Friday, August 29, 2008

Five Star Birth?

Seeings as lovely Tara at From Dawn Till Rusk is asking us for our birthing stories, let me share how having son #1 in the UK versus having son #2 in the USA went...


• First call to midwife at local Berkshire NHS hospital, "She's screaming in agony, contracting every 8 minutes, can we come in?" “No, we haven’t got any spare beds. Get her in a nice warm bath and pop on the TENS.”
• Second call to hospital, “She’s wailing. She bit me.” “Has she had a show?” “She’s putting on a bloody show!”
• Fifteenth call to hospital, “She’s in the car. Contracting every five minutes. Is the birthing pool available?” “Not sure. But we might have the ‘Feels Like Home’ room, if you get a move on. It’s Christmas.” Click…burr.
9pm: Wave off maternal grandparents and drive the 6 miles in our Peugot 206 via back roads to avoid the traffic (what traffic it’s Sunday night). In between contractions am texting my BF to say, “This is it!”
10pm: We’re back home because the maternity ward sister said, if I could walk into the place, I wasn’t ready to be admitted yet.I texted all the way back in outrage!
10.20pm: My mum makes us all egg and chips to keep us busy (!)
10.35pm: Am back in the Peugot, am sure this IS IT as I can’t even bring myself to text.
11pm: Him Downstairs (HD) and the hospital security guard are arguing over parking spaces as I pant, “I don’t give a s**t if you get towed, I’m having a baby!”
Midnight: We’re back home (again) because although I was wheeled into the maternity ward and crying more than Gwyneth at an Oscar speech, the midwife had announced I was still only 2cm dilated and I couldn’t be admitted until I was 3cm. Grrrr.
1.30am: Here we are again. This time I really can’t take it and pure contractual exhaustion has set in. A wonderful midwife takes one look at me and whips me on the pethadine so I can get some sleep. “You’re just in time love,” she says, “I have a lovely bed for you and you can get some rest, else you’ll never push this baby out!” (HD btw is busy counting his change to see if he has enough for the meter).
2.30am: Hurrah we reached 3cms! We can stay in. The pethadine was grrreat.
3.50pm: After some lovely massages from midwife, some wooziness on the birthing ball and some delightful gas and air, my beautiful firstborn finally waved hello to me daddy and midwife. (Well actually he looked like he’d been 10 rounds with frank Bruno. Bless.) We’re moved away from the sounds of someone else’s labour pains next door and into the ward.
4.45pm: A nurse finally offered me a bloody cup of tea!
8am: We’re kicked out because they need my bed. We've been clamped.

• First prenatal (as they call it here) appointment at my OB’s office: “You can come into the hospital as soon as you start contracting. We’ll be calling you anyhow to see how you’re doing. We can schedule it with the hospital, if you want. Get you booked in for induction in case?” Can I get you anything? Water? Juice?
• !!
• At almost 41 weeks preggers I went in to see my lovely OB and was gutted to discover I was barely effaced and still only 1cm dilated. An induction was booked. “You’re all set!” he said. “I’ll be there, don’t worry” Still not used to idea that the doc I’d seen throughout whole pregnancy would actually see it through to the end.
1pm: Come home from doc’s office. Feel crap. Can’t text anyone. (It’s just not that popular round here it seems). Parents are due to go back to UK in 3 days. What if second born doesn’t arrive in time for them to meet him?
9pm: Eat pizza. Feel a bit odd. Go to bed.
7am: Wake up HD. Say, “Think I’m having a few contractions. Don’t go to work in case.” “Right,” he says. “I’ll just go mow the lawn as this’ll go on for hours won’t it?”
9am: Me and my mum are sitting in my bed holding hands as I do my whooshy breathing. HD is nowhere to be found. Couldn’t find my TENS. Anyway my OB’d looked totally blank at me when I asked if I could use one in his hospital.
11am: Contractions feel more intense, but I am handling it so feel no need to panic. After all, last time this went on for days.
Midday: Suggest to HD we call my doctor. “But you’re not even in that much pain yet are you?” he says. Me and my mum refrain from punching him.
2pm: Take a shower to relieve back labour and tell HD I really think we can call the doctor because I’m contracting every 4 mins and it’s lunchtime rush hour.
2.30pm: “She’s at 4 minutes? You should have bought her in hours ago. We’ll meet you at the hospital.”
2.40pm: I throw up. This sent HD into panic mode because I’d thrown up right before I needed to push with son # 1.
3pm: I can’t climb up into his ridiculously huge 4x4. My whole family hoist me in. Am seriously feeling like am about to give birth in the back of the car.
3.40pm: Arrive at huge and gleaming hospital and a porter brings a wheelchair to the car door (!) and another guy valet parks the car (!!)
3.50pm: Receptionist at maternity ward fires all sorts of insurance and identification questions at us (“We have to have this for our paperwork Sir”) until a passing doc takes one look at me panting and heaving and shouts, “Somebody get this lady into Triage!” (I would have felt like I had a starring role in Greys Anatomy if I wasn’t in so much pain)
3.55pm: We didn’t really know or care what Triage was, I just knew it was a step in the right direction. I’m wheeled into an assessment room where at least four nurses fuss over me, whip my clothes off, put me in a lovely gown and announce, “She’s 7.5cms. You’re having this baby honey!”
• I remember screaming for drugs. Over here they’ll give you whatever you want. None of this the anesthetist’s gone home nonsense. Although I’d been all for the natural no-drug birth thing, I quickly decided drugs were the way to go. I was gutted when told, “You’re too far for an epidural. You’ve done good so far. You don’t need drugs.”
• !!!
4.24pm My beautiful son #2 arrives with not a bruise in sight. He literally flew into my doctor’s arms. And he was surrounded by daddy, mummy, three nurses, a resident,and a pediatric specialist (in case). What an audience. And we were in a private room.
4.30pm: A tray full of coffee, water, juice, cookies, bagels and cream cheese magically appears.
5pm: Two nurses wheeled us into our recovery suite (complete with bed for mummy, bed for daddy and bed for baby plus en suite bathroom and view). A porter wheels our bags. Another nurse comes in and gives me her personal phone number, “If you need me when I’m not outside your room.”
5.15pm: Another nurse comes in and shows me that everything I need for baby is right in the drawers under the cot: combs, nappies, nappy cream, onesies, mittens, hats, sheets etc. It was all mine. “Take it all home!” she says. “And all your feminine needs are right there for you in the bathroom. Oh, and right across the hall is the refreshment suite. Help yourself to coffee muffins and brownies as often as you want, and if there’s anything you want we don’t stock there, call this number on speed dial,” (points to high tech phone by my bed) “and someone from the restaurant will bring it up to you. No need to rush home. Stay as long as you want.”
• !!!!!!!!!!!!
• When it came to us leaving (actually only 24 hrs later because I missed son #1) the valet guy came and bought our car round to the front door for us.

Personally I can’t wait to check in there again. It was the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in!

Whirly update

So, yesterday I took my new rotary airer and a funny spade-like contraption I found amongst Him Downstairs' tools and banged it into my lawn.

An hour and a half later I was admiring my whites basking in the 70 degree sunshine,(l actually lost myself for a mo in a reminisce with Persil commercials from life-in-the-UK). Feeling all eco-warrior, I waved a 'hello' to one of my neighbours who was approaching my back garden with a sweat-on.

Not having fenced gardens in my locale means one can tramp through one's neighbours gardens (yards) with alarming regularity.

Anyway, he says to me, "Just thought I should let you know, it's against sub-division (neighbourhood) rules to have these kind of laundry airer's visible in our yards. We don't wanna have to call the cops on ya haha."

Ha-bloody-ha indeed. He was serious.

So, later am taking the kids on a trip to buy an indoor clothes horse.

I foresee the charade this will be! Wish me luck.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Where's my translator?

It was a simple enough question.

"Where are your washing lines?"

The blank stare got even blanker. Then, "Excuse me?"

"Do you sell washing lines," I tried.

"You mean, like for the tub? The tubs are at the back of the store," she replied.

"No, no, sorry," I said. "I don't want to buy a bath-tub."

'Here we go again', I thought.

I was in my local hardware shop, Home Depot - one of our favourite US shops because it looks just like B&Q inside and out! Even has the same logo (are the two stores sisters?) Anyway, the Mom/Mum household often find ourselves here on a Sunday if we're feeling homesick and want some comfort from a bag of nails.

But today wasn't Sunday and it wasn't DIY that brought me, Cheeky and Monkey through their doors.

"I'm looking for a clothes dryer," I continued, though I might as well have been speaking Russian for all the sense I seemed to be making.

"Well Ma'am," she said. (I still love how I get called ma'am over here) "The dryers will be right next to the tubs and the washers. In the home appliance section."

This wasn't going well. And I thought it would be such a quick and simple trip out to the shops. Silly me.

We'd decided to Go Green you see. The guilt of how much our little corner of the US is contributing to global warming finally got to us. Kitchen towels individually wrapped in plastic then put in their big multi-pack cellophane wrapping. No fines for over-stuffing your wheelie-bin in my neighbourhood. No. Garden sprinklers going even when it's raining, minimal public transport, four-car families a-plenty, Hummers all over the road. It had finally brought me out in a not-very-Eco-friendly sweat. I decided our family were going to do our bit for the environment (an our electricity bill) and STOP USING OUR TUMBLE DRYER!

Which brings me to why I was having yet another getting-me-nowhere conversation with an American shop assistant.

I wanted to buy a whirly gig. Clothes line/outdoor clothes dryer/retractable washing line/laundry line - whatever you call it I think in the UK they all amount to the same understandable contraption for drying ones smalls outside.

Not Stateside though.

So I got descriptive and with some GCSE Drama improv and mime, the shop assistant's beffudlement finally faded and she said,

"Oh you mean you want a rotary airer?! Aisle seven."


I didn't dare ask her if they sold pegs too. Just as well, because when we got to the washing lines, there was a bin next to them full of lovely pastel coloured pegs and it was marked, 'Laundry Pins.'

Isn't the English language just marvellous?!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Gina's fault

It occurred to me last night that Gina Ford has a lot to answer for.

I have been a GF fan since I found myself with a newborn in my arms and an almost 17 month-old hanging off my trouser (pants) leg. Her 'New Contented Little Baby Book' and routines for the first year became like an addiction to me as I stumbled through those first sleep-deprived months. I worked as hard at getting both my boys to the 11.45/12 noon - 2/2.30pm nap as Him Downstairs does at getting me to have sex with him. Predictably, both are exhausting.

My mum thought my contented baby dedication would turn out like my sports phase at school - a few valiant attempts, then I'd give up and declare, "It's just not for me." But no. This time it was different. I followed HD's game plan and never gave up.

Well, not until that is, until Gina got to the bit about second stage weaning and strict feeding plans at six to nine months. I'd been cooped (stuck) indoors with Cheeky and Monkey for too long and it was high time to get out and get a bit more acquainted with my American neighbourhood. Spending precious spare daylight hours pureeing pears one week, then courgettes (Zucchini. Imagine the blank stares I got in the supermarket when I asked for courgettes) wasn't in my feeding plan.

So Contented Baby was put back on the bookshelf. Or so I thought.

I must need new contact lenses because whilst I thought HD was lost in yet another military battle with Dale Brown, he must have in fact been reading routines from said famous maternity nurse. For that's exactly how he's honed his customary get-the-wife-to-sleep-with-me act. It goes something like this:

Routine for a mum-of-two at day one

  • 6pm Come in from work and give her a gentle squeeze of her bottom and a lop-sided sparkly-eyed smile.

  • 6.30pm Grab her arse and try to squeeze left boob as she's loading the dishwasher.

  • 6.31pm Suggest they put a DVD on for the kids and nip upstairs for a quickie.

  • Do not force the issue if wife throws you her 'Don't-be-ridiculous-it's-bath time-and-I-need these-kids-quiet-and-sleeping-before-I-throttle-one-of-them' stare.

Advancing to the day two to three routine

By the end of the first night of trying to gently persuade wife to indulge in a bit of marital intimacy with you, wife should be at least lukewarmly receptive to your advances. Unless of course, Greys Anatomy is on the TV. Advance swiftly onto the day three-to-four routine.

Routine for a harassed mum-of-two at day three

  • 6pm Come in from work and give her a firm squeeze on both butt cheeks, and a lop-sided desperate-eyed smile.

  • 6.3opm Grab her as she's got her arms full of dirty plates, mash potato in her hair and tell her 'You look hot!"

  • 6.31pm Tell her you really need some sex.

  • 7.00pm Suggest the kids skip bath & story time

  • In no way force the issue if wife throws you her 'Are-you-mad?' look

The following signs will help you decide whether you can advance onto the four-to-six day routine:

  • Your wife has kissed you back a few times without looking past you to what the children are doing.

  • She has told you that she will sleep with you. At some point. Later. Next week. Maybe.

  • She comes to bed just in pants (underwear) and not her pyjamas.

Routine for a now irritated mum-of-two at day four to six

  • 5.45pm Call wife from mobile (cellphone) on way home and say, "Am 10 minutes away. I've had the horn all day. Get naked."

  • 6pm Walk in the door, ignore the children who are throwing food around the kitchen and are refusing to eat their tea (dinner). Grab wife's buttocks and attempt a firm fondle.

  • 6.31pm Ask, "Are we ever going to have sex again?"

  • 6.32pm Move swiftly away and over to the children if wife throws you her 'I'm going to throttle you' look.

  • 10/10.30pm Dim the lights and with no talking move in for a cuddle. This cuddle should last no more than five minutes because wife is happily snoring in your arms.

Changes to be made during the day four to six routine

The daily buttock squeezing should be reduced to a strict gentle touch and replaced with a hug and a fondle of breasts. Saying, 'please' should be added to your sentence when asking for sex straight out. The phone calls on the way home for work have to stop. If your wife is still very resistant to the idea of sex with you, try making her a cup of tea and bringing her a chocolate biccie (cookie) after the kids have gone down. It should now take less time to get laid.

Routine for a totally frazzled mum-of-two at day six to ten

  • 6pm Come home and make a cup of tea. Don't even bother with the fondling.

  • 6.30pm Sit on the couch and look sorry for yourself whilst the kids use you as a trampoline.

  • 6.35pm Let the wife's kiss linger as she takes pity on you and offers to do bath time.

  • 7.3opm It is very important for you to go upstairs and offer to take over the kids bedtime routine if you want your wife awake and naked at 10.30pm.

  • 10/10.30pm Dim the lights and with a gentle kiss turn off the E! channel your wife is watching. Give her 10 minutes to take her lenses out, brush her teeth, pick a few blackheads, have a wee (go potty) and put on her anti-wrinkle night cream. Then, when she comes back to bed and says, "OK, if it'll shut you up!" get in there.

  • This sex should last no longer than 15 minutes.

Monday, August 25, 2008

What's in a name?

You would not believe the change in me today! I know I can't.

My floors are sparkling, I've scrubbed the stainless steel in the kitchen. I found the hoover (vacuum) buried in the back of the laundry room and actually used it. All the bathrooms are gleaming. The beds are made, there's laundry in the machine and I dusted the bookcases in the family room, even the high ones. Cheeky, Monkey and I enjoyed a game of Chutes & Ladders (Snakes & Ladders) albeit by their unconventional toddler rules, plus I have also taken them for a run round the local park. (Like four-legged tail-wagging friends, the boys need their daily exercise). All this before nap time. And I've actually enjoyed it all.

Now what has bought on this sudden burst of domesticity and mummy euphoria in my usually muddled and dusty house?

One word: 'Mama'

He said it! At last.

At 6.38am this morning, my 2 1/4 yr old toddled into my bedroom saying, "Mama. Mama."

I am usually a drooling haystack-haired, sleep-coma, non-communicative mummy at that hour. but with these two words, these two very special words I've been waiting to hear from him for the last 9 months (!) I was suddenly very wide awake.

My love for son number two blossomed into an even bigger flower and I scooped him up into bed with as many kisses as I could muster. Then he frowned at me and said, "pooh."

Ah. Morning breath. He knows the word for that alright.

We'll see how long this smile stays on my face, but for right now am enjoying every minute of it. It only left briefly when I logged on for my daily dose of celeb news and read that Gwen Stefani has named her second born Zuma. Now really. Really?

Wow. It really is all in a name isn't it?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Family fun?

OK so once in a blue moon we actually make the effort and get the heck out of Motor City suburbia to go do a family activity. The kids bless them had been excited all week about the weekend visit to A Day Out With Thomas (mainly I think, because it was the only exciting thing to be happening to them in week 10, day 70, hour 1680, (not that am counting or anything) of the summer hols - sorry, summer va-kay-shon.

So, there the four of us were this morning, cramming ourselves into our ridiculously small family car (the only thing we own now that's the same size as it was in the UK, thanks to gas prices, but is impractical for us and all the bags I seem to have to take everywhere theses days. Am fighting becoming a minivan-mom, but will obviously have to give in soon. Hmph,)

Anyway, our family days out are far from the chocolate box, Disney movie scenario of all smiles and words of joy as the lunch boxes are put in the car, the juice boxes are pierced open and the ipod loaded up ready for the off.

It always goes like this:
  • Him Downstairs (HD) gets up first and is meant to have the kids dressed and breakfasted while I fight with my contact lenses and run round stuffing diaper-nappies (for Monkey), wipes, spare underwear (for Cheeky) sippy cups, Goldfish crackers, raisins and whatever else I can find in the back of the larder to keep the little ones quiet in the car.
  • HD is still in his PJs and SO ARE THE KIDS! when we are meant to leave the house, despite him getting up first.
  • I snap commands at him and we argue over who has picked up the Mapquest directions printout up off the computer.
  • He mutters under his breath that there's no need to shout at him. (Often, he has a point. But I'm a stay-at-home mum (or mom) of a 2 and 3 yr old, so marital courtesy went out of the window when the little blue lines appeared on that white stick just over four years ago.)
  • The kids get shuffled from one parent to the other whilst toothbrushes fly and I always re-dress them because daddy has put them in something ridiculous (usually each others clothes, which really annoys me as it's quite obvious one of the boys is 37lbs and the other a mere 23lbs. The little one looks like he's in a dress when he has one of his brother's shirts on!
  • We are all four in the car. Me: not talking to HD. Cheeky and Monkey: throwing Cheerios at each other. HD: turning up the ipod, whilst trying to read the mapquest printout and doing a Michigan left (a crazy road maneuver special of the State we live in).
Today, was no different to all the other family road trips we've attempted in our 3 short years we've lived in America. Usually, and today followed our family pattern,by the time we reach our destination, we're all smiling and looking forward to the fun ahead. This is because three of us have had a jolly good nap and HD has finally got the peace and quiet he craves. No family sing-songs and games of I-Spy in our automobile! Just that perfect, calm after the storm. Hmm. It's the other way around isn't it?

The storm: that'll be our family day out then! One excuse could be that it was 91oF and humid as hell (hooray for Michigan summers) or another could be, that we just don't DO family activities that well.

The ride on Thomas was fun. No dramas (well, a minor one over which of my sons sat where) but as the train puffed along Cheeky and Monkey were all animated smiles and our camera clicked away. "This is lovely," I thought. "We should do days out together more often".

Half and hour after we got off the train and I was fighting my way through the makeshift eating area with the double buggy (I mean, stroller) to buy over-priced hot dogs and warm juice for lunch, I told HD that, "Am leaving if we don't get served soon. The kids are driving me nuts!"

The organisers had in their wisdom, put the gift shop right next to the dining area. And apparently all the staff were in the gift shop serving the hundreds of sweaty parents pandering to their little Thomas fans every toy need. there was barely a server in the food hall. Just a veeerrry long line of grumpy parents, with their even grumpier toddlers.

How I managed to keep Cheeky and Monkey from breaking free and making a run for the Thomas stash within their view, was only accomplished by several time outs during our 43 mins wait for food.

I hate family days out. I hate other families.

Am struggling with the double buggy on my way out of the food hall (HD has helpfully disappeared to the bathroom) when a family with no buggy lets the door slam straight on my front wheels. Thanks! A helpful father behind me sees me struggling with the bus long contraption Cheeky and Monkey are strapped into and offers to get the door for me. Relief. But only for a moment because as I turn my head to thank him, the blind spot that is my front wheel bumps into another family's beloved small person and quick as a flash am accused of off-roading and crushing little Chuck's toes. "Watch it Lady!" the Mom says. (For the gazillionth time since I moved here, I remind myself that am not in some US flick, they really do say this stuff) and I (all British) say, "I'm sorry. I'm struggling here. I didn't see him" and I continue along in the mosh pit that has became the entrance/exit to the 'food.'

"Damn Australians!" I hear her say as I depart.

Yes, the day didn't get much better. So we did as all sensible Michiganders do in August, headed for the air-conditioning sanity restoring (fingers crossed) power of home.

p.s. Lovely drive home. All of us in our comfy place - Napland. All that is except for HD. He knows his place and that's behind the wheel.

Friday, August 22, 2008


  • Marks and Spencer
  • Waitrose
  • Tesco
  • Sainsbury's
  • Boots
  • Channel 4
  • Bangers and mash
  • Fish and chips
  • Organix baby foods
  • Family ie regular, reliable, free babysitters!
  • Topshop
  • Obviously, girlfriends
  • Fenced gardens


  • Rain
  • EastEnders (surprisingly, since I was a fan)
  • the M4
  • the M25
  • No parking spaces
  • Traffic
  • The London Tube
  • Paddington Station
  • Portion size (am far too happy with giant American platefuls)
  • Fenced gardens

Him Downstairs

Him Downstairs has now left me alone for 1 1/2 hours without a single interruption. Am obviously very relieved.. It's Friday night in the land of Date Night and HD hasn't once popped upstairs to the office to see what I'm doing (thank goodness) or if I'd like a drink. Of course I want a drink! It's Friday. I've had 5 whole days on my tod (alone) with Cheeky and Monkey and I need a bloody vat of wine, let alone a glass.

This is when I miss England the most. England and LBC (Life Before Children). In LBC we'd have been down the local with our mates knocking back the Kronenbourg (him) and the Voddie tonics (me) before giggling over to the chippy on the way home for some late night Channel 4 to fall asleep in front of.

Nowadays (only 2 1/2 yrs later) I feel about 20 years older as we spend our Friday nights apart - me going goggled-eyed in front of the computer upstairs and him going square-eyed in front of the baseball (he's that desperate for footie (soccer) on the TV he'll now watch anything with a ball in it!) downstairs. We only run into each other over the toothpaste as we floss before lights out.

This would never happen in the UK - we tripped over each other all the time in less than 1500 sq ft of house! So our much larger, but no McMansion American home has a lot to answer for. It might not have a pub round the corner, but it's a great place if you want to avoid HD all night. I just wish the wine bottle wasn't so far away right now!