Pregnant in the UK–Part 5

A more personal version of this story will be told over the years–in snippets, through tears, in more intimate settings–probably over glasses of wine. This is this version my heart lets rise to the surface, above the precious and private moments, to the world.  

This is the tip of the iceberg.

I often borrow Drew’s Superman sweatshirt–so often, in fact, that it is now mine for all intents and purposes. I even have Superman panties. Those never belonged to Drew. The point is that I must secretly know that I am not as fearless or strong as I intend to be. My mind-over-matter wonder powers are amateurish at best. Superman sweatshirts and panties provide absolutely zero sleep, nourishment, or pain control during birth, but my inner dreamer thought it was worth a try.

I imagined through pregnancy that our birth story would be some beautiful, float-y, Earth-mother song like one of those poems in a Tolkien novel. I was sure that I was unshakeably strong and completely ready to gracefully embrace the most painful and demanding experience of my life in exchange for meeting the most brilliant creature on Earth. Looking back, I feel a bit like I was in a different fairy tale; I looked into The Magic Mirror Gate and stood face to face with a wimpy, haggard, old mama cow.

Sunday, 27 Nov 2011–After weeks of intermittent Braxton-Hicks contractions, and days of random true contractions, the true contractions became regular between 1am and 4am. Drew patiently timed them, rubbed my back, brought me water, and was just generally supportive. From 4am the contractions became irregular again and I went back to normal life for the big chunks of time between them. We went for Sunday roast at The Marksman with Andrea (middle sis) and Jonathan (cousin) and shoved our way down Columbia Road through the Flower Market.

Monday, 28 Nov 2011–The contractions came again as they had in the dark morning hours of Sunday, between 1 and 4am. I stayed close to home hoping that our baby would make an arrival. Baby H stayed snugly inside despite the preparations my body was making.

Tuesday, 29 Nov 2011–The contractions came again between 1 and 4am and I was anxious as we made our way to the hospital for the 41 +1 appointment at 9am, managing irregular but intense contractions. A consultant physician performed an external and an internal ultrasound. The physician judged me to be dilated to 1cm, declared the placenta to healthy, verified that Peanut’s heart rate indicated a happy Nut, and guessed that we would meet our baby within 24 hours. Then we met with a midwife for a manual check; she judged me to be 0.5cm dilated and performed a membrane sweep. We returned home to get on with getting through the latent phase of labour. We filled our bellies first and then Drew took a nap on the couch while I tried to nap through contractions in bed. From 2pm, contractions started to become more regular until 9pm–at which point I began to feel sharp pain with each contraction. The new sensation was more than I thought I should be feeling this early in the process so I told the midwife I was coming in to be checked, even if it meant getting sent back home. The midwife who saw me checked me in to the birth centre (where I wanted to have a water birth) at 3cm. Drew called Andrea to bring our luggage and some peanut butter sandwiches. I weathered some contractions in the shower, getting out to eat half of a sandwich at the midwife’s suggestion.  Until 2am I paced, bounced on the yoga ball, crawled on the birthing mat and just plain got on with it.

Wednesday, 30 Nov 2011–At 2am (-ish) the midwife [#1] decided to send me to downstairs to the labour ward because I was still at 3cm.  She didn’t think I was eligible for a water birth.  (That mean old cow.)  I had a lovely midwife [#2] on the labour ward as well as a sweet student midwife [#2b], another several hour stint in the shower, and some gas and air (laughing gas).  (Gas and air was a joke.  The shower was a happier place.)  At 9am–about an hour after shift change–my lovely new midwife [#3] said I was 5cm.  She had a consultant physician come to apologise that I had been transferred to the labour ward and ask if I would like to be sent back upto the birth centre to a room with a birth pool.  So we packed our bags again and relocated–this definitely meant I missed breakfast in the transfer excitement.  Back in the birth centre, my new-new midwife [#4] said I was still at 3cm.  (That mean old cow.)  Unfortunately, that meant I had three to go before being allowed in the pool.  Shower, pacing, shower, bouncing, crawling, walking, shower, crawling, order lunch, exam.  3cm.  Shower, pacing, shower, bouncing, crawling, walking, shower, crawling, exam. 3cm.  At approximately noon I allowed the midwife [#4] to break my water.  Shower, pacing, shower, bouncing, crawling, walking…  At 2.45pm the midwife [#4] recommended that I go back to the labour ward for a hormone drip because I was still dilated 3cm and the clock was ticking since the time of water being broken; I opted for a side of epidural in anticipation of more fierce contractions (with Drew’s gentle support and the reminder that I hadn’t eaten or slept properly for days).  While we were packing again someone showed up to clear the lunch tray that I never saw.  (In the transfer back downstairs to the labour ward, I missed dinner too, but Elsa [my French BFF in London] did bring Drew dinner before we knew I would miss mine.)  The epidural was in and the hormones were dripping by 7.45pm.  Midwife #4 handed me back over to Midwife #2–who requested to have me again because I was such an awesome patient (bless that sweet woman!) .  Midwife #2 had another student [#2c] of course because she is an amazing midwife…  With all hope of a meal lost, I tried to rest in between the waves of contractions.  (I think my favorite midwife allowed Drew to sneak me some tea and toast.)

Thursday, 01 Dec 2011–In the dark hours between 2am and 4am the Midwife [#2] was coaching the student [#2c] through an exam and tilted her head in a funny way, thinking and then having an ‘aha!’ moment.  At 7cm she said that Baby Huddleston’s head was deflexed (tilted back).  This, she guessed, was the reason for the pain I was describing as well as the slow progression.  Our baby was intent to stare this world straight on.  At breakfast time Midwife #2 (and student #2c) handed me me over to Midwife #5.  I kept trying to rest, quietly begging for food at every opportunity.  Somewhere near 12.30pm a (male) student nurse [#5b] joined the party–just in time for the big push.  For an hour and a half the four of us pushed.  Peanut happily hung out in the birth canal–facing the world and spine rotated slightly to my left.  And that’s when they broke the news that I would need assistance (most likely by way of forceps), though they were going to consent me for a c-section too.  Either way, we were going to have to go to the operating theatre to introduce my lady parts to a room full of new faces.  It is terrible that the operating theatre was tied up for two hours for an emergency case, but I was thankful for those two hours in the end.  By the time we were rolled in and Midwife #5 handed me over to Midwife #6, Peanut rotated into the correct position (spine up) so that the team felt sure that forceps would do the trick to tilt his head into position on the way out if I could manage the pushing.  Drew, Midwife #6, student nurse #5b, an anesthetist, an OB-GYN/Urologist [#7], two students [#7b, #7c], a consultant physician, a pediatrician, and a surgery tech [#8] were with me in those three last incredible contractions.  But everything faded away at 4.04pm when a baby was laid on my stomach–wet and crying.  In a few quick motions Peanut was rotated until I could see that he was a boy.  He was exactly the boy I had been talking to for so many months and the boy whose name we deliberated over and who spiritedly kicked us in the wee hours.  He was the boy I dreamed about and the boy that I was eager for his daddy to meet.  He was the baby that I was aching to see with all of his fingers and toes, completely healthy and whole.  In the moment that he was born, my whole world changed.

In Summary–

This is the birth pool that I did not use:


This is why it does not matter:


Kenneth Howard Ross Huddleston makes three.


Birthdate: 01 Dec 2o11

Birth time: 16.04

Weight: 3.69kg/8lbs 2 oz

Length: 54cm/21.25 inches

Gestation: 41 weeks, 3 days

Active Labour: ~43hours

Delivery: vaginal, forceps assisted (with 2/3 of London present)

Birthday twin: Magnolia Grace Montgomery; Nashville, TN

*[These people in brackets are the lucky ones who got to know me on a pretty intimate basis.]

Post-birth details to follow for those interested in the medical care follow up type stuff.  Please note that Drew may offer his version of events if I get enough of the details wrong or if he is politely begged.  Click here for Parts 1-4.

Pregnant in the UK-Part 3

Here we are. Pregnant in the UK.

elsa konig 40 weeks
Photo courtesy Elsa Konig

I had a fair bit of anxiety taking the second pregnancy test and went through the motions of seeing my GP again. It was a blessing to be incredibly busy in a new position at work while we waited for the first early scan. However, we were lucky enough because of our history to have three early scans scheduled for us although they are not usually offered before the 12 week scan. When all was confirmed to be progressing normally, we were given a ‘booking appointment’ with a midwife from the hospital for 8 weeks. At a booking appointment you fill in your medical notes; these you carry with you everywhere you go because you see healthcare professionals at multiple locations. You definitely carry your notes with you when you travel so that you can always just hand your antenatal record to a medical professional in any situation where you need to see one. All of this documentation is archived by the hospital after delivery.

At your booking appointment the midwife performs a set of routine checks and conducts a lengthy interview. Then she (or he) answers any questions you may have and walks you through what the rest of your appointments will entail, given that your pregnancy is straightforward, and how they are scheduled.

8-14 weeks– booking in (and dating scan if required, to determine the due date)
12 weeks–Down syndrome screening scan
16 weeks–routine midwife visit
20-22 weeks–scan to assess baby’s growth and mum’s health (placenta, cervix, etc.)
25 weeks–routine midwife visit
28 weeks–routine midwife visit
31 weeks–routine midwife visit
34 weeks–routine midwife visit
36 weeks–routine midwife visit
38 weeks–routine midwife visit
40 weeks–routine midwife visit
41 weeks–routine midwife visit

Routine visits include blood pressure and urine checks as well fetal heart monitoring and a manual check of the position of the baby. At each visit there are unique items to discuss and sometimes blood tests which are recommended to be performed. If there is a complication at any time, you are referred to a specialist. For example, when I complained of a serious spike in migraine activity, I was referred to an obstetrician and a neurologist as well as a midwife acupuncturist. I was lucky that the migraines subsided naturally after 20 weeks and I have only had a small handful of related symptoms since then.

Ultimately the philosophy seems to be that pregnancy is a normal, natural occurrence and requires minimal medical intervention in straightforward situations. I have heard the argument that the approach that the NHS takes is centered around being cheaper, not better for me. Having been a recipient of care in this model I can understand where this argument gets its basis, but I can argue from personal experience that routes of escalation are in place and physicians are available when a midwife reaches her (or his) limit of responsibility. I have also witnessed the expertise of the midwives; it should be pointed out that they attend far more births than physicians. Ask any nurse, the people who provide care day in day out catch things, see things, and usually engage in a more personal way with the patient. An obstetrician is essentially a surgeon (many train in gynecology, especially in the US where midwifery is not standard in the care model, in order to be able to provide more well rounded care to women). Due to the way medical professionals specialise in the UK, there isn’t a need to involve an obstetrician in routine antenatal care.

I am not interested in opening a debate or changing anyone’s mind about whether the system in the UK is better or worse than the care I would have received in the US, but I do want to share what I am learning as well praise the caregivers who have been looking after us. I would like to give our loved ones comfort that we have in fact been looked after though rumor may have had it we were left to the wolves. For my own way of thinking, I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity to experience care from this side of the antenatal philosophy. My GP had a point back in those early days; in some cases, the US care model introduces treatments and interventions that are more costly (some potentially introducing unnecessary risks) due to the way the system operates. Surely there is some middle ground where we could all meet…

Coming next–Birth: preparation, the big push, and the baby’s first month
Followed by–our own personal birth story

Disclaimer: I am given to understand that there are some differences in the care offered by different hospitals based on the needs of the region they serve and due to way that services are managed by trusts in that region.

What’s That?!

Thanks to Graham, Emily, and Kerry for Peanut’s new toys!

mitchell gifts

I can’t wait to see how Peanut reacts to these–they are brilliant stimulation for the senses!  This book, of course, is completely perfect eye-catching contrast.

mitchell gift book

So is the peacock(?), but the peacock also reflects, crinkles, rattles and has lots of different pieces to grab… We consider that Graham is probably an expert on what babies really like; this must be the cool thing to do this season! Thank goodness we have the inside scoop from someone in the know.

Sending love to the Mitchell family for this fun gift!

Pregnant in the UK–Part 2

First things first… I got ‘booked in’.

Booked In–Registration with a particular facility, declaring your intent to present for treatment under the care of the staff of that facility. In this case, my GP booked me in at University College Hospital for antenatal care and for the birth.

Being booked in means that my first point of contact for antenatal care is a team of midwives based at the hospital of my choosing. As needed, a full medical staff is available to me as well.

Midwife–A medical professional with an academic and professional qualification to provide antenatal care, including birth and newborn baby care. Typically, full time courses take 3 years to complete and are comprised of 50% course work and 50% practical based experience. The NHS only employs midwives who hold a midwifery degree and who are registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. (My midwife team holds a weekly clinic in my GP’s office for my convenience; that’s where I have my regular check-ups.)

Though the midwives perform the routine checks, ultrasound scans and treatment of complications require hospital visits and are handled by doctors and/or specialists. A full range of medical services is available for any non-routine situation and your case is triaged.

It was a little strange (ok, maybe a lot strange) to be booked in to a hospital and assigned to a team of midwives without really understanding what to expect of those two things. It was more shocking to need emergency care before I had wrapped my head around routine care. We don’t like to dwell on the loss we experienced in January but you have to know, to get the full picture, that we were handled quickly and carefully. Not every staff member we met was incredibly pleasant, I didn’t mistake the hospital for a five star hotel, and I did need to be clear about what I was experiencing and what I wanted.

I can’t tell you how many times I was seen by the emergency staff in the antenatal unit, though there was one Ambulatory and Emergency visit (A&E, like the US ER). The point is that the care I needed was given to me. I didn’t pay a single co-pay or fee and received medication completely free (not all medications are free all the time). For more routine type follow up appointments my GP fit me in on short notice; if my GP was not available another GP at my practice was. (It should be noted also that my employer treated me with the utmost kindness when I needed medical leave.)

I didn’t have time or energy in January to assess whether the care I received was what I expected–it was all so much… We were offered free counseling. We were assured early antenatal scans in the event of another pregnancy. I was seen as a priority at my GP’s office. My initial confusion and discomfort with the workings of the NHS system took a backseat to finding a groove of honest and open communication and then participating in my care. This was a very powerful thing. Perhaps that’s when the change in my perspective began…

elsa konig 38 weeks
Photo courtesy Elsa Konig

Pregnant in the UK–Part 1

Little by little, it has become apparent to me that the care models employed in the UK healthcare system for pregnancy and birth are different than those utilised within the US [private] healthcare system—the differences in the care models seems stark, speaking as someone on the receiving end.  Drew and I, of course, have only directly experienced pregnancy [antenatal] care in the UK.  Up to the point where I myself became a pregnant patient, what we had come to expect from a healthcare system in terms of antenatal care was based entirely the collective knowledge we had absorbed of the US culture in which we had been inactively immersed as observers for so many years.

elsa konig 38 weeks
Photo courtesy Elsa Konig

Turning up to my GP (General Practitioner, a.k.a. Family Practice Physician) pregnant was a strange experience. I fully expected her to confirm what I thought I knew with a blood test but it puzzled her that I would even think to suggest it. “Do you think you did it wrong?” she asked about the urine stream test. After I calmly explained that I was only asking because of my familiarity with the routine in the US she replied, “I get the impression that they are more interested in collecting your money than confirming what a urine test has already told you.”

I sat stunned through the rest of the visit, trying not to be so blatantly American (a.k.a. ignorant and annoying to GPs). She handed me a purple book and told me to make a decision about where I would like to be ‘booked in’–I hoped that the purple book would tell me what ‘booked in’ meant. She asked me if I wanted to ‘go private’ or ‘go NHS’. When I explained that I didn’t think my private insurance covered antenatal care, she suggested that I check and make a decision about that, too–but she did praise the NHS care at UCH (University College Hospital) local to me explaining how commonly her patients delivered there. In all truthfulness, I had never considered whether or not to ‘go NHS‘… (In all truthfulness, getting pregnant in the UK was less of a calculated plan than a weakening in the knees at the sound of the sweetest man on Earth saying the sweetest things I had possibly ever heard.) I guess she assumed that Mrs-I-am-American-where-is-my-blood-test-damnit?! would want private healthcare, hence her pro-NHS cheerleading.

She calculated my due date, she gave me a flu shot, and she said that when I made a decision to give the office a call so that my midwife appointments could start at 16 weeks. I think she wished me luck before she shuffled me out.

I remember feeling incredibly alone. I remember being angry. I remember wondering how I could have been stupid enough to have agreed to live out such a serious life event in this backwards place. But those feelings are a complete 180 degrees from my perspective these days… I am grateful for the care I have received to this point and I look forward to our birth experience–I was hardly aware of what happened to bring me into this light. If you are curious to know what changed my mind, I am eager to share my introspection with you. Keep tuning in.


I felt a shock of Deja Vu on my way to Tesco today. The chilly wind and darkening grey sky post-3pm on a November day took me back to 2008. In an instant it felt like I had traveled full circle back to my starting point in this big city. I was a house wife on my way to pick up some wacky dinner ingredient then, too. Our lives were changing at lightning speed and would continue to change in unimaginable ways for the foreseeable future.

Photo courtesy Brooke Kelly Photography

On my second first day as a house wife in London, I feel less guilt about being home. (I feel absolutely no guilt about the nap that I took from 10.30am to 1.15pm.) I feel somewhat inclined to make two hot meals a day for the man that goes to work, but I also feel like I am doing something incredible by just getting myself showered. More than anything though, I have that sense of being on the edge again.

Here we are. Same city, same crazy kids, different adventure… What have we gotten ourselves into this time?

Peanut Butter Corn Flake Treats

What better way is there to celebrate being 39 Weeks along and my last day at work than making Peanut themed treats?! If I can do it, you can too.

You will need:
1 glass of wine or Diet Dr Pepper (remember, your beverage is really your choice)
6c Corn Flakes
1 c Lyle’s Golden Syrup (UK) or Karo Syrup (US)
1 c granulated sugar
1 c peanut butter (creamy, crunchy or a combination)
11 oz chocolate chips or broken chocolate bar
11 oz butterscotch chips (US) or Carnation caramel (UK)

greased or lined 9″x11″ or 9″x13″ cake pan/roasting pan

What you have to do:

Grease or line a cake pan.
line the pan

Measure the Corn Flakes into a large bowl (you need the extra room in the bowl.)
measure the corn flakes

Grab some Lyle’s or Karo Syrup.
lyles syrup

Get a double boiler ready for your chocolate and butterscotch/caramel.
pb chips and caramel

Heat the syrup and sugar on medium heat until smooth, stirring almost constantly (you know what sugar looks like, did you need a photo?!). DO NOT OVERHEAT.
sugar and lyles

Remove the syrup/sugar mixture from heat and immediately stir in the Peanut Butter.
lyles sugar pb

Stir the above mixture into the cereal until well coated and then press into your prepared cake pan.
press into pan

Melt together your chips and butterscotch/caramel; if you don’t have a double boiler just heat in a microwave safe container in the microwave for thirty second bursts. Pour this mixture on top of the pressed cereal.
top it with stuff

Cool in the fridge for as long as you can stand it (2-4 hours is a nice chilling time); cut; serve.
cool cut serve


Gifts have arrived from a threesome in Tennessee.

From where I sit it looks kind of like this: Two people crashed into each other. Two people held hands for a while, a little confused about the whole thing. Love happened. Love made two into three. Love is overflowing.

Love is melting their brains until they send indescribably cute pjs from across the ocean.
baby pj front

Now I am melting from cuteness overload. Yes, the cute animals are on the tooshy and there is room for the nappy on the sweet tooshy.
baby pj back

And I am having a contraction over the shoes.
baby shoes from cherry shop

Which is why it’s good that there is a baby carrier here in case Peanut decides that this is the moment for trying on the shoes.
ergo baby carrier

And an excellent reason to have a Moses Basket stand for the Moses Basket that the baby will dream in.
moses basket stand

‘I don’t know where it all begins / And I don’t know where it all will end / We’re better off for all that we let in’ (Emily Saliers, Amy Ray)

Thank you Joanna and Mark and Baby Girl Montgomery. (correct me if that name is wrong, hahaha!) Peanut is a lucky, loved, and stylish baby.

In The Beginning

Most people want to know if the nursery is ready for Peanut’s arrival. I am happy to say it is now…

My friend Suki has kindly passed down to us her precious Moses Basket!
moses basket from suki
Photo courtesy Elsa Konig

There is something really special about knowing a family loved this bed. A family that wished and wanted and celebrated a miracle have given us a treasure.

I think it looks completely at home in its new place.
moses basket from suki 1

This is exactly where Peanut should dream.
moses basket from suki 2

Until Peanut is old enough to have a room, we have shelves to store the sweet little socks. And by ‘sweet little socks’ I mean of course ‘baby stuff’.
baskets in our room

The guest room closet is slowly being taken over by sweet little socks. Really, our whole flat is being taken over by sweet little socks. I don’t think we mind a bit.

It Looks Like Baby in Here

I read a lot of books and listened to lots of mums; from all of that I put together a minimalist’s list of items required for baby’s first month. We have been lucky to be loaned and/or given a great many things, so we really didn’t have much left to purchase.

The big baby order came this week.
boots baby order

We’ve opened Peanut’s birthday presents in anticipation of the day.
baby order
There is still a lot of washing and sterilising to do! (This has been recommended by some as a distraction from early contractions. I am glad I will have something to do to fill my few days off, hahaha!)

We even made a trip out to get a nappy change bag that Daddy won’t be too fussed to carry.
nappy change bag

I would hate for him to have to turn in his man card. That could really hurt his reputation with the kid. Well, that and the ‘coat’ we bought…
bear suit

It had to be done.

Love On Loan

I am sure that you remember our friends Ade and Mel… Well, they introduced me to Pauline, a mum from Ealing. Pauline has lent us these lovelies until we can pass them along to the next bundle. (I think Mel’s mum is hoping for more grand babies!!)

This play mat really is a lot of fun! The elephant ear is crinkly and something makes a squeak… It has dangles and lights and music. Oh. my.
play mat from Pauline

These seats are supposed to be magnificent for play time, feeding, and letting mummy visit the loo/have a shower without baby in her lap…
seats from Pauline

Thank you Pauline! (And thanks to Ade and Mel for the delivery! We hope you make Breakfast Casserole for your family soon!)

Pre-Push Pampering

Some sweet ladies at work got together and decided I might spontaneously go into labor if they didn’t intervene. They are taking me to lunch on Thursday and they have presented me with gift vouchers for my local Aveda salon.

And look at that precious hat from my colleague who just moved to Hong Kong! Super cute.

gift from girls at work

I am struggling to decide exactly which combination of services to purchase! The hat will be easy to figure out, haha! I think.

Thanks Jane and Quinn!

Our sweet friends Jane and Quinn sent a package!! You might remember them as the second guests at the Huddleston B&B. (Somehow all I got were photos of beer…)

gift from jane and quinn

It’s adorable! We are so excited for Peanut to wear this super cute onesie while we read Richard Scarry together. Mummy and Daddy can enjoy home made tex-mex (and then everyone, including baby, will need gas relief)!

We continue to feel loved and lucky to be so well looked after from near and far. This baby is already tangled up in a big network of love!

Mama’s Hungry

It seems clear to me that I will struggle to do much else besides feed, eat, change nappies, sleep, and repeat for about 6 weeks after Peanut arrives. It may take 12 weeks for some sort of normal to seep in. To this end, I’ve been cooking large quantities and freezing meals for the babymoon. Recently I made a chunky vegetable pasta sauce that was yummy. My sister would hate it, but she won’t judge me for eating it this way.

We had a starter salad with Romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, pickled shallots (from my friend Chisa at work), feta cheese, yellow pepper, cucumber, olives, and vinaigrette dressing.

The chunky vegetable pasta sauce started with roughly cut onion, yellow and orange pepper, chilies, minced garlic…
veg pasta sauce starter

I may have cheated a little.
veg pasta sauce cheats

I added a chunked courgette (zucchini squash) and diced carrots which somehow didn’t get photographed…

I added blended chopped tomatoes and some right out of the container. Then I plopped in some tomato paste and spices to taste.
veg pasta sauce ingredients

I feel really accomplished. If I were really gourmet, I would have added mushrooms.
vegetable pasta sauce

Who knew dinner could be this easy?!


Our friends Ade and Mel have been very good to us while we have lived in London–and they have always been welcoming to our friends, too. Ade and Mel have recently had a precious new addition to their family and when we made our announcement they were keen to put together a load of goodies for us to borrow. It’s fantastic!

This is just some of what they sent…
on loan from ade and mel

All of a sudden we had lots of what we needed to bring Peanut home!
on loan from mel and ade
Photos courtesy Elsa Konig

When Peanut has outgrown these things another family will be thrilled to see this package of goodies! We can’t say thanks enough for the help. It’s lovely to know lovely people.

Happy 35 Weeks!

Happy 35 Weeks! Trust me, I am more in shock than you. There are 3-7 weeks to go. I am not sure what to hope for so I just hope that Peanut makes the decision to arrive before 7 weeks have gone by.

35 weeks elsa konig
Photo courtesy Elsa Konig

I am thankful to learn that this marks the peak of my weight gain because I can’t imagine negotiating more weight… Peanut is estimated to be 5.3 pounds and 18 inches long from head to feet. Unfortunately, this sweet baby has run out of room to do much–meaning that I feel lots of movement but it consists less of jumping jacks (a.k.a. ‘star jumps’) and more of rolling or repositioning. With pretty sophisticated hearing, I feel for the poor child. Mama has gas.

I am breathless with incredible indigestion. Apparently, my uterus has grown to 1,000 times its original volume and sits under my ribs. Dude. Peanut has full length nails on fingers and toes and the kidneys are developed; the liver has developed some ability to process waste products.

We finished our NCT class on Saturday. Great class, lovely people, and hopefully some future support in the area of ‘what-color-is-your-baby’s-poop-today’?

Thanks again for your love and support. It sustains us when the tide is low.


Sometimes it gets hard to say ‘thank you’; sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough. Peanut is next to ready for this world and I think the world is ready in return. We keep getting reminders that we are not alone in this despite misleading appearances. You have seen pictures of the Peanut gear that we’ve unpacked, but gifts have been snuck into our pockets and come via email too. It’s a bit overwhelming to be on the receiving end of such generosity.

Thank you.

We don’t know what else to say or how else to let you know that we are grateful that you are as excited about Peanut’s birthday as we are. Well, except that we’ve got a guest room with your name on it.

duck in basket elsa konig
Photo courtesy Elsa Konig

Happy 33 Weeks!

Excuse me a moment while I catch my breath–I cannot believe that I just typed ’33 weeks’… This little Peanut has about 7 weeks left on the inside. Have mercy on my heart and my tear ducts… I am so happy to share Peanut with Drew in a whole new way, but I’m going to miss this, too.

Whew… Moving on.

The stats:
4.4 pounds
17.5 inches

33 weeks peanut
Photo by Elsa Konig

Swelling of the ankles and feet is normal, especially at the end of the day.
The baby’s movement feels very different because the size of the baby has changed.
I am so tired.

I am nesting like the baby arrives next week. The activity is comforting somehow and organisation gives me a sense of control in a situation where I really am not. This baby is a human being with his or her own level of comfort and desires for entering the world and I can only do so much to assert my wishes! In general, I am just excited and making room for the baby helps me to focus on the time when the baby will be on the other side of my skin. I put the first group of individual dinner servings in the freezer this weekend–I am excited to make the next big dinner.

The baby is likely get into a head down position at any time now and just move around in variations of that position. However, all babies are different and some wait until later–even as late as the start of labor. I suspect that Peanut is head down, but I can’t be sure. I will definitely ask the midwife to help me figure it out at the next appointment. I keep wishing that we had a proper studio type set up for getting video of this little alien making mountains on my belly. We take video, but then can’t see anything when we play it back!

We enjoyed our first NCT class this Saturday and our last NHS class tonight. The NCT group seems more likely to result in a nice group of friends, the mums being able to call each other and meet up during maternity leave. I must also point out that the NCT teacher doesn’t look at me like I am crazy when I have a question like some NHS midwives sometimes do. I feel quite comfortable with the medical terms and the straight facts, I just need to know the practical bits that are literally foreign to me–I can’t tell you how many different answers I have gotten when I asked how to get the baby home, haha!

We are crazy excited about Peanut. Stay tuned.

The Huddleston Three

Happy 32 Weeks!

Happy 32 weeks Peanut fans!

Peanut is estimated to weigh approximately 3.8 pounds and be 16.5 inches long. There is likely to be hair on the head, inhaling/swallowing/excreting are normal now, and the baby is gaining weight exponentially. This means I feel very full. I still feel incredible movements. It is pretty clear that Peanut wakes me up several times a night. This weekend we suspect that Peanut even woke Daddy. Daddy says the benefits of snuggling are worth the risk of getting woken up. Yeah, ‘course it is : )

jen at 32 weeks
Big Mama waddles.

We had our third NHS course tonight at which we learned about methods for improving progression, induction, vaginal birth aids, c-section, and warning signs being watched for during labor.

Refurbishment works are ongoing in the flat at the moment and I am definitely nesting. It may sound too early to be ready for baby and house guests, but the truth is that I am very tired and it takes me longer to do anything. Starting early is the only way to meet my deadlines : ) We are getting refinished kitchen countertops, little shelves in the bedrooms for storage, new seals for the oven and washing machine, a new filter for the stove top extractor fan and working curtain rod in the living room for the privacy of guests who might be sleeping in here. Thank goodness the landlord agreed to the request!

NCT courses start Saturday. It’s time to start making double size meals and freezing portions for post Peanut dinners. We have everything we absolutely need to bring Peanut home if Peanut comes early, but we will be gathering the last bits between now and the end of October.

We love this little Peanut like crazy. It still so incredible to us even as we watch each day unfold.

We love you too and we appreciate your support. Thanks so much for your responses, for your facebook comments, and for reading and commenting on the blog posts. Thank you Tennesseans for taking care of Drew and sending him back to me in one piece. We can’t say enough how much we appreciate the way you offered your help. And thanks to everyone who keeps us in their prayers, regardless of your locale!

The Huddleston Three

Back on the Island

Despite the mileage traveled (8500+ miles) and the difficulties of the past two weeks, Drew returned home with presents for me. They are the perfect kind–simple, straightforward, useful, thoughtful, and just right for sharing. Good man.

Martha White and Crisco–I don’t know how to make North American Southern-style biscuits with anything else. My mom and dad made sure that an appreciation for these treats was instilled in me and Granny Young made sure I understood the importance of Martha White flour.
martha white and Crisco
[Drew also brought home a precious hand written recipe from Granny Huddleston for Chocolate Gravy. I don’t have permission (yet) to give that out, so you will have to trust me.]

Then there were these… Hot diggety. Old El Paso Taco Seasoning, for the Relatively Low Drama Baby Mama who has specific, but simple needs. I am pre-preparing some taco/burrito filling for freezing without a doubt. When Peanut arrives I need to know that taco night can still happen.
old el paso taco seasoning
P.S. Vegetarians, this seasoning packet works wonders on beans, soy crumbles, I would assume seitan, refried bean dips, soups and dressings just as it does for your carnivorous counterparts…

Before he had unpacked his suitcases, this happened.
dad with pram

Have mercy on me.
dad with pram 2
[Look, that’s Kassi and some of Kelsey on tv!]

What is cuter than this?
dad with pram 3

Yes, we will attach the rain shield. We just never know…
dad with pram and rainshield

My uterus aches.
dad using pram window

This is definitely on the list of Top Ten Most Precious Things I Have Seen In My Life.

Awww, thanks!

Peanut has fans. Just look at the sweet gifts that hitched a ride home from Tennessee with Drew.
aunt andrea duck elephant

You know who is responsible for this by now, don’t you?
from aunt andrea ut

Have you seen a sweeter Christmas tree ornament than this?!
peanut ornament aunt andrea

Thank you Aunt Andrea! Peanut is going to look great in orange. (You may have to give the little one some lessons on when to cheer, and I’ll handle passing down the guacamole recipe…)

All the Women in His Life

From time to time (more than I am proud to admit), I have been jealous of the matriarchs in Drew’s life. The love and respect this man has for the incredible women who raised him can be overwhelming to a novice wife such as myself. Just look at the facts: they make better biscuits and fried green tomatoes, they kissed his boo-boos, and have never made him speak about cramps—or begged him to give copious details about his day at the office (which he rarely wishes to describe once he’s on his own time, fair enough).

The point I am making is that I have not felt confident that I could ever measure up. I have wondered what in the world lead him to me—a nutty, over-sensitive, blabber mouth with zero fashion sense or super model qualities.
not a model jen

Suddenly a light has come on. In considering his devotion and the qualities he values most in them, I feel humbled. I am in my early days of becoming awesome still, but he chose me because of these women, not despite them. It makes sense; I’ve always said that I see the qualities I favour in my dad in Drew. He likes to laugh (bathroom and geeky humor), he’s really intelligent, he is organised, logical, thoughtful, generous, he challenges me, he values honesty, he plays guitar, he has simple needs, and he’s creative (there is probably more). If this is true for Drew, it makes sense it might be true for me.

These women instilled in him high standards; his high standards brought him to me. His love and respect for these women is nothing if not a direct reflection on what he sees in me. I am a candidate for that club—I could hold my own among women of this calibre some day. They are seasoned livers of life, strong, full of love, incredibly kind, prone to laughter, quick to add a seat at the dinner table for any friend you bring home, smart, practical, family oriented, loyal… These are also the qualities I saw in my mom on her best of days. I have what it takes to grow into these shoes and, God willing, there is still time.

There are more women in Drew’s life with whom I could never compete–and I just wouldn’t try. I have seen Drew struggle to grow into his role as an adult big brother to three amazing ladies; it doesn’t necessarily come naturally to him… (Women are infinitely complicated, bless him.) But being able to see his heart straight through his chest, even when his words fail him, I know what he feels for them and how far it extends. This gives me all the peace I need to know that his well is deep enough to hold all the love his baby will ever need. His patience may wax and wane (as it does with us all), but he has an incredible heart.

I can’t promise that I won’t ever feel a pang of jealousy again (what women could?!), but I can’t imagine that I will ever go back to feeling quite the same about all the women in his life. I am so honored that he saw something in me worthy of being among them.

drew loves me
Photo credit: Brooke Kelly Photography

Yeah She Did

Look what Amber found!

peanut onesie from amber

Adorable : ) We. Are. Stoked. Thanks Mrs. Lill; I can hardly wait for Peanut to wear it! (I was obviously so excited I couldn’t iron it before putting it on the blog. Please forgive me–I am pregnant after all–Delirium and Heartburn are my two closest companions. Humility hardly comes around to visit these days…)

A Moment of Silence

A moment of silence does a lot for me.

It has not been my intention to turn the blog into a continuous update about the baby. (A handful of regulars have noticed the gaps–it’s hard to write about anything else…) Knowing that everything I post is automatically shared on Facebook for friends and family to find more easily also means that other people who aren’t interested get reminded that we are celebrating a miracle. Being 4000 miles away from home makes technology like this all the more like a life line. However, I know that little cracks form in the hearts of some precious friends and family members the more I bang on about it. Others are just plain annoyed.

We can’t contain our excitement; there is certainly no ‘off’ switch that I can find. And I know that I owe it to Peanut to be this in awe of every wiggle, every kick, every new development… I owe it to myself (and to us) to share what we can with the people who want to be involved in the only way possible. But it is a struggle to do something which feels self-centered. (What about keeping a blog is not almost entirely self-centered, though?)

I might not be so sensitive to these feelings in others if I had not myself experienced them. There were times when I wanted to ‘un-friend’ connections on Facebook because I couldn’t bear to read constant updates about their baby. There were periods that I didn’t update my own status because nothing seemed to matter except the loss we had experienced. Innocent comments made by others at the time, who didn’t know the full extent of what our miscarriage was like, still cause me a niggling frown every now and again.

What I am really trying to say is that I’m sorry there have not been more updates and I am sorry that there will be more now. This isn’t a passive aggressive message to anyone; the people concerned know who they are. We have friends in all stages of growing or not growing a family–some absolutely opposed, others not interested, more than we can count just struggling to be healthy, a few just dipping their toes in, a good many happily rolling along, a handful desperately waiting, a number delicately and carefully rolling along, some considering alternate action and many whose families have grown–with and without medical intervention or adoption… Others are enduring complicated situations and separations–my heart doesn’t stop wishing them well.

I want to share our experience with those who would like to tag along, but it would be great to turn our joy into something positive for those others out there walking a different path. A moment of silence, a prayer, a little more awareness… I am not even sure what I am asking of you. Let’s just be in this together, ok? Let’s not feel guilty about being happy or being sad. Let’s not be so preoccupied with hurting each others’ feelings that we stop being honest. Me especially.

If you were interested enough to read this far, I love you and I miss you. (I also love and miss some of those other suckers who only like fart jokes and funny blog posts; we’ll try to catch them next time.)

Full Circle

Just four nights ago I was glued to the live feed on BBC’s website in the middle of the night. It is hard to believe that last night at a similar hour, I was awake with leg cramps—giggling deliriously at the new choreography Peanut has learned. How can a person so quickly move from fearful to thankful? What has changed?

London was wide awake for three nights in a row while riots and looting sprang up in neighbourhoods across England. I won’t pretend that I can give you the best report of the events which passed, but I can recommend this BBC web page for a summary of events and this Guardian article for a refreshing look at the ‘why’ of these events… I have not been scared for my own safety in the midst of the disorder; I am very fortunate in this regard. Electronics, sporting goods, and other high street shops were the targets of choice, of which there are none in our immediate vicinity. The most action we saw was on the water; narrow boats moved in from Camden in the East and Hackney in the West. As he rearranged his boat along our part of Regents Canal, a man on one of the boats yelled an apology for waking those of us standing curious on our balconies, explaining that he had been advised to move somewhere safer than where he had been docked. I think we were relieved to hear that danger was still miles away…

Hearing the interviews of rioters is just further proof [to me] that we cannot afford to ignore where we are falling short of creating a family centred society (globally) and where we have turned our backs on society’s responsibility in terms of early childhood development. This is not a suggestion that governments should give more handouts (in fact, I might argue that this is highly undesirable). It is merely my personal reflection on the state of what is fundamental to our survival as a human race as well as what my role is in all of this.

The overlap of education, child and adolescent development, and psychology (in general) has been a passion of mine for years. Suddenly I feel like I have been witness to a very large case study in my chosen discipline…

Coming full circle in moments, four nights ago I looked away from the scene of fire, riots, and looting to my growing belly and knew that the very best thing I can do in this world is to provide love to my child(ren) in a stable, healthy environment. It is imperative that I continue to be a light in the world and that I take action, inside and outside my own home.

I am changed by the roller coaster ride of late. I don’t know who I am, but I like her.