My Birth Story

I promised to do an account of my experiences of giving birth, in all its gory detail. I jest, it’s not that bad, but I wanted it to be a very honest account, rather than a rose tinted ‘it was a wonderful day’ type story – it was ultimately wonderful, but it sure didn’t feel like that for a lot of the time!

Waters Breaking

So my birth story starts off with my waters breaking, which isn’t how they all do, apparently, but that was the order I had in my head – waters break, contractions start, baby is born. A lot of people I’ve spoken to said their waters broke some time during the contraction stage, or didn’t go at all and had to be done manually.

I woke up around 6:30ish on Sunday 28th February because I could feel something trickling down there. I wasn’t sure at first – there’s a lot of discharge and things going on during pregnancy, so I thought it was just that at first, but then it began to go a bit faster and I just knew.

Not everyone has the movie style gush of waters breaking, but I certainly did! I sat up a bit, thinking I’d try get it on the duvet rather than letting it soak through the mattress, and then the flood gates really opened. I woke Nathan and just sat there as it kept coming out – I probably could have dashed to the bathroom but I didn’t want to get any fluid on the carpet!

We stayed pretty calm – we’re both just like that really. I got myself in the shower as soon as it slowed down and Nathan rang the hospital, who asked us to come in so they could check my waters really had gone.

To the Hospital

Our first trip to the hospital was a pretty quick one. On the phone, the midwife asked me to bring in a sanitary pad with some fluid on, so they could test it, and that was the first thing they did. She said she was happy that was my membranes ruptured and that was pretty much that. We were sent home to wait until the contractions had started and we were dilated nicely. We were told that it might not happen by itself, and she booked us in for 6:30 the next day to move things along if nothing had happened by then.

Contractions

By the time we got home, the contractions had started. I’d compare them to period pains – it’s a pretty similar feeling, but a bit more concentrated around your back. They weren’t pleasant to start with, but bearable, and I knew it was only going to get worse.

I went back to bed as we’d not had much sleep and we knew we’d need to keep our strength up, but I found it impossible to sleep: each time I thought I was dropping off, another contraction would start and I’d be wide awake.

One thing I didn’t know was that the whole ‘waters breaking’ thing doesn’t just stop with that one gush – it can carry on throughout the day, which is what happened to me. I had to have frequent toilet trips to change pads/change pants if it had been really bad.

I spent most of the day in bed, while Nathan went out to get me food (soft pretzels are my new favourite thing so he got me a couple to make me feel better) and generally did useful things around the house/looked after me.

I timed the contractions using the Pregnancy + App on my phone, which was really useful – it times the length of them, and the length between them, and advises which stage of labour you’re in, so I knew when I’d have to go to the hospital.

We ate dinner and watched TV for most of the night, and I eventually convinced Nathan to get some sleep. I think he wanted to show solidarity and stay up with me, which is lovely, but I reminded him that he had to drive us to the hospital and definitely needed to be rested.

I used breathing to get me through the contractions, which was really helpful once I got into a good rhythm. It didn’t stop the pain but it helped me stay calm and work my way through them, unpleasant as they were.

At around 3am the contractions were very intense, lasting around a minute and were 2-3 minutes apart, and we decided it was time to head to the hospital.

Back to the Hospital

The journey was pretty unpleasant – moving around during contractions was really hard, and every bump in the round seemed to make things worse. Luckily we’re only about 15 minutes away from the hospital, but it did feel like it lasted a lot longer that time!

I have some vague memories of walking through the hospital to an examination room, with frequent stops on the way to breathe through the contractions. Once in the room, the midwife did an internal examination, which was one of the most unpleasant bits. I had been worried before about exposing myself – it’s not something I’ve had to do before – but I got over it pretty quickly and was focussed on the pain!

She poked around up there a bit, checking how dilated I was and that the cervix was thinned, or something like that. She was happy with the progress and said I was 4cm dilated, so I think we went in at the right time.

After that I finally got some pain relief – gas and air, which took a while to get used to but did help take the edge off. It’s a bit like being mildly drunk and made my limbs feel all tingly. I also tried sitting on a birthing ball but found it super uncomfortable and got off during the first contraction.

To the Birthing Pool

Our hospital has an amazing looking birth centre which we could have gone to, but we decided not to. We would only have been able to stay there for a few hours, since it had been almost 24 hours since my waters broke, and I didn’t fancy moving part way through labour.

Luckily the birth pool was available so we headed there next. I’ve always wanted a water birth, and after this experience I would definitely do it again.

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The lovely birthing pool (after all the mess had been cleaned up!)

I changed into my bikini top – no bottoms, for obvious reasons! – and got settled in the pool. It was super warm, as it has to be around body temperature for the baby, and I did find it really relaxing. It was also easier to find more comfortable positions for contractions when you’re weightless.

The midwife said there was something in my urine which meant I was low on energy – I can’t remember the technical terms – and made me some tea and toast to keep my strength up. I knew I was exhausted and starving but I only managed a couple of bites. It was really hard to eat and breathe through the contractions.

The Pushing Stage

We were probably there for a couple of hours, just breathing through contractions, with Nathan holding my hand and giving me gas and air and water when I asked for it. And then we finally got to the pushing stage.

I started feeling the urge to push and wasn’t sure if I was meant to yet, but it honestly felt impossible not to. You might have heard it before, but I can now confirm it as true – pushing is just like you’re having a big poo. Crude but true! I thought there would be a difference between vagina pushing and poo pushing but it really felt the same.

And while we’re on the subject of poo, yes, I totally pooed in the pool. It was one of the things I was worried about, being a bit prudish, but for anyone with similar fears, trust me, you just don’t care. You’re so much more focussed on the pain and the pushing, and the midwives have seen it all before.

The pushing stage for me lasted around 1:45 minutes, but felt a lot longer to be honest. The frsutrating thing is feeling the head coming further and further out each time, and then going back in when you have to stop pushing. It just felt like 1 step forward 2 steps backwards.

Nathan peeked down there and said there was a lot of hair on the little head he could see coming out, which was exciting. I think I slacked off during this stage a bit to be honest: I was so exhausted I didn’t push every contraction, so I probably could have sped things up a bit myself if I’d tried harder! The actually pushing wasn’t so painful for the first one, but once I had to take a breath and keep pushing it sent pain across my back and was really hard to sustain.

Out of the Pool

Eventually, the midwife said the baby’s heartbeat was getting faster and we should try and speed things along with an episiotomy (basically a cut along the perineum – the bit between your vagina and your bum). I’d originally wanted to have everything happen naturally, but by that point I was willing to do anything to get it out, and I thought this was what was best for baby.

We struggled out of the pool and to the bed in the adjoining room, and the midwife used some anesthetic to numb things down there ready for the cut. She told me that she’d cut on the next push, which would get the head out, and then after that it’d be one more push and it’d all be over. I think that was the thing that kept me going!

I was numbed up so didn’t feel the cut, plus there was the usual pushing pain so I wasn’t really thinking about it. But as she promised, on that push the head came out, and I did feel some small relief. I’d heard the next bit was easier, but I actually found this the worst bit: pushing out the shoulders and the rest of the body was very painful. There was quite a burning sensation and then it kind of felt like everything was exploding. I screamed at that point – I’d been pretty noisy throughout but that was a proper animal cry – and then it came out and everything immediately felt much better.

Straight After Birth

As soon as the baby came out the midwife brought it up to lie on my chest. She got Nathan to say the sex, which was when I found out we had a little boy. He also got to cut the cord. We had skin-to-skin contact for about an hour and then I passed him to Nathan while I got stitched up.

This was the first time I’d had stitches, but I got all numbed up again so couldn’t feel anything (that pain would come later!) The student midwife commented that the stitches were very neat, and my midwife said she did crocheting in her spare time, so it’s nice to know I was in good hands!

The little one was making sucking motions in Nathan’s arms, so after I was fixed up I took him back and we had our first breast feed, for about 20 minutes, which was really special.

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Me and the Little Moore, soon after birth.

So there we have it – my experience of the birth of my first child, written soon after the event so I can’t rose tint it too much! It was painful, extremely so, but your body is built for this, and you’re rewarded so much afterwards when you get to hold the baby you’ve been growing for 9 months.

I will continue this story with our first few days after birth in another post – I know this once has been a bit of an epic so well done if you’ve made it this far!

I’d love to hear other people’s experiences of giving birth if you’d like to leave a comment of link me to your post 🙂

Book Review: We3 (Grant Morrison)

Publisher: Vertigo

Pages: 104

Release Date: July 1st 2005

Summary:

Writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely tell the unforgettable story of three innocent pets-a dog, a cat and a rabbit-who have been converted into deadly cyborgs by a sinister military weapons program.With nervous systems amplified to match their terrifying mechanical exoskeletons, the members of Animal Weapon 3 have the firepower of a battalion between them. But they are just the program’s prototypes, and now that their testing is complete, they’re slated to be permanently “de-commissioned”-until they seize their one chance to make a desperate run for freedom. Relentlessly pursued by their makers, the WE3 team must navigate a frightening and confusing world where their instincts and heightened abilities make them as much a threat as those hunting them-but a world, nonetheless, in which somewhere there is something called “home.”

Review:

I’ve wanted to read this book since I read Grant Morrison’s run on Animal Man in 2011. Nathan recommended it as it had similar themes, so when he bought it I snuck in there and read it first (mwahaha)

I really enjoyed this, although it is crazy sad. Despite the destruction they cause and the amount of lives they take, my sympathies are completely with the animals who have been encased in armour and weapony and even taught basic speech, just to make them useful weapons for mankind. But when the humans decide they are no longer useful, the 3 take the first opportunity to escape and try and find home.

I love the way the animals speak: it’s simplistic and repetitive and this makes it believable, as I imagine there is only so much you can do when teaching animals to talk. The art work is really beautiful: it gives so much expression to the animals and does a great job in showing the brutality and gore of the fight scenes. I did struggle to follow the story at some points though: there’s a lot of bits without talking, and some panels that are a bit all over the place. I think this was a purposeful stylistic choice as it is mentioned in the book that animals perceive time differently from humans, so it’s almost as if we see their point of view between the panels. I don’t always feel like I’m very good at reading graphic novels, so this might just be a personal struggle.

The way the animals react to humans and the world around them is also fascinating. A particular high point for me was when the dog pulls a man out of the river and tells himself he’s a “Gud dog” for helping; as the panel moves out, we see the man’s guts spilling from his stomach, clearly already dead. In another scene, after the rabbit is attacked by a man with a shotgun, the dog goes into attack mode and kills him; afterwards he reprimands himself with “Bad dog”.

For those who enjoyed Morrison’s Animal Man, like me, or if you like graphic novels that deal with animal welfare and the morality of using animals for our own means then this is for you.

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Interview with Olivia Levez

Today on the blog I’m delighted to have Olivia Levez, whose debut YA novel The Island came out on 03/03/16 – check out my review here. Thakns for joining me today Olivia!

Where did your idea for The Island come from?

It came from looking through my school library for a new idea, after my dystopian fantasy was rejected. I was looking for what didn’t seem to be on the shelves, and for some reason desert islands and castaways came into mind.

But I think at the back of my mind I was yearning to escape to my caravan by the sea, too, where I am pretty much a castaway when I’m doing a serious ‘binge-writing’ session.

I have stayed on a real desert island called Tobacco Caye in Belize with my family, and also spent many happy childhood holidays on Sark, a tiny Channel island. My sister also lives in Ibiza, so I think island settings have a strong family connection!

Frances is a complex character and some of her actions mean she’s not always likeable – how did you get the balance right so you still end up rooting for her?

I think using first person present tense means that it is quite an intense experience, and the reader can’t help but feel empathy, being so close and in the character’s head. Lots of bad characters in fiction speak in first person, and we still root for them – in particular, I am a fan of Patricia Highsmith’s Mr Ripley, although Frances isn’t a sociopath! It is also written in stream-of-consciousness at times, where I’ve attempted to mirror exactly Fran’s thought processes as she gets to grips with her isolation on the island.

The flashback/memory scenes hopefully begin to unravel why Fran is so prickly and finds it difficult to connect with people. Mostly, though, it’s the relationship with her little brother and the pilot’s dog which show Fran’s softer side.

my real dog My real dog, who inspired Fran’s companion on The Island

How much research did you do into survival techniques?

I read books about real-life survivors, in particular Lucy Irvine, who famously answered an advert to be the wife of a man she had never even met, in order to spend a year as his companion on a desert island between New Guinea and Australia. I read her true-life, gritty account when on an island myself, the tiny island of Sark in the Channel Islands.

Lucy Irvine

Lucy Irvine, Castaway

I also read Ed Stafford’s book of his experience spending sixty days alone with only a video camera for company for his Naked and Marooned series on Discovery Channel. I learnt all about surviving on raw fish on an inflatable liferaft in the book, Adrift by Steve Callahan, where he recounts his experience spending seventy-six days lost at sea.

I am really interested in how survivalists have creative uses for ordinary objects, and loved how the writers of Cast Away, the 2000 film starring Tom Hanks, came up with ideas for the random objects which the main character, Chuck Nolan, finds inside Fed Ex packages cast up on the shore of his desert island. The story goes that they pooled ideas about what could be in the parcels, and then gave the list to survival experts, who told them how Chuck could use them on the island. So, an ice skate becomes an axe, a taffeta prom dress, a fishing net, and a volleyball his only companion.

Of course, I learnt a great deal from watching Youtube survival clips, everything from making a water filter out of a tampon to using a thorn to make a fish hook!

Joanna Lumley

Finally, I must mention the actor, Joanna Lumley, who in her TV reality show, Girl Friday, famously made cave shoes out of her bra. I couldn’t resist using this idea in my book. And here’s me, attempting my own version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EidLt90QXuo

You say on your website you did ‘method writing’ for The Island – can you tell us a bit more about that?

I wanted to get as real an experience as possible as I wrote the castaway scenes, but didn’t have the funds for a stay on a real desert island. I became a ‘caravan castaway’, holing myself up in my caravan in West Wales, with only my Jack Russell, Basil, for company. To mimic my character Fran’s food foraging, I decided to live only off what I found in my caravan cupboards: porridge oats, sardines and tomato cuppa soup. The only things I took with me were coconut water and a few oranges. Not to be recommended, but it did make me realise how living on a limited diet affects your mood, and I’ll always remember the excitement when I found half a packet of dusty sultanas at the back of the cupboard!

I wrote in situ wherever possible, using the Welsh woodland leading to our local beach as the jungle, and the long sandy beach with its melting sunsets as Fran’s desert island home.

Cardigan Bay

Clifftop walks in Cardigan Bay, West Wales

You can read about my method writing experience here:

http://writeforrealw4r.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/how-i-used-method-writing-for-island.html

Without any spoilers, what made you end the book in the way you did?

I wanted Fran’s experience to be as realistic as possible. I wrote the final scene long before I finished the book, and for a long time it was actually the first scene, with the island scenes as flashbacks. I saw the ending as a kind of tableau, ambiguous, but with hope too.

Is this the end of Frances’ story, or can we expect to hear more from her?

Hmmmmm. At the moment I’m working on another contemporary adventure book, but starring a runaway, rather than a castaway. Although the very early draft of The Island was called Blue, and I had ideas for Bluer, and Bluest (!) Frances’ story in its final form was written as a stand-alone.

How long do you think you would survive on a deserted island?

My children say not long at all, I’d be hopeless! But I like to think that I’d be incredibly good at it, and transform into a dread-locked wild strong survivor, stabbing fish with lightning quick speed.

And here are my quick fire questions to round off with:

What are you reading at the moment?

Affinity by Sarah Waters. It’s a creepy, Gothic tale of female Victorian prisons and seances and ghosts. Plus it has an unreliable narrator, which I love.

Favourite book as a child?

Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr, although it terrified me.

Favourite writing drink and snack?

Any sort of herbal tea, especially if it’s aniseed-y, and I don’t eat when I’m writing because I wouldn’t stop! I sometimes chew gum.

5 desert island books?

War and Peace because it’s long, and I never got to finish it when I was at uni, which has always annoyed me.

A survival handbook, to tell me how to spot poisonous plants and fish

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

The Valley of Adventure by Enid Blyton

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Favourite place to read?

In the bath with a glass of wine.

Any hidden talents?

I got quite good at hula hooping, but am out of practice. I did hold the wheel pose in yoga for a few wobbly seconds last week though.

What fictional world would you love to live in?

Hogsmeade. Also, I’d like Moonface’s room on the Faraway Tree. Oh and Nutwood too, probably.

You can find Olivia Levez on Twitter @livilev and on her website: www.writeforrealw4r.blogspot.co.uk 

Purchase a copy of The Island here:

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-island/olivia-levez/9781780748597

Book Review: Cleo 2 – Chosen (Lucy Coats)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Orchard Books

Pages: 320

Release Date: March 10th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Two warring deities, one Pharaoh’s throne…and the beginning of the world’s greatest love story

Tryphena is dead, evil Berenice and her dark demon god hold the Pharaoh’s throne – so Cleo must flee the city of her birth and seek out her patron goddesses before it’s too late to save Egypt. Not only must she make her way across the desert to restore Isis’s power, but her goddess also commands her to raise two armies before taking ship across the Great Green Sea to find her exiled father in Rome. The weight of royalty hangs increasingly heavy on Cleo’s shoulders – and impossible, scary decisions lie ahead.

What should she do about her unpredictable and moody scribe-spy lover, Khai? Will best friend Charm desert her for the mysterious soldier-girl, Iras? And what about the troublingly handsome young soldier Cleo meets on the way to retrieve her exiled father? Is Marcus Antonius the prophesied one who will ultimately be the death of her? Most important of all though, can Cleo and her untried troops pass the Egyptian gods’ final test? Can they find a way to defeat the unnatural army of the Burnt-souled Dead stalking the streets of Alexandria? Or will all of Egypt run with the blood of unhallowed and infernal sacrifice?

Review:

I’ll start off by gushing about the cover, because OMG isn’t it just gorgeous?! Lucy Coats gave me a sneak peek at the UKYAExtravaganza in Nottingham last year and it made me so excited to get stuck back into Cleo’s story.

Cleo has changed a lot since the events of the first book: you can tell her experiences have really affected her and she feels a lot more grown up, which is just as well for someone trying to become Pharaoh of Egypt. In this book we pick off where Cleo left off, with some of our old favourite characters, like Charm and sexy spy Khai, and we meet a host of new colourful characters too.

Once again, I loved the relationship between Cleo and Charm – they really are the best of friends and they get by together, whatever life throws at them, whether that’s disrupting love stories, disturbing prophecies or a full on war. We see a lot more of Khai in this book as well, and I liked seeing his and Cleo’s relationship develop now they no longer had the distance or an evil Pharaoh sister in between them. It’s interesting to imagine Cleopatra loving someone like that at that age, especially if you know her history and her other two famous lovers.

Charm gets her own love story here too, and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t really expect to see an LGBT theme in a book like this (I don’t know why, I just didn’t) but it was really refreshing and felt natural too. Iras was a great character, cheeky and loyal and lovable, though her tendency towards nicknames did irritate me a bit. I also loved the fact that this book talked about – even just casually – things that don’t often get mentioned in books like this: things like periods, and going to the toilet. It’s small things but it’s touches like that which I appreciate.

This is a great sequel to Cleo and adds a fitting end to this part of her life, though we all know it’s far from the end of her epic story. I’d love to see Coats’ take on the next stage of Cleo’s life too.

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Introducing… the Little Moore

This isn’t a blog post as I’d normally do, just a quick update really for anyone who’s interested.

So my waters broke on the morning of the 28th, and by 8:15 on the 29th we’d given birth to a baby boy:

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So I can now officially introduce the ‘Little Moore’ part of my blog:

Archer Maurice James Moore

Born 8:15 29/02/16 (a Leapling!) and weighing a healthy 8lb 3.

Full birth story to come at a later date (in all its grisly details). We came home from the hospital yesterday and are both settling in nicely, with Daddy looking after both of us!

Book Review: Red Witch (Anna McKerrow)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Quercus Children’s Books

Pages: 416

Release Date: March 10th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Seventeen, heartbroken, powerful; Melz has run away from home, run away from the safety of the Greenworld. In the cities of the Redworld, Melz discovers she’s special, desired. And not just for her magical talents. When Melz meets the young but influential Bran, their attraction is instant and electric. In the Redworld, with Bran by her side, unrestrained by the customs of her former life, Melz knows she can reach her true potential. But the world Bran wants to give Melz is ravaged by war and violence. Oil is running out, and people will do anything to gain control of the remaining resources. Melz may be more powerful than ever, but even great power can be a curse when used against you.

Review:

It feels weird writing a review for a book that I was waiting for/really excited for a year ago – I’ve only been blogging for a year so it’s nice to see things coming full circle. Hopefully this time next year I’ll be writing a review for the next installment and marvelling at all the time gone by.

Red Witch picks up where Crow Moon left off, only now we’re following Melz instead of Danny. I loved seeing her side of the story: she’s a great narrator and goes through such a big change throughout the book. At the start she is full of raw emotions, still hurting from the end events of Crow Moon and embarking on her biggest journey ever: into the Red World.

After hearing little snippets about it in the last book, it was great to see the Redworld, especially from a Greenworlders perspective. And vice-versa, it’s great to see what the Redworlders think of the Green World. We start to see a little of these two worlds colliding towards the end of this book, and I’m excited to see how this progresses and resolves in the next book. There’s a lot of similarities between the two that they probably don’t even realise: the way both have been lied to about the other world, and the manipulation of the people by those in power.

I loved every time the Morrigan appeared – she’s a real scene stealer and I just wanted more of her all the time. She’s definitely my favourite of the gods and goddesses and I hope we see more of her again. It’s interesting to see Melz’s relationship with her and how she helps her heal and develop throughout the book. Melz goes from a naive, slightly broken girl at the beginning to becoming more confident with herself, in her mind, body and powers, and I loved her even more by the end of the book.

McKerrow has done it again – the world she’s created is vivid and gritty and magical and her characters just leap off the page. Once again, while the main plot is resolved by the end of the book, there is plenty left open to leave us gagging for the sequel (seriously, do we have to wait another year?!) I’m excited to see how things are going to wrap up, and whose story we’re going to follow next time – I have my theories but I won’t say anything just yet (spoilers!). I guess I’ll just have to patient (and maybe re-read both in the meantime!)

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