Thursday, 31 October 2013

Giving birth in Oman: My Story

I wasn't sure whether to write this post or not, but a friend suggested it might be useful for mum-to-be's when it comes to what they can expect in Oman. It is quite a long post so be sure to grab a cup of tea before you begin!

The Grumpy Egyptian and I found out we were expecting a couple of days after my birthday in September 2012. Due to the fact I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome well over a decade ago, we'd been told we would struggle to conceive. The mini 1 is proof that doctors sometimes get it wrong! Despite using contraception, going quad biking in the desert, on a speedboat and having a few drinks on my birthday... We were set to be parents!

My ex-employer didn't cover maternity costs, but it was while visiting the company clinic (I thought I had a bug) that we discovered the truth behind my nausea. In order to keep costs down before the 12wk mark (when Muscat Private Hospital (MPH) - our preferred hospital - starts its antenatal packages) we tried to stick with Badr al Samaa (BAS). It didn't last long.

I developed hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme sickness) and truly have never felt so ill in my life. I was so violently ill that I feared for my baby and after numerous visits to an OB at BAS where my concerns were shrugged off or laughed at, we decided it was time to go to MPH and just pay up. It is also worth noting that my husband wasn't allowed in for scans at BAS to "protect my modesty". Uh... He's the one that got me pregnant!

In January 2012 I'd had surgery in MPH under Dr Vidya and because we had both had a good relationship with her we chose her as our OB. She was so friendly and despite being very much in demand, never rushed me or belittled any concern I had. She was also very good with The Grumpy Egyptian so that helped our decision.

We signed up for the antenatal package that ran from 12+ weeks to birth and included all our doctor visits, booking blood tests for the green card, ultrasound scans and a couple more things. This was a big saving on what paying each visit would have cost. I had spoke with Dr Vidya about my birth plan in that I planned to deliver the baby as quickly and painlessly as possible!

Things seemed to be going to plan until around the 36 week mark I noticed Bump (as she was then known) wasn't moving much and I'd had a bad headache for a couple of days. I went in to see Dr Vidya and we discovered that my blood pressure was dangerously high and Bump's heart rate was high. A quick ultrasound showed the cord seemed to be near Bump's neck and could have been distressing her. The woman that did my ultrasound was the only person at the clinic that I wasn't pleased with as while waiting for my doctor said they'd have to "rip the baby out immediately" and seemed annoyed when I started crying.

Dr Vidya came and assured me there would be no ripping out, but admitted me for observation. Things got worse overnight, before settling in the morning. We were allowed home over the weekend, but had to return on the Sunday (the weekend is Fri-Sat in Oman) for a check-up. On Sunday I woke with another headache. My blood pressure had shot up again.

The decision was made to induce me, but unfortunately it didn’t work. I have to say what an utter failure I felt. Yes, I know it is stupid, but for some reason I felt as though my body was just not willing to make this easy and I blamed myself. Bump was getting more distressed so we decided on an emergency c-sect. This terrified me, but the anaesthetist that was assigned to me was a lovely British guy who put me at ease about the operation and calmed my nerves - sadly I don't remember his name! He also gave me the best advice ever: Don't be a martyr. If it hurts tell someone and they will bring out the nice shiny drugs. That was great advice because boy was I not expecting standing/sitting to hurt quite so much post-surgery! I can only describe it as a searing pain that felt as though it would never go away. It does... in the end!

The Grumpy Egyptian was allowed in the operating theatre with me because it was a spinal, however if they'd of needed to do a general anaesthetic he wouldn't have been. In we went and less than 5 minutes after they began, Bump became the Mini Grumpy Egyptian when she screamed into our lives. The cord had been quite tight around her neck so the decision to have a c-sect was a good one. The doctors showed me the mini one before they took her for a check up and embarrassingly I threw up but I blame it on the anaesthesia not new-mum nerves!

The Grumpy Egyptian was allowed to stay with the mini one while they checked her over. I was stitched up and after a bit of time in recovery was wheeled back to my room and reunited with our daughter. We immediately started some skin-to-skin while the midwives and nurses helped me breastfeed her - ah those first weeks of breastfeeding... a story for another time perhaps. The midwives and nurses were fantastic and we made sure to leave them a big box of chocolate when we left.

The rooms at MPH are great and have their own en-suite. There is also a sofa bed in the room so hubby can stay with you and a fridge for snacks. You get a menu twice a day to choose your breakfast, lunch and dinner from and you can specify when you want it delivered. Meals for you and your partner are included in the delivery package rates that are split into normal delivery (+ extra for things like an epidural) and caeserean. We stayed 5 nights before being discharged. Two weeks later the mini one and I had checkups that were included in the delivery package.

I was really happy with my doctor and never felt that I wasn't in control because she always gave me options. When I was pregnant the hospital didn't offer antenatal classes, but I understand they were hoping to introduce them.

Anyway this wasn't meant to be such a long post, but even if it proves useful for 1 person, it will have been worth it. For the view of someone whose wife gave birth in a different hospital in Muscat, click here.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

What’s on Winchester – Autumn half-term

I had to do a post on this as I have been getting so many emails from all the groups and mailing lists I am signed up for. It seems like there is loads going on for children at the moment, so here is my round-up of the best events taking place in Hampshire with a focus on Winchester.

My personal favourite thing on is the Wessex Children’s Book Festival from October 26 to November 2 at the Winchester Discovery Centre. A number of children’s authors will be appearing at the festival including Tony Robinson and Nick Arnold. Local MP Steve Brine will even be getting in on the action by reading to children, while a film tent and craft activities will be taking place every day. There is a charge for some events and booking is recommended. Details on the free events can be found here. A full list of events can be found here. Baby Rhyme time will also be taking place as usual during the festival at 9.45am and 11am on Thursdays.
artSouth is another project going on that features different arts events throughout the region. As part of this, on November 1, a family day workshop will be held at The Great Hall in Winchester and it is free to take part. Visitors will also be able to view Annika Ström’s exhibition, which is being showcased at the hall.
Jay Millers Circus is onsite at the Milestones Museum in Basingstoke from October 22 to November 3 and details on booking can be found here.
Sir Harold Hillier Gardens are getting in on the Halloween fun with pumpkin carving on October 28, 29 and 30. While on October 31 a Halloween party with stories from the Forest Forge Theatre Company will take place. There are also three story around the campfire sessions on October 28, November 1 and 2. Details on these events can be found here.
The 55th Annual Winchester Bonfire and Fireworks 2013 takes place on November 2 and as usual will feature the procession through town and huge bonfire. Details on buying tickets prior to the event can be found here.
Lanterns Children’s Centre in Winchester has a lot going on as well including Messy Play, Garden Time, Bumps & Babies, and Come and Play sessions throughout half-term. There are also Music Time courses beginning on November 11 that need to be booked in advance. Details on these activities can be found here but you will need to scroll down to the flyer at the bottom of the page for information on half-term activities.
I’ve included some of my favourite events, but details on other activities and playgroups taking place can be found on Mums In The Know – a fantastic site. Make sure to sign up for their newsletter! They also have a Twitter profile that posts information about events including the weekly baby-friendly film screening on Tuesdays at the cinema in Winchester.
Let me know if I have missed anything and most importantly, have fun!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Review of The Baby Show 2013 - Kensington Olympia

The MamaBabyBliss stand

Well after a very long and tiring day, we are back home from The Baby Show. First off I have to say I was really impressed with how things were organised as at around 11.30am when we arrived it took just minutes to get through into the hall itself. First tip: make sure you grab a hall map as not all the aisles line up so you could accidentally miss something good.

The first thing we did was sign up for the British Red Cross First Aid for Babies and Children. It is free and there are sessions throughout the day that give you basic, but essential knowledge on what to do if your child chokes, is burnt or unconscious. Make sure you sign up on arrival as sessions fill up quickly.

The next stop for us was the Mothercare stand where we snapped up some clothes for the Mini Grumpy Egyptian that were discounted. The VEtech and Chicco toy areas were also great and I got some good ideas for Christmas.

The Babies R Us area was well discounted and on the way there visit the Prima Baby stand where for £20 I got a years magazine subscription and choice of 4 Tommee Tippee free gifts. They are also selling goodie bags for £2 that have October and November issues of the magazines as well as a load of products.

A selection of the Funky Giraffe bibs we bought

Sadly I missed the talks I wanted to listen to, but did visit the speaker's respective stalls and get some good tips. After the Babies R Us area, make sure to keep an eye out for the Fisher-Price life-size rocker that adults can sit in!

When it comes to the smaller brands, it was nice to put a face to some of those I follow on Twitter. I got to meet the guys behind The Gro Company and see the product in person. I didn't get one in the end but on reflection wish I had because with these cold nights the MGE will need it. My favourite item was the travel bag that could safely be worn with a car seat.

Another brand I enjoyed meeting was MamaBabyBliss who launched their new CDs for both expectant and new mums as well as a birthing kit at the show. They kindly gave me a copy of their CD for new mums (The Mama & BabyBliss CD) that along with other things teaches you about baby massage - something I've struggled with in the past. A review of the CD will follow shortly. They also have a gorgeous range of products that smell fantastic. Holly Matthews, who acts as brand ambassador for them was even there to sign CDs.

I did make good use of the Tommee Tippee feeding area with breast pads and rocking chairs, as well as microwaves and free Plum baby food. There is also a baby changing area (ran by ASDA) that has changing tables, free wipes and nappies as well as talc/nappy cream.

On the way out we stocked up on Funky Giraffe bibs - 5 for £10 or 12 for £20.

The only downside related to public transport and the lack of signposting telling those wanting to go in Clapham Junction direction that there wasn't a lift to the footbridge and they had to walk all the way round, but that wasn't really the fault of The Baby Show!

All in all we had a great day and really had to work hard to keep our cash in our pockets! Hope you enjoy it as much as we did and see you next year.

*DISCLAIMER* I did win tickets to The Baby Show in a Tommee Tippee Freebie Friday competition on Facebook, but was not required to write about the show

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Getting baby into a routine

There’s one in every group of mums that proudly states how their little one has slept through the night for months now and has good long  naps during the day. Meanwhile you’re stood there smiling and remarking how wonderful that is, yet inside cursing the sleep Gods’ cruelty. I’m the latter mum. Now to be fair to the Mini Grumpy Egyptian she did go through a bit of an upheaval when we moved countries – she was just three months old – and I’m sure some of my stress rubbed off on her, but I had rather hoped she would have settled by now. The fact that I’m writing this post on my phone in the middle of the night because she has woke up again would suggest she hasn’t.

For illustrative purposes, this is what I'm told a sleeping baby looks like

At first I wondered if it was the new cot, the different noises and smells, teething or if I was doing something wrong. Some told me the only way to deal with it was to let her cry it out… a method that even in my most sleep deprived state I haven’t been willing to do. Others suggested stuffing her with formula (she’s breastfed) before bed so she wouldn’t want to feed during the night. Basically most of what was suggested I wasn’t willing to embrace.

So I sat down and thought about her bedtime routine, The MGE has had a routine of sorts since birth as it helped me stay sane during her colic and cluster-feed strewn first months. We would put some relaxing music on, give her a bath with bubbles, attempt a massage (I never mastered this) and then after pjs I would read or sing (anyone who has heard me sing would claim this was the reason for her distress) to her before she would feed to sleep.

That would happen whatever time she looked tired, but now she is older we worked out it needs to start around 7pm otherwise the tears come. I still follow the same routine – Mozart for Babies  is currently our favourite  – and she drops off quickly, but isn’t so keen on being put down. A sleeping bag helped as she kept getting cold when her blankets fell off, but what next?

How do you get your little ones to sleep at night? I know some mums that don’t follow any routine and it seems to work for them at the moment, but I can’t help seeing trouble in the future. Don’t get me started on daytime naps! If I hold her or push the pram around the MGE will sleep for hours, put her in her cot and she glares at me like she wants to know what I’m playing at!

Any tips from my fellow mums? Please tell me there is hope or should I just take out shares in Yves Saint Laurent concealer?

Monday, 21 October 2013

The Baby Show 2013

I never win anything. Well until last week when I won two tickets to The Baby Show 2013 – Olympia Kensington, in the weekly Tommee Tippee Freebie Friday competition. I enter this competition on Facebook every week so was rather excited when I got an email saying I had won. The show runs from October 25-27 and features everything from shopping to advice and a load more competitions.

While there I want to take a British Red Cross First Aid class, listen in on talks by Clare Byam-Cook (breastfeeding), Jo Tantum (sleep) and Annabel Karmel (weaning), visit the Nipper Clipper Nail Salon (invented by the guy that won The Apprentice a couple of years back) for tips as I’m terrified of doing the Mini Grumpy Egyptian’s nails and spend a penny or two on some early Christmas presents in the shopping area.

I am hoping to go up on the Friday so will try and do a review that night to help anyone that comes across this post while researching pre-visit. Who else is going to be visiting the show? Any tips on what talks or stalls not to miss?

Tickets are still available to buy so if interested click HERE for more details.
Disclaimer: I'm not in anyway linked with The Baby Show, just an excited mummy who happened to win some tickets.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Sure Start Centers

Stock photo found on
Ok I put my hands up in shame and admit I used to think Sure Start Centers were somewhere you had to take your kids if you weren’t doing a very good job with them, but after visiting my local one a couple of weeks ago I can say I have been missing out!

I’m lucky that there are four Sure Start Centers in Winchester that I can have access too – Sunbeams and Reign and Shine Children's Centre, Sparklers and Carroll Children's Centre, Little Petals and Merry-Go-Round and Happy Valley Children's Centre and Lanterns Children's Centre. Offering baby massage classes, antenatal and prenatal yoga, play sessions for different age groups and access to community support staff that can help with everything from baby routines to weaning, it is well worth joining. Oh and did I mention the best thing…. It is FREE to join.
Lanterns Children's Centre - so much fun goes on behind these gates

Some of the courses and play sessions do charge a small fee but if you are unable to pay or in my case once forgot to bring change, you won’t be laughed out of the building. Becoming a member also means you get free access to the centers toy and book library that feature some fun things to do with the kids. In the case of my local center – Lanterns – the library is split into different age groups and can be taken home for a couple of weeks. They even have a ball pit and balls you can borrow!

After a couple of visits to the mum and baby group, it has been great for the Mini Grumpy Egyptian to interact with others her age and for me to meet other mums. The babies get access to the playroom with lots of cushions and toys, as well as a ball pool and sensory room (funky lights!). It is suggested a donation of 1 is made, but as mentioned earlier you won’t be turned away if you don’t have it. They also offer a record book, which I thought was a lovely idea, where you can record your babies milestones and take foot/hand prints as they grow.

To find your local centre, click here.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

I love cake...

What more do you really need to know about someone? Coffee, lemon, chocolate, Victoria, cream, boozy, beetroot... If they make a cake out of it I'm likely to love it. Since I had the Mini Grumpy Egyptian I have been really awful when it comes to cooking and actually having the time to bake never seems to crop up. A recent look on a couple of my favourite blogs made me aware about Credit Crunch Munch where the point is to post a recipe for something that saves money by using up things you already have.

I got a thinking and one vegetable I have always liked but REALLY got into while pregnant was the sweet potato so there are always some lying around the kitchen. I also like cream cheese icing on a red velvet, but it can be quite expensive to make so I tried the Sainsbury's Basic Cream Cheese and couldn't taste the difference. The end result is a moist and orange-tinged cupcake with tangy icing that gives you a deliciously not over sweet treat that has to be good for you... Well it has vegetables in it!

Sweet potato cupcakes with spiced cream cheese icing

200g butter
200g light brown sugar
3 eggs
200g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
2 medium sized sweet potatoes (peeled and grated)
Pinch of salt
Handful of chopped nuts (optional)

200g soft cream cheese
50g butter
Half tsp mixed spice (use cinnamon if you only have that)
Half tsp ginger powder
100g-150g icing sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
Half tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 and place cupcake cases in a tin. Allow the butter for the cake to come up to room temperature and beat it in a large mixing bowl with the brown sugar until well combined. Add the eggs and beat well. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into the mix and fold gently. Now add the grated sweet potato and nuts into the bowl and fold everything together. Spoon heaped tablespoons of the batter into the cake cases and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cakes are golden on top and cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack while you make the icing. In a clean bowl beat the cream cheese, vanilla extract, mixed spice, ginger and icing sugar together. Now add the softened butter and using an electric whisk, beat the mixture until it is smooth (no buttery lumps!) and thick. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes before spooning or piping onto the cooled cakes. Keep in the fridge once iced and eat within two days (as if cake ever lasts that long).

Some chopped stem ginger would be gorgeous in the cake batter but we didn't have any in the house. You could also put a little mixed spice in the batter, but I prefer keeping the cake flavour quite simple.

If you want to get involved with Credit Crunch Munch, pop over to Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours for all the details.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Carbon Monoxide Campaign

Despite the constant adverts and efforts by the fire brigade, so many of us are rubbish about checking our smoke alarms regularly or even having them properly installed at all. But what about other health and safety essentials? While in Oman I lived in three houses, none of which had smoke alarms and trying to buy a smoke alarm was impossible. When we had the Mini Grumpy Egyptian I swore I would do everything I could to protect her, but while coming up with my lists of things I had to get done before her birth, I totally forgot about a carbon monoxide detector.

After moving back to the UK, we do have one in the kitchen, but I couldn’t tell you when it was last tested or shamelessly if it even works. And it is this forgetfulness that a campaign by Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed is trying to tackle by making people aware how deadly not having a working detector can be. According to Department of Health statistics, 50 people die each year in the UK from Carbon Monoxide poisoning and another 4,000 are treated in hospital, but the numbers are thought to be higher due to the symptoms of poisoning being confused with a bad flu or sleepiness.

I was unaware of this campaign until I came across it on CupcakeMumma, who kindly agreed to let me link to her post. Click HERE to read what she wrote. I have also included the useful infographic that she included on her blog within this post.

I am off to test mine now, what are you waiting for?

The Egyptian Mummy

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Buying second-hand

When we found out that I was pregnant, The Grumpy Egyptian and I began planning what we were going to buy for our little one, but not once did the idea of buying second-hand come up. That was until we found out how much things for babies cost! It seems like shops take a cheap item, add the word baby to it and an extra couple of pounds. Where we were living in Oman, there was quite an active group on Facebook that allowed parents to sell baby/children items they no longer needed rather cheaply. However once we moved back to the UK I struggled to find a similar group in my hometown.
Some of my fave second-hand buys: (L-R) never used sleeping bag from Mama's & Papas, Stacking cubes and Animal Spinner

A Google search found me a group called Little Pickles Markets who organise markets for parents to sell their good-quality used items. I went along to one of these a couple of weeks ago in Winchester and despite only taking £17 ended up with numerous bags of toys, clothes, a musical mobile and books. To get across how good value this all was, I saw the same musical mobile for sale in a shop for £35… I paid £4 for this one and it looks as good as new. Aside from the usual stuff, people were also selling cots, pregnancy pillows, pushchairs, walkers and maternity clothes.

On my local NCT website, I found out about its Nearly New Sale that takes place twice a year so have put November 9 in my diary ready for that one.There are also a few websites I keep an eye out on and these include Preloved, Gumtree, Emmaus and Baby Swap or Shop.

Wooden Noah's Ark with a load of animals hidden away inside
I used to be a bit funny about going through charity shops as I remember them being musty places full of granny clothes, but that seems to have changed. A recent rumble through a couple landed me two Annabel Karmel baby recipe/weaning books, a Baby Gap coat for winter, a gorgeous puffball skirt that the Mini Grumpy Egyptian is going to look adorable in, as well as some sound books for 50p! I love wooden toys so much more than modern plastic ones so have snapped a few of those up as well for when MGE gets a bit bigger.

I am certainly going to be a lot less prudish about buying second-hand now and if anything quite enjoy searching through stuff for little hidden gems. What has been your best second-hand find? Any suggestions for other sites to keep an eye out for?

The Egyptian Mummy