Pregnancy diary: week 37 – full-term baby and antenatal class 2

Well we’ve reached a full-term pregnancy, which is a nice feeling! If baby had been born last week, he/she would still have been classed as premature, but if he/she is born this week (hypothetically, there are no signs yet) then he/she would be classed as a ‘full-term’ baby (for the Cambridge peeps who might be reading, this is nothing to do with the 8 weeks of intensive work that’s just begun round here!) In terms of my hopes for the birth, this means I can go ahead with either the Birth Centre or a home birth, neither of which would have been possible before 37 weeks, because the medical teams would have wanted me in hospital with all the equipment for helping baby and me recover from an earlier than expected birth. Now I really think that the end of pregnancy feels near, even though I don’t know exactly how near – anywhere between tonight (unlikely) and about 4.5 weeks time (hopefully not).

Earlier in the week I had the slightly annoying experience of living with two aching arms, after I was jabbed once in the left for my flu vaccine and once in the right for my whooping cough vaccine. The flu jab is now routine for all pregnant women, so although I’m not usually eligible as I don’t have any health conditions that would warrant it, I had one this year and two winters ago when I was pregnant with Andrew, which was also around the time when swine flu was still in general public awareness. The whooping cough vaccine is not normally routine for pregnant women, but there has recently been an increase in the number of cases in this country, particularly in young babies, who don’t receive the immunisation until their series of jabs at 8,12 and 16 weeks old. By vaccinating pregnant women, their babies will be born with immunity to this disease, which can kill young children.

Annoying as aching arms are, at least I know this minor discomfort is worth it for the protection of baby (and me!) against nasty illnesses. It’s interesting how I used to hate needles of any sort, particularly blood tests but also vaccinations, and would get very nervous and distressed about having them. Since my first pregnancy and now this one, I’ve totally got over that, and although I wouldn’t say I enjoy going to get these things done, it really doesn’t bother me like it used to. I think now that I’ve experienced the pain of labour, these short sharp pains of a needle going through my skin just seem so bearable. It’s funny what having kids does to you on so many levels!

Also, one thing that did help me get through the jabs this time was the thought that afterwards I was going to have a whole hour to myself of sitting down being pampered at the hairdressers. I rarely get my hair cut these days. Before Andrew came along I’d go maybe 4 times a year, but the last time I went was 10 months ago, before he was even 1 year old, and the time before that was about 9 months previously when he was a couple of months old, so I’m averaging about once a year at the moment, and I can’t see this changing in the near future. Not that it particularly bothers me, but it is nice to have that little bit of me-time and have my hair cut back into some semblance of a ‘style’ rather than it constantly being scooped back and tied up.

Not long to go now until bump will be baby!

Apart from these couple of things worth mentioning at the start of the week, the biggest thing on my mind was the second antenatal class that I did last night. It was lovely to see all the mums I met last week, except one who unfortunately couldn’t make it, and continue to get to know each other and build friendships. The evening was split into a few parts. First we talked through the stages of labour, to refresh our minds on it. The teacher had some cards with diagrams of a baby in the womb which showed a labour progressing from start to finish. Our job was to put them in order, based on our knowledge of labour. Between us we got them right, except for one which was a bit tricky and apparently fools most classes she teaches! This was a great way to go through what we might expect to happen, although as our different stories of birth with our first child testify, not everyone (in fact hardly anyone in our group) has such a ‘textbook’ birth. Mine was much faster than many, and my waters broke at the start rather than somewhere around the middle; others had ended up with complications and needed a caesarian, so they didn’t experience the baby coming all the way down the birth canal as the pictures showed.

A few things came up whilst we were talking about labour that we ended up discussing whilst we were thinking about them, like the start of breastfeeding (and how mum’s milk may come in later if she’s had a complicated delivery with lots of intervention), and these off-shoots of discussion were really important too. We then carried on conversations about various things in a tea/coffee (for me, water) break, including the fact that my baby could be born anytime soon and I might not make it to next week’s class. I’m hoping we will, as Tom is also attending that one and I’d like him to meet the other dads.

After the break we split into groups to discuss three different types of birth: water birth, home birth and caesarian birth. The mums in each group had either had or were planning the type of birth being discussed, so it was useful to get different perspectives on each type. I wasn’t sure whether I should sit in the water birth or home birth camp, but in the end went for the water birth one, because this is my main plan, with home birth as the back-up. Although I didn’t quite deliver Andrew in the water, I was in the pool until a few minutes before delivery, whereas the other ladies in the group hadn’t had any experience of birthing in a pool, so I hope that sharing my experience was positive for them – they seemed to like the idea after I talked about my experience and didn’t give the impression that I’d put them off at least. Once we’d discussed in groups, we came back together and the teacher went through the main points of each, giving time for us to ask specific questions if we wanted. Overall this was a very positive exercise; I now feel I know enough about both potential types of birth that I’m hoping for, and also more about how a caesarian isn’t the end of the world if it did have to come to that.

The final stint of the evening was left to a bit of brainstorming about potential issues that could arise between siblings. I hadn’t thought about this being covered in the class, but actually it’s a really good idea to try and preempt things that might come up between Andrew and the new baby, so that we can put strategies in place or at least think how we might deal with things before they escalate. We do have one of the smallest age gaps in the group, so I’m hoping we won’t have major issues, but it’s good to be prepared and hear others’ thoughts on this. The idea was that we came up with some potential issues last night, and then we’ll discuss them along with possible solutions next week when our partners are there with us too.

One thing that did come out of the discussion was getting a present for the baby to ‘give’ to the toddler after they are born. I’d thought about this a little before when someone else mentioned it, but I have to admit it went out of my mind until last night! One suggestion was a doll, so that the toddler can copy what mum is doing with the baby. I think this is a good idea, but my initial search for dolls at the local shops this morning wasn’t very fruitful – most were too pink, many were too fancy with loads of ‘functions’ like talking/weeing/pooing etc. (I want something simple), others looked really odd or a little freaky, and some were just downright too expensive (who would pay £50 for a plastic doll?!) So I’m now on the lookout for a doll online, hoping to find something quite plain, dressed in blue/purple/neutral colours, and which is quite cheap.

I’ll probably be back with another instalment of my pregnancy diary at 38 weeks next week, but it’s not something I can bank on. Once the baby is born there won’t be as much time for blogging (if any?!), so the days of writing posts this long are numbered. In some ways this is a bit sad, but I’m also excited about entering into a new stage, being a mum of two little ones who will keep me very busy but who will also reward me with many joys. I hope you as readers will also enjoy the transition as the blog moves into this new stage with us.

Pregnancy diary: week 36 – antenatal class 1 and midwife appointment

This week saw the first of three evening sessions of antenatal classes. You may be wondering why I’m doing antenatal classes at all – I mean it’s my second baby, don’t I remember what it’s like, especially given the relatively small age gap? Well, yes, I do think I remember most things about birth and the early days, but one of the main reasons I’m doing the course is to meet other mums who are in a similar situation to me: they are having a baby when they already have (more than) one child. This course is specifically a refresher course, run by the NCT, for second-time (or subsequent-time) parents.

I was a little disappointed to miss out on attending an NCT antenatal course when I was pregnant with Andrew. Cambridge has a massive NCT branch, one of the biggest in the country, and the courses are always oversubscribed. We tried to book onto one when I was only a few months pregnant, but even by then they were mostly full, and the ones that weren’t, we knew we couldn’t make because we had a regular commitment at church on that evening or we’d already planned things for the weekends (like going to weddings) that they were on. We’d heard that they were a great way to meet a group of people who were all in the same situation, and that often NCT groups would meet up after the babies were all born, and even continue doing that every now and then for years afterwards. Of course this comes at a cost – the courses are not free – but we thought it would have been worth it, if we’d have managed to get onto one.

However, we did attend the (free) NHS ‘Parentcraft’ (!) classes that we were told about via the midwife. These were pretty good at giving us info on birth and early days, but we didn’t feel they gave us much more info than I’d read in the NHS Pregnancy book. I did attend an optional breastfeeding workshop as part of the course, but this turned out to be not particularly useful in our case, because we weren’t ‘textbook’ and they didn’t cover any of the major potential issues that you might encounter breastfeeding. The worst aspect of the course was that the group (about 12 couples) didn’t seem to want to talk and get to know each other. Maybe there were too many of us? (I think NCT groups are generally smaller than that.) Some of the couples seemed to know each other already and formed little cliques, or maybe it’s because they were of the same nationality so just spoke their language in little groups (we were the only native English speakers in the group except one other man – that’s Cambridge for you). This meant that we didn’t get that ‘social group’ outcome like we’d hoped for in an NCT class, despite trying to make conversation with a few couples – it just didn’t happen.

So when I read about the NCT refresher courses online, I decided that it was worth trying to have this experience the second time around. It helps too that all of us in the class have had the experience of a first child already, and will all be looking for ways to cope with a newborn as well as an older toddler/child. We’ll all also be off work at the same time, so we should be able to meet up pretty regularly at least in the early months. And so far, from just one 2.5 hour session, the prospect of this is looking promising. The first session was for the mums only, and I think this helped to get us all chatting and start to make friendships, as none of us knew anyone else in the room. I felt like I had things in common with these ladies, and can definitely imagine meeting up and getting on well with them. There was already a consensus that the teacher should send round our email addresses so that we can get the ball rolling on meeting up.

Apart from the social aspect, which was my main reason for attending, it was good to chat together about our previous pregnancies and birth experiences, and I got a lot of info out of others’ personal experiences as well as the teacher’s input. I felt a bit shy in telling my birth story though, because many in the room had had much more complicated and longer births than my experience with Andrew, but I hope my story was an encouragement that things can go really smoothly and quickly and it’s not all negative. I’m looking forward to next week already, when we’ll be recapping various things like breathing techniques, movements and positions for labour, and different types of birth (e.g. c-section, water birth). Then on the third week, our partners will join us for the last session. Next week I’ll actually get there on time – for some reason (baby brain is my excuse) I thought it started at 7.45pm, but as I was walking into the centre, I got a text from the teacher asking if I was OK, and as I walked into the room, slightly puzzled by the text, I realised that everyone else had obviously been there for quite a while and they’d started doing small group discussions! (The actual start time was 7.15pm.) So I sheepishly made an entrance and joined a lovely group, who welcomed me despite having to do introductions all over again. Ooops!

Still quite a high bump, but baby has dropped a little into the pelvis already.

On to the midwife appointment that I had earlier today. At my appointment 2 weeks ago, she asked again whether I’d thought more about a home birth. My answer to this was the same as it’s always been every time she’s asked (I think she’s on commission or something!) – I’d rather have a Birth Centre birth than a home birth, but I’d rather have a home birth than a car birth, if baby decides to come even quicker than Andrew did. One of my issues with a home birth is that our flat is small (think proverbial cats and swinging motions) – where would we put a birth pool for a start? So the midwife suggested that my next appointment at 36 weeks should be at home rather than the GP surgery, so she could take a look at our flat and see where things could go and what we should have prepared in case we end up staying at home. I agreed that this would be a great idea.

When she arrived, we had the inevitable conversation about the fact that Andrew had clearly grown since she last saw him – I should hope so, he was only 2 weeks old when she last saw him to discharge us from her care! After that she moved straight on to talking through the practicalities of home birth. She said that there was no problem with our flat. The fact that there’s not really room to swing a cat wasn’t an issue; in her opinion there is room to give birth to a baby. She was happy that our kitchen table is a good enough work surface for the midwives to work on, and she even said that we would just about have room for a pool if I wanted one. I don’t think I’ll bother though, because they are expensive to buy/hire, and if we’re at home it means things are happening fast and we wouldn’t have time to fill it anyway. Shower curtains are fine as plastic sheeting, so Tom’s now on the case to find some cheap ones. Other than that, we’re pretty much sorted in terms of things on the list that the midwife gave me to prepare for a home birth. It’s good that my midwife is so pro home birth, given that not all midwives are so keen these days, but I did have to remind her that this was my back-up plan, my ‘just in case’ idea. Of course she understands that if my platelets (which were tested again yesterday, so I don’t yet know the results) drop further, then home birth wouldn’t be an option anyway. It’s just nice to know that we have all bases covered.

After the home birth pep-talk, and in amongst Andrew’s attempts to charm her with various acrobatics, chatting and smiles, we moved on to the usual antenatal checks. My blood pressure and urine were fine, and baby’s heartbeat was as clear and fast as ever. Andrew was intrigued by the sound of the heartbeat on the monitor – it sounded a bit like a ‘choo-choo’ to him, and that’s one of his favourite things right now, along with aeroplanes. I still don’t think he gets what’s happening, even though I’ve tried to explain; he just laughs when I say there’s a baby in my tummy. Baby’s position is generally good, in that he/she is head down and one fifth engaged (dropped into the pelvis) already, so pretty unlikely to turn now. The midwife said it was normal for baby to have dropped slightly by now in a second pregnancy, as I was sure that Andrew hadn’t started to engage until a couple of weeks later. Bump is still measuring bang on the average line of the graph, so growth is progressing well.

The only slight issue was that this morning baby was lying slightly posteriorly – not completely ‘back-to-back’, which would potentially make labour longer and more complicated – but with its back to one side instead of pointing outwards. But the midwife reassured me that there was still time to move, and I know this baby moves a lot, so it’s perfectly possible. She also advised me to sit as upright as possible, on hard-backed chairs, no slouching on the sofa, or better still, spend lots of time on all fours wiggling my hips. I used to do this more in pregnancy with Andrew because I did yoga, so I’ve decided that I’ll start doing some of those moves in the evening when Andrew is in bed. Now I have no excuse not to be the one who clears up his toys at the end of the day, as that is basically 5-10 minutes of being on all fours!

At the end of week 36, I’m feeling very positive and I’ve enjoyed my first week (since maternity leave ended) looking after Andrew every day. I feel less tired today than I did on the Friday of the last few weeks of work. This week has also been very exciting because several family members and good friends have made exciting announcements. For example, I’m now an aunt to a lovely little niece, and my brother-in-law and his girlfriend are now engaged. My Facebook status today carried a warning: any more exciting announcements this week and it might just tip me into labour! I need a weekend to recover 🙂