Happy is healthy

6 weeks. Where has the time gone? It seems like an age since we were struggling with how best to feed Sam and feeding a combination of expressed milk and formula. After succeeding a week in, Sam is still breastfeeding, but we are both still struggling with the left breast. I’m not so comfortable holding him that way and he has just never really ‘got it’ on that side. He will feed off it but 8 times out of 10 it’s a struggle getting him to latch well and generally involves him getting worked up trying. 

Expressing isn’t as effective as breastfeeding. I know this. However, what it is more effective than is a baby who gets stressed out trying to feed properly. I have decided to start expressing off the left for some feeds and then bottle feed the milk to him. The right produces far more milk and he has no issues with feeding, so business as usual. I will keep breastfeeding him off the left as well, but mixed with expressed feeds to give us both a break. 

I have started this tonight and already feel more relaxed. One feed is bottled up in the fridge ready for when it’s needed, he’s currently feeding from a previously expressed batch and the right breast is full and ready for his next feed. I’m sure the boob brigade will be quick to point out that this isn’t as effective as full breastfeeding and that I should work this out. However, I say back that I will be doing a bit of both (not that I need to justify my decisions), this allows Carl to assist with some feeds and – most importantly – it removes stress for both Sam and I. 

Do what works for you. This is the best course of action for us, otherwise I will simply end up jacking in breastfeeding altogether because I’m getting bored of the battle. Some days I’m sure I’ll forget to express at all, some days I may end up expressing all the ‘left feeds’…but at the end of the day, as long as Sam is feeding well and we’re both happy, that’s all that matters. 

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Do what you feel is right for you

38 weeks

38 weeks

Now just over 38 weeks, we had a midwife appointment booked for tomorrow. However, after our uninspiring visit last time (when we were wrongly told our baby was Breech and sent for a scan she hadn’t actually booked us in for), we were less than keen to see her again.

I spoke to the wonderful Jude (our NCT teacher) who calmed me after the whole fiasco and advised that we go with what we feel is right. After a great deal of thought – since all the appointments are drummed into you – we have cancelled. Bud is still happily moving around, I feel fine and I will be straight on the phone to the hospital if I have any queries.

Yes, I’ve heard that movements aren’t everything, obviously the heartbeat is checked too along with measurements, but we have decided to go with our instincts. With (in theory) less than 2 weeks to go, if I feel that anything is amiss, we will be straight on the phone or heading to hospital. We are ready. Missing an appointment and (probably) a large amount of stress will not affect our baby’s health. I’m not the only person to have had these exact issues with this same midwife, so I don’t think it’s beyond the realms of possibility that tomorrow’s appointment will be a repeat of the 36 week one. Bud is in the same position, for one!

Do what you feel is right for you.

Disclaimer: My post ‘Nearly into the breech’ created quite a discussion on my opinion of midwives, so I feel I should point this out…

I am not knocking midwives in any way, shape or form. This one specific midwife just fills us with doubts and her ‘bedside manner’ leaves a lot to be desired. I have the upmost faith in midwives, or I wouldn’t be hoping to make use of the midwife-led birth centre at Epsom.

Looking forward to the fast approaching future

With less than 3 weeks to go, I have now been home for just over 3 weeks…scary isn’t it; in less than the amount of time I’ve been home, we will have a baby!

While I still miss the routine of a working day, my thoughts have very much turned forward to after Bud is born. I haven’t thought about my daily calendars and spreadsheets in 2 weeks, so I must be adjusting!

Our preparations are coming along well, all we need to do is wash (and find…) the crib sheets and check we know how to fit the car seat. The nursery is yet to be furnished and decorated, but Bud won’t be in there for months so it’s not urgent. It’s all pearly white and ready to be dressed beautifully.

The crib arrived yesterday, so we’ll get that put up tonight ready for the big moment! Along with the travel system dilemma, which crib to buy took a lot of research and discussion. I’m going to dedicate my next blog post to this decision making process…there are so many options.

My dreams have started to include elements of what our life might be like, although I am sure they’re just wishful thinking! I am well ready to meet our little one now and every little twinge I feel makes me go “ooh, are we going now?”. What surprises me is that I have (at this moment) no fear of this moment, I’m excited about being there. 9 months is a long time to grow a person and look after someone you haven’t met yet!!

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”. 

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

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