All posts by Abi

Here it comes

The baby’s birtday will be April 11, 2001. How strange to know it already.

We just went into the doctor’s surgery to speak to the consultant. The scan last week showed that the baby is oblique breech, meaning it’s diagonal in the uterus, with its bottom and feet down. (This is not normal – babies at this stage should be head down). The appointment was to discuss what we should do about it.

The consultant poked around my enormous belly and stated that it was now breech, meaning that its bottom had settled into position to come out first. This change is a good thing, since if it were still transverse, they would want me to come into the hospital and wait for it to be born. With a due date 2 weeks away, that just sounds horrible.

As things stand, there are a number of options.

  1. Try to turn the baby by external manipulation. This has about a 60% chance of success, but there’s also the chance of foetal distress and an emergency 1 Caesarian section right then. Although the doctor didn’t discuss pain, I have looked into it, and the procedure is uncomfortable at the very least. If the baby went head down, and stayed that way (some do shift back), we could have a normal birth.
    Further web research by M has just revealed that in cases of Rh incompatibility, exernal manipulation is not recommended. There’s too much chance of foetal bleeding, which is A VERY BAD THING INDEED.

  2. Since the doctor thinks it’s breech (I’m not sure, based on where the kicking comes from), just wait on things and try a standard delivery. Now, I know from talking it over with mothers of breech babies that this is not fun, not even by the standards of childbirth in general.
  3. Book us in for an elective 2 section.

Option 1 really didn’t grab me. If it were that or go through a breech birth, then I would have jumped at it. But it failed the Guilt Test…if something went wrong, and we found ourself rushing for an emergency section, and (God forbid) the baby was in distress, I would blame myself terribly.

Option 2 was right out.

So we’re scheduled for a C-section on Wednesday, April 11, 2001. The first choice date, medically speaking (Friday April 13) was ruled out because it’s Good Friday, a bank holiday, and the hospital will be (relatively) lightly staffed (can’t say I mind skipping surgery on Friday the 13th). The second choice, Thursday April 12, was booked solid already.

So in a week, I have a baby. Wish me luck.

  1. An emergency section is generally done under general anaesthesia. This presents a risk to the mother (as all general anaesthetic does). It can also affect the baby.
  2. An elective section is done under spinal anaesthetic, usually an epidural. That means I will be awake for the whole experience, and that the baby will not be affected by the anaesthetic.

B’s Profile

So here it is, by popular request: B’s profile. You can see the forehead, the nose, and the mouth (the first three bumps under the central text). We’re fairly sure it had its hand up by its face at the time the shot was taken.

Now, had it been a movie shot, you could have seen that it was moving its mouth while we watched. Practicing for nursing, perhaps? Or talking to itself?

So we had the scan.

So we had the scan.

It was wonderful to see B again, after all these months. It was way too large to see onscreen, but we got a great fly-by view. Started at the head (we have a printout of the profile on the fridge now), then looked at the heart, the spinal cord, and the tiny hands and feet. No sign of the genitals; B ws in the wrong position for that particular piece of voyeurism.

All the bits looks good, according to Maureen (our midwife), apart from their position. The head definitely is under my ribs on the right, the bottom is in the lower left, and the feet down in the bottom of the uterus. Maureen says that we need to discuss things with the consultant, but in her opinion, we are headed for a Caesarian.

Indeed, if I go into labor early, I am instructed to call the hospital immediately and tell them it’s oblique breech. They will want me in immediately for an emergency section.

I don’t mind the C-section. I am disturbed, however, that had I been born a hundred years before or a few thousand miles to the south of where I was, I might not live to see May.

On Wednesday, we see the consultant and (probably) decide on B’s birthday.

Baby Baby Baby

Coming right up

It occurs to me that there’s nothing on this website that covers the pregnancy in a relatively comprehensive way. Since our Christmas cards directed people here for updates, I should put something in.

So here goes…

We’ll be 37 weeks pregnant on Friday. If you’re not au fait with counting pregnancy in weeks, that’s 8 months and 1 week, roughly. So we’re coming into the homestretch. The baby, whom we’ve been referring to as B, is due April 20, 2001. This of course bears little relation to when it will be born.

Early pregnancy was difficult – we had a lot of worrying symptoms, and ended up getting 3 ultrasound scans in the first trimester. We were very anxious, but the scans all showed that everything was going well.

The second trimester was much easier. Part of it was that I was feeling a lot less nauseous, and a lot more energetic than I did in early pregnancy. Also, somehow, I stopped worrying, which is highly unusual for me. I think it helped being “out” at work, since I had to go through all the worry and exhaustion of the first three months without being able to let it show during the working day.

The last three months of pregnancy are turning out to be really exhausting. Part of that is work; we’ve been in a busy time, and I’ve done some long hours. Part of it was that I’ve been having lower back pain throughout the pregnancy, and it’s getting harder to get a good night’s sleep. And part of it is just being pregnant.

I’ve finished my last day in the office. Tomorrow and the next day, I’ll be working from home, and then I’m completely off work and onto maternity leave. That will be nice – getting up in the morning has been difficult, and sitting all day nearly impossible. My back hurts too much. Besides, by the afternoon, all I want to do is put my head on the desk and sleep.

Although this has been a difficult time physically, I am always conscious of how much worse it would have been a century ago. We’ve run into a couple of problems in the pregnancy.

  1. Rh incompatibility
    Basically, I am Rh negative (a recessive trait), and Martin is Rh positive (a dominant trait). This means that the chances are excellent that B is Rh+.

    Now, Rh- people can form antibodies to Rh+ blood, and develop severe immune reactions as a result. An Rh- mother with antibodies to Rh+ blood, bearing an Rh+ baby, can also reject the baby in utero, leading to miscarriage or extremely premature birth. A couple of generations ago, I would have been able to have one child at most; any others would die, possibly taking me with them.

    The trick is to keep the antibodies from forming in the first place. As long as B’s blood doesn’t mix with mine, we’re safe. Barring a car accident or some such, that won’t happen until delivery. So they have a blood product called Anti-D, which they inject after birth (and after any instance where blood could have mixed). They tell me it “soaks up” the Rh+ factor before my immune system can form antibodies to it. In addition, the midwife has been taking my blood every few weeks and testing it to make sure nothing’s happened thus far.

  2. The position of the baby
    The baby seems to be lying oblique breech, meaning that it has its head wedged under my ribs on the right and its bottom down on the lower left.

    This is not a suitable position for giving birth. We’ll be getting an utrasound on Friday to confirm the situation, but it’s looking like the only way B can come out is by Caesarian section.

    This is not a big issue as far as I am concerned. It doesn’t matter much to me how I give birth, as long as B and I both end up OK. But I can’t help thinking about how it would have been before C-sections were so common. Then, if we couldn’t get the baby turned, I would have died in childbirth.


Amazingly enough, this is a low-risk pregnancy. I am a big fan of modern medical science.

Dream Log

Pregnancy has brought any number of odd dreams. Last night’s was particularly vivid. I posted it on Everything2 as a dream log, and reproduce it here…

Last night, I dreamed that Norm Abram and Francis Ford Coppola were brothers, growing up together on a remote ranch somewhere in the US. I was watching a black and white film of their childhood, complete with a narrating voice-over.

First the setting: the high country desert, like where we used to go camping when I was a kid. On the valley floor, the sagebrush and Mormon tea create a knee-high haze. The film can’t convey the fragrance, but I know it well enough to imagine it as I watch: sharp, spicy, resinous, with a tang of dust underneath it all. In the distance, I can see the hills rise up, separating this valley from the next (and the next, and the next…somehow I know this landscape goes on and on in a classic basin and range pattern). The hills are dark grey in the film, either from piñon pines or darker stone. I can’t tell which; they’re too far away.

The valley floor isn’t perfectly flat – it undulates. There’s a road running straight away from the camera, visible only in segments, hidden on the downslopes facing away from us. It’s not the typical desert road, two tire tracks with stunted sagebrush between them; this one is a proper dirt road, graded and cleared of plants. Coming toward us, over the nearest rise, is the wreck of a Conestoga wagon. The desert has aged it, drying the wood and pitting it with decades of sandstorms. The hoops over the box body are rusted and bent, and only the last rags of greyed fabric cling to them.

One boy pulls the wagon by the yoke, and the other rides on the front of the box. They’re nine or ten years old, no more, and look so similar that it’s impossible to tell the elder from the younger, the filmmaker from the woodworker. Both are dressed in homespun clothes, rough-woven, rumpled. The textures are vivid and sharp in black and white. Despite the desert heat, neither has taken his shirt off, or seems to be sweating in the least.

“One day the boys found a wagon in the desert, and decided to go west like the pioneers. They travelled ten miles that day before walking back home. They left the wagon behind, just a little closer to the destination it was built for.”

I sit forward in my seat, trying to identify that voice…

The next scene in the film follows Francis Ford Coppola as he rides a large tricycle along the same road, away from the camera this time. He’s older, but the trike is scaled for an adult, and doesn’t seem juvenile at all. Norm Abram is not in view.

The tricycle has one flaw: the front wheel doesn’t rotate freely on its axis. As Francis Ford Coppola rides up the hill away from us, the wheel sticks once or twice, needing extra pedaling to keep it moving. The camera moves forward to follow the trike over the rise. Francis Ford Coppola clearly thinks the speed he’ll pick up on the downslope will free the wheel, make it move more smoothly.

It doesn’t. Halfway down, the wheel freezes up completely. The entire tricycle flips, throwing Francis Ford Coppola over the handlebars and face-first into the dirt. He lies there unmoving as the camera comes closer, past the still-spinning wheels of the upside-down tricycle. The boy’s head and shoulders fill the image, hair tousled and dusty, shirt disarranged, the entire form too terribly still.

“Their parents rushed him to the hospital. Since he was going to be famous when he grew up, they were anxious that he wasn’t too badly hurt. He spent days in the ward, with his mom and dad beside him every minute.”

Now I recognize the voice, with its flat Boston accent. Norm Abram has been narrating this documentary. The film is in color now, showing him in the New Yankee Workshop. But instead of wooden furniture, he’s working on a motorcycle. The camera zooms in on his hands, tightening a nut to hold some piece of flexible rubber over an engine part.

I woke up wondering if Norm Abram had used his mechanical skills to sabotage Francis Ford Coppola‘s tricycle when they were boys together, out of jealousy that Francis Ford Coppola would be so much more famous when they grew up.

Seven Years and Seven Days

30 July 2000


Thomas the Rhymer lay on the slopes of the Eildon Hills, in what would become the Scottish Borders, when the Queen of Elfland came to him and took him to Faerie. There he served her for seven years at bed and table, and was returned to the world looking no older than he’d left it.

I was thinking about this story a week ago, when Martin and I drove back from our anniversary weekend away. We’d stayed at the B&B that we always stay in in Crossmichael, across the road from our favourite restaurant. This place – the superb Plumed Horse – has been our restaurant of choice for special occasions since we discovered in in November of last year. Martin’s done a write-up of the whole experience on, so I won’t repeat him.

Now, the Eildon Hills are not exactly on the route from Crossmichael in Dumfriesshire (have a squint at the map). But we had plenty of time, the weather was good, and we wanted to see Hadrian’s Wall. The Wall was Rome’s answer to the Great Wall of China. It doesn’t look like much now, but it was once manned by legions of soldiers to keep the savage Scots out of the Roman territory of England.

We were both enchanted by the landscape around the Wall. The stretch of land from Carlisle to the outskirts of Newcastle is one of the loveliest sections of Britain that I’ve run across. The rolling hills are criss-crossed by stone walls, dividing off green, fertile fields. Maybe some of it was the weather, and the deep contentment of a romantic weekend, but some of it was the quiet beauty of the landscape itself. I think we’ll be going back.

Then we drove back up North, past the Eildon Hills, and I got to thinking about Thomas the Rhymer. The idea that he was swept off of his feet and taken to another world, all because of his beauty and talent…we’d all love to have that happen to us. Have the last seven years been an enchantment? As an adolescent, I wanted my love story to be like that.

Mature reflection, though, teaches me that the story of Thomas the Rhymer isn’t the best ambition. The seven years ended, after all. After seven years, Thomas was back in the real world, the magic of his time in Faery just a memory. Looking at Martin sitting there in the living room, looking forward to the future with him…I’ll take reality.

¡Viva España! (and assorted other places)

Plans are clarifying on the trip to Spain. As it stands:

Saturday, 12 August 2000 Edinburgh – Madrid with a stopover at Luton
5 Nights Madrid
Thursday, 17 August 2000 Leave Madrid on the sleeper train
Friday, 18 August 2000 Arrive in Paris; travel on to Maastricht, the Netherlands
3 Nights Maastricht with the Sutherlands
Monday, 21 August 2000 Flight back to Edinburgh

The irony of it is that I will probably be flying to Norway via Copenhagen on Tuesday 22 August…yet more travelling!

Memoirs of an Illustrated Woman

18 July 2000

The Phoenix

It’s been 10 days since I got the tattoo. It’s been through the scabby phase, when the bits that peel off are the colour of the tattoo. Weird. I hear it’s weirder still with green and blue tattoos. Now it’s just flaky.

Reactions to the tattoo have run the gamut. “Wonderful,” said some. “You’re off your heid” said others. One person wouldn’t believe that it was real and asked if he could rub it, to see if it would come off. There is a perception that I’ve undergone some sort of a rite of passage by doing this. People look at me differently when we discuss it.

I think it’s the idea of a quarter hour of pain, voluntarily undertaken, which generates a certain awe. I think, in the absence of actual pain, we tend to exaggerate how unpleasant it is. Don’t get me wrong – pain is not a good thing. I’ve had my fair share of it. But – phobias aside – 15 minutes of tattooing should not be considered agonising enough to stop anyone from doing something he (or she) wants to do.


I’ve been threatening to put up a website of my own for some time. I’ve mostly been stopped by a lack of things to say. I wanted to be different.

The name evilrooster comes from our habit of playing about with language. There’s an Elizabethan saying of “as full as something as an egg is of meat.” It’s a classic example of the Elizabethan use of the word “meat” to mean food in general, but it sparked our interest. Over the conversation, it mutated to “as full of something as an evil rooster is of eggs.

Since then, I’ve started using evilrooster as my ID on websites and email IDs. Martin, who’s generally ahead of me in these things, was already using sunpig, so I needed something different. Registering the domain was just the next logical step.

So is it different? I think so; judge for yourself.

¡Viva España!

Because I have more holiday time than Martin (gloat, gloat), I’m off for a week on my own. Martin’s never been that keen on travel to Spain, so I’ve decided to go to Madrid. The week I could get off of work abuts the Marott Graphic Services Annual General Meeting.

The itinerary so far: Fly from Edinburgh to Madrid on EasyJet on 12 August. Stay in a small hostal near Plaza de Santa Cruz, go to the Prado, wander around and bake in the heat, visit Avila and Segovia. Take the overnight train to Paris and travel from there to Maastricht on 17-18 August (duplicating an earlier trip with a bandaged leg back in 1991). Join the Sutherlands there for the AGM. Back to work on Tuesday the 22nd.

More information as plans clarify.