The scare

Posted by admin at April 20th, 2007

So it’s been a while I know - life, in all its different permutations, got busy! So last weekend James and I went for a long walk - nothing fancy, just a tour of bathroom shops of Brixton and Clapham. Such are the things you do when overtaken by alien hormones who want to paint your kitchen red. Anyway, we got home on this sunny Saturday evening with plans to hit the terrace of a nearby restaurant for a cheeky lime and soda, or two. Life had other plans. I discovered I was bleeding. Not bleeding a lot but enough to have me on the phone to my midwife within seconds and on our way to the hospital within half an hour. Yes, I went to hospital. The NHS hospital where I will be giving birth. On excellent tip for those in a similar situation. DO NOT GO TO A&E. Instead, call the labour ward, explain what’s happening to you and a kindly voice on the other end of the phone will tell you to get yourself, your worried husband and a good book into the hospital asap.

So we arrived at the labour ward to be met by the midwives. Now remember, my last experience at King’s had not been altogether positive and now here I was, crying and definitely ‘in a state’ and at the mercy of these people. And they rose to the occasion. After an initial 10 minutes of confusion - when they weren’t sure if I was one or two people - it’s a long story - we were whisked into a room by Midwife Gemma.  I barely had time to get on the bed before Gemma had my top up, jelly on my tummy and my little girl’s heartbeat echoing round the room c/o the doppler. This was exactly what I needed to hear - my baby was fine, her heartbeat was fine and, probably, I was going to be fine. Throughout Gemma was kind, reassuring and told me what was going on, what was going to happen and what might happen. I couldn’t have asked for better care.

Then the doctor came in. Apart from being young and rather too good looking for either myself or James to be entirely comfortable with the fact that he was about to perform an internal exam to check my cervix, he was, again, incredibly kind and reassuring. End result - everything seemed to be fine, they couldn’t find a reason for the bleed and I was sent home with orders to come back if things didn’t resolve.

Next day. Things hadn’t resolved. We went back to the hospital. Once again Gemma and Dr Riris were kind and reassuring - never once was I made to feel stupid or hysterical. This time I had a scan and there was the little girl - her fists clenched and legs kicking heartily. Placenta seems to be fine and cervic was fine. But just to be sure they booked me for a more superior scan during the week.

So Wednesday found me back at the hospital - this time at the Harris Birthright Centre for Fetal Health. This is the dpeartment run by Prof Nikolaides who also runs the Fetal Medicine Centre on Harley street, where I had my first 2 scans. Same guy, whole different experience. For a start the waiting room was the 5th pit of hell. Someone had forgotten to turn the heating off so there were about 50 pregnant women, plus partners and small children, sweating and panting in this nuclear heat. There was also 1 bathroom. For a room full of pregnant women. Oh and there was, on average, a 2 hour wait for the scan. But I had been warned and I had bought a big book. I could tell you about the nice couple I met who were there for their 12 week scan or the larger lady who seemed not to notice that her child had pooed its nappy, sending a wave of stink through the room, but I’ll spare you.

I was finally seen for my scan and it was a thoroughly professional job. This time I had two sonographers - man and woman. They checked me very carefully. Once again, there was the little girl doing high kicks - this time she thought it would be fun to kick the ultrasound everytime it came within reach of her long legs. Everything was great with her.

And then they found the answer. There on the leading edge of my placenta was a small haematoma - a bleed. There’s nothing they can do about it and at this stage bed rest isn’t necessary. I just have to slow down a bit. Of course if there’s more blood or any severe pain in my abdomen I have to go straight back to hospital. 

And it’s OK. I’m in good hands.

Yes, I’m in good hands. As someone who hasn’t been the biggest fan of the NHS so far I was impressed, touched and amazed by the excellent treatment I received when it really counted. Which goes to show - the people are there, the expertise is there. Unfortunately, it’s being hog-tied, papered and crushed under a mountain of Labourite bullshit and incompetence.

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And another thing…

Posted by admin at March 19th, 2007 I’ve got my first booking appointment with the midwife at Kings College Hospital. I am 18 weeks and 3 days pregnant and this is my FIRST appointment with a NHS midwife. I found this:

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommends that the booking appointment takes place before 12 weeks but this may vary slightly around the country

Clearly I fall into the ‘vary slightly’ category…and what’s a 6 week variation between a woman, her baby and her midwife hey?

OK, so this isn’t actually my first ever midwife appointment but only because I’ve gone the independent route so I’ve already had 3 check-ups but I mean what is going on here? That can’t possibly be OK can it? For women to be waiting until they’re nearly halfway through their pregnancy to see a midwife for the first time? Anyone got an email address for Gwyneth Lewis? She’s the government’s maternity tsar by the way…

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The weakest Link

Posted by admin at March 15th, 2007

Here’s an interesting take on the whole midwife debate - Camilla Cavendish writes in The Times that it is the midwives who are the weakest link and that the world would be a better place if we had larger, more centralised birth centres with fuller access to obstetricians:

Well, it’s an argument. And I’m sure that there are bad midwives as well as bad doctors but I’m not really buying into the argument that the rise in neo-natal deaths can be laid at the midwives’ door.

Oh and by the way, did you know that we have a maternity czar? Yep, Gwyneth Lewis. She seems really good. Yep. Really well informed (yes, that drip, drip sound is sarcasm)…I can’t find much about her on the net apart from her brilliant statement blaming TV for the increase in ceasareans. Nothing to do with the lack of midwives then….

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The Courtesy Cup

Posted by admin at March 15th, 2007

Back when I was at school we had a thing called The Courtesy Cup. Of course, at the time, I thought this was a pretty stupid thing. In fact, I remember deliberately being quite rude most of the time - positively taking pleasure in being rude actually. But recently, Ive found myself thinking about the courtesy cup alot.

And I found this on the web one afternoon:

Courtesy is: a virtue, is well-mannered behavior, courtly elegance and politeness of manners, graceful politeness or considerateness with others, nobleness, generosity, benevolence, goodness.

But somehow, along the line, courtesy seems to have become a dirty word. It’s not cool to be polite, it’s not cool to care about the well-being of others, it’s not cool to be nice. We’ve all become so cynical, so hard, so embittered and battle-scarred that to be courteous is seen as an act of weakness, as an undermining of the status quo.

Everyone’s so angry these days. They spit, swear and curse. They jostle each other in the street, on the tube…and who cares if someone gets hurt? As long as it’s not me.

I’d like to bring back the courtesy cup. I can appreciate its value now and I want to pass on that value to the bean.

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Life and Death matters

Posted by admin at March 15th, 2007

The weather here in London at the moment is seriously glorious - waking up in the morning is an honest-to-goodness enthusiastic experience, even with the leg cramps, the urgent need to pee and the Sahara-like thirst which glues my tongue to the roof of my mouth. Yep, it’s spring - everything’s sprouting, blooming and the potential in the air is just giddy-making. And I’m part of this. I’m having a child. Nothing like a bit of elemental biology to get you in touch with the world at large. I’ve just started to feel tiny movements - admittedly it feels rather like the child is blowing minute bubbles at my abdominal wall but I know, thanks mainly to the endless books I’ve read along with some basic intuition, that each bubble is the swim of a little foot or the wave of a little hand and it’s just the most amazing feeling in the world. This morning I danced around the kitchen to Joni Mitchell and there were those bubbles - apparently our child likes Chelsea Morning and really, who can blame it when you’ve got the french windows open, the sun shining in and your mother singing really badly out of tune? So this child, our child, is the most precious thing in the world - already I feel this overwhelming love everytime I rub my belly, everytime I think of the tiny life wriggling around in its own personal water-pod. And I’ve already started having dreams for our child. All the places they will go, all the brilliant things they will do, all the smiles they’ll give and it’s exciting - more exciting than anything. Really. This is the best thing I have ever done.

And then there are the fears, the worries  - the dark side. I look around at the world that I’m going to be bringing this child into and I realise that things aren’t going so well. It’s all a bit, well, shattered - all those great ideas that someone once had seem to have become corrupt, warped and everything seems to be headed in this very wrong direction. Let’s start with our government - the death-eaters I now call them (apologies to JK Rowling but I think she’ll get where I’m coming from). It seems to me, sitting here on my hormonal, mother-to-be perch, that our government, along with the governments of pretty much everywhere else, are all about death. I mean really, those pro-lifers should leave those poor women at the abortion clinics alone and turn their attention to the real killers.

Let’s take the whole Trident Missile System debacle - our government are gearing up to spend around £20billion on a defence system that nobody wants and we don’t actually need. Defence system. Interesting terminology. Defence against what exactly? These are weapons of mass destruction and, um, excuse me, didn’t we just go to war over something like that? Oh that’s right - those ones didn’t actually exist. By the way, it’s worth mentioning that this nuclear defence system is going to be put in Scotland - a country that may well become independent from England at some point soon. Brilliant.

Meanwhile, the NHS - yep, that’s the institution that is supposedly about life (the clue is the ‘health’ bit of the name) - is currently running at a £1.179 billion deficit. There is money literally leaking away through the unclean floorboards of each and every hospital and no one seems to have any answers as to why.

It seems to me that our government are far more interested in destruction than construction. It’s all very well having a top-of-the-range, better-than-anything-George has got, better-than-the-yellow-Tonka-truck-I-had-when-I-was-5, defence system but if we carry on like this we’re actually not going to have anybody to defend. They’ll all have died in childbirth or from MRSA or from some new fabulous disease that nobody saw coming because our defence system was looking the other way at the time.

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Wriggler Wallis

Posted by admin at March 14th, 2007

12_week_scan_2.jpgJust so you can see what all this fuss is about - here is a first photo of Wallis Junior. It took four attempts to get a snapshot as our child seems to have a problem with sitting still. Can’t think who it takes after…

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The uterine wars

Posted by admin at March 8th, 2007

So I thought I’d just write a bit about some of the choices I’ve made in terms of my ante-natal care so far. When I first discovered I was pregnant, which was about a day after my period was due - so only about 4 weeks pregnant - I called my GP and was told that I shouldn’t bother coming in until I was at least 7 weeks pregnant. This is apparently to prevent those who may suffer an early miscarriage (estimated at about 1 in 5 pregnancies)from ‘bunging’ up the system. Nice huh? This was an early indicator of how exactly pregnant women are viewed by the NHS - it seems that we are very much at the bottom of the pile in terms of care. OK so pregnancy isn’t an illness and it’s a natural process but when it’s your first time and you feel like your guts are on a permanant spin cycle, and there are weird pains in your pelvic region, it would be nice to feel that there is at least some sort of care on hand.

Anyway, I got through the 7 weeks and duly saw my GP after the Christmas break. Now from what I had read in the great dictionary of pregnancy factoids, ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’, I was expecting an examination of some sort, maybe a urine test and some blood to be taken. What I got was - well nothing really. I went in and told the GP I was pregnant, he took my word for it, took my blood pressure, asked me which hospital I had chosen, filled in the form and sent me on my way. Now there are a number of things that bothered me about this:

 I know that the home pregnancy kits are pretty good - in fact they’re much the same ones as the doctors use - but I was kind of surprised that he just took my word for it and rolled into action. I mean I could have been a complete loon (I’m not - well, most of the time I’m not except when I’m watching that repeat of ER where Mark Green dies in Hawaii and I spend the next half-hour on the living room floor weeping inconsolably).

I was 7 weeks pregnant - I was still dealing with that fact (it kind of took us by surprise) and really hadn’t done much research into hospitals. But there I was having to make a choice about where I would be spending the most vulnerable and, probably, agonising, hours of my life - but there was no advice on offer from my GP - no recommendation as to which was the best bet in terms of care.

The total lack of any sort of check up other than blood pressure was a worry. It’s hard not to be neurotic when you’re pregnant and the few minutes that it would take a GP to draw some blood and do a urine test would save an awful lot of worry in the next few weeks.

There’s this weird dichotomy in attitude in the UK - on the one hand you’re told that pregnancy is perfectly natural and that you should just get on with it. On the other hand there’s an emphasis on the negative, on the problem pregnancy - the number of times you’re reminded that there’s a good chance of miscarriage before 12 weeks has to be heard to be believed (oh and then there’s the charming reminders about how you may turn up at your 12 week scan to find that the baby has died but you didn’t actually expel it. This is VERY rare by the way so please ignore anybody who tells you that it isn’t.)

So I get to about 9 weeks in and I start thinking - yes, it took 9 weeks but hey, it’s true what they say about pregnancy melting the brain. I also had the good fortune to be invited to a dinner party where one of the other guests just happened to be a consultant obstetrician. After about 5 minutes of trying to rein myself in, act casual and not ask the poor man any questions, I gave in, stuck my belly out and fired away. Luckily for me, the lovely obstetrician was full of good advice which he was happy to impart. The first thing he recommended was that I book myself in for a private nuchal scan at the Fetal Medicine Centre on Harley Street. This is run by Professor Kypros Nikolaides - the man who essentially invented and developed the nuchal scan procedure. It’s not cheap (£150 for the scan and a blood test called the triple blood test) but you are assured of getting scanned by a highly skilled doctor and, perhaps more importantly, you will get a scan at the right time. What do I mean by the right time? Well put it this way - at this point I had been booked into St Thomas’ Hospital and had been sent a scan appointment for the end of my 14th week - this is on the very cusp of when you want to be having your nuchal scan. Why call it a 12-week scan if it isn’t?

Anyway, the consultant obstetrician then went on to recommend that I transfer to King’s College Hospital - the antenatal unit there is also run by Professor Nikolaides and is highly rated. So I did - especially after getting rave reviews from my sister-in-law who had her first child there - in the Olympic size birthing pool! I also made an appointment for a 12-week nuchal scan at the Fetal Medicine Centre for 9th February (the results of this are in the posting entitled ‘The Wriggler Wallis’.)

By this time I still hadn’t seen a midwife.

My forms arrived from King’s. I had an appointment for a booking-in session with a midwife on the 19th March. I would be approximately 18 weeks pregnant by this point and so far I hadn’t had one check up - nothing. For all I knew I could be growing a giant toad inside me.

I wasn’t terribly happy. To be honest, as far as I knew, everything was going OK - there was no bleeding and the morning sickness was manageable (as was as my new-found amazing ability to fall asleep whilst still walking down the street)but I still felt that there was a distinct lack of support from somebody, anybody, who had even a modicum of medical training. Comparing my treatment so far with that of my friend Lucy’s, in Paris, I was frankly a little envious - and pissed off. OK, so maybe the french method of blood testing, weighing, pee testing etc…from the minute you announce you’re pregnant could be seen as overkill but personally I’d rather have the reassurance than the resounding silence and complete disinterest that I was receiving from the NHS ’service’. So I started looking into independent midwives…

First I called my sister-in-law - she had her second child at a birth centre in Tooting, run by independent midwives and had found the whole experience very positive. She gave me some numbers to call but unfortunately her midwife was already booked up for August deliveries (it turns out that August is going to be a busy month in Clapham labour wards - was November really boring or something?!)

So I checked out this site and found Melody Weig. A few days later Melody came to our house for a chat. Immediately I felt calmer, more rational - more like a human being rather than a wrung-out rag whose brain had been left in a wheelie-bin somewhere. We swiftly booked in with Melody and a week later she came back to the house for my first ante-natal visit. Melody spent 2 and a half hours with me that first time (and if anybody knows the parking wardens in Clapham they will know that this speaks of real dedication!)and answered all my questions from ‘I have this weird twinge sometimes in my right side - is it an ectopic pregnancy?’ to ‘When will I stop having to get up 5 times in the night to pee?’. She also explained that by choosing an independent midwife, I had automatically given myself a choice. At this stage (and still now) I am planning to have my baby at King’s College Hospital but if, when it comes down to it, I decide that I’m happy at home then I can make that choice at the very last moment - Melody will come to the house in the early stages of labour with a full birthing kit, including a pool, to hand just in case.

Choice…how nice. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to get without having to pay out a couple of thousand pounds?Ah yes…here it is… a statement from Patricia Hewitt:

Total Bollocks. Really. And I will explain why.

As I quickly discovered it is almost impossible to get an appointment with a midwife before your 12 week scan. If you do manage to finally book in with a midwife you will then be treated by a pool of midwives - you will have no idea who will actually attend you at the birth and if, at the end of the day, there are no midwives available to come out to a home birth then you’ll be forced to go into hospital where you’ll be put on this conveyer belt system - the 4 or 5 (if you’re lucky)midwives on duty will be spread between you and the 20 other women giving birth at the same time. You won’t be able to have a water birth because hospital policy dicates that you must have a trained professional with you at all times and guess what? They’re aren’t enough trained midwives to go round so chances are you’ll find yourself in an antiseptic room, on a bed, strapped to a fetal monitor and wondering just what the hell happened to your birth plan.

None of this is down to the midwives. I repeat - none of this is the fault of the midwives. As most of you are no doubt aware, this government has been systematically stripping the maternity care system of midwives for a good few years now. This has culminated, acording to The Independent on Sunday (4th March 2007), in a 21% increase in deaths. Yes deaths. That is women dying from childbirth. Now last time I looked, we were living, in the 21st Century, in a highly developed country. How are women still dying from childbirth in such high percentages?

Here are just a few articles I found on the subject:,,1985892,00.html

Scary isn’t it? So you would think that what with the whole midwife shortage over at the NHS, the government would actively encourage the Independent Midwife movement. I mean here are trained women (in Melody’s case with over 20 years of midwife experience, combined with a range of other skills)who can provide a continuity of care to a mother that can only be dreamt of by those working within the NHS system. You would think….

Turns out that as of now the government are actively trying to force independent midwives out of business. Basically it has to do with the government’s policy on independent midwives and professional idemnity insurance - the government plan to legislate that no midwife can register to practice without it but at this point in time independent midwives aren’t able to get professional indemnity insurance (this is why, when you have a hospital birth, your independent midwife will not be allowed to ‘run’ the birth and will act more as a doula than a midwife). Now I understand that this insurance is supposedly there to protect patients from unscrupulous quacks but as far as I can tell the independent midwives are currently propping up a maternity care system that doesn’t work and without them…

What are the government afraid of? Looking bad? Too late matey-chops.

Anyway, the whole thing is explained much more eloquently here:

OK, so I suspect there are some of you sitting there thinking - well that’s great for you, Mrs Pampered Middle Class Wifey of Clapham but I can’t afford an independent midwife and I can’t afford a private scan. And I say, all the more bloody reason to start DEMANDING some treatment. And by treatment I mean a basic standard of care. I’m talking about:

-Treatment by professionals who don’t make you feel stupid for worrying about those early aches and pains.

-A level of care that includes blood and urine testing for the early detection of any problems and early appointments with a midwife to ‘book in’ your pregnancy.

-Nuchal scans on the NHS by properly trained operators for EVERYBODY and not those who happen to live in lucky postcodes. And for those scans to be at 12weeks and 20 weeks, not whenever the hospital can squeeze you in.

-Treatment by professionals who aren’t so over-stretched and worn out that they can barely hold a civil conversation let alone provide reassurance and advice.

-Treatment when and how you want it.

-Midwife-led care that encourages a normal pregnancy and birth rather than over-medicalised obstetric-led care.

I really don’t think that this is too much to ask for and quite frankly I resent the fact that we are now in the position of having to pay out approximately £3000 for a basic level of care that we should supposedly, according to government hot air and statistics, be receiving for free on the NHS. But the truth is that if people like us didn’t opt out then there would be an awful lot more mothers depending purely on the NHS to deliver, and I don’t really want to think about the consequences of that.

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The bean

Posted by admin at March 6th, 2007

So we got married on the 11th November 2006 - James had this idea of starting his speech by promising everyone that we’d be starting a family in, oh, about 3 hours - he thought he was joking.

We went to Costa Rica for our honeymoon and found ourselves in a luxury suite looking out over verdant rainforest at an active volcano. And apparently verdant rainforest, an active volcano, the best massage in the world EVER and a steady flow of local cocktails provide the perfect environment to get pregnant. Of course we didn’t know that I was pregnant. We thought I had a stomach bug when, up at El Establo, I found myself spending rather more time than I really wanted in the doorless toilet of our honeymoon suite. Another week of glorious honeymoon down at the beach and we flew back to the UK.

after 2 weeks of constant jetlag we started to think that maybe something, or someone was up - the duff. Positive proof came by way of a clearblue digital stick - the most advanced technology you’ll ever pee on - at 7 am one morning . I highly recommend these sticks - they tell you pregnant or not pregnant - there’s no peering at lines involved. So I run upstairs to stick the stick under my darling husband’s nose and he does actually wake up - those of you who know James will understand that this was no small effort on his part. At first he was bemused - why was I sticking a piece of plastic smelling of pee under his nose? But then it dawned on him - he was going to be a father….

….he went back to sleep.

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