Pregnancy diary: week 24 – BOGOF on scans (except I didn’t pay a thing)

Cute little nose showing, as baby looks right at the camera 😉

It seems like ages ago that I sat in the waiting room for our (what turned out to be) 13 week scan and saw a poster asking for pregnant mums to take part in junior doctor training by having an extra scan. Now, 11 weeks later, I’ve actually had the scan. In fact I ended up having two, each on consecutive days! When I arrived for the first on Tuesday, the lady checking me in rather gingerly asked if I might possibly have time to come again later in the week. She looked quite desperate to fill the slots (I can only assume not enough people had signed up, or had cancelled last minute). So I couldn’t resist agreeing to come again – I’ve been there, done that, and bought the desperate person t-shirt myself, trying to get as many participants as possible for my PhD experiments and for the project I’m currently working on in my job. After all, I’d get to see baby again, and I knew Tom was having a random day of annual leave on the Wednesday so I could get to work earlier and take a longer lunch break for the scan. There was a small remuneration and free car parking involved (not that I used it on the second day as I was on my bike), but that wasn’t enough on its own to attract me to help out. This is the kind of thing you have to not mind giving up your time for.

Scan 1

The scans were taking place in a training suite, not at the usual maternity hospital ultrasound department. It was actually a lot easier to find than the usual place, which I still find difficult to find in the hamster maze of corridors that make up the hospital! I was greeted by the above-mentioned lady and shown to a waiting area. A short time later I was called through by a young doctor (she looked younger than me – she probably was, it’s possible, even though this makes me feel old). I was greeted in the scanning cubicle by another junior doctor, two sonographer midwives and a fetal medicine consultant (who incidentally works at the Norfolk and Norwich hospital where I was born – doubt he was there then, again he looked too young…).

After a few basic questions like how many weeks pregnant I was, the first junior doctor got on with the scanning. Her first task was to figure out what position baby was lying in (head down and back to my left side), and showed the consultant what she’d concluded using a Winnie the Pooh stuffed toy. She was right. Then came a good look at the head. They talked amongst themselves about various things, most of which I understood, even though they were tossing about names of brain parts like they were piece of fruit in a bowl: bla bla bla cerebellum, bla bla bla ventricle, bla bla bla mid-line etc. It’s times like that when I’m pleased I work in a neuroscience lab, even if I’m not a neuroscientist by training myself. She established that baby’s brain looked normal and measured the head circumference. All good.

A great view of the eyes (closed), nose and mouth

Then she moved down to the abdomen, and checked the stomach and measured its circumference, which again was normal. A small journey upwards (in baby, so downwards on me – that must be a confusing thing when learning to scan) and she checked the heart, showing its four chambers beating together nicely. Baby was in a good position for viewing the heart apparently, unlike at our 20-week scan when I had to go for a walk to try and shift him/her into place. Not that he/she stayed still you understand – there were plenty of kicks, twists and general fidgeting movements throughout the scan. Poor doctors, I thought, having to learn on such a wriggly baby. Still, if they can do one that active, they can do any!

Next she moved down to the femur (thigh bone) to measure it. At that point the sonographers advised me to look away and they turned the screen around out of my view, in case I happened to catch sight of whether baby is a boy or a girl. After the leg was successfully measured (it took several attempts as baby was moving so much), she moved on to what they were calling the ‘AFI’. It became clear from the fact that they were measuring the amniotic fluid around baby that the ‘AF’ stood for amniotic fluid, and the next day I learned that ‘I’ stood for index.

That was the end of the first doctor’s turn, and the second one took over and did exactly the same thing. By the time she was on her last measurement, after 45 minutes of lying on my back, I was starting to feel a bit lightheaded – this is quite normal in later pregnancy when you lie on your back for long periods, because baby presses down on blood vessels so restricts the blood flow. I mentioned it and they were very good, flipping me over onto my left side straight away, as this is the best position to be in for blood flow when lying down. I soon started to feel better. The next question I was not expecting….. the consultant asked me whether I was feeling well enough to lie on my back for a 3D scan! Was I well enough?! Of course!! It wasn’t like I was about to faint, and I wasn’t going to pass on a free 3D scan!

Looking upwards at perfect little fingers

So he took over, showing the doctors how to change the probe to the 3D one and scan in 3D. It was incredible. He focused on baby’s face, and the detail and definition that we could see were amazing. The pictures on here, although good, don’t show it as well as on screen, where the sepia colouring and movements seemed to give the picture an even more lifelike quality and definition. At first it felt slightly odd and freaky to be seeing my unborn baby in this much detail, but soon I was just filled with an amazing feeling of being in awe of the fact I was seeing this! Baby had one of his/her hands constantly up by the head, and this is what was captured in the pictures that the consultant printed out for me. All five of them in the cubicle agreed that this was one very cute baby. I guess they have to say that though, I mean you wouldn’t tell a pregnant mum that her baby is ugly before it’s even born.

After about 10 minutes of 3D scanning, the session came to an end and I was thanked several times, given my photos to take home, and handed some tissue to wipe the sticky gel off my tummy. What an amazing experience, I thought, and couldn’t wait to go home and show Tom, Andrew and Granny the pictures. I was also looking forward to doing it all again the next day.

A bit shy, looking down to the left, hand in front of face

Scan 2

I don’t think it would have been possible to beat the enjoyment of the first training scan, so I wasn’t bothered that the second one didn’t quite have the same ‘wow’ factor. This time I was in a cubicle with just three people – two midwives who were training to become midwife sonographers, and one midwife sonographer doing the training. I had thought it was doctor training, but it made no difference to me who they were, I just got to see baby again. Interestingly I met a male midwife for the first time; I knew they existed in small numbers, but it was nice to actually meet one in person.

Today’s trainer obviously had a very different approach to teaching compared to the trainer the day before. She was much more hands on, literally, as she was quick to grab their hand on the probe and move it how she wanted them to, whereas the consultant had done much more verbal explaining, with the odd occasion of doing it for them by directing the probe himself. She was also very talkative, and engaged more with me (than the consultant had) as well as with the trainees, who were very quiet and kept their eyes on the screen for most of it. I’m not sure whether they were just concentrating, or trying to avoid interacting with her too much, as she was very enthusiastic and keen to show them everything she knew about what they were doing. It was hilarious, being a kind of fly on the wall (OK, not quite such an inconspicuous one!) witnessing this interaction between a slightly eccentric, but eccentric in a lovely way, trainer and her trainees.

So this is baby's head on the left (the skull bone of the forehead is showing bright white), and the blob at the top right is the arm and hand near the mouth, just as in the 3D photos. In fact if you imagine looking down on this picture from the top, that's what the 3D scan was picking up.

Of course I made the mistake of warning them that I had felt a bit lightheaded towards the end of yesterday’s scan. This provoked a reaction from the trainer of constantly asking me if I was OK and turning me onto my side frequently, and also praising me several times for giving so much of my time by coming twice and repeating how grateful they all were. She said it was good for them to learn to scan a woman on her side, so I shouldn’t worry. I wasn’t worried, it wasn’t that bad, but I let this slip before I’d had chance to experience her personality.

The trainees basically did the same measurements as the ones the day before had done, so by the end I felt like I could have a good shot at measuring if I’d been given the chance (no not really, it looks incredibly difficult to scan!) Again there was lots of wriggling, but the trainer was keen to point out that this was a good experience for them. This time baby was in breech position, which helped to explain all that wriggling the evening before. I think this baby must turn around all the time, and I just hope he/she gets in to the head down position and stays there before it gets too tight on space in there.

There was no 3D scan on offer at the end this time, but the hilarity of the printer breaking down kind of made up for it! I tried to explain that it really didn’t matter if they couldn’t give me pictures today because I’d had such good ones yesterday, but the trainer, as you might have guessed, was not having this as an option. She pressed the print button several times, 11 in fact (that’s how many photos eventually spurted out when it was fixed), and fiddled about trying to get it to work, whilst making lots of noise about this technology failure, complaining that this machine wasn’t as good as the one she normally uses, and generally making a big fuss. She figured out that she could save them onto the hard-disk, and insisted that the administrator would sent them to me. But just in the nick of time, before I was about to be brave and try and leave, a technician arrived and sorted it all out using the reset button. Again I got a flood of thanks, and of course apologies for the hardware failure, and at last was on my way back to the office.

I thought I should include some of the 2D photos too in this post, given the faff of the printer failure - I feel I owe it to the midwife sonographer who was desperate that I had them!

So here we are at the end of week 24….

…and as you can see, it’s been an exciting week of seeing baby. This should be the last time we’ll see baby before he/she is born, unless there are any complications that require more scans. I’ve tried showing Andrew the 3D pictures and explaining that the baby in the picture is inside my tummy (pointing to tummy), but he looks at me as if to say ‘are you crazy Mummy?’ He’s still too young to understand, and we’re hoping that this will be a good thing when baby is born, that he’ll just accept that this is what has happened without being old enough to think about it too much.

Outside the bump - not such an interesting view as inside!

Pregnancy diary: week 14 – hummus and med school

I promised more ramblings about pregnancy, and ramblings there shall be! Here are my baby-brained thoughts about what’s gone on in my life as a pregnant mum this week. Well the bad news is I’m still feeling very sick and tired (and also feeling very sick and tired of feeling very sick and tired). But the good news (for me) is that actually being sick seems to have stayed at low frequency for a whole week now, so I’m hoping it won’t get worse again; and the good news (for you) is that I’m not going to go on about sickness any more this week – I’m trying to be positive and boost my mood about it by writing funny tales on here.

Homemade hummus - my staple diet for week 14 of pregnancy - usually eaten in a wrap or sandwich, but shown here just with salad garnish so you can see it in all it's hummusy glory!

So my words to summarise pregnancy this week are: hummus and med school. Odd combination, I know. In fact they aren’t related at all, but both have featured prominently since I last wrote a pregnancy post. Let’s start with hummus. Or shall I be more precise and say ‘homemade’ hummus. I haven’t eaten any hot cooked food since the middle of March. I’ve been surviving on (as much as I can keep down of) things like cereals, sandwiches, crackers, salad, and selected fruits (totally gone off bananas again, as with Andrew). A few weeks ago I walked past hummus in the supermarket, and thought to myself that I quite fancied it, and it would make a nice sandwich with some salad, so I popped it in my basket. However, when I actually ate some later that day, I really did NOT like the taste of it and was almost sick (ooh sorry, I mentioned the ‘s’ word again; last time!) So I carried on with my staple sandwich filling of cheese.

Until one day last week when I decided that I hadn’t made homemade hummus for Andrew in a while, and that it would be a good thing for him to have for tea (lots of protein in the chickpeas and no salt, unlike lots of processed food that I was tempted to buy having no will or energy to prepare things myself). Tom, who is always willing to do what I ask of him at the moment (amazing man!), happily set to and followed my rather garbled instructions on how to make it. I never measure things, so my ingredients list was something like ‘chick peas, a bit of yoghurt, and a glug or 2 of olive oil’ – Tom prefers to have internationally recognised units of measurement when cooking! You just whizz them all up together in a food processor and voilà, hummus. The difference between this and the shop-bought stuff is basically no garlic or tahini paste (sesame seeds), but great for Andrew as I know exactly what’s in it. Anyway….. as I was serving some up for him, I got a blob on my hand, and without thinking I licked it off. It flashed through my mind that I wouldn’t like it right now, as I suddenly thought about my previous encounter with hummus, but that was soon followed by a feeling of ‘oooh I actually quite like that!’ So I tasted a spoonful myself and confirmed that it was definitely in the ‘foods I can currently tolerate the taste of’ category.

I liked it so much that I had a hummus wrap for tea myself that day, and the next, and the next…. in fact I’ve eaten homemade hummus for at least one meal if not two every day since the discovery. I don’t know what it is exactly about it, but somehow the combination of ingredients is perfect for my taste-buds at the moment. Maybe it was the tahini or garlic in the shop-bought stuff that was a no-no. So is this a craving? I wouldn’t go that far (yet) – I can’t say that I actively long to eat it, as I don’t really want to eat anything, I just eat out of the fact I know I need to and to some extent eating little and often helps to keep the ‘s’ word at bay during the earlier part of the day. Oh, feeling of hunger, please come back and send the feeling of nausea packing! That’s how hummus has dominated my week, and I have no inclination that this will stop any time soon.

Moving on to med school….. Don’t worry, I haven’t signed up for any more studying! I told Tom during my PhD that if I even looked like I was going to apply for any kind of course to get another degree/qualification then he had my permission to do whatever it took to stop me. But since I am a researcher, I’m always willing to help out others in their quest to find participants for research or training studies; and as we live in Cambridge, where there’s a big medical school and the teaching hospital includes a maternity unit, there’s always stuff that needs signing up to. When I went for my scan, I picked up 2 leaflets about volunteering to help medics (of the student or qualified variety).

The first was something I already took part in when I was pregnant with Andrew. It’s called ‘Preparing for Patients’, and it’s a course that all 3rd year undergrad medical students complete, in the hope that it will help them relate their theoretical work to real patients’ experiences. For this they visit a pregnant mum (and her family) in her home, twice before the birth and twice afterwards, and ask her questions about pregnancy, birth and early days with a baby. I love to talk (as if I need to point that out), and with Andrew I was happy to share my experiences in the aid of a good cause (or course! ;)) So I was keen to help out again. The only potential problem was that the leaflet was advertising for mums due between ‘November and early March’, and my due date (if you believe in such things – I don’t) is 30th October. I thought it was worth a quick email anyway, making it clear that I understood if I couldn’t be useful being due 2 days before November. Within half an hour, the course admin had emailed back saying congratulations on being the very first volunteer for this year! (That is if I didn’t mind having my antenatal visits close together right at the start of term – which I don’t.) I know I’m a keen bean for these things, but I don’t think I’ve ever been anyone’s first participant – someone’s gotta be it! They need 150 volunteers altogether, so if you’re pregnant, due November to March (well, Feb-March babies won’t have been conceived yet), and live in Cambridge or the area, why not offer your time if you can? (Disclaimer: I have not been paid/persuaded by other means to write this, it is merely a suggestion from my inner keen volunteer!)

The second thing to sign up for was an hour being ultrasound scanned by a junior doctor or two, who are training in foetal medicine. Of course they need to practice using the fancy equipment and figuring out what all the bits of a baby look like in black and white ‘magic-eye’ style! The criteria for taking part were: 1) between 11 and 32 weeks pregnant in the week beginning 9th July; 2) a singleton pregnancy; 3) a desire to help junior doctors in their training. I fit that bill nicely, and anyway it sounded like fun – mainly because it means I get to have a free scan, complete with take-home pictures, extra to the routine one at 20 weeks that I get from the NHS. I even get my parking paid, so I can travel in four-wheeled luxury (or our Corsa) rather than struggling there by bike (I won’t be brave enough to cycle with a bump, unlike many pregnant ladies in Cambridge). They’re doing this for one week only in mid July, when I’ll be 24 weeks. All I had to do was sort out childcare for Andrew (thanks, Granny), otherwise the doctors would get more than they bargained for – I can just imagine Andrew’s fascination with pressing buttons and pulling things out of holes getting the better of him, and the scan ending in technological disaster.

That brings me, finally, to the end of my ramblings about week 14 of this pregnancy. I hope you had fun reading it and will come back for more next week. Right, I’m off to get some sleep now, at the fine hour of 19.30. Night, night!