I think my relationship is ending…

…and it hurts because I’m not fighting that possibility anymore. I’ll write another time about why I think this is happening. Tonight, I just want to admit the fact and feel the feelings that go with it.

Yes, our financial situation is a magnifying glass on our relationship. It is forcing me to look everyday at how our partnership works. There are cracks we’ve papered over so many times.

When we bought our home in 2017, we moved from a rented flat in North London to Hertfordshire. We arrived here when Natalie was 6 weeks old. I was recovering well from childbirth, still struggling with breastfeeding – but I was so deeply in love with my long-awaited child. I was thankful to settle in our leafy nest – it was the stability that most parents with a new baby crave.

Since our flat has been on the line, it’s made me realise something important. There may come a point this year when we need to choose a new home together. I’m now questioning whether we move in altogether – or we find two places near to each other – to raise our daughter with as much love as it’s possible for separated parents to achieve.

More than anything, I want us to remain friends if we split up – so that Natalie knows two parents who are kind to one another, so that she never feels caught in the middle of conflict. I know how that feels from my childhood and I don’t want Natalie to go through that.

Perhaps we’ll find a way. If a financial miracle happens and we can save our flat – perhaps that will smooth these sharp edges I feel right now. But I know there’s more to this than our money worries.

In this moment, it’s just so helpful to write this all down, press the publish button, to let it go.

Fear of professional visibility…

…there, I’ve said it. I’ve admitted the gnarly demon, whom I must face. It’s the fear I must overcome, to do my part in turning around our current cash shortage.

I need to be much more consistent about offering my writing skills to the marketplace. I need to care much less about what the world thinks of my particular offer (Ego check: the world is not scrutinising my every step and stumble; the world is really quite occupied with its own navel hair!).

I had a flash of insight tonight on this very theme. In my work, above all I want clients and colleagues to notice my contribution. And that’s unprofessional. It gets in the way of me earning the best money I can – because I’m measuring my value on whether my Recognition Monster is well fed.

Actually, it’s quite subtle, this stuff – this craving I’m talking about, it’s something I’m not aware of much of the time – but I do know it’s there, pulling the puppet strings in my working life.

It popped up tonight, this need for thanks – which is why I’m writing this piece. I wanted Phil to thank me for giving our little girl such a great weekend away. I took her to my sister’s place by the seaside and Phil had some time to himself at home. I wanted him to notice me, as soon as we got home – in that very specific way that I wanted to be noticed…and thanked. And of course, he didn’t know he was supposed to do that. It’s really not his fault that I felt disappointed.

But I’m glad it happened because it gave me this clue tonight. To help us get through our money struggles, I need to give up this craving for validation.

So, I went into the bathroom and washed my face – I really took my time with it tonight, using a nice cleanser, a hot cloth and moisturiser (usually it’s just a splash of water and I’m done). Anyway, it felt good to take the time to do that for myself. And when I’d finished, I looked in the mirror and thanked myself – for being a devoted mum.

 

Blame is just a distraction from action!

I’m feeling annoyed with Phil a lot of the time. I want to blame him for this mess we’re in with money.  This isn’t acceptable. I want to change this. Really, I just need to concentrate on my own figures, boosting my income – and let him get on with the same task.

I’ve had a really good look at my numbers. They tell me that I can meet my half of our bills, plus the cash I need, throughout April, May and June. I don’t have any debt (I’ve lived that way since 2013 and it works for me). I have a couple of regular clients – but I still need to boost my income by £1000 per month.

The goal is this: to find one, ideally two, new clients – freelance writing briefs, ongoing work. I am taking more risks now. Emailing people I know, asking for referrals. I’m becoming more visible, which is uncomfortable for me, but entirely necessary to change. I have a meeting on Monday with a local agency – I could write proposals and presentations for them, create web or social media content, help out at events. I need to bring in new regular work by the end of May. There is time to do this – but it definitely requires daily focus.

In the mean time, I’ve said to Phil, let’s sit down once a week, make sure we have enough to pay our bills, talk about any immediate shortfall. We also need to take the actions together to let our spare bedroom – I’ve booked in 2 more viewings for Sunday.

We also need to make sure we honour family time – it can’t be all work. We really need to keep sight of what we’re fighting for. Otherwise it’s too easy for me to think our relationship is at fault, that our relationship is the thing that needs to change or end, to make everything right again.

Embracing The Uncomfortable Zone

So Anna came around on Saturday to view our spare bedroom. Nice lady – she’s about 55, well-presented, a carer working two jobs. She’s currently homeless. Most of her clothing is stored in a shed. Phil and I agreed she was pretty together, considering what’s going on in her life.

She’s looking for a room to rent where she can have her 3-year old grandson to stay, once or twice a month. We had no problem with that at all. That could work really well for Natalie too – another little person popping in. And it would mean that Anna should be more accepting of our family unit – the noises and the mess that sometimes (often!) come with toddler territory.

My main reservation about Anna is she’s a smoker. Even with smoking outside the flat, it’s not ideal. I used to smoke, so did Phil – so we’re now pretty averse to the smell of smoke on people’s clothes. And I’m not wild about it for Natalie’s sake.

Phil’s main reservation was her financial situation. I said we’re covered by asking for a deposit plus 1 month’s rent in advance. He is also still concerned about security with regards to anyone we let the room to, not specifically Anna. Phil has more valuables than me – camera gear, expensive computer equipment, guitars. It’s easier for me not to worry about theft because I don’t have anything valuable to steal!

We’ll see if Anna calls back. I think she was pretty interested – but she said she could tell that Phil was unsure about letting the room. I’m unsure too – but I was able to hide my doubts in our meeting. That probably makes Phil more honest than me. I guess I’m focused on getting the money in the door. It’s not easy, this – but the way forward in this cash crisis is do things that take us out of our comfort zone.

Anyway, I’ve taken another good action this morning. I’ve paid for 4 weeks’ advertising on the rental site. It boosts our post to the top of the search list. It also means we can contact people who are looking for rooms like ours.

In the mean time, I have to trust and keep focused on generating more income. I need to remember that this is supposed to feel uncomfortable!

 

 

Cash in the bedroom?

We’ve listed our spare bedroom for rent. It feels like a positive step in our current cash crisis. We’ve asked for £585/ month in rent, to help feed the Mortgage Wolf (currently residing in our communal garden!).

There’s every chance we could find a lovely flatmate – a friendly person who likes being in a family environment. Perhaps a mature student with grown-up kids, a trainee teacher, a well-travelled aid worker or a community midwife.

It is scary though. I haven’t shared with a non-family member since 2012, Phil much longer than me. And how will Natalie take to a lodger? Probably she’ll be excited and amused by the whole thing! We’re the ones who will need to adjust. My socially awkward side is squirming about conversations at breakfast before my first cup of tea or waiting outside the bathroom to use the loo. Of course, I’ve shared with many people in flats and houses and backpackers’ hostels over the years – just not recently, that’s all.

I’m also a bit sad. Finally, we were getting around to doing the bedroom up for Natalie. She still hops into bed with us every night, so her cot bed is still in our room. But at the start of this year, we decided it was time to do sleepovers in her intended bedroom. We cleared out the room and bought a big bed for her. The plan was to move her in there this month. I guess that can wait – and really, she still loves being in with us.

Aaaaaah, it’s good to be honest! I can clear out all these thoughts and focus on the potential instead. The extra money will reduce our financial pressure. It’s not forever. A lot of people rent out rooms in tougher times. When I was a kid, my mum took in lodgers and foreign students when money was tight. I have loads of great memories of funny conversations with people from across the world. I don’t remember any weirdos or horrible situations – if anything, my siblings and I teased the lodgers, not the other way round!

All I know is it’s essential to be willing right now. If we want to turn things around and save our home, we need to do things differently. We need to be prepared to do things we wouldn’t ordinarily do – with an open mind and a trusting spirit.

So, I’m choosing to believe that the right person will see our ad. We have Anna* coming on Saturday to view our flat and size us all up (two big people, variable volume settings + one little person, noisy!). I’ll let you know how we all get on…

*Anna is obviously not her real name!

Do we sell our flat?

We’ve just had an estate agent around to value our flat. It’s not brilliant news – but it’s not terrible news either. There’s a fair chance we can recover what we paid for the flat in 2017 (with some small change on top to cover our moving costs).

In one way, it’s really painful to think about selling our flat. I love where we live. I feel safe here. We know most of our neighbours. There’s a pretty communal garden here and even a swimming pool we can use in the spring and summer months. We brought our baby daughter here when she was just 6 weeks’ old. It felt so good to give her a secure home, after many years of renting in London.

On the other hand, we clearly need to live in a way that’s financially sustainable. The numbers don’t add up. We’re both looking at every action we can take to bring in more money – including extra work in our available time, taking in a lodger and accessing government help towards our childcare costs. I’m reluctant to give up more of my time with Natalie though – 3 days a week in childcare feels enough, not just for me but for her too. In the end, time with my daughter is infinitely more valuable to me than the particular property we live in.

It’s such a relief to write this all out – phew! It helps me get clear on what action we need to take. These are big, grown-up decisions that need to be faced head on. Yes, I’m a bit sad and scared. But I do know this challenge isn’t unusual in families up and down the land. Money is tight – but not all is lost!

The estate agent is going to call us next Monday, to see what our decision is…

Do I sell my engagement ring?

I promised myself I would post today. In fact, I’ve been meaning to write for months. How I’ve missed writing to you! And yet, the time and space to do so has felt elusive. Perhaps there was never a pressing enough question – that’s probably it. Well, there is now!

Our darling ice-baby, Natalie, is now 20 months old. She is walking, talking, growing like well-watered grass. She mimics our mannerisms, parrots out words. She loves books and tents, owls and spiders, splashing in the bath, playing horsey on her mother’s back, saying “NO!” Still, she sports the cheekiest grin – two round apples for cheeks, often pink. She makes me laugh everyday – usually by 6.40am. What a monkey she is – a scamp, a champ!

As I write to you, she’s having her pre-lunch nap. I can see her lying on her side in the video monitor – yes, I still use the monitor – even though she is only next door in her cot bed. I don’t look much at the monitor these days – but I still like to have it on, just in case (of what, I don’t know!).

Everything is ready for Natalie’s lunch today – homemade fishcakes with a side of mango and cucumber. There’ll be leftovers for her packed lunch on Monday. It’s a Lorraine day tomorrow – her lovely childminder in a village nearby. Natalie has been going there 2 days a week since last September. In April, we’re going up to 3 days a week because we both need to bring in more money.

This brings me on to the main point of this post. The big question I have bouncing around my head like an overworked clown:

Working motherhood – how, just how?

My situation is this: I’ve been working part-time since Natalie was 7 months’ old. Over the past year, my client work has brought in around three quarters of my monthly outgoings. I’ve been topping up each month from savings. But now my reserves have gone. I don’t use credit anymore (having been burned by debt in the past). I need to up my income, get another regular client or two, perhaps diversify my income streams. But being a 42-year old IVF mum to a long-awaited daughter – perhaps my only child – I am so reluctant to give up more time with her.

Phil and I have looked head on at the numbers recently. We can both see shortfalls, mortgage-payment-sized-shortfalls. We’ve discussed selling assets (Phil has already sold a guitar). I suggested that I sell my engagement ring – it’s pretty much the only item of monetary value that I own. I said we could buy a replacement ring for a couple of hundred pounds. But then I spoke to a friend recently who sold her engagement ring and she only recovered about 20% of the original price.

For now, the engagement ring remains on the table, as our top priority is to maintain a stable home and childcare for Natalie. We’re both looking for more flexible freelance work, to fit around our commitments to Natalie. I’m open to employed roles with a proportion of the time working from home. I know there’s a solution to this challenge – it’s just a question of whether we can both turn this around in time.

I know writing regularly will help – outing myself! Writing always helps me. It saw me through the difficult days of IVF, an ectopic pregnancy and my long-awaited pregnancy with Natalie. I know it can help me again with this question. I want to post at least once a week, to help face and overcome this challenge.

I would also love to hear your news – so please leave me a comment with a little something from your world. Sending love to friends old and new.

Charlotte xxx

On naming a little human being

Natalie Rose, July 2017

I am so excited and delighted and grateful to introduce you to our daughter. In the coming weeks, I have much more to share with you about our labour, delivery and the first days with our girl. So many things really surprised me about the final stage of bringing our child here. Phil and I both made discoveries about ourselves, including uncovering unknown strengths and finding out the beauty of surrender.

For now, I want to share this with you: in our little bubble of newborn rapture, we have settled on the name for our beloved child. Although we had already prepared a shortlist of names before the birth, we both wanted to wait until we met our daughter to name her. Once she arrived, we wanted to get home from hospital, to allow time and space for the right name to emerge. Her name appeared on day three of life and we knew instantly it was the perfect fit.

Her first name is Natalie, which was on our original shortlist of names. Phil and I both love the connection in the name to birth and birthday, and though neither of us are religious, we love the spiritual significance of the name, referring to the birth of Christ.

Her middle name is Rose. This name came to us as a shortening of Rosemarie, which is a version of my Mum’s middle name. We became more certain this was our daughter’s middle name after her three year old cousin, Isabella, visited us in hospital four hours after her birth. Isabella decided our baby looked like a Rosie. We love Rose for the simplicity and of course the reminder of England’s most beautiful flower, universally linked to the expression of love.

We are truly honoured to meet and name this little human being. Thank you Mother Nature. Thank you science. It feels like nothing short of a miracle to hold Natalie Rose in our arms.

Natalie Rose, July 2017Natalie Rose, July 2017

Thirty-three to thirty-eight weeks’ pregnant: what worked for me with gestational diabetes

After the initial shock of my gestational diabetes diagnosis, I got down to business. Four times a day, I tested droplets of blood for glucose. I wrote down my scores and meals in a notebook. A friend sent me simple food guidelines. The Gestational Diabetes UK website has been a phenomenal resource. I also attended a brilliant education session at St Thomas’s hospital.

All of the above brought me peace of mind because I discovered:

I began to see this as a great opportunity to soak up advice on nutrition, as although the condition should go away after pregnancy, there is a higher chance of me developing diabetes in later life.

Soon, I learned what food worked for me. I am one of the lucky ones with the choice to manage gestational diabetes with food alone. It felt like a huge reprieve to see my early blood glucose scores come up good – not that there is anything wrong with medication, but being an IVF mum, I have an aversion to yet more medical intervention, unless absolutely necessary.

Another huge positive after the diagnosis has been the surge of motivation to stay active and relaxed. I’ve done a pregnancy yoga video most mornings since week 33 of pregnancy and I’ve upped my walks. I’ve been loving the sunshine and I have meditated everyday to stay chilled, as stress can spike blood sugar.

The best news of all is this: at our 34 week and 36 week scans, we saw the impact of the changes I made on our baby. After two weeks, my amniotic fluid came back down within normal levels. After four weeks, our baby’s abdominal measurement had reduced from the 97th centile to the 73rd centile. That was the truly the best feeling – to see the difference it made to our baby.

So, I’m sharing here the main discoveries that have helped me to manage gestational diabetes with a food plan alone. (Please note: these suggestions won’t work for everyone – but hopefully they are a starting point after a gestational diabetes diagnosis).

1) Dairy milk is more carbohydrate than protein

Mum100-IVF-blog-gestational-diabetes-semi-skimmed-milk-nutritional-contentBefore my diagnosis, I didn’t know this! Whilst I knew there was carbohydrate in dairy milk, in the form of lactose, I always thought the white stuff was much higher in protein. There was an old association in my head with body builders, downing pints of milk to bulk up their muscles. Yes, there is protein in dairy milk, but there is actually more carbohydrate.

For me, I found there was no need to restrict dairy milk entirely. I still have ordinary milk in tea, for example, and I used ordinary milk to make a cheese sauce. I just don’t have glasses of the stuff anymore and I switched to an alternative milk at breakfast.

2) Sometimes ‘healthy’ isn’t what it seems

Mum100-IVF-pregnancy-blog-gestational-diabetes-dairy-milk-alpro-almond-milk-rude-health-almond-milk-carbohydrate-nutritional-informationInitially, I switched to a ‘healthy’ milk alternative to make my porridge. I picked Rude Health unsweetened almond milk because it sounded just the job. Everything about the packaging shouted this was a much better choice for me than semi-skimmed dairy milk. So, I bought it!

I learned through this experience to read the nutritional labels. Having Rude Health almond milk with porridge spiked my blood glucose to 8.2 (over the 7.0 limit). Thanks to helpful GD mums online, I then switched to Alpro unsweetened almond milk with porridge, which keeps my post-breakfast blood test under 7.0.

3) No more Daddy bear bowls!

Mum100-IVF-pregnancy-blog-gestational-diabetes-porridge-portion-controlOn the subject of porridge, some women with gestational diabetes can tolerate porridge and others can’t. I fall somewhere in the middle. For me, it’s completely down to portion control. One of the main things that I think was spiking me over the blood glucose limit before the diagnosis were the Daddy bear bowls of porridge I gobbled down, two to three times a week. My typical portion before the diagnosis was enough for two adults, according to the recommended serving size. Add to that the lactose in dairy milk, the concentrated sugars in sultanas or dried goji berries, then a chopped apple or banana on top – and really this staple breakfast choice was carbs on carbs on carbs on carbs!

Through weighing out my porridge oats, I discovered that I can tolerate a smaller (aka normal size!) portion of porridge (35-40g), made with Alpro unsweetened almond milk (no carbs), mixed nuts and a handful of berries. I always stir in a spoon of peanut butter too (heaven!).

4) Peanut butter is my lover!

Mum100-IVF-pregnancy-blog-gestational-diabetes-pip-nut-peanut-butterI’m now obsessed with peanut butter! Fuck, it has literally saved me these last 7 weeks – it’s a total love thing!

My peanut butter of choice is Pip & Nut, as it is just made with peanuts and salt, no added sugar. I need some food in my life that feels naughty and peanut butter totally does it for me. Okay, so ladelling it down is probably not a great idea, as it’s high fat, but a spoonful of Pip & Nut transforms me from feeling deprived to feeling totally satisfied!

5) Breakfast is now way more interesting

Mum100-IVF-pregnancy-blog-gestational-diabetes-breakfast-variety-optionsHaving gestational diabetes challenged me to vary my breakfasts. For a long time, we did a three-day rotation in our household between the following:

  • Daddy bear bowl of porridge with fruit
  • Eggs of all kinds on toast
  • Some combination of avocado, tomatoes and mushroom on toast

After the GD diagnosis, I started to think about a protein base for all my breakfasts. I still need some carbs in my breakfast, as without that balance I’m starving by 10.30.

These are some of the breakfasts I’ve really enjoyed and they have kept my post-breakfast blood glucose reading under 7.0:

  • Smoked salmon and cottage cheese on granary or sourdough toast (1-2 slices are okay for me, but this varies person to person)
  • Grilled mackerel with asparagus and lemon, on granary or sourdough toast spread with Philadelphia cheese
  • Homemade houmous with vegetable crudités and hardboiled eggs
  • Mozzarella (either hard or soft) with grilled cherry tomatoes and basil on granary or sourdough toast
  • Peanut butter porridge (max 35-40g) with Alpro unsweetened almond milk, soaked mixed nuts and berries
  • Eggs of any kind with spinach, followed by mixed berries and natural yoghurt
  • Scrambled tofu, garlic mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes (I had this out at a vegetarian breakfast café and it was deeee-licious!)
  • Avocado with lime, chilli & mixed seeds with boiled egg and toast

6) How to plate up lunch

Mum100-IVF-blog-gestational-diabetes-lunch-dinner-plate-protein-carbohydrate-vegetablesMainly, I’ve eaten my biggest meal of the day at lunch. This was suggested by our hospital, as I am more likely to burn off excess carbohydrates with activity during the day.

The diabetes nurse suggested dividing up the plate this way:

  • a quarter of the plate protein
  • a quarter carbohydrate
  • half the plate of non-starchy vegetables (ideally a variety including greens)

7) Berry heaven and the useful fruit rule!

Mum100-IVF-pregnancy-blog-gestational-diabetes-blueberries-strawberries-raspberries-fruitBerries have become my sweetest friend. I learned at the St Thomas’s hospital education session a rule of thumb about fruit sugar. Generally speaking, the closer a fruit grows to the equator, the higher the sugar content. So northern hemisphere fruits, as a general rule, are lower in sugar.

Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries work well for me. Pears are better for my blood glucose score than apples. I steer clear of bananas, pineapple, mangoes, figs, all dried fruit and fruit juices, as well as big bowls of fruit salad. Here’s a helpful list of glycemic load in fruits.

I have come to really love a small bowl of mixed berries with natural yogurt and some mixed nuts – it might sound boring but eating a ripe strawberry, very slowly, is a sensational experience!

8) Eggs – my most faithful friend!

Mum100-IVF-blog-gestational-diabetes-eggs-fried-boiled-scrambledWhen my post-breakfast scores veered too close to the 7.0 mark, I reverted to eggs.

Eggs have never failed me, including served on toast.

Good quality protein and fat, B vitamins, vitamin D, selenium and more goodness besides.

Quick to prepare, tasty, a pinch of salt and pepper – what’s not to love?

9) Food pairing for snacks

Mum100-IVF-blog-gestational-diabetes-snacks-food-pairing-carbohydrate-protein-fatThis is a great tip I picked up from the brilliant Gestational Diabetes UK website – I’m so grateful to them because it solved a riddle for me about snacks. On their website, they say #NeverEatANakedCarb because:

Carbs = high blood sugar levels 

Carbs + fat + protein = lower blood sugar levels

Food pairing snacks that work for me are:

  • Half a green apple with peanut butter dip – so good (any excuse to indulge my peanut butter obsession!)
  • Slice of cheddar cheese and half a pear
  • Tandoori prawns with mint yoghurt dip
  • Houmous, handful of nuts and red pepper
  • One slice of peanut butter on toast
  • Philadelphia cheese with carrot and celery
  • One slice of guacamole on toast

10) There’s taking things too far!

Mum100-blog-doctors-orders-chips-gestational-diabetes-ketones-urineEarly in my new routine, ketones started to show up in my urine at my hospital check ups. Ketones are produced when the body burns fat stores. There can be a number of reasons for this with gestational diabetes – see the Gestational Diabetes UK website for good advice on ketones – but in my case, it was because I restricted carbs too much early on.

So, the advice from my diabetes team was to add more carbohydrate back into my diet – I enjoyed that check up enormously and the adjustments I made worked.

11) Yes, obviously slabs of cake and ice cream are off the menu in pregnancy, but…

Mum100-IVF-pregnancy-blog-gestational-diabetes-temptation-chocolate-brazil-nuts-almonds…occasionally in the last seven weeks, I have given in to my old friend chocolate, paired with a few nuts.

Only a couple of squares, mind you! And I let it melt very slowly in the mouth.

After pregnancy, I don’t have to test my blood anymore but I have decided to use my testing kit to learn about the effects of sugary snacks and desserts on my system.

12) Slow down

Mum100-IVF-blog-gestational-diabetes-slow-eatingBefore the GD diagnosis, I wasn’t a fast eater, but I have been learning how to eat my food more mindfully.

I appreciate each mouthful more and savour the food. I experience the textures and tastes more.

Slowing down really helps me to know when I’m full too.

And anyway, the tortoise always beats the hare, right?

Thirty-two weeks pregnant: a diagnosis

A silent sonographer in a pregnancy scan is always unnerving. We have Robert for our 32-week scan and apart from the briefest hello in a strong Scottish accent, then an invitation to lie on the bed, we don’t do small talk. Phil sits in the plastic chair beside me. We hold hands and look up at the monitor, excited to see our space baby beamed on screen.

We have this scan at 32 weeks due to my age. Our hospital like to keep tabs on the over 40s and to be honest, I’m happy about that. Robert gets down to his measurements. He draws lines across our baby’s head. He draws a circle around the stomach. He traces the length of the femur bone. I recognise all those parts easily.

Then Robert measures top to bottom in dark pockets. I ask what he is measuring and he says amniotic fluid: click, click, reposition, click, click, reposition.
“Does everything look okay?” I say.
Robert plays us the reassuring pulse of our baby’s heartbeat – swish swoosh swish swoosh – a flood of relief seeps from my head through my heart to my stomach. Robert switches position to the umbilical cord. He flicks on the bright red and blue blood flow. Two colours good, I think to myself.

I am dying to ask Robert, “please can you show us our baby’s face?”
I really want a long look at the face, as I’d been told by a friend that features are really defined at this stage of the pregnancy, even on a 2D ultrasound. We do get a quick glimpse of full lips and nostrils as Robert moves up again, a breathless moment of wonder for me – but then the ultrasound wand moves away and I can’t quite bring myself to ask Robert to show us the face.

For the rest of the scan, Robert returns to the abdomen and those pockets of amniotic fluid. He finishes up and walks over to his computer.
“I’ll be a few minutes writing up my notes,” he says.

Holding hands, Phil and I look up at the monitor for clues. The screen is now displaying a table of figures. My eyes fix on the estimated weight – 5lb 3oz – confirmation we’re in for a big baby. I had expected it with a family history of 9 and 10 pounders. I whisper the weight to Phil and laugh.

I can’t help but ask Robert another question. “I have been leaking fluid every few days since week 24. Was there enough amniotic fluid?”
A new, long word flies our way – polyhydramnios – like a boomerang, the word wraps around my head and flies back across the room at Robert, who offers up the definition.
“Actually, your fluid is too high,” Robert says. “It’s increased since your last scan.”

IVF-pregnancy-blog-32-week-scan-polyhydramnios-excess-amniotic-fluid

A dozen competing questions ping into my head.
“Is everything okay with our baby?” I say.
Robert says he’s referring us to the diabetes team.
“I’m recommending a gestational diabetes test,” he says. “And we’ll see you for another scan at 34 weeks.”
My stomach shrinks. I feel instant guilt.
Phil takes the referral form from Robert.
All I can think is – god, have I harmed my baby?
I want to ask Robert so many more questions but everything about his body language says his job is done. He encourages us to phone the diabetes team in the morning, to speed up getting an appointment.

Outside the scan room, we sit down. Phil says it’s taken the wind out of his sails and I agree. We had both expected another dose of reassurance and a final takeaway scan pic. I do a rapid internet search on my phone – stupid, I know! In Google Images, I am led immediately to the most extreme cases of gestational diabetes. There are pictures of enormous babies – 13, 14, 15 pound babies – so swollen, some of them wired up.

Stop!

Breathe!

Put down the internet!

Gestational diabetes testing

IVF-pregnancy-blog-gestational-diabetes-testing-Diabetes-Endocrine-UnitEarly the next morning, I phone the diabetes team and ask to be tested as soon as possible. A lovely nurse, Christine, squeezes me in the next morning. They are fully booked, she tells me, but she makes it happen. Christine is ‘minor miracle number one’!

On test day, I arrive with an empty stomach to an empty hospital corridor. I’m early, a sign of my nerves. I wait for the locked doors to open, then I go through the blue doors to the Diabetes & Endocrine Unit.

IVF-pregnancy-blog-gestational-diabetes-testing-Rapilose-solution8.30am: I am called through to the nurses’ station for a fasting blood test – as luck would have it, Christine is my nurse. I thank her for such a swift appointment. She has lovely round cheeks when she smiles.

After taking my blood, Christine gives me a sachet of Rapilose OGTT Solution. She says to drink all of it, fast. It is incredibly sweet and thick and heavy. My lips and tongue and throat are coated with a syrup snail trail. Yuck!

Christine tells me to wait for two hours in the waiting room. I sit next to another pregnant woman (though you can’t tell she’s pregnant to look at her). We get chatting and I find out she’s also here for gestational diabetes testing. She has a German accent and is wearing a smart green office dress – I find out later she works in the City for Lloyds. This is her second pregnancy. She had gestational diabetes in her first pregnancy, so they are testing her early this time. I’m calling my German friend ‘minor miracle number two’ in this tale, because she is very reassuring about being able to manage the condition, if my test is positive. She is completely as you would assume a German banker would be – practical, logical, unflappable! Those sucking thoughts – mainly “have I completely screwed up this pregnancy?” – they fade away as she shares her experience.

9.30am: An hour after the sickly Rapilose and I have to excuse myself from the chat with my German companion. I close my eyes and lean my washing machine head back against the hard wall. I feel sick, yet I am also craving soft boiled eggs. I think about the first scoop of white from the top of the shell. I drink some water and sit with the fuzzy whirl of nausea. I’m a reluctant passenger on a waltzer, the fairground attendant madly spinning me round.

9.50am: Phew, my head whirl subsides and I start to feel human again. I vow never to eat sugar again!

10.30am: The clock hits the two hour mark and almost to the minute, Christine calls me through to the nurses’ station.
“How are you feeling?” she says.
“I’m okay now,” I say, “but I felt pretty out of it in the middle.”

Christine nods her head and draws a kind smile up her face. I feel relaxed in her care. She plugs a test strip into a digital meter. She pricks my finger, pressing out a bead of blood. She dips the test strip and sucks the red up the strip. The device beeps to confirm enough blood has been drawn in. The result takes a few seconds to display…

9.9

“It’s high,” Christine said. “I thought it might be after how you’ve been feeling. We’ll take some blood too, just to be sure, then you can go and get something to eat. Please come back in half an hour for your results.”

10.50am: The German pregnant lady and I head down to the ground floor of Guy’s Hospital. We stake out the café bar. They are ten minutes away from starting lunch service. I scan the menu, ruling out pasta carbonara, chips and everything below the dessert heading. There’s beef chilli on the menu and broccoli, which seem safe enough. I decide to pass on the white rice. My German friend wants the same as me.

We wait for feeding time like two ravenous zoo animals.

11.30am: Back in the clinic, Christine confirms my diagnosis of gestational diabetes. She takes me through to another nurse, Yolanda, who explains the next steps. I need to test my blood four times a day – once when I wake up and then two hours after breakfast, lunch and dinner. She shows me how to use the blood glucose monitoring kit.

As Yolanda speaks, I scribble down notes, as if it’s my magic superpower. Note-taking has always been my coping mechanism when I feel clueless. The nurse tells me to attend an education session on Friday about nutrition, effects on the baby and implications for labour and birth. She says the baby may have to come early, depending on how things go over the next few weeks. Yolanda gives me leaflets to read at home, quickly paraphrasing their contents. I begin to feel like I’m being left behind in a running race, with speedy Yolanda sprinting ahead of me, calling back instructions that I can’t hear.
“Please, can you slow down?” I blurt out.
I think I hear sarcasm when Yolanda says, “of course, I’ll slow down for you. What don’t you understand? Please, tell me.”
She’s not being sarcastic. I am definitely being over-sensitive, because in the silence of the pause, in the small consultation room, my cheeks get hot and tears come.
“Look, I’m sorry,” I say, “it’s just taken a lot of time to get here. We lost our baby in pregnancy last year. I just want to make sure I understand what you’re telling me to do.”

IVF-pregnancy-blog-gestational-diabetes-testing-blood-glucose-monitoring-system-AgaMatrixYolanda goes over the information again, slower. I can sense she’s running late for the next appointment but the information does go in better this time. Essentially, if I get two high blood glucose scores, over 5.5 first thing in the morning or over 7.0 after meals, then I should phone the diabetes team and they will discuss medication. She hands me a little book to record my scores. She gives me a prescription to pick up at the hospital pharmacy for metformin – just in case I need it. I already have a monitoring device, which Christine gave to me earlier.
Yolanda checks, “is everything clear?”
“Yes, thank you,” I say.

I leave the small room with my red cheeks and paperwork. I say goodbye to the German lady in the waiting room – I never did get her name, which is unusual for me. She’s next in with Yolanda and I know I have kept her waiting, but she smiles cheerily. We wish each other good luck.

Going down in the lift, out of the hospital, I feel an overwhelming urge to sleep. I could kick myself for messing up on food, an area I’ve always considered myself to be knowledgeable.

As always, there’s lots for me to learn…

(To be continued)