Monday, December 17, 2012

Barnacle Bill

Last Friday, my sister-in-law and I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous winter weather and head out to do some Christmas shopping for handmade curiosities in quaint, countryside shops.

Just kidding! It was pouring rain and the sun didn't come out and we went to Ikea.

I had to pick up some decor and plates and flatware and serving dishes and basically everything because Fr. In-Law doesn't want to host Christmas dinner after all and everyone else in the family decided it would be cool for us to host it. 

So I bought all my gear  and we went back to my sister-in-law's place to decorate her tree and get her house looking spiffy for the holidays. Mission accomplished, her tree looks awesome. After all, I have to get my tree-jollies from other people this year. I'm okay with that.

Anyway, after many hours of hard holiday graft, the Agent came to pick me up and we made our way back home. Too tired/lazy/whatever to stir up our own meatless dinner, I finally gave up on my post-baby moratorium on fish and chips and suggested it. Because a) in the village, that's the only take out you're going to get anyway and b) Englishmen never say no to fish and chips. Win-Win.

Our local chippy is called Barnacle Bill's. Barnacle Bill is both awesome and hilarious. He's always talking about weird village gossip and politics and won't tell you his real name. Or won't tell me anyway. I never have any idea what he's talking about. I just smile and nod because he makes delightful non-soggy fish. You'd be surprised at how often fish and chips are soggy. It's gross.

Last time I saw him I was still pregnant. When I waddled in to collect our Friday usual, he says to me…

"You know me' chips have sent off women in the village before!"

Yeah, ok Barnacle Bill. I seriously doubt ye' chips are gonna send me into labor because I'm not due for three weeks and everyone knows first babies are always late and also they're just chips and can I please have some tartar sauce thankyouverymuch.

We went home, had our tea (which incidentally means dinner,  a cup of tea and also afternoon tea in the UK, so don't get confused!) and I told the Agent about Barnacle Bill's latest round of crazy. We laughed about it and then he very soberly reminded me that I wasn't allowed to go into labor anyway because he was leaving for a secret mission early in the morning.

And then I started having contractions.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cultural Adaptation

Yesterday I needed to go to the post office to put a box of Christmas goodies in the mail to the good ol' US of A. I packed up the box, wrapped up the baby, wrapped up myself and trotted out in the cold on down to the village center to take care of business.

When I got there, the post office was closed. Because as we all should know, on Wednesdays everything in the village closes at noon. Everyone else knows this instinctively because all of the other residents have lived here forever, as have their parents and grandparents etc etc on back until probably the Roman occupation.

I was pretty heated. Major irritation. Mind you, not because I had to walk to the post office, or even walk in the cold, or walk in the cold with a baby...and not even because the post office was closed at a completely unreasonable time in the middle of the week.

I was mad because I would have to get in the car and drive three villages away down to the next post office.

Three! Whole! Villages!

Mind you, it would've been like a ten minute drive and less than 5 miles.

But it was still three villages and I was just NOT going to do that.

I guess I just might be getting used to this place after all.

But maybe not, because I still throw a minor fit every time I do the dishes by hand or hang up clothes on the line. I mean really, how are the clothes supposed to get dry a) when it's raining or b) when it's so cold that they'll freeze before they're dry? Hmmm????

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Some Holiday Cheer

When I packed my life up and moved over here to marry the Secret Agent, I didn't pack up all of my Christmas decorations and awesome vintage ornaments and all that jazz. Obviously.

So needless to say, I was feelin' pretty sour about not having a Christmas tree. And I made sure I acted as a travel agent for guilt trips every time we saw trees for sale at any retail establishment...not that we'd have a place to put a tree, but that definitely didn't stop me from laying it on reaaaaaaaaaal thick.

I thought that I had maybe taken it a little bit too far when I started saying how beautiful the trees looked on some BBC Christmas special when the Agent just got up and left the room in the middle of my sentence.

Um, wow. Okay. I seriously crossed the line.

But then he came downstairs with this sweet little thing:

Yes, I'm repeating from Instagram. Don't act like you don't!

Turns out he and my mom conspired fix up this little faux battery powered tree. Mom hot glued all the little lights and ornaments on and then the hubs smuggled it back in his luggage. I have the best family.

So then the Agent gets out his Leatherman and I start freaking thinking he's going to destroy my precious mini tree. He kindly tells me he's going to wire it so we can plug it into the wall and not use a zillion batteries from now until Epiphany. Wise man! (Oh yes I did....)

So as he's tinkering I  say, "You know how to diffuse explosives don't you...?"


"you aren't allowed to tell me, are you?"

Agent says: "Yeah, something like that. Now if you would please take our daughter out of the room- this thing is either going to work perfectly or explode."

Friday, December 07, 2012

7 QT: A Very English Holiday

1. This year we're staying in the UK for Christmas. It was a tough decision for all, and by all I of course mean only me because I'm kind of a selfish brat and viewed it as an affront to justice that I wouldn't get to see my family over the holidays. Even though we spent Christmas with my family for the past two years. See? Major Bratitude.  However, I was an emotional terrorist played major hardball and bargained that I would stay and mostly not pout about it if I could go home at Thanksgiving. For a whole month.

2. I do have to say that I'm actually kinda looking forward to having a big family Christmas here where no one is trying to kill each other. You see, my husband's family are basically kindly Hobbits from the Shire with not a single contentious bone in their bodies, whereas my extended family are the Hatfields and McCoys. Ah finally, Christmas without a flak jacket…

3. There is one thing standing in our way though….SPACE. Since this is Europe, we basically all live in dollhouses so nobody has room to host a Christmas dinner for 20+ people. Or even 10 people. Except for the priest in the family, who lives in a giant Victorian mansion-presbytery from the days when priests got to live in mansions with 10 bedrooms and 4 floors and servants quarters and a special room for a pool table. It's funny because I'm not even kidding. But he's not playing ball, so we're kind of in a jam. So if you could, please pray that Fr. In-Law changes his mind, otherwise my Christmas will look like this:

Drunk, alone, in PJs all day, watching infomercials with a tissue paper cracker crown on on my head a la Bridget Jones. Can we please avoid this? Kthanks!

4. That aside, I'm having wild fantasies about what I can cook for our potential-big-family-Christmas dinner, constantly mulling over what fantastic American culinary specialities I can force them all to try. Because sweet baby Jesus knows that I am not going to eat bread sauce (blech) and mushy boiled brussel sprouts (double blech). What's your favorite thing to cook for Christmas? Do I feel a link-up coming on….??? I hear they're all the rage these days.

5. Can we just talk about how cold it is y'all? I'm dying here. Until this afternoon I hadn't actually left the house all week. Too cold. And dark. Like the sun sets at 2pm dark. I was wondering why I was starting to feel cranky, sad, and short fused. Luckily my sweet husband sensed the impending stir-crazy meltdown and took me out for coffee and scones at our favorite fancy country hotel. Yum. 
6. Speaking of the cold, my skin never does very well in winter. Does yours? If so, don't tell me because I'll be terribly jealous of your freak-of-nature-super-model-good-skin fortune. If not, let me let you in on a little secret! Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream. Don't be afraid because it's called "Cream". It's   light and lovely and silky and super hydrating. I'm talking make your face feel dewy and perfect kind of hydrating. So hydrating that the Agent touched my cheek and said "Your face feels kind of like our baby's butt…. I mean that as a compliment".  And (almost) best of all, you only need a tiny bit of it for your whole face- the small jar does me just fine through all the cold months, which are many since I live about 15 miles south of the Arctic Circle.  It might be my favorite skin product ever, which is saying something since I've tried approximately all of them (except for the reeeeaaaallly expensive bee venom and other crazy ingredient ones). So ask for some for Christmas. Or just buy it yourself. Whatever. You won't be sad.

7. I was feeling extra bold today so I decided to try on my two biggest pairs of pre-baby pants. And guess what? THEY ACTUALLY ZIPPED UP.  I'm not saying they looked good (they didn't), but they went on and zipped up and I didn't have to lay down on the bed and inhale or do the pants-dance to get them on. Which then inspired me to try on my real wedding ring, which I haven't worn in many many moons. And you know what? IT FIT TOO! I had been wearing some rings which were an anniversary gift (originally sized to fit my right hand…) as a wedding ring, but now I can wear the real deal. I am so happy. Looks like my mediocre attempts at weight loss have been a semi-success. Only 23 enormous pounds to go. Wish me luck.

Bored yet? If not, go see the Quick Take Queen for more.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

A Royal Mess

I'm pretty sure that everyone knows that the Duke and Duchess are expecting their first child. How exciting, a royal baby!

But then I realized that I'm going to be subjected to an absolute societal obsession with the bump, the maternity clothes, the expensive prenatal pilates and holistic treatments, the OMG doesn't her hair look fabulous (as if we don't get enough of that already), the speculation on names, the OMG doesn't she look flawless she hasn't gained any weight! , the sex of the baby, the birth, the Christening, the royal nursery, the education….on and on and on until oh, approximately forever.

It makes me feel kinda sick and I'm just not quite sure I can deal with it.

Apparently it's all making Katherine quite sick as well, as we learned that she's been hospitalized with hyperemesis gravidarum, which as you all probably know, is a terrible terrible variety of morning sickness in which you hurl your guts out all the time, can become dehydrated and lose weight. Even your own saliva can send you running for the toilet. If you're lucky, the symptoms should ease by week 20. If not, you could be sick until the baby comes out, and maybe even a bit after.

It's really horrible. I know, I had it. I'm so glad the Duchess is getting the treatment she needs. She fortunately has resources available to her that allow her to be treated by the finest physicians in the land in only the best of hospitals (private, of course). Other new mothers, like myself, aren't so lucky. The subject seems to keep popping up in Twitter conversations I've been having lately, but 140 characters just hasn't been enough to even begin talking about our dealings with the NHS.

It started when when I got pregnant, well, I guess after my first awkward conversation with the GP about whether it was "planned" and how I "felt about it" and whether I wanted to "keep the pregnancy" and how "we really must sort out your contraception next time".  After all that, when I first mentioned to the midwives that I was feeling inordinately sick, they actually laughed at me and said, "Love, if we had the cure for morning sickness we wouldn't be working here. Try eating some crackers". As if I hadn't thought of that before. Unfortunately they made me puke. But so did everything and nothing, and I continued to throw up blood and bile all over everything until about halfway through my pregnancy. 

At one point I called the doctor, who told me that I should see the midwife, but I insisted on being seen. He then told me he couldn't diagnose HG because he couldn't confirm if I had lost 5% of my body weight since the midwives neglected to weigh me (and they didn't, ever, for my whole pregnancy). He also said he couldn't recommend any medication, which I thought was odd since as a non-health professional I can think of at least three anti emetics off the top of my head.

Then I had to fight for my ultrasound. You see, when you are granted a non-GP appointment, they notify you by letter, telling you when and where to show up. My letter came when I was in the US for Christmas, and the appointment came and went without my knowledge.  The hospital was reluctant to reschedule me.

Then I got kicked off of the midwives' service altogether because we moved and no longer lived in the correct post code. We had to re-apply to be admitted to a new doctor's office in the correct zip code; in the mean time I missed 3 appointments with the midwife. Of course, once we were admitted to the doctor's service and I finally turned up for my way overdue midwifery appointment, I was scolded for neglecting my prenatal healthcare. Go figure.

I had a normal delivery in July. However, the midwife who did the post-labor "clean up" (ahem stitches) forgot a few bits. When I complained of soreness at my 12 week post labor check,  the GP confirmed that I had an unresolved birth injury and referred me to the hospital OB/GYN team. I'm still waiting to see them.

I was also been waiting for treatment for postpartum depression, but again missed my appointment letter because I was out of town and was summarily discharged from their service. They offered to re-list me for treatment at the end of the list without having to see my GP for another referral (another 18 week wait), but then the lady on the phone said "oh, but I see you were referred for self help. Would you like me to mail you the pamphlets?" I'm sorry, but why do I need a referral and to suffer a four month + wait for DIY worksheets? Couldn't I just order a book from Amazon or something?

And then there was the tongue tie. Oh, the tongue tie. To keep a long story short, every health care professional we saw for our baby girl's first 3 weeks of life kicked the can down the road on who was supposed to help us. We finally got a referral to have our little girl's tongue tie fixed, only to be told that there was a SIX WEEK WAIT. Friends, a six week wait is completely unacceptable when your child is STARVING. The poor little thing lost so much weight that she was hospitalized, and you're telling me I need to wait SIX WEEKS to have a cheap and simple procedure completed so she can EAT?! That is shameful. I was so enraged that I spent the afternoon on the phone hunting down a private physician who would see us. I finally found one. Two days, £100 and a 100 mile road trip later, our baby could nurse.

I really wish that this sort of thing was the exception and not the rule, but I'm afraid it doesn't seem to be. A friend of mine was diagnosed with PPD; she waited 5 months for treatment and still suffers because she was only allotted six appointments and was then discharged. One of my in-laws waited six months to have his skin cancer treated. Another family member is desperately mentally ill. He is practically debilitated. He has never seen the same doctor twice. None of his physicians can agree on a diagnosis or medication. He has been bounced back and forth for over two years with no improvement and no steady course of treatment.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but there has to be something better than this right royal mess.