What’s in a name?

It occurred to me whilst thinking about writing about Joel’s dedication day (which I’ll post soon) that I’ve not written about how we chose the boys’ names. We didn’t know the sex of either of them before they were born, so we had a pair of boys names and a pair of girls names ready. The girls names we still haven’t told anyone, in case we decide to have a third (not that likely, but you never know) and she’s a girl; the girl’s middle name stayed the same between having Andrew and Joel, but the first name changed because I’d met a rather whingey whiny girl with the original name at a group we started going to when Andrew was a baby, and it put me off!

When Tom and I sat down together to talk about baby names, my general personal preference was for traditional and (not necessarily but probably because many traditional names are) Biblical; I didn’t like anything too modern because that could potentially become out-dated or of its time, whereas traditional names have stood the test of time already. But I was also aware that many of the traditional names are very popular at the moment, so if we chose one of them, the baby could end up being in a school class with several other children with the same name – in my year at secondary school there were 6 Matthews and 6 Helens, and I quite liked being the only Ruth.joeledit

At first I was also keen to try and choose a first name that we liked which cannot be shortened. I’m not quite sure why, but I like that my name is just Ruth, with no shortenings; occasionally close friends and family have been known to lengthen it to Ruthy, but generally it’s just Ruth. It soon became clear, however, that there weren’t many names which we both liked for other reasons that fulfilled this criterion, so it became less of a priority for me. Tom (who is really Thomas) wasn’t bothered anyway.

There were certain sounds that I wanted  to avoid. I don’t like alliteration, so I didn’t want anything beginning with a (hard) C or K as that would be the same sound as our surname. It also didn’t sound right for the name to end in this sound – for example, I like the name Luke, but try saying Luke Cumming and it doesn’t flow right at all, and for that reason, names which could be shortened to end in that sound, such as Michael > Mike, were also out.

There are no family names which we felt obliged to take (or not take!), but on my side of the family, there have been a line of boys with the middle name James – my brother, Dad and Grandad – and as I liked this name anyway and felt like it worked well as a middle name with various other first name possibilities, we decided on that for Andrew. We both have mostly boys in our extended family, and all 6 of my boy cousins have nice traditional names; I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded having a first cousin once removed with the same name as them, but we didn’t want it to be confusing, so that cut down our shortlist.

Although we broadly agreed on what kinds of names we both liked, when it came to specifics there were some which I liked but Tom was less keen on, and vice versa. For example, I like several boys names beginning with J (Joel, James, Joshua, Jacob, Joseph etc.), but the only ones that Tom was really keen on were Joel and James. So that also cut down our individual shortlists to make a joint shortlist.andrewedit

Once we had Andrew, we felt a little more restricted  when choosing Joel’s name than when we were choosing Andrew’s. We actually liked Edward, David and George, but decided that none of these could be first names because with Edward we’d be going for a Royal Family theme, and with either David or George we’d be going for a Patron Saints of the UK theme!

In the end, Andrew James and Joel David were our final decisions, which fulfil our criteria above, and, most importantly, we both liked and felt they sounded good together as a pair (Andrew and James, Joel and David, and of course Andrew and Joel). They are traditional but not very popular right now, as far as we can tell. Some people had said to us that we might change our minds when baby was born, because we might think that he/she didn’t look like the names we had chosen. Although I can see how this might happen, we didn’t feel this way at either birth, so the names were given to our boys within half an hour of being born.

Although we didn’t choose the names specifically for their meanings, we were interested in what each of them meant before giving them to our babies, just in case they seemed a bit odd to us! Here’s a list of the meanings of each name:

  • Andrew – from the Greek name Andreas, which was derived from Andreia meaning “manhood, valour/bravery”.
  • James – English form of the Late Latin name Iacomus, which was derived from Iakobos, the New Testament Greek form of the Hebrew name Ya’aqov (Jacob) meaning  “holder of the heel” (Jacob was born holding his twin brother’s heel) or “supplanter”.
  • Joel – from the Hebrew name Yoel meaning “Yahweh is God”.
  • David – from the Hebrew name Dawid, which was probably derived from Hebrew dwd meaning “beloved”.

We were also aware of and interested in the roles of the men with these names in the Bible….

  • Andrew – he was one of Jesus’ disciples, brother of Peter, and fisherman before he decided to follow Jesus; he was the disciple who brought the little boy with five loaves of bread and two fish to Jesus so that he could feed thousands of people with them.
  • James – there are a few men called James in the Bible; two were disciples of Jesus – one was the son of Zebedee and one was the son of Alphaeus – the former we know more about, he was brother of John and was one of the disciples who witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration (a miracle which involved Moses and Elijah appearing next to Jesus and talking with him); the latter we know little about other than he was one of the 12 disciples; another James, probably the half-brother of Jesus, wrote the New Testament book of James, a letter which teaches us about various aspects of being a Christian.
  • Joel – he wrote the Old Testament book of Joel, a prophecy (or foretelling of what was going to happen in the future) for God’s people and the coming of Jesus as the Saviour of the world.
  • David – he was a king of Israel, and Jesus was a descendent in his ancestral line; as a boy he fought and won against Goliath the Philistine giant, and as an adult he committed both adultery and murder but sought and received God’s forgiveness; he was also the writer of many of the Psalms, songs of praise and lament to God.

I hope that one day the boys will be interested to know about the meaning of their names and about Biblical characters with the same names. At least this blog post will now serve as a useful starting point for me to come back to when we talk about it. If you have a child or children, how did you go about choosing their name(s)? I think it’s such an important job that we do as parents because they have to live with our decisions for a long time. I hope our boys will think we did a good job!

Beginners breastfeeding – essential info and (not-so) essential kit

This post started life as a paragraph in the essential baby kit list that I recently posted, but it got too big so it warranted its own space. The essential things you need to start breastfeeding are not kit but rather accurate info and helpful support. All the kit you really need is a pair of breasts! There are, however, some bits of kit that you may end up finding useful or they may make life easier once you’ve got going. This post has two parts: first a list of essential info to get breastfeeding off to a good start, based on my experience of having one baby and then doing it better the second time around; and second my take on the bits of kit that you may like to get at some point.

First of all though, as I said in my kit list post, of course I don’t want to assume that everyone will breastfeed, but I would highly recommend at least trying it, based on the info that I know. You may decide for whatever reason to feed formula in bottles right from the start; i personally don’t have experience of exclusive bottle feeding, so I’m not an expert on how much kit you need for that. But I do know what it’s like to supplement with formula from a week old, which did involve bottles with Andrew, though not with Joel (at least he won’t take one at 12 weeks without a lot of persuasion – I do use them to mix up powdered formula sometimes rather than do it directly in the SNS which can be fiddly), so I have some idea of the faff in terms of kit compared to breastfeeding. I can say that if I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t go through all this faff!

Tips for getting breastfeeding off to a good start:

  • Let baby feed as soon as possible after birth: If possible, hold your baby snuggled up to your chest without your top on straight away after birth, so that yours and baby’s skin are touching and they can latch on to your breast as soon as they like. Of course if there have been complications with either of you in the delivery, such as a c-section, or baby needs urgent medical attention, you might not be able to do this. Skin to skin with Daddy is always an option if you are not well enough to do it yourself. I was blessed with two very fast and uncomplicated births, after which I was able to pick my baby up and have him on my tummy/chest immediately afterwards – they both rooted towards my breast within minutes of being born and had their first feed. The soonest possible that first suck is, the better for breastfeeding, but don’t worry if you get separated and the first possible opportunity is later than straight after birth, it’s not a disaster for breastfeeding – just take the first opportunity you have to get your baby latched on for their first feed. Some babies are less good at latching on by themselves than others, so if they don’t seem interested, get help from someone who knows what they are talking about with breastfeeding.
    A sleepy moment – he spent the night after the birth feeding and sleeping, next to me the whole time, skin to skin.
  • Let baby feed whenever they want for however long they want (aka demand feeding): If you take nothing from this post other than this bit of info I’d be a happy bunny! It may seem like baby is feeding all the time, but in the first few days that’s a good thing – baby is sucking to stimulate your milk production and help get your milk to “come in”. If you try and feed to a schedule, or think about timings like ‘he/she only fed 10 minutes ago, he/she can’t be hungry again yet”, then you risk interfering with your body’s natural mechanisms for producing enough milk, and you’ll probably stress yourself out in doing so.
  • Lots of skin to skin: Holding your baby with both of you unclothed so that your skin is touching is important not only straight after birth but also in the early days and weeks, and beyond in fact. It helps to stimulate your milk production via the hormones that drive it. A few hours after Andrew was born and he’d fallen asleep after his first feed, which was pretty long actually, the midwife dressed and swaddled him because she said he needed to keep warm as his body wasn’t good at regulating temperature yet, So I did what she said and he slept swaddled in the fish tank cot next to my bed all night whilst I lay there staring at him! Since then I learned through getting accurate info based on research from my local La Leche League (LLL) group that lying with baby skin to skin in those hours after birth is better for both of us, because my body heat helps to regulate baby’s body temperature, and it helps stimulate the start of milk production. So after Joel was born, I refused to let them swaddle him (not that they tried this time, maybe having read my birth plan requesting them not to!), and we lay skin to skin all night, during which time he fed and slept in alternation. We also spent a lot of time skin to skin at home, putting a blanket over us snuggled on the sofa. We still spend every afternoon whilst Andrew is napping together skin to skin on the sofa.
  • If baby seems very sleepy, wake them up: This seems so wrong – let sleeping babies lie, says everyone. But if baby is very sleepy in the early days, they are missing out on enough sucking to stimulate your milk to “come in”, potentially making it slower and not as plentiful. It could be that they had a difficult birth, or are jaundiced, or have some other underlying reason to be sleepy. There are some simple things you can do to encourage them to feed more often (like I did with Joel as he was jaundiced and very sleepy): remove layers of clothing; have skin to skin time with no clothes |(at the risk of me sounding like a broken record!); change the nappy if they’ve fallen asleep at the breast – if they want more it’ll soon wake them up; tickle their feet and cheeks whilst feeding; talk to them; put them down in the middle of the bed.
  • Limit cuddles with other people in the early days: You’ll probably have a queue of visitors at your door, either at home or in hospital, most of whom will no doubt want to cuddle your new little bundle of cuteness. It’s fine to let them, of course, but be careful that baby actually gets to be with you for the majority of the time and doesn’t spend the day just being passed around Uncle Tom Cobley and all. The best thing that visitors can do is help you in other ways, like bring you hot meals, fill up your drinks bottles, do the washing up, the laundry, clean the bathroom, empty the bins and so on and so on. Your parter can be a real support by kindly pointing this out to visitors for you.
  • Rest, and don’t try to do too much too soon: I think these days there’s quite a lot of pressure to appear to be super-mum and be back on your feet, out and about doing all the stuff you were doing before baby arrived. But giving birth is one massive ordeal that your body goes through in order to produce said bundle of cuteness, so you need time to recover physically as well as helping your body to get on with the next stage – producing lots of milk. Spending all day in your pyjamas and sitting on the sofa or in bed is totally fine, nothing to feel bad about. If, like me, staying inside the same four walls all day can make you feel cooped up and a bit cabin feverish, a gentle short walk or drive (as the passenger) somewhere calm can help, but don’t go anywhere that you find stressful (for example, supermarkets). The word ‘babymoon’ is worth remembering – treat the first days and even weeks if you can like a honeymoon with your baby, doing nothing but focussing on them and yourself.
  • Eat and drink enough: Make sure you drink to thirst and eat to hunger. Not drinking enough leads to dehydration, and drinking more than what you feel thirsty for can actually be detrimental to milk production too. I find sports cap bottles of water are handy – no risk of spilling and you can open them with your teeth when you hands are too full to unscrew a bottle top. Eating a good balanced diet is essential, and it’s not a time for dieting to try and shift the ‘baby weight’ – you gained that weight for a reason, and over time, maybe after several months, with breastfeeding it will come off as it is used in making milk. As I was so sick and nauseous throughout my pregnancies, my appetite was limited and I couldn’t keep much down to begin with, so I didn’t put on any weight. But whilst breastfeeding I have found myself ravenously hungry and have definitely consumed more food per day than I ever did in pregnancy and before having kids – I’m sure this is my body’s natural way of saying ‘come on, I need stores of energy to make this milk, and I didn’t get them in pregnancy’. I find that I’m particularly hungry overnight, so I have a box with snacks in next to the bed and I munch through them during night feeds. Some foods, such as oats, are supposedly good for helping milk production, so I eat a lot of porridge, muesli and flapjacks!
  • Make sure feeding feels comfortable: Breastfeeding should not feel painful. The first few days of having a baby sucking on your nipple can feel a little uncomfortable until you’re used to it, and particularly the first minute or so of a feed can feel uncomfortable to begin with, but if you experience real pain or prolonged discomfort, there’s something wrong. Often this can be fixed by adjusting the latch and baby’s positioning, and sometimes it is due to the baby’s tongue being too anchored to the jaw – this is ‘tongue-tie’ and can be fixed by a simple snip of the ‘frenulum’ holding the tongue to the bottom of the mouth – I blogged about this before. Ask someone who knows about breastfeeding to spend time watching you feed so they can check the latch, and if you suspect tongue-tie (see my previous post on it), find an expert who can assess it, which may mean contacting a private lactation consultant if your GP won’t refer you through the NHS.
  • If in any doubt, ASK FOR HELP: Don’t hesitate to get help, no matter how small or big you think your concern is – the earlier issues are picked up, the easier it is in general to sort them out, and small issues can quickly spiral into big issues if not dealt with. Although the obvious people to ask may be your midwife team or health visitor, they are often very busy with big caseloads and overcrowded clinics to spend time with you, and they don’t actually get a lot of specialist training on breastfeeding. Local drop-ins and support groups such as those run by LLL and NCT are often better places to get more personal and detailed support. It’s a good idea to look for your local support groups before baby is born, so you can build up a support network before you need it, if you end up needing it, and if you don’t then you can still go along and meet with other breastfeeding mums anyway. It’s much easier to pick up the phone to someone you’ve already met a few times to ask for help when you’re an emotional wreck than it is to phone just a name and number on a leaflet.
  • Believe in your body: I’m a rare case (always like to be different I do), and unless like me you have a specific reason to doubt your breasts, it is likely that you are physically able to produce enough milk IF ALL THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN THE EARLY DAYS ARE FAVOURABLE (that’s a big if – see all of the above!) And even if it turns out you can’t produce enough milk for whatever reason, there’s no reason you can’t continue to breastfeed just like we have using the SNS.

Kit that may be useful once you’ve got going:

The one piece of kit that you do need is a good bra (or 4! – they get dirty with milk and sick pretty quickly). Although it’s not essential that you get nursing bras which open up with a clip to allow you easy access to each breast for feeding, it does make life easier in the early weeks, and you need to get new ones based on your postnatal bra size anyway. The question is when to get fitted.  Most sources I read said that you can do this in late pregnancy and just allow for a bit more room in the cup size for when your milk comes in. I did this in pregnancy with Andrew, but then my breasts didn’t actually change much at all due to the hypoplasia and lack of fullness with milk, so they ended up being a bit big. With Joel I waited until he was about a week old to get fitted more accurately. I know I’m unusual though to not have experienced a sudden increase in breast size when the milk comes in.  I found that Karen at Boobie Milk has some good tips on her website and blog (she organised the breastfeeding scavenger hunt that I took part in back in June).

I’ve heard that breast pads are often essential for breastfeeding mums particularly in the early weeks once the milk has come in, as many mums are prone to leaks, and pads can be popped in the bra to soak up any excess. Again I never experienced this, and not all mums do. I seem to remember getting some free disposable ones in the various Bounty packs that I was given in pregnancy with Andrew. If you find you get through lots, there are washable ones, and I’ve seen some lovely soft and luxurious looking ones on various cloth nappy websites such as here.

Some mums I know have recommended breastfeeding pillows for easier positioning in the early weeks. These are usually u-shaped or v-shaped, to fit around your body so that you can rest baby on them to get them at the right height and position to latch comfortably. I just used an ordinary cushion in the early days, and soon found that I could just hold my baby without the need for extra support (it did help I guess that neither Andrew nor Joel were that heavy for their age). So I don’t have any particular specialist pillows to recommend myself.

You may see breastfeeding chairs advertised, which are usually a rocking chair in style and often come with a matching footstool. I never even contemplated one of these as we don’t have room for any more furniture in our flat, and they seemed like a lot of money for what they were, though I guess it’s the kind of thing you could get secondhand if you were more inclined to hunt out a bargain one than I was. I’ve found that the sofa we have now is actually very good in terms of height and squishiness for feeding – my knees are high enough as it’s quite low to the ground, and it has a firm back but soft-ish cushions to sit on so I don’t slide down too much. When I was feeding Andrew as a young baby, we had a futon, which was great for height, but for some reason I kept slipping down it and gradually hurting my back; this got a lot better when we swapped the futon for the new sofa.

You may also be aware of breastfeeding covers that look a bit like a short apron, which you hang round your neck and it hangs down over baby, covering you and them whilst they are feeding. I personally think that no mum should feel forced to cover up whilst feeding her baby – would people expect me to cover my toddler and me up when I give him a sandwich when we’re out? However, I do understand that a mum may not feel confident about her own body, or may feel happier covering up rather than not for reasons other than being forced to by other people. In that case I see the benefit of a cover. I’ve never felt I needed one – a positive thing about having hardly any breast tissue (gotta look on the bright side and all that) is that it’s not hard to feed discreetly anyway, but maybe I would feel differently if I was better endowed. I’ve just always worn clothes that help in me feeling happy about myself and how much is visible to others if they are bothered by it.

Talking of clothes, there are special breastfeeding tops available to buy, but I’ve not got any, because I found that certain styles of ordinary top do perfectly well and are generally cheaper or in my wardrobe anyway. There are two basic options: pull up a top and feed from below it, or pull down or unbutton a top from the top and feed from above it. I’ve found the first option to be most successful, but I know plenty of mums who do the second option. For the pull up option, empire line tops work well, which are fitted at the top and then flow down nice and loosely, so they give you lots of fabric to pull up. If you’re particularly worried about exposing a post-natal wobbly tummy, then you can wear a vest underneath – get one with adjustable straps and set them to the longest possible (you may need a bigger size to get enough length on them) so that you can wear it below your breasts to just cover your torso so they are available for feeding without pulling the vest up. This is not so practical in summer though. For the pull down option, tops and shirts that unbutton at the top are good, or something with enough stretch to pull down and go back into shape afterwards so it doesn’t end up sagging and not covering you when not feeding. I love those big flowy cardigans that come down to your thighs and have no buttons, as you can wrap it around yourself and baby, particularly in winter if you have any bare skin exposed to the cold when you’ve pulled your top up with no vest underneath.

Andrew (4 months) and mummy enjoying a feed - this was a hot day in early summer, so I had just a vest top on, nothing special, and just pulled it up to feed him.
Joel (6 weeks) feeding whilst we had lunch out - the cardigan is very useful for wrapping around us both in winter, as it was when this was taken.

Even if you intend to give breastfeeding a go, you may be thinking about the possibility of expressing some of your milk to give in a bottle – maybe your maternity leave is quite short and you want to carry on breastfeeding when back at work, or maybe you’d like your partner or another relative to be able to feed your baby sometimes, such as overnight. I would say that it’s a good idea to wait until your milk supply has been established, so at least 6-8 weeks, before you start introducing expressing as an alternative to baby-led feeding at the breast, because it could interfere with your body’s natural ability to produce enough milk based on your baby demanding all they need by sucking at the breast. However, there may well turn out to be specific reasons why you would express before this age, such as your baby won’t latch properly or they are separated from you due to being in neonatal special care, and you need to express to build up and keep up your supply during the lack of contact with baby.

if you do decide to express for whatever reason, you’ll need the following…

  • breast pump: If it’s just a small amount of expressing, you can actually be very effective at getting milk out just with your hands, so a pump isn’t necessary. But for whole feeds worth of milk, a pump makes sense. Manual pumps require you to pull a lever by hand over and over again to pump, so again, they’re more for smaller amounts of pumping otherwise they get tiring, but they are cheaper than electric pumps, If you end up doing a fair amount of pumping, you’ll probably think that an electric pump is worth investing in. They range from small portable ones with battery or mains options, to hospital grade ones that you can hire. Some come with one pumping piece, some come with two so you can do two breasts at the same time – useful if you’re pumping with little or no time with baby at the breast. Over time, the effectiveness of the pump decreases, so it may not be worth getting a secondhand one. I was given a secondhand one that hadn’t been used much, and I compared how much I got out with what I got out using a double hospital grade pump that I hired for 2 weeks when Joel was born – there was no difference, so I carried on using the single one I’d been given before Andrew was born, but it could well have been different had the pump been used more. (I pump sometimes to try and increase supply, though I don’t have much time to do it now with a toddler as well, so I mainly do it overnight.)
  • bottles: Breast pumps come with at least one bottle, attached to the pump via a length of tubing. You’ll probably need to get more than this, because by the time you’ve filled, emptied, washed and sterilised, it’s handy to have a few. I would always buy new bottles. There are a few bottles marketed at being shaped such that they are closer to the shape of a breast and therefore make it easy for the baby to switch between bottle and breast. We have a few of these as well as a few with the more traditional teat shape, and Andrew managed to switch fine between bottle and breast with both sorts, and his latch onto each teat shape didn’t appear to differ. That said, he took a bottle as well as the breast from a week old, whereas an older baby might do one or both of two things: refuse to take a bottle in the first place because they’ve got used to the breast and prefer that (this is what I’m now finding with Joel at 12 weeks); get used to the easier flow of the bottle and start getting fussy at the breast.
  • steriliser: There are two basic ways of sterilising – steaming in the microwave and bathing in a chemical solution (Milton fluid). I only have experience of the microwave method, but find it pretty easy, and you can pick up secondhand microwave sterilisers at a good price at, for example, nearly new sales or through friends.

Phew, another post to rival my kit list in length! We were discussing amongst a few of us at our breastfeeding support group the other day how hard it is to reach mums when they really need help in the first week of baby’s life – antenatal classes are OK for theoretical info before baby arrives, and support groups are fine if mums having problems make it along, often not in the first week. So even if this post helps just one mum at the time she needs it most, I’d be very happy.

Bump time lapse video

Click HERE to watch the video

I’ve been meaning to get round to this for a while, but it never quite seemed to get to the top of my list of things to do on the laptop whilst feeding – possibly because I thought cropping the pictures would require 2 hands on the track pad rather than the one that I’ve come accustomed to typing with. But in th end it turned out to be easier than I thought using just one hand.

So here is a video of my bump shots from week 17 to week 40, showing how it went from tiny to big, sped up from 23 weeks to just 7 seconds! I thought about taking a picture of me in this position holding baby after the birth, but once Joel arrived I completely forgot about this in all the busyness of having a new baby. I think it’s a pretty cool record of my pregnancy, and one day I can show it to my boys too.

Another fast birth story

As I didn’t have a blog when Andrew was born, I didn’t write his birth story online. I did, however, write it in his baby journal, but that was in pen and paper (that’ll be a rare thing for him to look back on in years to come!) so I can’t just publish it quickly here. When he was a year old, I wrote a blog post comparing the day of his birthday that year and the day of his birth. In a nutshell (wow that’s restrained of me), here’s how Andrew was born…. My first contraction was around 2pm, and I had mild, not very painful, irregular contractions until about 7.30pm when suddenly my waters broke. We rang the midwife-led Birth Centre and were told to come in for an assessment due to my waters breaking. Suddenly whilst we were in the car the contractions got much stronger and much faster. Once we were at the Birth Centre and they’d established that I was in active labour, they filled the birth pool and I got in some time after 9pm. Not long after I had the urge to push and did that in the pool for a while until the midwife suggested that I wasn’t pushing efficiently in water because it was relaxing me too much and that if I got out baby would come faster – she was right, within minutes of being back on land Andrew arrived, just 3 hours after I felt I was actually in labour.

This time I knew there was a possibility that baby would come even quicker, so we prepared for the eventuality of a home birth just in case, though my preference was to make it to the brand new Birth Centre and hopefully have an actual water birth. Of course there was no guarantee, but I was hoping that this second labour would go as quickly and smoothly as before. At my 38-week midwife appointment, baby was in back-to-back position, so I’d been a little worried that this would mean a longer labour and I’d been doing everything I’d heard of to try and turn baby into a better position. It turns out that either these things worked, or it didn’t matter anyway!

A few hours after birth, just where he wanted to be - snuggled up to Mummy!

Baby’s due date rather handily fell in the middle of half-term; as Tom’s mum is a teacher, she was happy to come and stay for the week, and we hoped that the arrival would happen some time that week, so that she could take care of Andrew; of course we knew that it might not happen then and we’d need a plan B. The weekend at the start of half term came, and there were no signs of an imminent arrival. We carried on as usual, and showed Grandma the ropes for looking after Andrew, like where to find nappies, what the bathtime and bedtime routine is, and how he likes to be entertained these days. On the Monday morning, we all went together to our usual playgroup, and then Andrew napped, followed by lots of reading with Grandma in the afternoon.

I took advantage of our babysitter and went for a swim. I did 60 lengths of breaststroke – this was one of several natural methods of labour induction (aka old wives’ tales) that I was trying by this point; others include eating copious amounts of pineapple, drinking raspberry leaf tea, eating hot curries and walking lots (which I do anyway). Still no signs though…. until just as I was doing bedtime with Andrew at around 7.15pm. During his usual breastfeed, I felt a few very mild contractions. I mentioned this to Tom just as we were reading a story after Andrew’s milk-time, but I didn’t want to say anything to Grandma yet, just in case it was a false alarm, or if it wasn’t then at least she could go back to her B&B and get some sleep before we might need to ring her to come round during the night.

So Grandma left at about 8.15pm, and I settled down in what had come to be my favourite position over the past two weeks of trying to get baby to turn – kneeling on a bean bag and leaning forward onto the sofa with some cushions to support me under the arms. The contractions continued, so we started to time them; they were already quite regular at about 5-7 minutes apart, but were only about 30-40 seconds long and not very painful, completely copable with just by breathing deeply. At about 9pm (our usual bedtime these days) I said to Tom that he could go to bed if he wanted, to try and get some sleep before anything more dramatic happened. I didn’t want to lie down, but was happy to stay up watching a DVD on my own in the living room. Tom decided he wouldn’t be able to sleep, so we carried on chatting and timing contractions together.

By about 11.30pm, things seemed to be slowing down, as the contractions were coming further apart (about 5-10 minutes). Tom decided to go to bed, and I stayed up. By 12.30am, I was getting a bit fed up, as the contractions didn’t seem to be getting closer together, if anything further apart as there were more 10 minute gaps creeping in, and they still wren’t really that painful, just annoying! I said to myself that I’d give it til 1am, and if things were still the same, I’d also go to bed, to try and rest as much as possible, thinking that this could go on for a while.

Just as I was about to give up and go to bed, I had a stronger contraction and with it my waters broke at 1am. If past experience was anything to go by, I knew that the contractions would now ramp up and things would really get going. So I woke Tom and he rang the Birth Centre, because when your waters break, they automatically want to see and assess you. Tom explained that my contractions had been regular but not too close or painful, and also that my previous labour had been fast after the point of waters breaking. They told us to come in, so Tom rang his mum who was 10 minutes away. Within the time that Tom was on the phone, my contractions did suddenly get much more intense, and I did contemplate whether I wanted to get in the car or stay at home for the birth. But knowing that there would be no traffic so it really was just 10 minutes door to door, and that the Birth Centre looked so amazing, I went for it!

The journey wasn’t very comfortable because I didn’t want to be sat down at all, but rather kneeling or standing, so I was relieved to get there (at 1.30am) and be shown into a room by a very friendly midwifery nurse. As she was doing the routine checks (like blood pressure, urine, foetal heart rate), or rather trying to do them as I kept needing her to stop for another contraction, it soon became clear to the nurse that she needed to fetch a midwife.

As soon as the midwife arrived, she took one look at me, felt baby’s position, checked the heart rate, and got out the delivery kit next to me as I was kneeling down on the floor with my arms over the bed. I remember asking to go in the pool, but her response was that baby was nearly here so there was no time to fill it. The next thing I knew I was pushing and could feel that baby really was very nearly here! At 2.08am, just over half an hour after we arrived, an hour since labour really started, and after only a few pushes, Joel was delivered. He let out a big cry as I sat backwards still on my knees and was able to pick him up myself and put him straight on my tummy. When the cord stopped pulsing, the midwife clamped and cut it, and I moved to sitting on the bed holding Joel still on my tummy. He lunged across to my right breast and had a good first feed, just minutes after birth. Meanwhile the midwife took care of helping me deliver the placenta; I was checked for tearing and blood loss, both of which were fine, so I didn’t need to have the injection to help deliver the placenta quickly and minimise blood loss (this had made me vomit several times after Andrew’s birth).

A sleepy moment - he spent the night feeding and sleeping, next to me the whole time, skin to skin.

After Joel had been weighed and given vitamin K once he’d latched off from his first feed, the midwife left us to it and we sat marvelling at the new addition to our family as he continued to feed and feed. As I looked over at the snazzy clock with time and date on, it struck me that he’d actually arrived on his due date! I never thought we’d be part of that rare statistic. From googling I see that the percentage of babies born on due date is somewhere between 2% and 5%, depending on the source – the most reputable one for the UK that I could find was the NCT website.

Throughout the night, Joel slept and fed in alternation, and I sat there just looking at him – the lovely mood lighting with changing colours was amazing, as I could see him perfectly but the light wasn’t too bright. Tom was allowed to stay the night in our room in the new Birth Centre, which he hadn’t been allowed to in the old one; he slept a bit – I guess he didn’t have the hormonal high that I had which stopped me sleeping after the birth.

In the morning, Andrew came to meet his little brother, complete with Grandma, Granny and Grandad in tow. He seemed very impressed with the ‘beh-beh’, though was also highly fascinated with the birth ball in the room and rolled it around giggling loudly. Joel has his neo-natal checks and once all the paperwork was done, we were allowed to go home, less than 12 hours after we turned up!

Overall, I’m very thankful that I was once again blessed with a fast labour and all went ‘to plan’. I still didn’t get to have a water birth, and it doesn’t look like I ever will – even if we do decide to have another child, which isn’t that likely at the moment, then it’s unlikely I’d have time to get a pool filled if labour was even faster! I’m also so glad that we made it to the new Birth Centre – it was lovely, even though we didn’t make use of many facilities like the pool in the room because it all happened so fast.

Family of four

Just a quick post to say that baby Joel arrived safely and quickly! – I’ll write a full birth story at some point. We’re doing well and enjoying welcoming a fourth little person on board Family Cumming. Andrew seems very impressed with Joel so far, and keeps pointing to him saying ‘Joel’ (sounds more like ‘dole’ – ‘dj’ is hard!) We’re very blessed to have so much help from all the grandparents this week. I’m currently home alone with Joel, waiting for the community midwife to call, whilst Andrew has taken Daddy and Grandma shopping.

Things will be a bit quiet on the blog for a while, but I hope to be back at some point with more interesting reads. For now I’ll leave you with this picture of the four of us (and Andrew’s doll – don’t worry, you’re not the only one if you looked at it and thought I’d had twins!)

Photo  1

Pregnancy diary: week 39 – bump still here

I was thinking about starting to write this post yesterday, with the thought that it might help to start labour, as then I would have wasted my time in writing something that I wouldn’t have got round to publishing. But in the end I had other things to do and Andrew’s nap was shorter than usual due to the fact that I stupidly let him take a talking toy car with him for nap time – he must have moved and inadvertently pressed the button, which started the car talking again and woke him up! Lesson learned!

This week has in many respects been much the same as any other recent week. We’ve been to the same groups as usual, and at every single one I’ve had the usual comments – ‘so you’re still here then’ or ‘so you’re still pregnant then’ or ‘no sign of baby then’ or ‘when are you due?….[me: next week] Really?! You look very neat/small!’ In fact if I had a pound for every time someone commented on how small or ‘neat’ bump is for this stage in pregnancy, I’d have enough money to splash out on some more cloth nappies (you can tell what’s on my mind). But according to the chart, bump was bang on the right size for 38 weeks, the last time it was measured. Maybe it’s because I’m ‘all bump’ and from the back I don’t look pregnant (so I’m told…)

I wish I had a pound for every time someone said how small/neat bump is considering there's less than a week to go til due date!

I can’t deny it though, I have been waking up each day wondering if today will be the day. This thought doesn’t usually have chance to stay around in my head for very long, because it’s soon overshadowed by thoughts of looking after Andrew and keeping on top of things around the house, which tend to keep my brain occupied until nap time, when I relax and have me-time – still on all fours and kneeling! This week I’ve had a real sense of enjoying my time with Andrew, just the two of us; not that I don’t enjoy it anyway, but this week all the more so because I’m aware that we don’t have long left now until there will be three of us when Tom’s at work. Exactly how long, I don’t know, but not long compared to Andrew’s life-time so far. It’s quite hard to imagine being able to love and care for two little ones, to spread between two what I currently have for one, but I’ve been told that this is a perfectly normal feeling when you’re pregnant with your second child, and you soon learn once the baby is here that it is completely possible to spread the love between two and not feel like you’re doing either of them any harm.

I’ve also reached the stage of trying out the old wives’ tales of natural labour induction methods; I have no idea whether any of these really work, but it can’t harm in trying!

  1. Large pineapples currently cost only £1 in our local supermarket, so I’ve been munching on these, though I have to say I haven’t consumed my own body weight in pineapple, which I think is the scale of consumption that’s necessary to actually induce labour. Still, I love pineapple, and it’s a good excuse to eat it anyway.
  2. I’ve dug out the raspberry leaf tea that I bought in the final week of pregnancy with Andrew – it’s slightly out of date, but how can tea go off?! Again, I like the taste of it anyway, so even if it makes no difference, I’m enjoying the odd cup here and there when I’m in the mood.
  3. I still can’t stand the smell of food cooking if it involves frying or roasting, but I have experimented and figured out that I can cope with a curry made like this: chuck in a pan a tin of chopped tomatoes, a tin of lentils, a chopped up leek and whatever other veg you like (e.g. chopped cauliflower, chopped aubergine, chopped sweet potato), mix it all with a couple of tablespoons of curry paste, and heat it up with the lid on the pan for about 20 minutes until the veg is softened to the consistency you like it (we like ours with a bite still), then wilt in some spinach and serve with rice and/or naan bread. So we’ve been eating quite a few curries and I’ve been adding more and more chilli powder to mine as the week has gone on. It was immediately after a hot curry on Tom’s birthday in 2011 that suddenly my waters broke and 3 hours later Andrew arrived!
  4. I’m doing lots of walking, as this is part of our normal daily life anyway – we walk most places (shops, town, groups, park etc.) in Cambridge, and this usually adds up to at least 1-2 hours a day.

As for an update on baby’s positioning – I have no idea! I’ve tried to feel bump myself, but unlike the midwife who seems to just do a few prods and tells me confidently exactly how baby is lying, I find it hard to know which way round baby is. So I’m just hoping that all my efforts of kneeling, sitting forward on hard chairs, swaying my hips side to side whilst on all fours, swimming on my front, doing handstands in the pool (a tip from a friend’s mum who’s a midwife!) etc. will all pay off in the long run. I can’t say that I haven’t tried.

I’m hoping that the next post I write involving baby will be to announce our good news. My due date is Tuesday (30th), so only 4 days time. Not that I have any say in when baby decides to arrive, but I think by next Friday I’ll be getting a little impatient if there are no signs. Plus we now have all-day and all-night cover for Andrew looking after purposes until the end of next weekend, thanks to my parents and Tom’s mum. Let’s hope that my body and baby agree that this would be a splendid time to kick off the action! 🙂

Pregnancy diary: week 38 – midwife appointment and antenatal class 3

And I’m still sitting here with a bump! I usually at least start writing this weekly post quite early in the week, as I can’t always guarantee how long I’ll get to write during Andrew’s nap later in the week, especially when I was at work and only had 3 afternoon naptimes a week. But this week I was less motivated to do that, just in case baby did decide to arrive early and it would have been a waste of time. But as there are no signs yet, I’ll give you a round-up of this week.

The worst part has been having a nasty cough, which Tom kindly passed to me after he caught it most probably at work (where the students all traipse into his office bringing in their start of term germs). It’s very frustrating not being able to take any medicine for it, particularly at night when I’d love to take something that would knock me out and make me sleep through the constant coughing. Overall in this pregnancy I’ve only had 2 cold-/cough-type ailments, which actually isn’t that bad – I remember getting about 5 when I was pregnant with Andrew, probably because my job involved being out in schools every day back then, wheres this year it’s been mainly office-based. I’ve been hoping that baby wouldn’t arrive until I’m over the cough, and I’ve been wondering whether there is some kind of internal mechanism in a pregnant body that prevents labour from starting if there’s any kind of illness present?! It would be nice to think so, but I have no idea whether this is the case.

The best part has been spending time (hours of it, mainly during nap times and some in evenings) finally making decisions on which cloth nappies to buy and where to buy them from. I’ve written about this in a separate post, to spare you all the info if you’re not into cloth nappies (unlike me – I’m hooked!), which I’ll publish when the ordered nappies arrive and I can take pictures of my lovely new acquisitions.

Apparently this bump still looks quite small for 38 weeks according to lots of people I meet who can't believe there's only just over a week until due date!

The more practical parts of this week have been my midwife appointment and third (final) antenatal class. The midwife appointment went well and overall things are fine with baby and me. My blood pressure was fine, my wee had no signs of protein, and I have no swelling of hands and feed (unlike when I was pregnant with Andrew and my wedding ring was getting tighter by now). Bump is still measuring bang on the average line of growth, and baby’s heartbeat is clear and a good fast speed. The only thing that wasn’t so good to hear was the dreaded phrase ‘back-to-back’! At my last appointment 2 weeks ago, the midwife said that baby was half-way between being front-to-back and back-to-back. She suggested some positions and movements that I could do to try and get baby in a front-to-back position, and I have been trying to do these when I can.

What’s the problem with back-to-back anyway? The so-called ‘occipital posterior’ position (or OP that’s now been recorded in my maternity notes) means baby’s back is facing my back, and this can lead to longer and more painful labour than if baby’s back is facing forwards to mum’s tummy. Having said that, it’s a generalisation, and I don’t think Andrew was in a completely ‘front-to-back’ position (the ideal) when the midwife came round for my 40 week appointment and said I was already about 3cm dilated, and he still managed to turn and be born after only 3 hours of real labour. It’s interesting when I look back and think that my instinctual desire during labour was to be on all fours – I’d heard about this position at yoga classes, but when it came to labour my body just automatically stayed in that position the whole time, I didn’t even need to think about it, it just happened! I wonder now whether that was my body’s natural way of encouraging baby to turn into a favourable position for birth. I’ll never know, but I find it fascinating how ‘animal’ labour was for me.

For now, my task is to try and get this baby to turn before I actually go into labour, to hopefully reduce the time it takes for baby to get into position during labour. This means crawling around on all fours, which can easily be incorporated into play time with Andrew who finds it hilarious, sitting backwards on hard dining chairs (leaning onto the back) instead of slumping on the sofa, kneeling on the bean bag, rolling my hips around whilst on all fours, and swimming on my front. Given how much this baby moves, it’s perfectly possible that he/she will move into front-to-back, side-to-back and back-to-back positions quite regularly on a daily basis over however long he/she has left in there. Various people who I have heard from since my appointment have told of different experiences with a back-to-back baby, some slow, some fast, some complicated, some uncomplicated, and some have even said that there baby turned into the back-to-back position during labour, despite being well positioned prior to labour, so there really is no telling what could happen. If I did have a slower labour, it might mean we actually make it to hospital rather than it happening extremely quickly at home. I do also feel as though my general level of fitness from all the walking and swimming I do will stand me in good stead for a straightforward labour, as the midwives commented on how fit I seemed, in looks and behaviour, when I gave birth to Andrew. So my overall feeling at the moment is that I would like to try my best to encourage baby to be in a good position for the start of labour, but at the end of the day, labour can be unpredictable and there’s nothing I can do about that.

Talking of labour, I’m glad that I managed to get along to the third and final antenatal class before going into labour. This class was also for the dads, so it was nice for Tom to come too and refresh his mind on supporting me during labour, birth and the early days with a baby, as well as meet some other dads who will be going through a similar experience. First we split into a mums group and a dads group; we talked about how we would like to be supported in labour, and the dads discussed how they thought they could best support us in labour – we then compared lists of points we came up with and the two groups’ lists matched pretty well.

Next, the dads had a run through what happens in labour with the teacher, to revise this like we did last week, and they also got a demonstration of various ways to wear the baby in a sling (as the teacher is a babywearing consultant). I thought it was a good idea to try and get dads interested in this, and Tom has said that I must show him how to use our new sling. Meanwhile, us mums were discussing strategies for looking after a toddler and a newborn once paternity leave is over and we ‘go solo’ with two little ones (eek!) This was a really useful exercise to share ideas, learning from others in the group as well as inputting our own ideas. Various things were suggested, but one of the main things we all thought of was that we are going to go out to groups and activities a lot earlier than we did with our first, so that the toddler is entertained whilst we can sit and feed the baby and rest a little. We also agreed that we would meet up as a group as much as possible, alternating which house we go to, so that our toddlers can play together and we can share with each other how hard things are. I feel very blessed compared to most others in the group that we’ll have quite a bit of help from family who aren’t too far away.

Then we split into small groups and discussed ways of helping to introduce smoothly a new baby to our toddlers, as well as thinking about potential issues of sibling rivalry and ways to deal with that. I found this very useful, and I feel more prepared for if and when problems arise that I need to deal with coherently. We’re still hoping that with a small age gap and that fact that Andrew is generally a very easy-going child, we won’t have too many issues, but it’s always hard to predict something like this and he may well surprise us.

Finally we came back together as a big group and went through some breathing exercises. These were one of the things that I specifically asked to cover in the class, because I’m sure my breathing in labour with Andrew was one of the reasons, along with being in the pool, that I didn’t need any pain relief drugs at all, not even gas and air. I found the handout from the birth preparation workshop we went to just before Andrew was born, and I’ve been practising the breathing techniques described on there, but it’s always good to go through these with an expert in person (the teacher is also a yoga teacher). I particularly liked the visualisation whilst breathing technique – when a contraction comes, imagine you’re on a walk up a hill, which starts off quite easy, then gets harder and harder as it gets steeper and rockier and you have to scramble up on all fours, but you finally get to the top and the view is worth the effort. I may well use this if I find it helps in labour.

As we were getting ready to leave, we talked about meeting up and one of the mums volunteered to send an email suggesting a date soon, as I’m due any day and there’s another mum who has a planned c-section date not long after my due date. It would be great to meet up and get to know each other even more than the time in the classes allowed. I’m so glad that this aspect of the classes has worked out, as that was my main reason for doing them. Who knows, maybe the dads will also have a get together or two – I’m sure they’ll be looking for ways to entertain the toddlers at weekends when they are in charge to give mummy some time with just the baby.

Having typed this kneeling upright on the beanbag, I’d better get back to some crawling and hip circling. Maybe I’ll be back next week with news of week 39 of pregnancy…. or maybe I won’t. Watch this space 🙂

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 35 – birth plan

As yesterday was my last day at work (I’ll come back to that in a mo….), all of a sudden giving birth seems like a much more imminent event! So I thought it was about time that I write my ‘birth plan’. I thought I’d saved a copy of my birth plan for Andrew’s birth, but I have a feeling I didn’t back it up to the server (unusual for me, Little Miss Paranoid Doer of Back-ups) and annoyingly my laptop hard-drive died a few days after Andrew was born. The birth plan must be forever lost in an irretrievable gobble-ti-gook of 1s and 0s. But nevermind. I managed to find a great resource on the NHS choices website, which runs through the various points you might like to include in a birth plan. It even lets you save an online version of a birth plan that you create by ticking various multiple choice option boxes and then printing off a PDF, but I found this a little restrictive and preferred to write my own using ideas from the website.

Not much to say this week, other than it's a bump!

I’m not a massive fan of the word ‘plan’ in this context, because I don’t think labour and delivery are really things that you can ‘plan’ in the sense that I normally plan things (like what I’m doing next Monday morning at 10am, or when we will go on holiday next year, or what we’ll eat for dinner tonight, for example). Yes I have an image of what would be an ‘ideal’ birth, and actually I came pretty close to this with Andrew (lose the vomiting after the syntocinon injection and it would have been perfect), but I’m not so naive to think that there is no possibility of complications that might cause my ‘ideal’ birth to fly out the maternity hospital window. I’m optimistic that, given previous experience, the birth will go smoothly, but realistic that I have no control over the fact that it might not.

I remember when I came to write my birth plan for having Andrew that I didn’t know where to start. Although I had some ideas about what I wanted and didn’t want, I also had no idea how I would react to and cope with the pain once I was in labour, having never experienced anything like it before. So most of my points were couched in a ‘I’d like it to be as natural as possible but if I scream for drugs then please give them to me’ kind of tone. This time, of course, I know what it’s like, so I found it easier to write down what I hope for, complications and long duration notwithstanding.

This sets the scene for my birth plan, which I’ve set out below. I will print this out and keep it with my maternity notes, so that whichever midwife gets the job of helping us through labour will see it when she looks at my notes – this worked well last time, and she was keen to read what I’d written before doing much else with me. I’ve probably forgotten some important points, so if you think of anything I might like to mention, I’m all ears. Next week I have another midwife appointment, so I might have chance to go through it with her too, particularly as she’s coming to look at the flat in case of home birth necessity!

Ruth Cumming’s birth plan

This is not so much of a ‘plan’, because I’m not sure you can really ‘plan’ labour and birth, but rather it’s a list of things that I would like and not like to happen, if at all possible.

Location

My preferred place of birth is in the Rosie Birth Centre, because I had my son at the former MLBU, and I liked the relaxed atmosphere and received excellent care from the midwives, who helped me but did not take over.

However, if baby comes even faster than my son did (which was pretty fast), I may decide that I’d rather stay at home, because I’d rather not risk being in advanced labour in the car – I’d rather have a ‘home birth’ than a ‘car birth’!

Of course if there are complications, I understand that going up to the delivery unit in the main Rosie hospital would be necessary.

My birth partner is Tom, my husband, and I would like him with me at all times during labour, no matter what happens.

Labour and delivery

I would like to be in a birth pool during active labour (another reason for choosing the Birth Centre); this helped me a lot for my first labour.

If possible I would like to deliver the baby in the water. Last time the midwife could tell that being in the water was relaxing me too much and she was concerned that I wasn’t pushing as hard as I could during the final stage in there, so she suggested I got out for delivery. She was right, because I gave birth within minutes of getting out, as I pushed much harder ‘on land’. If this happens again, I’m not against getting out of the water if necessary, but would rather have a water birth if possible.

Last time I used a birthing stool for the final pushes – this worked well and I would like it again if ‘on land’.

I am happy for baby’s heartbeat to be monitored like it was last time – with a detached probe device every now and then, i.e. I’m not constantly hooked up to a machine so I can move around freely.

I will move around during labour before the pool is ready, and get into positions that I find most comfortable at each point. This could include getting on all fours (possibly on the bed) and walking around. But I hope to spend most of the time in the pool.

I hope to deliver in the water, squatting or upright in some other way, or if I’m on land, squatting on a birthing stool worked well last time. I do not want to be on my back, lying down or completely horizontal in any way.

If I am in the water for delivery, I would like to pick baby up myself from the water, and sit there skin to skin for a while until I feel I’d like to get out.

If I am on land for delivery, baby should be delivered straight onto my tummy, without being cleaned, so that we can have skin to skin time. This worked well for my son, and he latched on for a breastfeed almost straight away. I would like this to happen again if possible.

I would like the midwife to cut the cord (Tom is not particularly keen to do this).

I do not mind if there are trainee midwives in the room.

Possible drugs/interventions

For pain relief, I would like to try and use just natural methodsbreathing, movements, and the water of the pool. This worked for my first labour and I didn’t need any drugs.

However, if labour goes on for a lot longer than my first labour, I may decide on other pain relief methods. Gas and air would be my first choice. I didn’t find a TENS machine helpful last time, so I won’t try it again.

I would prefer not to have an epidural, but I can see that if I’ve been in pain for several hours and I’m exhausted, that this would be something I would consider and would want to be given if I decided on having it.

I had a 2nd degree tear with my son, so I’m prepared that this might happen again. I’d rather not have an episiotomy if at all possible, but would consider it if the midwife thinks it is necessary if baby was in trouble.

I would rather not have an assisted delivery with forceps or ventuose. But if baby was in trouble and therefore it was advisable to have these interventions, I would consider them.

After my son was born I opted to have the syntocinon injection, but in a reaction to this drug I vomited several times and felt nauseous for about 6 hours after the birth. I would rather not have the syntocinon injection this time, but if the midwife thinks it is necessary because I am bleeding a lot (and I know I’ve had a slightly low platelet count that might not help the situation), I am prepared to have the injection. I would like Tom to be able to stay for as long as possible after the birth this time if I am feeling sick.

I would like my baby to have the vitamin K injection or oral drops.

Breastfeeding

I am going to breastfeed and this is extremely important to me. I struggled with breastfeeding my son in the early weeks, but eventually got on track with it and have continued to feed him until now – I plan to tandem breastfeed if he still wants to continue after the baby’s birth.

So I would like my baby to stay close to me at all times and not be swaddled – I would like to remain in skin to skin contact for several hours after the birth, so that baby can feed off and on whilst lying on me.

If complications arise and I need to be separated from him/her, I would like Tom to be able to have skin to skin with baby whilst I am out of action. I would like baby to be brought to me as soon as possible if we are separated, and have help with positioning baby on me for feeding if I am in pain from a difficult delivery (e.g. c-section).

Pregnancy diary: week 32 – “you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139)

This week I’ve been thinking about knitting. It’s not me who’s been doing the knitting – I fear it would take me longer than a 9 month pregnancy to knit even one item of newborn clothing, having not done any since I was a child and having little time for craft these days. Recently we were very kindly given two new cardigans in baby sizes (1 newborn, 1 second size) by Tom’s Nan. She loves knitting, and can whip up garments in no time, even those that are bigger than tiny baby sizes. She, along with two of Tom’s aunts, knitted lots for us when Andrew was born, which was great because he was born in a cold January and needed a woolly top most days, but he grew so quickly, as babies do, that he didn’t get much wear out of each individual jumper/cardigan, so there’s plenty of wear left in them all for our new baby. Since Andrew was born, Tom’s Nan and aunt have also provided us with jumpers and cardigans throughout the year, so we’ve not had to buy any woolly clothes at all, and again there’s plenty of wear left in them for our second child.

2 new white cardies for the newborn (1 first size, 1 second size) and 2 of Andrew's most recent jumpers/cardies, all beautifully knitted.

I know we are very lucky to have such lovely handmade clothes given to us when they would cost a fortune to buy, and it’s also nice to know the person who made them, and know that they were made with our kids specifically in mind. In fact, because we are still being given more hand-knitted garments by Tom’s family for this baby, we’re able to give some away to another family baby, who is due to come into the world 4 weeks before ours. I’m so glad we can share these lovely gifts with another baby who will benefit from gorgeous warm clothes in the winter months. I’m sure the bigger sizes will continue to come in too, as Andrew has also received some bigger jumpers recently that he’s just about growing into. So there will be lots of hand-me-downs in the months and years to come.

Wow! Will the new baby really be that small?! It's hard to remember that my big buster boy was once a delicate little newborn who fitted into something this small.

All these knitted clothes have reminded me of a verse in the Bible which I really love. Psalm 139, verse 13 says:

“For you [God] created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

I’d read this verse before I was even thinking about becoming a mum, but it wasn’t until after I’d given birth to Andrew that these words took on such a strong meaning for me. I remember lying on the hospital bed the night after Andrew was born, just looking at him sleeping peacefully – his little chest moving up and down as he breathed air after so many months of developing his lungs in the womb, his tiny but perfectly formed fingers wrapped around my big index finger, his tiny mouth that instinctually sucked whenever my breast (or anything else!) came near it. It suddenly hit me that this little being had developed from just one cell inside my womb, he had been knit together, all his tiny parts perfectly formed into one body that was now living on its own outside of me. That thought really made the verse in Psalm 139 hit home to me, and I was grateful beyond words to God for giving us this amazing gift of new life. I just lay there in utter amazement, and got not a wink of sleep, but it didn’t matter to me.

I had thought about the verse a couple of times in pregnancy with Andrew, but I don’t think it was until I held him in my arms that I fully grasped what this meant: God had knit Andrew together inside me, and there I was holding this amazing piece of God’s creation. This time in pregnancy, the verse has come to me again a few times; this time I have more of  a sense of what it means to me, because I am constantly reminded every day when I look at Andrew of God’s amazing creation. Already in 19 months he has grown and developed even more; from being that tiny newborn baby fast asleep, he has turned into an active toddler who walks (read: runs) around and is starting to talk words that I understand. He no longer fits in the white cardies in the picture at the start of this post, and is rapidly growing out of the blue ones in the picture too! Conception to birth is one incredible act of knitting, and the finished piece of knitting at birth continues on its journey of growth throughout childhood.

Before I finish, I’d like to share the section of Psalm 139 (verses 13-16) that the verse about being knit together in the womb comes from. This is from The Message translation (a modern take on more traditional translations)….

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me [knit me together] in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.

It’s not just the knowledge that God knit Andrew and this baby together in my womb which I find so amazing – I love the fact that God has a plan for my life and He knows exactly what will happen, in fact he knew before Iwas even born. That is mind-blowingly awesome! And it certainly makes me want to praise God like the person who wrote the Psalm did. Mind-blowing it may be, but I know that it’s true because I have already experienced so much of God at work in my life, even in times when I couldn’t see the plan myself and I was going through difficult times.

Another week down, another bit of growth from bump.

Next week I know I’m going to have to start thinking about packing my hospital bag and getting some things ready at home in case I end up being at home for the birth. Tom has been asking me this week when I’m going to do it! I’m usually the one who gets prepared first out of the two of us, but I think I’m just so busy still, and lacking in energy in times that I do have to myself, that I’ve not got around to it yet. Let’s see if I get around to it this week…..