Category Archives: pregnancy

The night is dark and full of nappies…

Seven weeks on, and there are so many things I could say about having a second child. I’ve drafted and re-drafted this blog post over the last few weeks and every time it’s run three or four pages long… What is the most important thing to talk about? The difficulties? The exhaustion? The new struggle of getting two little ones out of the door on time in the mornings? The unprecedented joys and crushing lows? It’s all there. It’s all relevant. But, for me, I guess the most significant revelation since the big arrival of number two is how much of the following I didn’t know, realise or had simply just forgotten…

  • Labour fucking hurts. I knew this the first time around. Then when Lara got to about 18 months old those sneaky, broody hormones snuck in and slowly wiped out the memories of the screaming-bad contractions, the long hours of pain so extreme I could not bear to stay still. It wasn’t that bad, I thought, It can’t have been that bad if I’m willing to do it again… Seven and a half weeks ago it occurred to me – with crashing immediacy – just how very much I had forgotten how very bad it had been. And although my labour this time around was a lot less traumatic because it wasn’t so long and there weren’t the complications or interventions of the first time around, it still really fucking hurt.
  • On TV a woman will give birth (after about 13 seconds of pushing and not nearly enough mooing) and out pops a squeaky clean, wide-eyed, cooing six-week-old giant. Real newborns do not look like this. My firstborn looked like a small, red, angry little frog when she was born. My second-born resembled a puce, incandescently furious old man complete with nose furrow and milk spots. I say this with all the love in the world – beauty comes later. Eyelashes form, the eyes open properly and then they start to fill out in all their cute, squishy glory. It’s all a work in process…
    newborn annabelle

    Five minutes old and raging…

    week 1 annabelle

    By day six things had improved significantly…

    cute-annabelle-e1503414557935.jpg

    By week three we had reached cute town

  • Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. With baby one we settled into a fairly consistent routine of three hourly wakings and feedings from day one. Baby two had her days and nights the wrong way round for at least the first week, meaning she was up sometimes every 40 minutes at night. Some people can function well with as little as three or four hours of fractured sleep at night. I am not one of those people. In my working days I’d be sluggish if I got less than seven. It’s not just a case of being tired; it’s feeling that soul-sapping exhaustion that sinks through your limbs and into your core, making everything so heavy, so dull and sad that you struggle to see the good bits of the day. Fortunately, with number two I knew – know – it won’t last for long in the grand scheme of things. Just knowing that makes all the difference.
  • Having 13 months of breastfeeding experience does not a breeze feeding number two make. Sure, she got the hang of it faster than Lara did – 10 minutes after birth as opposed to two days – but the exhaustion of trying to feed any which way I could in the first few nights lead to a poor latch, which resulted in a cracked nipple. A graze on one of the body’s most sensitive parts which was then relentlessly agitated by a baby’s mouth every hour or so did not make for a quick, easy healing process. But, barring that little complication, breastfeeding has been easier, on the whole, this time around. There haven’t been any bruises or stretch-marks. Expressing is easier. Supply is better. The process is altogether much quicker far earlier on. It’s like my boobs have settled, with not so much joy as resignation, back into their former roles.

    bfeeding

    No one will ever stare at your boobs with the same intense adoration as a breastfeeding infant. The feeling will not be reciprocated.

  • Small babies are not always consistent. Some nights she will sleep up to 6 hours in one go and not need a nappy change at all. Other nights we’re up every 2-3, nappy bulging, smells emanating. It’s a nocturnal, foul-smelling, eye-rubbing adventure.
  • The jiggly-shuffle. It still works on the evening grumps, although now it hurts my back. This baby is slightly larger than my last one, I’m *sure* that’s all it is.
  • Times can be dark. There are some days – especially in the first week – when people say “congratulations” and a part of you thinks “why?” On the flip-side, there are other days when you want to stop life just as it is because you can’t imagine it getting any better. The lows may be unprecedented, but so are the joys. Watching my firstborn flourish into her new role as big sister. Receiving those first gummy smiles. Having my nappy changing technique described as “like those pitstop trucks in Cars.
    It’s hard. It’s exhausting. It’s flabby. It’s new. It’s unprecedented, in wonderful ways. It’s Annabelle. She’s here.

     

    annabelle smile

    I woke up FIVE times last night!

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No one gives a damn about a 2nd pregnancy… (and I’m glad!)

 

It’s been a while since my last update. I’ve drafted several possible blog posts with varying subject matter from house renovations to abject humiliation at the hands of my toddler (it’s been done, I sigh wearily) to the week I sent my phone away for repairs and had a wholly predictable revelation about how reliant we have all become on our smart devices when all we really need is a way to contact our husbands from Sainsbury’s car park and ascertain whether we are out of pickles and/or toilet roll. But the subject which is taking up most of my world (and abdomen) at the moment is the one I am most reluctant to write about… pregnancy. Or, more specifically, the fact that when you’re pregnant for the second time and everything’s going fine, people don’t really give a fuck. And the reason why I’ve been reluctant to publish this is because, actually, I’m perfectly happy that they don’t.

2nd preg

I take your meh and raise you a shrug

Here are a few things I’ve learned during this second pregnancy of mine:

  • Your appointments with your healthcare providers are so few and far between you could totally be forgiven for forgetting what your midwife looks like, or indeed which one her room is. Due to the many scenarios of varying degrees of horror this can lead to (imagine, if you will, you and your protruding stomach walking in on another patient during their weekly wound check… or cervical screening examination…) may I suggest always double-checking with the receptionist if your surgery, like mine, just flashes your name on a screen when it’s your turn and expects you to remember in which direction you waddled when you last had a midwife appointment all those decades ago?
  • Apparently I “probably am” booked in to give birth at the hospital but am advised to “just phone and double-check” at some point during the approximate three to eight weeks remaining of my pregnancy.
  • No one knows what’s become of the blood sample I had taken six weeks ago, but I’m assured that should any issues have arisen, I’d probably have been phoned. Probably.
  • Upon explaining that yes, I am having some pain during the daily mile-ish walks to and from pre-school and yes, things are getting more than a tad uncomfortable now that there’s a bowling ball in my abdomen with feet punching into my breathing parts and a head burrowing ever lower into the parts-which-still-haven’t-quite-forgiven-me-for-the-last-time-this-happened, the midwife just smiles and lets me blithely reassure myself that it’s all normal. Because it is. And I know it is.
  • There is no way back to the mysterious innocence of a first-timer. And if there was, I wouldn’t take it. Sure, I had more texts the last time round. People worried about me more – how I was doing, how I would cope… I’m far happier to know that my burgeoning girth and I are presumably taking up less head-space this time around. They still care, of course. Advice, support, reassurance, sympathy… it’s all just a phone call or text message away, should I feel the need.
  • I’m not worried. Neither is anyone else. How can this be anything but a good thing?

There is a bubble. In the bubble there is me and my baby – my second-born, my poky little passenger who might not be quite so mysterious as her unprecedented big sister, but is certainly no less important or loved. No one is prodding to get in. No one is nagging for constant updates on my every twinge. It’s just us. And that suits us fine. Ask if you want to know. Otherwise, know we’ve got this.

I’m sure that once the long, boring bit is over and there’s another tiny newborn with my husband’s features in the world I won’t be able to get rid of the buggers.


Shout out to my eggs…

Autumn 2016

The bigger house has been bought. The wedding has happened. The DVLA has been updated. We’ve been ready for, well, years. Let’s get on with it…

A few weeks later the boobs feel a bit off, the gin tastes a bit wrong, and sure enough, the second line on the fragrant stick makes a faint but unmistakable appearance. The Ragu is pregnant. The womble occupied. A bump is once more hitting the road of our lives – and my midriff – and it is time, sadly, to put. the. wine. down.

We were extremely lucky. But there’s always more to the story, and for us, this one began long before the day a week before the wedding when I put my half-finished packet of pills away for good.

Spring 2015

Lara is all cute squishy cuddles* between 12 and 18 months, tottering around but still light enough to pick up without needing to conjure memories of PE teacher instruction first (“lift with your legs, not your back, Sarah**!”), sleeping through the night, no longer breastfeeding, still napping for a good two to three hours during the day. I was writing novels, blogging semi-regularly like a boss, watching daytime TV, taking the delightful offspring for buggy walks in the woods, having play dates… Life was great. Why wouldn’t we want more of it?

img_6131

Then Gary proposed. We spent the next 24 hours discussing wedding plans, honeymoon destinations, plotting really-funny-actually-and-not-at-all-geeky-and-lame ways to tell our friends and family, and somewhere between the first and second bottles of prosecco, we realised that none of these plans fitted the next couple of years with a new baby. I didn’t want to be a pregnant bride. I wanted to get drunk, dammit, and I wanted to go on a honeymoon that wasn’t governed by leaking boobs, strict bedtimes, wailing infants and toddler-approved activities. I remembered what it was like when Lara was first born. I didn’t want to have to juggle caring for a newborn and a toddler with, well, anything, let alone planning a wedding. So we decided to wait. It was a sensible decision and, this side of what turned out not only to be a summer of wedding planning but also house moving, I can safely say it was 100% the right one. But I can’t say it didn’t sting, just a little bit. I still had this wanting feeling. It didn’t just go away because I told it no. People around me got pregnant and I swallowed the jealousy. The months began to pass. The babies came and grew. The wedding was finally booked for the following year. Life continued to tick on by. The wanting yawned and poked. I ignored it.

Winter 2016/17

So you see, it wasn’t really as simple as it first sounds. This child might not have been tried for for very long, but it’s been dreamed about for years. And it’s never as simple as wanting to have a baby = positive test = all good, lovely and fine for the next nine months. Pregnancy is bloody terrifying. There are so, so many things that can go wrong. The first 12 weeks are mostly spent terrified of spotting blood everytime*** you go to the toilet, analysing every twitch and twinge south of the equator, not to mention battling sporadic moments of nausea and dry heaving your way around the single, plain cracker that you know to be your salvation (even if your stomach does not). On top of all that, your list of people to complain to is annoyingly short because of the high risks, which brings us round full circle to the ever-present anxiety and knicker-checking. Every day is a hard-won battle. But every day also brings a little more light as you inch ever closer to the time when the risks drop and the nausea goes and it is suddenly, miraculously, OK to feel excited because suddenly everything is actually all a little bit more lovely. You know you will probably get there. You know that everything will probably be fine. But you also know that sometimes, it is not.

We were lucky. We made it out of the first trimester, saw our awkwardly-positioned infant cavorting on the ultrasound screen and smiled through the pain of a full bladder and the really-quite-hard pressure placed upon it by the sonographer’s wand thingy as Bubby Number Two refused to reveal its neck measurements… And now, here we are. The grandparents have been informed. My sister has started knitting. The bump is firmly lodged in my midriff. The anxiety is… well, it’s under control. And, yes, things are looking admittedly lovely.

I just wish I hadn’t lost those bloody scan photos.

*spot the rose-tinted mother-to-be conveniently forgetting all the tantrums and poo explosions.

**naturally my crapness at PE lost me the right to be called by my given name for the five years I took the subject

***and, when pregnant, everytime becomes a hell of a lot of times. Something I had forgotten in the interval of four years.


Your toddler is perfectly normal. Now shut up.

Is your child a budding Michaelangelo? The next Darcey Bussell? Destined for a life of OCD-like repeated rituals? Or are they just a NORMAL TODDLER?

OMG. Better start saving for art school!!!

OMG. Better start saving for art school!!

When you’re pregnant, all you want is to meet the little passenger in your belly. You’re consumed by questions to which you have no way of knowing the answers… What will they look like? What will they be like? Will they be musical? Will they grow up to solve crimes? Will they inherit your talents for baking/DIY/remembering erroneous tidbits of celebrity trivia? They are literally swathed in fleshy, protruding mystery. And then they are born and, save perhaps the question of their appearance (and that can be temporary) you still don’t really know any of the answers…

I seem to come across so many parents who seem determined to label all their children’s quirks and preferences as early as possible. Their child likes to clap their hands to a piece of music. Destined to be a conductor. Two year old likes books with rhymes: obviously a budding poet. I’m not saying it won’t happen… Sure, it’s possible a child destined to be a mechanic or race car driver might show an early interest in cars. It’s also just as possible the child might grow up to shun all forms of motorized vehicle and insist instead upon traveling everywhere in a pony and trap.

I don’t mean to rant; I’m genuinely mystified about the clues behind who toddlers are and who they will become. The other day my daughter burst into tears because I couldn’t understand her when she kept telling me to “shut the door” as she brushed her teeth in the bathroom (the door to which was firmly shut… you see my confusion.) Turns out she wanted me to close the lid of the toothpaste. Does that mean she will grow up to be fastidious about lids and germs and tidiness? (Given her genes I am inclined to think not…) Or was she just being a demanding, frustrated toddler?

If my child throws herself down when I refuse to hand over my laptop is it just her tiny toddler brain rendering her temporarily insensible due to an excess of exhaustion? Or am I preventing the next Steve Jobs from their earliest enterprising explorations? Earlier today we took a particularly muddy walk around the lake and she insisted I carry her AND her boots which she didn’t want to wear AND her scooter bike. Because it was “too muddy to walk.” Now this is probably just her being a stubborn toddler, right? RIGHT? SHE’S NOT GOING TO DO THIS WHEN SHE’S 15, RIGHT??

And then there are the times she pulls a pair of pants over her head, catches my eye and we share a laugh. I like to think at times like these that we are in-sync, bolstering an unbreakable mother-daughter bond that will see us all the way through the dreaded terrible-music-taste tween and mother-hating teenage years. I like to think it, but I don’t really, truly believe it. Because no one can predict what a person is going to truly be like from the age of two… You could possibly hazard a guess. Maybe even a good guess. But you can’t tell for sure.

Right, must be off to baby ballet class now. Because whether she is or isn’t the next Darcey Bussell (again, the genes are sadly a precursor towards the likelihood of the negative) there are only so many years I will be able to get her into a tutu.


Do you even know what a junior doctor is?

If this new junior doctor contract goes ahead, there may not BE a future for the NHS

If this new junior doctor contract goes ahead, there may not BE a future for the NHS

I didn’t, and my own sister is one.

Every doctor in the UK who doesn’t hold the title of consultant or fully qualified GP is a junior doctor. In other words: the person who took over the difficult delivery of your baby, the person who treated your child in A&E, the surgeon who performs an emergency operation on them.

Chances are, last time you or your family were treated by a doctor other than your GP, that person was one of the 55,020 junior doctors currently working for the NHS.

The fact is, the public is largely ignorant about who these people actually are. I’m very close to my sister and yet when I read about the imminent strike action this morning I wasn’t even 100% sure if she would be part of it… Surely, I thought, these ‘juniors’ are the fresh-faced, JD-from-Scrubs types wandering around under the watchful guidance of seen-it-all registrars? No. My sister is 30 and has been a qualified doctor for over six years. At the moment she is an ST3 (specialist trainee, 3rd year) in paediatrics, working full-time at a London teaching hospital in general paeds and gastroenterology, whilst studying past-time for a Masters in global child health. She will continue to be a junior doctor for at least another five years, more if she has children in the meantime. One of her friends has two kids and works part-time as an ST2, also in paediatrics. She will continue to be a junior doctor for at least another 11 years, more if she has any more children.

A junior doctor delivered my daughter and stitched me up afterwards. Junior doctors helped care for my dad when he suffered and died from cancer. I have been lucky enough to avoid an A&E trip with my child so far, but when that day (or night) comes, it will be a junior doctor who treats her. I know how I would feel if that person were exhausted from the extra hours they have been forced to work due to the “removal of safeguards on excessive hours” clause in their new contract.

Surely the very term “safeguard” should ring alarm bells here? These restrictions on hours – currently 48 hours a week under the European working time directive – are there for a reason, that is why they are called SAFEGUARDS. Who are they there to protect? The person pushing numbers in a office? The hand holding a scalpel? Or your child, underneath that scalpel?

One of the scariest facts of the matter is that many of these junior doctors are now considering giving up working for the NHS in favour of working abroad. When you consider the pay cut (up to 30% for some), longer hours and cap on locum pay (doctors who temporarily fill in for another) this new contract promises, it’s not hard to see why.

These people aren’t striking because they’re greedy. The so-called 11% pay rise becomes irrelevant once the subsidies for out-of-hours work has been removed. Pay progression will be suspended for less than full-time training. If my sister chooses to have children in the next five years, she will face a similar story to her friend.

The British Medical Association (BMA) is calling for the chance just to negotiate the terms of this contract. There are plenty of petitions to sign for members of the public to show their support for junior doctors – but according to my sister, the biggest battle is raising public awareness. Considering her own flesh and blood didn’t know exactly what a junior doctor was until this morning, I’d say she has a point.

Jeremy Hunt wrote a book about dismantling the NHS – its privatisation is a very real possibility. But just remember, it won’t be a private healthcare provider who treats your child for anaphylactic shock at a birthday party next weekend. And it won’t be a private doctor who sees you in A&E at 3am when your baby’s temperature has crept to 40 degrees.

You know who it will be.


This Ragu is Not Pregnant

**POSSIBLE TMI ALERT. You’ve been warned, Mum**

 

Filled with passion. Well, it was the first wee of the day...

Filled with passion. Well, it was the first wee of the day…

Shocking as it may seem coming from a couple who have one unconditionally cherished but nonetheless unplanned daughter under their belts, my fiance and I have not always been the best at contraception. Most of the time we are pretty responsible – whether it’s remembering to take a pill, buy condoms, or doing a quick calculation of cycle days. (Don’t knock it – the standard days method is actually 95% effective when used properly. That’s at least as good as the smelly rubber things you always forget to buy, isn’t it?) In any case, our one unplanned pregnancy isn’t even an example of our inability to use contraception, more one of ignorance about the expiry date on condoms. Well, that and entirely too many glasses of Faustino V.

When we got engaged earlier this year we decided to shelf our original plans to crack on with baby number 2 in favour of planning the wedding for next year and – more importantly – a kick-ass, adults-only, one-last-chance-of-freedom honeymoon. You know, before the soggy camping trips, portable wee pots and sand-in-every-crevice joys of family holidays truly kick in. So I went on the mini pill. Shortly afterwards, I went on a different mini pill. My body does not like the mini pill. Let’s just say the pennies we saved in the family planning aisle only went about as far as feminine hygiene. So, rather than risking anaemia, off the mini pill I came.

A few weeks ago we booked our wedding. Unfortunately, during the ensuing celebration period, we both completely forgot about the pill. Or, I should say, the lack thereof. But, according to a hasty standard day calculation, we were technically in the clear, so we didn’t worry too much. Then I started feeling a bit tummy-ish. A bit nauseous around the edges. A bit sensitive in the old mammary region… My bra sprang open spontaneously once or twice. But it was when I went off wine that the alarm bells really started a-clanging. Nervous jokes aside, we put in an order for some bulk-buy pregnancy tests, just to be on the safe side.

This, of course, all occurred within the two weeks between booking the wedding venue and having to put down a couple of thousand pounds as a holding deposit for a date which, if we were having a baby, would likely be spent jiggly-shuffling my birth-ravaged tummy pouch around the living room, barely able to hear the planes on the overhead flightpath bound for what would have been my honeymoon over the screams of my discontent second-born.

The tests arrived. Thanks to an irregular cycle and a fairly well-developed sense of paranoia I’m no stranger to Clearblue or First Response or even trusty old Boots two-for-£4.99. But these ones were different. These were the dippy kind. This resulted in an interesting morning hunting out an appropriate receptacle whilst desperately clutching in my most-accurately-testable first wee of the day. The successful candidate – comfortingly wide-rimmed, but not practical enough to tempt us into any sort of culinary reuse – turned out to be an empty Ragu jar. Gary’s idea. I’d suggested one of Lara’s plastic cups but apparently that was a poor parenting choice. In any case, the Ragu vessel quickly declared its secondary contents unburdened by tomatoes and child.

Honeymoon back on. Deposit paid. Doctors appointment for new pill prescription booked. Life lesson learned.

We may never dabble with fire intentionally, but the stress of thinking, “Oh god, I’m probably not but I COULD be… Should I part with £2,000 for an uncertain wedding date? Should I buy those skinny jeans? SHOULD I EVEN BE DRINKING THIS GIN?” for two, three weeks just isn’t worth it. The internet doesn’t help. According to Google everything – apart, perhaps, from testicle cramp – can be considered a potential pregnancy symptom. Parenting forums are even worse – there are plenty of women who claim to have symptoms days or even hours after conception. There are some who go into surprisingly graphic detail when describing how they came to possibly be accidentally pregnant (no pun intended). And their early pregnancy ‘symptoms’. I don’t think I will ever un-see what I read when I looked up ‘ewcm’. Let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t use Google images.

Still, I may keep the washed-out Ragu jar. After all, it’s only a short few years before we’ll be firmly in the throes of those aforementioned family holiday times. And a good, be-lidded, portable wee-pot can be so hard to come by…

 

I hope I’m not the only one with a ridiculous pregnancy scare story… If you have one please do share – there is a teeny, tiny ‘Leave a comment’ button under all the social media buttons below.

 


The end of a [cramped, often sweaty but cool, though, right?] era

“Fun to be seen driving” are the words used by TopGear to describe the VW Beetle. Having driven one for the best part of two and a half years, I would add that indeed, it is possibly more fun to be seen driving a Beetle than it is in fact driving a Beetle. Not that I didn’t love every minute of being said driver of my particularly iridescent sapphire specimen.

I bought my Beetle in the summer of 2012 as my ultimate, single girl-about-town classy set of wheels, despite being a) not actually single and b) far too terrified to actually drive it anywhere about my town – being London at the time – except out, via the south circular, to work. But man, did I love being the girl driving the Beetle. Pedestrians would stare enviously (or so I choose to interpret) as they hastily retracted their toes from the zebra crossing, other Beetle owners waved, and car washers would chuckle and mock the little fake flower in the test tube vase next to the steering wheel.

Around six months after I bought my Beetle, I got pregnant. Approximately seven and a half months later, upon receiving ownership of a fairly standard-sized travel system pushchair, I discovered just how incompatible this car is with family life. Even without a seat, the frame simply did not fit in the bloody boot. I had to take the two back wheels off. Every. Single. Time. If that wasn’t enough, I of course had gone for the three door, four seat version in a pique of I’m-only-25-I’m-not-even-thinking-of-having-kids-yet logic. This made getting baby + car seat in and out PARTICULARLY FUN. I’m not even going to talk about the beige interior. Suffice to say it doesn’t meld well with babies, or any of the items said creatures ingest and… yeah.

It was also around this time – being the summer of 2013 – that I realised my most heinous oversight at the time of purchase. The car did not have air conditioning. Yes, it had heated seats and a standard heating system which made it a particularly cosy drive in the winter, and I hadn’t really noticed the lack of AC too much the summer before, when I’d been a svelte size 8-10 with thighs that didn’t rub together and was still in Beetle honeymoon period. But, two stones bigger and with a new, 120mile round commute to and from work, the novelty of my Beetle ownership wore off around the time I heaved myself into the driver’s seat ahead of a two hour jaunt on the m25 and saw the car’s thermometer merrily reading 40 degrees.

The sweat just went everywhere.

Still, I muddled through and continued to enjoy the odd moments of pretending I was still that young, single girl-about-town as I motored down the A322, singing along to Rihanna on the iPod dock as the baby snoozed out of eye-line. Then, this Christmas, I picked my sister and her two kids up from the airport. They had one suitcase and a pushchair. Something most cars, even neat little hatchbacks, can handle without so much as a tailgate dip of protest. Not my bloody car. The suitcase would only go flat in the boot if I sat on it. The pushchair would not go anywhere except wedged in front of my sister in the front, with her passenger seat as far back as it would go (fortunately my second niece is tiny for her age. And I’m fairly sure her hip dysplasia was diagnosed before the subsequent 200 mile journey from airport to Devon.)

It was then I had my Roy Scheider moment. I was going to need a bigger car. Sure, I wasn’t going to get eaten by a shark if I didn’t, but having any more babies invoked images of driving along with the boot duck-taped half open over one buggy while I towed the other along behind me. Besides, I was sick of having to climb into the back seat – even with the time-perfected twist, stoop and pivot – every time I needed to get my increasingly large Lara in and out. The mileage was still decent, paintwork fairly spotless, age not bad and I had six months on the MOT.

car fb

You will be pleased to know that though I am silly enough to sacrifice any serious offers of purchase for cheap Facebook LOLs by posting a light-hearted advert including the word sh!t in the description, I’m not quite so stupid that I would make this blog post live before keys changed hands. Therefore, I am happy to announce that the Beetle has gone *pang* and I am now the proud owner of its much more sensible, much more bigger brother, the VW Tiguan. The drive is noisier, the diesel more expensive and I am now one of those SUV mums, but the other day I managed to get BOTH buggies and a suitcase into the boot without obstructing any vision out the back window. I guess that girl about town grew up. And got really boring.

 


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