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 17 – kicks kick-off & a cold

At the end of last week’s post, I mentioned that I could have included another word beginning with ‘M’ to go with the M-theme that last week had. Nobody was bold enough to comment with their guess of what this word could be. What I was thinking of was ‘movement’, because since last week I have definitely been able to feel baby moving around inside me. This is very exciting 🙂

Looking any bumpier? Maybe, though this is a more fitted top than last week's

I can’t remember exactly when I started to feel Andrew moving, but I think it was a couple of weeks later than this. I did read in a pregnancy guide that you tend to feel your second baby sooner than your first, though I’m not sure why that would be the case – maybe you just know what you’re expecting to feel, so you recognise it sooner? I do know that at first, with both Andrew and this baby, I wasn’t entirely sure if it was baby moving or just my digestive system, which was perfectly feasible given how my diet has been less than ideal with the sickness and nausea. Again this uncertainty and confusion with digestion is reported by other pregnant mums, so I’m not alone. But this time I’m now sure that it’s not just my inner bits but baby’s legs/arms that I can feel!

As yet I can’t say that there’s a distinct pattern of daily activity, for example baby could be quiet when I’m awake and moving around and kicking lots when I’m trying to rest/sleep. This is a fairly common pattern so I’ve heard, and it makes sense when you think about it: mum moving around creates a nice rocking movement that is conducive to baby falling asleep, and mum staying still is the perfect time for the little one’s arms and legs to stretch and feel around their environment. This is also one of the reasons ‘babywearing’ (i.e. carrying baby in a sling) is recommended in the early days – the closeness to mum’s tummy in a warm and cosy position whilst being naturally rocked by mum’s walking movements is like baby was used to in the womb.

I’m so glad that feeling baby kicks happened now, because otherwise it would have been a pretty rotten week of pregnancy. After starting this post with the ‘good’, I’ll move on to the ‘bad’. At the end of last week I got a sore throat and an annoying cough, and by Sunday evening it had turned into a horrible cold with runny and bunged up nose (how is that possible at the same time?!) and general aches and low energy. Just when I thought the sickness was on it’s way out, this has thrown me back somewhat. I’m sure it’ll pass, and normally I wouldn’t complain much about this sort of thing, but when you’re already feeling fragile, it seems ten times worse than a usual cold.

The most annoying and frustrating thing is not being able to take any real medication. I fall into that ‘not to be used when pregnant or breastfeeding’ instruction on the back of medicine packets, not just once but twice (still working on the nursling weaning thing…). I used to dose myself up when I got a cold, with things like a decongestant and paracetamol in the day and knock myself out with something that makes you drowsy to help me sleep through the coughing. I say ‘used to’ because I haven’t taken any medicines other than the odd bit of paracetamol for over 2 years now – wow that seems like ages when I put it like that – and thinking ahead, who knows how much longer it’ll be like this – seems even more like ages when I put it like that!! Thankfully my hayfever didn’t flare up as much the past two summers as in previous years, as that was my main concern about not being able to take medication.

So I’ve had to look for drug-free ways to help my symptoms and get through the day and night without driving myself (or Tom) mad! Handily I have a very good, free source of information on this – my local friendly pharmacists, who are great for advising on minor illnesses. In fact mine aren’t that local in a geographic sense, but they do let me get in touch out of hours. They are my parents 🙂 Basically the suggestions are: head over steamy bowl of water, hot drink of (lemon) squash, sucking boiled sweet for sore throat/cough. Oh and my mum always says red wine and chocolate can relieve most symptoms of any minor illness (probably just by making you feel happier!) – don’t fancy the wine, but I’ve given chocolate a bit of a go when the nausea is at its lowest in the day.

If we’ve had the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, what about the ‘ugly’? I guess that has to be the insane amount of snot! Tissues are filling up our bins quicker than anything else at the moment. But…. there is an advantage to having a cold: changing Andrew’s nappy is a much less stinky job! On that more positive note, I’ll leave you until next week’s round-up.