Twins? Or, Counting My Chickens.

Not only did I find this totally enthralling… but also a wee bit creepy. There’s summat in there!

You can’t see it too well, but the chick embryos are spinning and moving in a lively fashion around the egg. Colonel Mustard has left a posthumous legacy: 5 out of the 8 Brahma eggs have tiny light-shy occupants, which is excellent for a lady and gent rather past their prime. 3 of the 6 Orpingtons are also fertile, with a couple more I wasn’t sure about. Again, not bad considering they arrived via Royal Mail.

Poor Mrs Brahma is pecking about disconsolately again, all on her tod. She’ll have lots of tiny friends in a few weeks, but in the meantime I may buy her more fox food another companion.

Disquiet

Harry had his 4 monthly consultant’s appointment on Wednesday, which went… well, OK, I suppose. I told him my worries about Harry’s short height and stalled weight gain, and he tish-toshed. I told him that the health visitor had said that his leg creases were uneven, and he pished. I bleated plaintively about H’s perpetual 39 degree fever spikes, and he obediently handed over some urine sample bottles for UTI tests. He listened to H’s chest, and couldn’t hear his VSD heart murmur this time around. So far, so good. 

Then I told him that the seizure-type episodes from Harry’s first 24 hours of life were bothering me still. (He had several occurrences of violent arching accompanied by massive desaturations in the NICU; his lumbar puncture came back negative for infection, which did leave a rather obvious possibility at the time. When a consultant neonatologist gently tells you that he fears your child may have been brain damaged in utero, it does tend to get your absolute and undivided attention.) Harry’s brain scan showed no bleeds, and no-one has mentioned these fits since he was 5 days old; yet they have nagged at me. So I asked hopefully: could it have been the chemical cosh he was given in order to stop him fighting his ventilator that caused them? And Dr said No, not really. And proceeded to be all non-committal about them. He obviously remembered Harry having them, as at no point did he delve back into the notes.

So we still don’t know what these wretched episodes were, or quite what to think about them. I do have some dark suspicions; but Harry does seem to be progressing. Born 3rd August instead of mid late September, he is pincer-gripping, finger-feeding, crawling at high speed, sitting himself up straight and pulling up to a stand on everything he can grasp.

However, although clearly a hearing baby, he is a little behind with his talking – he will croon die dada die (A threat? A warning?!) and such like to himself but will not respond vocally to conversation or join in with singing. He is an extremely, comically wobbly baby, and is horribly prone to bashing into things with his poor head that he must realise are there. He stands on his toes quite often instead of flat on his feet. His head lag took a hell of a long time to sort itself out.

On the days when he is clumsier than usual, in fact, I am not able to stop myself googling cerebral palsy.

I told the consultant about none of this. Nor any of my IRL friends and family. It is all within the spectrum of normal baby behaviour, and I have no wish to sound as paranoid as I am, if you understand me. It’s early days yet, and if there does turn out to be a problem later with Harry’s development, A) it is obviously not detectable to Consultant yet or he would have told us and B) there’s nothing we can do at present except watch and wait. And for me to worry my tits off. 

What I wanted him to tell us was not to worry. To reassure me that Harry is absolutely sound in wind and limb, and his wonderful progress so far eclipses any possibility of things going agley further down the line. A robust ‘Of course your son isn’t damaged in any way, Mrs Hairy Farmer’ would have been just lovely. The combined guilt of faulty uterine housing (two of ’em, both work, but only sort of) and an early end to Harry’s tenancy agreement, coupled with my appalling and iniquitous failure to sit out Harry’s most dangerous hours of life alongside him (hence I actually saw none of these seizures for myself), is a burden I find staggering already. (It gets worse as we move further from the events themselves. It’s almost as if I felt that the closer I was in time to the things that went wrong, the easier it would be to reach back and put them all right. I’m such a dipshit.) Having my suspicions solidify into bad news after all of this would be very hard.

I already feel that I let Harry down enough in the beginning (yes yes yes, I know I didn’t stress him out in utero and then evict him deliberately, but cognitivity’s fuck-all use sometimes) but had thought that he was now free of any lingering issues from the useless half-arsed start in life that his Mummy gave him. I may have been wrong. I hope not. Watch this space.

I was going to save the next bit of news for another post, but I’ve managed to properly upset myself typing all this now, so I’ll get the doom and gloom over with all together: RIP Colonel Mustard II. God knows what Mrs Brahma’s doing to them; that’s the second husband she’s seen into the grave (Actually, the metal dead-bin at the farm. Less dignified but also less digging.) in 4 months. Admittedly these Brahmas are probably on the older side of middle age, but he was in great condition when he arrived a month ago. She could hardly be taking out life insurance policies on these chaps. 

Perhaps she shagged him to deat… no, no, couldn’t have.

Forget I mentioned it.

Crotch Care

My word! I had no idea that my undercarriage had such exciting bloggy potential; it seems that the UK ladies are in the minority with their tweezing prowess. Just so the rest of the world don’t think us utterly provincial, let us take a quick spin through the alternatives, just to prove we know about them.

Hair removing cream

Nice in principal, but HFF wifey is deadly allergic in practice.

Epilators

Epilators Smepilators. They’re just a big bunch of tweezers on a stick.

Electrolysis

Hmmmm. Yeah, I have one of these thingies. For the first 4 hours after I bought it, I electrolysed fervently. At which point I read the information manual, and realised that even when I’d killed the active follicles, they had hundreds of little buddies per square inch, all waiting dormant, ready to spring up in sprightly fashion. At which point I decided life was simply too short.

Razors

The disposables are my weapon of choice for leg hair, but the thing with my follicles à la upper bikini area is that they seem prone to getting excited at the least little thing (in marked opposition to the ones produced by my ovaries) and can turn a nasty bright red if provoked. I then look as if I’ve tried slash and burn agriculture, which is not such a good look on a groin. The blasted sprouting things are back again in a couple of days or so, ruining your smooth finish, noticeably so if you are blessed with lustrous thick dark hair.

Also, blades wielded in haste around one’s lower bits can produce unhappy results. When I suddenly (and correctly) decided that my Delhi belly was premature labour, I was attempting to relax the pain away in the bath. Realising that even another false alarm would necessitate a baring-of-bits at the hospital, I swiftly snatched the razor and made a couple of rapid swipes around the target zone. You can see where this is going, yes? A fumbling combination of insufficient reach, rising panic and my blind-summit belly resulted in a painful and rather embarrassing small gash. But not to worry, because the bloody big tear I incurred a few hours later in front of a roomful of intently watching people put it all nicely into perspective.

Waxing

Ahhh, waxing. Happy memories. Psyching yourself for the big pull.

When the hospital kindly lent me their oldest battleship of a breast pump, it became apparent that it had only one setting: violent. For several weeks I sat on the edge of my bed at 3.30am, holding the suction cup hovering over my breast and taking deep breaths whilst repeating the holy mantra in a fervent undertone: Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck. Final deep breath, apply suction cup. Suppress scream of agony as tortured nipple shoots 2 inches down the tube the moment an air seal is achieved.

I’m shuddering with the memory. My nipples have crawled away and hid under my armpits in terror. The pain-parallels between waxing and the malevolent Medela Lactina were startling. And since my pumping agony (Hire a Symphony, girls. Or an Ameda Elite. Trust me on this: they’re worth the money.) ended, my wax strips have resided in the cupboard undisturbed. Can’t seem to get excited about them, somehow.

I have to confess that since I have discontinued use of the wax, my lower areas have become a little more… festooned than they used to be. Tweezers can only take you so far, I agree. But hey, I’ve been married 4 years and have a 10 month old baby. It’s normal to not find your arse with an atlas at this point, surely?

NO?

Bugger.

Pubes & Pugilism

Germ Report: the hacking coughs, roaring sneezes and soaring temperatures have died down. Harry still has impressive slugs of snot emerging whenever the moment is as socially inconvenient as he can manage, but by and large the Hairy Farmer Family health quotient has risen substantially. I think we will live.

Speaking of hairy, I went to see Sex & the City Friday night with a bunch of girlie friends from baby group. Yes, I know that anyone who is anyone has seen the thing weeks ago; we’re a bit bucolic around here and don’t get out much. The shot of Miranda’s pubic tufts was rendered doubly hideous by the fact that I knew damn well that I was in an identical condition, bar the perky shade of ginger. And for an identical reason!

Trooping outside at the end, I voiced my ‘OMG, feeling rather guilty about the sex thing’ consternation, whereupon all of my companions promptly piped up agreement in six part harmony. And given that we collectively represented two c-sections, four vaginals and an IVF gestational surrogate in delivery terms, the reason could hardly have been lingering post-birth-rippage ouchie. Chaps in our corner of Warwickshire simply don’t seem to be getting much of late. Not but what, I think a couple of them may have got a wee bit more that night: we all scuttled home with purposeful expressions. One girl’s parting shot was that she was going home to ‘put out’, which made me giggle, God bless her.

I did get round to wielding the tweezers around the wifey-unmentionables yesterday afternoon, but a combination of a transatlantic phone call ending and half a bottle of lovely Beringer fizzy rosé meant that I only managed 50% of the job. In fact, the unaccustomed wine was knocking me so deliciously sideways that I began to trap skin rather than hair between the blades after a while, resulting in my looking even more like an oven-ready chicken than normal. Then John decided that he had talked to his naturalised American twin brother for long enough, and decided to come and investigate the muffled (chin tucked deep between boobs, grappling with awkwardly protruding belly) swearing upstairs. He found a semi-naked drunken wife sprawled on the bed, and was quick to take advantage of the situation; I pointed out the lack of symmetry, but he reckoned he’d struggle on. 

I still haven’t got round to correcting my pubic disparity, but haven’t actually developed a tendency to walk in circles just yet soI reckon I’ve got away with it. Although, the ante is upped slightly as we are taking Harry swimming again on Saturday; I would have topiarised things this evening whilst John was safely at a meeting 15 miles away, but I was so disheartened by the fact that I was wearing Harry’s dinner following his grumpy refusal to partake, that I have slumped in the office instead, beaten. I should probably put a sticky note on the fridge before I totally forget and embarrass myself, although a dayglo Post-It reading ‘Pluck Pubes’ could potentially generate more public pubic peril than the guilty stragglers themselves.

Harry has been hard work lately. A top teefy emerged late last week and the other one looks ready to follow. He scorns Bonjela. He emphatically ejects Calpol and Nurofen. Nappy change time has become a wriggling, kicking, twisting, screaming battle which John and I are starting to lose. Bad, when you’re on someone else’s pristine carpet with a small change mat and a shitty bottom. He had some signs of his first ever nappy rash, so some bare-bottom time was decreed. Hubby was instructed to keep him centred on the green mat, which needed a wash anyway. He interpreted this as ‘vaguely within a foot or so of the green mat’. Of course, the inevitable happened.

      

And whenever I feed the young blighter he ends up yowling and refusing most of his main course, although he can generally baby-bird yummy yoghurt quick enough. He’s developed a particularly boxer-like habit of holding his fists in front of his mouth in order to bop the spoon away. Our attempts at a fast delivery with a last-minute swerve have been met with right jabs and left hooks, southpaw-fashion. Given that he’s quite a small baby still, I’m desperate to augur nutrients into him foie-gras-style, but he rewards my efforts with either amateur dramatics or a cold stare. Sigh.

  

You think he’s messy? You should have seen me.

Commencing Countdown, Engines On

Mrs Brahma has done herself proud. 6 weeks ago she was sat glumly in the hen house, refusing to shift her fat bottom outside and trying her level best to die. Enter Colonel Mustard II. And enter he did, the frisky old devil; lucky little Mrs B never knew what had hit her. Once she had taken a good look at her new paramour, there was an awful lot of flustered grooming and parading for a few days, before they settled down to cosy domesticity.

To my delight, and possibly to her surprise, she began to lay again about 10 days ago and I have pounced gleefully on them all. Along with 6 Gold Laced Orpington eggs I have purchased, today I switched on the incubator and set them to cook.

Hopefully, 21 days from now there should be small inquisitive beaks poking out of shells. I’m quite pathetically excited at the prospect. I shall candle them in a week and see if anything is actually developing, or if the Colonel is shooting blanks. It happens to the very best of us.

It’s always difficult when livestock don’t breed to expectations and you’re an infertile farmer’s wife with 3 miscarriages under her belt. You tend to get darkly upset, and brood for years, when your MIL talks disparagingly of a cow just delivered of a dead calf as ‘a dead loss, girlie’. Or when your FIL, who is a lovely and well-meaning chap but not the most naturally empathic soul ever born, keeps thinking that the small field directly in front of your house is the ideal spot to park ewes who have slipped lamb early. Every damn year. Every one marked with a bright red cross on her back.

My failure to have children, surrounded by an industry that essentially centres on reproduction, generated some very dark feelings before Harry was born. I can remember sobbing to Hubby on a number of occasions when things had gone badly, again, that if I was a ewe or a cow he’d have sold me for slaughter by now. 

Poor John. That must have been a facer, because he couldn’t deny the fundamental truth of it. He did, of course, point out my distinct lack of udders (not sure about that one now, after 10 months of breastfeeding; bit of a pendulous thing going on these days), hairy ears and hooves. Presence of wedding ring, etc. My counsellor, a patient and wonderful soul who has acquired me for life, also experienced some difficulty in prying me away from this concept. I still get wound up like a spring when I detect that fertility issues are dictating a one-way trip to market for livestock; but my suggestions that these girlies be given a nice fresh field of grass and a long gentle coast into doddering old age are not well-received.

Anyhoo. Fat lot of use in me getting irked up; I can’t change anything. But the point I’m trying to make here, in my usual long-winded fashion, is that if every one of the eggs in my incubator is infertile – I won’t mind at all.

No, ma’am. We’re musicians.

I forgot about these little guys. Highlight of my day on Sunday! Winners of the Fancy Dress class, apparently.

The Oddest Pair

Harry’s suspiciously flushed cheeks of yesterday have morphed into snot and high temperature. The last 3 weeks he has been beautifully well, and it had been his longest snot-free period since Christmas. His blocked tear duct and sore eye even cleared up last week for the first time ever, as his inflamed little membranes had obviously been snotless long enough for the swelling and irritation to subside. But fluid came pouring back out of his eye this morning. Yummy. Poor little chap. He catches everything, and it just isn’t his turn again yet. 

Today was a local village scarecrow and dog show day, organised mainly by Hubby’s parents.

        

   

Harry submitted listlessly to being pushed around the village in Behemoth, but bestowed beaming smiles on no-one. Some of his stern glares, in which he can specialise even when healthy, were particularly ferocious today. It’s always a tad embarrassing when a local gurgling granny hunkers down for a nice coochie-coo, only to be met with the glacial facial equivalent of an icy blast in the unmentionables. 

By dint of a judicious mixture of quiet avoidance and barefaced disinterest, Hubby and I had managed to evade his Mother’s dragnet for volunteers; my mother was less fortunate, as she arrived alone and was promptly cornered. So, mother was pinned down on the raffle stall, and John and I perambulated down to the church where we were married.

This little lot were awarded second place, although only the organist seemed to have anything about her, to my mind. Slightly reminiscent of a beakier Miss Marple.

 

 

This thing came first.

Whereas my babies and dancer came nowhere! Wail!

The Sheik was, admittedly, looking a bit unfinished. He looked as if he’d fallen foul of Sharia law at some point, as he appeared to be minus any hands and awfully lacking in the foot department, but heigh-ho.

  

John and I thought that this chap had been robbed of a much-deserved first, as he was A) a classic scarecrow, and B) the scariest sodding thing we’ve ever seen.

   

We also thought that junior Spiderman deserved an honourable mention in the Funny Peculiar category, on account of his walloping great packet.

 

Slightly down in the mouth at our lack of scarecrow-rosette, Hairy Farmer Family returned to the social club where the dog show was drawing to a close. There was a ring for the serious kennel club classes, and a ring for the novelty, fun classes. We had missed the fancy dress, the waggiest tail, and the junior handler classes, but were all there ready to jump triumphantly into the ring for the final class of Oddest Pair and claim our inevitable First. Ain’t no dogs odder-matched than ours! 

Then some discordant notes began to sound faintly. It occurred to me that I didn’t recognise a soul around the now sparsely-populated ring, apart from the band of loyal friends we had rounded up to generate maximum applause when we cruised to victory. There weren’t, in fact, any local dogs at our village dog show. It was all… well, despite the straw bales we had furnished the rings with, polished, really. I have an aunt and uncle who are mad keen for showing dogs, and when I was small I often used to go along with them. It was dawning on me that we had stumbled unawares into a society clique that I recognised. The novelty classes were not yokels-bring-your-hounds-for-a-laugh classes. Oh no. They were deadly serious. We were surrounded by a fug of dog fur, which had floated away from the frenzied grooming taking place on all sides. The sun was gleaming off shining, glossy coats. I began to pick nervously at the dried fox shit on Maddie’s fur.

The delightfully camp flunkey called for all Odd Pairs to please enter the ring. Shooting a last glance at Hubby, who had also correctly assessed the situation as one in which we Did Not Belong and was clutching the camera with an enormous, expectant grin, I ducked under the tape. We made a grand entrance among the pedigrees, as Tebbit was gaily hacking his lungs up, and Mads was leaning against her lead at a crazy angle, scrabbling keenly towards the other contestants. Not one of whom was Odd. Not one. Beautifully groomed and impeccably behaved, they sat primly in a decorous row, whilst I circled at the end, desperately tugging against our two wildly lunging mutts, before I eventually jerked and hissed them into something approaching stillness. The sun did glint nicely onto the large patch of dried tractor-oil on Tebba’s back though.

I do wish I could properly illustrate the embarrassing disparity between them and us, but I’m afraid John under-achieved with the camera, no doubt suffering from total mirth overload, and only managed to take a (so hideous in expression that I have been obliged to obliterate my head lest you all run away) photo of us which included no other dogs. So you’ll just have to imagine.

 

Prizes were awarded 1st to 5th, and there were 5 pairs of dogs entered altogether.

Bloody kennel club. No sense of humour whatsoever.

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