It IS like brain surgery!

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Miscarriage is still an extremely taboo subject in our society and age. Everyone seems to naively believe and convince themselves that it is not that big of a deal to have a baby. Whether planned or not…babies just “happen”. Well, I am here to burst your bubble people.
During the course of my pregnancy I learned of three different people who lost their babies during pregnancy. Over these short 20 weeks, 3 different people I know had heartbreaking, unsuccessful pregnancies. That is a scary a scary fact.
So I will probably unleash all my pregnancy hormones at the next person who tells me that pregnancy is not a sickness and having a baby isn’t exactly brain surgery. Coz it freaking is!
Within the span of the 40 weeks of pregnancy a woman can find herself facing all sorts of demons, from an ectopic pregnancy, to an infection or having a premature baby that doesn’t survive. So damn it, have a little more sensitively please! I’ve had people actually tell me “there is no reason you cannot do that, you are pregnant- not sick”.
Well, I hardly think that doing something while having the flue can mount up to carrying out the same task while your blood pressure is low, your lower back is screaming in agony, dizzy spells reoccur and you hyperventilate after walking for just 3 minutes!
I’ve had the most difficult time accepting that I am pregnant and allowing myself to be “happy” about it because I know that anything can happen along the way. When a friend with the exact same due date lost her baby at just 13 weeks, I was petrified. Alex kept telling me not to worry and that it will not happen to us, well I didn’t think my friends thought it would happen to them either?! It’s not something you even dare think about.
So dear insensitive bastards (you know who you are) show a little more compassion when you meet a pregnant lady. Offer to help her out, open a car door for her or even take over some tasks so that she can go and take a nap. If your mommy didn’t take care of herself and act like pregnancy IS a big deal…you probably wouldn’t be reading this now.

I am 170 years old

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This could turn out to be a raving/raging post (yet again) about hospitals in Oman but because I currently lack the energy to be angry…I shall refrain from typing in CAPS and cursing after every second word.
A disclaimer: a first-time expectant mother will worry about every little thing that doesn’t “feel right”. She does not necessarily need to be in agonizing pain or in a life threatening situation to be rushed to the hospital. Sometimes a light fever and consecutive dizzy spells are all that’s needed to seek medical attention.
So there I am (at work-that’s where) on Wednesday morning when all of a sudden I begin to feel a little feverish and simply “off”.  I also had a few other symptoms that should solemnly remain between me and doctor so that half the world is not grossed out.  After fighting the sinking feeling that maybe this isn’t simple fatigue I caved and called a fellow doctor- who in turn told me to go to the nearest clinic and get checked out “just to be on the safe side”.
I seriously told my superior I will be back in an hour because I am going for a quick check up. (I should have said Inshallah at this point.) Alex picked me up and we went to the nearest clinic as suggested, the closest one being Al Raffah where I am currently registered. On my way there I kept on calling the operator to make sure there is a gyno there I could see. No one picked up. I called about 8 different times. Yes I had the right number- they just didn’t pick up!
As we stormed the lobby of Al Raffah hospital we soon came to learn that there was no gyno on call and my doctor would not be available until 6pm. Because…you know…doctors work in shifts.  Apparently it is perfectly acceptable not to have a doctor there for 6 hours at a time!!! They only had a GP- which would have helped if I had a bruise or maybe a sore throat…
Suppressing our anger we drove to the closest hospital from Al Raffah- Muscat Private Hospital. Again, I called them on the way there the operator picked up (Hooray??!!) but the line quickly died when she was transferring me to the “correct” department. Ugh.
I quickly felt like I was having the most surreal déjà vu of my life when we learned that they too did not have a gyno on call because “the entire department was attending a lecture and will only be back in a couple of hours”.  Now, please note that both of the above hospitals have DELIVERY WARDS and possibly women going into labor that very instant- but who gives a monkey’s I guess?
I began to feel quite anxious as by that point in time all sorts of nasty scenarios regarding the baby’s health ran through my mind. We did the only thing we could think of. We drove to Sultan Qaboos University Hospital.  FIY (if you aren’t local) that hospital is 45 minutes away. Make that 1h and 25 minutes when you are driving there at 2:30pm just as about everybody in Muscat is leaving work and heading home.
Keeping a long story short- we finally found ourselves registering at the Accidents and we Emergencies department of SQUH and they quickly send me to get my blood pressure and temp measured (both were high!). The nurse (an attentive young man) was however very reassuring and told me that he marked my file as urgent so that the Emergency department makes me their priority. An hour and a half later we are still sitting there. Alex is dying for some water. I keep pacing the waiting area (which is divided into male and female sections). I “borrowed” the chair the security guard was using, by the door, and sat on it with Alex standing responsibly by my side. We seriously watched dozens of people come in and leave, leave and come in again…and we were still waiting. They reassured me that this was unusual and the emergency gyno department was having a rather hard day with 3 women coming in with bleedings and what-nots. Now, had I been in any serious pain or god-forbid bleeding, I am fairly certain they would have seen me sooner.  About two hours into our waiting game we began to notice amusing details about the waiting room such as the “Welcome to the Accidents and Emergencies Department” poster- which Alex found hilarious and also the fact that my in-patient bracelet said that I am 170 years old. I thought about telling the doctor that my emergency is “old age” when she asks me what I am in there for.
But other than that when we were finally admitted the doctor was lovely, the nurses were lovely and their approach was absolutely relaxing. Although they did kick daddy out at some point as he was being overly anxious. They did a quick check up, a whole bunch of tests and a quick ultrasound to check the baby’s heartbeat and movements. Everything turned out to be ok at the end.
As we were leaving I received my registration card, neatly typed up to include my admission number, name and get this….”English People” in the nationality field. I laughed at this thinking that now I have a valid document to present to the British Embassy once I apply for my UK passport (because my hospital registration card says I am British- that’s why!). It wasn’t until we paid and received a receipt addressed to an Olga Mubarak (P.S that isn’t my actual last name) that I realized perhaps my dream of obtaining a UK passport might have to be abandoned due to my newly-acquired-obviously-Arab last name.
A little bit of humor can get you a long way.

I am busy being pregnant…

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…at least I wish I could say that I was away from the blog because I was busy buying tiny pink outfits or drawing ponies on the nursery walls. But that wouldn’t be true. It feels like I have no time to be pregnant these days. No, I understand that I am pregnant and the ever growing tummy is a huge (no pun intended) reminder of that but I just don’t have the time to embrace it these days. Perhaps the most “pregnant” thing I do during the day is take my vitamins. Now Alex on the other hand was ready to put the baby bed up about two weeks ago. (Don’t worry, he didn’t).
I am working full time and I think that is to blame for the fact that I sometimes “forget” that I am pregnant. Colleagues are constantly nudging me to stop carrying things or to walk slower and after I give them a puzzled look they say “because you are pregnant, remember?”. Of course I remember! Especially since the almost-daily-deadly migraines have invited themselves into my life! But those are a whole different rant.
I know that I need to slow down and enjoy this time as it is going by so unbelievably fast. We are half way there…we are just half way away from having a little one join our family. It feels like the weeks are flying by. Especially since I am at work pretty much from 8 to 6 everyday and I cannot seem to catch a break when I am home because something always needs doing (like dinner…because people need to eat!!!). Work has taken fancy to evening shifts the last two weeks so I end up going home at 9:30pm for the majority of the working week and only have enough energy to drag myself to the shower and consequently to my pillow.
This is meant to the phase when the baby is able to distinguish voices and sounds so parents are encouraged to speak to the child and begin reading bed time stories and etc. It bothers me somewhat that I cannot seem to find the time (or the energy) to do this as I simply cannot bring myself to take half an hour to “rest”!!! And the truth is, I am very tired. Not in the same way that I was tired during the first trimester when any energy I had was drained out of me and I could physically not manage the simplest tasks. Oh no. The energy is back now and better than ever. I am just pressed for time and a little preoccupied with everything going on at work…so absolutely no time to stop and smell the roses.
I have days when I stop and think that I absolutely cannot do this anymore – juggle work, being pregnant and running the house. Times like these, I begin to feel very sorry for myself and consider taking a few weeks off work or even hiring a housemaid to help me around the house more frequently. I have not even began thinking about maternity leave at this point. Everyone keeps asking if I plan to return to work immediately after the baby is born and the truth is…I have no “plan” yet. I am one of those strange people who immensely enjoy their job on a daily basis so leaving it all behind would literally break my heart. By no means do I underestimate how difficult it is to have a newborn and work full time- I just hope I can find my way around that somehow.
We will just have to wait and see.

Ramadan and me.

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Last year I posted a modest explanation of how life changes around here in the holy month of Ramadan, please read it here. I thought it would be a good idea to shine some light on the traditional and cultural aspect of this month- especially for those reading this back home! This year is an altogether different story because I am pregnant, hormonal and hungry all the freaking time. So my routine has not really been effected by the fact that Muscat has succumbed to the sleepy, slow, quite days of fasting.
Luckily no one in my office fasts (well except one guy who is on his annual leave now) so I have not locked up my snack drawer that is filled with Oreos, almonds, waffles and crackers. I munch away the entire day. We haven’t even moved the water cooler from the room because my Omani colleague said it does not phase him- even when he is fasting. So, we took his word for it.
I am however cautious not to eat or drink anything whilst I am outside (which actually isn’t that often these days). This has proven to be difficult because my pregnant brain is always exploding with one stupid idea or the other, such as “Why don’t you eat a tomatoe while driving from home to work?”.
And as far as silly situations go, my oven ran out of gas while baking a few pizzas at home and had to resort to asking one of my neighbors if I could perhaps use his oven to finish dinner? Now if this happened in the afternoon I don’t think my fasting/Egyptian neighbor would appreciate the smell of two gigantic pizzas bubbling away in his oven…and it would also be virtually impossible to get the gas service to deliver during the day in Ramadan.
Just this Friday me and Is This Serious were getting some much needed shopping therapy in City Center Seeb when we realized that we are frightfully thirsty. I also needed sugar. A chocolate of some kind. We ranted a little in one of the stores and an expat woman overheard us and offered her sympathy.  Except we couldn’t eat it anywhere! As a last resort we bought the goods and headed….to the bathroom. I sat on one of the sinks devouring my Bounty and gulping down my Ice Tea. Seriously, it was sad. I felt a little sorry for my pregnant self. That should teach me stay home till 6pm from now on!
On a more pleasant note I was thrilled to find out that Oman Dive Center still serves beverages and food (not sure about alcohol!?). Alex decided to try out diving this weekend and I was a little worried about him getting a heat stroke or collapsing from dehydration- you know, because there is no food anywhere!!!! It turned out to be fine.
Oh and after we were done with the shopping I sat in my car and ate a freshly baked baguette with some cheese…luckily no one was around. Either way that sandwich was absolutely worth going to jail for.

It’s a….

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For the past few weeks we have been anxiously awaiting our ultrasound appointment which was scheduled on the 3rd of August. This time around we changed hospitals in the hope of finding a doctor we were more comfortable with. Throughout the weeks I was unusually calm but as the appointment date drew closer I began to get nervous and excited. By then everyone around us was already convinced it’s a girl, I don’t think even heard anyone say “boy” out loud.
We headed for the ultrasound that Wednesday afternoon, with Alex taking a few hours off work to come with me as usual. Before we knew it I was lying on the ultrasound couch awaiting for the scan to begin. Now, here I must say that given that the baby was only 4cm long the last time we saw her- the ultrasound technicians must provide some sort of a warning, along the lines of ” now a giant baby with appear on the monitor and it will look like nothing you have seen before’. Because I am telling you…I was not prepared for what was to come. Now, I dually youtubed ” 15 weeks ultrasound scans ” and watched dozens of babies do back flips on the monitor…but nothing could have prepared me for my own! From the second the baby appeared on the monitor Alex was absolutely glued to it with a giant grin on his face. All he could say was “It’s really big, it’s really big”.
Our baby was lying face down, on her tummy with her legs and hands curled up under her, snoozing away. It worried me somewhat that she wasn’t moving but the heartbeat was strong so perhaps she was indeed just taking a nap. Unlike the last time where all that was visible was a giant head, a long oval body and two little dots instead of the feet….we could now see a well formed human being! We could clearly distinguish all her features…her spine…her heart…her butt. The baby was however in an unfavorable position to determine sex so the doctor suggested I should cough a few times and this might get her moving. Um, no. We then took a ten minute break during which I walked around the hospital, went to the toilet and generally tried to move a little to get the baby to change position.
When we got back the baby has indeed flipped on it’s back but the legs were still crossed protectively over the area that was of most interest to us. From what the doctor has seen so far she was saying “most probably a girl, yes most probably”. At some point all we could see on the monitor were two little perfect feet and we could clearly make out every single baby toe. It was surreal. The baby became a little more active kicking around and lifting her arms over her head- although I still could not feel any of it.
In a moment she moved her legs out of the way and the doctor zoomed into what was ” 99% a girl” . 🙂 Oh and what a tall girl she is!!! Currently she is already 17 cm long from head to toe! Her feet already don’t have room to stretch out so she keeping them bend at the knee and tucked in under her or just over her tummy.
Towards the end of the ultrasound she raised her right arm to wave at daddy or at least it looked like it. She was playing with her right ear and her arm kept on going up and down as though she was waving…a giant grin didn’t come off Alex’s face for an hour after that!
The doctor did advice us to come back in a month just to be 100% sure of the sex and to check up on the baby, but I am convinced because 99% is a pretty damn good chance and also the fact that everybody was guessing girl and last but not least…we could not come up with a boy’s name all this time!
Our little princess on the other hand already has a beautiful name…Alice.

You’re at Joey’s!

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Now if you haven’t seen that particular episode of Friends then this post will not make much sense to you but I will try to help you visualize it with the quotes below. Here goes nothing: at Joey’s it’s ok to eat pasta off the floor. It’s acceptable to be messy. It’s perfectly fine to be a blob.
Here’s the scene:
[Scene: Joey’s apartment, Joey and Rachel are eating spaghetti in the living room while watching TV and Rachel drops some on the floor.]
Rachel: Oh, Joey! Sorry!
Joey: No that’s all right. Don’t worry about it.
Rachel: Oh but look! That’s gonna leave a stain!
Joey: Rach! Hey! It’s fine! You’re at Joey’s!
Rachel: Really?
Joey: Yeah! Look! (He throws some of his spaghetti on the floor.)
Rachel: I’ve never lived like this before.
Joey: I know.
(Rachel throws some of hers down.)
Joey: All right, don’t waste it, I mean its still food. (He picks it up and eats it!)

And this is what the first three month of pregnancy have done to me. They turned me into a Joey.
Normally I am (irrationally) somewhat organized. I do the dishes. I cook everyday. I don’t let laundry pile up. I am a neat person. Now My Cynthia would dramatize and tell you that my house looks like a freaking museum and that I throw tantrums if the groceries are not placed in the right order at the check-out counter- but really, who would you believe me or her?
It would be fair to say that Cynthia was a little baffled (freaked out) when she visited us a few months ago- there was crap all over the place. You could not see the surface of the dining table. There were three day old dishes in the sink (!!!). This was my “the-kitchen-is-the-enemy” stage. Alex left for work to the desert for about 10 days and I am not sure if I ate anything during that time. He was shocked to come back and find the fridge (and all the contents) absolutely untouched (rotten but untouched). At that point (was that May or June, or both?) Alex did the dishes all by himself and was a little (utterly) surprised that they pile up so fast (basically every time after you eat). He must appreciate me a little more now. Back to the fungus. Have I mentioned the fungus yet? Cynthia rescued me from the filthy claws of the mess. Her boyfriend did my dishes. They literally came over to help me tackle the kitchen. They also later reported that something purple was growing on one of the plates and they are pretty sure they saw it move.
Perhaps a few months down the line I will be embarrassed that I let the house go so much. But back then (and pretty much still) I didn’t give a crap. Week 6-12 of pregnancy have been a nightmare of dizzy spells, nausea, headaches and sleep deprivation. So what if we ran out of mugs or clean forks? So what if I haven’t set foot in a supermarket for over two weeks and we were living entirely on instant noodles and French fries. (Not me, I had my constant supply of fruit-don’t worry).
My biggest priority back then (and pretty much still) was to take it an hour at a time. The notion of not being able to stay awake or even have enough energy to shower terrified me…trust me…dirty dishes or a few pieces of pasta on the floor just don’t measure up to Morning Sickness.
Letting go a little was actually beneficial for me. I now know that I can suck up my OCD and let Alex do the grocery shopping once in a while. And who cares if he gets whipped cream instead of sour cream. Boo ya. So what? Apparently once he gets bored of eating pasta three nights in a row Alex is also perfectly capable of cooking and actual meal…who would have though?
This baby is bringing out awesome qualities in my husband.
 I am so proud already!

Prenatal and Postnatal care in Muscat

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Disclaimer: The opinions stated below are those of an excessively worried, picky and downright demanding pregnant woman and may not reflect the experiences or thoughts of other (calmer) patients of the said health-care providers. 
I have certain expectations when it comes to healthcare. I mean, apart from the hospital being credible, sterile and equipped for emergencies I also want it to provide a personal healthcare service and to genuinely “care”. Would it be too much to ask for of the doctor to remember my name (without looking at the file) and the reason for my visit (again without looking at the file)?
We are expecting our first child and obviously have a lot of questions and concerns. As any parents do, we want everything to go smoothly. We expect our doctor to take her sweet time doing our first (and any consecutive) ultrasounds, to listen to my concerns and to at least look at the reports concluded by other doctors. That’s why I am not so happy with Muscat Private Hospital.

We had our first scheduled appointment when I was 6 weeks (and 4 days) pregnant. My doctor asked if my home test was positive and a few other standard questions. We then proceeded to a small dark ultrasound room and heard our baby’s heart beat for the very first time. It was out of this world. Routinely, I was then prescribed folic acid and novidoxine (to ease the morning sickness) and we were sent on our way. Being in a slightly shocked and ecstatic state that morning all the questions I had completely flew out of my head. I wanted to ask her if I am allowed to have a back massage, if there are any foods I should I avoid eating and if I should perhaps give my cat away (toxoplasmosis). Looking back at the first appointment, I would say the vibe we got from the doctor pretty much summed up to “It’s only 6 weeks, come back when you are a little more pregnant”. Or to put it more bluntly “It’s still very early…anything can happen”.
I had slightly different expectations of what my first prenatal appointment would go like. I know for certain that the doctors back home would shower a pregnant woman with advice (Don’t lift anything heavy, drink plenty of milk, don’t change the cat litter). However, in Muscat Private Hospital the appointment felt more commercial than personal. Needless to say I threw myself into speaking to other expecting women and mothers to get a little insight into what kind of a treat I was in for. (And we gave away the cat…)
Fast forward exactly a month. It was extremely difficult for Alex to find the time and come to the next appointment with me because he was booked on a flight to Salalah exactly an hour after our appointment was due to start. However he was very excited to see the baby again and he knew that the Nuchal translucency (NT) scan we were about to do was extremely important so he did the best to reschedule his work trip (but his phone still rang every 15 minutes). First of all we had to wait for an hour for our doctor to find the time to see us. Second of all when we finally had her full attention she checked how far along I am (10 weeks and 4 days) and declared that it’s too early for the NT scan as it will not show until the baby is at least 12-13 weeks. I swear I could hear and see the smoke coming out of my husband ears. Why in the world would they set an appointment to specifically do the scan if it was too early? (It’s a rhetorical question, I know exactly why!).
She immediately saw that we were uncomfortable with her decision and Alex proceeded to calmly (ahem…) explain that an entire oil-drilling site in Salalah was stopped for a day because he could not get on the place because she said we would be doing the damn scan. In her defense the doctor said that she did not say we would be doing the scan but that we would during this appointment schedule another appointment to do the scan. (So let’s get this clear, I am paying 20 OMR for an appointment to just set another appointment???).
Seeing that Alex was literally turning red at this point she sent us down to the ultrasound ward where a pleasant woman reassured me that she would do her best to perform the scan (even though we were two weeks early, yada, yada). Ha! Little did they know that we are currently growing a very progressive and super-developed baby who in week 10 could show them exactly what it was “by the books” too early for them to see. So it is moments like these where I love that Alex is strong-willed, a little (ahem…) pushy and very convincing. Not only did the scan show that the baby is developing very well but we were also able to see it kick around and throw its arms over its head and bounce around in its little protective bubble. Mesmerizing.
What left me worried however is that my doctor did not even ask to see the report of the ultrasound and when we are back there in a few weeks time I doubt she will even remember that she sent us down for a scan.
I am seriously having second thoughts about Muscat Private Hospital now even though I know they are probably the best place to deliver a baby in Muscat, it’s the prenatal care that is leaving me feeling a little abandoned and “used”.
So please share any good/bad experiences you had at Muscat Private, regardless if it was for delivery related or not. What other hospitals provide excellent prenatal and postnatal services? If anyone has actually been with Muscat Private for their entire pregnancy and delivery please let me know! If you don’t want to share your private health stories publicly please email me at happilymarriedtoabiker@gmail.com. I would greatly appreciate any piece of advice at this point!

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