Before the baby

 

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Stunning photo of me – by Dani Salmon Photography – more to follow soon hopefully

My pregnancy yoga classes are roughly split into three parts: the introductions, where we go around the circle of mats, say our names, how pregnant we are and a bit about how we’ve been feeling lately. Then the actual yoga bit, which is (just about) the longest section. Followed by a blissful guided relaxation close.

Having come from dynamic ashtanga yoga classes into pregnancy yoga, this was quite the pace change for me. No more sweaty mats and frowns if you stop for a sip of water.

Surprisingly, the intro section has proven to be one of the most helpful parts of the classes: a mini counselling session for everyone, where no one minds if you want to spend five minutes lamenting your pregnancy insomnia / SPD / how much you’re counting down to maternity leave. Everyone always listens and sympathises, with the added bonus of actually being interested, as they’re pregnant too. 

Anyway, today we discussed the strange transition stage between becoming a mother and being heavily pregnant with your first child. A strange no man’s land where you’re on the cusp of something that you know will be life changing: but you just don’t have a clue how it’s going to be. My mind seems to have opened up to these thoughts during the past week or so, after a couple of weeks of maternity leave feeling just like a standard two weeks off work.

Of course, there’s not much that I can do about this feeling of unsure in-between-ness. It’s just a case of waiting for this baby to turn up and dealing with the aftermath. But as my lovely yoga teacher reminded me this morning, that’s ok. I don’t need to feel incapable about not knowing how to feel. It will happen. The world will go on and I’ll cope.

And I’m sure that when it does, there will be aspects of pregnancy that I’ll miss. As an antidote to the seriousness of this post, I thought I’d document a few of the positive things that have come to mind when I think about not being pregnant any more. Things to look forward to after the baby, so I can’t forget that it wasn’t all sweetness and light these past few weeks:

  • being able to get out of bed without making ‘heave ho’ noises
  • going for more than an hour between needing to pee
  • shopping for some new gym wear and going for a run in the sunshine
  • getting back into spinning and body pump classes (eventually!)
  • starting mum and baby yoga
  • having a couple of glasses of wine/cocktails with a meal out
  • getting my non-pregnancy clothes out of storage and doubling my outfit options
  • my appetite getting back to normal, so I can enjoy a proper evening meal again, without wanting to just eat a packet of Refreshers instead.

All quite superficial things, but hopefully stuff I can embrace over the coming months to enjoy the new stage of my life.

Did you feel/are you feeling the same towards the end of your pregnancy? Have I missed anything off my ‘after the baby’ list? Any tips for avoiding the potential for baby/missing pregnancy blues – or is this just part and parcel of pregnancy ending and motherhood beginning?

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Natural childbirth remedies: reflexology

Ok, not so much a remedy as an aid or induction technique, perhaps?

I am a firm believer in the benefits of many alternative therapies* – whether the effects are physical, psychological – or both. In fact, I’m a qualified massage therapist, don’t you know, so I’m probably a little biased. But I think it’d be hard to deny that touch has a wonderfully soothing, immediately positive effect on a huge range of ailments.

I’ve long heard reflexology mentioned as beneficial while pregnant – to tackle any hormonal imbalances, as a relaxing therapy and also to treat the dreaded third trimester pregnancy cankles/swollen feet.

In short, reflexology is built on the belief that different areas of the feet correspond to certain areas and systems in the body. Many reflexology points correspond with those taught in Chinese acupuncture and my therapy, Thai yoga massage, which is very interesting to a geek like me.

I’ve been lucky enough not to have suffered from swollen feet and I’ve had a couple of pregnancy massages over the past eight or so months, so time and money hasn’t allowed for any reflexology. However, at the end of my second pregnancy massage a few weeks ago, my therapist did five minutes of reflexology at the end to the treatment. A blissful, deeply peaceful five minutes where I nearly fell asleep. This led me to booking on an additional half hour of reflexology on my ‘congrats for reaching full term’ massage last week, to focus on getting this baby out now that I’ve passed my due date.

I find it really hard to switch off during ‘enforced’ relaxation time: during many years of attempted yoga relaxation wind downs. I often just compile mental to do lists as that’s way more soothing than getting agitated at being unable to join in with the guided visualisations. But for some reason, light repetitive pressure applied to my feet practically sends me to sleep.

Aside from the relaxation aspect, reflexology can apparently be used to induce labour, by stimulating specific pressure points linked to the endocrine system, thus releasing the hormones needed to get labour going. In spite of the very gentle pressure used, my feet also felt light and free of tension after the treatment.

I haven’t benefited from the induction benefits yet, but if I had the time, I’d definitely book myself in for a follow up treatment just for the blissful half hour of relaxation and would highly recommend as a pregnancy treat if you’re considering it. A series of treatments during the last month or two of pregnancy would probably be more effective than my random approach.

If you’re Warwickshire-based, I’d highly recommend Lisa Moore at the Leamington Therapy Centre (she also does a fantastic pregnancy massage, which I may blog about separately!) If you can’t get to a therapist, you could enlist a willing partner or friend to do a DIY treatment.

Have you had any success with reflexology to encourage labour – or any other alternative therapies?

*Not reiki, which just seems a little too hocus pocus for me – also – no massage involved; what’s that all about?

The four-word birth plan

You’d think that at 40+5, my birth plan would be complete; signed and sealed if not yet delivered. However, going past my due date has given me some time to give it some more detailed consideration.

The essence of my birth plan is four words: get the baby out.

I’m well aware that birth does not generally go to plan. I don’t mean that in a negative way: just that it’s impossible to know when, how, what and where labour is going to take place. I’m a great believer that thinking about something too much in advance of it actually happening usually leads to disappointment.

And yet, I am an organised soul; there’s no getting away from that. Yes; I’m the person who completed an audit of all wedding-related decor two weeks before the wedding, just because I couldn’t handle not having an itemised, numbered list of everything along with labelled boxes.

So alongside my unusually laid back birth plan, there is of course a little more detail:

  • minimal pain relief (if I can cope)
  • water birth if possible
  • encourage active labour
  • skin to skin after birth
  • wait until umbilical cord has stopped pulsating before cutting
  • husband to cut the cord and announce gender
  • yes to vitamin K injection and injection for third stage

These all seem like fairly arbitrary things to me though: over the past week or so, since I actually filled in the birth plan section in my maternity notes, I keep thinking that I’m missing something. Should I be more specific and add more detail? For instance, to keep active, I’d like my husband and the midwife to prompt me to change position when possible and necessary. But I’ve presumed that they will do that anyway and have discussed plans with my husband, so he’ll know to prompt this. I’d like to try and get the baby to latch ASAP on after delivery – but again, that seems to be something that will happen if possible anyway.

As I’m hoping to have the baby in our local midwife-led birth centre, I’m assuming that the less medicalised, more patient-centric approach will encourage my wishes as part of their ethos. But are these details that are worth spelling out? And does the birth plan even get more than a cursory glance in the delivery room anyway? Any thoughts and experiences are very welcome.

MAD Blog Awards (and 40 weeks!)

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So, this is a little embarrassing, given that I haven’t actually blogged for a number of weeks, but it seems I’ve been nominated for a blog award.

Some kind soul has nominated me for Best Pregnancy Blog in the 2014 MAD Blog Awards. If that’s you, thank you! Lovely to know someone’s reading and liked my blog enough to make the effort to actually nominate me.

I believe that the winner is chosen by the number of votes on the MAD website. If you enjoy reading and would like to vote for this here blog, you can fill in a short online form. The deadline is 14 March.

And on that note, I’m off to scribble down some post ideas so that I can make amends for lack of blogging over the next couple of weeks. However, please note that I’m now 40+3, so on borrowed time with the pregnancy blog status. Let’s see how long it lasts…

Natural childbirth remedies: raspberry leaf

ImageIf you want to bring on labour, it seems that raspberry leaf tea is not the way to go. However, if you want to try and shorten the second stage of labour it might be worth a shot, due to its ability to increase the strength of contractions.

Strong evidence does seem to be patchy… but then that seems to be a very common theme with any natural childbirth remedies unfortunately. A combination of difficulty in establishing cause and effect (women consuming raspberry leaf will likely be close to their due date anyway – so who’s to say that the herbs triggered the labour?) – and a lack of much research (researching pregnant ladies is high risk) – makes for very unscientific reasoning.

However, there doesn’t seem to be anything to suggest that consuming raspberry leaf is dangerous – so I say it’s worth a shot.

I’ve gone for the tablet form so that I don’t need to faff around with brewing the tea version. The tablets are also stronger, I believe. Advice seems mixed on when’s best to start taking raspberry leaf – ranging from 32 – 37 weeks. I’ve just started at 36 weeks. I shall report back with any news in a few weeks (if I go into labour before my due date, it’s totally thanks to the tablets, right?)

Have you read any interesting research into the effects of raspberry leaf as a childbirth aid? Have you used it successfully? I’d love to hear any stories – please comment!

Great online baby and maternity discounts

If my previous posts haven’t revealed enough, I’m an internet shopping devotee. Little makes me happier than finding a money off code for something I was going to buy online anyway. And two that you can use together? Having palpitations over here.

I’ve spotted a few good discounts from baby stuff retailers this week and a couple have landed in my inbox, so I thought I’d do a quick roundup in case they’re of use to anyone else.

Mothercare is offering £5 off a £30+ spend until 31 January: JANDISCOUNT.

There is also a £10 off £50+ spend code if you download the Mothercare app and then purchase through the app. A code will be sent to you via the app once you download it.

If you click through via Topcashback, you can also get 5.25% cashback – definitely worth it if you’re spending £30+. There is still a 1/2 price sale on baby clothes too.

H&M has two long running codes that can be used together. The first gives you £5 off an order and the second gives you free delivery: 1304 and 1055. I think the minimum spend for the free delivery is £6.

Both of these can be used for any items across the site (might have just ordered myself a scarf…) There is also a 20% off baby clothes code which might be worth it if you’re doing a big order as you’ll save more: 1121.

I believe that if you sign up to their newsletter as a new customer you can also get hold of a 25% off code.

New Look is offering £5 off a £25+ spend until 2 February: ECBUKJAN13.

Again, this isn’t limited to maternity stuff but they have a great selection online – much better than in any of my local stores.

Isabella Oliver, purveyor of lovely but a little-too-expensive maternity wear has a great sale still on. This weekend there is also free delivery across all sale items with code: JAN2014.

Right, I’m hiding my cards until February arrives. Happy shopping!

Natural childbirth remedies: arnica

My Amazon basket looks a little something like this at the moment:

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Yup, this week I’m all about the natural remedies. Anything that can possibly help with either bringing on labour, making it more manageable and reducing my recovery time has to be worth a shot.

I’ve been doing a little reading around the remedies that I’m considering and thought that someone else out there might appreciate some information on the various options out there. Please note ‘reading around’ has consisted of googling and picking out sources that look remotely reliable. Please see a midwife or GP if you have any questions about using any natural remedies!

First up, arnica.

Generally I’d say I was on side with Ben Goldacre, whose critique of homeopathy seems fairly watertight to me. So, being a homeopathic remedy, why am I considering ordering up some arnica pills to take in the run up to – and after – labour?

According to the British Homeopathic Society, arnica can help to reduce the bruising and bleeding of normal labour. I haven’t read any studies to back this up – so I’m open to the possibility that this is a placebo effect. However, I’ve used arnica in cream form to treat bruises – and I believe that it reduces bruising and recovery time. This is therefore something I’m happy to use. Numerous forum posts and reviews have positive things to say about the effect of arnica on bruising recovery after labour. Even if it’s a psychosomatic effect, it seems to be doing something.

If you want to take arnica, apparently it should be taken in the highest potency you can obtain, during and after labour. I have these ones in my Amazon basket. I couldn’t resist this lovely looking arnica bath oil, because even if it’s a figment of my imagination, every little helps right?

 

Plodding along

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I wanted to pop up a couple of days after my last post and get into regular blogging… but then I got distracted by Twitter and cups of tea and browsing ASOS, and… it really doesn’t take a lot these days to distract my already attention deficit brain. 

This is likely to be a pretty rambling post as I don’t have a specific topic or annoyance to rant – sorry, write about. But I wanted to keep writing, so all of those exciting blog post ideas that I did have last week come flooding back to me: so here we are.

Surprisingly, at 33 weeks I’m still feeling pretty good – despite the post-Christmas return to work. Maybe I’m over dramatising this late pregnancy lark and imagining it to be worse than it might be? I just keep expecting that any day I’m going to wake up knackered and finally unable to haul myself out of bed. That day might be on its way, but I’m just about managing to roll my bump and (increasingly lardy) bum out of bed to work in the mornings without too much hate. Yes, there are plenty of weeks still to go, but I’m very grateful to have made it this far and still feel healthy and energised.

That’s not to say I haven’t been huffing and puffing around lately: I have to stop myself from ‘heave ho’ sound effects when I get up from the sofa or the office chair. They aren’t really necessary, but seem to make the effort a little easier somehow. Climbing the stairs at work now feels like the last leg of a fast 10K, where your muscles are burning and you have to open up your lungs to find extra oxygen. But I’m stubborn and still do it, if only for my withering gluteus maximus.

These past couple of weeks, I have been really grateful for the pregnancy yoga classes that I’ve been taking since early on. The small pronounced ‘pony steps’ that we practise are slightly ridiculous, but a wonder for avoiding the dreaded pregnancy waddle. I don’t know what I’d do without some cat stretches when my back pain gets really irritating (document courtesy of my lovely yoga teacher). And the relaxation bit at the end is a lovely, guilt-free nap. 

One final thing: I think I’ve found my ideal pregnancy jeans. I don’t say this often, but thank you Top Shop. Nearly too late, but I got there in the end. They are skinny, but not too thin of leg. They’re a nice stretchy material with a generous waistband – and are just the right length. Miraculous. And definitely worth £38 which I was trying to avoid shelling out.

It’s a marathon

Source: Pinterest

I leave blogging for a few weeks and before I know it, I’m in the third trimester.

Time is now going very fast. This is good because I’m not particularly looking forward to going back to work after the Christmas break (11am lie-ins, don’t go, I need you) – and maternity leave is now firmly on the horizon with just six weeks of work to go.

However, I’m quite happy that at 31 weeks pregnant, I still (probably) have at least nine weeks of organisation (and resting) time to go. Especially since the third trimester fatigue and aches and pains are slowly setting in. Just when I was relishing the excellent second trimester energy boost, bam. So annoyingly predictable.

My pace is gradually being forced down as the baby claims yet more abdominal space. Where my stomach now is, I really have no idea. My lungs on the other hand, just feel like they’re being slowly compressed. By about 3pm every day, my mid-vertebrae feel like they want to pop out and start again tomorrow.

I’m totally aware that I’ve had an excellent pregnancy so far, in the grand scheme of things. I’ve avoided bad back pain, SPD and icky things like piles, constipation and varicose veins – so far. With that in mind, I’m adopting my marathon mindset for the remaining couple of months: just block it all out until you’re near the end. I’m not allowing myself to get in the mindset of slowing down too much or thinking about maternity leave until it’s imminent – perhaps 36 weeks since I finish at 38 weeks.

Don’t get me wrong: the sofa will remain very much my friend. But if I can, there are things I want to do over the coming weeks that starting to wind down mentally won’t help with: getting back to the swimming pool and eating more fruit and veg being just a couple.

And if it all goes t*ts up and I end up knackered and in defeat in a few weeks? Then at least I tried. The first step: getting an earlyish night for my 6:45am back-to-work wakeup tomorrow. Sob.

Losing my feet; finding my voice

It’s happened: I’m at the stage that I always imagined when I pictured how pregnancy would be.

There’s a definite bump and it’s getting scarily bigger every day. My maternity clothes actually fit like they’re supposed to and I’ve even had to beg and borrow some more (thanks Esme!)

Carrying around this undeniable sign that I’m pregnant all day, every day has been fascinating. To watch people’s sly glances at work from around 20 weeks while they were trying to figure out if I’d been eating too many office breakfasts or whether I was actually up the duff – to people’s little smiles now when they spot my nearly-28-week bump and realise that there’s a new little person in there.

It’s heart warming to know people do notice – and care. Especially given the long, tiring months of the first and second trimester in a brand new job feeling absolutely shocking but not being able to tell a soul.

Knowing that people are looking out for me has even made me patient with the repetitive Pregnancy Questions (PQs). Similar to the Wedding Questions (when’s the big day? What’s your colour scheme? Etc…), the PQs are predictable but well-meant. They often include the following: when are you due? Do you know if you’re having a girl or a boy? Have you had any cravings? I’m sure any of you currently or recently pregnant ladies will be able to reel off a load more.

I didn’t have a great deal of patience with the Wedding Questions, I have to be honest. Maybe it was the fact that we didn’t have a colour scheme – and no, I STILL hadn’t found a dress I liked. But the PQs I have much more time for, for some reason. Maybe answering them is some kind of payoff for the kindness of strangers? Maybe the hormones have got to me and I’ve developed a new level of saintly patience (given the grief my husband gets some days: unlikely)?

But I like the fact that I can open up to people I don’t really know and have an inconsequential chat with them – knowing that we’ll both come away from the conversation with a spring in our step.