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.