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 

“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

Home Alone week 1 is complete

Today concludes my first full week at home on maternity leave and what a lovely week it has been. We had our maternity ward tour on Monday evening – we’re booked in to Epsom – which reaffirmed our decision to make use of their new midwife led birth centre if at all possible. It felt ‘right’ when we walked in there. Our final pre-natal NCT class took place on Tuesday night and it was my 34 week appointment yesterday, so it’s been very baby-centred!

The last few days have been a big adjustment to a new – short term! – slower pace of life. Getting lie ins while I can, enjoying freshly made fruit smoothies (I would thoroughly recommend a Nutribullet to anyone, I’ll also be using it to make baby food in the future) and doing odd bits of housework, while generally relaxing and putting my feet up whenever I feel tired or get either belly or back ache.

It is strange not ‘needing’ to do anything during the day; I’m so used to planning my day out with to do lists (re-written each day…while also leaving a couple of items on that can be immediately ticked off! You know you do the same!).

I have long lists of things I would like to get on with but, you know what, by 35 weeks pregnant you just need to take the days at whatever pace you can manage. I would like to be dancing round the house singing my head off while painting, decorating and cleaning the whole place from top to bottom….but I do not have the energy to do so and that is ok. I just try to keep on top of the washing up and clothes washing and have the place neat for when Carl gets home, helping him out where I can. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a lot more help than I was able to give for the first 5 months of pregnancy!

I make small goals for each day, beyond simply getting up, having a shower and getting dressed, so that at least I have accomplished something. Today, it was opening my favourite spreadsheet and updating our accounts so we know what we have to spend on house purchases and the nursery (happy payday – does any other payday feel quite so good as the first one after Christmas?) and, in a minute, I am going to head out for a walk. When I’m back, if my back isn’t hurting too much, I will start cutting material for a patchwork quilt I’m going to make Bud. If my back hurts, I will lie down and read until Carl arrives home. Such is the life of a pregnant woman. It’s tiring and you shouldn’t feel bad about getting rest while you can.

Now…walk time…and it’s not looking appealing as the trees are blowing all round. Fresh air is very necessary though and it is so important to remain at least a bit active; there’s nothing like the feel of wind on your cheeks to wake you up!

Oh, and I will treat myself to a big mug of hot chocolate when I get home; sometimes an incentive is essential!!

Then this happens and it gets even harder…!

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