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.

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 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 23 – swimming

I’ve been meaning to write a post on swimming in pregnancy for ages: in fact since before I was pregnant with this baby, because I was so impressed with how it helped me in pregnancy with Andrew that I wanted to share it with others who are (or will be) pregnant. This week isn’t particularly special in terms of how much I’ve swum, it’s more that I’m writing it now because nothing else has sprung to mind, and swimming is such a normal part of my weekly routine that I often forget about it. So here’s what I have to say about swimming in pregnancy.

Between about weeks 6 and 18, I can’t deny that I did less swimming than usual, because the sickness took over my life and forced me to take things a lot more easy than normal in terms of exercise. Before I had Andrew, I used to swim 3 times a week for about half an hour (60 lengths or 1 roughly mile). Obviously I had a gap of about 2.5 months after he was born when I didn’t swim, but since then I’d been managing to fit in about 2 half hour swims a week (not including the once a week I go with Andrew), which was as much as I could fit in around the times our local pool is available for public swimming and Tom is around to look after Andrew. This dropped to once a week when I started being sick with pregnancy; instead of half an hour of 60 lengths front crawl, I managed to do about half this and just breaststroke. I used to go in evenings, but as this was the worst time of day for the sickness, the only time I could make was a Saturday in the late morning. I didn’t enjoy it as much when feeling sick, but it was the form of exercise that made me feel the least sick – walking and cycling were worse, though I still had to do one of them most days. And it did make me feel refreshed for a short time afterwards, I guess because I always feel refreshed when I’ve been for a swim.

I thought it would be a good idea, given the theme of this week's post, to take a photo in my swimming costume. Incidentally, this has been a very good costume, it's still going strong half way though my 2nd pregnancy. It was from Mothercare maternity range, though I'm not sure they still do it. I wish I had a photo of me in the pool, but as I go on my own, there's nobody to take it!

Since about 18 weeks, although I’ve still not been feeling great with the lingering nausea, I have managed to get in one more swim in the early evening most weeks, even if only for 20 minutes. At about 20 weeks I did find that my energy level started to slowly increase, and I’ve been able to generally do more stuff (though I’m trying to remember not to go all out with my newly re-found energy and wear myself out again – easier said than done when life is so busy!) I’ve always found that swimming is a great way to feel energised. Whenever I’m feeling a bit lethargic or tired, although it’s an effort to get to the pool when I’m like that, I know that I feel so much better with 10 times more energy when I finish the swim, so it’s worth it in the end. This has certainly been true in pregnancy, perhaps even more so than usual. So I would definitely recommend swimming as a way of boosting your energy and feeling more positive about the tiredness at times when you inevitably feel low in pregnancy.

Swimming has always been something that gives me some ‘me-time’, time to be alone and think, to calm down after a busy day or to wake myself up slowly in the morning. When I’m under water, just hearing the sound of water swooshing around my ears, I find it helps me block out all the other noise of daily life and just concentrate on what I’d like to think through, for example my day at work or what activity I’m going to do with Andrew tomorrow. This is particularly important in pregnancy I’ve found, and even more so this time when I’m so busy with all the things that I try and fit into an average week, including running around after an active toddler. I’m very grateful to Tom for letting me have this time to myself, and I really appreciate just how important it is to me.

At the moment I still don’t feel particularly heavy, but I know it’s rapidly approaching that time, if this pregnancy is anything like the last, when the bump will suddenly grow a lot very quickly. When I was pregnant with Andrew, I found that swimming was the most comfortable form of exercise after about 30 weeks, because it isn’t weight-bearing. The time I spent in the pool was amazing, as it was the only time when I could forget just how big and heavy I felt on dry land! I still did quite a bit of walking, because that’s how I got around Cambridge without a bike, but it became quite tricky towards the end of pregnancy, when I would get a sudden pain in my hips and have to stop for a while. Swimming wasn’t at all painful though, even when doing breaststroke which uses the hips a lot.

Another good point about swimming is that you don’t get all sweaty whilst exercising. Given that I generally feel so much warmer in pregnancy already, I really don’t like getting even hotter when walking or cycling. This was less of an issue last time, because I was heavily pregnant in late autumn and winter when it was cold, but this time (if we get a proper summer!) it’ll be harder on this front. Swimming will be my way of cooling off.

In general I’d say that swimming is a great way to keep fit, both aerobically and for toning muscles. In pregnancy I found, and I’m finding again this time, that it’s a particularly good way to keep fit when your body is carrying extra weight and working extra hard. In my last pregnancy I swam right up until the day before Andrew was born (I didn’t have time on the day he was born as the midwife came in the morning and by the afternoon I was starting to get contractions and he was born at 10.22pm), and I intend to do the same this time. The midwife who was with us in labour and delivery said that she could tell I was fit for a pregnant mum, and I reckon all that swimming paid off in how quickly and smoothly labour went. I’m hoping the same will happen again, though I know complications can unexpectedly happen.

If I haven’t convinced you by now that swimming in pregnancy is a great idea, I’m not sure what else I would have to say! I know I’m biased in that I’ve always loved swimming and done a lot of it, but I think it can be something for everyone, because you take take things at the pace you want. I totally understand that some people are not too keen on wearing just a swimming costume in public, and that might get even harder in pregnancy as the body changes shape. I’ve personally found that having a bump is a great conversation starter in the pool, as others are amazed to see a pregnant swimmer pacing up and down the lanes, overtaking some of the other swimmers on her way!

Next week I get to see baby again at an extra scan that we’re having, as part of doctor training (I wrote about this back at week 14 – I can’t believe how time is flying, it seemed like ages until 24 weeks back then!) So there’ll be another picture to see/try and figure out. I’m looking forward to it 🙂

What a difference a year makes!

Yes I know the title is obvious when we’re talking about a baby, but when Andrew turned 1 year old last weekend, it made me think back over the year, and how much he (and we!) has developed. I can remember the first week of his life almost like it was yesterday, and there are many other memories from the 12 months that particularly stick in my mind, for example the milestones he reached like smiling, crawling and walking. As I hadn’t braved it into the world of blogging when he was born, I didn’t share our birth story on this blog. So I thought I’d do a ‘then and now’ post – first look back at his actual ‘birth day’, and then contrast it with the same day a year later, his first birthday.

Birth day

A couple of hours after birth

A birth story might not be every reader’s cup of tea, so I’ll try not to waffle on or get too gory, but if you’re not in the (what might be quite a small) crowd of birth story fans, please feel free to skip this section.

On the morning of Tom’s birthday, we woke up as usual at 7am, and Tom went off to work. I had been on maternity leave for two weeks already, and was 4 days over my due date, getting bored of being pregnant, and wishing ‘Baby C’ would put in an appearance. But I’d had no signs of labour. The midwife came (as planned) at 12 noon to give me and baby a check-up as we were overdue, which involved having a membrane sweep (as I promised no gory details, you can read about this on someone else’s website here). She told me I was already a few centimetres dilated, so baby should be on the way soon.

At about 2pm I had what I think was my first contraction (I say ‘I think’ because it wasn’t as massive and painful as I had been expecting, bracing myself for the worst pain ever). It was short and I didn’t feel anything again for about half an hour. From then until about 7.30pm, I had irregularly timed contractions that were quite painful, but not so bad that I couldn’t bake Tom a birthday cake to take my mind off them. I emailed Tom to say that I was having irregular contractions but that there was no need to rush home. He turned up at home earlier than usual, because he couldn’t concentrate knowing what I had told him, and it was his birthday anyway. But we were losing hope of baby and Daddy sharing birthdays, thinking that this could be a long haul (my first baby, not having had any signs of labour until now etc.)

At about 6.30pm we decided to get a take-away curry, rather than go to the restaurant itself just down the road. Curry had become our staple diet that week, trying (along with pineapple and raspberry leaf tea) the old wives’ tales for natural labour induction. We sat down to eat at 7pm; half an hour later we were about to settle in front of a DVD, with me perched on a hard dining chair, arms over the back of it. Just as I sat down, I felt and heard a big splash beneath me and lots of kicking from Baby C – my waters had gushed all over the chair and floor! In antenatal classes, we’d been told to phone the hospital as soon as my waters broke. So Tom did, and they told us to come in for an assessment, even though we might get sent home again if all was OK.

My contractions were still irregular, but as we got in the car, they suddenly got much stronger, more like what I had braced myself for, and more close together. We arrived at the Midwife Led Birth Unit (MLBU) in the Rosie Maternity Hospital and were promptly shown to a room. I was so pleased because I’d heard that it quickly gets full, though I knew we might not be staying. The midwife assessed me by asking when my contractions were and taking various swabs; the outcome was that I wasn’t properly in labour yet, and because we lived so near the hospital, I could go home and be in a more familiar environment. I wasn’t too keen on moving very far, because just as the midwife was filling in the paperwork, my contractions suddenly got even more intense and more close together.

The next thing I knew, the midwife was going through my ‘birth-plan’ (more like guidance notes than a plan really) and asking her assistant to fill up the birth pool. I was on all fours on the bed, answering questions and asking for things like a drink and help in taking some layers of clothing off, in between the contractions. Just as I was about to ask for the gas and air to be set up, the pool was ready, so I got in for pain relief instead. Not long had I been in the pool when I felt the urge to push – this was a completely instinctual feeling, and my head was saying ‘this can’t be right, it’s too early in labour to push’, but my body was just doing it. The midwife was lovely and said if I wanted to push I should push, and that I knew what I was doing far more than any examination she could do of me would tell us. I liked her faith in me, but still thought it was crazy to be pushing already.

After a few more contractions, I started to believe it more, and thought I might as well go with it rather than resist. I carried on like this for a while, until the midwife made a bet with me (well, no money was involved) – if I got out, baby would be delivered more quickly than if I stayed in. She could see that I was ‘relaxing’ a little too much in the soothing water (it was hardly what I’d call relaxing, but I saw her point), and I wasn’t pushing as effectively as if I were ‘on land’. So I got out, and no more than 10 minutes later, out came our little baby; we soon confirmed my gut feeling that it was a boy, as he was lifted up and placed directly onto my tummy. Timings are all a bit of a blur to me as, needless to say, I wasn’t clock watching, but the one thing I know is that he arrived at the very memorable time of 22.22.

A few minor procedures later (cord cutting, stitching and cleaning me up etc.), and we were enjoying those amazing first minutes as a new three person family. We decided that the names we had chosen before birth were still a good choice now that we’d met him, and so we named him Andrew James. Whilst we were sitting tummy to tummy, he did the very instinctual thing of climbing up and lunging towards one of my nipples, then latched on and started what turned into a very good first breastfeed (you can read more about this here).

After a while I started to feel sick, and placed him in Tom’s arms to give them some bonding time, before I was actually sick. Unfortunately this was a reaction to the injection I’d had that helps deliver the placenta more quickly and less bloodily (stopping gory talk now), which is quite common, apparently, though I’d not heard of this in all the antenatal literature I’d read. I had a shower, which helped me feel a bit better, whilst my boys bonded some more. We then dressed Andrew up warm in some tiny cute clothes that the midwife picked out of our bag for him, and headed across to the post-natal bay for the night.

Tom made sure we were settled and then headed off home until the next morning. Andrew was fast asleep, so I laid him in the ‘fish tank’ which was right next to my bed, and lay down myself at the edge of the bed, close enough to put my arm in and hold his little hands and stroke his little head. I couldn’t sleep a wink, I just lay there watching him and holding him. All he was doing was sleeping, but somehow it seemed absolutely amazing. For me that night was a (long) moment in which I couldn’t stop thanking God for His incredible generosity in giving us this new little life, a perfectly formed miniature us with mini limbs and mini organs all working together to sustain life.

Birthday boys together (0 and 27 years)
Back home at 1 day old

Birthday

A year later, our day started much earlier; gone are the days of lie-ins – the 7am start of the year before seems like an absolute luxury! After trying in vain to settle Andrew back to sleep with various things like feeding, rocking and head stroking, I decided he must be so excited about his birthday that getting up and playing was our only option. I did the early shift until breakfast, and Daddy took over after that, allowing me an extra hour in bed to regain some energy for my cake-icing extravaganza. Andrew was also persuaded (with not much effort) to have a much needed nap, otherwise I was fearing a lunchtime meltdown.

After our naps, my boys went out to a Dads’ event at a local Children’s Centre, and left me mixing up copious amounts of butter and icing sugar, to ice the cakes that I’d baked the day before (if you haven’t spotted my creations yet, see here). Icing aside, the fact that my littler boy and I could go for a few hours without each other is very different from the year before, when we spent all of the time he was outside of me cuddling and feeding. Although I miss him when we’re apart, I find that I really appreciate some me-time, especially if I know he’s having fun and bonding with Daddy.

Whilst I was in the middle of cake creating, my parents arrived, just in time to help with the washing up and other bits of cleaning. Not much has changed there in a year! When Tom and I had left for the hospital, the kitchen was messy with washing up, which all disappeared and didn’t reappear for a few days after the birth, thanks to our parents. That still seems to be one of their main occupations when they visit.

Back to the birthday celebrations, we headed off to a local pub for lunch. I love the fact that Andrew is such a good eater that we don’t have to worry about taking baby food out with us for meals, because he’ll happily munch away on a small(-ish) portion of an adult meal (it’s amazing just how much he can pack away into his little tummy!) He only has 2 teeth, but that doesn’t deter him. This time he tucked into a bowl of scrummy pasta with tomato sauce and cheese – much bigger than his first ever meal of breastmilk the year before, but on a similar scale of scrumminess, judging by his enthusiasm on both occasions. Sitting still has never been his strong point, and the interesting sights of the pub were soon beckoning him down from his highchair. He walked from table to chair to table and even brushed near the bar. Gone are the days of holding him like a newborn babe in arms, except when he wants to feed, then it’s acceptable to snuggle up to mummy. But that hardly ever happens anywhere other than home, and even then he’ll often wriggle and get into all sorts of funny positions when still latched on.

What's on the menu? I'll have some scrummy pasta please!

A brisk walk back from the pub was followed by a present-opening-athon at home. Not that he had any idea of what was going on, and was more interested in playing with the wrapping paper, gift bags and packaging, with the occasional glance at the goodies within them. Daddy enjoyed sharing the limelight with his (relatively small compared to Andrew’s) pile of presents too. It occurred to me that here our toddler was, making up his own mind about what he wanted to do. Even though we had decided to open presents, because that’s just one of the things you do on birthdays, he wasn’t going to sit still and do it orderly, and why should he, it was his birthday after all. This independence was such a change from the utterly dependent on us newborn who arrived the year before.

As the signs of the dreaded ‘overtiredness’ started to make an appearance, we skillfully (after a year of getting to know the signs) averted a meltdown moment by whisking him out in the buggy for a nap. Like sitting, napping has never been one of his strong points, though I do remember just how much he slept just after he was born. They say babies get worn out from labour just as much as mums – how they know that I don’t know, did they ask the babies?! His sleepiness didn’t last long.

The day wouldn’t have been complete without the consumption of the aforementioned cake, but not before we sang Happy Birthday To You (once for Andrew and once for Tom). This year we actually got to eat the cake on the birthday, whereas the cake I’d baked last year for Tom, as a distraction from contractions technique, didn’t get eaten until the day after. Andrew joined in too this year.

Bathtime and bedtime (mine that is 😉 ) drew closer, and family made a move homewardbound. The action this year was definitely centred more around the middle of the day, not like the quiet daytime and sudden action-packed evening featuring the birth. The little fella was zonked and (without precedent) went straight to sleep when his head touched the mattress after a short feed. I wasn’t too far off a state of zonkedness myself, so Tom and I decided that staying up til 22.22pm to mark the official year of Andrew living un-umbillically-attached to me was probably not wise. Again I ended the day by thanking God for the blessing that Andrew is in our lives, and that he (and we) survived the year and is thriving. Then my head hit the pillow – at least I got more sleep that night this year than last.

Birthday boys together (1 year and 28 years)