Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fun for all the family

We've had some nice weather just recently so we've been outside quite a bit. Here's some video I took on Thursday last week.

I've also been doing awful things with my dressing him in leg warmers...OK, they're called 'Baby Legs' and they're supposed to be used when you want to show off your cloth nappies, so that you can protect a crawling baby's knees, but they are definitely Irene Cara's as Sean's been telling me all day... Ah, but they're patriotic!

We also caught one of his many, many bed head bad hair days on camera for the general hilarity of his adoring public (excuse the sleepy look, he'd literally just got up!):

He's such a darling though! He's pretty much always smiling so when he cries it's really horrible. And the smiles are to die for:

He also gives the greatest hugs, the sloppiest kisses and tends to bestow them freely and without bias!

In Central Park in September with a lady friend!

I couldn't be happier at the moment. I feel much better now after all the awful weeks of feeling like death warmed over. I still have no memory to speak of and I have days when it's hard to drag myself out of bed but, to be honest, there were days before I had my thyroid out when that occurred, so there's nothing new there. My memory worries me though as I'm so used to relying on it and now I can't. I completely forgot a lunch date a while ago and that I have never done; it was acutely embarrassing. I mix up my children's names as well, which hurts as I never did before I had the op.

Anyway, now things seem to have settled down a bit, I'm just going to chill out and relax. We bought a new (ish) car three weeks ago, so that's one worry off my mind as the old one was positively dangerous. We're finally getting around to finishing the decorating that we should have done when we moved in but didn't for various reasons the most pressing of which is that we are inherently lazy! Now we're just waiting for the bankruptcy that is known in the Dodd household as November...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Back Home...

It's funny but whenever I go back to the UK, I get incredibly homesick. It passes once I get home for a few days but, while I'm there, all the things that I miss come up in sharp relief. It's actually the simplest things I miss. Notwithstanding the total lack of decent chocolate in this country (and although Godiva is amazing, you can't eat it everyday), it's the whole grocery shopping experience that is seriously lacking. You would expect the fruit and veg to be the same, but it really isn't. I think it's the 'sameness' that truly gets to me. It doesn't matter what part of the year it is, the fruit looks exactly the same. And it's shiny...even the oranges. You can't remove the wax either so as you bite into an apple, your teeth squeak.

I realised just how wrong the whole waxing thing was during this summer when I bought some apples and realised that they were at least six months old. Though they seemed fresh, when I cut into them for the girls they were full of brown spots and the flesh seemed rubbery. In the UK, we are extremely lucky to be able to get apples and stuff at a seasonally appropriate time, getting imports from the Cape and New Zealand once our own season has passed. But, also, we do eat more seasonally, I think. Although we get strawberries year round in the UK, they are usually so expensive and tasteless it's not worth buying them, so we buy and eat other things. Here, the Californian hothouse strawbs are available all year round and cheap, tasteless but cheap.

The variety of vegetables available is quite restricted too. I can buy all sorts of veggies but one or two kinds. Where you might find 4 or 5 varieties of new potato in the shops in the summer (Jersey Royals...*drools*), you get 2 all year round in the US all bar three weeks in July, when you can buy bags of interestingly coloured pots all together. Runner beans and spring greens and purple sprouting broccoli are all veggies you won't find in my local shops. Now, I know that these aren't native to the US and that wouldn't be so bad if there were more native veggies available, but there aren't. Where are the many varieties of squash? What about okra and collard greens and different kinds of yam at times other than Thanksgiving? Why can I only buy three kinds of potato on the continent where the potato originated?

I could go on at length about this shopping thing, but I won't. It just makes me sad. One more example. There are many, many providers of bacon so long as all you want is smoked streaky. If you want unsmoked back bacon, my supermarket provides one kind. Bizarre.

So I miss my groceries but I also miss less visceral things, like the beach. Where I live in New England, most of the beach is owned privately. Being a colonised country, and colonised when the rights of ownership could be protected by rule of law, every piece of land was given to someone, even the beach. If we want to go to the beach here we have to go to a public beach, pay some money in order to get there and find a space amongst hundreds of other people. When we got to the beach on our first Saturday at home, my heart leapt. Sean and I were having a conversation at the time about whether or not we will ever come back to the UK which started because there are some beautiful 1920s round houses on the seafront at Frinton and Sean said if we come back, that's the kind of house he'd want to live in. We then got onto the space issue, which is our biggest sticking point. Here we can afford, for the same kind of money we'd be spending on a 3 bed semi box with a handkerchief garden in Essex, just over an acre of land and a house into which our UK cottage would fit and still have a third left over. But then I turned round and gestured at the vast swathe of greensward, miles of free golden beach and grey-green sea touching a sparkly diamond blue sky stretching as far as the eye could see and said that I might not have had the garden or house space growing up but I had all this...

The lump in my throat was quite difficult to swallow.

I miss the lack of footpaths and not being able to walk anywhere. I miss the 'prettiness' of the metal, the cars here are so same old, same old, surrounded by SUVs which all look the same. I miss pubs with indoor soft play areas; actually I miss indoor soft play areas without an attached video arcade geared to part you with as much money as possible. I miss Radio 1 (great new music), Five Live (proper news and decent sport) and Classic FM (Classic don't internet stream anymore, more's the pity). I miss fashion that isn't three years behind Europe. I miss clean clothes, really clean clothes; even though I have a new washer, it still doesn't get clothes as clean as my mum's Zanussi... I miss air that isn't so stuffed full of water that your sweat stays where it is or so dry that it crackles. I miss pretty fields full of different things that aren't acres of one cash crop or nothing but trees for miles. I miss being able to go outside of an evening and not being eaten alive. I miss having neighbours who aren't a 5 minute walk down the street; I miss half hour over-the-fence chats that come out of nowhere. I miss being 45 minutes from a spanking Sunday lunch with a decent conversation and 3 hours from a proper break from my kids.

Oh, I agree with him that if we go back to the UK, his career options diminish in size. But I'm not saying we have to go back tomorrow. As it stands at the moment, I can stay a lady of leisure for a little while longer and that's the main reason for being here; so that I can be at home with my kids. As long as that continues then I am happy to stay here. I suspect when the money reduces next July, then we'll have to reassess but, in reality, we have to make a crunch decision when Imogen gets to 13 or in five years time. At that point she would be starting GCSE courses and so beginning a track to possible University. College in the US costs an absolute fortune; the best ones cost about £20k a year in tuition fees now, even local bumpkin ones don't cost much less, so Lord only knows what they would cost in 10 years time. So we need to think about going back to Blighty then.

I know I miss all the things I miss about being at home, but what would I miss about being here, in exactly the same way? Would I miss the open friendliness of the people? The relative safety and lack of mindless violence and vandalism? A pleasant, non-booze culture without a 'nanny state' breathing down our neck? A proper winter with guaranteed snow and summer with guaranteed sun? Cheap everything; clothes, petrol, food?

Yes. I think we might just come home in five years time.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Damp Squib

4th of July was rained out. Nice to get some rain but it could have picked a better day for, wait, that was the perfect day for it!

I'm spending too much time on the Internet. Since the relative implosion of RvB, where I would spend my day idly chatting in someone's journal, I now divide my days between idly chatting on my birth board on Baby Centre, idly talking about my favourite reality show 'So You Think You Can Dance' on AOL boards or throwing virtual pies on Facebook. Oh, yeah, and fitting looking after three kids into the quiet moments *snigger*

I suppose what I'm trying to say is I am perhaps using my 'condition' as an excuse for sitting on my arse and doing absolutely nothing all day. Which is very naughty as I really ought to do something with the kids. But then I remember that most summer holidays we spent watching trash holiday morning tv and then whiling the afternoon away outside, making dens and crap, riding our bikes, climbing trees or, in the case of me, getting a wedgeload of books out of the library, finding a quiet spot and reading my eyes out.

I chucked the two eldest out about an hour ago. They went to find the lad down the road. Everyso often I hear a squeal or chatting in the trees behind the house. I hope so much that they think they had an idyllic childhood when they get to be an adult. I had this email sent to me earlier in the week and this is what I want for my kids too...

Just for a minute, forget everything stressful and read this...............

Close your eyes and go back in time...

Before the Internet...

Before semi-automatics, joyriders and crack....

Before SEGA or Super Nintendo...

Way back........

I'm talking about Hide and Seek in the park.
The corner shop.
Football with an old can.

Beano, Dandy, Buster, Twinkle and Dennis the Menace.

Roly Poly.
Hula Hoops, jumping the stream, building dams.
The smell of the sun and fresh cut grass.
Bazooka Joe bubble gum.

An ice cream cone on a warm summer night from the van that plays a tune.
Chocolate or vanilla or strawberry or maybe Neapolitan or perhaps


Watching Saturday morning cartoons, short commercials or the
Children's Film Foundation, The Double Deckers, Red Hand Gang,
Tomorrow People, Tiswas or Swapshop?, and 'Why Don't You'? - or
staying up for Doctor Who.

When around the corner seemed far away and going into town seemed like
going somewhere.

Earwigs, wasps, stinging nettles and bee stings.
Sticky fingers.
Playing Marbles. Ball bearings. Big 'uns and Little 'uns.
Cops and Robbers, Cowboys and Indians, and Zorro.
Climbing trees.
Making igloos out of snow banks.

Walking to school, no matter what the weather.
Running till you were out of breath, laughing so hard that your
stomach hurt.
Jumping on the bed. Pillow fights.
Spinning around on roundabouts, getting dizzy and falling down was
cause for giggles.
Being tired from playing....remember that?

The worst embarrassment was being picked last for a team.
Water balloons were the ultimate weapon.
Football cards in the spokes transformed any bike into a motorcycle.
Choppers and Grifters.

Eating raw jelly. Orange squash ice pops. Vimto and Jubbly lollies

Remember when...

There were two types of trainers - girls and boys, and Dunlop Green Flash
The only time you wore them at School was for P.E.
And they were called gym shoes or if you are older - plimsoles

You knew everyone in your street - and so did your parents.
It wasn't odd to have two or three 'best' friends.

You didn't sleep a wink on Christmas Eve.

When nobody owned a pure-bred dog.

When 25p was decent pocket money
Curly Whirlys. Space Dust. Toffo's.
Top Trumps.
When you'd reach into a muddy gutter for a penny.
When any parent could discipline any kid, or feed him or use him to carry groceries
and nobody, not even the kid, thought a thing of it.

When being sent to the head's office was nothing compared to the
fate that awaited a misbehaving pupil at home.
Basically, we were in fear for our lives but it wasn't because of
drive-by shootings, drugs, gangs etc.

Remember when....

Decisions were made by going "Ip, Dip, Dog Shit"
Race issue" meant arguing about who ran the fastest.
Money issues were handled by whoever was the banker in Monopoly

The worst thing you could catch from the opposite sex was germs.
And the worst thing in your day was having to sit next to one.

It was unbelievable that 'British Bulldog 123' wasn't an Olympic event.
Having a weapon in school, meant being caught with a catapult.

Nobody was prettier than Mum.
Scrapes and bruises were kissed and made better.

Taking drugs meant orange-flavoured chewable aspirin.
Ice cream was considered a basic food group.
Getting a foot of snow was a dream come true.

Older siblings were the worst tormentors, but also the fiercest protectors.

If you can remember most or all of these, then you have LIVED.

Pass this on to anyone who may need a break from their grown life...


So, I'm hoping that my denial of letting them spend the length of time I do on the Internet will foster the same kind of wistful nostalgia in them when they grow up.

Well, I can hope, can't I?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Returning to rest

I have really spent the last week getting my strength back. I just have a tight feeling in my neck now and very little soreness. I had the dressings removed on Thursday and I have a three inch black scratch across the bottom of my neck, just under the Adam's apple region and a tiny black scratch under that where the drain was. Judicious application of Vitamin E oil will hopefully help it heal with the minimal amount of scarring. At least it doesn't look like I had my head reattached by Dr Frankenstein. It's very swollen still, as is to be expected, and I have limited movement in my neck, it hurts to turn it too far. My shoulders, however, are absolutely killing me as I've been hunching over protecting my neck for a week. I need a bloody good massage!

I started my thyroid medication on Wednesday and I actually feel pretty good considering. I have a few twitches in my thumb, eyelid and the backs of my legs which is related to stress and tiredness, though I've been told that twitches are also related to thyroid function, so it could well be that too. I've been sleeping like a baby though, so hopefully they'll gradually fade away over the next week.

Sean's back to work on Monday and I'm not sure how I'm going to cope. I think Imogen's in for a rude shock as she's going to be looking after Miranda! Hopefully, the weather will be nice and I can just have them all out on the deck playing. It was nice today and we were all up on our swingset for a good long time. My mind's a blank for what I'm going to do with them for the holidays. We shall see. Lots of trips to the park probably! I've been so caught up in my own rubbish that I didn't get Imogen, or Miranda for that matter, signed up for any Summer Camps this year. Mind you, couldn't really afford it this year anyway.

My UK house is still incomplete. Still waiting for the carpets to go down. My sister's boyfriend dumped her on her 21st birthday so she's not going to be taking the house now. However, Sean's client company have said that they will pay his stipend (the money they give him to cover our living expenses here in the States) for one more year. This means that we can have the house empty for another year or, more importantly, offer it to a brother or sister in Christ for half the proper rent. There's a church leader who's quite interested in it, so hopefully we can offer it to him. But that's no good unless the carpets are down and it's been tidied...

My life is never uncomplicated, but it is never too hard. I am truly blessed. I got the pathology back from my thyroid last night (My scatterbrain endo calling me at 9pm - gotta love him!). Basically, I will need the radioactive iodine as though the 1.2cm tumour was discreet, there was a tiny (2mm) one on the opposite lobe. This means there is a small but finite possibility that it could be elsewhere in my body but because they are both so small I have a T1/stage 1 cancer. Nothing to worry about and, once I have the RAI, should be completely eradicated from my body. I'm due to get the RAI once I've finished nursing in December.

And remember, none of this would have been uncovered if it weren't for the very scatterbrained endo whom I would never have seen if I hadn't been so pig-headed about my 'gestational diabetes'.

Mysterious ways...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Home With a Hole in my Neck

It lives!

Yes, I made it through and I'm home. A bit of trauma Saturday afternoon when they tried to send me home with a 6 month old in the house with a drain in. Yeah, guys, that's going to last precisely five minutes before it's grabbed and yanked by little immovable claws in a vice-like grip... The doc said it was up to me but if the insurance company asks he's going to say he discharged me. The nice nurses kept me on the IV though; apparently if you have a running IV the insurance company is less likely to ask questions! Meant I had to pee lots, but was nicely hydrated! Hopefully the insurance will pay because I really wasn't ready to go home until Sunday morning.

Am sore but getting better every hour, really. Need to sleep though...I'm sitting here in bed with the fan on being waited on by him indoors! I've only got him until Wednesday, though he's working from home on Weds and Thurs as I'm not supposed to pick anything up, including Gabriel, until I see the doc on Thurs, so I'm making the most of having him here. He's amazing, he really is. I am so, so blessed to have such a strong and able man. His little face though is so full of worry for me...nothing I can do or say will rub the look off either...*sigh*

He did fantastic job over the weekend too. I don't think the kids really missed me! He even took a photo of the freezer. I asked him why he took a photo of the freezer. He said so he can take it into work and show his colleagues that his wife loves him. I asked him how a photo of the freezer shows them that I love him. He said "Duh! Look at all the labels! You must love me to have labelled everything in the freezer!" Didn't like to say that I only labelled things so he didn't call me three thousand times! And we went over the list of stuff to do for both the girls and the wee man four times on Thursday night! He had strict instructions to go on my baby board and ask for help if he needed anything but I think he managed. Imogen had a Brownie overnighter at the Aquarium on Friday night so he only had two of them to deal with.

I was shocked just how much milk had gone in just two days though. You forget how much they actually drink. I'm not sure if the frozen stuff would have lasted more than a week if I'd had to stop. I was merrily pumping and dumping in the hospital and the nurses came in and asked me why I was dumping. I was on a paediatric ward! They were all set up with milk storage items and nurses who knew all about allowed meds for breast feeding. How blessed was I?! They took really really good care of me. In fact, other than the doc who discharged me without taking into consideration my home requirements, I couldn't have had better care. I even managed to be on my own in a double room for two days (as it was a surgical recovery ward that wasn't hard as not much surgery goes on at the weekend!). Other than having to ask Sean to leave on Friday night because he had brought Gabe and Miranda over without feeding either of them so one was howling and the other was singing the 'I'm Hungry' song, it wasn't a bad weekend!

The pain in my neck is just a bad sore throat now, though the muscles in the back of my neck are complaining now, where I've obviously been holding my neck too stiffly to protect the front! I still have a headache but I think that's a general anaesthetic hangover and I think I shall have it for the rest of the week. I talked to my endocrinologist yesterday to find out what he wants to do with regard to the hormone replacement regime. Ideally he would have liked to wait until he gets the pathology back on the excised thyroid before he decided anything. However, I reminded him that I was nursing (there was the sound of a large penny dropping at the other end of the phone. He's such a scatterbrain!) whereupon he said that if I was wholly intending to defer the radioactive iodine treatment until I had finished completely (never any question about that, mate) then I can start the thyroid hormone treatment as soon as the pharmacist can fill it out, hopefully today!

The worst thing? You know, the worst thing is the vague sense that I have just had a part of my body removed that was working perfectly fine. OK, it was slowly killing me, but it was working. It feels a bit like they've removed my whole hand because of a wart on my finger.

I wish it had been possible to just remove the carcinoma and leave the thyroid. It's actually quite depressing (and I'm quite depressed about it) that this perfectly functioning organ has been removed and now I have to take medication for the rest of my life... I suppose I have to look at it like this; my life just got a tiny bit more complicated but less imminently fatal.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Wishing and Hoping and Thinking and Praying

The surgeon was a pretty nice guy. He told me that he will be doing a complete thyroidectomy, which I kind of knew he would. He also went through all the things that he would be doing to me, most of which I knew from my researching. He did make clear that it is possible that he could damage the nerves to my vocal chords and make me permanently hoarse as well as saying that it is entirely possible that the 'lentil bean' sized para-thyroids will stop working completely as they hate being touched, so I will have to take calcium for the rest of my big deal, really. Oh, and the other thing he was 'pleased' to tell me was that he is a cosmetic surgeon so he would do his best to give me a tidy scar. OK then...

He couldn't clear up for me the most pressing thing though; whether or not I would have to have the radioactive iodine (RAI) directly after the op. Apparently, once he's cut the thyroid out, that's it. He sees me for a sign off a week later and discharges me into the care of my endocrinologist, who will give me the RAI. I love my endo but he's a bit of a scatterbrain. In a good way! He's the one who called me back, three weeks after signing me off for the gestational diabetes to say that he really wasn't happy with the enlarged thyroid and would like me to get it sonogrammed. Scatterbrained in a good way! So I emailed him and called him once I had my surgery date (15th June) to try and find out whether or not I need the RAI asap.

He called me from home (again) at 6:30 that night. During our conversation I told him that I was more upset about the fact that I would have to give up nursing than the fact I had cancer. It's true! I think I understand why too. I have another focus! Better to be focussed on the giving up nursing than the fact I have cancer; one makes me angry, the other one would stop me being able to function. Anyway, he said that I didn't have to have the RAI immediately (which would be 4-6 weeks post op) as the carcinoma was so small and probably encapsulated, though they would know more when they got the pathology back from it. In fact, he said that there was some debate in the endocrine community as to whether someone with my history actually needs the RAI at all. That said, having it makes the observation of me easier post-operatively, so I will probably have it when Gabe's finished nursing, hopefully by the end of the year.

It was like letting go of a breath I'd been holding for two weeks. At the end of the day, I'm realistic. Gabriel is probably going to be my last one. Although I'm mentally a lot stronger than when I had Imogen, the feelings I had when she wouldn't latch, especially after having the emergency caesarean, haunt me even now. To have had to have given up with Gabe before he was ready would have been my body failing me yet again and I'm not sure what that would have done to my mental health, especially as I am unlikely to be able to assuage that guilt with another baby. So to be told that I don't need to is an immense relief.

However, there is a small possibility that the tumour isn't encapsulated. This basically means that the cells could be anywhere in my body and, if that's the case, then I will need the RAI pretty quickly. I've been in the tiny percentage so far. I don't feel as if I'm going to be in the tinier percentage! But, if it happens, it happens. I have, frozen, one bottle of expressed milk a day for about a month, so it doesn't have to finish immediately. I'm comfortable with that. That's the way the cookie crumbles.

After that, I shall be cancer free. I will have to take thyroid hormone for the rest of my life and probably calcium, so if civilisation goes to the dogs in the next 20 years, I will be up the effluent creek without the requisite boat moving equipment. But, hey, there will be more problems to cope with than me dying! We had lunch with my friend Ellen yesterday and she is on Synthroid (artificial thyroid hormone), low dosage chemotherapy for her rheumatoid arthritis and an insulin pump for her Type 1 diabetes. She leads a full and active life and has two beautiful girls. I think if she can do it, so can I!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Health Matters Part Deux

Basement flooded this morning. It's still flooding as we speak. We have a pond pump and a wet vac going and I have a feeling my husband isn't coming to bed anytime soon.

I also had my biopsy results this afternoon. I have a papillary thyroid carcinoma. I need a thyroidectomy and radioactive iodine. My endocrinologist said that it wouldn't affect my ability to nurse Gabriel. That's rubbish as it says all over the info on it that it gets concentrated in all your secretions, which includes milk.

So I have a choice, I can have the thyroidectomy and not the radioactive iodine and run the risk of them not getting it all and it regrowing and possibly metastasing (if it hasn't already) or stop nursing at 6 months...I am incredibly upset about the possibility of having to give up nursing but I am not particularly upset about the cancer diagnosis. How crazy is that?

The upshot is that I am young(ish), it's small (1.2cm) and it's got a 95% survival rate without both of those things going for me, 80-90% chance of being cured in fact.

I'm pretty hopeful but it's 11 and I want to talk to my mum...I don't think she'd appreciate a call at 4 in the morning...

Saturday, March 31, 2007

In Like a Lion and Out Like a Lamb

The Americans have a saying: March come in like a Lion and goes out like a Lamb. At the beginning of the month we had a huge snowstorm. Which all melted. Then we had another snowstorm. We had most of the snow we had for the entire winter in March! Looked like this after the second snowstorm:

That was the 16th. It is the 31st today and the sky is cloudlessly blue.

Very lamb-like.

Worst thing I did today was let the sun track round while Gabriel was out sleeping in the pram under the tree and his little hands are now a little bit sunburnt...bad, bad mummy!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Health things

So, a little while ago, some health issues of mine were spotted. My eye doctor (yes, that's what they're called out here) discovered a black splodge on my retina. In the same week my endocrinologist, having signed me off for diabetes, called as he wanted me to get my thyroid checked out, because of Mum's issues. To be fair, it had been enlarged during my pregnancy and he wanted to check it had completely returned to normal.

Last week, I saw a retinal specialist and had an ultrasound done on my thyroid.

The eye dilation is a pain and gives me a headache but the retina guy was lovely. He said I had a CHRPE (pronounced 'chirpy') which is basically a very dark freckle. He doesn't think it's raised, so he wouldn't call it a mole. He wants to see me in 6 months time to make sure it hasn't changed shape.

The thyroid ultrasound was painless and quick. The endocrinologist called me back yesterday to tell me I have a small nodule on my thyroid and he would like to biopsy it. Apparently 30% of women have these nodules and only 4% of those are malignant.

Living in the US could make the worst hypochondriac very happy!

In other news, I've been pretty hormonal this week. Tired as well. I finally got to attack my UK home PC hard drive over the weekend and found this:

I hadn't remembered we'd taken it of Miranda and him. In the first instance, I was amazed and ecstatic that it existed but on the other hand, and this is why I spent most of Sunday in tears, I am so very, very sad that there will never be one of him and Gabriel.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Video Playback Time!

I have just had the pleasure of using YouTube for the first time. Here is a short video of our monsters cherubs playing on the bathroom floor last night.

They were being very cute!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Montage Agogo

Lookie, I made a montage!

View this video montage created at One True Media
Gabriel Anthony Stephen Dodd

Well, I think it's cool anyway!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

So I had my baby...

I thought I would post the email I sent out to everyone, mainly because someone said today that it's such a wild story that I ought to publish it. Sorry if you've read it before...

Well, I've been very remiss and neglected to write an epistle for some time. This is because I have had some issues with the pregnancy; mainly I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes at 28 weeks and I was fighting going on insulin for some time, especially as baby was measuring small for gestational age. Anyway, this meant a lot of my energy was being expended in following a dietary regime which was hard for me (low carbs on a mostly veggie diet? Impossible!) as well as the usual rigmarole of bringing up a young family, moving into a new house and getting it in order and just the drain of being pregnant!

I was also diagnosed with being positive for Group B Strep. For those of you who haven't had babies, this is a potentially fatal infection for baby though quite a normal infection of a lady's down there bits! About 25% of the population have it at any one time and the only time it is relevant is at birth. The upshot of this diagnosis is that you have to be on an antibiotic drip during labour so that the strep is essentially blasted while baby is in the birth canal.

Anyway, the purpose of this email was not to whine, whinge and moan about how awful pregnancy is and what a horrid time I have had. No, the purpose of this email is to tell you all about the good bit of pregnancy. The baby!

Gabriel Anthony Stephen Dodd arrived at 3:20am Friday 17th November, 3 weeks early, weighing a reasonably healthy 6lb 2oz and measuring 47cm (18.5 in).

There now follows a birth story. If you really don't want to read it, skip to the bottom and look at his photo!

I had been pretty crampy all day, more like period pains than anything else. Then I started getting pretty strong BHs since about 2pm, but nothing 'productive' or unusual to what I'd been having the week or so before. Nothing regular anyway. However, at about 9:30 I took my second bath of the day to try and get them to stop and they didn't...again!

I was still denying the fact I was in labour until, ooooo, about 12am, when the contractions finally started coming at a reasonable klick (I actually slept between 10:45 and 11:45!). I got in the bath to manage the pain and waited for them to get close enough together to warrant calling the hospital. At about 2:30 I decided that the time had come. They were finally about 5 minutes apart so I got out of the bath and went to print off my birth plan. Luckily, I'd already written it for the doula, so it was ready to go.

Then I woke Sean up and sent him to get the girls up. I then had about 5 more decent, hard contractions. To be honest, they were the nastiest bit and the only bit where I really thought that I was not going to be able to make it through the rest of my labour in hospital without some kind of pain meds. Then I sat down on the loo because I really needed to go! At which point, everything stopped...

This, ladies and gentlemen, was what is known in midwifery circles as 'transition'. It's the 'rest and be grateful' stage. It's the tiny spoon of time between full dilation and 'oh, shit, this baby is coming, call 911'...

So, there I am, sitting on the loo, yelling away every two minutes or so, with my husband desperately trying to get the girls out of bed and dressed. The problem was, every time I yelled, he came running in to see me to make sure I was OK, at which point Miranda climbed back into bed! About twice through this farce, I finally realised that the contractions were pushes and told him very sheepishly that he should call the ambulance, which he duly did.

He finally got the girls dressed and sat them at the window to tell him when the ambulance arrived. Me, on the other hand, flushed the toilet (because there needs to be a clean pan, you know...God knows what I was thinking!) and reached down to find bulging waters. Which went pop and a head appeared. Sean is now going "What do I do? What do I do?" over and over...I'm going "I don't know" over and over! He gets me on my feet, relevant bits still over the bowl. He makes sure the baby's neck is free of the cord, something he watched the midwife do with Miranda and we wait for the baby to turn, which he duly does, like a little spinning top. Out came the shoulders and whoosh, Daddy catches his son and goes "It's a boy!" in a tiny, sheepish voice.

Then manfully recovers his composure, dumps his son on my chest, turns his wrist over and says, "Well, we'll call that 3:20 shall we?"

The EMT arrived about 15 minutes later and cut the chord and transported me and my baby to Danbury Hospital to be checked over, stitched (me) and warmed (him). Because we didn't have the IV antibiotics for Group B Strep, we had to stay in for observation for two days, which was nice as it meant I got some peace and quiet to contemplate this whole thing!

And I'm pretty proud of myself!