Thursday, 25 February 2010

Followed by utterly exhausting afternoon!

So much for the restful morning. An afternoon of incessant noise, as my three little darlings careered around our little cottage and it rained heavily outside, has left me feeling devoid of energy even to climb the stairs to bed! Blimey, children take a lot of work! And that is only a half day. Hope my energy levels return to normal after having this baby, or I am going to be a tired, grumpy mum.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Totally awesome morning of quiet

This morning I woke up. Sounds normal, doesn't it? But this morning was special, because I woke up without being woken up. I woke up at the time that my body had decided it had slept long enough, and was ready to wake up. I woke up in a lovely cottage bedroom, the sun shining through the gap in the curtains, in total blissful silence except for the odd quacking of a duck outside, a seagull passing by over head. There was no other noise except the rustle of the duvet as I was able to stretch, yawn and roll over for another snooze. Absolute bliss. I cannot remember the last time I was able to do this, but I think that the luxury of being able to wake up like this should NEVER be forgotten. Lovely. I will make this a regular appearance on any gift list I am asked to produce - Birthday, Christmas, Mother's Day... if I am ever asked for a wish, I will ask for the chance to be allowed to wake up without being woken.

So how does a mother-of-three, soon to be four, get to experience such a luxurious and pleasant start to her day. Well, my mother took the kids to sleep at her house last night, and husband was away in London for an appointment.

But then, it got even better. I mooched about making my cup of tea and running a bath. Then called my mum to tell her that I would be up the road in a few minutes. I like to call in from time to time in case things have become fraught on the childcare front.

"Well, I was going to take the children out this morning. So you don't really need to come up," she said.
"Why don't you just loaf about a bit this morning?" She suggested.

It took me about half a second to accept this magnificent offer. And so I have had a totally awesome relaxing morning. I have phoned my neglected friends, organised my paperwork, ordered the outstanding items I need to be completely organised for the next few weeks on the internet. I did try to go out to do this shopping, but having left the lights on in the camper van last night until some good person knocked on the door to tell me, I couldn't get it to start and so came inside and resorted to double clicking of my touch pad for Thursday collection from the store - no problem.

I still haven't packed my bag for hospital, or revise-read my hypnobirthing book ready for the arrival of babba 4, but am feeling so laid back and relaxed that I can't see much happening for a few days anyway! Figure I will have 30 minutes at some point to do these last minute things. And most likely, we may have to jump start the van to get to hospital anyway, so I can pack my bag while my husband and my dad fart about in the dark with jump leads, and WD40 oil spray! ha ha.

Waiting game

After the fairly hellish events of the last few weeks, we all seem to be finally on the mend, feeling pretty good and are just settling in now and waiting for baby 4 to arrive.

Husband and I went to see the doctor for a routine check up of the bump this afternoon. It was a happy and exciting check, with everything being so imminent and baby sounding very happy thru the heart beat monitor. My tummy has started to do some fantastic pointy manouevres in the evenings when I am sitting still enough to notice that the belly is moving around.

The last time I had a baby, we lived in Seoul, South Korea. I was determined to follow my "hypnobirthing-no-drugs-just-breathing" delivery technique. My Korean doctor was pretty much determined that I would have a caesarian section in time for him to get back to his evening dish of bibimbap. This lead to a certain amount of tension in the delivery room, as I continued to labour past the 24 hour point and into the next calendar day!

In the UK, my consultant has a lovely approach to the whole thing. He is totally in favour of natural birth and midwife-supervised delivery. I asked him if I should bring a birth plan with me (since we have not done one yet) and he just said that we could if we wanted to, but no one was going to make me do anything without me wanting to, and no one was going to do anything to me that I didn't want. The whole situation makes me feel incredibly relaxed about going in there, and just having the baby. Since this will be my last baby, I am more or less determined to enjoy it (I understand if this sounds strange to some, since giving birth does not normally feature on most people's "Most fun things to do" lists). With our last baby, although it was pretty grim at the end, the actual process of having the baby myself - properly giving birth to a child without a massive amount of medical fiddling around and with zero drugs - was a completely rewarding, empowering and downright amazing experience. And the recovery afterwards was so quick it was great. So let's hope it goes the same way this time.

I do slightly feel on the brink of a new stage of life. My husband asked me recently if I felt like I was getting old, since we are reaching the end of our years of having kids, my reproductive duties finished. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. I almost pissed myself laughing. Was I sad at the thought of never being pregnant again? Umm, NO!! I have not minded being pregnant, but I have done it 4 times. That is enough for most people! I am looking forward to a life of never remembering events by whether or not I was pregnant. Hong Kong Rugby Sevens - been twice, both times pregnant. Holidays in Indonesia, China, trips to Uzbekistan, Russia, Thailand, all over the place - always either pregnant, or breastfeeding! These things are almost over now. I will just be me (and four children) and not pregnant. Woo hoo!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Turning corners

Surely the end of this dodgy run is nearly here? As expected, eldest daughter vomited in the middle of the night. In spite of there being a bowl next to her bed, she made a dash for the loo downstairs, vomited copiously on the wooden floor, and unfortunately, as she made her way back upstairs to tell us about this, was struck again twice on the stairs (new cream-coloured carpet, not ours, rented cottage) with Ribena and tuna puke. It was about 3am. Nice!

Saturday, 13 February 2010


Oh no. Now our little one has started vomiting and has diarrhoea. Our eldest daughter has just gone to bed complaining of tummy pains and we await the night with some trepidation!

Last night, the toddler was quite unhappy having vomited her way to bed. I had to go and sleep with her. It was like sharing a bed with a wild piglet and neither she nor I got very much sleep. I think that tonight she is so knackered from a day of being unable to eat and sporadically being sick that she might sleep through.

I really hope that my husband does not pick this up. He gloomily remarked that the toddler had been licking his face earlier, when she started making occasional retching sounds mid-morning. He cannot sneeze or cough for the pain in his recovering back scar, and so getting a vomit and shit bug would be awful, especially as it would mean having to negotiate the stairs up and down to the bathroom every time.

Well, we will have to see. The grim times roll on.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Final furlong

It looks like husband will be sent home today, just three days after going for the chop. Amazingly quick considering what he had done, and also slightly daunting having seen him "walk" along the corridor last night. He looks like a 90 year old man, in his pyjamas, taking tiny steps, holding his body like a pensioner. But I am sure that he will feel better tomorrow, and it is amazing how quickly you can recover from an operation these days.

We have rented a gorgeous cottage, which is sweet but absolutely tiny and has a narrow winding staircase to upstairs. When our six-year old arrived for the first time, she bounded upstairs and then said "Oooh, Mummy, it is like an elf house!" and it is! I hope husband will be able to get upstairs. The loo is downstairs, so that might be a challenge, but I think a couple of days and he will be alright.

Next week I am going to get my bag ready for having the baby and try to get over and see the delivery suite at the hospital so we know what we need to take. The NHS is great, but it is quite a different system from some of the fancy pants private care we have had in the past (especially the Matilda 5 * hotel hospital in Hong Kong where our middle one arrived), and we need to get the list of what you need to bring.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010


Well, at about 11.30 I called the hospital and they told me that he was still in surgery. This was a lot later than planned and so naturally I started to think that something had gone horribly wrong. Left a request that the hospital call me as soon as he was put in the recovery room. No problem, they said.

12.30, 1am, 1.30... I was starting to really let me mind go to wild places. Widow with three kids, eight months pregnant, nightmare stuff. At 2am I thought 'bugger this' and called. The night nurse said she had not wanted to call in case she woke me up. Gasp in amazement to think that anyone would a) be able to sleep while their husband had his back cut open or b) that they would be so angry to be woken up for 2 minutes to be told their spouse was OK that she was afraid to call. Decided that she had probably just forgotten!

It turns out that the operation had been more complicated than expected. Instead of three hours, it had taken five because once inside the spinal canal they had found a lot more scar tissue from his previous operation 11 years ago. This has caused his nerve to become fused to the side of the canal, and made it immoveable. The surgeon had been planning to move the nerve to the side to take out the disc.

Luckily, he was able to spot a tiny piece of the slipped disc from a different angle, and pulled the whole hernia out in one go (which was extremely lucky I think). He told my husband that he had removed a piece of disc the size of a small chipolata sausage. Ugh!

So relieved that the operation is over. So far there are no signs of post-operative infection or anything nasty like that. Husband is very woozy, but even on the first day, was able to stand with the help of the physiotherapist and sit for a short while. Amazing.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Spinal op a-go-go

Can't go to bed, too tense. Waiting for husband's nurse to call to tell me he is OK. He has been away being operated on since 6.10. It is now 11.10.

I thought I was doing really well (compared to last time he had a back op when I went mentally awol for the three days he was in hospital - practically unable to function!), but have had a few odd moments where I realise that it is quite a stressful time.

I had a crisis of choice in which box of tissues to buy him to take to hospital in Boots. He, of course, did not need to take any tissues with him, but I had gone to Boots the Chemists to get him a new toothbrush, and it didn't feel like contribution enough, so I got him some bloody tissues but it took about 10 minutes to choose the box, and even then I fretted. In the end I went Mr Men (turns out the tissues have Mr Men on them). Thought they would go well with the girls' Get Well Soon cards they made.

I thought we were pretty calm this afternoon until he was bundled into his tight socks (to prevent deep vein thrombosis) and hospital gown and ushered quickly out of the room and I burst into tears as he left - totally not the strong, reliable rock he might have needed as he went off to face the surgical chisel in his spine. Total wash out really. Uncontrollable blubbing.

I am going to go and lie down now with the phone and wait for the call.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Joyful January continues into February but the end is in sight...

I am going back to my reasons for blogging in the first place and just using blogspot to record these crazy days or I will most likely forget them or blank them from my mind through a mixture of tiredness and preferring not to dwell on the memories of dreadful weeks.

Husband got back from Kazakhstan last week with back pain as chronic as I have ever seen him. He is a fighter and had managed the journey more or less unaided with two kids in tow (they had been brilliant despite it being a boring long day flight with no entertainment at all). But he cannot lie down, he cannot sit comfortably, he is in constant pain if he is standing up. There is no relief.

We had moved from my parents' house to a hotel nearby which had a two bedroom apartment for us to use, so that when the kids woke up at 2.15 on the first day (I was alerted to their wakefulness by the sound of our 6-year-old putting on her roller blades - nice one!) it would only be us who were totally knackered and not Granny and Grandpa as well. Also, this allowed us to have a few hours together as a family after weeks apart. It was so exciting to see the kids again after so long, such a lovely feeling to be back together again, and so wonderful to hear them gasp "Mummy!" as they finally arrived at our room.

I had scheduled several appointments for the day after he arrived back, and we went to see one orthopaedic consultant who was very good to talk to. We scheduled a special MRI scan for the next day, Thursday, which would show us everything we needed.  (The scans we got done in Kaz had not covered all the angles necessary to make a proper diagnosis and were not good quality or detailed enough for him to be able to use them).

The Thursday scan showed a huge leakage of disc material from between the vertebrae and into the canal in the middle of the spine which is the channel for the nerves and fluids etc. When husband had his first back operation in Brazil ten years ago, I remember the scans very clearly (I got myself into a right tizzy about him having a back op in Sao Paulo when our health insurance was pretty basic and we couldn't just go to the best that money could buy. Thank god that budget has, so far, not been an issue for this problem.) At that time, there was a tiny bit of disc material sticking out into the channel and clearly poking into the nerve lines. It was horrible to see and you could imagine why it hurt so much, and clearly see that it would likely be better taken out than remaining in. But just the thought of your loved one having his back cut open so far form home and in a second rate hospital by a doctor we didn't know very well was traumatic. This time round, there is a huge dollop of disc which has squidged out of the place it is supposed to be (between the two vertebrae) and is pretty much filling his nerve canal for the entire distance between the two discs. There is hardly any space for the nerves and other material that normally exists happily there to be there with this huge blockage, hence the extreme discomfort.

We saw our original consultant, and a second consultant for a another opinion about possible treatments, and both were pretty surprised at the size of his slippage. Both immediately said that he needed to have this slippage removed quite quickly because it could cause long term nerve damage. But as for the long term solution to the problem, the two consultants had quite different opinions. Once suggested fusing the bones together. The other recommended against fusing and said he thought a support between the bones called a Wallace Ligament would be enough.

It may or may not be the best route to take, but we have chosen the more extreme surgical option for his treatment. Tomorrow he will have a 3+ hour operation where they will cut into the middle of his spine and try to take out all the errant disc. They will then grind up the bone they have removed as they cut into the spine, put it inside a metal cage thing, and stick that in the space where the disc used to be. This apparently allows bones cells to be released which can then cause new bone to grow into the space and fill the gap. To hold it in place while this happens, they have to use several titanium screws and plates etc. The scans have also shown that the next disc up is showing signs of wear, and is pretty much about to go (maybe), so they will finish off their work by putting a support in (not a Wallace Ligament, but something similar but slightly more flexible) to try to help the rest of the lower back from also collapsing. Grim.

My poor husband has had a couple of especially dreadfully painful nights since this diagnosis was made. And on Friday night, he suddenly lost a lot of sensation in his lower left leg below the knee, and by morning on Saturday, he was getting tingling up his thigh and could not feel if his shoe was on. Loss of sensation is obviously never good, but if it gets up to your nether regions, it can lead to quite catastrophic consequences such as double incontinence and erectile disfunction. So this creeping numbness has been a major cause of concern.  He called the specialist to discuss, and his operation was moved from 'some time this week' to Monday at the first opportunity to get into the operating theatre. If the numbness continued to worsen, we were told to come straight to hospital. So far, it has not got worse, but the pain of the back in general seems to have intensified.

Husband does not really know where to put himself at the moment, he is in such a state of exhaustion, discomfort and general unhappiness. He is understandably pretty nervous about the operation, but also desperate to get away from these horrible sensations.

We moved from our hotel to a gorgeous little (tiny, tiny) cottage today which is much better than staying in a hotel for us in terms of relaxing and feeling that we can breathe out a bit, unpack for  few weeks and try to get on with life as best we can while waiting for the new baby to arrive (in less than 4 weeks' time!). Kids are behaving extremely well. Eldest is ecstatic that she has found her missing DS game in our camper van. Middle kid still has jet lag and was begging to go to bed tonight, but has been great today. Little one keeps saying "Daddy, he got sore back? My daddy, very sore back. Mummy baby in tummy. Mummy big baby in tummy. Me sit mummy baby in tummy" more or less like a scratched record! Her dolly is now sick (she has a sore back too!).

Camper van has started to be slightly more reliable about starting, but is still a long way from being reliable! Let's just say that the jump leads have been well used every day this week in the mornings. Father and uncle reckon it is damp points. I think it is damp points and weak battery. Husband is muttering about fundamental fault, but does not know enough about mechanics to be able to make a true diagnosis. So for the time being jump leads are in an easily accessible cupboard in the van for those early morning starting sessions.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Joyful January continues!

So husband will be medivac-ed home tomorrow, a mere three weeks and 2 days after I came home in the middle of the night to go to hospital. He has staggered through two weeks of back agony and painkilling jabs in his bum, overseen the Burns Supper event that we organised last Saturday, and today, finally, more or less collapsed after our doctor in Kazakhstan gave him such a heavy dose of drugs that he can barely string a sentence together.

It has been quite distressing to speak to him on skype and see him suffering so much, but being 3,400 miles away there is very little comfort I can give him. I will be so relieved when he comes home and we can look after him.

A week of doctors appointments stretches ahead, and hopefully soon we will know what they think about his back pain, and be able to make a workable strategy for treatment that fits snugly around the arrival of the our new baby sometime near the beginning of March.

This is the fourth January in a row that we have had to deal with serious health scares or death in the family. Four Januarys ago, both our fathers were diagnosed with cancer, so we rushed home to see them and support our families. Three Januarys ago, my-father-in law sadly passed away. Last year, our one-year-old picked up a nasty gastroenteritis bug in the Philippines and ended up on a drip in hospital. And this year, both of us have been crocked in one way or another. I really hope that next year we get a clear run!

On the bright side, the pregnancy continues to go very well, our camper van has decided that it will now start again (it was in a huff after being in a damp, cold garage and unused all winter) and most of our Christmas parcels have worked their way through the vodka-soaked Kazakh postal service and arrived at our home in Almaty, a mere 8 weeks after being posted! Hurrah! Only four are missing and we now have high hopes that they may also eventually arrive.