Saturday, 10 September 2011

Where did all the time go?

Can you believe this little man is six months old already?! Madness isn't it. What did I do before he was born?? He has changed my entire life in ways I never imagined. He gets me challenging my views on issues that effect him directly or indirectly, he's got me putting someone before me in EVERY aspect of my life. He's made me question who I am and what I stand for, my values and my ideals. My world has been turned upside down by this little dude. He's brought me such incredible joy, he's brought me new friends and experiences, he's brought me more love than I ever thought was possible. He is everything.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Suppose I'd better do some uni work really


So, the Phd. That thing. That thing which constantly sits and niggles in the back of my mind every time I sit down to relax when Alfie has a nap or has gone to bed (after I've done whatever housework needs doing, fed the cats, fed myself etc). The thing which wakes me up in the night with cold sweats due to the nightmares I've just had about messing up the whole thing and having to pay back my stipend. The thing which is is the constant source of arguments between me and OH. The thing which I worked so bloody hard for and will complete no matter what...

I had to submit my annual review on august 12th - thank god I had the sense to write most of it before Alfie was born. I had a few bits to do on it, which normally I would have got done in a day, but because I have such little time now, it took me over a week to do, and that was before I had to do the final edits before submission. I did it, I had to, but it meant leaving Alfie to entertain himself by sticking him in the door bouncer or on his play mat with a load of toys. I don't like to do it, he's still so little and I feel so bad just dumping him while I do something else. The guilt is horrendous. It won't be so bad in a few months time when he's more capable of playing on his own, but that still makes me feel like a bad mother.

I'm at the point where the intense data collecting stage is about to begin. I'll be spending hours/days at a time in the hospital mainly observing but doing a few interviews, both here in Nottingham and in Lincoln. The logistics of it all is a nightmare. Alfie is 100% dependent on me for food so I can't leave him for more than 3 hours. We have to go to lincoln together, I have to get someone to take us and watch and him while I'm in the hosp. Its very frustrating and I've had to miss several meetings so far as I couldn't get anyone to watch him.

I'm terrified of the work load, not just the actual data collecting bit, but the work that goes with it, logging it, reflecting on it, all the paperwork, all the reading and analysing. I'm constantly getting emails from my supervisor and the team with thing to read, stuff to do, more meetings, more stuff and it just makes my brain hurt. I hate to say it, but right now, I don't want to do a PhD anymore. I want 6 months off completely so I can get Alfie on solids and less dependent on me, so I can get used to leaving him with other people. I don't trust anyone. I worry about Alfie constantly when he's not with me and it makes it very hard to concentrate on the meetings etc. I'm seriously doubting my ability to complete this Phd. At the moment my thinking is just get on with it, just do it and once it's done, don't worry about finding a job. Save lots of money so we've got a safety cushion and then I want to home educate Alfie, and probably have a second baby.

So many people said I was crazy for doing it, and that I should give up the Phd. Right now, I think they were right.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

5 months of Alfie-baby

Gosh, 5 months already! Time has flown, and I've clearly been far too busy with Alfie/uni/housework/life to update regularly, says a lot about how things have changed now.

I can't get over how fast Alfie is growing up, everyone told me it would go quickly but I didn't believe them and now I wish I could get that time back. I look at pictures of him from the first couple of weeks after he was born and I don't remember what it was like, what he was like. I seemed to watch a lot of television, and spent a lot of time sitting on the sofa just holding him as he didn't really do much else. Well now, I only get cuddles when he has a feed! I feel like I gave birth to a toddler he's just so grown up.

He's just about crawling now, he can certainly move around quite a bit on his hands and knees, you can't really take you eye off him as he'll go quite far (including off the edge of the bed the other day, poor little man), and he can roll over from front to back too. He can very very nearly sit up on his own. He does it for a few seconds but hasn't quite got his balance, or lower back strength to do it for much longer. He's a very happy baby, always smiling and laughing. He recognises me and OH, and a few other people too and he loves 'that baby in the mirror'. He gets the best smiles :)

Alfie has his first tooth! It came through last week (21wks exactly). One day I noticed a littleblister type mark on his gum and the next day there was a sharp little tooth which seems to have had very little effect on him at all. His sleep was slightly more disruptive than usual, but other than that, he's been his usual lovely self. The one next to it is trying to come through too I think, but seems to be slower than the first.

We took Alfie to the park at the weekend when we visited Grandad and Beth. He had a wonderful time on the swings and on one of those little tractor on a spring type things that rocks forwards & backwards. He also went down the slide with daddy but we weren't to sure about that. We'll definitely go again soon, he laughed his little head off, it was lovely :D

We're still going strong with breastfeeding. My supply has dropped quite a bit so I'm not donating anywhere near as much as I was but I'm still donating some which is good. I find it very rewarding, and its brought me into contact with lots of lovely people. The first lady I was donating to has now emigrated, and for various reasons, couldn't take her cats with her, so we have them. Minerva and Ginevra have made themselves very much at home, Ollivander isn't too sure about them but he's getting there, slowly. The girls are house cats and are very friendly and cuddly, although Ginny has been getting a bit adventurous and I caught her stalking round the garden this morning. I don't mind if they want to start going outside, as it means we don;t have to have litter in the house, but I'm worried they might get into a few fights with the other cats that are around, or that they might wander too far. I'm sure they'll be fine though :)

I met another lady through milk donation who had her second child when Alfie was 3 months old. She's really lovely, I've seen her a few times now and we're building a great friendship. She shares a lot of my parenting values, she babywears, uses cloth, responds to cries rather than letting baby cry it out, co-sleeps and we get on really really well. Through her, and another one of my lovely mummy friends (who I knew at school but lost touch with and then rediscovered through facebook) I've become part of a great parenting forum full of like minded mummys, and the odd daddy, which is great as I don't have many real life friends with children and it does get a bit lonely and confusing sometimes. Its great having a place that I can go to with my silly questions about parenting, and to seek information on things I might like to try or things I'm not sure about. OH isn't that keen on it as every now and again I read about something I'd not considered before, like extended rear facing with his carseat, that no doubt sparks a new bout of healthy debate between us. The forum is fabulous though and I feel like I'm making some great friends through it.

Alfie went on his first holiday in June with me and his granny (my mum). We went to Wales, our second home, and stayed in the same cottage we were in last year when I suspected (and my mum worked out) that I might be pregnant. It was really lovely being able to go back with Alfie and he had a lovely time. We went for lots of walks on the beach and on the cliff tops, and went to visit some of our friends there. He handled the change of routine very well although by the end of the week he was sick to death of being in the car.

He is a wonderful little boy and he makes me incredibly happy. I don't remember what my life was like before he was born and I wouldn't change that for anything :)

Friday, 6 May 2011

Things get better and better

From my earlier blogs, you'll know that Alfie and I struggled to develop a successful breastfeeding relationship and since he was about 10days old I was expressing and bottle feeding him. It was a difficult decision to make but Alfie was loosing weight, we were both becoming frustrated and I was in quite a lot of pain so it seemed like the right thing to do. Finding out Alfie has a tongue tie eased the guilt I felt at not being able to feed him properly, and we quickly settled into a routine of expressing every time he had a nap, and as much as I could in the night or if someone was here & could hold him for 20 mins.

A couple of weeks ago, he'd had his night feed and wasn't settling so I decided to try him on my breast to see if that calmed him. To my surprise, he latched on straight away, fed happily for ten mins, pulled away and fell asleep. Perfect. The best thing, is that it wasn't a fluke. I started giving Alfie less in a bottle so that he would want breast afterwards. By giving him something to eat first, it meant that if it took a little while to latch, he wasn't getting frustrated and upset. I slowly reduced the amount of bottles he was having during the day, always making sure he had at least one at some point so he would still take a bottle if OH was doing a feed or someone else was watching him.

It's amazing that we've had such a turn around, but I love it. I'm really enjoying breastfeeding and feel so much closer to him. I lie him down on his side and as soon as he hears my bra snap, he gives me the most adorable gummy smile and gurgles. He rests his hand on me everytime, as if he's hugging my boob and usually drifts off for a little while. It makes me feel so relaxed that I usually drift off too, especially if we're having a feed lying side by side in bed. Night feeds are quick and easy ow without having to worry about a bottle - although I usually use on of the night feeds as a bottle feed coz he seems to take it more easily then. During the day he's a bit more fussy.

We went to OH's dads wedding on sunday and although I took a supply of bottles with me as I wasn't sure how confident I felt to breastfeed in public quite yet - I ended up breastfeeding him almost all day. He had half a bottle during the meal as it wasn't long since i'd given him a feed so I knew he wouldn't be satisfied. I ended up feeding him in a cafe while we all ate breakfast, twice in church, a couple of times in the garden of the reception, once at the dinner table and twice sat in a rocking chair conveniently in the ladies toilets. I was so very proud of myself. The only pictures I have from the day have got OH in, so I can't post them, but I know the professional photographer took a few of me and Alfie so I'll post them up once we've got copies. He looked so smart in his little pinstripe trousers and waistcoat and his little blue shirt and shoes. OH looked very handsome in his morning suit. I was very proud of both of my boys :)

I've also started donating my breastmilk as I overproduce and have a constant supply in the freezer. A lady in Leeds collects it to supplement her own supply, and drops some off to another lady near her who has breast cancer and can't feed her child. Its such a good feeling to know that I'm helping other mums and babies continue with a breastfeeding relationship instead of giving their babies formula. Last time she came I gave her 130oz and I now have 250oz waiting in the freezer for her. I'm running out of space!!

All my hard work has been paying off though as Alfie is gaining weight wonderfully and at my post-partum check up this week (8weeks after Alfie was born) I was weighed and am now back to the same weight I was when I was 8 weeks pregnant. I'm obviously thrilled!! I think the combination of breastfeeding (and expressing) baby-wearing and walking as much as I can (wearing Reebok EasyTone shoes) has definitely helped because in all honesty, I really don't eat that healthily. I still snack on chocolate or cake as its a quick fix to keep me going. Usually OH cooks us a proper meal each evening but he's been working double shifts this week so I've been fending for myself. Quite often the food he cooks is full of butter anyway - tastes amazing but probably isn't all that healthy. I need to start eating better, for both of us, although I do take extra vitamins every day to make sure Alfie is getting everything he needs.

He seems to have settled himself into a nice routine. He wakes up about 8ish for a feed and then lies in bed with OH until he gets up for work. He usually has a nap about 10.30 for an hour, then a feed. Often a nap around lunch time, then a feed. I can normally get him to nap in the afternoon any time between 3 and 6 depending on what we've been doing in the day. I usually lie down with him and we'll nap and nurse together for a couple of hours. Bath time is at 7pm and hes usually asleep by 8.30. Most nights he sleeps 8 hours before waking up for a feed which is great :) I still get up once maybe twice in the night to express as its too uncomfortable for me to go that long. I know that if I just expressed a little bit and then went back to sleep, after a few days my body would regulate itself but I don't mind pumping the extra. It doesn't take long and its for a good cause - and its clearly helping me with my weight loss!!

OH sent me this picture the other day - I had no idea it had been taken, but it turns out THIS is the first ever picture taken of our son, moments after he had been born, just after OH had cut his cord. The next one after that was the picture of him in the weighing scales which I think I posted in an earlier blog, I thought that was the first picture but apparently not. The hands in this one belong to Maxine, our wonderful student midwife :)

I plan on taking some tentative steps back into academics this week. I proof read one of Michaelas essays earlier in the week and it made me realise just how much I miss doing my work. One of corse mates has sent me his annual review to proof read which I'm hoping to start this weekend. I had a supervision last month - more so more supervisor could meet Alfie than to discuss work - but we did talk about the ethics training that I need to do too. I'm going to look at that once I've read through my friends annual review and then in a couple of weeks I might start getting mum to watch Alfie for one afternoon a week so I can get some work done. I can also try and do bits when OH has the day off coz he can obviously do feeds and keep Alfie entertained while I work. It's going to be tough finding the time to do things while Alfie is still so young and needs almost constant contact when he's awake, but where theres a will theres a way, and we all know theres no way I'm not going back to uni. Its almost as important to me as my son!!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

A month of motherhood

Alfie baby was 1 month old last sunday, I can't believe how quickly time flies, or how (dare I say it) easy being a mum is. I feel bad for saying that because I know some mums really struggle what with lack of sleep, healing after birth and adjusting to motherhood, but honestly at the moment, its nowhere near as hard as I thought it would be. Granted there are times of the day when Alfie is a bit grumpy, or won't sleep which can get a little frustrating, especially if I need to do things, but generally, I'm managing to keep on top of housework, I get time to myself in the day when he's asleep, and he sleeps for 4-6 hour blocks during the night which is wonderful. I'm sure it'll change as he gets a bit bigger and spends more time awake during the day, but for the time being, I really can't complain.

My surgery wound is pretty much healed now. I tried my hardest to take it easy in the first 2 weeks, but after that, I felt normal so I started behaving normally. Obviously if it hurt me, I;d take it easy for a bit but its not really caused me any trouble. I've been wearing Alfie in a wrap, so he's strapped to me for the last couple of weeks. It great for settling him during the day, and much easier than taking a pushchair on the bus (plus its excellent for helping the weight loss!) It means I can do household chores easily and the best thing about it is that I have my hands free rather than having to hold him all day. Its great for him as it keeps his close to me, he's soothed by my heartbeat and the gentle rocking as I walk about - its like an external womb for him. I love it - and because we're not directly breastfeeding, I still feel close to him by having him in the wrap. I can even express while he's in it which helps with my let down reflex.

Bottle feeding him with my expressed milk makes things easier in some respects, as it means OH can do feeds and I can sleep, but also eats into my sleep as I have to express during the night. I do prefer it to directly breast feeding though, but we do still keep trying. The health visitor says that Alfie has a tongue tie which is probably causing problems with latching on. Hopefully as he grows and his tongue gets a bit bigger, it will fix itself. Its disappointing for me that directly feeding him hasn't worked out (so far) but I'm not giving up yet. During the day while we're at home and we don't have to go anywhere, I'll give him half a bottle so he's not starving and agitated, and then I'll try to latch him on to me for the rest of his feed. Sometimes it works and he feeds for 10 minutes and falls asleep, other times we can be there 15-20 mins trying to get him on properly before I give up and give him the rest of the bottle. It requires a bit of patience, but on the ocassions where it has worked, I've felt really good about it. We had a successful immediate latch and a 20 minute feed yesterday, and another little trickle feed this morning. I need to go to some breast feeding help groups and try to get some help so we can overcome our problems. I feel more mentally prepared to deal with it now than I did when he was first born, less uncomfortable about it, and I feel like I've got the right level of patience to keep at it, so hopefully that will help.

Tomorrow OH and I are going on stag and hen do's - his dad is getting married on May 1st, and its the first time we'll be leaving Alfie with anyone. Eeeek. I'm going early in the morning and leaving Alfie with OH and then his mum is having Alfie for the afternoon. He's technically only being 'babysat' for about 4 hours, but i'll be away from him all day which I'm a bit nervous about. I've been stocking up the freezer with milk so there's plenty for tomorrow incase he wants to eat every hour, which he sometimes does and I'll take the pump with me so I can express a few times during the day. I'm looking forward to having a nice relaxing day to myself though, and I definitely need a shoulder massage after the last few weeks of slumping over to feed/change him and carrying him around. It'll be very strange not having him with me all day though as I've not spent more than an hour without him and that was only once when I nipped into town and left him with OH. Fingers crossed theres no problems because we might be leaving him for much longer if we decide not to take him to the wedding.....

Thursday, 24 March 2011


Alfie is two weeks old today - time goes so fast. It seems like only minutes ago I was on all fours on my sofa trying to push him out!

Generally, having him here is wonderful. He's very content, sleeps a lot, loves cuddles with his mummy and only really cries if theres something majorly wrong. He hates having his nappy changed, thats inevitable crying, but the minute you start buttoning up his clothes again he stops wailing and makes this little bleating, wimpering noise which is just adorable. We gave him a bath last week & he was not impressed with that. The next time, I'm going to take him in the bath with me and get OH to help and hopefully that'll make it less traumatising for the little man. I think he just doesn't like to be naked which is a shame really coz I'd love to have more skin to skin contact with him when he's feeding or having cuddles.

We've got into a good routine now of feeds every 3-4 hours. He has his nappy changed first while the bottle is warming up and then he goes to sleep after hes been 'burped'. Its great as it means I'm getting regular sleep, if we need to go anywhere we can time it so he's back home for the next feed and OH can help out when he's back from work. Alfie seems to have a restless period from about 4-8 each evening when he wont settle after his feed and just seems to want more very hour or so. OH usually comes back from work to find Alfie having a bit of a cry & being difficult but is very good at settling him, even though he doesn't have the patience and wants the baby to be asleep within 10 minutes.

The big challenge has been breastfeeding. I've had numerous nurses and midwifes and specialists help me with positioning and getting him latched on etc but it only seems to work for 1 or 2 feeds then he goes back to his default behaviour. This involves spending 10-15 minutes trying to latch on, a lot of the time he does (which hurts a little bit but thats normal) and then spits my nipple out and has another go so after about 10 mins I'm feeling pretty uncomfortable and a bit frustrated that he's not doing it properly. He's of course getting more agitated because he's hungry. When he does eventually latch on, he'll take 10-20 big mouthfuls, where you can hear him swallowing the milk, and then drift off to sleep, sucking occasionally, especially if I try to pull away from him. The specialist said that you should always wait for him to take himself off the breast because then you know baby is finished. Well, Alfie might take himself off after 20 minutes, or after 4 hours. or he might come off so I can burp him and then want to go back on again immediately or maybe half an hour later if I'm lucky. It's very annoying because I obviously can't do anything - eat, have a drink, go to the loo, do any chores, I'm just sat stuck holding this limpet that won't feed properly and won't let me go.

OH came home from work on sunday to find Alfie crying and me in absolute bits. He'd been feeding on and off since 9am and by this point it was nearly 7pm. The only break I got was when OH's mum drove us back home as we'd been staying with her - and he cried the whole way. I was exhausted as I'd been up in the night with him and he'd been playing around for ages too, I was starving hungry as I'd not had chance to go to the shop let alone make any food. With us being away for the week we had nothing in the house. I was desperate for a wee and was generally feeling very miserable.

I told Him that I felt like a failure because I wasn't able to give birth to him properly and now I was struggling to feed him properly and it made me feel like a useless mother. He of course tried to say nice things to make me feel better but as he rarely displays any kind of emotion or sentimentality it made me cry even more. He told me I did an amazing job when I was in labour and he was incredibly proud of me and that if he could feed Alfie himself then he would. He took the baby for long enough to allow me to express, so we could feed him and finally get him to sleep. I decided at that moment that I was going to express every 3-4 hours and Alfie would be bottle fed. He's obviously happy having the bottle as we've had no problems with it so far, and it means he's getting a proper feed, regularly, and proper sleep and I'm not getting myself all worked up. I've been feeding him and then expressing after each feed since sunday night and we're both so much happier. I know its not ideal, because it is a bit time consuming having to express and then waiting for the milk to warm up, but it's working for us. I'm so much more relaxed, I' enjoying spending time with him, OH can feed him too so we can share the responsibility and I'm not spending all my time trying to feed a baby that's clearly just paying around.

I think that because I've found breast feeding so difficult, I've got a bit of a negative attitude towards it which obviously won't help the situation, especially since Alfie can pick up on my discomfort which upsets him too. I was talking with my mum about it and I came to the conclusion that I just don't like it. It makes me feel uncomfortable - even on the few feeds that have gone well, I've felt awkward and wanted it to be over. The idea of doing it for half an hour several times a day makes me feel a bit weird - not sick or anything that drastic, but I found myself willing him to sleep longer between feeds so I wouldn't have to do it quite so often.

I do feel like I'm letting him down, especially since when he was born it was quite a while before I got to hold him, so I feel like the bond between us is already tainted somehow and my not feeding him is bound to make that worse because we don't have the closeness you get when you're breastfeeding. The most important thing though, is that he is happy, he's getting fed regularly and he's gaining weight. The midwife is on her way round now so fingers crossed he's back up to his birth weight which will prove that I've been doing the right thing. The fact that both the 'breakdowns' I've had since he was born have been breastfeeding related says something really - and as he gets older, we'll have plenty of time to bond, he does stay at home all day with me after all, and likes cuddles with mummy better than cuddles with daddy!!

Sunday, 20 March 2011


Breastfeeding - considering its supposed to be the natural and normal option, WHY IS IT SO BLOODY DIFFICULT.

That is all.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

The first week of motherhood

I'd be lying if I said this week hadn't had its ups and down. I've had an overwhelming mix of emotions going through my body, all made worse by the limited sleep and general waves of hormones women experience post-pregnancy.

The first day, after leaving theatre and being on the ward with Alfie was very surreal. I couldn't feel my legs as they'd been numbed for surgery and I still felt a bit groggy from the drugs I'd been given and the gas and air I'd had. OH, my mum, his mum and his sister were all there with me, taking pictures, asking me how I felt. The texts and phone calls had started to come through, and we'd both announced his birth on facebook to our friends. I was feeling very hungry and remember constantly asking for toast which didn't appear until about 9.30! Everyone left by about 7ish, OH was exhausted so I told him to go home and sleep. I knew he wanted to but didn't want me to be angry at him leaving me. My dad came to see Alfie and I for ten minutes on his way somewhere else. My mum had called to tell him, which is a miracle in itself as the two of them have only spoken twice without the need for lawyers in the last 11 years.

Alfie was struggling to settle that night. I was on a ward with three other women, who were all in the late stages of pregnancy and obviously experiencing some complications otherwise they wouldn't have been on the ward. I felt bad that Alfie was grumbling and crying and was probably keeping them awake and making them more anxious or upset. I'd fed him, but he just seemed to want cuddles with his mummy. I wanted him in my arms and next to me as I'd missed out on skin-to-skin with him straight after he was born, but the nurses kept coming to check I wasn't asleep with him in my arms. Its frustrating because had we been at home, I would have had him in bed with me. I was told off for putting him in the cot, because I could have pulled my stitches - it felt like I couldn't get anything right. Hold him and fall asleep is bad, put him down on my own is bad, let him grumble is bad. AAARGH. in the end I gave in and let the nurse take him to settle him. I was too exhausted to argue.

The next day, friday, I was moved to a private room, had my catheter taken out and had a shower, which I was longing for. I was told to take my dressing off so I had a good look at the damage from surgery. I have a huge (it seems huge to me) cut, just on the top of my bikini line with STAPLES in it holding it together. It looks like some sort of creepy scary movie smile thats been sewn together. Very odd. I clocked the sight of my post-pregnancy body too - with the exception of my utterly rediculous boobs which look like they belong to another person, and a slightly swollen tummy (which is probably the size it was when I was 5 months pregnant), I look pretty much exactly the same, A very pleasant surprise.

During the afternoon, we had SO MANY visitors: my sister, my mum and step dad, my friend Jodie, our friends Tommy and Lauren, OH's sister and her BF, OH's mum and brother, my aunty and uncle and finally my lovely midwife Maxine. From 2pm til amost 10pm there was someone else in my room other than me, OH and Alfie. I managed to get a feed in mid afternoon, and by the time everyone had left I was shattered. I'd only had 2.5 hrs sleep the night before, very little rest during my labour and hardly any sleep in the days leading up to it. I still felt alright thought, i felt with it and happy and content, just sleepy.

Saturday, I was sent home. I had to wait around til lunchtime to be discharged as the doctor kept getting called away. Granny Nicola (my mum) came to fetch us and take us back home. Michaela had cleaned the house for us - something that hadn't even crossed my mind. Apparently there were latex gloves, packets of lube, bloody stained towels, blankets and gowns everywhere, half drunk cups of tea, sweet packets and just general clutter. I'm so glad I didn't have to see it, I would have been mortified. Tommy and Lauren came round straight away with their daughter whose 3 and a half. It was adorable seeing her holding Alfie. They were the first people to find out I was pregnant, even before OH, and their daughter has been there every step of the way, looking at ultrasound scans, feeling the baby move, watching my belly grow and understanding that a baby was going to come out of it. She was so excited to see him - she even has her own new baby dolly that she has called Francis!

We took a walk to the local shop because I was desperate for some fresh air - I pushed the pram a bit, which I shouldn't have done as I think it put a bit too much strain on my belly. Its frustrating because I feel fine, I feel normal and like I can get back to my usual routine, but I have to keep reminding myself that theres several layers of stitches under my surface wound that need to heal and I have to rest. Its SO HARD because its really not in my nature!! That night, Alfie wasn't really settling properly. I was struggling to get him to feed properly. He only seemed to be latching on to the very ends of my nipple which was making them quite sore, and he'd only feed for 5 mins or so and would then want more an hour later. I ended up sleeping with him in bed with me as every time I tried to put him down he'd cry - and he seemed happy enough with his face on my boob.

More visitors on sunday, Grandad Clive and Beth, and Grandad Paul in the afternoon. Aunty Na and Sam came in the evening. I found myself getting a bit lairy, for want of a better word. Every time I tried to sit down to feed him. someone else would arrive to visit, I was tired, OH was cooking lunch and there didn't seem to be anywhere calm in the house for me to go and just be alone. Alfie spent the night in bed with us again, I didn't even bother trying to settle him in the crib this time as we'd really struggled feeding and he wasn't happy.

Monday we went to Jamcafe to show Alfie off to all OH's work mates and then we went to Grandma Pips. We're staying with her until sunday so OH and I can have some time together with the baby, getting used to the routine of looking after him, without having to worry about cooking and cleaning and what not. Plus, we can have time away from visitors and I can really take time to rest and relax and look after myself so I can heal properly. My milk started to come in today, more so on the RHS than the left, so I look like Pamela Anderson has been spliced with a saggy old granny. We're still struggling to feed properly and because I was getting so full, I was feeling very uncomfortable. I asked OH to pick up the breast pump from home so I could get a bit off and drip it too him if he was refusing to latch properly.

Tuesday the midwife came and weighed him, He's lost 10oz since he was born, which is quite a lot, and I explained we were having trouble feeding so she's going to send the lactation specialist round tomorrow to help me. I had a mega breakdown about it today. It took Alfie 2 hours to even latch on for a feed this morning and then only fed for 10 minutes, wanting more an hour later. I was in agony, both sides were engorged and painful and horrible, I was feeling guilty because my son was hungry and I couldn't feed him. I couldn't stop crying about it, I couldn't even bring myself to look at Alfie let alone hold him I felt so bad. I gave in and decided we needed tog o and get a bottle so I could express and feed him and at least them he would be fed and happy. We fed him every 4 hours during the night and the following day, giving me a chance to relax and my nipples a chance to recover. When the lady came on wednesday afternoon, it took 2 minutes to get the positioning right and he was feeding away :) It's not been perfect since then, but buying a nursing pillow has really helped. He seems to prefer one side to the other so I'll probably stick with feeding him that side, express the other side and then we've got back up for night feeds and so that OH can do feeds too and let me sleep.

I booked an appointment to register him on wednesday, we were running late and rushed to get there, which meant I overdid it a little bit and my 'wound' then hurt for ages afterwards. Turns out though we were actually a week early - the appointments not til next wednesday! Baby brain strikes - not for the first time I'm sure!!

Despite the feeding troubles, Alfies been wonderful this week. He sleeps well, and a lot, wakes up regularly for feeds and is generally very happy and content. He cries when he has his nappy changed, and he screamed his little heart out when we bathed him last night. He is sometimes a bit sick after feeds but I think that's because the fatty hind milk he gets part way through is a bit rich for him, but i'm sure he'll get used to it.

I can't get over the fact he's actually here. It seems like I'm going to wake up from a dream soon and still be pregnant.. or still be in labour!! He is absolutely amazing, I love him so much already. He's developing really well, he already sucks his fingers and can lift his head up and he stares right at mummy and daddy. This child is going to be a genius, I just know it!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Alfies birth story

I warn you, its long, but my labour was long too

Tuesday March 8th 2011

I woke around 6am, not unusual for me, especially over the last few weeks. This morning though, I just felt different. For one, I felt like I was coming down with something, all headaches and achey and bunged up, like the first day of a bad cold. I got out of bed, and felt a trickle run down the inside of my leg, probably just wee I thought, as I knew it was quite common in late pregnancy to leak urine due to the pressure on your pelvic floor. This continued throughout the morning, random little leaks and the occasional tightening across my tummy that felt a little bit like someone was pulling on a belt round my middle. I was pretty exhausted and stayed in bed for a huge part of the day. I had a lot of pain in my lower back, and had a hot water bottle on it a lot of the time – it was like I was having period pains, just without the period. Around 6pm, I had another leak, much bigger this time, and it smelled different to wee, or the discharge I’d had since my plug went 2 weeks ago. I wondered if this might be my waters starting to leak, so asked Maxine, my student midwife what she thought. She said it might be ‘hind waters’ which sit just in front of baby and can leak before the main bag goes. She advised me to ring labour ward and let them know, because when your waters go, you have 24hours for labour to start otherwise they like to induce you, as there is risk of infection. Quite soon after, the tightenings in my belly started getting more noticeable. Very similar to period pains, a kind of dull ache in my lower abdomen, mixed with the belt tightening feeling. Throughout the night, I got these little cramps roughly every ten minutes or so, until around 3am when they were every 4 minutes.

I decided to phone the midwife to see what she thought as I’d been timing my contractions on my Iphone app, which was telling me I was in active labour. It didn’t feel like active labour though. The midwife asked if I wanted her to come out and I said no as I just didn’t feel like this was ‘IT’ but we agreed I would call her back if they got any closer together, any longer, or any stronger. They were about 4 minutes apart, lasting 45-60 seconds and were no worse than strong period pains. By the morning they’d tapered off and had become much more irregular. I hadn’t slept all night though as my contractions were too strong to sleep through.

Wednesday 9th March

My midwife Yvonne phoned me about 9.30am to see how things were going. She knew that I’d called the midwife last night and that things were happening and suggested I go to see her, just to get my blood pressure checked and to talk things through as it had been 24 hours since my first ‘trickle’ and labour suite were quite keen for me to go and be induced. I went to see her, I was having irregular contractions still, lasting about 45seconds, but randomly spaced out – sometimes 15 mins would pass, other times I’d have 3 in the same time frame. Yvonne recommended I go to hospital to have something called a speculum test done to see if my waters had actually broken or not, as this would put me in a good position to argue for extra time, or to just go home and see what happened. It’s an intrusive procedure, which is something I wasn’t comfortable with, but if it meant avoiding pressure to be induced then it was something I needed to do. I decided that seeing as I was having that done. I would ask for a membrane sweep to see if that helped regulate my contractions and get things going a bit more. So off I went to QMC, I called Maxine and she met me there. Having contractions on the bus was a bit odd. I was worried the bus would pull up at QMC while I was contracting and I wouldn’t be able to get off, but luckily that didn’t happen, although I did have to stop in the middle of the main entrance to breathe through one!

By now, it was about noon, 30 hours since my first twinges and despite the lack of sleep and the nerves about the procedures I was about to have, I felt quite calm, but excited that this could really be it and that pretty soon I’d have my baby in my arms. My blood pressure was a little bit high, the bottom number (which should be below 90 and is usually about 60 for me pre-pregnancy) was 92, but they weren’t too concerned and put it down to anxiety about having the speculum test. It really wasn’t as bad as I thought. No worse than slightly rough foreplay. The result was negative – my waters hadn’t broken which meant I could relax and not worry about silly inductions – so the home birth was back on track. The midwife came to give me a sweep, which was much more painful than rough foreplay – it took my breath away and I could feel myself trying to pull away from her hand – but the good news was that things were progressing. Id written in my birth plan that I didn’t want to know how dilated I was and things like that but she hadn’t seen that and told me not only was I fully effaced (i.e. my cervix was as thin as it needed it to be) but I was 3-4cms dilated! All that contracting last night was obviously doing something after all. Both her and Maxine were really surprised that was the case and I returned home (contracting all the way, including in Waitrose while getting some lunch) feeling really quite excited. The OH was at work and when I spoke to him told me he would be leaving earlier than planned. I think he sensed things were starting to happen. He’d tweeted something about ‘today I wil be mostly waiting for my child to be born’ so he knew things were properly happening. It did mean that I’d started to get texts from people asking what was happening and if I was in labour, which is something I didn’t want to happen.

By the time OH got home from work at 6pm, things were happening. I was contracting every 7 minutes for at least a minute, and they were getting closer together and stronger. It had now been 36 hours since the first twinge, still no sleep and I hadn’t eaten much either. His sister, Michaela, who goes to uni in London, had asked to be at the birth so we texted her to say things were happening and that she should get on the first train in the morning to be here. We didn’t think things would happen much quicker than that – but she thought otherwise and replied that she was already on the train! At 9pm, I suddenly went from contracting every 7 minutes to every 4 minutes and they stayed like that for an hour. I texted Maxine to check if I should call the midwife – I didn’t want to get anyone here too soon, especially after last night & it all slowing down. She said yes, and that she would make her way over. By 11pm, the midwife Jackie, Maxine and Michaela had all arrived and I underwent my first of many internal examinations that night to check my progress. We were all very surprised (again) to learn that I was 6-7cms dilated this time so I asked the OH to start putting the birth pool up the front room. Lauren, our very good friend from next door popped in to say hi and to offer to take the cat incase he was getting in the way – he was very interested by all the people in the house. The second midwife, Lisa, had arrived by this point, and my tiny kitchen was feeling very crowded. I was sitting on my birthing ball, happily talking to everyone, smiling through contractions, which were still 4 mins apart, lasting at least a minute and getting stronger, but feeling very relaxed and really enjoying the experience of labour. Lauren told me she was amazed at the calm atmosphere in the house and couldn’t believe I was so relaxed and happy at 6cms dilated. She told me how proud she was of me and encouraged me to continue as I was an to enjoy every second. I gave her a big cuddle, told her I loved her and that I would let her know either when baby arrived, or if I needed her here for support.

OH had got the pool ready, with the lights dimmed in the front room and lots of candles dotted around. The atmosphere in the front room was so calm and relaxing, really warm and inviting too. Ollivander was eyeing up the pool and trying to jump in the midwives handbags. I got myself into my bikini top and a pair or shorts and got into the pool. The water was so lovely and warm, it really helped ease the discomfort I was starting to feel in my back, not only during contractions, but between them too. OH sat with me, holding my hands and talking to me between contractions. His presence was so comforting to me, I felt such a strong bond with him at that point, like we were really going through it together. I know he felt a bit unsure as to what to do, but he sat with me nonetheless, sometimes reading his book, but remaining there with me.

The next few hours all blur together and I’m not really sure of the timeline anymore, but during the night things started to stall. At my next examination, there hadn’t been any progress, which was a little disappointing. My contractions kept going from being very regular to suddenly becoming irregular again – I got out the pool and kept active, walking round the house, up and down the stairs, bouncing on my ball. I found a really good position in the spare room, squatting over a towel incase my waters went, with my back leaning against the radiator as this was helping with the ever increasing pain I was getting in my lower back. It had started to move lower, more towards my back passage – a constant pressure pushing against it. The midwives said it was babys head, and that this was a good sign he was moving lower into my birth canal and that things were still going in the right direction. I was managing to breathe through every contraction using the techniques id been practicing for the last few months and I still felt incredibly relaxed, although as time passed I was becoming disheartened by the lack fo progress, but still trusted in my body that it was doing the right thing and was letting baby decide when he was ready to move things forward.

By 4am, things still hadn’t moved past 6-7cms so we agreed it was time to break my waters in the hope that this might move things along a bit more. I was starting to feel very tired and although I had previously had very strong feelings about interventions such as this, I knew we needed to try something before I got too tired to do any actual pushing! The feeling of my waters going was very odd. We’d covered the bed in towels and bin bags to protect it, and as they went it felt like someone had poured a bucket of warm water out of my lady parts. I stood up to let gravity bring the rest out and instantly started contracting, much harder than I had done before. Things were picking up and I had a renewed burst of energy as I began pacing the house, rocking my pelvis as much as I could, squatting during contractions and trying to help baby move down more.

Thursday 10th March

6am – 48 hours since the first twinges on Tuesday morning. By now, I was starting to feel the most intense pressure around my back passage during every contraction and it was becoming harder to breathe through them. Over the next 3 hours, I contracted regularly and then at around 9.30am the urge to push suddenly became overwhelming. I was almost fully dilated by this point, there was just a tiny bit of my cervix to go on one side. There had been a shift change for the midwives so Jackie and Lisa had gone, to be replace by my midwife Yvonne and another lady called Gill who I don’t recall actually saying hello to, let alone seeing. She arrived with a student who the OH told in less polite terms to leave because she didn’t need to be there. The house was so small and I was feeling incredibly overcrowded. I’d spent quite a lot of the time pacing upstairs on my own, away from everyone, with Maxine sitting at the top of the stairs to monitor the babys heartbeat and talking to me through contractions. Apart from the earlier period in the pool, this was probably my favourite part of labour. I felt very relaxed pacing in front of Maxine wearing only a bikini top, leaking waters and blood, squatting over a towel, with every thing all exposed. I’d certainly lost any sense of modesty or dignity by that point, and it was to only get worse.

I was finding contractions really quite difficult by now as the urge to push was pretty much uncontrollable. My contractions were becoming irregular again – and although baby was doing fine, further examinations revealed his head was starting to swell up a bit and was possibly in not quite the right place. At some point in the night, baby had gone from lying with his back down the left of my bump, to being on the right which had altered his heads position and was no doubt accounting for a lot of the extra pain I was experiencing in my back.

Transition hit about 10.30am. I decided to text my mum. Although she had expressed that she didn’t want to be there when that baby was born, we all sensed it was about to happen and I wanted to give her the chance to be there. I was leaning over the back on the sofa in the front room – I’d started to use gas and air by this point as I was finding it very hard to get through my contractions and fighting the urge to push – telling OH that I couldn’t do it anymore and I wanted it to stop. I was exhausted beyond belief, had hardly eaten for 2 days and was quite dehydrated too. OH was wonderful telling me I could do it and it wasn’t long till baby would be here. Maxine had examined me (from my very ladylike all fours over the back of the sofa position as I hadn’t got the energy to move) and confirmed I was fully dilated and could now start pushing. She did learn however that babys head had turned too soon and instead of presenting with the narrowest part ready to go through the birth canal, he was presenting with the widest bit first. I knew things were about to get very hard and very very uncomfortable.

11am – Finally being allowed to give in to the natural urge to push and to let my body do what it wanted to do was such great relief however my contractions were irregular still so it was very hard to get a good rhythm. I alternated with each contraction – using gas and air for one, and my own controlled breathing for the next. Everyone was telling me how well I was doing and all I could think about was OH stood behind me with a view of my nethers, aware of things leaking out, and wondering if he would ever be able to look at me in the same way again. I knew my mum had arrived, and felt a renewed burst of strength just from having her nearby. She couldn’t bring herself to be in the room – I think she didn’t want to see her baby going through that – it was probably bad enough she could hear me – I was moaning a lot by now, not screaming though like you see the women doing on One Born Every Minute!

12.30pm – After almost 2 hours of pushing and nothing happening, I was starting to talk to myself in my head about the possibility of going to hospital. I knew I was losing the ability to do it on my own, my contractions were so irregular and baby wasn’t moving. I kept telling myself, lets try one more contraction and see what happens. Maxine was talking to me the whole time, telling me how well I was doing. They’d shone a torch up my bits and could see babys head – or at least some black hair during each push, but they knew as much as I did that he wasn’t moving. I made the decision to ask to go to hospital. I knew what the outcome could possibly be and was fine with that. I felt in control still and that was the most important thing. All the research I’d done during my pregnancy meant I understood everything they were telling me about babys presentation and without them having to say anything else, I knew what that meant and felt empowered to make the call. I told Yvonne I wanted to go to hospital. I was frustrated, I was exhausted, I was crying, I was uncomfortable, I wanted my baby. It had been such a long time now I needed it to be over while I was still with it enough to stay in control. She asked me several times if I was sure, as did the OH. I was sure. She made the call.

1pm – I’d moved to the bathroom and was in the empty bath squatting over a mirror giving it everything I’d got to try and get my baby out. The paramedics were waiting by the back door, OH and Michaela were rushing round the house getting my hospital bag and things I needed. I was still in control enough to be bossing them around and thinking about what I wanted to take with me. My priority was the camera. Someone near me must have the camera with them at all times. On my way from the front room to the bathroom I’d walked through the kitchen and received a massive boost from being able to cuddle my mummy. She told me she was very proud of me and to keep going because she knew I could do it. In the bathroom, I contracted hard, pushed as hard as I could – I looked in the mirror and I could see him, I put my fingers there and could feel him. I knew I was so so close and was giving it everything I possibly could but he just wouldn’t come. I got out of the bath, into the wheelchair and cried as the wheeled me to the ambulance and my home birth I so desperately wanted drifted away from me.

1.30pm – at the hospital everything got a bit mental. OH was with me the whole time. I’d had 3 canisters of gas and air by now and was feeling really quite doolally (and very very tired). I had an ultrasound which confirmed everything we knew about babys head position. The doctor explained they were going to give me syntocin to boost my contractions, give me a spinal anaesthetic and try to get the baby moving using ventousse. If they could get enough movement, Id be able to push him out, they just needed his head to turn from 12 o’clock to 1 o’clock and that should allow me to deliver him. His head was swollen from the pushing so if they couldn’t get any movement, I’d need a c-section. I was bombarded with info from the doctors, questions from the anaesthetist, OH asking me if I was sure I understood. I signed the consent form, my contractions were coming hard and fast, the urge to push was constant and unbearable. It was frantic. I was in theatre, sitting slumped over a cushion, having a needle pushed in my back while I contracted harder and harder trying not to push the baby out into a rock hard table. They lay me down, all feeling in my legs had gone, put them into stirrups and each time I contracted Maxine told me to push. It’s a bizarre feeling having to be told to push, but not being able to feel where its going. OH was next to me holding my hand – looking white as a sheet and a bit distressed by the sight of a fully grown man using all his weight to pull on a plunger shoved up his girlfriends privates. There were 10 people in theatre, all encouraging me to push all telling me how well I was doing. Maxine was monitoring babys heartbeat telling me he was fine and wasn’t bothered at all by what was going on. I was laughing to myself that he’s inherited the Castledine stubbornness from me. And then they said it wasn’t working. I felt hands inside my stomach and someone pushing my abdomen like it was a tube of toothpaste. A little cry and my heart leapt. I looked at OH ‘babys out’ he said and tears clouded my eyes. ‘What is it?’ I asked. ‘A boy’ he replied, as I looked up and they held him over the screen – I got an eyeful of his testicles but couldn’t see his face. ‘I told you so.’ I said. OH cut the cord and I cried as I watched them take him over to the other side of theatre to check him over. He let out a few big cries and then he was placed in OH’s arms. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I longed for that first hold. I drifted in and out of consciousness, exhausted from the experience, overcome by drugs, aware of hands tugging at my tummy as they stitched me up.

57 and a half hours after I’d felt the first twinges, and 21.5 hours since established labout had started the night before, my birth experience was over and Maxine placed my son onto my chest. I felt no rush of emotions, I just stared at him, wondering if this is how I was supposed to feel. My body was numb, I was still quite out of it, I wanted to sleep. This wasn’t what I’d envisioned my first contact with my son to be like. I cried. He opened his eyes and he looked right at me. There it was. That overwhelming love, that uncontrollable rush of knowing that this little man was mine and I never wanted to let him go. Im crying now as I write this, remembering exactly what that rush felt like. It was delayed, more than I wanted it to, but it was wonderful and it was him, my son that made it happen. As they wheeled me out of theatre, I stared at him, the image of his father. Our family was complete, my son was happy and I was, finally, a mother.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

My Son

I'm delighted to announce the birth of my son Alfie Francis John

Born On : Thursday March 10th 2011
At: 3.35pm
Weight: 8lbs 12oz (3.98kg)
Length: 22 inches

Labour was 57.5hrs from the very first signs - but the active phase was a slightly less traumatising 21.5hrs. Due to various complications, Alfie wasn't born at home as planned and instead was born by c-section, a decision I made after a prolonged second stage of labour. His dad was there by my side and even cut the cord completing Alfies journey into the world.

We spent 2 days in hospital and had lots of very excited visitors, returning home yesterday late afternoon. The Other Half and I are absolutely delighted with our beautiful son, who is every bit a clone of his father - even their birth stories are almost identical!

I will blog the full birth story in the near future once I've got my head together. I've had about 8 hours sleep since waking up at 6am on tuesday morning and still need to piece together events properly as there are stages which are a little blurry due to the silly amount of drugs I was given.

I'm feeling great though, despite it only being 3 days since I had major surgery, and am really enjoying having my little man here. The best thing is watching his movements and kicks when he's sleeping as I recognise them from when he was in my womb - I can almost feel them still when I see him do it. It really amazing that he came from me. He's just perfect.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Due date and natural labour induction

36 weeks ago today I came home from Wales where I'd been on a dissertation writing retreat with my mum and the dog. I'd spent the week feeling very hormonal, really tired and craving fresh crab, constantly aware that my period was 2 weeks late. Despite mums reassurance that it was probably just stress from uni, and the fact I'd come off the pill a few months before hand so things were probably going to be a bit irregular, I wasn't convinced that her relaxed attitude was quite right. I had a pregnancy test in my drawer from another time I'd been late and decided to do it, just to put my mind at ease. I hadn't even started unpacking, as I'd decided on the route home I'd do it as soon as I got back. They say you're meant to do tests first thing in the morning when the concentration of pregnancy hormones is likely to be at its highest and I was so convinced the test was going to be negative that I stood and watched it, rather than leaving it and having the agonising wait. Within seconds, a plus was starting to creep across the display - I watched for another 5 minutes, feeling myself slowly start to shake as I realised it wasn't going to turn into a minus sign. I paced my kitchen, swearing A LOT and then took the test next door to my neighbours (our very best friends) where I waved it at them and burst into tears. We had a big cuddle, and their 2 and half year daughter came and cuddled me too which made me cry even more. After about half an hour though, I was fine. I'd got over the shock, I was ok with it, now all I had to do was tell Him and mum.

And now here we are today, our babies official due date, and I can't believe its actually here. Time went to slowly the first few months, then suddenly shot by and now it seems to be dragging again. I'm excited, he's excited, we're completely ready, crib and all, and we're just waiting for the baby to decide it wants to come out and meet us. As natural birth is very important to me, and I'm quite firmly against any kind of medical intervention along the way, I've made the decision that as long as baby and I are healthy and theres no complications, I will wait as long as takes for baby to be born. I have no intention of having membrane sweeps or inductions or any of that. Nobody is going to rush this baby out, even if the 'norm' is to be induced 2 weeks after the due date. I've read hundreds of stories of women who went to 43 or even 44 weeks and baby was absolutely fine - infact, baby showed no evidence of being 'overdue' (where the skin is more wrinkled, or the placenta is in less good condition) and many were born average weight (7ish lbs) with vernix still on the skin (a whitish substance that keeps the skin moist which usually disappears when babies are overdue).

My midwife is already pushing me to have a membrane sweep which I've refused - this is where she runs a finger round the edge of babies head (internally) to try and separate the membranes from the cervix to induce labour. There is a chance that this process can break the waters, which puts you under pressure for labour to begin spontaneously within 48 hours otherwise they will admit you to hospital for chemical induction as there is risk of infection to you or the baby. This is something I obviously want to avoid, which I have made clear to her.

Instead, I've opted to try natural methods of induction - many of which are old wives tales as nothing will actually have any effect unless baby is ready to come, and in any case theres no way of actually knowing whether its the technique you're trying or if baby was just going to come anyway, but even so, I'm prepared to have a go as lots of the techniques can be beneficial during actual labour. So heres a list of some of things I'm trying to help bring on labour, and a few others too....

1. Raspberry Leaf Extract - I've been taking this since 37 weeks in 400mg tablets. You can also drink it as a tea but it tastes pretty vile. A friend of mine suggested brewing some and leaving it to chill, and mixing it half and half with apple juice, so I'll try that later. Many people argue raspberry leaf helps to soften the cervix in the weeks leading up to labour, and others argue it actually causes contractions to start, as their labours have begun within hours of drinking a cup (or 2). The consensus is that actually raspberry leaf extract strengthens the uterus making it more efficient, particularly during the second stage of labour when you push the baby out. Lot of women therefore drink cups on it during the early stages of labour in an attempt to make later stages 'easier'. Who knows if its doing anything, but its completely natural and contains lots of Iron anyway, so it can't be doing anything bad.

2. Evening Primrose Oil - this contains Prostaglandins, which are crucial to stimulating the cervix to dilate and are supposed to be one of the hormones that stimulate labour. Medics argue it is prostaglandins which are released during a membrane sweep, hence why they argue this is the most 'natural' way of kick starting labour fi you prefer not to have chemical induction. You can take EPO orally, several times a day, or (using a sterile needle) make a couple of holes in the tablet and (with clean hands) insert it into the vagina as close to the cervix as possible. I'm sticking to oral methods for the time being. Applying the oil directly to the cervix is the best method, but this relies on a partner who is prepared to do it for you. Its also suggested that you can use EPO for perineal massage (which helps prevent tearing during birth) but again, this really requires a willing partner.

3. Pulsatilla - This is a homeopathic remedy which is supposed to stimulate the uterus to begin contracting, or if you are already in early labour, can help to strengthen and regulate contractions. It is also given to women to help with PMT so whether it has any effect during labour is unknown (but some would argue that no homeopathic remedy works anyway...)

4. Clary sage and Lavender aromatherapy oils - both of these are not recommended for use before 40 weeks of pregnancy because of the supposed inducing effect they can have. I've been having lavender baths for the last 3 weeks though and I'm not in labour yet! Lavenders best use is for relaxation, and I plan to use it during labour to help keep me calm and focused. Clary sage is one of those things that can help stimulate contractions as it helps strengthen the uterus, but it also has an effect similar to gas and air so is often used during labour as a method of pain relief. I will probably have lavender in an oil burner, and have clary sage on a flannel or tissue to inhale during contractions. I'm yet to try clary sage in the bath, but will start alternating it with lavender baths from now on.

5. Walking and bouncing - midwives argue one of the best ways of helping baby in the right direction is to take long walks, to walk up and down the stairs and to bounce up and down gently on a birth ball, as well as rocking the pelvis while sitting on it. The rocking action involved in all of these is supposed to help move the babys head downwards encouraging it to engage into the pelvis ready for birth, and to get it in the right position. Some of my friends went for 5 mile countryside walks and after a nap found they were in labour. I've ben walking every day, bounce on my ball every evening and go up&down the stairs as much as I can but am yet to go into labour - the babys head is almost fully engaged though so it might be doing something!

6. Sex and nipple stimulation - these two are good for dads so they can feel like they're playing a role in helping baby to come. Sex is good for several reasons - sperm contains prostaglandins which can help stimulate labour, as can the regular contracting of orgasms and the release of oxytocin which occurs during sex. Oxytocin is produced exponentially during labour and has a natural anaesthetic effect on the body. When you are induced chemically, it is a synthetic form of oxytocin that they give you - so the more sex you have, the better!!
Linked to this is nipple stimulation - when you deliver the baby, you are encouraged to attempt to breast feed as soon as possible as this stimulate the uterus to contract and helps deliver the placenta, thus nipple stimulation is encouraged for the same reason (and it releases oxytocin). It can be done by the partner, or alternatively, hand expressing is recommended as this mimics the natural effects of feeding. I've been expressing for about a week now (successfully) and am looking into donating what I do express for premature babies, however the local hospital doesn't offer the facility so I may have to look further afield.

7. Accupressure - there are 2 pressure points on the body which are supposed to be directly linked to the reproductive system and can therefore be used to induce labour The first is the webbing between the thumb and forefinger, which when pinched firmly and rubbed in a circular motion is supposed to stimulate contractions. Alternatively, a spot 4 finger widths up from the ankle bone on the inside of the ankle is directly linked to the uterus promoting contractions and thinning of the cervix. Again, pressure needs to be applied in a small circular motion.

8. Eating curry - one of the most common old wives tales is that spicy food is supposed to stimulate labour. Its argued that the capsicum compounds contained in peppers and spices often stimulate the bowel and this can lead to the uterus having sympathetic contractions too. For some women it works, for others not so much. I guess it depends on how familiar your body is to spicy foods, and how strong the actual curry is!

Although any forum you read will be full of anecdotal evidence of women who've tried these methods and then been in labour a few hours later, the most important thing to bear in mind is that these will only have any kind of effect if baby is actually ready to be born - if at all - they're not called old wives tales for nothing! And, as much research has shown, even chemical indiction is unsuccessful when baby is not ready, often leading to c-sections which could have been avoided if everyone just waited a bit longer.

Hopefully, the next time I write will be to announce the arrival of our baby, so keep your fingers crossed and I'll see you on the other side of my pile of herbal pills and aromatherapy oils!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

I hope it happens soon...

The last couple of days have been unbearable. I've been so unnecessarily emotional - all over the place, more so than at any other point in my pregnancy, or ever for that matter. Its like the worst PMT multiplied by about 10.
I had my last supervision yesterday and very nearly emailed to cancel because I felt really on edge about leaving the house. Walking to the shop at the end of the road is fine, but I really didn't feel comfortable going al the way to uni. Luckily I wasn't there that long, and supervision went well so I'm glad I went. I slept all afternoon & then spent a couple of hours at the neighbours house, mostly laughing, but I had this underlying uncomfortable feeling. Its hard to put into words, but I didn't feel relaxed - like I could sense something was about to happen.
I spent most of the evening on the sofa feeling fed up and angry and a bit spaced out, like when you're coming down with something and you just don't feel right. Baby was moving SO MUCH which is great coz it obviously means its ok, but it hurts me now and I don't like it. The odd little twitch is fine, but when it feels like its using my insides as a hamster wheel it gets a bit tedious and I can't stand it. Baby pushes down on my cervix too which is very painful, makes me catch my breath a bit when it happens and scares me coz it sends shooting pains all round my bump which I don't like. I had a bath about 11ish and that made me feel a bit better - but then when I got into bed, I just cried, for about an hour and a half, for no reason whatsoever.

He was next door with his best mate having a 'last night of freedom' style drinking session and I was a bit annoyed at him coz I'd said I was feeling a bit weird and he didn't seem bothered. When he came to bed he didn't ask how I was and spent most of the night flailing his arms around, kicking out, moving around loads. He kept lying on my side of the bed pretty much pushing me out, he was snoring loads and talking in his sleep and every time I tried to roll him over, or wake him nothing worked. I tried pinching him to see of that helped, but nothing. So I had a very broken and disturbed nights sleep.

Then at about 5.30am I went to the loo and noticed evidence of 'the show' (where the mucous plug from the cervix comes away) which means that things could get going pretty soon, or it could still take 2 weeks to happen. I went back to bed feeling strange still - baby was moving so much it was impossible to tell if the tightenings in my tummy were contractions or just because of baby moving, but seeing as its now 12 hours later and nothing much has happened, I'm assuming we're not going into labour quite yet.

When he eventually woke up, I told him what had been happening and he said 'you can't be serious' before having a go at me and telling me he's too busy at work for it to happen now. Unfortunately, I can't control these things, and if it happens, it happens. I've let my student midwife know so she is now on standby just incase things get going. I'd really like them to - today was my original due date after all and it'd be great if baby could come soon as I'm so so so fed up of being grumpy and fed up and uncomfortable. I know I'm not going to get any sleep once baby is here, but the back pain will stop, the heartburn will stop, I'll be able to move around more easily and hopefully won't be feeling so on edge all the time. Its exhausting!

So everyone keep your fingers crossed that the curry I've just ordered, and the hot bath I'm having later start to get things really going and who knows, maybe His dad (who turns 50 today) will get a grandchild for his birthday.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Nesting Nesting

The past few days I have been EXHAUSTED. I've had really broken sleep, made worse by Him coming to bed late at night and snuffling his way through the night coz of a cold, and the fact that the bed is so squeaky any tiny movement makes a right noise. I have trouble sleeping anyway because I can't comfy, I have to lie on my side and after a while it starts to hurt whatever hip I'm lying on due to the extra weight of the baby so I have to wake up and carefully roll over, which usually takes about 5 minutes! Nightmare. I try and lie-in as much as I can in the mornings, but normally have to get up about 6.30-7ish to feed the cat as ignoring him results in frantic meowing and often my toes being bitten. Most days I nap for about 3-4 hours in the afternoon, as well as falling asleep on the sofa watching telly in the evenings.

However, today I am full of energy and most definitely nesting. Mum and Steve came round this morning to take the old washing machine to the tip - our neighbours are kindly giving us their old one tomorrow so it'l be great to have one that works again! Mum also took away an old chest of drawers and lots of crap thats been cluttering up the place which has meant that I can move lots of things round and do some major tidying. To be honest, I've wanted to do it for weeks, but I've not been able to as I've needed the big bits of clutter to be taken away, and for Him to give me approval on which bits of his I can move - he's very protective of his stuff. We've got cupboards full of boxes of his things thats he's hoarded for ages and I have no idea whats in them, I'm fairly certain he doesn't know whats in them either but he can't possibly clear them out to make space for baby things or at east go through them and reduce the volume - it's very frustrating for someone like me who likes to know what everything is and where it is and give everything a proper place - as long as clutter isn't visible to me or anyone else, I'm less bothered about it, but I do still wake up in the night wishing I could just throw it all away.

Anyway, I've moved the clothes rail out of the bedroom into the spare room so we've now got a space to put the babys crib. Once we decide baby can be in its own room, we'll bring the clothes rail back in the bedroom and make the spare room a study/nursery but for the time being, it makes sense to have baby stuff in our room, where it will be most of the time, and use the spare room as my study still, but as an overflow room for everything else. I have my dressing table in there and now all our clothes are in there too along with a nice rocking chair I can use for feeding and getting the baby to sleep and a toy box, which is already full of things given to us by friends whose kids have grown out of them.

I've sorted the chest of drawers in the bedroom so its got everything the baby will need - clothes, blankets, changing stuff, and theres lots of overflow nappies and wipes in the bedroom store cupboard. Downstairs is a changing box complete with mat so we can do nappies downstairs easily without having to get bits from the bedroom, and I've tidied all the shelves and cupboards so we can find things easily (I've even alphabetised the cd's, dvd and books). Swept, hoovered, mopped, bleached and scrubbed anything that can possibly be cleaned and I've got a whole pile of stuff for the craft business ready to go down to our office so it's not cluttering up my house coz to be honest, I'm unlikely to be doing any for a few months so I don't want it here. The only thing to do now is move the kitchen table back once the new washer is installed tomorrow and then get rid of the stupid old massive tv thats taking up half my kitchen. It technically belongs to our neighbour with whom we used to live but his house is too small for it and there nowhere else he can put it. I've given him another week to try and find a home for it and if not, it's getting left out for the scrap men to take because I don't want it here. The only place we can put it means that it blocks the passage way from the front room to the kitchen, and I know that when I'm in labour, I'll be walking around a lot between there and it'll drive me mad having the dam thing in the way. I can barely fit past it as it is. Even thinking about it makes me cross and I need to stay relaxed! I feel much better now that lots of things in the house are clean and tidy and things are ready for baby. The fact I've been nesting so much today means things could start happening quite soon - or not. It could still be a few weeks, but my original due date (based on periods etc) is this tuesday so it could be any day. I certainly hope it is!!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Reaching the last milestone

Today I am officially considered full term which means its 'safe' for us to have our home birth, and the baby is fully developed. It's crazy that we're at this stage now, where it's just a case of waiting for labour to start. It's the not knowing thats frustrating. It could be today, it could be next week, it could be another FIVE weeks!! I've spent that last few weeks panicking at every twinge and cramp, incase thats been the start of something, because its been so important to me to get to today so we can have the baby at home. Being in hospital was never something I wanted to do, it doesn't seem right to me, because as far as I'm concerned, hospital means theres something wrong, so getting to todays landmark has been just as important to me as having a healthy baby.

Bump is most definitely massive now...

It's getting tricky to get up off the sofa & to get out of bed. Rolling over in the night is particularly painful, especially since my hips and lower back click and crack everytime I do due to Pelvic Girdle Syndrome (you produce a hormone called 'relaxin' when you're pregnant to help loosen your hips for labour, but some women produce too much and it can cause a lot of discomfort in the pelvis). I saw the midwife on wednesday and she says that babys head is starting to engage, so the extra pressure of that isn't really making things any more comfortable - the waddling has started too because of babys position. Bump has changed shape as a result of baby dropping - its hard to tell in this picture, which was actually taken a couple of days ago and baby has dropped more since then. Before baby dropped, bump was quite high, right under my chest, and went out and then down so it looked more like a C shape, but now that baby has dropped, theres space between my chest and the top of bump, and it slopes a bit more so the whole thing is more of a teardrop shape. Its also much more forwards and right in the centre than it was. Baby is lying with its back on the left hand side of my bump, head at the bottom, bum in my ribs, so when it wriggles around, I can feel its arms and legs waving about on the right hand side of my belly. The other half was lying with his head on my bump the other day and he said it felt like baby was massaging his head because of the way it was moving around underneath him. Its really touching hearing him giggle as baby kicks him, I do exactly the same thing though. Baby knows when he's there - it'll suddenly wake up and start moving lots, and responds to his voice and touch much more than it does with anyone else (apart from me of course).

We've got pretty much everything we need for babys arrival now. I've spent ages washing all the clothes and neatly sorting them into the drawer....

My dad bought us a pushchair as our christmas present which he brought round a couple of weeks ago. The other half was even more excited about it than me and pretty much the minute dad had left, he was in the box getting the bits out to assemble it. I love it - Ollivander was very keen to try it out! We've been keeping the chassis folded up and the pram part upside down on top of a chest of drawers because otherwise Olli will sleep inside it all the time and we don't want it getting covered in cat hair - so instead he sleeps on top of it, which is quite funny. It's like he's a bit jealous of the baby already, either that or he's trying to get his scent all over the babys things so they can get used to each other. He still loves sitting on my bump and purring so baby kicks him - its nice that they're playing together already!

We also ordered our birthing pool a couple of weeks ago after the midwife had been round to check the house and talk everything through with me. We just have to make sure theres a route out of the house in case of an emergency, that theres a flat surface for them to put baby on in the very unlikely event they need to help it breathe, and we also need a little lamp so they can see properly incase I need stitches. We've started collecting up old towels and sheets to put all over the living room floor under the pool so we won't have any cleaning up to do - they'll all just go straight in the bin, and I've got some brand new really fluffy lovely towels to wrap baby in as soon as its born. We had to blow the pool up the other day so the midwife could come and check its size - its important its not too big so they can reach me/baby while I'm in there. It took about 2 mins to blow up which was great - the only problem is that the connector we've got to fit the filling hose to the tap doesn't fit and my mum has brought me two other universal ones which also don't fit. I'm going to get a square one and see if that works but if not, well be begging buckets, saucepans and kettles of all the neighbours!! We both got in the pool when we'd blown it up to see what its like - its actually really nice being in it. Quite intimate and cosy, and it's big enough for us both so He can get in with me during labour, or straight after baby is born if he wants to. I'm sure the cat will try and get in as well!

Yesterday I sent the latest draft of my upgrade document to my supervisors for them to look over and comment on. We've got supervision on the 21st where they'l give me some feedback to think about, but I don't plan on doing any work on it now until baby is a few months old and my brain starts working again. I don't have to hand it in until August so i've got plenty of time to make changes and edits as and when baby lets me. It's weird that I'm now officially on 'maternity leave' in that I have no more work to do, no more lectures to go to, no deadlines - although I'm not offically on leave according to the uni, because if I go on leave, my funding stops and we don't want that. I've deliberately worked my arse off to get myself 4 months ahead of where I need to be so I can take time out without it being a problem. I've proven to the admin people and the PhD coordinator who makes the final decisions that I don't need a suspension and because theres no maternity policy for students, I've actually been in a really good position to dictate what I want to happen, and they couldn't really say no. I can't quite believe I'm at this stage already though. It seems like only last week I was meeting with my supervisors to tell them I was pregnant and to discuss how to manage the PhD around my pregnancy and now I'm here, at the end of the working bit, waiting for the motherhood bit. Crazy.

Everyones started asking me if I'm nervous, or scared about the birth, and the fact that theres going to be a baby in my life, but in all honesty I'm really not. Him and I were talking about it the other day and I was saying that I'm just excited about what its going to be like, I don't see the point of being scared, and he completely agrees. We know whats going to happen, we're prepared for every eventuality, we know what to do when it happens, what we're going to do for the first few weeks after babys arrival and we're both staying quite calm about the whole thing, because thats a really important part of the birthing process. If i start talking about fear and pain and things like that now, I'm not going to be in the right frame of mind when it does happen. What I do know, is that I don't like waiting. Its the waiting and not knowing when its going to happen thats driving me mad. Every day now I get little twinges and feel uncomfortable and I think 'is this it' and when I realise it isn't, I actually get a bit grumpy and disappointed. He wants it to take a few more weeks, just so he's more comfortable leaving things at work for a few days to be at home with me and the bay, but he knows we don't really have a choice and it'll happen when it happens. He just needs to keep his phone charged and on him at all times so I'm not stressing out trying to get hold of him when I should be relaxing and enjoying labour!

I imagine, I'll blog quite a lot between now and the birth, mainly because I've got nothing else to do and I want to try and keep writing. I'm not sure how much time I'm going to spend away from the house - as much as I still want to be out and about doing things, I think I'd rather be at home when it all starts so I'm not concerning myself with getting back here and worrying about my waters breaking on the bus, or in the middle of a coffee shop. I'm just going to take each day as it comes, make spontaneous plans with people and relax as much as I possibly can - after all, I won't have the chance too once baby arrives.