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 – Elizabeth May

So, this is birth story 1/2. It has a bit of blood n guts in it. It’s a bit TMI. It’s kind of long. I wrote it because I want to start writing again and it felt like this was in the way, a clot I had to pass before the words could flow freely. If you don’t feel like reading a birth story right now, please don’t! Have a look at these instead:

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

My Moroccan and French due date was 30 May 2013, my American and British due date was 23 May. I wanted to give birth on the 26th. It was a Sunday, so my husband wouldn’t be at work. It made sense, because it was between the two due dates. My birthday is the 24th, my father’s is the 25th, and the 26th would be a nice follow-on. Finally, the night of the 25th was a full moon so it all seemed to come together. A month or so before giving birth, I told my Doctor about my plans, and that I was sorry he’d have to come in to work on a Sunday. He smiled and said, You don’t just decide these things.

My parents had arrived from France a few days earlier, bringing with them the crib, push chair and other baby essentials. On the Friday 24th, my birthday, friends came up from Casablanca and we had lunch in the garden. Mom and I baked cookies in preparation for baby visitors. That evening we had a simple supper and my husband and I retired for the night (end of sentence redacted).

On Saturday we walked to the beach and had my Dad’s birthday lunch at our favourite restaurant there. I was planning on going into labour 12 hours later, but my contractions started as we waited for our food. After lunch we paddled in the sea and walked home. Contractions spaced out and weren’t regular. I was still planning on hanging on til next morning to go to the clinic. That evening my parents, my husband and I had a light supper at home. Around 10pm we all headed to bed, and I started doing my evening yoga stretches (they included some squats and hip opening stretches). When I was done, I got up and crossed the room to the bathroom. On my way I removed my yoga pants, and that’s when I felt my waters break. I managed to get onto the toilet and not even a drop got on the floor.

I sent a text message to Dr. Chami, changed my clothes and got into bed for some last minute rest. The contractions were regular and getting stronger. After an hour or so I checked my phone and saw that the doctor had advised me to go straight to the clinic.

I gave birth at Clinique Al Boustane in Rabat, with Dr. Chami as my OB-GYN. A month before giving birth, we had moved form Casablanca to Rabat, and I’d had to find a new doctor and clinic (I had originally planned on giving birth at Clinique Ghandi with Dr. Saile). When I arrived in Rabat, at 35 weeks, I decided to take my time and pick a doctor that I felt comfortable with. I “interviewed” four different gynecologists, one woman (terrible), one man who was good but wanted to “practice his English” during consultations (that’s not what I’m here for, mister), and another two men who were great. I hesitated between the last two and finally went with the one who had been recommended to me by my mother-in-law (a purely social connection – he was a friend of the father of the new wife of the son of one of my mother-in-law’s friends – yes, that’s the connection). Anyway, Dr. Chami followed me for the last month of my pregnancy, the birth and everything that came next. I liked him very much, and so did my husband. Even my parents met him.

We got to the clinic at about half past midnight on Sunday the 26th of May. We were shown to a shared room (2 single beds) in which we were alone, my husband and I. The next seven hours were almost uninterrupted waves of hard contractions with barely time to take a breath between each one. I wanted my husband to get some rest, and he was keen on sleeping too, so I labored “alone” for that time. In hindsight, obviously this wasn’t the best thing to do and I think I would have managed the pain better had I had some physical and moral support. But that’s the way it happened, and all we can do now is use this experience to make the next one better. At the time we both honestly thought that there was no better way of doing it. Just a few things interrupted the seven hours’ hard labour. I stepped into the shower a couple of times to get some pain relief from the hot water. Unfortunately the water was only lukewarm so the relief was short lived and I ended up with chattering teeth and harder contractions. And the nurses came in a few times to check my dilation. Throughout the pain I was not able to have coherent thoughts, and I only managed to say one sentence: “I want an epidural.” They told me I had to be 3 cm dilated. I was making painstakingly slow progress, and I can only trust that they were telling the truth when they told me how far along I was (nurses in Morocco have a bad reputation of lying to labouring mothers about how dilated they are – this happened to a friend of mine around the same time, also in Rabat but at another clinic). At 7:30am they finally told me I was 3cm dilated and that they would call the anesthetist. I thought it would take forever for him to get there because it was early Sunday morning, but he showed up half an hour later, wearing old jeans, tennis shoes and a sweatshirt. I was moved down to the birthing ward. I asked the anesthetist to give me a “light” epidural because I wanted to feel when to push. He ended up giving me a lopsided one, and I felt everything on my left side and nothing on my right side. When I commented on this, he asked me if I wanted him to up the dosage, but I declined. The pain was much more manageable (once I got past the horrible freezing cold shakes I got when the epidural was put in). After a while Dr. Chami turned up, checked my dilation, chatted a bit, and left. The nurses came in to shave me, and they nattered away while they were doing it, pausing when I told them I was having a contraction. My husband arrived at some point, and the doctor returned. I told them I felt like pushing, and Dr. Chami confirmed I was 10cm dilated. I was surprised at how fast I’d gone from 3 to 10 cm. That was probably because they gave me Pitocin at the same time they gave me the epidural. I had to ask them what they were giving me, once it was already in, and when they answered Pitocin I asked them to reduce the dosage. They told me that wasn’t possible. Dr. Chami told the nurses to check that the suction cup was working properly, and showed me how to hold onto the handles at the side of the bed to push. I pushed once but he told me I wasn’t pushing in the right place. I didn’t feel comfortable holding the bars, so I grabbed hold of the backs of my thighs to push again. The doctor put his hand between my legs to show me where to push. This time it worked. He took the suction cup and adjusted it to the baby’s head – I remember wondering why, but was too concentrated on the pushing to say anything. Two more pushes. Dr. Chami yanking wildly (think, plumber getting the drain unblocked – in my mind’s eye he is resting his foot on the bed for balance) on the suction device. Elizabeth’s head is out, she’s turned, she’s born. I felt cheated, as if I had only just got the hang of pushing. I had enjoyed that part. Dr. Chami held her up to show me it was a girl, but I was feeling strangely detached from the baby. No delayed clamping or skin-to-skin, both of which I had asked for. She was taken to be weighed – not measured, they forgot to do that – and cleaned up in the next room (which I could see from the bed), and my husband was with her the whole time. I, in the meantime, was commenting to the doctor on my shrunken stomach, and telling him he looked like a butcher (he did not seem to appreciate this remark – I thought it was bang on the mark, considering he was wearing white overalls and holding up a bloody placenta – which looks exactly like a cow’s liver. Again, in my mind’s eye he is wearing those white rubber boots that butchers and fishmongers wear, but that must be my imagination adding them a posteriori). He sewed me up, proudly announcing that he hadn’t cut anything. I had asked him not to give me an episiotomy, but to prefer a natural tear. I had two stitches, which I am certain wouldn’t have been necessary had he not used the suction cup so violently (or, at all! I’m sure I could have pushed her out on my own!). Elizabeth was brought back to me and she suckled, getting the goodness of the colostrum into her. She had pinked up by this stage, but her fingers still looked like little purple witch’s fingers, with long fingernails. I had to stay in the birthing room for another hour, so they could keep an eye on me post-epidural. The worse thing about this was, they wouldn’t let me drink water and I was extremely thirsty.

I can only trust that they didn’t give her formula while she was in the nursery. But the fact that she spit up a little when she was returned to me lessens my trust somewhat. I had asked for the baby not to be put in the nursery, but obviously at some point this request was forgotten, while I was waiting to get out of the delivery room and my husband was chasing paperwork.

The rest (including a one-handed McDonalds meal whilst breastfeeding) is history, as they say. If I had to sum up my first birth, I’d say it was a good enough experience for Morocco. Far from perfect, but good enough.

Elizabeth May

Elizabeth May

See my second birth story here.

Resurrection

Dolly was in bad shape. Dolly needed fixing. We explained carefully to Zazzie that Dolly was broken (“Bébéééé ? Cassééee ?”*). Great-Grandma pitched in with a helpful “It might work or it might not. We’ll try to fix her. If we can’t, she’ll die.”

Help!

Help!

Dolly arrived in our family when I was about a year and a half old, just before my baby sister was born. She has been mine, then Hannah’s, then Joe’s, then Calum’s, and now Zazzie’s. And she has been loved, fiercely loved. She just about held it together for about 30 years, but things were getting out of hand. She has developed a sleepy eyelid, and looks permanently grimy. There’s not much we could do about that, but we could try and fix the dangling limbs.

I called a doll fixer in Toulouse who said the case was hopeless. She didn’t have the machine necessary to sew a new body onto Dolly’s thick arms and legs. She suggested buying a long sleeved outfit from the premature baby department and gluing it all together. This wasn’t a bad idea, but my Mom the superhero said we could do better than that (unless it didn’t work, and then Dolly would die).

First we cut off the arms and legs. I performed the first amputation with Zaz in the privacy of the kitchen. I was wary of her reaction, but she took it all in her stride (we had done A LOT of explaining prior to the operation).

Look at the Legs off her!

Look at the Legs off her!

Great-Pa at Work

Great-Pa at Work

Great-Ma at Work

Great-Ma at Work

Double Checking

Double Checking

Pattern

Pattern

Sew me up, Scotty

Sew me up, Scotty

Working Outside

Working Outside

Four Hands

Four Hands

Great-Ma made sure all the old stitches were out. Great-Pa drilled minute holes along the edge of the limbs so we could fit a needle through the thick plastic. Grandma took apart the body and made a pattern for the new one. She sewed it up in a beautiful blue (Zazzie’s favourite colour). It took a few days and one mistake, but the outcome was successful.

Bébééééé !

Bébééééé !

First Look

First Look

The Team

The Team

Reunited

Reunited

Here’s to many more years of love and wear and tear for Dolly.

Happy Easter, everyone!

 

*As you can see, in spite of all my best efforts, the girl still speaks French. She’s been in an English-language-only household (with the odd word of Italian) for 2 weeks now and it’s till more “Ouaaais” than “Yeah”.

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.