What a week…welcome Samuel!

imageSorry for the long silence, it has been quite a week! We welcomed Samuel into the world at 20:00 last Friday – it’s hard to believe he’s nearly a week old already.

I’m delighted to report that we pretty much had the birth we were after, which I’m coming to realise is a rarity. The birth centre was unstaffed, but we nabbed the last room in the delivery suite with a pool, so I was happy…I only spent an hour and a half in it though! Things moved along very rapidly with the aid of the pool and gas & air and, only 4 hours after arriving at Epsom, we had Samuel in our arms.

Despite the straightforward delivery, we unfortunately had a 4 day hospital stay and didn’t arrive home until Wednesday afternoon. Poor little Sam had jaundice, so this had to be monitored and eventually treated with 24 hours in a uv blanket to bring his levels down.

Now we’re home it already seems like a distant memory, but there were times that I felt like I was going mad – it’s hard not being allowed to go home (or outside – apparently it snowed one day!?), especially since Carl couldn’t stay over, meaning I had an 11-12 hour stint on my own each night. Fortunately, the slightly elongated stay meant that we made friends with other couples on the ward who were also being kept in and we all supported each other. Carl, as always, was just phenomenal. My constant support and rock through the ‘day 3 hormones’ and moments when I felt overwhelmed.

I intend to go through bits of our stay during further blog posts and the (minor) issues we faced and had to deal with during this time. My thanks go to all of the midwives, nurses and students at Epsom; they were just fantastic and unendingly supportive.

So…now the hard work begins!!

The hospital bag

How do you pack for the unknown? There are a plethora of lists available online, all different. There’s common sense, obviously, but I’m packing for something I’ve never done before. When I go to Wales for a long weekend to stay with family (something I’ve done more times than I can count), I pack for every eventuality and will likely take up to 4 or 5 pairs of boots/shoes ‘just in case’.

So, how on earth am I meant to fit everything I ‘might’ need into Carl’s carry on size case?

I’ve decided that the answer is quite simple really: you don’t actually need that much. Sure, massage oils, rescue remedy, an iPod, magazines, cozy slipper socks etc are all going to be nice to have…but not having any or all of them will not affect the birth or the health of you and baby. It just means that I might have to spend slightly longer listening to Carl’s jokes if I don’t have something to read or music to drown them out šŸ˜‰.

What I also realised is that most of the items you need are very small! Vests, babygros, nappies, mittens, maternity pads, breast pads (let’s not forget the ever-present attractive side of all this!) don’t take up much room, even if you pack loads of them. As someone who travelled the world with far too many clothes (very few of which made it home because I didn’t need them), I am a master of rolling clothes up small.

By 37 weeks pregnant, my bag should really have been packed for a week or so, but I just hadn’t finished. I had some bits in the bag, but it wasn’t until today that I thought “right, this needs packing now”. Maybe it’s because I have – in theory – less than 3 weeks to go, or maybe it’s the fact that 2 of 8 couples in my NCT class have now had their babies….both early…that’s finally kicked me into action! So, the baby clothes were all washed this morning and are just finishing in the tumbler, ready to go straight into the case.

Now we just need to check that we know how to install the car seat…and the crib needs to show up…and I think we’re as ready as we can be for our new addition!

NEW feature: Corresponding song as chosen by my friend Jon after reading the intro paragraph…
‘The Final Countdown’ – Europe

Nearly into the breech

What a 24 hours or so.

Yesterday, we had our 36 week appointment. Good blood pressure (me), good heartbeat (Bud); all was great until the midwife said the sentence which shattered my dreams: “Your baby is breech”.

Why now? Why SO close to the end when it’s harder for babies to turn back naturally? Since they started checking the position, Bud has always been head down, why turn now!?

I don’t think she had any idea of the emotions this set off, or maybe she would have been a bit less blunt. As it was, she picked up my Birth Preference form, flicked through it while glancing at all my ‘natural birth’ tick boxes and said “well, this might all have to change” before signing it. Sensitivity, not always highly rated amongst those in the medical profession!

Barely holding myself together, we finished up…and just about made it outside before I fell apart. All at once, all I could see were my natural birth preferences flying out of the window. My future suddenly seemed full of midwives and doctors recommending a Caesarean section and us having to battle to have it any other way…potentially with no other option being considered. Certainly, they would never let me near a birthing pool.

Irrationally, alongside being upset I was even angry with our poor unborn child, frustrated with my body for doing pregnancy wrong and annoyed with myself for apparently not being able to take my own advice. I kept repeating Jude’s words from our NCT classes: “Breech is just another version of normal”…but it didn’t help. Carl was so supportive and generally amazing, but I sank into misery.

I like plans and it seems that however much I say “my preferences are flexible…”, this might be something I will struggle with in reality; they feel like solid plans to me. However, the cause of this breakdown may simply be because I really don’t want a c-section, not unless it’s deemed medically necessary for mine or Bud’s health on the day. I’d rather not have that choice made for me weeks in advance.

After a long afternoon of tears, (thank goodness for Jude sending me a really supportive email, which calmed me somewhat) and a stress-induced migraine which kept me awake during the night, we had the scan this afternoon.

Upon arriving at the hospital, it seemed that I hadn’t been properly booked in, nor had any paperwork been sent over by yesterday’s midwife. Thankfully, the receptionist and our 20-week sonographer Stephanie were excellent and managed to slot us in after a half an hour or so wait.

Bud is firmly head down. Panic over.

Once that had sunk in, it was so good having another scan and getting another peek at our little wriggler! Fat belly (although still within the limits of what’s ok….just…), long legs (no surprise there) and now with hair! Hopefully it will only be a couple more weeks or so until we meet our little one.

Close up on Bud's face and arm

Close up on Bud’s face and arm

I really want to have a hug and apologise for being so stressed yesterday and for blaming an unborn baby for its position potentially not meeting my (not so flexible) requirements.

Now I will spend the rest of my pregnant time actually preparing myself for a change of circumstances if I am, for any reason, unable to have the labour and birth I’ve prepared myself for. Maybe I’ll re-read my earlier post ‘Choices’ and follow my own advice.

It’s been a little wake up call, which was perhaps needed to remind me that pregnancy doesn’t always go like clockwork.

As said by Jude many times, “babies haven’t read the manual”.Ā 

Gender guesses and why parents-to-be should be spared them

We’re waiting for a surprise. We’re on ‘Team Yellow’.

However you choose to phrase it, we don’t know the sex of the baby.

36 week bump

36 week bump

Not many of my friends have had babies but, whenever I’ve seen someone pregnant, it has never crossed my mind to either hazard a guess at the gender of their baby or to ask if they know what they’re having. If the couple wanted me to know, they would share. Maybe I’m old fashioned that way!

This isn’t to say I necessarily mind the inevitable guesses – I’m continually amused to see that there is generally a (wait for it…) 50/50 split in the predictions (shock!) – most of the time it doesn’t bother me. However, there are some people who I just ‘know’ that, if their guess is right, will be all “Yeah, I knew that”…and that drives me crazy. It almost makes me think that if we have another, we should find out the sex simply so we can say “Yes, we know. No, we aren’t telling” and maybe we’ll be left alone. (FYI, this is a terrible reason to find out).

My advice to non-parents or people who need to be right (you do know if you’re one of them!)…keep your guesses to yourself and, when the baby is born, be pleased for the new parents, with no mention of whether you were ‘right’ or not. The parents have just been through labour and are likely completely overwhelmed with their new addition.

With only 4 weeks to go, we’re likely more curious than anyone and going round in circles about names, decorating decisions and the like. Let us enjoy these final weeks of the unknown, and then be pleased for us once we have our baby in our arms and announce the news.

“To NCT or not to NCT…that is the question”

Ok, so I might have slightly misquoted Shakespeare there but I’m sure he would have no objection to me borrowing the phrase.

Hospitals offer free ante-natal classes, so we initially wondered what we would gain from a paid class.

First, the major advantage was that the other couples attending would be more local – our hospital is Epsom, so it was unlikely we would meet local couples (Capel is a good 35 minutes away). Second, the classes are smaller. Third, and the real sell for us…they were so highly recommended by everyone we knew who had attended them.

I have heard a mixture of opinions on NCT classes and all I can say is that it must depend on your teacher and group. Our class was lovely and we all seemed to be around the same age, lived in local villages and we immediately clicked. Jude Palmer, our teacher, was/is brilliant (and is an amazing baker!!). I can’t really praise her highly enough; knowledgable, easy to talk to, never pushed opinions on us as she took us through our labour options, enthusiastic and comfortable talking about anything. Also a doula and mother of three, Jude has a tonne of experience around pregnancy and birth, which is very comforting when you have any questions!

Your enjoyment probably depends on your reasons for being there. I’ve always been keen to enter the hospital with no real clue and learn about labour on the day. After one NCT class I suddenly found that a) there were more options than I’d heard of (TENS machines, pethidine and water birth being 3 new ones to me) and b) knowledge is power. If you have an idea of what you want, but also about the alternatives, then labour is likely to be a lot less stressful if you have to deviate from your plan.

What I also liked was that it gave the dads a chance to talk together and bond. Women are more naturally chatty and will share their feelings (a general life rule!) but it gave the men the opportunity to talk openly with others in the same position. One of our early exercises involved the women writing down how they hoped labour would be, and the men writing what they hoped to do. It was incredibly touching to see answers like ‘support her’, ‘keep her safe’, ‘understand what’s going on’…and so on. In this environment, the men felt comfortable to come clean with their feelings, discuss their anxieties and what they would like to learn. Turns out that men think about it all just as much as we do and like to know what’s going on so they can help, rather than watching and feeling helpless.

Jude took us all through relaxation exercises – doing a variety so we could all find out what works best for us – massages the men could give and different ways they could help alleviate any pain, physically hold our bumps to lighten the load, and morally support us.

We covered more in those sessions than I can begin to go through here but the best compliment I can pay Jude is probably my previous post ‘Choices’. It is based on what I learned and the information we were given – I would never have felt so confident or sure of what I would like prior to the course.

So, look into the options and ask people local to you about their classes, or even get specific teacher recommendations. Or make use of the free hospital ante-natal classes. Whatever you decide, I would advise going to some form of class to meet other parents to be and to learn as much as you can. You’ll be glad you did!

Coming soon…I’ve been off work for a week and a half now and I miss my outlook calendar and trusty spreadsheet. How am I coping!? x