Breakfast

You know it’s been a successful breakfast when Carl ends up with a Cheerio stuck to one foot, weetabix on the other and Sam has weetabix in his hair and – more impressively – down his back. 

I’ll take the energetic breakfasts as a sign that he’s finally feeling better after weeks of colds, respiratory tract infections and antibiotics! 

I realise that it has been weeks since my last post. Sam turned 1 a couple of weeks ago, which I still can’t quite get my head round. My little baby is officially a walking toddler. Some days he doesn’t even look like a baby any more.  

Deeply suspicious of his cake

 

The day after his party, we had an NCT party and, for the first time, had all 8 babies in the same room! We even managed a photo although it was of course at a time when Sam had just started crying.  

Proud parents

 

Since then, in between colds and antibiotics, we’ve been continuing as usual with a few more added outings. We went to Bocketts Farm weekend before last and Sam loved seeing all of the animals. I’ve waited until now to take him and I’m pleased I did. He was able to walk around (on reins!!) and stroked the animals fairly gently…apart from the bunny, which he refused to touch.   

So, here we are. On to Sam’s second year and all of the adventures that lie ahead!! 

Life at home

When you have a baby and begin your new life at home (whether long or short term), life changes in more ways than you can possibly imagine. However, what I personally hadn’t anticipated were how my friendships would change. I thought I would regularly see those friends who are around during the day, and hopefully catch up with others in the evenings or weekends. Sam’s lack of evening sleep has scuppered most evening plans, but we are nearly always around at weekends. I may partly be at fault for not contacting more people and inviting them round, but I haven’t really spoken to a large chunk of my friends since Sam’s birth. 

Maybe Facebook and the ability to ‘like’ or or leave one-liner comments on statuses or photos gives us all the false illusion that we’re having a conversation and keeping in touch. It’s far too easy to do! What has surprised me is how little I’ve seen of the friends who are also around during the day either with children or different working hours. The people I see more than anyone are the girls from my NCT group. We still meet weekly and a couple of weeks ago I also ended up seeing two of them on other days during the week. It helps that the weather has been glorious and we’re all keen to get out and have a walk in the sunshine! Maybe it’s because you form a different bond when you’ve all sat round in a village hall practicing birth positions and have discussed births, nappies and all of the other grim subjects that accompany parenthood…

What has been really nice (and was unexpected) is how much I’ve ended up talking to old school friends who have young children. We may not be close any more, but I’ve seen and been chatting to one of my best friends from school for the first time in years. Her little boy is just adorable and I hope he and Sam end up being friends (when the year+ age gap doesn’t matter any more). I’ve spoken to other girls from my school days and we share the 3am chats with our ups and downs, with me often asking for advice, or sometimes validation, since their children are all older than Sam and they’ve been through this stage!

I’m not saying that my friends and I have parted ways, but my priorities have changed so much and – for the moment – I’m unable to pursue my main hobby, Am Dram, which is where most of us met. They’re all busy and I understand that. To be fair, I keep myself and Sam pretty occupied at times! I just hadn’t really taken in that there would be a new distance there when I’m more concerned with watching Sam waiting for any new steps he takes than with heading out.

Also…being awake after 9pm? Overrated!

On-going support

imageOne of the most important things you can have during pregnancy is a support network; from your partner, friends, family, or whoever you would turn to… On the hard days they will be the people who pick you up again. On the good days, they’ll be the ones you want to tell.

A major positive we gained from our NCT classes was that additional support group. We all knew what the others were going through and had the same questions. Now that a few of the group have had their babies, we all get together weekly for lunch to have baby cuddles and spend hours chatting about any and everything.

Jude, as our teacher, was (and is) a great resource of information and encouragement. We bumped into her today and her continuing positivity, advice and upbeat personality was – as ever – incredibly helpful. She is always happy for us to call or email with concerns or for advice; she has gone above and beyond what I expected to gain from an NCT teacher.

No matter what sort of pregnancy you have, make sure you surround yourself with people you can talk to. I mentioned making pregnant friends where possible in an earlier blog post, which is also worth reading: ‘Make pregnant friends…who are due both before and after you‘.

For more information on NCT classes, see my earlier blog post ‘To NCT or not to NCT…that is the question‘ and the official NCT website, along with Jude’s page.

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 😉.

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”. 

“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

Choices

Having never given birth, I am no expert on the subject. However, thanks to our NCT classes, what I do know is the kind of labour and birth I hope to have.

I don’t mean that I hope I will go to sleep and wake up with a baby in my arms, having been dropped off by a rainbow-dwelling unicorn during the night – although that would be nice, wouldn’t it?

No, what I mean is that we’ve looked into the available options and decided what our preference is, all being well. What has surprised me is that some mothers have all but laughed at my ideas while launching into yet another labour horror story. What happened to women looking out for one another?

While labour seems to be a rite of passage, the medieval practice of the women standing round telling horrible stories throughout the labour doesn’t seem to have gone away. In an age when women are continually encouraged to stand by one another and support each other…labour and birth seem to be an area where this often forgotten.

I would, if all goes smoothly, like to give birth in the midwife-led birth centre at Epsom Hospital. This means a birthing pool, gas & air and Carl’s jokes will be my painkillers; no epidural, no pethidine, no cesarean. OF COURSE, if the midwives tell me that the best course of action for my baby and I involves medical intervention, then we are open to that. Carl knows my thoughts on everything and will be able to handle this on the day, depending on how it goes. We’ll go with the flow.

Having a plan for the day is important, because you know what you’re aiming for. I think we just need to be prepared for this all to change should the situation require it.

I hope for a straightforward labour and birth but, if not, I can only hope that I won’t join in the scaremongering practice in the future. x

Make pregnant friends…who due both before and after you

Rather than writing a ‘day by day’ blog, I am simply going to pick up whatever is on my mind that day, interspersed with updates of how we’re getting on.

So, why are pregnant friends important? Firstly, they UNDERSTAND. Others will try and will offer tips/advice (unwanted from those without experience) or empathy (always welcome if you’re feeling rough), but they won’t really understand what you’re going through.

However, when you find out you’re pregnant, you will no doubt start spotting other pregnant women wherever you look; in the street or on facebook, be they strangers, friends or acquaintances. In the early days, knowing people who are further along than you can be a real lifeline. When I suffered with morning sickness until 23 or so weeks, knowing someone who was the same kept me sane in a world where all I could see were women who glowed and danced their way through pregnancy. Other women are wonderful sources of comfort and tips…You can find out when other peoples’ belly buttons popped out and watch yours obsessively…or is that just me??

But then what happens? They have their babies and you’re still pregnant.

I speak from experience when I say that you will be over the moon for them, adore looking through all the newborn photos and love hearing about how naturally they’ve taken to parenthood.

But what you also feel is a form of envy. Firstly, they have met their baby! What greater moment, it’s what we’re all waiting for. Secondly, and let’s be honest here, whether you are scared of labour or – like me – accept it as an inevitability, you will be envious that they have it over and done with!!

If you have friends due after you then you can continue talking pregnancy to them and hopefully pass along tips and advice from your experience. You won’t feel alone and like everyone else is settling into the life you’re unable to prepare yourself fully for, while waddling around getting bored of the wearing the same 3 outfits in rotation because you’ve tried to buy as little as possible in a bid to be frugal…and swearing that if there’s a next time, you will own more than 2 pairs of maternity jeans.

I would recommend ante-natal or NCT classes for this reason alone, if you don’t have any friends due around the same time as you. They will make you feel normal and it is so refreshing talking to others in the exact same position as you. I will go into NCT classes and why we’ve loved them in greater depth another time.

That’s all for today, I’ll be back with something lighter soon! x