Friday, May 29, 2015

Comics review: Convergence week 6

I'm amazed I'm still managing to write these reviews.  I think I'm going to try and keep these short.

Convergence: Catwoman 2
This was pretty good, up until the point where Selina got shot and died.  Obviously Batman is still alive.  I guess if Bats had been the one who'd got shot and died it might have looked like the story was becoming about him.
The Gotham by Midnight preview is not really for me.

Convergence: Suicide Squad 2
Good. Strange Captain Boomerang twist, but good nonetheless.  I don't think Amanda Waller is really dead.  I think she'll show up to scorn the fancy statue.  Nice to see Babs in here.
The Aquaman preview was pretty good.  Nice new costume design, in line with the film design.  There will be some cultural laughs about Arthur yelling 'Your King is pissed'.  I'm not sure that's the sort  of vocabulary Arthur would use, let alone the varying meanings for pissed.  I'm not that impressed by Mera being a the bad guy, again.

Convergence: Shadow of the Bat 2
I really don't care about this or the Deathstroke preview.  I'm sick of reading about him fighting the Titans, in any incarnation.

Convergence: Green Arrow 2
The art on this is horrible.  The story is OK.  I like Livy.
The Green Lantern Corps: Lost Army preview is alright, but not good enough to make me want to buy it.

Convergence: Superboy 2
This is really good. The characterisation is spot on and the story is enjoyable.
I'm not interested in the Action Comics preview.

Convergence: Aquaman 2
This is just really, really great.  It's the sort of Aquaman (character wise) that I like to see.  Really good stuff.
The Doctor Fate preview was also good.  New art, very different from DC's New 52 house style.  The story felt more like an indie slice of life story than a superhero one.  I'd like to pick this series up.

Convergence: Supergirl Matrix 2
One day i'm going to have to find out the history of Ambush Bug because I just don't get him.  For a long time I thought he was meant to be Dan Didio putting himself in the comics, but now I think that's wrong.
This is a fun and silly issue, better than the first one, but is still not Mae Supergirl.  So if you want accuracy you won't like it.  If you want an entertaining ten minutes with an S shield that you've never met before, try it out.
The preview at the back of this is Bat-mite.  No I am still not interested in Bat-mite.

Convergence: Green Lantern Parallax 2
This comic is mostly about Kyle. Hal/Parallax features, but it's not really his story.
The preview is of new and improved SexyLobo.  Really sexy Lobo.  The first panel of him draws him looking like Mikail Starman.  Naked and bedding a woman.  I hope Lobo gets to bed some men.

Convergence: Justice League International 2
Terrible art, decent story, nice Booster moment at the end.
The preview is for Justice League 3001 and it entertained me, but not enough to buy the comic.

Convergence: Superman Man of Steel 2
It was OK, I guess.  The backup is for Bizarro and I still have no interest in him.

Convergence 6
I liked this issue because it had all the decent heroes siding against the bloodthirsty ones (like the Flahspoint one).

I'll keep all of these apart from Shadow of the Bat.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Pregnancy after stillbirth: weeks 28 to 30 plus 2

Ah, I have not felt capable of writing these last couple of weeks.  They haven't been good.  Emotionally, I've not been well and it's taking a lot of effort and a long run up to write this post.  There's not too much detail, but there's a lot to say, a lot to record.

At 28 weeks plus one I had visits from my family, a couple of them one weekend, and then the other one the next weekend.  They are visiting because I can't bear to leave Norfolk and be that far from my  hospital.  Remember how about 6 weeks ago I talked about how I just needed to grow up and stop being such an arse?  Well it turns out that I don't deal with seeing family, not right now, and I had a meltdown, as we affectionately call it, using that word to try and downplay and poke fun at a very bad time.  I flew into a rage and sent some rather nasty emails which I am not proud of.  I apologised, but that doesn't make it OK.  No matter what people have done, and no matter what I think of their behaviour, there is no need to send nasty, spiteful, rage filled missives.

I wasn't very well.  Things were getting on top of me, I was hurting, I was lashing out and I wasn't thinking straight.  I had a midwife appointment on the Monday and cried through most of the appointment.  Then I had a counselling session later, which was OK, I guess.  Then a pilates 1:1, which was a distraction.

I came home from work one evening, Tuesday I think, and spent the evening in bed, not caring about anything.  There were a lot of self harm thoughts (I haven't had those, in such a high frequency and strength, since probably October last year).  I didn't do anything to hurt myself (because I understand that when you're pregnant that sort of thing is frowned upon) but I wasn't well.  I managed to facilitate/run an all day workshop at work the next day, but still wasn't right.  I had my 28 week scan the day after and talked to the doctor (a registrar, not my consultant) and she suggested anti-depressants, which I'll go into in another care plan post.  I declined the anti-depressants, not because I have a thing against 'popping pills' as so many people rather naively put it, but because when I'm this way I don't make quick decisions and I wanted to be able to research the drugs first.  I didn't go into work that afternoon, but I also didn't take to bed.  I functioned.

The next day I did go into work, but left a bit early to go to the hospital for my second emergency CTG trace.  I had no idea whether I needed to go or not, but because I wasn't rational enough to make a decision I thought I'd be best going in.  When I got there the midwife agreed I'd done the right thing.  However, I did have to sit in the waiting room for about 5 minutes waiting to be called through.  The same waiting room where we were kept for about an hour when we went in to check C's movements and were told he'd died.  So that was pretty horrendous.  Or would have been had I allowed myself to feel stuff.

Since then I've been improving.  I'm not right, not like I was before this 28 week mark, but I look fine and I'm doing normal life stuff and to everyone else I'll be fine now. But I feel like I've packed my emotions and fears into a little box and I've pushed it down deep inside me.  I feel brittle.  That Tuesday scares me, if I allow myself to think about it, because it was a reminder of what depression is like, and I haven't felt that way in a long time.  I'm used to managing stress and anxiety, but not used to feeling like that.  So I push it down and pack it away and I'll deal with it at  later point when I have more time and space.

I do have to remember that in the third tr with C my mood crashed, completely.  I just started crying for no reason and feeling low.  I never really brought it up with my midwife because I'm not good at talking about this stuff, but it was a significant difference to my second tri mood where I was comparatively bouncing along, and the change happened overnight.  So I suspect that this week is a combination of grief, pressure, fear and hormones.

A friend at work (when talking about something completely different to the above) said something like 'you don't want to be defined by your loss at work', and my instinctive reaction was yes I do.  But now, I'm not sure if that's the 'right' response, or what I want.  I need to reconcile my status as a mother with other people's understanding of being a parent, and somehow fit all that into the rest of my life.  Which is kind of what these blog posts are about, a bit.  The purpose of them has changed, I think, since I started writing at what, 5 weeks (?) gone.

So, I guess I should also talk about the physical stuff.  At around 27 weeks I got a growth spurt, and jesus my hips and pelvis started hurting.  So I made an appointment to see the physio (at 29 weeks plus 3) and she gave me a support belt, which is bloody amazing.  Of course the departments at the hospital don't talk to each other, or read historical notes in their department, so she asked how old my child at home was and I curtly pointed to my Sands sticker on my maternity notes (the notes I bring with me that she wouldn't have seen beforehand).  She went ahh and it was fine, but for fucks sake. She saw me for about 50 minutes and gave me exercises to do to help with other pain, and on the whole was pretty good.

Speaking of pelvic girdle pain (PGP), the ways I manage it are:
  • When standing or walking for long periods, wear the support belt.  I did get given one with C but it hurt more so I never used it.  This time round my bump is flatter and lower (my torso muscles have little to no tone due to the short pregnancy gap) and the belt works a treat.
  • When lying down, put a pillow between your knees, a pillow against your back and a pillow underneath your bump.  You can buy maternity pillows which do all these things or you can use separate ones.  I use a mixture of 4 maternity and non maternity pillows.
  • Pelvic tilts can be done sat on an exercise ball, leaning back against an exercise ball, on your side at night or standing up.  They really, really help loosen up painful lower back muscles, which while not strictly speaking are part of pgp, nonetheless don't help.
  • Doing pregnancy pilates every week.
  • Seeing an osteopath (experienced in treating pregnant women) every 3 weeks to realign my pelvis.
  • Sitting on an exercise ball at home, not on the sofa.
  • Not pushing myself.  If something hurts, stop doing it.
FYI, my pgp hurts when I walk for more than 10-15 minutes, when I roll over in bed at night, when I sit on the sofa for too long and when I stand up from the sofa I get shooting pains down my leg.  That last bit probably isn't pgp, its just general pregnancy tightness.  It all needs treating though.

Right, what other physical stuff?  I had the whooping cough vaccination at 29+3.  It made my arm hurt.  2 days later I started getting a cold and now nearly one week later the cold is still lingering. It's not that severe, but bloody hell it's knocked me out.  I feel like I've been asleep for most of the week.  Considering that and my near breakdown the week before I've done fuck all at home and the boyfriend has had to take up all my chores, as well as the redecorating job he's doing.  It's not very fair on him so now I'm better I'm determined to start pulling my weight again.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Pregnancy after stillbirth: notes on CTGs and UTIs

Recently I've been thinking about CTGs and I also mentioned UTIs.   I wanted to put a few words about them on these here posts.

A UTI is a Urinary Tract Infection, like cystitis.  They are uncomfortable/painful at the best of times, causing pain (burning) when you urinate, making you want to pee more often than normal (and crucially, not having anything to piss out when you do go), and can make you feel grotty and under the weather.  In older people (pensioners) they can make you seriously unwell.  When you're pregnant an untreated UTI can cause premature labour and the infection can travel up your vagina, to the womb and infect the baby.  This can cause illness in the baby and can be fatal (to the child).

Hence why my midwife was concerned about the leukocytes and ketones as they can indicate an infection.  However, I did as she told me and the following Monday when my urine got tested again it was all clear.  So that's fine.

CTGs, or Cardiotocography traces, are used to monitor the baby's heartrate and uterine contractions.  It's done through putting two monitors on your bump, one at the top of your uterus (your fundus) and one roughly where the baby's heart is.  The machine my hospital uses gives the uterine contraction rate in a green number, and the baby's heartrate in a red number.  If you ring up your hospital concerned about movements and they ask you to come in they'll put a ctg trace on you.  At my hospital you go into delivery suite to have this emergency check done.  I've been in twice now, it's not pleasant.

Anyway, the point of this post is for me to explain about the baby's heartrate and what the ctg trace is picking up.  I asked a couple of fellow Sands ladies about this and they, along with my midwives, gave me the following information.

My midwives have all said that a normal baby's heartrate is between 110 and 160 beats per minute. When the baby moves, it is expected that the heartrate will go up to to 180 beats per minute (just as yours and mine heartrate would go up if we exerted ourselves by going up stairs, for example).  On a ctg trace, which records the heartrate on paper, a la the top line on this image:
You will expect to see at least two spikes occurring at the same time as movement.  The mother is given a beeper thing to press when she feels movement and this is also recorded on the trace.  These increases are called accelerations.

I believe that the lower line on the above image measures baseline uterine activity, i.e. contractions, and is normal.

The ctg tracking the heartrate will pick up when decelerations, i.e. when the heartrate dips below 110.  If more than two of these happen in a 20/30 minute period for more than 15 seconds at a time your midwife/consultant should be concerned and further monitoring is needed.

You have to meet set criteria for the midwife and doctor to be happy with the traces.  A normal CTG needs 4 features - baseline rate to be between 110 and 160bpm, variability has to be 5bpm or more, at least 2 accelerations in a 20 minute period and no decelerations.

For a non-reassuring trace, you need to meet just one of  the following criteria: baseline heartrate below 109bpm or above 160 bpm, variability less than 5bpm per 40 minutes or more than 5bpm for 90 minutes, unprovoked decelerations, decelerations related to uterine tightenings when not in labour.

A baby's heartrate is expected to vary from second to second, like humans out of the womb but there will be a baseline, which is not the same as a deceleration.  I have been told that decelerations are very obvious on ctgs, and that experienced midwives can hear a deceleration without having to have it checked by technology.  This applies when you have your heartbeat checks at regular antenatal midwife appointments and even the parents attending the appointment can hear it.  Having now heard this baby's heartrate weekly since 16 weeks, I would agree that it is obvious what a normal heartrate of around 140 to 150 beats per minute sounds like.

Note: fellow Sands women who are also midwives have told me that a normal heartrate is between 110-160 beats per minute and they expect accelerations with movements to go up to 180 beats per minute.  They have said a deceleration is classified as being at least 15 beats below the baseline for at least 15 seconds.  Which to me says it comes back to being what it normal for your baby.  One off decelerations can be fine, but the baby should always be monitored with a ctg and/or scan if one is suspected.

Another Sands mother says that when she had hours of CTG in the last 5 weeks of her pregnancy, her son only had decelerations in the day before being delivered, and that they were really really obvious on the CTG feed.  She says that movements led to a raise in heartrate, which then came back down, sometimes with a little valley below the average heart rate.  The deceleration was "massively and very distinctly different, with a marked downwards tench with no movement before it".  I'll add that although the mother might not feel every movement, on a ctg trace and a regular heartbeat check, you can hear movement as the baby pushes or shifts against the uterus.

I also asked Sands women about what they can pick up at scans regarding heartrate.  Most scans don't take 20 minutes.  They might take just ten or less.  I have been told that during a scan the sonologist looks for normal movement patterns and they can see if the heartrate is slow - they check it by eye.  if you have a doppler scan they can record the blood flow through the umbilical cord - the print out looks a bit like the ctg trace.

That's a rather long post, but I feel better for getting it out there.  I'm a huge believer in the more information available to parents the better.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Finished Smallville season 10

Another thing to cross off my entertainment to do list.  I do like Smallville.  I don't think Tom Welling makes a very good Superman, but tbh he doesn't become Supes until the final moments of the last episode, so I'm not sure it matters.  Erica Durance makes a fabulous Lois Lane.

Highlights of season 10 are the hen/stag do night and the Booster episodes.  Recommended watching!

I'm not sure if I'm going to re-read Season 11.  We'll see how much spare time I have.

Looking at my entertainment to do list, I think I'm going to be able to do the new readers... reviews but they will have to be shorter reviews than I would normally do.  But, yeah, I can do them!  Bring this on!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Comics review: Convergence week 5

Spoilers ahead (probably).

Convergence 5
I really cannot bring myself to care about this main title.  Skataris and dinosaurs are fun, but it's not necessary to read this to understand the tie-ins.  I suspect that I will be selling this mini.

Convergence: Justice League 2
There's some ridiculous bum and boob images in this.  Ignoring that, this isn't too bad,  It's pretty much a big fight between the League and Flashpoint Aquaman, with a bit of Vulko, ending with Mera killing Flashpoint Aquaman.  I can't imagine anyone not invested in pre 52 continuity enjoying this.  Fortunately, I like the pre 52 world a lot.  These 2 issues are keepers, really just for Supergirls' involvement in them.

Convergence: Superman 2
Just lovely.  Lois has been kidnapped by Flashpoint Kal, but he doesn't mean her harm, and he takes her to Flashpoint's Batman's cave.  Lois goes into labour and Flashpoint Batman (Thomas Wayne, a  doctor) says he can't handle delivering the baby so Clark does it.  Surprisingly, they show the labour as being quite drawn out, and not over in half an hour.  And at the end Lois and Clark and a baby boy.  It's delightful.  This is definitely a keeper.

Convergence: Batman and Robin 2
This appears to be one of the few tie-ins that lets it's heroes be heroes - i.e. not willing to go fight the opposing champion.  Of course it is, it's Batman.  Jason Todd and Damian are in this, and it turns into a father-sons piece.  The art is nice.  I couldn't care about the story.  I'll try and sell this.

Convergence: The Atom 2
I think I'd remember this more fondly if I hadn't watched Smallville's Booster episode last night (with the three Blue Beetles in it).  Which means that I'm getting my blue heroes muddled.  The comic was OK.  I find the Deathstroke vs the Atoms storyline strange, probably because I wasn't reading the pre 52 issues where Deathstroke killed Ryan Choi.  I do like that Ryan has been resurrected, that's a good thing about this event.  I am undecided as to whether I should keep this.

Convergence: The Question 2
This might be called the Question but really it's a Two-face/Renee story, with lots of support by Batwoman and Huntress.  Some of the storytelling through just art (no words) is pretty damn fine.  I highly highly recommend this.  Definitely a keeper.

Convergence: The Titans 2
Roy finds a way to save Lian and his friends, and Lian is the real Lian, and she remains alive at the end.  This resonated.  It's a keeper.

Convergence: Speed Force 2

This has a very flat, cartoony, style of art. It's not what I'm used to, but I can't tell if I think if it's bad, or if it's just different.  Reading it, I have trouble accepting this Flashpoint Wonder Woman.  She's too far away from the Diana I am used to.  Irey seems to have some sort of torso muscles, which is strange, given her age.  I think I thought this issue was nice enough, but it's not really got anything memorable in it.  I liked the first issue though, so I'll probably keep this.

Convergence: Harley Quinn 2
This was fun.  Harley tells Cap'n Carrot she has super fists, scorch vision, canary scream, awesome-portation and a magic hammer stolen from the Gods.  He believes her, because who lies about having super powers?  This plan backfires but it all turns out well in the end, and Harley is reunited with ivy and Selina.  But doesn't go back to her fella.

Convergence: Batgirl 2
Steph and Tim seemed out of character in this.  Tim says that he ignored her for the last year because she was no longer Batgirl. Now she is suited up again, he's interested again.  She gets annoyed at this, but then takes him back.  I prefer to think that Steph has more self respect than that, and that Tim isn't such a dick.  Possibly keeping for nostalgia reasons.

Convergence: Nightwing and Oracle: 2
This was good.  I really like the design of the Hawks, and Black Canary shows up.  The Hawks get defeated and are offered the chance to live in this Gotham, curating their culture.  That's how heroism works.  Then Babs and Dick get hitched and we see the second ever good comic book wedding dress.  The first was Canary's when she married Green Arrow, FYI.  These 2 issues are keepers.

One thing that I realised during this week's comics, is that the fights between champions aren't to the death.  I had assumed they were, but I don't think Telos ever stated that.  He just said one champion must be defeated.

I didn't read many of the divergent previews.  I doubt I'll be getting many of them.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Making a Captain Marvel maternity top

Ever since I saw Carol Danvers new Captain Marvel uniform I've wanted an everyday version of it.  I think the design is sleek, attractive and very wearable.  However, I can't make clothes from scratch.  So as maternity clothes are so bloody dull I decided to customise a basic navy blue t-shirt and put the major elements of Carol's uniform on it.

This is her uniform:
I used images from this Amber Unmasked tutorial and from this cosplay as reference shots.

My t-shirt is a navy blue version of this one from Mothercare's Blooming Marvellous range:

I used yellow material leftover from my Supergirl t-shirt, and bought new red fabric that matched the feel and stretch of the t-shirt.  I also used paper thin enough to trace images from my laptop onto, fabric scissors, pins, a sheet of bonda web, yellow and red thread and a disappearing ink pen. Then I started making it, using this process:

The Star

  • Find a decent image of the star design online.  I used this one from this site.
  • Save the image as a jpeg onto your desktop, zoom in to the size you want and then trace the shape onto paper. Don't piss about trying to work out how to scale up from the original picture size.  This sort of geometric pattern doesn't get fuzzy enough (when enlarged) to be a problem.
  • Straighten up the hand drawn lines with a ruler and make a copy of this star template.
  • Mark the front of your paper template with 'front'.
  • Put your t-shirt on. pin the paper star in place on your t-shirt.
The Gold Bars
  • Still with the t-shirt on, put a pin on the edge of the tee roughly where you want the gold bars to end.
  • Take off the t-shirt (carefully, without impaling yourself), use some more pins to place where you think one double gold stripe should go - check against your reference material to see how the stripes come out of the star.  The pins should look something like this:
  • Put your paper on the tee and trace the rough shape you want.  Just trace the shape of the double stripes, don't split them into two yet.
  • Tidy up the lines with a ruler.   Cut out the bar (write front right on it).  If you flip it over you should have a bar that fits the other side of the star.  Write front left on this.
  • Measure the height of your stripes and cut them in half, horizontally.  My stripes are 4.5cm in height, so I am cut them at the 2.25cm mark.
  • Make a couple of copies of these.
Your templates should resemble this:

The Red Bits

  • Place your paper on the tee, over the blank material above the stripes.  Roughly trace the shape of the top of the tee,  Tidy up your lines on the paper, cut out the template and mark front left or front right on it.  Make copies of this template.
Pin all pieces of the pattern on the t-shirt, so you have something that looks like this:

I'm actually quite proud of figuring out the pattern for this.  However I would invite you to notice that the front left to-be-red piece doesn't quite match the shape of the t-shirt at the top.  This caused a crappy patch job later on.

Cutting out the fabric
  • Get your copies of the star and bare templates.  Flip them over (so the side saying front is facing the material) and place them on the relevant bits of fabric.  Draw round the template with a disappearing ink pen.  Do it this way in case the ink doesn't disappear as well as you thought.  I figure that is the ink doesn't disappear the marks will be on the back anyway. 
  • Remember to cut the shape out of the fabric according to where the stretch is, e.g. widthways or heightways.
  • As this is a maternity tee I wanted the stretch to go horizontally, because I figure as my boobs expand horizontally will be a better fit than vertically and as the stripes are quite short in height, an horizontal stretch also seems sensible.
  • With the star, given that the star isn't asymmetrical (is that the right word?) make sure you've got the points of the star set up right when drawing round it on the fabric. 
  • When you cut out your stripes in the fabric, make them longer than the paper templates - just in case your template isn't long enough (a few millimetres short will cause a problem).  You can always cut them down to length once you've stuck the fabric on.
  • Remember to use fabric not paper scissors to cut out your material.
  • Repeat the above steps with bonda web, but using a pencil instead of the ink pen.
Putting it all on the t-shirt
Line up the bits of paper bonda web strips on the t-shirt, just to make sure it all roughly fits together, a la:

  • Get the star lined up right then everything else with follow.  It's handy having a v necked t-shirt as you know the top point of the star needs to sit right in the lowermost point of the v.
  • Place the bonda web under the yellow star then iron it on, according to bonda web instructions.
  • Do each gold bar one at a time, using the star to line everything up.  It  is fiddly!
  • The star and one bar will look like this (the white stuff is a piece of bonda web):
  • Remember how I said to make the fabric and bonda web pieces longer than that paper templates?  Now you have put the fabric on you can cut it (and the bonda web) to size, making sure they end right at the t-shirt seams.
  • Once the yellow is on put your red paper templates on.  if you are me, you now discover they don't fit right, so make a note on how to change them and cut out more fabric and bonda web as required.
  • Iron the red bits as as for the yellow parts.

You'll end up with this:

Remember how I talked about a patch job?  This is the gap on the left side which I ended up patching with a small bit of extra red:

You can also see the pattern of the tea towel I used to iron the bonda web on with.  A week later you can no longer see this pattern (hooray), but it does make me wonder how effectively the fabric is glued on.

Finishing it off

  • I used the sewing machine to sew around each yellow and red edge (as close to the edge as possible) just to make it a look a bit tidier and less like a 5 year old and been let loose with fabric.
  • On the yellow star, I ended up having to sew some of it backwards, because I forgot that you can swivel the fabric around as much as you'd like to make it sew forwards.  This is why you shouldn't sew when angry.
  • When sewing the red fabric around the t-shirt seam, be careful that you don't sew over the inside seam, like this:
Sewing over the seam means that your stitching on the other side will be wonky, like this:
In my case the fabric ended up bunched up like you can see in the picture, and I had to unpick a section.  This may not have happened quite so badly if the fabric was properly glued, but as you can see the bonda web and/or fabric wasn't all the way to the seam.

You can avoid this bunching happening by lining your fabric up right on your sewing machine and pushing this seam to the right of your needle.

The end result:

Close up from earlier, so you can see how it sits naturally:
For anyone wondering, the pointy bit in my bump is one piece of navel jewellery.  It's not my belly button popping out and it's not a limb.  I'm 28+6 in this picture - too early for that stuff to happen!

Here is a close up of the raggedy bits:
The yellow pieces are raggedy because of the type of fabric.  The stitches will help stop them fraying.  It does look amateurish, but I did wear it out in public today and felt OK in it.  The bonda web has made the red parts really stiff, which makes it sit strangely (see the above two photos), but nevermind.

I am definitely not going to extend the yellow and red around the back of the t-shirt.  This was enough for me, and took me hours.  Probably about 7 hours in total, because I'm slow.  I might try and find some yellow beads to put on the neck line, to mimic the ones on her gloves.

I guess this makes me a member of the Carol Corps.