The midwife took another blood test (results should be in tomorrow) and suggested a) eating more red meat (fine by me!) and b) taking some 'natural' iron supplements which might have less bad side-effects: she offered a choice of Floradix or Spatone. The chemist at the health centre had never heard of either (and in fact didn't seem very sure what 'iron supplements' were... "Um, maybe try... a bigger chemist?") but Boots did Spatone, which turns out to be sachets of water which tastes of blood. This is very weird, whether mixed with normal water (dilutes the taste slightly) or orange juice (tastes like orange juice that's been sitting in a rusty jar for a week... revolting). The reason for mixing the stuff with orange juice is that vitamin C helps the body absorb iron. I didn't know this so hadn't been consciously trying to keep vitamin C levels up, though I get a decent amount of vitamin C in my diet; but reading the information on the Spatone website suggests that I've also unwittingly been eating/drinking lots of things which inhibit iron absorption, namely milky drinks and cereal. The milky drinks seem to help the heartburn (whereas orange juice makes it worse) and the cereal was supposed to help keep up levels of fibre, to combat the effects of the iron supplements... sigh. I do rather feel like I can't win here. :-( I am determined to try, though, because I really don't want to go into hospital and have to be hooked up to machines-that-go-ping. Anyway, I'll have another blood test next week (for the SPRINT trial), so it will be interesting to see if the supplements (and meat!) make a difference.
The other problem identified by the midwife is that Awkward Baby has turned herself around a bit, i.e. she's more back-to-back than she was. Fortunately a) there are ways I can try to fix this (posture, exercises, etc) and there's plenty of time yet for her to move around, and b) her being the wrong way round doesn't prevent a home birth (it just means it's more likely to be a longer and more difficult labour if she's still facing the wrong way by then).
Baby is also still kicking me all the time, even waking me up in the night with her non-stop activity; once she managed to do something that I swear was a drum roll across the inside of my womb. I tell people she's "very advanced for her age" (but only if I'm confident that they'll know I'm joking!). :-)
Other than that it's just tiredness, aches, tiredness, pelvic pain, tiredness, heaviness, and tiredness. Did I mention I was completely exhausted? Walking upstairs tires me out. Turning over in bed tires me out. Putting my socks on tires me out. I am also fed up with male colleagues who when I say "I'm completely exhausted" reply "God, I totally know how you feel, I had a bit of a rough night once a couple of years ago and I still had to go to work the next day". I have had one unbroken night's sleep since about August last year (and yes, I'm still working, and still cycling into work and back). I'm not expecting some kind of medal, I'm not even really expecting sympathy, but I do get tired of being told "I know how you feel" by people who really, really don't. But "Things Other People Have Said" is another whole rant and one I don't have the energy for at the moment!
A couple of days before I saw the midwife, addedentry and I had an antenatal session from Lynn Banerji (TalkBabyTalk) -- four hours of talking through everything about birth, labour and breastfeeding. Quite an intense morning but she was really good -- friendly and confident and sensible, and she did a great job of demystifying the whole process and making me feel more positive and confident about it. She also said I had a great attitude and she was sure everything would go really well and she wished she could be there at the birth. :-) (Of course then a couple of days after that things turned out to be going not so perfectly smoothly, as described above, which unfortunately has kind of undone some of my positivity ... but I am still hoping that I can sort myself and baby out in time to be able to do things the way I want to.)
O & I are booked on the NHS antenatal course in a couple of weeks' time, too -- always good to have a couple of sources of information to compare (and the NHS one is free anyway). I've heard very mixed reports of them but apparently it all depends which midwife happens to be running the session you go to -- there's no fixed 'curriculum' or anything.
We're also making some small progress on getting the house in order -- with two superfluous desks out of the way we're halfway to having an actual room for baby (there is at least now space for a cot), and in a couple of weeks we're getting shelves built in the front room which will allow us to make lots more space and, crucially, not have so many free-standing bookcases which could easily and dangerously be pulled over by an inquisitive toddler. If we carry on with this kind of efficiency we may even manage to get curtains put up in the bedroom eventually (only 18 months after moving in!), though the first two attempts at that have been stymied by the presence of an infuriatingly un-drillable concrete lintel over the window.
I realise, with... well, with mixed feelings, that I've only got another 3 full weeks left at work (and about 3 months' worth of stuff to do in them). It's very strange to think that I won't be going into work for a year -- the longest I've been away from work/study since I started school. I'm looking forward to being able to rest, but in other ways the thought of leaving is upsetting me quite a lot; it's useful to be reminded that work will get by just fine without me for a year (and that I'll carry on existing without it, that it doesn't actually define who I am), but I have irrational worries that they won't really want me back after that (and slightly more rational worries that my brain will have completely evaporated by then and I won't be able to do the job any more). Fortunately the timing works out such that I should be able to have my Annual Review just before leaving, so hopefully I'll be able to have a constructive conversation about how coming back might work, and what sort of things I might be able to do on my 'Keeping In Touch' days (up to 10 days of paid work while on maternity leave). And if I actually have any spare brain capacity at any point during the year out I do want to try to use the time to think a bit about where I want to go in the future, work-wise.
And yes, I do realise that -- especially in the current economic climate -- I am lucky to have a job at all, never mind one with a generous maternity leave policy. That's why I want to do it justice rather than just treading water.
So that's where things are at the moment -- sorry this has been a bit of a long and rambly update. I just wish I could stay awake long enough to think more clearly about things and write more eloquently about them!