Thursday, March 29, 2012

Things You Don't Want To Hear

... when pregnant.
"Bwoah," said my midwife. "Bwoah!"
Bwoah is not really top of my list of things I want to hear from healthcare professionals during the course of a pregnancy. Normal I like. Normal is good. As in -
"Yes, pet, I know you think you look like a beached whale but actually you don't. You're a bit tubbier but that's normal."
"Don't worry, dear, a total lack of morning sickness is not an indication that your baby has stopped growing, it just means that you were lucky. It's unusual, but normal."
"Well, Mrs Gingerbread, I'm not sure if a newly-discovered love of wiener sausages actually counts as a symptom, but if you are eating three or four a day, then it might. It's a bit weird, but still normal."
This is all very nice.

However, whilst I am perched upon an uncomfortable doctor's stool, watching the midwife looking through my latest test results, including the high-tech scan that was carried out for the nuchal fold* (it came back - thank goodness - normal. How I love that word!), she cast her eye down the baby's measurements, including its head diameter and the length of the baby from crown to rump.
"Bwoah!" she said in delight. "That's one big baby!"
I felt the cold finger of fear tickle the back of my neck. Yes, Baby Gingerbread measured a twelve on a scale of one to ten for normal measurement in his development stage. This ordinarily would be good news - who does not like a bonny baby? - but the person in charge of the baby's exit is experiencing a sense of trepidation. The father of this monster baby is quite proud - our baby is going to be the best baby ever and beat all other punier babies in terms of length, breadth and girth. (And, by the way, the ultrasound scan also saw Baby Gingerbread flailing his arms about. We were told that what looked like thumb sucking was a purely random thing, but Mr Gingerbread and I have decided that we have a genius in utero, one already capable of complex hand movements, unlike the other afore-mentioned punier babies in its age segment. Competitive, much?)
"Don't worry," said the midwife. "The growth rate might slow as the baby develops. It's more than likely that you'll have a perfectly normal-sized baby."
Hmmm. Not sure I believed her, but I allowed myself feel comforted.

So there you go, readers. And thank you all for your kind words about the impending Gingerbread expansion. I will take your advice and do what so many of you suggested - ignore everyone's advice and do what feels right to me. Tomorrow we'll be back to our usual programming and proceed with all things crafty.

* If, like me up to 13.5 weeks ago, your knowledge of babies extends to polite smiles when they're handed to you and sighs of relief when you hand them back, you probably don't know what a nuchal fold test is. No worries. Rather than read a book on pregnancy, I rely on my midwife to inform me on a need-to-know basis: pregnancy in bite-sized chunks. One such chunk was the recommendation to have a very high-quality scan done that measures the amount of fluid in the baby's neck fold. This allows doctors to determine the likelihood of the child having some chromosomal defect. The chances of this happening are relatively slim (though, being an ancient mother - 37, gasp, - they are statistically higher. Some people - like my husband - presume these things happen to everyone else; other people - like me - assume that they will be hit by a random thunderbolt of fate. As it happens, everything was ... well, normal.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bun in the Oven

I've not been feeling very creative recently. I can identify the cause of the creative abyss: it's hormonal. For yes, readers, I am ...
(dramatic pause)
With Child.
I have been Blessed by the Murkel of Life.

The Gingerbread Man and I are going to have a gingerbread ... um, cookie. Actually, I'll be doing all the actual having, he's accepting the congratulations and looking pleased with himself (well, he is now. He had a facial expression of frozen shock for about a fortnight.) The, eh, Gingerbread Child is due in September and so far, I've had a very easy time of it - no nausea or other nasty symptoms, I simply have to be fed every four hours or I turn rabid. I storm the kitchen and open cupboards and the fridge, whinging, "I'm staaaaaaaaarving! I'm staaaaaaaarving!"
No, actually, that's not really a pregnancy symptom, because I was like that beforehand, too.

I have been negotiating the maze of information available to pregnant women, though. During the first few weeks of my impending motherhood, I actually made attempts to procure and read books about my Delicate Condition, but then I realised that I wasn't reassured by the blow by blow accounts of foetal development, on the contrary, I found it a bit icky. I feel faint at the sight of blood, so clearly this kind of thing is not for me. I decided to draw a veil over it - ignorance is bliss, after all.

What I have discovered, though, is that pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood are a veritable minefield of judgement and condemnation. Through my perusal of online forums (populated primarily by opinionated pieces of baggage that seem to spend more time online telling other people how to look after their children than offline looking after their own), I have found out that there is a whole checklist of things that you have to do "right" and if you don't do them "right" - well, then, you're Just Plain Evil. Any misstep - any decision to do the wrong thing - is laden with nose-wrinkling censure:
  • homebirth with doula (good) vs hospital birth with doctor (Evil)
  • breastfeeding (good) vs bottle-feeding (Evil)
  • breastfeeding for 24 months (good) vs weaning at 8-12 months (Evil)
  • cloth diapers/nappies (good) vs disposable nappies (Evil) 
  • puréed organic vegetables (good) vs packaged baby food (Evil)
  • stay at home mother (good) vs working mother + daycare (Evil)
  • extra-special madey-uppy name like Tygretta or Säyrit (good) vs boring ol' traditional name like John or Ann (Evil)
Good grief, readers, I don't know about you, but I am ready for the stocks already. That being said, I have decided to take a Frank Sinatra-esque approach to the whole shebang and "do it myyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy way." Yes, I might be sticking Tygrette in Pampers or leaving Säyrit with his/her father when I return to work, but chances are, I won't mess up my little tyke any more than most people do.

Ranting aside.
I'm also trying to make some crochet hats for a local photographer, who wants baby hats in different styles. Alas, my knowledge of babies' heads remains (still) theoretical and I find it hard to judge head-sizes, even with helpful sizing charts. I've modelled the hats on Galia melons, upside-down bowls and big apples, but they are no substitute for a real head:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sock It To Me

My efforts to declutter continue, hampered primarily by my husband's need to keep everything Just In Case. His grandparents were pre-war children, his parents were post-war children, my husband was born in the affluence of 1970s Germany - but he has the pack-rat instincts of someone on rations. Yesterday, while rummaging in the wardrobe for clean bed linen (an adventure in itself - I'm almost afraid to lean in too far, in case I topple over and end up in Narnia), I found a bag of odd socks, which my husband had clearly hidden for cleaning emergencies.
Awwww, you say. Isn't he thrifty? What a good husband!
No. No, he's not.
This is third such bag of orphan socks and abandoned underwear that he has put aside for cleaning rags. I simply do not know where all of these socks have come from - and, more disturbingly, I have no idea where their partners have disappeared to. Clearly, there are three bags full of odd socks whizzing around in an alternate universe, not knowing their matches are here, hidden in my wardrobe. One of these bags even came into the relationship with him: yes, that's right -  I have known his bag of odd socks as long as I have known him. I'm surprised he didn't organise a pageboy on our wedding day to strew the aisle with odd stockings as a sign of our undying love.

And the thing is this: on the rare occasion that we do need an old sock for cleaning purposes - e.g. to rub in furniture wax on our table - he produces one of these ancient rags with a triumphant flourish.
"Aha!" he says. "And YOU told me to throw them away!"
Being a good wife, I bow my head and pretend to stand corrected. If I did throw his socks away, we'd immediately have a sock emergency and he'd never forgive me for this crime, so I've made my peace with the socks.
Okay, I'm about to do a volte-face, which is going to come across as rather ironic, given the above rant. But such is my honesty, I'm going to do it anyway.

Whilst in the Narnia wardrobe, I also found a bag with a baby blanket partially sewn together. I had even put the yarn in there, too. Thankfully, I can remember putting it there - I put it aside before I started on some of my big blankets last year, and wasn't really motivated to finish them. But in the spirit of tidying up, I took them out, finished off all the leftover squares and sewed them together

I finished the coloured squares blanket that you saw recently:

And on Wednesday I'll show you the coloured patchwork squares, with a slightly enlarged border. We'll have a look at it and see how it pleases us then. By the way, Paula asked what I'd planned to do with the brightly coloured yarn in the last post. I have no plans yet, but such a nice rainbow of colours is sure to find a home in a blanket or a cushion or something nice.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


My husband is a big man. And he likes to look at stuff. And he makes contemplative noises while he does so: "Hmmmm. Ummmm. Ehhmmmmm." Despite the fact that he's well over six foot tall, he likes to lurk behind my shoulder and look at what I'm doing - not saying anything, just hmmmmmming. He's very good at lurking - he can effectively block a doorway, hovering between two rooms, dipping in and out of various conversations.
"You're blocking my light," I'll snap.
He blocks my light constantly - and I don't mean in the metaphorical sense, but in the physical where's-the-nearest-source-of-light-so-I-can-plonk-myself-in-front-of-it sense. It drives me bonkers.

So my recent decision to take stock of my cottons afforded me the opportunity to arrange my bright skeins according to colour - so pretty, look at the colours, aren't they nice? - was something that clearly interested him enough to hover nearby and hum. While I was positioning myself over the cotton, camera in hand, waiting for a ray of sunshine to light up the table,  the dark shadow appeared behind me.
"Get out of my light, please!"
(side-steps. And blocks light from another angle.)
"Get out of my light!"
Minimal movement just outside of my peripheral vision.
"Please! My light!"
And as suddenly as he appeared, my shadow-husband disappeared and I could take my photo.

It could be worse, though. Sometimes he asks questions:
"Why are you doing it like that?" he'll say.
"Why not?"
"Oh, no reason."
"What do you mean - no reason? Is there a better way to do it?"
"The way you're doing it is fine."
"Yes, but is there a better way to do it?"
"I didn't say that."
"But you implied it. Should I do it another way?"
"Not if you don't want to."
"It's not a matter of not wanting to. I just want to do it as efficiently as possible. Is there a better way to do it?"
"To be honest, I don't know. I'm not even sure what you're doing. Hmmmmmmmmm."

God grant me patience.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bless My Cotton Stocks

My cleaning up and clearing out continues - though, to be honest, the more I clean up and clear out, the more untidy the house looks as a result. Things are standing around in nice little piles, waiting to be removed to more permanent homes. In this period of transition, I decided to finally start working my way through the skeins of cotton I had so thoughtfully bagged and labelled sometime last year when I was obviously so bored, or reluctant to do housework, that arranging yarn by colour in zip lock bags kept me occupied for an evening.

Baby blanket number one -

And, this one, which is a bit crazier but more interesting to make:

I think the squares in the second blanket need a bigger border to offset the colours of the cotton. Hmmm. I need to rearrange the squares for a more harmonious mixture, but that's not all ... Something's not quite right. Any helpful suggestions or general musings welcome!

P.S. I'll pass on your reassurances to the husband that baby-holding just requires a bit of practice. Thank you very much!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Babies: They're Not Rocket Surgery

Uncle/Niece Bonding Moment
Babies. They're scary: what with their bendy limbs, googly eyes, floppy torsos -  and that soft spot. Of course, if you're like me and have had a plethora of babies pass through your hands (eldest of nine, aunt to eight), you tend to be a bit more blasé about the whole thing and have a sure grip of the little monsters, even if they're trying to escape your clutches and dive headfirst towards the floor. My husband, on the other hand, has always tended to view babies with something akin to fear - they're his kryptonite. Up until three years ago, he'd never held a baby. Whenever he visited our home in Ireland, he was offered a cup of tea, a biscuit and, as a special favour, a "go" of whatever baby was currently being passed around. We thought we were giving him a treat: the chance to snuggle whatever newborn was being handed from aunt to uncle (and, even more of a treat, handing the baby back to the parents at the first sign of crankiness or whiff of malodorous activity in the diaper department), but he shied away from it. Three years ago, he was handed my baby niece, and he held her, awkward and sweating, till she was passed on to my little sister. He was not impressed by the experience.

"It's not rocket surgery," I pointed out. (That's our favourite phrase at the moment - I can't open a jar of beetroot? Well, my husband says, it's not rocket surgery! Nothing like a bit of metaphorical mangling.) Babies are deceptively robust, I said. As long as you don't drop them, they're generally pretty easy to hold. He was sceptical. The thing is, though, my sister-in-law has just had her first baby and Mr Gingerbread is now a proper uncle, as opposed to an uncle-by-marriage, and there's no longer any chance of avoiding his call of duty. So last weekend we travelled down to the south of Bavaria, to inspect the newest member of my husband's family.

Once there, Mr G. manfully stepped up and took the child. He even held her for half an hour, albeit as one would hold a plank of wood or a toaster. But she appeared comfortable and didn't even squeak. He, on the other hand, looked about as relaxed as a tightrope walker, but they both got through it without any residual trauma.
"See?" I said, "Not rocket surgery! Any fool can hold a baby."
"You're right," he replied solemnly. "I guess you've hit the nail on the hammer."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Gladdens the Heart!

A few years ago, my husband picked a blanket out of my stash for his friend's new baby. It wasn't this one, but one very similar:

Last autumn, friend's wife had a second baby and we went to visit her, another blanket in tow.

When we got there, we inspected the baby - as one does - and found her cute in all respects - as one does - and then I noticed the original blanket hanging over the side of the new baby's cot. It was battered and tattered and stained, despite having the appearance of something that had been bunged in a washing machine on a number of occasions.
I was thrilled. This is just wonderful. There is no greater compliment to anyone's work to see it well-worn and well-loved and, despite its wear, pulled out again for the next baby.

Which is why I was very glad that my friend Lenka liked her blanket.
"If it's too bright," I said, "You don't have to take it. You don't need to be polite - I can give it to someone else. I won't be offended, I promise."
"No!" she said and clutched to her chest. "No, I love it, I love it! I swear, I love it!"
And, reassured, I handed it over.
"Don't be precious with it," I said as she left. "Use it - wash it - wear it out. When you do, I'll make you another one."
And I meant it - I would gladly replace something that well-loved. It gladdens the heart :-)