it is in the form of a padlock on a bridge. 

Later that day, Husband made his own declaration of love. As I hauled him over the threshold of what turned out to be the most expensive tea shop in Paris, in pursuit of a cake I simply ‘had’ to try, he guffawed in part-horror as he looked at the menu and informed me that a cup of tea was going to cost 7 euros.  Aghast - I suggested we leave; even by London standards the cost was extortionate, but Husband refused to deprive me of my desired cake.  I decided he must love me an awful lot to pay 7 euros for a cup of tea...(and the additional for the cake) and that indeed, was far better than a padlock.

It tasted as good as it looked. Happy anniversary to me..

We spent many years together just the two of us, before Pip came along. Whilst we were away, I reflected that we have spent very few extended periods of time alone together since Pip was born. In fact, I hadn’t realised how few. Time alone is limited to eating dinner together in the evenings when Pip is in bed,  the odd meal out at a restaurant or a night out with friends.  (The fact that we don't have family living nearby and a babysitter costs £10 an hour has a lot to do with it). It was fabulous spending 48 hours together alone but, for both of us, I think there was a sense of someone missing.  It’s amazing how children fill your life and consume your thoughts, to the point, that when you’re without them, it takes a while to adopt to a singular mindset again.  I found myself wandering around thinking, is this what my life was like before children? It seemed so very different.

At the Palais du Luxembourg, surely one of the loveliest parks in Paris to take a small child, we both looked at the small sail boats for hire, with wooden poles to push them round the miniature lake, and wistfully smiled.  As we relaxed in the deckchairs in the sunshine, there was a sense of what we’d be doing if Pip was there. (Rescuing the pole from the lake...or explaining to the boat man in broken french that his pole was somewhere at the bottom.)

We allowed ourselves to amble without direction or structure for three days.  We had the opportunity to talk, to laugh, to discuss our ‘house project’, potential names for the Pipling, and to finish previously half finished conversations without a little voice interrupting to say; "Please Mummy, can you stop talking".  I embraced the freedom of our mapless, relaxed approach, and enjoyed our free spirited jaunt around Paris, yet, a little part of me, the part right at the heart of me, felt lost in a different way.  Life without the Pip felt odd, even just for 48 hours.

I wondered what was wrong with me. Why I couldn't just relax completely.  I told myself it was good for him and for me/ us to have this time apart. Perhaps it was pregnancy hormones, perhaps it was the fact that I knew he had woken crying for me at 4.30am the first night, and refused to be lulled back to sleep. (Thank goodness for Grandpa and his torchlit treasure hunt at 5am.). I tried to work out whether it was completely natural to feel this way. I couldn't decide. Oddly, despite my feelings about Pip, I felt annoyed at myself for not being able to give myself to Paris and our trip completely.

Back in London, my parents bought Pip to meet us from the Tube.  I don't think I'll ever forget the moment when from a distance, he spotted us across the park and broke into a run, leaving his crocs behind and continuing shoeless across the grass; running as fast as his little legs would carry him, until he threw his arms around us. It was heart stoppingly wonderful. As I scooped him up in my arms, I felt anchored once more. 

In my post Parisian haze I have wondered whether what I felt was normal? I'm sure the experience was good for both Pip and I, in different ways.  Does leaving your child (for the night) get easier the more you do it?

Friday, 24 August 2012

Learning To Fly

Yesterday Pip and I went to Kew Gardens.  It was busy when we arrived; a mecca for frazzled London Mums trying to fill another day of the school holidays.  Pip loves the indoor play area there; the ‘gravel pit’ is one of his favourite places to play.  Filled with bright orange small rubbery stones, children sit for hours in the pit, running small gravel like pieces through their fingers and burying their feet. 

I sat on the edge of the pit and Pip found a small discarded plastic cup, like the ones they sell in the nearby cafe filled with sweeties.  He played for ages, filling and then emptying the cup with orange rubbery bits.  Two other boys the same age joined in, taking it in turns to fill the cup whilst Pip held it, each of them depositing orange piles around me to build mountains of rubber. The three of them played wordlessly like this, for 15 minutes or so, industrious - with an unspoken but shared goal in mind.  As I sat there, my feet disappearing under a sea of orange, I reflected on how nicely they were playing.

Alas, the scene of peaceful play was rudely interrupted.  Two older, larger boys descended. One boy, wearing a red t- shirt, appeared slightly older than the other; a small dark haired child, dressed in blue,  I estimated that they were aged 6 and 7.

Without any warning, Red T-shirt waded into the gravel pit and swooped, grabbing the small plastic cup from Pip’s hand and then walking out again.  He then stood at the edge of the pit, nonchalant, talking to Blue T-shirt. What happened next surprised me; with the speed of a cheetah, Pip leapt from the pit, and ran to where Red T-shirt was standing. 

“That’s my cup” he shouted, “ Give it BACK”
Two months ago, Pip would never have done this. He would have just cried.

I watched as Pip tried to grab the cup from Red T-shirt’s hand but Red T-shirt was bigger and stronger and no match for Pip. Red T-Shirt simply lifted the cup high above his head, knowing that Pip was too small to reach it.

“It’s not YOUR cup. It’s just a silly plastic pot from the cafe. I had one of these at lunchtime with some sweets in it. It might be MY cup."

Strictly speaking, it wasn’t Pip’s cup. We hadn’t bought anything to get the cup. Clearly someone had, at some point that day. But, as an unwanted piece of litter, Pip had adopted it. And it was now more than a cup. It was a digger, a bucket, an important tool for moving orange rubbery rubble.

I noticed my son wasn’t giving up. “It’s MY cup” Pip insisted: “ I was playing with it”.

Until this point I had been a passive observer;  I didn’t want to intervene too early in Pip’s battle, but sensing trouble, I decided the time had come for us to go to lunch ourselves, and that we could get another cup (by buying some sweets) whilst we were there.   I should have made this decision a second sooner. As I heaved myself from the gravel pit, I watched in horror as Blue T-Shirt ran towards Pip with both arms outstretched and shoved him with all his might.

Pip, no match in size for a boy twice his age, flew through the air like a rag doll and landed in a heap on the green asphalt.

I rushed to his aid, expecting tears, but instead, I saw that he just looked thoroughly annoyed.  “Are you alright?”,  I scooped him into my arms and dusted him down.  I looked around me, expecting a parent or carer to emerge and remonstrate with Blue T-Shirt, or for that matter, Red T-shirt as well, but no-one came forward.

“Ouch” said Pip, rubbing himself.  “That boy hurt me. Why did he push me, Mummy?”.

I have never experienced the anxiety of seeing another child hurt mine before.  Watching a strange boy push my son across the play area filled me with searing emotion. I felt tears prick the back of my eyes. I felt white rage start to bubble inside me.  Even though I knew they were only children, who perhaps didn't know better, I couldn't help but feel outrage that they had upset and hurt my son.

One of the principles I’ve tried to maintain since becoming a parent, is that I don’t discipline other people’s children. I don’t like seeing other people tell my son off, or tell him what to do or not do, so I try very hard not to do this myself. ( The exception to this being if I perceive a risk of injury - eg,  the time I saw an unsupervised little boy planning to hurtle himself on his micro scooter down a very high slide. ) But, yesterday, I could not help myself.  As I glared at parent less Red T-shirt who sulkily kept repeating ‘It’s not his cup, it’s my cup’ and his sidekick in blue, I simply could not leave the situation without saying something.

With great self restraint, I uttered the words; “That wasn’t a very nice thing to do”. Blue T-shirt hung his head in shame. “Sorry” he said.  Even in the midst of my rage, I was able to see that he was a nice boy really. “Well, at least you’ve said sorry,” I said, trying to be gracious.  Red T-shirt, I noted, said nothing.

Pip and I left the play area and went to the cafe for lunch. One lunchbox later, he had completely forgotten about the whole incident.  I, on the other hand, had not. It stayed with me all day, a cloud on the otherwise sunny horizon.  Every time I thought about Pip being pushed over, I felt upset.  Afterwards, when we talked about it, Pip asked why the boy had pushed him over, and why the other boy had taken the cup. Why? Why? Why? I didn’t really know. The best I could say was simply; ‘Because they weren’t being very nice’.   Inside, I felt like crying.  Yesterday I was there, I could rush to him, hold him, check he was OK.  But the thought that one day, a similar situation might occur and I won’t be there to help him, just felt like too much to bear.

I've heard the phrase ‘Give your children wings and teach them how to fly' often since I became a parent.  I like the sentiments it conveys.  I hope as a parent, I’m doing a good job at helping Pip learn to fly.  Yesterday though, as I watched my fledgling take a spectacular nosedive, it hurt to watch.

This motherhood business isn't easy.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Celebrating the Last Year With a Tea Party

What a difference a year makes.  This time a year ago, I was floundering.  Pip had just turned two; the gradual transformation from toddler to little boy was already underway.  I felt a sadness that his baby face and plump little hands were disappearing so quickly, that already, independence loomed large.  Time seemed to have passed in the blink of an eye; I wanted to rewind.  In other areas of my world, I was struggling with changes too. The course I’d enrolled myself on to re-train as an acupuncturist had gone into liquidation, and the silver lining in the aftermath, a longed for pregnancy, had ended in miscarriage. The house we’d moved into to ‘do up‘, we found was going to cost us more to 'do' than we thought so all building projects were put on hold. As moth upon moth chewed holes in my pre-baby cashmere, there was a sense in my mind of -  what next?

I started a blog.

On a whim. Which is how I often do things.  I barely knew what a blog was, let alone how to ‘do it’.  Thank goodness for Blogger - at least it wasn’t complicated.

I wasn’t sure how long I’d keep writing.  As a teenager I would start a new diary at the beginning of each year, with resolve to fill each and every page. Inevitably, by February I’d have lost interest (or possibly my life just wasn’t interesting enough to write about).  Expecting history to repeat itself, I told no-one about my new hobby, just typed away secretly, now and again, sharing whatever was top of mind.

But this time, it was different. It wasn’t like writing a teenage diary.  This time, I was hooked.

What I hadn’t accounted for, was that (unlike a diary), writing something in a corner of the world wide web meant that people could read my blog if they wanted to.  As I poured out my thoughts in those early days, occasionally someone would respond.  Words resonating across the wire between strangers; it was a completely new experience for me. I took great comfort in the comments from people I’d never met; identifying, empathising, supporting me.  In turn, I’d visit back, learn about their lives, share their experiences, their stories, laugh with them, be inspired by them, cry (occasionally) when reading their words.  I found myself in a new world; one of shared (and sometimes differing) perspectives, I found myself part of a virtual community -albeit as someone still with one foot in the ‘moving in’ van.  I also found myself enjoying writing, something that I hadn’t done since school. Suddenly, I didn’t feel quite so floundering anymore.

In the course of the last year, this blog has become my sanity providing sanctuary;  a place where I can warble away freely.   I see it as a piece of virtual patchwork, weaving together the various pieces of my life, old and new.  Sometimes I write about what’s happening in the here and now, more recently, I’ve also written about things past, as a way of recording memories to look back on in the future.  My 90 year old grandmother is now struggling to remember certain elements of her life, she calls my mother regularly, to try and make sense of the gaping holes in her memory. I listen to these conversations, and I think, maybe if I’m like her, in years to come, reading back over my blog will be a way of plugging some of my gaps. I quite like the idea that what I write now may one day become an aide memoire to help me through senility. 

I wouldn’t have enjoyed blogging as much as I have over the last year without the bloggers I’ve met along the way. The two go hand in hand. How do you celebrate a year’s anniversary with warm, wonderful people that you’ve never met?  How can you say thank you? Thank you for reading, for commenting, for all your heartfelt words, the witty one-liners, and ‘have you tried this?’ tips and tricks. Every word has meant something to me.  

Well, I guess I’ve just said it.  But, because it's my blog birthday, I wanted to make a special gesture too. This is for you...

A ‘Thank you’ Tea Party

Tea (or coffee). From the pot of course; this is a special occasion. Champagne. Obviously - they always serve it at afternoon tea in the poshest hotels. Sandwiches with the crusts cut off; cucumber, salmon and cream cheese, ham and mustard, maybe some rare beef and horseradish too. Filo pastry tartlets with a tomato and mozzarella filling. Scones with clotted cream and jam. Victoria sponge (my favourite), cute little cupcakes and petit fours.

You can have more than one if you like...

Wow. That was so much easier than making it in the real world.  Enjoy - and thank you for reading during the last year. x

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Plums..and Other Things

I had been most pleased with how the plums on the plum tree were progressing.  As the boughs of the tree weighed even lower and turned a purplish hue, they promised an abundance of fruit.  Every few days I would do a pinch test. Ripe enough? Not quite yet, still a little firm. Patience. Just a little while longer.

On Saturday I’d decided that this would be the week I’d harvest and produce.  In true ‘Good Life’ style I planned plum ketchup, and a first for this year, some plum infused brandy.  I fantasised about how wonderful it would be to light my homemade Christmas pudding with some homespun moonshine; I imagined my feelings of domestic triumph as I pictured myself placing it on the table on Christmas day, complete with a sprig of holly from the bush in the garden.

By Tuesday, my visions of domestic makery were shattered. Possibly the Gods of artisan produce had taken umbrage at my being more of a smug Margot than an unassuming Barbara.  Either way, my plum based plans were well and truly scuppered.

Not a single plum was left on my tree. Not one. The plethora of plums from two days previously had completely disappeared.  Scanning the tree’s branches for an answer, I spied a lone lime green parakeet shuffling himself to a more comfortable position on his perch.  I eyed him suspiciously, a pandemonium of parakeets have occupied the plum tree this summer; loud, luminous parasites determined to thwart my plum crop. But somehow, I suspected that on this occasion they were not responsible for my bare tree. To eat each and every plum would have been a remarkable feat, even for them. Typically, they only peck a few mouthfuls from a plum before leaving it to fall to the ground. And in any event, they leave the stones.  What struck me as odd, as I stood looking at my tree, was that not a single plum or stone lay on the ground beneath it.

Later, I googled. Squirrels were cited as a considerable menace to plum trees. I guessed that, unlike the parakeets, they could eat the stones too. Was a plum stone akin to a nut in a Squirrel's dietary repertoire, I wondered.  I had seen two squirrels in the garden a few days previously. Surely, one or two of those small, grey rodents could not be responsible for taking each and every single plum?

Finally, my mind turned to our new neighbour, a cross between one of the Hairy Bikers and Gandulf - with beard and staff to match, (I'm not kidding about the staff). Perhaps he had propped a ladder up against my fence and picked my plums in the dead of night?

I resigned myself to the fact, I’d probably never know...

Alas, my plums were not my only asset that disappeared last week....

On a trip out in the car on Wednesday, a small voice from the back asked;

“Mummy, where’s my TV?”

I turned around to check the headrest of the passenger seat that normally has the screen of Pip’s in car DVD player strapped to it.  Gone.

“Have you moved it?” I asked Husband.
“No. Have you?”

A quick search of the car revealed that it had not simply fallen into the foot well. It was simply - not there.

“Maybe it’s Mr. A playing a joke.” I said.  After Pip’s godfather (Mr. A), had visited at the weekend, I had found a garden parasol in my bath and some flip flops precariously balanced inside the rim of the toilet. (I know, some people never grow up.)  A quick phone call revealed he was not the culprit.

As the day continued, the only conclusion that I could reach was that someone (ie, Mummy) had left the car unlocked.  Thereby perfectly facilitating the easy removal of Pip’s in car entertainment unit.

Cost of lost plums - nothing. 
Cost of lost DVD player - £69. 

Note to pregnant self. Must make sure I LOCK the car.  Still flummoxed about the plums though.

Wednesday Witter
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Monday, 13 August 2012

Land of Hope and Glory

So, they’re over. The Olympics; years in the planning, two weeks in the making, but what a two weeks they were.  Beforehand, I just didn’t feel the fever; I couldn’t get excited. Yet, from the moment the first chord struck on Danny Boyle’s triumphant opening ceremony, I was captivated by the magic, the theatre and the sheer magnificence of it all.

The 2012 Olympics did Britain proud. 

The way in which the events showcased London’s iconic landmarks was fabulous. Lords Cricket Ground was a fitting backdrop for the archery; Greenwich park and the silhouette of the old naval college, a perfect stage for the equestrian events.  Small details such as the London themed show jumps in the equestrian ring; Nelson’s column, Downing Street, only added to the splendour. Hampton Court Palace stood majestic behind King Bradley Wiggins as he mounted his gold medal throne.  As Marathon runners jogged past the tower of Big Ben, I couldn’t help thinking, London is a pretty special place.

With the exception of the outfits worn for the opening and closing ceremonies, (Dear hoodies are a travesty) the kit worn by the athletes was superb. Stella McCartney took the chav out of wearing the British flag and made the Union Jack look cool - not an easy feat.  Britain had the most stylish athletes of the games, from the dapper equestrian team right down to Tom Daley’s skimpy shorts.

As I spent days screaming at my TV and evenings watching interviews with winning athletes, at times it became impossible to decide which event I had enjoyed best.  I had suddenly developed an all encompassing love of sport, (much to my husband’s utter delight.)  However, if I had to pick some personal highlights, I think they’d be:

The British equestrian team show jumping event;  holding my breath, sat on my sofa horse, I jumped every fence of the course with Zara Phillips, willing her a clear round.  Later, as Mary Keet brought the silver medal home, I was in tears.  Never has show jumping enthralled me so much.

The buzz of the velodrome; the pringle of the park - and the awe inspiring British cycling team.  Watching Sir Chris Hoy and chums whizzing around at breakneck speed was breathtaking.  How did we ever get to be so good at cycling?  Dave Brailsford’s words; ‘the aggregation of marginal gains’ still ring in my ears today.  The British cycling team left no stone unturned, no box unticked, in preparing for the Olympics, and when they picked up 7 out of 10 gold medals, it showed. 

Of all the sports I watched and enjoyed, it was the rowing at Eton Dorney that captivated me most.  I cheered until I was hoarse in every single race, my heartbeat accelerating with every extra oar stroke as the crews approached the finishing line.   Strategic, determined, focussed power houses; for me the British rowers were just amazing.

It didn’t end there, day after day more British success stories continued to hit the medal table.  Jessica Ennis, Mo Farrah and Tom Daley delivered unforgettable performances and sporting moments, as did lesser known athletes too.  It seemed impossible to not shed a tear when Gemma Gibbons of the British Judo team mouthed; ‘I love you, Mum’ to the heavens, at the end of her final fight, realising she’d won a silver medal - the medal her late mother would never see.

As I watched our British athletes and their great achievements on the TV, I could only hope that some of them will become role models for the next generation. I’m sick of seeing the cast of TOWIE dominating the newsstands.  The cast of reality TV shows, bickering about relationships or discussing the latest shade of fake tan, are not good role models for our children.  These athletes are. It is reported that youngsters up and down the land are flocking to enrol in gyms, rowing clubs and boxing clubs. I hope this is the case, and that the 2012 games leaves a lasting legacy in more than just landmarks on our green and pleasant land.

In a double dip recession, some have questioned whether our country could afford to host the games. What was the real cost? Possibly, we (the public) may never know. Yet, the gift it gave us was priceless. A rekindling of national pride. A positivity. A sense of being proud to be British. Long may it reign.

Did you enjoy the Olympic games? What were your personal highlights?

Monday, 6 August 2012

Group B Strep in Pregnancy

One year ago...

“Did you know you have Group B Strep?” my GP asked.

“No. What’s that?” I was panicking immediately.

“Nothing to worry about really, it's a bacteria.” she explained, “We just need to make the hospital aware of it if you get pregnant again.  They’ll need to give you antibiotics when you go into labour”.

And that was that. I didn’t give it anymore thought. Until I became pregnant again.

Group B Strep is a bacteria that colonises in up to 30% of adults in the UK - but most will never know about it. Usually, it is revealed when you are tested for something else. (In my case, via a urine sample for a suspected kidney infection.)  Group B Strep comes and goes, you don’t know when you may or may not be an active carrier.  It can usually exist within our bodies without causing any harm, the exception to this is that it can be passed to newborn babies in childbirth, and sometimes cause life threatening infections. According to the charity GBSS, 75 babies die as a result of Group B Strep related infections in the UK each year. Pregnant women in the UK are not routinely tested for Group B Strep. In other countries, the US, Australia, Canada and Spain, they are.

May 2012 - Hospital Booking in Appointment.

Apart from the two hour wait, everything seemed to be progressing as I’d expected at my hospital booking in appointment.  When finally, I got to the front of the snail like queue to see the midwife, I felt positive.  I planned to inform her that I’d like to have my second baby in the birthing centre again and that my hope was to have a similar birth experience to the one I had with Pip.

She flicked open my hospital notes, working through the standard questions and answers at lightening speed. When we got to my GP’s referral letter everything changed.

“You’ve got Group B Strep” she said.

She made it sound like a dirty word. “Well, yes, I believe so, but I understand it shouldn’t be a problem?”  I stammered.

Silence.  She reached into the drawer by her side and pulled out a sheet of bright yellow stickers.  GROUP B STREP ALERT - emblazoned in bold caps type.  With no further words, she started to apply the stickers at pace to the front of the folder and various pages inside it.

In the conversation that followed any dreams I had of replicating the positive experiences of Pip’s birth were shattered.  A series of ‘No’s’ followed.  No birth centre. No water birth. No. No. No. "This is hospital policy for GBS patients."  I was informed I would need to have my baby on the labour ward, that I needed to admit myself as soon as my waters broke. That I would need IV antibiotics from that point and throughout the labour, to offer protection to my baby on his journey into the world. I thought back to my conversation with my GP. I'd assumed all I'd need to do was take a couple of pills.

I managed to hold on until I got to the car park, and then I phoned my husband and cried. Not just for me, but for my unborn baby, the reality of being a GBS carrier catapulting towards me like a weighty stone.
July 2012 - Appointment at 21 weeks

At my next appointment I asked the same questions, but of a different midwife. I got the same answers.  I left the hospital resigned to my fate, that baby no 2’s birth was going to be a very different experience.

I’m a prowler; in times of stress, tension, waiting, I like to pace. I don’t like to be still. The thought of being restricted by an IV drip fills me with dread.  During Pip’s birth, I found water gave me excellent relief from the pain of contractions, but that option is not available to me this time; they want to monitor the baby throughout and the hospital claims that will be more difficult in the water. I used hypnobirthing techniques when I had Pip and I felt they really helped. Yet, as a whole, I believe it was the combination of this and being in the water that got me through it.  I feel apprehensive that I won’t have the benefit of the water this time.  The fall back position of ‘I’ll have an epidural if it all gets too much’ is not an option for me either.  I have a scoliosis of the spine and there is no way I plan to let anyone near my back with a needle unless a dire emergency demands it.

When I think about the birth, I feel tense. I feel scared. Not just for me, but for baby too.

When I wrote the post about Pip’s birth last week, it helped. It helped to recall the positives of the hypnobirthing and how I felt as his birth approached.  To remember, in preparing for his birth, that my goal was about getting him into this world safely and not so much about me.  I’m trying to remember those feelings and feel the same way. But, this time, it feels so much harder.

At the end of the day, it’s a good thing we know I’ve got Group B Strep. Precautions can be taken, and after the birth, our baby will be monitored every couple of hours for the first 24 hours.  If he’s not thriving, he may be given antibiotics too. Even though I know the chances of our baby being infected will be reduced if I take antibiotics during labour, I'm finding it hard not to worry about the 'what if's.'

The one glimmer of hope is that there is an option to pay for a private test at 37 weeks to see if the GBS is active in my body at that point. If it isn’t, then theoretically, it shouldn't return before my due date.  If this is the case it will go a huge way towards putting my mind at rest before the birth, and will also mean I can have a more 'active' birth experience.  If the test comes back positive, then at least I know that too and will have time to mentally prepare myself.

In all of this, the thing I find most ridiculous, (given all the precautions my hospital are now taking), is that they don’t routinely test pregnant woman for GBS in this country.  Especially when one considers that taking precautions to manage potential infections can ultimately save babies lives. 

I wish it wasn’t this way, but it is, and I’ll deal with it, because I have to and the health of my unborn baby is the most important thing.  It's time to draw on my grit, practice my stiff upper lip and dust down that hypnobirthing CD again.  

Have you or your baby been affected by Group B Strep? If so, I'd be very interested to hear your story.

Further information on Group B Strep can be found at GBSS is a charity campaigning for GBS testing as part of routine ante-natal care for all pregnant women in the UK.