Sunday, 16 June 2019

Real Life Interlude

Between Ziggy, Cat and the discovery of the Homecoming City of Heroes servers, I found myself without the time to blog that I'd managed to carve out a few weeks ago. But not just that - the post I was working on when I stalled again is necessarily very critical of my mother-in-law and I felt bad about writing and publishing it - especially as the wounds are still very fresh. However, she recently bought me a load of yarn (I think her way of apologising without needing to actually apologise, which I'll take) and I'm feeling better about her and so, strangely, better about writing a post critical of her. Maybe because I can end it with a positive.

Anyway, that will come later. The post is about the first week or so of Ziggys life, which was difficult and stressful and jumbled so will take time to untangle onto the page. Or screen. In the meantime, I've been knitting and playing Heroes (mostly the Reunion server. Global handle @Tempest Skydancer) and looking after Ziggy and Cat and playing Aberrant and Pathfinder and reading and playing Pokemon Go and teaching aerial and occasionally managing to train aerial and overall feeling pretty good.
Kitty has been losing weight. We put it down to the stress of Ziggy's arrival at first, but then she seemed ill and we found a lump on her back so took her to the vets. Turned out to be a cyst, but they were aso worried about the weight loss so ran bloods then did an ultrasound and long story short she's either had an infection that she's recovering from and is getting older, or she has lymphoma. We're overfeeding her for a few weeks, then back to the vets. If she's recovering her weight, then it's the former. If not, they can start her on steroids but there's not much more they can offer: lymphoma in cats doesn't respond well to chemotherapy, which would destroy her quality of life and be dangerous to Ziggy. She does seem to be gaining weight so we're hopeful but anxious.

Ziggy's growing so fast! I mean, babies are known to but he's huge for his age. Part of me loves having a mini giant, and part of me wishes to have a little baby. He moved nonstop in the womb, and that hasn't changed, meaning he's also a very strong baby who's already standing with minimal support (he'll hold your fingers and pull himself up, and sometimes he'll let go with one hand and stay upright!), and starting to try to walk (with inconsistent success). He still can't sit unsupported for long, and is nowhere near being able to crawl. He's smiley and chatty and loves singing and shoving things in his mouth. We've let him test a few vegetables - raw carrot sticks seem to help with teething (he has 2 teeth already), while potato appears to be quite tasty and broccoli is both tasty and a great toy (he cried when he ran out).

I have to go back to work tomorrow, which I'm dreading. Only for half a day, then another few half days before I go on gardening leave - my department got sold to a company based in South Africa, which was a bit too far a commute for me. Then 3 more months home with him, but I need to use that time to find a new job to start soon after and that's a stressful feeling, especially with the Brexit bullshit hovering over us. I'm terrible at interviews so need to train that and create a suitable online profile to demonstrate I'm good at my job (which I am, but the technologies I've primarily used are outdated - I've only used IDEs in training seminars - I've mostly coded C, bash and php in vim! But I learn fast. They took me on with no knowledge, no experience at all and in a matter of months I'd overtaken people with years of experience. It's just the way my brain's wired. And I need to learn how to say that in an interview... I don't have a portfolio at the moment because my drive to code has been focussed on what I do at work (and since Ziggy arrived I've been too busy looking after him and have only recently started to recover my life). I'm hoping to use my half days to set up on github, something I probably should have done long before. I also need to dust off and probably reset my linkedin profile. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Shadowrun - Other survivors and a ray of hope

The final instalment in the write up of the Shadowrun game I played in as a teen. Index here.

The game continued long after this, but I only wrote notes for these sessions.


By now, they were tired. They wanted to get back to the others to warn them about the drones and possible security risks. Drazen cut through the wall in hope to lose any pursuers. A medusa attacked them. Again, they were lucky to get away before the explosion.

An office slightly further down also had blood smeared across it, leading out the front. Drazen stuck his head out quickly to see where it led, and noticed guards exiting the lift. They ran down the offices in a slight panic. A medusa jumped from the ceiling at them, but 3 people appeared and laid into it with sticks. One was killed outright by the metal beast, but it was destroyed with Maya and Drazen's help.

They were pulled into the ceiling and held there in silence as guards and drones passed beneath them, heading towards the hot dog warehouse the others were fortified in. Once the danger had passed, Maya and Drazen insisted on rescuing their friends, whilst Dave, an ex-candy floss seller, and Renneck, a dwarf who had been Christmas shopping, waited in the roof panels. Between the group, all the security was killed, and Dave and Renneck led them into the ceilings. Jaz was still in no condition to be moved far, so Tark and Ryan stayed with her as the others were led through the air vents and similar shafts to the others in the small band of survivor. Cal, an office first aider, reluctantly attempted to patch up Keneda, the worst off of the group. A small girl called Mel, and an old woman known as 'Gran' also sheltered by the large fan in the freezing tunnels.

Meanwhile, a Medusa had discovered Ryan and had pulled him through the ceiling to the ground. Tark destroyed it with a spell, and Ryan and Jaz miraculously survived the ensuing explosion. As soon as Maya heard it, she insisted they returned. A stretcher was improvised from Keneda's climbing gear, and the Colonel agreed to carry her. Ryan was also fairly messed up again.

Back in the larger area the survivors lived, talk again was turning to escape. Mel offered to take Jaz's place as decker, but it was deemed too dangerous for her. Dave offered to lead Keneda, Maya, Tark and Drazen towards the monorail station, as Maya and Drazen (not pleased that Ryn had turned himself invisible and returned to the others without sending help) had heard explosions from that direction. Gryn, the man who'd been killed rescuing them, had been the only one who really knew the tunnels, but the path was fairly straightforward.

The going was slow, but a plan was formed: Tark and Ryn summoned lots of weak spirits, then Ryn turned the Colonel, Drazen and Maya invisible. Renneck threw grenades from an air vent into a security office whilst Tark cast an illusion of a group of shadowrunners running a different route to the one taken by the invisible people. Keneda shot anyone who came close to the illusion. The Colonel got the 3 into the monorail tunnel as a mage saw through Tark's illusion, and everything turned towards the 2 hidden in the air vents. A spirit, whose master was killed in astral combat by Tark, removed the invisibility spell from the Colonel, who was killed medusas in the tunnel, as Drazen and Maya sprayed bullets into the few blue-eyed guards at the end, by the hole they planned to escape through, and the spinning dervishes, medusas and spider drones surrounding them. Once the Colonel was dead, Drazen became visible. Droids started to attack him. Maya shot some as she ran to the exit, providing him with the chance to win, but she became visible and was also attacked. Drazen came to her rescue, and they bundled through the hole in the wall.

They were outside the arcology, but far from safe.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Birthing Debrief pt1

From the title of my previous post about the arrival of Ziggy (here), you probably twigged he was born on Christmas Day. Just.

This is the post where I'm going to go into a lot more detail of the labour and birth. If that doesn't interest you, here's a photo of the Cat. If you are interested, carry on reading below.


He was due on a Sunday. I had my 28 week appointment at 28+2, the Tuesday after the 28 week mark based on the due date. That afternoon, I developed Braxton Hicks 'practice contractions'. They'd build up until we thought labour was starting, then stop for 8-12 hours. This continued until the Saturday 6 days after he was due, when I felt a big shift in his position. He'd been beautifully head down and was close to engaged, back slightly to the side of perfect, so I was hopeful this was him (or it, as he still was at the time) getting fully engaged ready for labour. Contractions were 7 minutes apart for an hour. We kicked our roleplay group out and started clearing things ready to call the midwife. The contractions stopped.

Something was different when I woke the next morning. No contractions yet, but I knew this was the day labour would start. It was my big sister's birthday and I was a bit concerned it wasn't the most diplomatic day to arrive (though she would have been delighted). We met my younger siblings at a pub for lunch, then wandered back to brother's house for tea and chatting. Sister handed me niece, who was nearly 7 months at this point, and i sat and sniffed her head (sniffing the head of a newborn is said to help people go into labour. Of the old wives' tales on the subject, this is the only one I know anyone to have had any success with). Slowly, I became more confident that the contractions weren't Braxton Hicks any more, and Husbit and I headed home once more.

The midwife at the end of the line wasn't my midwife, and (given my niblings arrived in quick labours and based on what I described) she suspected I would have the baby if not that Sunday then certainly early enough on the Monday she'd be the one delivering it rather than my midwife. I was to call back as things progressed.

It becomes a bit of a blur after that.

She didn't come out until the Monday morning. My contractions still weren't fully regular, but the intensity was such she came to check. I was 2cm dilated, though she could already stretch me all the way to 10 (I gather this is unusual and suspect relates to my hypermobility). She checked and found he'd gone back to back, and did a membrane sweep (which I was due to have that day anyway). When the contractions started making me throw up, she reassured us that this was normal for some women, something about the muscles helping push on the baby. She advised feeding me teaspoons of honey, as the sugars are absorbed through the gums so even if I ended up unable to keep anything down, at least I'd have some energy going in. I became very grateful for this advice. The midwife then left, saying mine would come along as soon as her shift started, which she did.

My stepmum had stayed over the Sunday night, and my sister came to relieve her on the Monday. I remember asking Husbit for a back rub, and the Cat, clearly concerned hopping onto my back and kneading the exact area. I remember my midwife making me lie on my side during contractions to help him back to the right position, only once she'd said I could labour how I felt comfortable again (labouring on you side is painful) I went back on all fours and he went back to the wrong position. I remember the gas and air making me feel even more nauseated and high and slightly out of control. I remember the birthing pool was the only place I had any comfort or relief. I remember squatting in it with Husbit pouring new water in close enough to my lower back to soothe it, but ont so close as to scald me, and staring at my sister saying "I can't do this" with her holding my gaze and very calmly repeating "you can do this. You are doing this. This is what doing this feels like." She doesn't remember what she said, but it was the combination of her calm tone and the focussed eye contact as much as the words that helped me through.

Progress was so slow. I was barely 4cm dilated by the afternoon, my contractions weren't coming at sufficiently regular intervals, and weren't consistent strengths. It was real labour, but it wasn't a good one. My midwife broke my waters and said she'd check dilation again a bit later, but if I still wasn't far enough we'd need to go to hospital. Bang went my secret dream of him arriving in his sac, but I was too exhausted to regret it for more than a few seconds. It was a weird experience, and I had a brief panic that the shower curtain we'd laid over the sofa wasn't waterproof enough before deciding I didn't care (turns out it was fine). I remember finding it a surreal experience, and that the waters were really warm, but I don't remember much else until we got to the time my midwife had said she'd do her next examination. She started to say that she'd take a look, but as I turned my exhausted face to her she said she wouldn't bother: I wanted to go to hospital either way. I could barely nod agreement, then had the panic that I couldn't have gas and air in the car. Even though I'd hated it, I felt like I couldn't cope without. My sister had to leave at the same time, but fortunately my stepmum arrived just intime to accompany us. She sat in the back of our car with Husbit driving and me desperately sucking on the mouthpiece (unconnected, I actually found it gave more relief because I could breathe deeply with it without worrying about the side effects) beside her. It's a 15min drive down nice, wide roads, but I don't think a drive has ever been so frightening for Husbit.
My midwife met us at the hospital, helped me into a chair and I was wheeled to the delivery suite. I could tell we were there by the grunts, cries and screams behind the closed doors around us. They quickly found me a room and my midwife handed me over to a stranger. Somehow, I hadn't realised that coming to hospital meant giving up the midwife I'd built a relationship with, and part of me wanted to change my mind and try again at home. I knew I couldn't, but I didn't want Marghuerita to go. 
Among the other benefits of a homebirth is that my birthplan was pretty loose: I'd like to give birth at home, in the birthing pool. I don't want pethadine (family history of issues). I would like delayed cord clamping (default option for our local homebirth team). As for the injection to speed placenta delivery, we'll see how I feel when we get there. When the first of the hospital midwives took charge of me, she wrote down the ones still relevant: no pethadine and delayed cord clamping. She also asked us about cord cutting, and we offered that to my stepmum (as Husbit didn't want to do it), which she was delighted by. Husbit went to buy me some energy drink (something pink, either raspberry powerade or pink lucozade. I drank a lot of both over the next week). The anaesthesiologist arrived to talk me through the epidural, but she went faint and dizzy as she went to start the procedure so went home sick, meaning we had to wait for another to come over from the main hospital. This took so long and I was in so much clear distress that the midwife now in charge of me had talked me round on pethadine and had the needle in her hand when the replacement arrived. He went through all the spiel about the dangers etc, then very quickly fixed me up. He sprayed me with a cold spray to check it had worked - clearly had, because I remember giggling where it tickled my sides, though I couldn't tell the difference in where it should have taken effect, something the midwife noticed so she re-sprayed me more slowly after he'd left. She felt that the epidural wasn't quite even but not to worry about. I could still barely feel a difference between the affected and non-affected area, but it was enough. They examined me and found he'd swung into the correct position and I'd jumped to fully dilated in the time it had taken to give me the epidural, so while I was still in huge amounts of pain for 2 out of 3 contractions it had clearly worked.
I was now in the active, push push push stage. So I push push pushed. After an hour or so, he hadn't budged so they gave me an oxitocin drip. This switched up my contractions: the third weak contraction dropped away entirely, and one of the other 2 increased in strength, but he still wasn't moving. They upped my epidural a couple of times, though never so much I couldn't move my legs. They kept checking my pushing, telling me to push "like I was doing a poo" until I doubted my ability to defecate under normal circumstances (Husbit says he thought they were expecting me to actually poo - a common occurance in childbirth - and kept trying to explain to them I hadn't been able to keep any food down for over 24 hours so was unlikely to do so). Eventually, they got in a doctor, who checked, confirmed my contractions were still all over the place and that I was pushing correctly, he was just stuck. She said she'd be able to use forceps in the room and to call her back once I was prepped... I don't think it took long (though by this point I was so out of it I was sleeping through some contractions), but she'd been called into surgery when they went for her. I'd been anxious about being in stirrups, thinking I'd be working against gravity but the bed could be adjusted so that wasn't the case. I was in that active, push push push labour for 3 hours 56 minutes.

The consultant did eventually return. Very quickly, my epidural dose was increased (I heard the doctor tell me to do this, but was too tired so a midwife kindly did it for me) and I was snipped, the forceps inserted and I was instructed to push as they pulled. I was too exhausted. I had nothing left. The midwife pushed down on my bump for me. I must have dozed off immediately, because they'd told me to do nothing on the next contraction, but my experience was that that next contraction was the one where he arrived.

The floomph of his body leaving mine was intoxicating.

They switched off the epidural immediately. I heard Husbit and my stepmum's voices, but not the words. I heard someone - the doctor or a midwife, not sure - say he was a boy and I had enough time to think "but I wanted a girl! What if I can't bond with him?" before he was shoved up the hospital gown to land on my chest in a puddle of goo. I had two concurrent thoughts then. One at the weight of him: "That's not what a newborn feels like! No wonder I had trouble.".

The other thought, at the feel of him, the smell of him, the sight of him, was overwhelming, so powerful it must have deafened receiving telepaths and given all psychics a headache this county and the next one over.



Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Character A-Z: B is for Buffy

It's a little while since I posted the first of these, but despite appearances I hadn't forgotten! 

I thought this would be a nice, easy thing to work on with Ziggy still so young, but between him and the Cat this isn't going smoothly at all! I don't know what it is about typing, but Kitty will happily ignore me all day if I'm doing anything else yet feels shemust sit on the keyboard if I'm using it.gfff

Buffy Anne Summers, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I know the show is problematic in many ways, that Joss Whedon's feminism isn't all it's cracked up to be, that the few non-white characters are treated all that well, that Willow is treated as flipping from straight to gay instead of having her bisexuality accepted, and Spike in general... I know there're more issues, yet I cannot help loving this show (so expect more characters to make the list).
I was hooked on the show from the first trailer. As we watched her backflip over a sarcophagus, my younger sister and I knew we had to watch the show. We're a similar age to Buffy, both also slim and blonde. We'd never before seen someone who looked so like us leading a show and getting to be kickass in the process. 

Representation matters. And even more so, a range of representation matters. Skinny blonde white girls aren't exactly in short supply on our screens, but skinny blonde white girls with agency are rarer, and skinny blonde white girls with agency and the ability to best bad guys in hand to hand combat were pretty much unheard of.

I loved her for it. She showed the anger I felt as a teenager and was forbidden as a girl. She was confident and a leader and she screwed up and she tried again. She was flawed and she was powerful and she was real. She arrived at a time in my life when I needed her and so will always matter to me.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Christmas Day Baby

Breaking my silence.

The bump got so big I couldn't comfortably type on the laptop, so I stopped blogging, and then Ziggy arrived and everything's been a bit of a blur since. I want to write up the birth and first few days, because it was very hard but I got through it and hopefully there things I can say that might help someone else, and writing about it will help me deal with it all. Ziggy still needs a lot of my time and energy, though, so it won't be just yet.

For now, some photos.