Quenching the Thirst

Finally, finally, after more than a month of canicule, we have rain. As if the weather gods suddenly stopped messing around and heard the parched earth gagging for water. And sent it. Much water. Good. It was starting to feel like the Sahara around here – and what’s the point of that kind of heat, if you don’t have mint tea and a bunch of gangsta mamas to share it with?

Good thing I have my very own mommy here with me 🙂

Raincoats and wellies!

Raincoats and wellies! And death stares.

Defeating the purpose of the double pushchair.

Defeating the purpose of the double pushchair.

Greeeeeeen. And new calves.

Greeeeeeen. And new calves.

Much sun + much rain = plump blackberries

Much sun + much rain = plump blackberries

Nothing to do with rain , but… We have hens!

Nothing to do with rain , but… We have hens!

And where is the rest of the crew, you wonder? Glasgow, NYC, Cape Cod, London. Sending love from here to there. We miss you. TMAB.

 

Advertisements

Birth Story – Marcel Muri

And here is birth story 2/2. Marcel’s turn to have the account of his first appearance relived and revealed. It’s a bit more blood n guts, it’s still TMI, and it’s long, too.

If you don’t feel like reading (another!) birth story right now, you might want to check out these yummy recipes I have made many times:

And if you do feel like reading a birth story right now, here goes.

On the afternoon of Wednesday 27 August 2014, my parents and I went to buy a refrigerator. We had Elizabeth, my 15-month-old daughter, along with us, and she ran wild between the rows of washing machines and dishwashers. I was 40 weeks pregnant, and hoping I’d go into labour sooner rather than later. Contractions started on the way home from the store. I texted my husband, who was working (and spending nights) an hour away, to let him know he might have to come home that evening. By the time he got there, contractions were every 5 minutes. I was excited, because all of my friends who had recently given birth to their second child had had a fast labour, delivering within an hour of arriving at the hospital. We headed to the clinic, but the rushes slowed down in the car. Sure enough, the midwife who checked me said I was barely dilated at all. In fact she compared me to a Deux Chevaux that wouldn’t start up. My due date was Sunday, and she told us to come back on Monday if nothing was happening.

Henry and I called my parents and booked a table for 6 at our favourite restaurant, which happens to be halfway between the clinic and our family home. We went for a lovely early evening walk on the Causse, a high grassy plateau near the restaurant. Contractions picked up slightly. Things were feeling good. For our daughter’s birth I had laboured alone, even though Henry was in the room with me. This time around we were determined to do things differently, to learn from our previous mistake, and I felt very supported by him.

We had a delicious meal that evening, under the anxious eyes of our hosts. We ate outside on the terrasse. I freaked the other diners out by getting up every so often to walk off a contraction. I felt great. The evening was perfect: the restaurant and its friendly familiar atmosphere were a great backdrop for the beginning of labour. The team there had catered at our wedding, so there was a sense of continuity and connectedness that I think everyone felt.

Contractions were about 10 minutes apart but not regular, so we headed back home. Henry spent the night with me and took the next day off work to stay with me. I managed to sleep a little that night, and woke the next morning determined to give birth that day.

Thursday was spent pottering about and living the contractions. We were staying with my mother-in-law at their country house, which is just up the road from my parents’ home where Elizabeth was staying. We were splitting our time and meals between each household, and feeling surrounded by loved ones. Everything felt really happy.

I was breathing (but not talking) through contractions, and I knew the real hard ones were still to come. I wanted to labour at home for as long as possible, so I was happy to stay with our families, and hoped that dilation was happening. We were only 35 minutes from the clinic so I wasn’t worried about transport time.

That night I slept less than the previous one, but I still woke up on Friday in a good mood, happy and excited about giving birth soon. Henry went to work with instructions to keep his phone on loud and close to him at all times. I tried to rest that day but contractions stopped me from actually sleeping. That evening my parents were throwing a party, so I hung about there and helped (sort of) prepare the food. Henry arrived in the late afternoon. By that time I was humming through contractions and very glad to see him. They were probably about 8 minutes apart and getting intense. Twenty or thirty family friends turned up for our party. There was music, wine and food, conversations everywhere, and so much fun. I was labouring amongst all that merry-making and I love the fact that it made everything feel so normal and joyous. I sought out Henry each time I had a contraction, and he stood behind or in front of me to support my weight and breathe with me. Our friends Marlène and Peli were there with their 2-year-old son Indi, and it was fun explaining that the baby would soon be there. He picked a flower and I put in in my hair. He was so hapy when I told him that the flower was still in my hair when my son was born.

As the evening wore on I felt the need to get away for contractions, and Henry and I took a little walk in the moonlight. We had to stop every 4 minutes for long contractions, which I was now moaning through. The evening was wonderfully warm. I felt strong and in control. Henry and I were locking heads and hugging during rushes.

At around 11:45pm, after 55 hours of contractions, we decided to head to the clinic, and quickly said our goodbyes.

When we got there, I was lowing through the rushes and had started feeling a hard flat pain in my lower back, familiar from last time. I was excited because that meant serious labour.

The midwife checked me and said I was 4 cm dilated. I was a little disappointed it wasn’t more, but felt strong and capable.

She attached a fetal monitor to my belly and left the room. I knew she would be able to see the stats from the nurses’ office down the hall. She returned quickly and started to explain that fetal heart rate was dropping during contractions and they might have to induce, to hurry baby out as he wasn’t holding up very well.

I protested, as I wanted as natural a birth as possible. The fetal monitor had been malfunctioning since we got there, so I was advocating a wait-and-see approach. Or at least another monitor.

While we were talking, she glanced at the monitor again and said she wanted to call the doctor to have a look at it. The doctor, Tracy Chapman (yes, that was her name, for real), arrived quickly, and had barely said hello when she said I would have to have a Cesarean section. I immediately panicked, and started screaming that I didn’t want a c-section. But lights were flashing and sirens going, and I was moved to a stretcher and wheeled out in a matter of seconds.

Someone shouted back at my husband to find some scrubs in a cupboard and to head to the operating theatre. I was hysterical by this point and screeching that I didn’t want a c-section. There were blinding lights everywhere and a foreign voice telling me to relax because they were going to anesthetize me. Somewhere in my brain I remembered that I needed to be calm so the wake up from general anesthesia would be easier, and I tried to relax. But I was desperate and couldn’t make it 2 seconds without the panic rising again. All I could think of was my belly being cut open. I stopped screaming and tried to not sound too crazy while I asked them to please, please just check again because I was sure I could give birth. The foreign voice laughed and said, “She still has hope!” and apologized because she was going to put me under, despite my frantic state. Time was up.

I resurfaced once or twice, moaning for my husband. I woke up properly 4 hours after the “birth”. I was brought to the hospital room where Henry was waiting for me with all our stuff (after finally finding some scrubs in a cupboard somewhere, he had arrived in the theatre moments after the birth). Marcel Muri was in the nursery, and brought to me to sleep by me. I cried when I held him for the first time. We both slept until 7am, when he woke me up with hungry mewls. I put him to my breast and he suckled like a champ.

The aftermath of the Cesarean section was less terrible than I had feared. It took me a day to be able to sit, another day to be able to stand, and yet another day before I could get up and walk to the bathroom (that shower felt amazing, albeit sore). But from the beginning I could pick my baby up from the crib on wheels and pull him towards me. Strong arms FTW! Breastfeeding was a breeze – I guess because even though I had a section, I had laboured (for fifty five hours!) and so my body knew to produce the colostrum and then the milk.

What saved me from having too much resentment about my birth being taken from me was Henry’s gratefulness towards the doctor and medical team. He kept telling me that they had saved our baby.

They did all sorts of tests within the first few hours of his life but, thanks be to God, found no reason behind the dipping heart rate. Except obviously the 55-hour-long labour he and I both went through before the emergency c-section.

As my friend Jessica pointed out, we will just be grateful. Grateful that he is here and healthy, and that it all happened in a first-world country with a medical team and equipment on hand. We are privileged.

Marcel Muri

Marcel Muri

See my first birth story here.

Tough going

Just to let you know, this is tough. I am struggling. I’m in a new place with two little children and very little sleep, and it’s HARD. Some days I feel like I’m drowning, others that I’m wading. Sometimes I feel like I’m paddling. I never feel like I’m floating along. Sleep deprived in a country where my closest friend lives 3 hours away, a country from which all grandparents moved away within months of our arriving, I’m not lovin’ it. (Quite ironic when I think that the proximity of grandparents was the one argument that swayed me in favor of moving here). And, yes, thank God and lhamdullah we have our health and our two awesome kiddiwinkles. Very grateful for many things. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes want to rip everything to shreds and stick my head in the sand (or the oven) for the next 24 months or so… (sorry about the double negative).

So, anyway. Here are some photos of the last couple of months in which we all look very happy*. Or scary.

Going to cull a Christmas Tree.

Off to cull a Christmas Tree.

Forest babies.

Forest babies.

Rarrgghh!

Rarrgghh!

Job well done.

Job well done.

This is not just one Christmas tree, but 3 small ones, one each for the 3 houses in our Christmas story.

Petite fille sage.

Petite fille sage.

"Don't put me here!"

“Don’t put me here!”

Just chillin' on my sheep.

Just chillin’ on my sheep.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve: eat and talk, eat and talk.

Christmas morning: and the present marathon begins!

Christmas morning: and the present marathon begins!

Grand'maman ready for London

Grand’maman ready for London

Y

Pure cheese!

More cheese

More cheese

Twas Santa Ralph, came to the Chicken Coop

Twas Santa Ralph, came to the Chicken Coop

Squish-hugs

Squish-hugs

Jolie moumoute!

Jolie moumoute!

Pretty paper

Pretty paper

Ooh, tractor!

Ooh, tractor!

Me eat tractor.

Me eat tractor.

Lovey-dovey

Lovey-dovey

Lobster hands

Lobster hands

Lobster what??

Lobster what??

Lobster WHAT??

Lobster WHAT??

Boxing Day walk.

Boxing Day walk.

Forest scene

Forest scene

We three.

We three.

Popcorn entre cousins.

Popcorn entre cousins.

Sauna y'all.

Sauna y’all.

I said, SAUNA, Y'ALL!

I said, SAUNA, Y’ALL!

Snowscape 1

Snowscape 1

Snowscape 2

Snowscape 2

Snowscape 3

Snowscape 3

Sibling love.

Sibling love.

Family.

Family.

The young King & the Prince

The young King & the Prince

Back home. Daddy dressed me.

Back home. Daddy dressed me.

* Don’t worry, we ARE happy. It’s just hidden behind the bags under our eyes 😉

Manchester, England, England*

I heart visitors! We’ve just had a series of them, the last in date being Joe Gunn. You might know him; he was a finalist at the Commonwealth Games this summer. Well, he has since retired from competitive swimming and moved to London where he is living the high life. In one move he has gone from one of the ten cheapest postcodes of the UK (you know how the Brits love measuring people’s worth by their postcode), to one of the top ten expensive ones. How’s that for social ascension? He’s living with our favorite one and only Hélène and working with his mate Charlie in their company Agon Sports Management. His latest news: he’ll be in Rio next week, on business. La classe à Dallas, moi j’dis.

He’s not the only one of our Crew to cross the Atlantic Sea, as Hanoushka is already on the South American continent (if I could remember which country, I’d tell you – but baby brain has interfered)**. Mom and Calum are also outside of their country of residence as they’re in Edinburgh at the moment for Calum’s International Baccalaureate November session. Go Calum!

Dad, I presume, is happily Ralphing away (of the Lauren variety, not the vom variety) somewhere in Italy. His schedule and mine unfortunately mean we have to rely on other members of the tribe to pass on news. But, Dad, if you’re reading this, my phone is up and running again and I’d love to hear from you 😉

Life continues (more or less) smoothly and as I’ve already managed to write 260 words uninterrupted with only a zillion or so interruptions***, I’ll be thankful for that, not ask for more, and leave you with a photographic summary of the past few weeks.

Grandma on the stoop

Grandma on the stoop

Oh, hi there!

Oh, hi there!

Siblings

Siblings

Autumn

Autumn

Hanging out on the football pitch

Hanging out on the football pitch

Dans le vent avec Grand'maman

Dans le vent avec Grand’maman

Who's this dude?

Who’s this dude?

"Wanna ride?"

“Wanna ride?”

"I will give you a ride! Hop on my dragon."

“I’ll give you a ride! Hop on my dragon.”

Marloushka

Beautiful Marloushka

Friends for generations

Friends since generations

Heading home, now.

Heading home, now.

And back out again, this time with Uncle Joey.

And back out again, this time with Uncle Joey.

Dude.

Dude.

Holding his own.

Holding his own.

Yup.

Yup.

Babbling at breakfast

Babbling at breakfast

"A TANGERINE!!! WOW!!!"

“A TANGERINE? WOW!!!”

Who's the champion?

Who’s the champion of the cardboard box?

* Reference included within.
** Information retrieved: Columbia.
*** OK, it took me 5 hours total to write this. Efficiency = me, impersonated.

On the track, Jack!

Zaz and Sousou’s Grandma came over from Italy to visit. Actually, H emailed her and pleaded with her to come help me – the pleading happened back in the Dark Time, the time when the little guy wouldn’t sleep or smile, but preferred to cry (and frown, and scream, and writhe and wriggle uncomfortably, and silently curse us for bringing him onto this planet). Since then he still doesn’t sleep has started smiling, and my life has changed for the better. No longer desperate, but still pretty happy to have my mom around.

On the track, Jack!

Flat road!

We have been discovering loops to walk around the village, and on this particular one there is a flat bit of track which Zaz can easily walk along without me freaking out about cars. And in time she’ll be able to practice riding a bike along here (H seems to think this will be around Christmas time. Is 1.5 years too young to be cycling?).

Everybody had to come along

Everybody had to come along

Allegro!

Drinks before music

Drinks before music

Every year, my mother-in-law Bernadette and her partner Jacques organize a classical music concert in her home in the South of France. Last Saturday we were treated to an amazing performance by David Castro-Balbi (violin) and Lucas Debargue (piano). Eighty guests from our mountains and the valley came to enjoy the music and mingle with friends and relatives. Bernadette’s is one of the old, prominent families of the area, and even though many have moved on to Paris, Marseilles or abroad, almost everybody returns for the sacred month of August. The concert is the first large gathering of the season and allows everyone to exchange news and greetings.

Handsome Hubby

Handsome Hubby

The sun setting

The sun setting

Not too bad for photos taken with 5 olive pits, a champagne glass and a toddler in my arms*.

The music was spectacular. I don’t know much about classical music, but the piano and violin on Saturday had me fluttering through a range of emotions. Just before the musicians’ break, a Tzigane piece by Maurice Ravel had us all merry and smiling at the conversation between the instruments – and just after the break, Allegro Molto from Sonate n°3 en do miner (Edvard Grieg) moved me to tears.

Music!

Music!

Zaz was there until the break and loved her first concert. I just love seeing the effect of music on small children. Magic!

Once the “official” music bit was over, there were nibbles, drinks and mingling, and then the fun began. The musicians, their friends and partners, and anyone who wanted to, played and sang til late. Champagne flowed, notes got sloppy, and yours truly “a filé à l’anglaise”.

Mom, Dad, I should tell you – the musicians (who remembered Dad fondly from last year) took their nightcap at Les Galignés with Calum and I hear a trip to the bottle bank was very necessary the next morning 😉

 

* I was drinking San Pellegrino. Twice during pre-music drinks, I was caught pouring fizzy water from my champagne glass into Zazzie’s mouth. Twice the comments were along the lines of “Oh she likes champagne, how chic!”. I guess they didn’t notice the 9-month preggo belly on me. Or maybe they did. Ah, France.

Home stretch

After weeks of stormy weather and interrupted internet connections, I don’t want to speak too soon but… it seems like we’re back online for now. No WIFI and an incredibly slow ethernet cable connection are making me feel like I’m in the early noughties. Our dongle connection in Dar Bouazza was more reliable and faster than this. Morocco > France.

Only a few more weeks to go til the big ole due date. Health cover doesn’t kick in until the 18th of August, so this baby had better stay put for another 11 days at least! Steering clear of spicy food and castor oil until then. In the meantime we are enjoying some newborn-free holiday time with this little cutie:

Cutie Patootie

Cutie Patootie

Bob, Inco and Zaz

Bob, Inco and Zaz

If you’re wondering why it’s so lush and green, that would be because it’s pretty much been raining 6 days a week since the beginning of “summer”. Seriously, Morocco > France.

Stay tuned for some imminent updates on Where We’re Going To Live.

Time to nest

So, nesting syndrome is here. I should have known when I started spending precious toddler nap-time tidying the CD shelf. The penny should have dropped when I started waking up at night and obsessing over getting excited about clearing out the bathroom cupboard.

But today I reached new levels of nestiness when I started doing this:

Hoovering outside

Hoovering outside

Rest assured, Mom and Dad, your house is in good (if slightly crazy) hands.

Pregnancy Hair versus Pregnancy Crazy*

Pregnancy Hair versus Pregnancy Crazy*

 

* I found this image on a different blog, but traced it back to www.nataliedee.com as probable source (edit not mine)

 

PS: on another topic, we asked the Magic Eight Ball if we should move to Toulouse…

Diaper bag! and: 30 days ’til the Games.

Look what I just received in the post:

Super Duper Diaper Bag

Super Duper Diaper Bag

I’m so excited! And also quite impressed that Amazon only delivered 5 days late (was very skeptical when they quoted a one week delivery from the US).
I owe my love for this bag to Tosha’s Mid-Western family, who sent her one a few months back. Every time I saw her with it, I swooned. Now, I know the busy print isn’t for everyone, but it’s just so funky I can’t resist. It’s almost one of those it’s-so-ugly-it’s-beautiful things.
I hadn’t bought a diaper bag yet and I figured with #2 on the way I could splurge a bit – which I didn’t even have to do when it came down to it, thanks to a £50 Amazon voucher my awesome employers sent me when I gave birth last year. It’s nice and roomy, yet light, and has lots of pockets and compartments. But most of all, the print! Yum!

In other news, the 30 day count-down to the Commonwealth Games has begun. In case you haven’t been following the family news, this guy’s on team Scotland:

Scotland's breast stroker*

Scotland’s breast stroker*

More info on www.glasgow2014.com
Joe stopped in to see us 10 days ago with his friend Martin Cremin (also on the Scottish team) after swimming at Mare Nostrum in Canet. Joe will be swimming 50 metres breaststroke at the Games and was looking fit and strong. Whoop!

Here’s another photo of Uncle Joey just for fun:

Fun times!

Fun times!

Updates on the whereabouts of people right now: Henry is here in France with us, as is Calum, our manny for the summer. Joe is back in Scotland, with Hélène. Hannah is in Italy hill-walking with Mom, while Dad is also in Italy but working for Ralph. Grandma is about to head to Italy for a week’s holiday, and Grandpa is soon to be on his way to Alaska for some sweet fly fishing. Christina & family have jumped ship and moved back to England, Marlène & family are back from Argentina for the summer, Julie is back from Gabon to have her baby in France, Bernadette will be arriving from Paris in a couple days. Other people are in their places.
Tally of people who don’t know where they will be living in a few months: Calum, Joe, Megan & Henry, Mom & Dad. Also, Martin. And presumably lots of other people.

* Sorry, couldn’t resist. Blame this sort of dubious humour on Dad.

Limbo – and crazy French birth hand-outs

I used to think that I thrived on living in the unknown. That uncertainty was exciting. Life is an adventure! Close your eyes and jump!

I’m about ready to review that line of thought.

We still don’t know where we’ll be living in the near future. I don’t know for sure where I’ll be giving birth in August – Morocco or France. We’re in France now, but H is heading back to work in Morocco tomorrow and I might follow shortly if things don’t work out here, admin-wise. My aim over the next few weeks is to ensure that I get health cover here, so I can safely have my baby. My “case” is a tricky one, in that I don’t fit into any of the slots. I work for a British company, I live in Morocco, I want to give birth in France. C’est compliqué.

Why do I want to give birth in France? I actually don’t mind where I give birth; it has more to do with H being fed up of working in Morocco, and me shuddering at spending a 9-month-pregnant, boiling-hot, cockroach-infested*, month of August in Morocco – alone,  all my friends there having temporarily emigrated “back home” for the summer.

So here we are in limbo land, unsure of anything and everything, incapable of making plans beyond next week, trying not to think too hard about anything (not very difficult when you have a case of double baby brain).

The thing is, France wants you to have babies here. France loves babies so much, they will pay you to have them. Not only do they make sure you don’t have to dish out one centime in medical care (ALL HEALTH CARE 100% FREE AFTER THE 6TH MONTH! GUARANTEED!), they then GIVE you money, on top of all the reimbursing, to make sure you can buy burp cloths and a cot. That’s something like 923€, handed over when you hit the 7-month mark of pregnancy. Then, once baby arrives (for free), they give you 150-180€ per month, for 3 years, towards nappies and formula (so, if you’re a breastfeeding, cloth-diapering mama comme moi, it’s pretty much pocket money). And THEN, on top of all that, from bub #2 onwards, you get child benefit. This, if I’ve understood correctly, is regardless of whether you work or not**. I definitely wasn’t expecting all that. I wasn’t sure about giving birth in France, but if they’re going to pay me to do it, I’ll definitely take that into consideration***.

This turned into a long post, so here are 2 photos of cake to reward you for all the reading:

Birthday Girl

Birthday Girl

Carrot Cake Deliciousness

Carrot Cake Deliciousness Eaten on the Terrace

 

* I’m not squeamish, specially not about bugs, but cockroaches have a way of squicking me out. Definitely not keen on the idea of my toddler crawling around where they crawl around.

** I’m approximately 80% sure of this information. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m suffering from a bit of the baby brain so some of this might be slightly off, or completely erroneous. Check all info for yourself and do not believe everything I say.

*** As a point of comparison, in Morocco I got 3000dh reimbursed, of the total cost of 8000dh for a delivery + 2 nights in the clinic. I was really happy with that! Cheap birthing! Until I found out that France pays you to have babies. Vive la France.