It seems a bit rich to claim I am now on maternity leave, since I don't actually have a job, but yesterday was my last day of volunteering until March 2014. Lots of hugs and well wishes from volunteers, staff and a couple of my favourite doctors. It was lovely to feel part of something, that I will be missed. My plan, initially, is to go back 2 mornings per week, from 7am-9am. Husband will stay at home with the baby on those days and then bring her to the hospital at 9am, when he'll start work and I'll have a coffee then take the baby home. This is a rough plan, and it may end up changing, but I feel it's really important for me to do something out the house, just to keep my employability skills up a bit and to give me a chance to be something other than 'mum' for a few hours.
I really love being at the hospital too. I enjoy speaking to families, trying to explain hospital policies and procedures in a way they can understand and trying to help set minds at ease. It's incredibly sociable, and at times challenging. I really love having it as an outlet and a point during the week where I don't get to think about myself at all. When you are home alone all day it's easy to get so caught up in your own head you lose sight of the real world. Being in the hospital helps give me perspective. One of families in the last few weeks was waiting for their son to finish surgery. He was just a toddler, and last year had nearly drowned in 3 inches of water. He has been left with brain damage due to not getting any oxygen during that time. He needs a tracheostomy to breathe and a gastrostomy tube to eat. It was an accident. These things happen. And personally, I like to be reminded of that. Of how lucky I am and how quickly things can change. There is no where like a hospital to give you that perspective.
This morning, to celebrate not having to be anywhere at any specific time for the next few months, I went and got a pedicure. It's a 20 minute walk to the beauty parlour, and the most beautiful autumnal day. The sun is shining, the leaves are actually changing colour (this happened in February last year as the weather was so warm) and I get to walk through the most beautiful residential area. So much of LA is apartment buildings, scary looking housing estates or grand mansions, but these are picture postcard houses with immaculate gardens and white picket fences. It doesn't feel fake; the locals do their own gardens and all the front porches are decked out with varying sized pumpkins, celebrating the decidedly fall-like feel to the air (it's still 72/23 degrees...) I dream of living somewhere like that: in the heart of the city but with basketball nets on wheels at the edge of the sidewalk, so the kids can wheel them out and play on the road after school. These houses sell for $500-900,000 so pretty much out of the realms of possibility for us right now (or indeed ever, being realistic) but a girl can dream.
The massage bit of the pedicure was the most uncomfortable of my life. Seriously, I actually grimaced a few times. But I didn't say anything because I could see it working. My hands and feet have puffed up like sausages the last few weeks. I get claw hands I can't straighten, and my feet go really gross- toes like uncooked chipolatas*. But after my uncomfortable massage, and even after the twenty minute walk home, they are barely swollen at all. I will be back, I think, maybe once more before Kick arrives. I just wish I could have afforded the manicure too. Alas my mummy is coming in two weeks (!!) and the baby will be coming in 3 and a half (please God) so pennies must be saved. I can justify the cost of a pedicure purely because I cannot in any way, contorted shape or form reach my feet, and my nails were in desperate need of being cut. The glamour of the end of pregnancy is never ending, and unfortunately so is the reality of doing it all on a limited budget.
In other gross pregnancy news, I am apparently one cm dilated. This, of course, means nothing since I can sit like that for the next 4 weeks** and it doesn't really make a difference to anything. But in my mind, finding this out was a whopping big deal. Purely because it means that something is happening. I have spent a lot of time recently struggling with pretty severe pain and pressure on my cervix and rectum (TOLD you it was a gross update) with Sunday night being a particular low point. Now I know this particular discomfort isn't for nothing, and I no longer desperately try to move Kick to another position as soon as it happens. She wants out soon, and she's working to make it happen. I can't really complain at that.
The impending sense of change has touched Joan the cat a little. She seems more content to just sit on the sofa with me, with far fewer episodes of biting when I don't play with her quickly enough. But from 5pm she waits at the front door, sitting patiently knowing that husband will be home soon and she'll get to run around like mad for a while. The last few nights he's been quite late and you can see her frustration and impatience grow. He's a total sap and loves nothing more than rolling around on the floor with her and playing way rougher than I am brave enough to. I'm hoping we can still manage a little of that once Kick is here. I imagine soon enough Kick will be doing enough of the playing for all of us, and poor Joan will end up hiding under the sofa. They are already sharing toys, even if Kick isn't aware of it yet. Husband bought a little stuffed hedgehog for Kick at Ikea at the weekend*** and on Sunday morning, Joanie came trotting through with it in her mouth. We think that she thinks she killed it herself, and she will play with it for HOURS. It's adorable, hilarious and a bit disconcerting to stand on, slightly damp, at 3am on your way to the bathroom in the dark...
This weekend I mostly caught up with people. With time-zone issues it can be really hard to keep in touch with family and friends, even just the ones who live on the East Coast, but the week's difference in changing over to daylight savings time between here and the UK made it easier. It was my Granny's birthday on Saturday so I had the chance to catch up with my family, aunties and gran. They were all talking at once, were too far away from the computer for me to hear them and generally were laughing and chatting too much for it to make much sense. It was EXACTLY like being there. Then I got to speak to my aunt in New Orleans, who surprised me by announcing that her and my uncle are coming to LA for Thanksgiving. This is amazing news. I cannot wait to have more of a usual family experience over a holiday. If Kick comes then, I will have visitors in the hospital, which leaves me feeling all warm inside, as it was making me a bit sad that I wouldn't get to show her off to relatives and friends, beaming in a dressing gown. If she's not here yet, I will have more people to bring me drinks and sympathy. Win-win.
I also got to hear the (rather unpleasant in places) birth story of a friend whose baby boy is now one week old. I knew the bare bones details but hearing it left me pretty upset and emotional, which totally took me by surprise. I'm normally pretty good at separating people's medical stories from my own experiences- it's par for the course with nursing. I spoke a lot about it with husband and the next day with my amazing friend Pamela, and I think it brought up a lot of memories of my D&C, which I don't dwell on but was a pretty horrendous experience. After speaking with both of them, I felt so much better. The thing is, I would go through the D&C unpleasantness again, because as painful and upsetting as it was, it was the right way to do things for us at that time. And it was only one day. I can survive anything for just one day. This is my new mantra for labour and delivery, I think.****
Crafting has all but stopped. My hands get too swollen to finish the few projects I have left, unfortunately, so I'm going to be relying on mummy to finish them for me. This is SO frustrating to me, as I just feel bored and useless, but (bringing all this full circle) I feel a little better being on Mat Leave of some description. It feels ok to resubscribe to Netflix and just watch TV for the next 3 weeks, cat on my knee curled round the bump, watching the palm trees blow in the breeze out the window and drinking approximately one hundred cups of tea per day.*****Aside from the Ikea trip, all shopping is now done online and I go on a walk to the supermarket or Starbucks once per day and that is it. The hospital bag is completely packed, with nothing more to get than some magazines to keep me entertained. I am going to hunker down and wait it all out, with Orange is the New Black and the cat to keep me company. I'm not very good at waiting, but thankfully I am VERY good at watching TV.
*Chipolatas are like cocktail sausages, American friends. But not dried up and cold. Hot and juicy and marvellous. I miss good sausages.
**Please GOD, don't let it be as long as 4 weeks. Two weeks and one day would be PERFECT.
*** Went back to Ikea for photo frames and candles. Much more fun than buying furniture there.
****Plus I'm planning to have an epidural. I can definitely cope with anything for one day if I can't feel it...
***** I'm reintroducing caffeine after giving it up due to migraines in the first trimester. It's heavenly.