38 Weeks

38weeks-lifebylotte Yep, this is what 38 weeks pregnant looks like folks. Ice cream, ice cream and more ice cream (trust me, it's a more attractive picture than one of me right now). I've been obsessed this week and have no idea why - maybe Chip is desperately trying to build up her fat stores? Maybe I'm just a massive pig? Who knows. But Ben & Jerry's have done well out of me this week (sidenote: Phish Food is still my favourite, mmmm those dark chocolate fishes....).

Anyway, I can officially say now that I've had enough of being pregnant. Two of the ladies in my NCT group gave birth last week and for the first time in my life I'm feeling really quite envious! I don't normally get jealous at all but seeing their excited messages and cute little pictures has made me feel desperate to meet Chip... it's like waiting for Christmas Day as a child all over again. Except that in the meantime, your feet and hands are constantly swollen and sore, you have non-stop reflux and burping issues (digestion woes are back again - maybe the ice cream is to blame?), your brain doesn't work properly and real, deep sleep seems like a distant memory...

Alas, Chip shows no sign of turning up any time soon. I had my 38 week check up yesterday and all was totally fine - the GP seemed to think that Chip's head was 3/5 engaged but I know that doesn't really mean anything, as heads can be engaged for weeks before birth. I've had some strange incidences of period-like pain which have got me all excited, but nothing consistent or lasting very long.

Other than that, we've been thinking more and more about names. I had a mini rant on Twitter about the fact that, since Oli and I are not married, we have to choose which of our surnames to give the baby (legally, we could actually give her a totally random surname in fact - one that neither of us have, which is WEIRD). This is now starting to stress me out quite a lot, and I'd love to hear what other unmarried parents have done?

I much prefer Oli's surname (Darley) to mine (the constant Jack/Vera comments and quacking noises have taken their toll on me over the years) but then I also feel a bit sad about having a different surname from my daughter. It's really tricky. Getting married is not an option (been there, bought the t-shirt, happily returned it) and changing my name to Oli's just seems like an odd thing to do. Not to mention a load of hassle. Oli's said that he's happy for her to have my surname but then I feel that he's not really connected with her, which is daft I know... it's just obviously I am going to give birth to her so I very definitely am. So basically, I'm moaning about a problem that there's really no solution to - I suppose I just have to get over it.

Also, we have a first name we love, but we stupidly told a few people what it was early on, and I've realised now that you mustn't tell people your baby name ideas until AFTER THE BABY IS BORN. Otherwise people think they've got free rein to express their opinion on it, and then you start bloody worrying what other people think, and questioning yourself. Which is stupid because you're never going to find a name that everyone in the whole world loves. At least once the baby is born and the name is a fait accompli, people usually have the manners to nod and smile politely, and say how delightful it is... (and then slag it off behind your back, but y'know, them's the breaks).

We've spent most of this week on Nameberry, shouting out different options to each other and getting more and more confused. I am now hoping that once Chip is born, we'll look at her little face and the right name will become abundantly clear. What do you reckon? Otherwise we may end up calling her Chip* for life...

Sigh. Back to the ice cream, methinks.

38-weeks-lifebylotte2

*for those that are interested, 'Chip' came about from when my pregnancy app Glow told me that Chip was the size of a chocolate chip. I started calling her 'the chip' when referencing how she made me feel (nauseous, tired, hungry etc etc) and it stuck. I quite like it as a nickname actually and if she'd been a boy, we really might have considered it...

37 Weeks

37-weeks-lifebylotte So at 37 weeks pregnant, I am officially full-term! I'd be more excited about this if it weren't for the fact that I'm now convinced I'm going to go overdue and have to be induced. It's funny, I've swung from being convinced Chip would have to be born early by emergency C-section due to her size, to now thinking I can imagine myself sitting around for 56 hours in the induction suite waiting for something to kick off. As ever, pregnancy constantly reminds you how little control you have over any of it.

It's been a relatively peaceful week really, so not much to update today. The main thing I've noticed this week is just how fat I'm getting - I had my hair done yesterday and was quite surprised to see how many chins I had when staring at myself throughout the appointment. I think it's mostly water retention/puffiness but it's quite odd to look at yourself and realise how different you look from how you think you look. I've also noticed I now have some lines/rings around my neck - they're not very obvious but they definitely weren't there before. Again, I'm hoping it's just from the puffiness and they will disappear after Chip's arrived but still... great for the self-esteem. (Yes I am aware how painfully vain all this sounds!)

The monster feet continue to be a nightmare, as soon as the temperature gets above 21 degrees they just seem to bloat up. The only solution is keeping them elevated but this means I can't really do anything apart from sit in bed with my laptop. But while I sit here I have an overwhelming desire to clean and tidy and DO things, so it's quite frustrating. I have realised what a terrible disabled person I would make, if I can't even cope with having temporarily swollen feet.

la0552_1

This week I also ordered a breastfeeding chair with footstool. These are the ugliest things on the planet but there's not really anywhere that comfortable at home for me to sit at the moment - the sofa is too squishy and gives me backache, and spending so long in bed makes me feel like an invalid. I'm VERY excited about this hideously ugly chair and am hoping it will cheer me up a lot, and also, you know, be quite useful for breastfeeding once Chip's here. It's arriving today - hurrah!

And finally, something very odd happened this week. I was sitting watching TV on Monday night and I realised my bra was really uncomfortable. My boobs felt kind of hot and throbby. Anyway I took my bra off, only discover one side was completely soaked through with a kind of watery substance. Sorry, really TMI I know! I was quite shocked as before I'd only had tiny bits of yellowish discharge. This was a whole other league - like I'd poured a (small) cup of water in my bra.

I immediately got excited and hoped it was a sign of imminent labour, but sadly Dr Google says it doesn't mean anything. Just another joy of late pregnancy! Next up? The appearance of a bloody mucusy 'show' apparently... Delightful, I can't wait!

36 Weeks

36-weeks-lifebylotte Oh god, there is SO much to say at 36 weeks. Apologies in advance, I think this might be a long one so do bear with me (or don't, feel free to bugger off and spend your time doing something more productive...).

In my head, this week somehow seemed to be the week everything was leading up to - the week of my final scan, the week by the end of which I would be officially 'full term', and also the week where I got to see a midwife for my check up, rather than my GP.

So first off, we had the scan yesterday. We saw a different sonographer AGAIN (meaning I think I've seen seven in total!) but she was perfectly chirpy and nice, and spent a good five minutes looking through all my paperwork. 'Goodness me, you do have a lot of blue forms!' (they give you a print out of your scans on blue paper after each one). So she didn't really waste any time with preambles and got straight to it.

The upshot of the scan was that Chip is still head down ('very low') and still small (no surprises there), but growing on the exact same percentile as before, which is all good. She apparently now weighs 5lb 8oz, which sounds perfectly respectable to me. Although I did read somewhere online that estimated fetal weights are about as accurate as trying to guess the weight of a naked man sitting in a bath in the next room. So, yeah. But still, looking at it positively, she's put on a fair bit of weight since my last scan at 34 weeks.

All was good with the blood flow and dopplers and amniotic fluid, and the sonographer got quite excited at one point when she was measuring Chip's tummy.

'Look at that! Can you see how it's moving up and down?! That's her diaphragm practising breathing, and it's a really good sign. It means her brain is getting so much blood and oxygen that she even has energy in reserves to practise developing those muscles too.'

All this was very reassuring, and cheered me up. The only rubbish bit was that the sonographer was clearly keen to get me done and dusted and outta there, so I didn't get to see Chip's face which I was kind of hoping for one last look in utero at (mind you, the head was squashed right down between my legs so maybe a good thing). Scans at 36 weeks are really crap actually, because the baby is so big you can't see it all in one go, and the bits you can see don't really look like much.

Anyway, the sonographer seemed all pleased but then she - rather worryingly - popped off her chair and said 'I'm just going to have a word with the doctor, wait here' and disappeared for about ten minutes. Of course, we spent those ten minutes comparing notes on what we'd seen on the screen and fearing the worst (Oli and I now both think we're experts at interpreting the results of all the measurements when, let's be honest, we have literally no clue what they mean).

But then she came back and said that she just wanted to check with him that they didn't want to see me for yet another scan, and he'd agreed that THERE WAS NO NEED! HURRAH!

So, I'm all scanned out! The next time I see my baby (fingers crossed) will be when she's on the other side!

Here are her vital stats at 36 weeks for anyone wanting to compare and contrast...

36-weeks-scan-result-lifebylotte

36-weeks-scan-lifebylotte

The sonographer then took me along to book me in for my induction. Because of the issue with the artery gubbins, I am not allowed to go longer than 41 weeks - I think with normal pregnancies they don't talk about inducing you until after 42 weeks.

My induction date is officially 3 September. I am hoping and praying that Chip puts in an appearance before then, not least because the description of the induction is pretty depressing. Apparently they put a pessary up your wotsit, which 'ripens' (YUCK YUCK YUCK) your cervix, and once it's ripe (YUCK KILL ME NOW) then they break your waters for you, and then they give you shitloads of synthetic oxytocin to start labour off. But the pessary has to stay in for twelve hours, and often doesn't even work the first time, which means they put another one in, and wait another twelve hours.

Basically the whole thing can take days. She said it can be up to as much as 56 hours before you're even in labour. And you have to stay in hospital the whole time. And you can't have a water birth or be in the nice lovely birthing centre. So it sounds like a bloody nightmare, quite frankly.

I did work out that if the worst came to the worst, there's a chance that Chip could be born on 6 September - which would be exactly seven years to the day since I met Oli. I quite like that idea, even though 6 September seems like an unbearably long time away. We've put bets on when we think she'll be born, and Oli's gone with 24 August, and I'm sticking to 6 September because somehow weird coincidences like that seem to happen a lot in my life. Time will tell...

Today I had my midwife check up, and was desperate for her to say that Chip's head was engaged and that she thought she'd be born in the next week or so, as seems to have happened to so many of my friends who had their babies the day before they were meant to go on maternity leave etc. But alas, her head is still 'free', which means she's not in any way ready to be born yet. Boo.

The midwife was super reassuring though, and said my GP was crap to have 'panicked me' before. She measured my bump at 34cm, which is completely fine for 36 weeks. She said the heartbeat sounded great, my blood pressure was super low, my urine was fine (HA! this time I had my sample ready - *smug face*). I got some blood test results I'd completely forgotten about and apparently they were perfect, especially my iron levels. She did look a bit sorry for me when I showed her my swollen feet though. I knew I wasn't being melodramatic about them... *cue violins*.

I told her my boobs were already leaking a bit (sorry TMI) and she almost applauded me and said how great that was, which was nice too. She also said about four times 'There is nothing wrong with your lovely compact baby!' which was SO what I wanted to hear. She even taught me how to tell which bits of the baby you are feeling with your hands, which was really interesting. She said the head will always feel rock hard, the back is a long solid curve, and the bottom is, well, bottom-like. She was awesome actually, and I hope she's on duty when I give birth - she really seemed to be interested in me and the baby. It's just a shame you don't see midwives for every appointment, but anyway...

Phew! This is indeed a long one. Luckily, I don't have many other boring symptoms to share with you this week. Apart from that every night for the past week, I've had a different dream about being in labour (guess this is standard for this far along!?). And that I've been trying to listen to my hypnobirthing playlist once a day but I keep falling asleep. But if it works like that in labour then I guess it's no bad thing?!

35 Weeks

35-weeks-lifebylotte I turned 35 weeks pregnant yesterday, and now I am really on a countdown! My due date is 26 August, which is now just over a month away, making it feel all the more real.

I've had a very lazy week really - the only thing of note was that we finally made it to our NCT classes. I've never been a fan of group activities (I'm not one to form friendships at first sight) and was pretty much dreading the whole thing if I'm honest, but I was pleasantly surprised. The other couples were all perfectly lovely and nice, there were shedloads of biscuits, the atmosphere was very relaxed and although (as I had been forewarned) I didn't exactly learn much (maybe there's not much to learn?!) I did feel that the classes focused my mind, and made me really think about what I wanted from my 'birth experience'.

There's a space in your maternity notes for your 'Birth Plan'. I didn't really intend on filling it in before, because as far as I was concerned there was no point planning anything, because everyone I've ever known seems to have been taken by surprise at some point during their 'birth experience'.

birthplan-lifebylotte

But now, I'm going to add two things: I want skin-to-skin contact with the baby as soon as she's born (no rushing her off to rub her in towels - this way she will hopefully get to know me straight away) and I don't want the cord clamped immediately, but left to pulsate for ten mins or so (apparently this gives the baby an extra boost of oxygen and iron from the placenta that can really help her in the first few days). Last one sounds a bit new agey but I don't see how it can hurt so I reckon it's worth a try. But of course, all this is if I don't end up having a c-section etc etc.

We also had an NCT breastfeeding session. The highlowlight of this was watching a video of a pregnant lady hand-expressing her own colostrum (the yellow gunk you make before you make proper breast milk). Basically squeezing it out. We have been encouraged to try this in the shower ourselves. I will not be trying this in the shower myself. I figure it will come out of its own accord when required.

The main message I've been receiving re breastfeeding is:

IT CAN BE REALLY HARD. IT'S BEST FOR YOUR BABY BUT IT CAN BE REALLY HARD. IT WILL PROBABLY HURT LOTS AND FILL YOU WITH FRUSTRATION BUT YOU MUST PERSEVERE FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR BABY, YOU SELFISH COW.

It's not exactly filling me with confidence I have to say, and sometimes I wonder if less knowledge is actually better in these scenarios?

Chip-wise, things have been good I think. She's been moving loads and I can tell she has proper bones now, IYKWIM. When she moves, her little legs, arms, hands and feet feel properly solid inside me. It's very reassuring. She spends a lot of time rolling her back from side to side and I *think* her head is still down as my tummy hasn't really changed shape since she moved into position. Fingers crossed. We'll find out more at my (eighth!) scan next week.

My tummy in general has gone really hard a few times in the last few days, which has been quite a strange sensation - it feels like a rock. I *think* this may be Braxton Hicks, but it hasn't felt like contractions at all. I've noticed it more just bending forward and realising how stiff it feels. So maybe not BH, but if not, what!?

35-weeks-lifebylotte

Other than that, all I have to report this week is that I am feeling MASSIVE. I can't be bothered to walk anywhere because I'm so damn heavy (have put on two stone now in total!) that my legs and feet kill, and I look like a whale in all my clothes. My face has gone from relatively podgy anyway to full-on eighty chins and counting and I feel pretty damn unattractive. I've lost the pregnancy 'glow' (if indeed I ever had it, which is debatable) and now just look knackered from lack of sleep. I've had a properly stuffy nose every night which is making me snore (sorry again Saint Oli) and I don't really have much energy at all. I'm also massively constipated, which is super fun.

So yes, quite anxious to get Chip out sooner rather than later! Two weeks till full term!

 

34 Weeks

34-weeks-lifebylotte Apologies, this post is a couple of days late as I wanted to wait till after my growth scan, but on Wednesday, I officially turned 34 weeks pregnant. THREE WEEKS TILL I'M FULL TERM! I believe Chip should now be the size of a cantaloupe, but given that she's a bit of a midget, maybe an unripe one.

I had my 34 week check up with the GP on Wednesday and all was fine - my blood pressure was the same as before, the heartbeat sounded good and strong and I didn't have any protein in my urine (nice). I still find the whole urine sample thing rather horrible - each time I go to the doctor's she asks me if I've got one with me, but she's never given me a pot in advance, so I always have to mumble my apology for not being prepared, grab a pot from her and scuttle off to the (rather disgusting) toilet. Should I bring it in an old jam jar or something?! Do people usually have urine-sample pots at home?!

I KNOW that GPs naturally do not find dealing with urine in any way awkward but I still find it super embarrassing having the carry the bloody thing back through the corridor and hand it to her, so I always wrap it in a tissue, as though to protect its modesty. This time I even apologised to her for the colour... 'Sorry, it's first thing in the morning, I'm a bit dehydrated...' Cringe.

God knows what I'm going to be like when faced with the poonami phenomenon my friends have told me about.

Anyway, all was fine! And then she measured my bump, and it was measuring a whopping 29cm! Still 5cm behind what it should be, but still, a good amount of growth for the past few weeks. I felt like I'd got an A* in some very important test.

Yesterday was my growth scan however, which was what we were really hoping for good news from. We saw a different sonographer again (this is a bit of a shame, I do wish we could see the same person every time) but the news was really good! Chip has grown quite a lot in the past two weeks, her head is the perfect size, she's still lightweight but her estimated weight this week was 4lb 10, which is a massive increase from last Friday when she was apparently 3lb 15. Oli's a bit cynical about the whole scan measurement thing now, because some of it does seem rather unbelievable (can she REALLY have put on that much weight in only six days?!), but I'm focusing on the positive and the fact that she's still doing well in there. It's such a relief!

Best of all, she was moving loads and even punched the Doppler thing with her fist at one point, which the sonographer said was a good sign of brain development. She also told us that you can have a massive chubby baby with very little fetal movement and they would consider them to be more at risk than a skinny baby who's showing lots of signs of life. Chip gets hiccups ALL THE TIME now too, which is also good (if annoying for me), and on the scan she was practising her breathing so much that the sonographer had a hard time measuring all the various blood flows accurately. But the main thing is, all looks fine at the moment - she's a small baby but she's growing. And I'm now starting to come back to the idea that I'll be allowed to go to full-term and have a natural birth! We have another scan at 36 weeks, which I am now looking forward to, rather than dreading.

It's interesting because for the past two weeks I've definitely been taking it a LOT easier and hanging about at home a lot, trying not to get stressed about stuff, and generally just eating loads. And watching loads of crap TV. And clearly it's paid off... I can see why in medieval times women went into 'confinement' while pregnant. Perhaps this is something we should bring back?!

34-weeks-pregnant

Other than that, symptoms wise, I've had quite an easy week. My back has been hurting less as I've been trying to stay at home more and not do ridiculous all-day days out. The only thing that persists really are my swollen feet and hands - I showed the doctor my weirdly bright red and white palms on Wednesday and she said this is quite normal. It's called palmar erythema apparently and should go away after Chip's born. My hands do really hurt in the mornings though and I can no longer wear any of my rings, as my fingers are so fat, which I miss!

I've also developed some teeny tiny little red bumps on my tummy and under my armpits - kind of like skin tags but titchy and bright red. Apparently these are called cherry angiomas and are benign, but they're quite painful when they catch on my bra. I sort of want to cut them off but suspect that may not be the best idea...

teddy-bear-lifebylotte

And a nice note to end today's update on - this week I washed my teddy bear from when I was a child. I LOVED him so much - he was very much my favourite toy. He even came to uni with me. I've had him ever since I can remember but have no idea who gave him to me (note to self: ask Mum). I put him in the machine slightly nervous that he'd fall apart (given that he's at least 30 years old now) but he came out beautifully, and I can't wait for him to sit next to Chip in the cot. I love the fact he has a big head and a tiny tummy, just like her at the moment. Makes me all sniffy and teary it does!

33 Weeks

Well, I'm not going to lie. I'm 33 weeks pregnant and this week has been an absolute shocker. I think my personal low point came at around 1am one night when I lay in bed whimpering to Oli: 'I thought I was a strong person. I want to be a strong person! Why am I not feeling strong?!'

All had been going quite well really, as my chirpy 32 week update will attest, but then I had my 32 week check up with my GP. My urine was fine, the heartbeat was fine, my blood pressure was up slightly but not terribly, but then the doctor measured my bump. It measured 27cm - the same as it did four weeks ago. Now, I know that fundal heights are pretty unreliable, and that anything within a 2cm range is OK, but measuring 27cm meant not only that my bump was 5cm too small for my dates (bump size should measure the same in cm as you are number of weeks pregnant) but more importantly, that it hadn't grown at all for a month. This is referred to as 'static growth'. An oxymoron, but whatever.

The GP told me that I had to go and have another growth scan first thing the next day (unfortunately my appointment with her was last thing, and the scanning unit was shut). Cue a rather sleepless night, then we rocked up the next day to a full waiting room of nervous pregnant ladies. I gave the receptionist the letter from my GP referring us, then we took a seat, expecting to be there for hours. But within about three minutes my name was called - never a good sign!

We went off to be scanned, mostly hoping to be told everything was fine to be honest - and that my bump was small because of my long body, as it had been last time. But unfortunately Chip's growth has slowed right down. She had been measuring on the 50th percentile for growth, but now she was only measuring on the 5-10th. An official verdict was announced - Chip is 'small for gestational age', with all the complications this involves. She's also very firmly in a transverse breech position...

33-weeks-transverse-lie

The sonographer tried not to worry us but did impress on me the importance of keeping an eye on her movements, and if they seem to lessen at any time, to come straight to the hospital. I've been a nervous wreck ever since. I also have a placenta at the front, which means I never see her kick really, I just feel rolls and thuds inside my tummy. My days now consist of large portions of time spent lying on my side and playing her music, just to make sure I feel ten movements within an hour. It's stressful.

I've cried a LOT - late at night, in the M&S sweets aisle, while watching TV... poor Oli. My other method for dealing with this situation is to try to get as much organised as possible - hence we've picked up the buggy, cot and car seat, and I've washed all her clothes and packed my hospital bag, just in case I have to go in early. That has given me something nice to focus on, and has made me feel more and more excited to meet her. Here was the car after our trip to the A3 Baby Barn...

33-weeks-pregnant-lifebylotte2

Not only do we need a bigger flat, we need a bigger car!

We have another scan at St George's next Thursday, but in the meantime I also booked a private scan for tomorrow at the Fetal Medicine Centre. There's so much I want to ask and I just wasn't really in the right state of mind last week. I am aware that if the issue with my placenta means that she's not getting enough nutrients etc, the best thing is probably to have her early but the sonographer wouldn't suggest that until she's compared her growth over two weeks. But I am also terrifyingly aware that I'm now at a much higher risk of stillbirth - hence my 1am whimpers.

If it was up to me, quite frankly, I'd whip her out right now. I really want her to just be here and safe, and I'm so afraid of my body letting her down. It's been very difficult to hold it together in general really - it's a kind of low-level anxiety that's ALWAYS there at the moment - is she moving enough? is she OK? what is going ON inside me?

The only nice bit about last week's scan actually was seeing that she has a full head of hair! That did make me sniffle a bit. (and also, the perverse side of me couldn't help thinking, why is she growing completely unnecessary hair when she needs to put on weight and grow her head and tummy instead!?)

What's interesting too is that I actually am really lucky. If my hospital didn't do doppler scans as standard (many hospitals don't) I would never have found out about the issue with my uterine artery resistance. In my many google sessions this week, I came across this Panorama documentary from the BBC about this very issue, and about how many stillbirths could be prevented. It's worth a watch, if you're pregnant or concerned about your baby's movements. Really, the thing I've learnt from this experience is that keeping an eye on how much your baby moves is absolutely bloody critical.

Anyway, I'll probably do another update after my scan tomorrow. I'm praying for good news. I'm eating like an absolute pig and I've put on 2 lbs in six days, which I'm hoping is a good sign. My bump feels bigger to me, so I'm keeping everything crossed for a growth spurt. Come on Chip, you can do it!

32 Weeks

32-weeks Dear god, I'm hot. I just read a piece on everyone's favourite tabloid saying that pregnant women are especially vulnerable in these kinds of temperatures (hottest 1 July on record apparently!), and I certainly feel it! Not exactly sure what we are vulnerable for though - premature labour? Fainting? Dehydration? Elephant feet finally exploding?

So at 32 weeks pregnant, I am starting to wish my life away just a little. I've said a few times over the past week 'wish Chip was here already' as I am really beginning to feel uncomfortable now. Technically I will be full-term in five weeks, which really isn't that long away is it? Gulp. Oli has said a few times that he thinks Chip will be early and I have a suspicion his instincts may be right. Time will tell.

Apart from my feet being gigantic (yep, still not over this, and the heat is making them worse!), I'm now suffering with quite bad back pain if I have to stand or walk around a lot during the day. Sleeping well seems to have gone out of the window completely, and as a result I'm also really emotional, having had lots of sobbing sessions over the last week, mostly about inconsequential things. Oh and if I sit down in front of the TV in the later afternoon, there's a real possibility that within ten minutes I'll be asleep and drooling all over the cushions.

My tummy has expanded a LOT over the past week too, which was quite a surprise - it definitely seems to go through growth spurts. I don't have any stretch marks yet but I am being really rubbish at remembering to rub Bio Oil into my tum every day so I am certainly living on borrowed time.

Actually, at 32 weeks there's not much to report really. Chip moves all the time these days, and I can tell he/she is getting stronger. I'm really quite content and happy, and really really looking forward to being a mum!

And on that note... you may remember that when I had my 20 week scan, we asked the sonographer to write the gender of the baby on a piece of card, which we sealed in an envelope. What I didn't reveal before was that that envelope remained unopened for less than an hour after we got home. Poor Oli - his new phrase is 'you always get your own way don't you?' because I badgered him and badgered him to let us open it and see what it said, and eventually he gave in.

I hadn't announced the gender on the blog before because part of me has always thought that other people probably don't care whether you're having a girl or a boy, and those ridiculous gender reveal parties popular in the US, where people bake cakes with pink or blue food colouring inside to 'reveal' the news to their family, just seem so ME ME ME and cringeworthy. There were also a few family members that didn't yet know, and I didn't want them to find out through the blog. But then I started talking on Facebook about the sex and a few of my friends seemed surprised that I was just casually letting out the info.

So, this isn't a ME ME ME post I promise, but - *drum roll* - here's what we saw when we opened the envelope...

lifebylotte-gender-reveal

I have to say, it was one of the best moments of my life. If you are pregnant and considering finding out the sex, I really recommend asking the sonographer to write it down for you so you can share the news at home, or somewhere special. Much more pleasant than finding out in a sterile hospital room lying on your back with jelly all over your tum.

So yes, we are very excited and pleased to announce that Chip is a girl! And although it's totally wrong to say it, we really did both have a preference for a girl (surely everyone has a secret preference deep down?!). I'm so excited about the idea of having a daughter, and I have, of course, already spent an absolute fortune on adorable little dresses etc which all my mother-friends have told me are totally impractical for babies and she will hardly ever wear. But oh my gosh is it fun. She is certainly going to have a better wardrobe than me!

31 Weeks

31-weeks-pregnant

I'm 31 weeks today! There’s definitely something about passing the 30-week mark that makes you think that from now on, EVERYTHING has to be about the baby. I’m sure this is also because I’m now on maternity leave, so I’ve got very little in the way of day-job-work to distract me. Anyway, being 31 weeks has suddenly got me all in a flap about the fact that the baby will be full-term and therefore may be born at any time in only SIX WEEKS. Squeak!

Everyone I’ve spoken to has said that first-time babies are always born late, so I had almost resigned myself to not having Chip until September. But then I googled it and discovered that statistically first-time babies are as likely to be early as they are late, so that’s a load of nonsense. Also, with my placenta issue, if I haven’t had him/her by 41 weeks they will induce me, which means that he/she will definitely be born by 2 September! A very strange thought.

I’ve had mixed reactions about my August due date, with some people saying they hope I’ll hang on so the baby is born in the next school year so that he/she isn’t the least developed (read: most stupid) in their class, and others pointing out that an August baby means one year less of childcare for me (as the baby will be going to school almost a year earlier than babies born a week later). Truth is I actually don’t care at all when Chip is born. I just want him/her to be healthy and for me not to rip in half during labour. Oh and for my feet to go back to normal after (more on that later).

Anyway, my first week of maternity leave has been lovely, and basically felt like a mini holiday. I’ve been out seeing friends a lot for lunches, brunches and dinners, and generally just pottering about. I even went back to John Lewis’s baby department again, but this time with my Mum. Sadly it was no more successful than my previous trip. In fact the only difference was this time it was my Mum saying ‘Oh it’s all a bit overwhelming’ as we wandered around marvelling at all the baby nail scissors and bibs and stuff. Again we left empty-handed, save for a helpful 'John Lewis Baby' brochure of ALL THE THINGS I WILL NEED. It’s on the coffee table. Progress.

rattle

We did also go to JoJo Maman Bebe however, where I found it impossible to resist this little rattle. Despite my Mum saying ‘Charlotte, people will BUY you things like that, you shouldn’t buy them yourself!’ But... where’s the fun in that?

I’ll probably do a separate post on the bits we have bought so far, but suffice to say that I feel we’re getting there on the clothing front - the only part of baby shopping that doesn’t freak me out. Although who knows if August babies need long or short sleeved baby grows? I’ve got a mixture of both just in case… (I’m also still slightly confused as to the difference between a sleep suit and a baby grow but hopefully all will become clear at some point).

31-weeks

But enough about the baby, back to ME. I’ve had some new symptoms again this week, which I shall now moan about for your reading pleasure and my future self’s nostalgia:

1) Crazy dreams. This may be due to us finally beginning to watch Game of Thrones (yes yes, I know, eighty years late to the party) but my dreams are so far off the sane-scale these days that I’m starting to become concerned. They don’t make any sense at all. Last night I was in a 4x4 being washed through a tsunami in the Devonshire countryside on my way to an interiors photoshoot. I think this may be a weird hybrid of issues in my life at the moment: the possible need for a new safer car (although I hate 4x4s with a passion), the possibility of moving out of London (although Devon is certainly not on the list of potentials, much as I’d love it to be), the fact the house we had an offer accepted on last week has flooding issues (we’ve pulled out), and well, me missing a big photoshoot for one of our clients due to being on mat leave. Just weird. Every morning I’ve woken up and gabbled, all excited like a five-year-old, ‘I had the weirdest dream!’ to Oli, who this morning made me laugh by replying ‘Yes, well tell me after I’ve been to the gym’. Message received loud and clear: other people’s dreams are BORING. Ahem. Moving on then…

2) For the last three days, my hands and feet have been really stiff and puffy when I wake up in the morning. I googled this and apparently I have rheumatoid arthritis. Of course, I don’t have rheumatoid arthritis because I’m pregnant, and so instead I have carpal tunnel syndrome. Not nice. I have to flex my hands and wrists for a good few minutes to try to get them to loosen up after I wake up - I literally have no grip otherwise. Annoying. And much sympathy now for those who do have rheumatoid arthritis.

3) My feet continue to upset me. My poor feet! My feet will never be the same again!! They are elephant feet. I hate them and they hate me. I miss my old, slightly bony, vein-riddled feet SO much. I miss my shoes! I’m actually praying to the god of feet that these fluid-filled bags of skin return to their normal size and shape after Chip is born because I can’t bear to spend the rest of my life looking down at such squidgy monstrosities.

4) And finally, I am definitely feeling BIGGER. I feel like a proper pregnant person now, and have started to wear my bump and my awkward waddle-walk with pride. I am using this as an excuse to eat more too (resistance to massive weight gain is now futile). My appetite is huge and seems to require at least two ice creams a day. A few weeks ago I discovered a wondrous thing known as ‘maternal fat stores’ which are apparently key to you having enough energy to breastfeed when your baby is first born. Basically I’m allowed around an extra 3kg of fat on my body by the time I’m full term. So now, whenever I sneak to the freezer for another Cornetto and Oli gives me a look, all I have to say to him is ‘maternal fat stores!’ and he rolls his eyes and leaves me alone. This bit of pregnancy I am getting on with quite well…

30 Weeks

30-weeks Apologies for the pyjama bottoms, but I AM ON MATERNITY LEAVE! I SHALL NEVER GET DRESSED AGAIN!

As you may (or may not) have noticed, I didn't manage to do a 29 week post last week. It was my last week at work, and everything was just rather crazy. So this post is going to be a bit of a double whammy, with random musings from the past fortnight.

So! I'm 30 weeks pregnant and Baby Chip is now the size of a cabbage. Don't I know it. I think I look like I've swallowed a basketball today. It's quite impressive. And more excitingly, yesterday a complete stranger asked me when I was due. I haven't actually had anyone try and rub my stomach yet though, which is probably a good thing and means my resting bitch face continues to do its job.

Anyway it's day three of maternity leave and I'm already twitchy - I don't really like not having anywhere specific to 'go' in the mornings, and I'm thinking I need to get into some kind of routine. Exercise could be good, given that my love affair with prenatal yoga was rather short-lived (I kept missing classes because of various work/social life things - whoops). I thought swimming might be a good idea but first of all I need to get over my phobia of public swimming pools. I'm considering investing in a yoga DVD to do at home but my motivation to exercise at home has never been great so I can imagine this may be doomed to failure too.

Symptoms-wise, it's been a mixed bag lately. The most annoying and most horrible thing are my swollen feet. At the end of the day they are just SO big now, and I can no longer fit into ANY of my shoes. Flip-flops are my only option. But of course flip-flops aren't great for your back, so after a long time walking around in them I'm in quite a lot of pain. The swelling doesn't really seem to improve much no matter what I do either. I had hoped that it was the sort of thing that would disappear the second I give birth, but one of my friends told me she still has one swollen foot eight months after her daughter was born! Eeek.

Other than that, I've been feeling really tired and not sleeping well at all - instead I've been having a weird half-sleep where I am sort of conscious but not fully. The weird dreams continue, but luckily I forget most of them by the time I wake up...

30-weeks-2

Some nicer things: Chip is moving about all the time these days and I can tell he/she is getting much stronger, which is lovely. I can also tell when he/she has changed positions. One of his/her favourite positions, it would seem, is sitting directly on my bladder, giving it random little kicks every so often and making me absolutely convinced that I'm about to wet myself. It's a very weird feeling: being completely desperate for the loo all of a sudden, but only for a few seconds before he/she shifts out of the way and the sensation disappears.

Talking of going to the loo (sorry), I now do approximately six drops of wee every time I go. It's like my bladder has shrunk to the size of a thimble. Weird.

oliver-bonas-olivia-bag

But back to the good things: we have ordered the car seat, car seat fixer thing, bedside cot and buggy! I also bought my hospital bag this week - I was in town and saw this (not so) little beauty in Oliver Bonas and decided to treat myself, even though I thought it was probably a bit early. Ironically my 30-week pregnancy email from Bounty then informed me that now was a good time to start packing my hospital bag! So maybe not too early after all. I'm now watching endless hours of YouTube videos on 'what's in my hospital bag' from other pregnant ladies - the list of things needed is pretty extensive. So far I have:

a battery-operated fan (randomly picked up for £1 in PC World, so no doubt will not work by August) two baby grows a dressing gown

So yes, still some progress to be made on that front methinks.

I had my 28 week midwife check up last week, which was much better than expected actually. My blood pressure is back down to my normal levels (phew) and although I'm still measuring 2cm behind, the midwife said that this wasn't anything to worry about. She did, however, worry me by introducing me to the world of the perineum massage, and suggesting that I might like to start doing this to myself. If you don't know what it is, I suggest you google it. Or don't google it, depending on your squeamishness levels.

An alternative to the perineum massage is even more alarming: the Epi-No. Here's a picture:

epi-no-delphine

I'll leave your imagination to fill in the blanks about how this little device works. Not cheap at £90 (and clearly not something you can resale afterwards) the Epi-No sounds like a REALLY fun way to spend an hour or so every day, don't you think? I guess once the baby's born it might be useful for inflating their first birthday party balloons. Sarcasm aside, I am actually considering it, although can't help fearing that I'll blow myself up or something.

On a more vain front, I've finally had my roots done, and am feeling much more like my old self. I am not sure I've talked about this before, but since getting pregnant my skin is so much more sensitive. I've had to completely change my normal skincare routine, and then when I last had my hair done, I had an allergic reaction to the organic Aveda colour I've used for about eight months now, and developed some really attractive scabs on one side of my scalp.

So I put off getting my roots done for as long as I could bear it, and then decided to go back to my original chemical-laden L'Oreal dye when it all got too much. I had it done on Monday and so far, no reaction at all. I do genuinely believe that organic products are pretty bloody awful for your skin - I had a huge allergic reaction to Neal's Yard skincare many years ago and clearly my body now also doesn't like Aveda. Shame, because organic stuff smells much nicer, but I'll be sticking to peroxide from now on.

On another note, did anyone notice their hair getting darker while they were pregnant? My roots this time seemed almost black, which was a little distressing. Am hoping it's just a temporary change.

And finally: I have STILL not had any Braxton Hicks. I am feeling left out. If any other mothers hadn't had any by the time they were 30 weeks, please do come forth and share. Apparently it doesn't matter that I haven't had any but it does make me wonder if I will be chronically underrehearsed for the big event at this rate...

28 Weeks

28-weeks I'm 28 weeks today and edging ever closer to 30 weeks, which to me sounds VERY far along. Squeak! Best of all, I am firmly in my third trimester now, and the baby picture on my baby app looks like a proper baby with podgy little legs and arms. I celebrated my 28 week milestone with a growth scan, which I had this morning.

However, I stupidly spent last night reading Amanda Holden's autobiography (bear with me on this, but it was all related to the fact that I'm a die-hard Corrie fan, and couldn't believe that Les Dennis was once married to her, so I bought it on my Kindle for 99p to find out more). Anyway, what I hadn't realised was that poor Amanda had lost her baby at 28 weeks completely unexpectedly, so of course I spent the entire night fretting about what was in store for me.

Be warned: do not read Amanda Holden's autobiography when you're pregnant. The poor woman has been through hell and back and my heart goes out to her.

Maybe that's why I was extra emotional today, or maybe it was just tiredness, but anyway I got quite teary eyed watching Chip kicking about and curled up and generally looking perfectly happy. More mindblowing stuff this week - his/her eyes were actually open on the ultrasound! I knew they open for the first time around 27 weeks but it was actually so amazing to see them there so clearly, staring at us from the screen. He/she even blinked at one point and was swallowing more amniotic fluid (seems to enjoy doing this, weird).

We didn't have our nice sonographer this time but another chap (who didn't give us a free picture, meanie), but he was perfectly kind, if a little matter-of-fact, and patiently explained all the various bits and pieces we were looking at. As usual, our baby had his/her legs curled up around its head - certainly way more flexible than me at the moment.

Growth wise, everything looked absolutely fine, but the issue with my 'increased placental blood flow resistance' and left uterine artery were still there, which was a bit disappointing as Dr Google had told me it could right itself by this point. It's obviously not affecting the baby's growth at the moment but it does mean they still want to see me for another scan at 36 weeks and again I have to keep an eye on my blood pressure and stress levels.

Otherwise this week's been a mixed old bag week of symptoms. Here are a few - look away all ye who are squeamish:

1)  My feet. The sun came out and my feet BALLOONED. It was actually ridiculous. I showed them to a few friends who said theirs did the same but not until they were much further along. Here they are at the end of a long day sitting at my desk at work:

28-weeks-feet-swollen

I warned you. Yuck! They also really hurt when I walk because the fluid on the top of them seems to wobble as I put each foot down. The only solution is keeping them raised as much as possible - I have a box under my desk at work now and I have been using my poor feet as an excuse to do bugger all in the house once I get home. Oli has been (not so) graciously massaging them with my Lucky Legs gel which is awesome - definitely my favourite pregnancy buy so far, after the dream bed companion that is the Theraline.

2) I have been constipated beyond belief. Sorry, TMI but there you go. No amount of beans has been shifting things, but when I do finally need to go, I have to go. I don't know if this is because the baby somehow kicks things along my intestines but it's a proper rush-to-the-loo type situation. Nice.

3) We went to start our baby shopping in John Lewis at the weekend and all that happened is that I walked around in a daze, feeling totally overwhelmed and on the verge of tears. There. Is. So. Much. Stuff. I don't know what half of it does. I don't know where to start. I can just about cope with baby grows, but scratch mitts, room thermometers, breast pumps, sterilisers, breast pads, maternity pads, nipple cream... like I said, overwhelming. The only thing I KNOW I have to get is a Sophie giraffe thing, because all my mother-friends have told me about them. And I keep spotting them in photoshoots of nurseries.

Added to this the bedside cot we had decided on after much deliberation is no longer endorsed by the NCT owing to a baby suffocating to death while sleeping in it. So yeah, we're back to square one on even that decision! If anyone has any recommendations of cots that you can have next to you (Moses baskets freak me out) please shout!

4) Cravings-wise, Curly Wurlys and ice cubes (not together) have been the order of the day. And cold, cold drinks.

5) I started to get weird period-like pain yesterday morning. It was really strong and painful and made me scared. I limped to work and it went away. I don't know what it was but I'm going to ask my midwife at my appointment next week. I'm anxious to start feeling Braxton Hicks contractions now so wonder if it was that? Who knows?! As ever, the pregnancy learning curve is steep... third trimester, (I think) I'm ready for you!