Friday, 19 April 2013

Spilling The Beans!

Believe it or not, that's a teeny little baby! See his little hand up there by his face, giving you a wave??

This little peach is the reason I've not been around as much for the last few months, the reason I've been so ill and the reason I was soliciting good luck vibes on Twitter yesterday, before we headed off for our Down's Syndrome screening

After spending most of my life being certain that I was not the baby type and had no interest in having children (puppies - now that's a different matter) I did find myself getting increasingly broody after my nephew was born a couple of years ago - I expect my advancing age might also have had something to do with it. And we decided that this would be the year that we would start our family. It happened a little quicker than expected and gave us a bit of a shock to be honest - who knew it was that easy?? 

We found out in February, the day after Matt's birthday (if only I'd taken that test a day earlier - what a birthday present that would have been!) and only five days later the morning sickness kicked in. It started off fairly mild, progressed to all day long and was joined by a cold, a chest infection and sinusitis at one point. Which is when I laid in bed thinking 'just kill me now'. Not being able to take any cold medication/antibiotics to fight off any of this nastiness was tantamount to torture!

Not long after that came my lowest point - I basically spent my whole time either vomiting or unable to lift my head off my pillow. I managed to drag myself to my GP and was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum - an extreme form of morning sickness which affects around 1% of pregnant women ('Typical', said Matt. '1% of women and it HAS to be you, doesn't it??') But I'm in good company - Kate Middleton suffered with it late last year and apparently Charlotte Bronte had it too. She died from it but we won't dwell on that ....

I can't stress enough how BLOODY AWFUL it has been. I'm quite clear that there will be NO MORE BABIES for me, I really don't think I can go through that again. I'm much better now - once the dehydration was sorted out and I got some help from a fabulous support group that my GP recommended, things seemed to improve. I'm still off work, I'm still vomiting every morning but these spells seem to be getting briefer and I can at least function normally for the rest of the day - before I was so exhausted that I couldn't get out of bed/off the sofa and daren't stray far from the bathroom. And looks wise I was doing a pretty good impression of a pregnant Bella Swan. As the lady who did my scan told me 'babies are parasites. They take what they need from you and you get whatever's left'. Which wasn't much in my case!

But I really feel like I'm making progress now and seeing our little baby on the screen has made it feel more like a side effect of pregnancy and less like an horrific, neverending illness. Obviously we don't know yet whether it's a girl or a boy but we seem to call it 'he' a lot - it sounds better than 'it'. He is measuring big for his dates - a huge relief as, having lost nearly a stone due to sickness, I was really worried he'd be tiny and not getting enough nutrition to grow. He displayed some pretty impressive baby acrobatics during the scan - I had assumed that he'd just be lying still in there but he's definitely not, he was spinning around so much that it was hard to get good pictures!

It's still hard to believe that we're going to be parents and that this Christmas we will have a baby in the house! But it's feeling more real all the time and now we've seen him (I did have an irrational panic on the way to the scan and said to Matt 'what if there's nothing in there??' Pregnancy does funny things to your brain!) I feel like I'm starting to know him already

And I can't wait to see him again at the next scan!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

This time last year ....

Matt got a new iphone this week to replace his old and frankly knackered iphone 4. Whilst transferring his 250+ photos onto my laptop I found some pictures of our Buff Orpington chickens the day they hatched and it reminded me that this time last year I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of our first feathered babies!

We had five bantam hens at the time and one of the lavender ones had gone broody. This was my first experience of a broody hen and I was determined to have a go at hatching some chicks. I trawled eBay and found a batch of six fertile Buff Orpington eggs from a seller about 10 miles away. I picked them up that night, the 1st April, carefully transported them home and prepared a 'brooder' for the mother to be - the sleeping box from the old coop which our hens had outgrown. I filled the box with a bed of shavings and made a cosy nest out of fresh straw. With the addition of a chick feeder and drinker, we were ready to roll!

I carefully placed the eggs into the nest and popped the broody hen into the box. She stepped forward to peek at the eggs and decided she approved. She settled herself on her new nest and gently rolled the eggs underneath her, flattening herself out to cover them all snugly. There began 21 days of waiting

Caring for a setting hen is no minor undertaking. Hens go into a kind of trance when they are setting eggs and need to be removed from the nest twice a day to eat, drink and attend to ... er ... toilet duties. Setting hens are well known for doing the most enormous, vile smelling poos - I have no idea why but they are absolutely disgusting. I'd read about this beforehand and thought I was prepared but I had no idea what I was in for. The first poo nearly sent me running for the hills - it was at least half the size of the hen and quite simply the most revolting smelling thing I have ever witnessed. It exited the hen with considerable force (and a loud fart) and was like nothing on earth. I was traumatised. The thought of 20 more of them to clean up made me wail

I counted down the days (and remaining poos) on my calendar and as the magical day 21 neared I started to get excited. Technically you are supposed to check the eggs towards the end of setting to ensure that there are growing chicks in them. I must confess I only did this once - I wanted the process to be as natural as possible, hence using a broody hen rather than an incubator. All six eggs appeared to be occupied though so I continued to sit tight and wait

On the last two days before hatching day I tried desperately to stay away from the eggs and resist the temptation to peek, just lifting the hen off for her necessary 'duties' as usual. On the day itself I popped out mid morning and listened carefully ... was that a peeping noise?? I sat still and watched until I saw definite movement under the hens  feathers and then I saw a little peek of yellow

I tried not to squeal with excitement and rushed back to the house to ring Matt at work! When I returned to the nest there had been a further development

Two little babies! 

An hour later there were three and I could wait no longer. I lifted the (frankly quite pissed off) hen off the nest and checked the remaining eggs. One had a tiny crack and the others showed no signs of life at all. When Matt got home we went straight out to look for further chicks and lo and behold - we had a fourth! They were all eating and drinking and looking quite pleased with themselves, despite their over zealous mother frequently trying to shove them back underneath herself

The next morning there was still no sign of life from the other eggs so we had to give up on them. One turned out to be unfertilised and the other held a fully grown chick which hadn't made it out of the shell :( Some people would have intervened but I had wanted to do this naturally - if the chick wasn't strong enough to get out of the shell it was unlikely to have survived long anyway

The sadness wasn't over - unfortunately this mother hen was so vigilant at trying to keep her babies warm that she inadvertently squashed one. So we ended up with three babies out of six eggs, with a four out of six hatch rate. Not bad for a first attempt!

Once the babies were waddling about without falling over, Matt made them a little ramp so they could safely leave the nesting box and have their first day out and learn how to groom themselves

Their 'Aunties' came over for a nosey and joined in

Their mother abandoned them when they were four weeks old but they were still too small to mix with the other hens, so I waited until they were about six weeks old before introducing them. There was inevitably some bullying but after a few more weeks things settled down and they made friends

They found their way around and decided that their favourite spot was my raised bed

Luckily they have all turned out to be hens (after a dicey moment a few months ago when one of them tried persistently mating with the bantam hens!) and they lay the most delicious eggs

Looking through these photos has made me broody for more eggs to hatch!

Monday, 15 April 2013

Life Lately ...

... has been pretty rubbish!

wilson & jessie confined to the back of a truck on Matt's MOT ramp. how cute are these two bears??

I've been off radar because I've been ill for about 7 weeks now. Every time I thought I was getting better  it turned out to be misplaced optimism and I was back to square one the very next day. But today marks the end of my third day of feeling, well, pretty good actually. And my lovely doctor feels I won't be ready to go back to work for another couple of weeks so I feel a bit of a fraud and almost as if I'm on a kind of illicit holiday. I'm trying not to feel too guilty though, I haven't had a sick day since 2007 so I'm no skiver :)

Feeling so crap for so long has left me with precious little to blog about - I've done nothing, been nowhere and seen nothing of note - it's certainly felt that way anyway. But feeling better has given me a little perspective - I'm an incredibly lucky girl in so many ways. A few weeks of mild illness is nothing in the grand scheme of things after all. I have an awful lot to be thankful for

The upturn in weather in the last few days has really lifted my spirits and whilst driving into town yesterday I heard something that took me completely by surprise. I was singing! I can't even remember the last time I sang, which sounds silly but the sheer joy of driving a nice car on a sunny day with great music on made me happy enough to open my mouth and sing along for the first time in weeks. And it felt good! (It was 'Kingdom of Rust' by Doves, if you were wondering)

I've been reading quite a lot whilst I've been confined to barracks, I love autobiographies and have read Pattie Boyd's and Clare Balding's in the last week. Clare Balding's was absolutely brilliant and if you grew up around horses and dogs as I did, you'll find a lot to love within those pages. It just wasn't long enough, I didn't want it to end!

Finally I really want to thank those readers who have stayed in touch over the past few weeks. Your lovely emails and comments have really cheered me up and made me look forward to a return to blogging. I love the blogging community :)

Have a great week!

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