Merry Christmas, Interwebs!

I just wanted to quickly post to wish you all a merry christmas 2009, may it be full of fun, frivolity and fat stuffed turkey. Unless you’re a vegetarian of course. I hope Santa brings you all what you asked for. On that note, I’ll end with…

Twas the blog post before christmas,
And throughout the blogosphere.
Traffic was down on websites,
As Christmas time was near.

Read the full christmas poem, by Rhys

Recycling Geek T-Shirts

Some of my geek t-shirt collection are in the region of 4 years old now, and as nature (and pregnancy) blessed me with an ever increasing chest size, they’re now fairly tight (bordering on obscene). I’d like to find some way to recycle them so I continue to get use and don’t have to worry about having wasted money (and I don’t mean by making dusters out of them).

Short of cutting off the sleeves and making a patchwork blanket, I’m at a loss as to what I could do with them. And, if I did decide to make a blanket, what’s the best way to do it? Any blanket crafters out there got suggestions?

Suggestions for tutorialtastic

Assuming Isabel continues to take several long — albeit fart-filled — naps during the day, I want to try and get the next incarnation of tutorialtastic ready to go for some time early new year. With that in mind, please please please leave me a comment with feedback on what you’d like to see… either generic suggestions or specific tutorial ideas. I’ve lost my original list so need ideas from those who use the site the most.

(If people could pass this message on to others who use the site, via message boards/twitter/whatever, would be eternally grateful :))

Isabel’s Birth Story, Part Two

In my new room on the MLU (see part one) I was hooked up to a cylinder of gas and air (and, incidentally, went through 3 of these before I was finished) because they had no wall supply and ditched the TENS… the batteries had died anyway. I was given another internal — 7cm dilated, dilating at 1cm an hour give or take — and offered more pain relief.

I was hoping to finish the labour on the gas and air alone, because up until everything had actually started I’d had visions of having a laid back labour with as much walking and squatting as possible to promote a faster and easier birth. Unfortunately, this was a tad naive and greatly underestimated the pain I’d be in. On reflection I am glad I felt so confident (for lack of a better word) because I think it helped relax me, and ultimately got me to 7cm dilated on just the gas and air. That said, I was under no illusions of being some kind of hippy Earth mother and gladly accepted a shot of pethidine at this point.

I’m not sure if it was the pethidine or having spent about 4 hours inhaling nitrous oxide, but I remember shortly after the shot I was kneeling on the bed with the head raised for me to lean on, and with each contraction I was having what can only be described as a “detached” experience… I was being talked through my breathing by the midwife who had a very odd accent, and I felt like I was no longer in my own head. Not an out of body experience because physically I felt “there”, it was just the weirdest mental trip ever.

I don’t recall much between that point, and a few hours later when the midwife finished her shift and a new midwife started, must have been approx. 6am by then and I’d been up since just after 7am the day before. I didn’t feel overly tired at the time, and 9(?) hours of labour had gone by in what felt more like 3-4 hours. Karl probably disagrees as I’d had him standing up giving me back rubs, as well as holding my hand, poor bugger.

It was another couple of hours before the midwife asked me if I’d had any urges to push (er, no). I had to change positions on the bed so that she could break my waters (didn’t hurt, didn’t feel anything, I was just suddenly lying in a big wet patch), and I had another shot of pethidine because the other had worn off. Breaking my waters did the trick because shortly afterwards I knew I needed to push.

It took half an hour of pushing to deliver Isabel, although the majority of that didn’t seem to be achieving anything. At one stage the midwife made me put down the gas and air because she thought I was concentrating more on that than pushing. I was actually just suffering from excruciating back pain — because I was lying down.. worst decision ever — made worse each time I tried to push. It felt like my spine was being torn out, and I screamed more swear words than I realised I knew. It got to the point where I was in so much agony I just lay there crying at the midwife that I couldn’t do it (not really sure what I expected her to do, it’s not like I could change my mind at that point!)

I made my biggest “mistake” right at the end, as Isabel was born. Because I was tired, and in pain, I gave one last huge push to finish off, which didn’t give the midwife time to “help” her out… Isabel turned too quickly and I ended up tearing. I had at least 6 labial stitches (TMI, yay) — I’d not even realised prior that you can tear that way — and lost 400ml of blood. I remember seeing some on the wall at the end of the bed! It sounds scarier than it was, though; and well worth it for such a lovely ‘prize’.

Isabel’s Birth Story, Part One

If someone had said to me on Friday 13th November that I’d be going in to labour that evening, I would’ve probably scoffed at them. I’d crossed fingers for a Friday 13th birth because it’s a cool date, but with not even so much as a twinge by tea time I thought it unlikely, and went about ‘business as usual’.

Around 8pm my lower back felt a little uncomfortable, which I put down to sitting on my lazy arse too long. I ate, and popped on to the computer to chat with my bees. By 10pm the backache hadn’t subsided, so I decided to go to bed to get some rest. I was tempted to ‘tweet’ about it, but after having seen the reaction to my twinges on the 12th — which resulted in me feeling like I’d let the world down — I thought better of it. However, within seconds of lying down, I was getting waves of period-like pain and decided pacing the front room was a more pleasant option.

Out of curiosity I timed a few of the contractions using the stopwatch on my phone. I didn’t expect to get much out of it… I mean, you read stories about women who start off labour days before they actually give birth, and have wildly far apart contractions followed by blocks of no pain. Seemed a bit odd then that mine felt quite close together, and no wonder: they were 4.5 mins apart almost to the second.

I rang the hospital to ask for advice on when would be a good time to come in (given that it was a 40 minute trip) and she advised I head straight over. Cue a mad dash to get the bags and a few remaining bits and pieces together, and then we started off on the journey. Not 5 minutes down the road I realised I’d left my maternity notes at home, so I had to get Karl to turn around and go back — contractions and speed bumps, fun fun! — so that I could pick the bloody things up.

Anyway… shortly after arriving at the hospital, I did a pee sample, I was hooked up to a monitor for half an hour, and given an internal only to be told I was 3cm dilated. Because my birth was still relatively low risk (despite the low iron) I was assigned a midwife and we went into a labour room to continue with a “normal” labour. I was hooked up to a TENS machine for pain relief, although I don’t really think it did a fat lot, and was given gas and air (Entonox) which started Karl off making Darth Vadar jokes. I had blood drawn, and was hooked up to a drip because they detected ketones in my urine (although this didn’t surprise me, I knew I was at least slightly dehydrated and had been for weeks because my pee was far too dark.)

I had every intention of doing hourly updates via text message to twitter at this point, but the contractions were just under 4 minutes apart and were getting more uncomfortable with each one. I was squeezing Karl’s hand and had already dictated one message to him so that I could concentrate on breathing.

A couple of hours in I was told that the results of the blood test were back and that my iron was absolutely fine. Talk about annoying. I stand by my original theory that someone had mixed up my blood test with that of the other woman who was pregnant at the same time as me and with the exact same name (I don’t see any other reason why my iron level would drop so suddenly and then go back up in a week, despite having stopped taking the Spatone!) My labour was downgraded to lowest risk, and I was moved from the room I was in — with Entonox through a valve in the wall — to a smaller but more “cosy” room in their midwife-led unit with a new midwife. Not quite the MLU I wanted to birth in but a better option than being stared at by consultants for no real reason.

(To be continued…)

Baby Isabel is Home

Isabel was born at 10:32 on November 14th weighing 7lbs 11oz. We came home last night, and she’s settling in nicely.

Anyway, I just wanted to write a quick post to say thank you for the massive response to her arrival. The cards, e-mails, facebook messages, tweets… it’s overwhelming! I’m still going through things in between feeds, cuddles and snoozing so please don’t think I’m ignoring you if I don’t get back to you all straight away. Love to you all, you guys rock :)

Review of sarah.partyofme.com

I am in the unfortunate position of being due to give birth today, and yet have had not so much as a twinge. This means today will undoubtedly drag, and I have to find some way of occupying my time. Rather than do something constructive — such as responding to the increasing backlog of emails — I am instead choosing to write a review. I probably won’t have the time to do another for quite a while, and so I’d like to get one in somewhere.

Sarah, owner of sarah.partyofme.com, added her site to rev.iew.me and received some good mixed feedback, and yet somehow derived from this that she is “the most hated person on [rev.iew.me]” (links to a comment she left on heartdrops.org). As people go, she barely begins to tickle the dislike meter, let alone “hate”.

Still in the comment, Sarah refers to rev.iew.me reviewers as being inferior because “Their layouts are not even made by them” despite owning a hosting site which use[d/s] a premade template. She also states:

I think I will just stick to people who actually KNOW what they are doing to review my website rather than have people who do not know how to code whatsoever review my website.

…after having dismissed Rose‘s excellent (albeit brief) point about using an unordered list over <br />s for the sake of semantics. Clearly sticking to the advice of people who “KNOW what they are doing” only applies if Sarah agrees?

Throughout both the linked comment, and Sarah’s “rebuttal” to Rose’s review, Sarah makes reference to the supposedly superior coding skills (and thus tutorials and articles) of Georgina; heartdrops.org (with whom I have no problem, for the record). Given that several of Georgina’s tutorials are derived from tutorialtastic, and therefore my coding skills, I consider Sarah’s request for a review from people who know what they’re doing an indirect request from myself. And so we begin…

I’m unsure what the site name actually is. Is it “the sound of music.” as dictated by the title tag, “sarah” as dictated by the subdomain? Perhaps even “PartyOfMe” as suggested by the copyright notice? A worrying inconsistency straight from the off.

One of the first things I spotted about the site was its total lack of a coherent colour scheme. You don’t need a degree in design to notice 6 totally different colours of varied saturation, only 1 of which is used more than once (the background stripe and link hover colour are the same… I think). I’ll let an expert back me up here but I’m pretty sure that one of the key components of good design is about sticking with a few colours and using them multiple times to hold everything together. Janet Lynn Ford shares a colour tutorial based on her thesis from university.

Sticking with colour, but changing course slightly to accessibility (something I know a little more about), I noticed a series of basic failures. For starters, the links are far too low contrast on the white background and I have to tip my laptop screen significantly to read link text near the bottom of the page. Second but ultimately related to the first is the grey copyright text sharing the same hex code with the links, confusing the visitor into thinking its clickable. Thirdly, there are multiple colours used for no apparent reason for text emphasis, including a nice shade of blue which I cannot seem to resist clicking. Last but not least is the ‘meta’ information associated with each entry sharing the text colour and size with the main body, making it virtually impossible to distinguish between the two.

Going back to the home page footer, I notice some old buddies: CSS and XHTML validation links (I can’t believe it was over 6 years ago when I first used them myself!) Both the CSS and XHTML validate here but a swift look at the source code shows that this is not down to an understanding of the concepts; typical validation for the sake of it. As well as the aforementioned use of <br /> to mark up a list where <ul> and <li>s would be more appropriate (see the semantic vertical navigation tutorial over at TT), we have the repeated use of the target attribute, tables used to display the list of friends (floated <li>s in a <ul> would be more appropriate), <br /> used purely to create gaps/spacing and an unnecessary set of <b>.

Structurally the mark-up is ordered in a nonsensical manner, with the sidebar and <h3>s appearing before the content and a <h1>. There’s also a sad case of divitis infecting the blog but this is down to FanUpdate rather than any contribution from Sarah. Aesthetically, aside from the obvious colour scheme issues, all linked images should have their borders removed (we are no longer in 1996) and the easiest way of achieving that is with img { border: 0; } in the stylesheet. In an ideal world the navigation should also be clarified as links such as “Artist” and “WWW” are meaningless.

Content-wise I struggle to see the point of Sarah’s discussion about Paypal and bank accounts in the 2nd and 3rd sentences of her about page, and feel it’s a crying shame that she has to declare herself “not against homosexuals and bisexuals“. Oh to live in a world where this was a given. There’s irony in the “Dislikes” (“Those who are illiterate with words” followed by a typo) and “Network” is a redundant title… a bunch of social networking links does not a network make.

“Site” states quite plainly “Current layout has been validated.” despite an unescaped ampersand on that page resulting in error, and I feel somewhat disheartened that “Donate?” is an option on website that offers very little value. Quite why you would donate escapes me. I’m struggling to see the difference between the Advertising section and Affiliates, apart from the fact that those who wish to advertise seem to be able to do so with an image link for no financial contribution whereas affiliates must engage in discussion and get only a text link? Affiliates seems to be a repeat of the list of Friends in the sidebar; entirely unnecessary for them to have a separate page.

Sarah seems to offer reviews through her website (can I be credited with starting that trend, seriously? :D) and somewhat amusingly states “my review is my opinion” as if that somehow makes her different to those on rev.iew.me, smattering hypocrisy all over the place. Unfortunately she doesn’t seem to have completed any reviews, although given the length of mine already this is probably a saviour.

In Visitor, we’re offered brushes which seem to be nowt more than .png images, which confuses me as I was under the impression that brushes were little packs you could import into programs like Photoshop? Missing a trick here to explain what the brushes are and how to use them. The Fonts page is entirely ridiculous as it contains only one link and that is off site. I don’t support the usual distribution of fonts that seems to occupy tween personal sites, but fail to see how this is any better! The available graphics are poor quality and covered in crappy credit notices, how boring.

Finally, under WWW, the only page worth mentioning is Awards. It seems to be an entire page dedicated to linking pointless images to heartdrops.org. This is where I think I’m missing a trick… why haven’t I got people adding pointless shitty pages to their websites linking to me numerous times for no good reason? What a waste!

All in we seem to have low quality content, an inconsistent design and basic mark-up errors that could easily have been fixed after her previous reviews. Sarah seems like a nice enough person so her attitude to Rose, and to other reviewers, bewilders me. Hopefully feedback from someone who “KNOW[s] what they are doing” (that’s me) will inspire a little more creativity and a lot less of this one-sided “everyone who’s not Georgina sucks” bullshit.

Low Iron, Absolutely Gutted

I’ve had the majority of my antenatal care through the local midwife-led unit. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere, a great team of midwives who’re all there for you and make you feel like you’re the only woman in the world currently having a baby. Clearly that’s not the case, but it’s nice to be made to feel that comfortable. Because it’s a midwife-led unit, they don’t have any obstetricians or doctors to oversee labour/birth and consequently, you are only allowed to give birth there if you are considered “low risk”.

The nearest obs-led hospital for higher risk pregnancies is much further away, some 40 mins or so by car (if the roads are quiet). It’s big, it’s very “sterile” and short of branding you, one almost gets the feeling that you couldn’t be any more like the member of a herd. In, pop baby, out again. Not only is it very de-personalised, it’s also where I went last year so not particularly full of fond memories for me.

Throughout the majority of my pregnancy, despite the early bleeding/etc, I’ve been classed as low risk and have therefore planned to have sproglet at the midwife-led unit. I’ve been very relaxed about it all purely because I felt so comfortable with the ‘service’ provided there. Unfortunately, blood tests at about 20 weeks showed that I was borderline low iron. Because of various guidelines and the risk (albeit low, but risk indeed) of bleeding complications post-birth caused by anaemia, I had to get my iron up to get back into the low risk category and thus “qualify” for the birth I wanted.

I was prescribed iron tablets, but suffered a very bad reaction to them and as such bought myself Spatone, which is apparently naturally iron-rich (it’s just water, comes in sachets, you take it with OJ for the vit C benefits). Lots of pregnant women rave about it, and several of the midwives were positive too. I started on the recommended dose and after two further blood tests discovered that it wasn’t actually doing anything… that is, my iron level was exactly the same as it had been previously. I upped the dosage (at the recommendation of the midwife) and had another test two weeks ago.

Somehow, despite the higher dosage (and my diet, which mostly seems to consist of cabbage, broccoli and steak at the minute) my iron has actually dropped. As I’m now 39 weeks (so 1 week until my due date) it’s too late for me to do any more ‘work’ on getting my iron up, which means I now have to go to the bigger hospital with the obstetricians on hand.

Although this means very little in the grand scheme of things, it’s such a shift mentally I really am struggling now with feeling positive. Absolutely flipping gutted.

The long post that I didn’t write last week

I feel I should start this post with a series of finger exercises as I may be here a while. Anyway…

Let’s start with the move. We picked up the keys on Friday 9th October. Although there’d been some discussion in the days previous about the place not being ready (it was being used as a holiday let and still contained the original furniture) we expected to see some progress having been made to get it habitable. Uh, no, t’was still full of the owner’s stuff.

Arrangements had been made to begin the move with smaller bits on the Friday, with a friend of my mum’s helping on the Saturday. This was a fine theory but didn’t go to plan and we ended up with 95% of our furniture in the new place (alongside the owner’s furniture) by the end of Friday. All that was left at the old place was our bed and the pets… which obviously couldn’t be moved until the landlady/whomever had come to collect the old furniture as we didn’t want to run the risk of the cats getting out. We spent the weekend living between two places, and I ended up having to take an extra day off work (Monday 12th) to try and get things sorted.

The furniture was finally moved out on that Monday, allowing us to start arranging our stuff and getting the bed/pets over. We didn’t finish until near midnight Monday, with me due at work the next morning (36 weeks pregnant, very tired).

I finished work a week earlier than originally planned (due to exhaustion and a very engaged baby’s head making it difficult to sit for long periods of time) on Thursday 15th October.

On Saturday 17th October, as we were leaving my mum’s, the car died. We had basically driven a few yards up the road when suddenly the engine cut out and we coasted to a stop. Karl checked a few things, poked a couple of relays under the bonnet and the car started again so we proceeded home — followed by my mum just in case. The car made it, parked up outside, we saw my mum off home and then Karl went to start it again and it refused to start. Seemed to be an intermittent relay issue, but Karl did some jiggerypokery and diagnosing with his laptop software and, IIRC, we had no more problems that week.

Saturday just gone, the 24th, we were on our way to my mum’s when the car died again. Except this time it wasn’t on a little town back road that is rarely used, but coming off a busy roundabout connected to the M54 (busy motorway) approaching a supermarket retail park at around 5ish. Nothing like the sound of rushing motorway traffic/Saturday shoppers to inspire feelings of despair and frustration. This time the car refused to start and we spent a couple of hours at the roadside with collective family members trying to a) diagnose and b) fix the issue long enough to get us somewhere safe. I’d just like to offer my “fuck you”s to the guy at the Vauxhall dealership in Trench, Telford who was of no use whatsoever, but a big thank you to Churchill’s breakdown cover who had a man out to us within about 30 minutes.

The car was started and recovered to my mum’s down the road where it has been sat most of the week. Final diagnosis is a fucked ECU, which is apparently the computer thingymabob which makes things work. Something to do with that and relays and earthing and switches… or something. If you’re interested in that sort of thing you’ll have to wait for Karl to blog about it because it means sod all to me.

What really fucked me off about that second breakdown was the fact that I was stood at the side of the road, very visibly pregnant at near-38 weeks, and not one person stopped to ask if we were OK or whether we needed a phone to call for help/etc. Hundreds of cars went past in the time we were there. It’s only lucky that a) I had my phone and have been keeping it topped up because I’m not far due, and b) my mum lives so local because otherwise I’d have had to walk half a mile or more to get help, and in my state that’s all but impossible.

Anyway, breathe.. breathe… because of the proximity to my due date, we decided pretty much straight away that we’d need to get another car to act as a temporary run around while our main car is off the road (ECU has been sent away for repair today to a fantastic company called Blue Streak Europe, should hear back tomorrow). Karl is restricted to automatic gearboxes due to his license, and we didn’t want to spend an absolute fortune with sprog so close and this being a temporary measure. After some primitive searching, we settled on an M-reg auto Astra similar to Karl’s old car from a local second hand dealership called Dream Car Sales for £500 plus £60 MOT inc. parts/labour if necessary. (Loving that DW template website based on an AutoTrader special.)

Straight away the guy (whom I assume is the owner) from Dream Car Sales rubbed me up the wrong way (metaphorically speaking) but we were desperate and cheap local autos are few and far between. We gave him £200 deposit on the condition he’d get the car MOTed next day — which he did — while we organised temporary insurance. Got a call back the next day (Tuesday 27th) that it was ready for pick up. It had failed the MOT on exhaust and brake pipes but these had been replaced and a pass cert was issued.

I, even in my absolute ignorance of cars and all things mechanical, have no idea how that car managed to pass an MOT test. For starters, it only goes above 20mph if Karl applies very gentle pressure to the throttle (putting your foot down to pull out of a junction is … well, it’s impossible and suicidal). If you try and go up a hill without a significant run up to build speed the speedometer bottoms out at 10mph. Karl was worried about one of the tyres and, although this is only a temporary solution our safety is paramount, so he took it to a local mechanic and they took the tyre off… it fell apart in the guys hands. There’s a massive hole in some rubber tube-y thingy that shouldn’t be there, no air filter, and one of the battery terminals is VERY badly corroded. Karl came in 30 minutes ago to tell me that the bloody thing won’t even start this afternoon, although I think he’s fixed that now.

Simply put, Dream Car Sales of Oakengates, Telford are useless cowboys and sold us what they called “an excellent runner”, a car one of them said “he wanted for his daughter but we beat them to it”. If we hadn’t already been expecting a bit of a banger, I’d be seeking professional advice and making life difficult for Dream Car Sales right about now. As it is I’ll have to settle for blogging about them.

So… “tl/dr” summary: I’m now 38w2d pregnant, no imminent signs of labour. We are moved, even though there’s plenty of junk still in boxes. We are back on the ‘net, thank you BT and PlusNet for your prompt service. My mum has been an absolute marvel with the move and providing transport post-breakdown. The main car is currently off the road although this is, touch wood, very temporary.. oh, and I’ll be having an Astra bonfire at some point to get rid of the heap of shit banger we’re running around in at the minute. Marshmallows anyone?

In your blog, haxx0ring your pages

Er, not really, it’s only me. Hi. Jem. You may vaguely remember me…

I have a lot I could waffle on about. I won’t, though, because if I start now I’ll go on and on and before you know it, it’ll be November and I’ll be going into labour (although I doubt that’d stop me from having a good rant, you know me).

Just wanted to post a quick note to let you know that I’m still pregnant, not dead, phone is due for reconnection on Oct 28th and the Internet around the same time although it could take up to 5 working days after that. So, worse case scenario is I’ll be without ‘net until Nov 4th.

Be good, play nice, and report any gossip and e-dramas back to me via e-mail so I have something interesting to read when I’m back on my own connection. If you get desperate for Jem updates I am updating twitter occasionally.

Furry Not-So-Friday

Hex n Purple Cat

Just a quick entry to let y’all know I’ve added a few pictures of the cats to my flickr :)

Not Long to Go Now

An appropriate title in more than one way…

Firstly, we had confirmation this week that our applications for a different local property had gone through. We get the keys Friday 9th, and I’m hoping to be fully moved over that weekend. We’ll then have until November to get the flat shiny ‘n new, but given that we had to sacrifice our deposit to leave this tenancy early I’m not entirely bothered to waste too much time on it. This does mean that I’m likely to lose Internet connection at some point and have no idea when we’ll be back on; I will update my twitter by phone if anything exciting happens (hah).

Secondly, there is of course the small fact that I’m just over a month away from my due date. Still, even these last few weeks don’t seem to want to go by peacefully. After a routine antenatal check-up on Thursday I found myself booked in for a scan on Friday because the midwife was worried about baby being small for dates. Turns out that baby is fine, smack bang on the line for growth and the reason for the inaccurate fundal height measurement is because baby is very low in the pelvis. Although I did find out that apparently baby has long legs; just like his/her mum then!

By Friday afternoon I was in quite a lot of pain around my back, inner thigh and hip. This meant I got little sleep so by Saturday morning I was back in for another check, only to be told I have an irritable uterus. From what I’ve read, this simply means that my uterus is almost constantly contracting, but without causing any change to the cervix (although there is a slightly increased risk of pre-term labour). I’d assumed that this almost constant tightness was all fairly normal what with it being my first, but obviously not. Anyway, I’m sure I’m the only one who finds any of this actually interesting!

Have a nice week, everyone :)