Fear and excitement. Week 36.

It’s week 36 and everything I’ve been experiencing is becoming intensified.

1. Nesting

To put this into context, domestically I am not a motivated person. I have spent many a Saturday in bed watching Netflix and ordering pizza from Hungry House so I don’t have to go into the kitchen to make food or face chores.

Last week I had a surge of crazy nesting activity for about 8 hours. Some kind of force took over my body and I spent the whole day in a maniacal whirlwind, cleaning and what I’m calling ‘effort proofing’ the flat.

It entailed analysing each room and adapting it for minimum effort, sanitation and maintenance. I removed cushions that we had in the living room which shed feathers, I threw away material bath mats (which need to be washed every couple of weeks) to be replaced with wooden ones. I ran around Kingston buying cork boards to pin up the baby’s weekly activities and a ‘Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…’ organisational board to put on the wall. I cleaned out all the kitchen cupboards and organised the contents. I washed all the baby’s clothes and bedding in mild hypoallergenic washing powder, bought new soap dispensers and made a concoction of non paraben, non-perfumed liquid soap mixed with pure coconut oil. I wiped down the inside of the fridge and I cleared all surfaces of objects and clutter so they can be easily polished.

My eye seems to home in on dust and fluff on the floor like an eagle on a field mouse. I’m forever squirting loads of bleach into the toilets and my sense of smell is heightened, based on the fact I now seem to be able to smell everyone’s breath on the train and what the neighbours are cooking for dinner when I walk down the hall.

The next day I was exhausted, my legs and arms ached as though I’d been for a long run.

2. Excitement

A positive development is that, since we went through all the stages of labour at NCT, my fear of it has diminished somewhat and been replaced with sheer excitement. Labour means she’s coming, she’s actually coming. Yes, it will hurt – beyond belief probably, but I’m ready for the pain to come. What even is pain? It isn’t going to kill me.

3. Fear

Fear is frequent and significant. A list of fears is building daily, here are some of the most prevalent:

  • The baby will be placed on the floor somehow and someone will tread on her.
  • The baby will fall asleep and simply never wake up.
  • I will fall asleep holding the baby and when I wake up I will have smothered her.
  • Guests will come round, pass germs onto her and make her ill.
  • She will overheat (we bought a thermometer for her room and it’s currently about 26 degrees C in there, 6 degrees hotter than it should be).
  • She will just degenerate like the spider plant I’ve just chucked in the bin – and like every plant I’ve ever had.
  • And perhaps the most ridiculous: a wild animal like a kestrel or a fox will fly in or jump onto the balcony, snatch her and run/fly away, while I scream in anguish as I watch her move further and further into the distance until she is just a dot on the horizon.

4. Sentimentality and emotional instability

Can’t see anything bad, can’t watch anything bad. Can’t read the paper, can’t hear the news. Can’t acknowledge the horrors in the world because my baby is coming into it.

Physical issues:

I’ve developed Carpal Tunnel syndrome (when you fingers and hands become stiff and painful). This is most horrible in the mornings – my hands become stuck in a position as though they are bandaged up. It eases a bit throughout the day. The midwife says it should go after the baby is born.

I am becoming clumsy due to fatigue and the added weight. I tried to tread over my birthing ball last week and ended up treading on it, rolling over it and hitting the floor, which gave Jake and I a fright, but the baby is fine.

Baby brain (which has so far been a little difficult to distinguish from my natural scattiness) is now magnified to an almost Alzheimers degree. I’ve been getting on the wrong buses and tubes, moving things around the flat and leaving them in odd places, throwing valuable things in the bin – and most awfully, blaming poor Jake (initially), because I just couldn’t comprehend how it could have been me.

I’m breathless and need to sit or lie in specific positions in order to be able to breathe properly.

There is an increasing pressure on my pelvic floor, currently feels like there is the weight of a bowling ball bearing down on it. When I sit on the loo I feel a fleeting concern that everything may just drop out in a terrible and gruesome, freak prolapse situation.

Lastly, and most gratefully, the baby (who is getting powerful but sluggish) has turned around from her previously transverse position and is now – according to what the midwife has written in my folder: ‘ceph’, which means she is head down and ready to engage. She is a petite little pixie, measuring a week smaller than her gestational age at the moment – but still within normal range.
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On the boob

Last week my NCT group all met for a three hour introduction to breastfeeding from a lactation expert. Even the gents turned up, which was nice.

I’m burying my head in the sand about the role my nipples will need to play in all of this. I’m really not keen on the idea of having them chowed down on. Thus far, I’ve read nothing on the matter and ended up fleeing from Boots in panic last time I was faced with nipple shielding paraphernalia.

We focused on the very first feed and saw an amazing video of a baby, seconds after it’s birth, being placed on the stomach of its mother and slowly worming it’s way up towards her boobs to feed. The baby ‘roots’ by bobbing it’s head up and down on the mother’s chest in various places until it’s nose hits her nipple, which triggers a reflex for the baby to open it’s mouth wide and latch on. Apparently letting the baby bob it’s own way onto the boob is the best way to get a good and painless latch at first. If babies have a little pethidine in their system after birth, they will be too tired to do this straight away, but that’s fine because they can try once they’ve slept it off.

We learned that in order for it not to hurt the mother, the baby needs to get the nipple so far into its mouth that it hits the soft part of the back of the throat. Any less than that and it rubs against the hard ridges of the roof of the baby’s mouth and then you get the dreaded chafe. If the latch is painful, you need to wedge your little finger into the baby’s mouth and prize it off like a limpet.

We had a demo of different positions to feed a baby in using plastic dolls. It was slightly surreal to glance around the room and see the men practice suckling the dolls, but great that they felt comfortable getting involved.

We were prepped on the slimy appearance of the newborn by being shown a video of a brand new, slippery vernix-covered one – and warned that washing the baby straightaway is no longer recommended (as there are a benefits to letting the baby bask in it’s own vernix for a while). It’s sticky and yellowy white, not so bad really. A couple of the gents looked a bit peaky at the sight, and one mumbled something about probably needing to go and top up the car parking meter at that point. Jake commented that it was similar to keeping the plastic cover on your mobile phone for a little bit after purchase – sensible.

We learned of the benefits of skin-to-skin immediately after the birth – that the mother’s body regulates the baby’s temperature and the physical connection releases the hormonal influxes the mother needs to promote milk production and help her pass the placenta quicker. Truly amazing.

We also saw the different types of milk that we will produce – colostrum initially, the glutinous golden tree-sap-like substance packed full of antibodies for the baby, followed by a watery milk, followed by a thick milk – more like your average blue top, with dense nutrients. The baby needs to try and suckle through these three courses to get everything she needs. She should stop when she’s drained everything, but you have to check in case she’s just tired – if you swap her over to the other boob prematurely she might not get the thick milk at the end of the first boob. This is also why you should never time the baby on one boob before you swap to the other. Babies all feed differently, some are efficient feeders and can drain a tit in as little as ten minutes. Others can take up to 45.

Their stomachs are only the size of a marble when they are first born, so they will only drink a very small amount. Young babies sometimes like to ‘cluster feed’ – small feeds every tens mins or so.

Breastfeeding is tricky. We were advised to keep at it, and if it isn’t going swimmingly but you still want to persevere, it is better to encourage the newborn to suck from a little cup or a tea spoon rather than a bottle – as drinking from a bottle is much easier for them than breastfeeding, and they are clever little creatures who won’t go back to working the teat once they know they can have easier access to grub. Who would?

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Ode to my big belly

I will miss you, big belly, when you’re gone.

My precious egg
With your rumbling song.

My silent companion
I watched as you grew,
Holding a seedling, shining and new.

Slowly, you swelled
Happy and strange
Clutching our treasure,
Together we changed.

Watching your surface, the lake of Loch Ness
Stroking your roundness
Easing your stress.

Shirking the throng

Taking our time

Climbing the stairs

Waiting in line.

We never rush

Our goal isn’t speed

But slowly to nurture, coddle and feed.

We first shared our secret,
But now we can’t hide

We walk through the world
With our cargo, our pride.

Month after month, we’ve carried our freight,
Nothing to do but be

And wait.

Sleeping around you,
Siamese twins

You soak up your lotion,
Shadow my shins.

You’re noticed at parties
Patted, admired,
I’m grateful you’re there
holding court when I’m tired.

You anchor my day
And buoy me at night
Together we trundle, the end in our sight.

Soon we will part, my cumbersome friend.
Our time as companions must come to an end.

A wriggling, bouncing Kinder Surprise,

Breathless, we wait for the present inside.

Jessica Dearlove, 17.6.14

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NCT – session one

We’ve just got back from our first NCT session. You may remember me moaning about the price a while ago. Now I’m a couple of pay cheques down the line and the sting of the transfer is over, I can report that it has already been 100% worth the money for a first time fretter such as myself – and we’re only one session down with two to go.

We bumbled into a room with seven other couples – all the ladies with matching bumps, smiling mouths and tired eyes and all the men making lighthearted wise cracks with a detectable note of fear hidden beneath their jubilance.

We paired up with someone other than our partner at the start and had to learn their name, due date and the hospital they are due to give birth at – and report it back to the wider group. Over the course of the day we progressed from gleaning these fundamentals at the beginning, to sitting around freely talking about massaging perineums at the end, whilst studying laminated images of a dilated cervix.

I was previously preoccupied with whether the people at NCT would be my ‘type’, viewing the cost as a down payment on some kind of mummy-friend speed dating event – but once you get there you realise you already have the biggest thing in common with them all, and you really don’t need anything else binding you together to feel the comfort of companionship and camaraderie.

The highlight of the session was the woman running it – Rebecca. She was so very wise and knowledgeable on the subject of birth. You can’t underestimate how reassuring it is to have access to someone like that, who is available for six hours straight to answer your every idiotic question (and the idiotic questions of others that you never even thought of). A busy midwife would never have the time to indulge you in such a way.

We did a couple of exercises with the men and women in separate groups. It was nice to get people away from the partner dynamic. The women could then freely talk about some of the gorier aspects that they may have shielded their parter from, and it made sense to have the men together as naturally their knowledge base on birth matters was sparser than the women’s and their fears and worries were different. We had to write down what we expected from the course and the areas we were keen to explore. Then the men’s group had to basically create a birth plan, structured around them working through a series of decisions that may need to be made once labour kicks off, while the women created an image of their perfect birthing environment – an exercise which helps you to focus on what’s important to you.

The second half of the session entailed Rebecca talking us through each stage of labour in detail, running through the approximate timings of dilation from one to ten centimetres and all the physical changes inside the body i.e. what is actually going on in there during all the pain. Also covered were optimum positions to get into to help the baby come out, ways to breath to manage pain, things to think about wearing, packing, eating and such an abundance of other advice.

I’d heard some negative comments about NCT counsellors before I booked the course, in that they push for women to do everything naturally without drugs and are staunchly anti bottle feeding. I didn’t find this to be the case with ours. She was very human and very neutral. She seemed keen just to impart knowledge so we could use it as we liked, to help prepare us to make the right decisions for ourselves as individuals, both ante and postnatally. I was pleasantly surprised that she wasn’t a wafty hippie with Crocs on, but had extensive knowledge on the medical aspects. We were also really lucky to have an anaesthetist in the group who gave us a twenty minute comprehensive explanation of the ins, outs, pros, cons and risks of pethidine and epidurals.

I learned a substantial amount over the session today which I didn’t think was possible as I’ve been Googling for England. Internet research isn’t a substitute for receiving tailored information from a professional that’s relevant to your specific circumstance. I’ve also met some really nice people and have been left with a residual positive and excited feeling about the birth. Money well spent.

Sideways

I’ve just had my week 34 appointment (a bit early as I’m 33 weeks and 3 days).

The midwife measured my belly from the bottom of my ribs to my pubic bone and the size was normal – which indicates that baby’s size is on track. I was worrying a tad because my weight gain has slowed down recently and stopped at 18 pounds. I can’t gorge food the way I did in the second trimester as my stomach is squashed by the baby – I’ve effectively been given a gastric band.

My lust for cake and Krispy Kremes has mercifully waned over the last couple of weeks, too. Of course, if you handed me one I’d consume it enthusiastically, but I don’t go sniffing them out like a crazed Labrador anymore. I’m sure more than one person in the office has noticed me attending the leaving speeches and birthday gatherings of people I’ve never met and shamelessly loitering around the cake. I’d clap along after the speeches and then wait a respectable 30 seconds before precisely aligning myself in front of the plates in order to slyly collect my rationing before the masses bumbled forth. Once I’d secured my prize, I’d slink away like a dog with a chicken bone to savour it’s spongey sweetness in peace. Thankfully, those desperate days are over.

The baby is relaxing in her uterine pad transverse style at the moment i.e. sideways. There are two naval orange-sized balls on each side of my abdomen that sink and resurface throughout the day – one is her head and the other is her little rump. I think the ball on the right hand side is her head because this is where her hiccups emanate from. It’s not a problem right now because she has time and space to move, but she needs to get herself into a vertical position in the next few weeks or the medics will need to intervene. I understand they can try to turn the baby from the outside. There are also some less invasive things I can do, like getting on all fours and sticking my bum in the air to give her room to turn – or playing music and flashing lights where we need her head to go, to try and entice her down. What I like to think of as the ‘Pied Piper technique’. You can also try putting some ice where her head is to encourage her to move out of her current position. A little discourteous, but perhaps necessary. If all of this fails – she will need to come out via c-section, but it’s too early to speculate on this yet. I think about all the babies in history who were transverse before we had clever doctors and c-sections. They all would have perished along with their mothers.

I was rudely awoken this morning at 5:30am with a very painful calf cramp. It just seized up and locked into one position, trapping a nerve. I’ve read that it happens to pregnant women, and I’ve had niggling restless leg syndrome over the last few weeks, but this cramp was unpleasant. I was wailing out and Jake woke up and massaged it back into place.

My hair is now mane-like. I’ve only noticed losing about eleven hairs since the start of the pregnancy (and I usually have to routinely pull out golf ball-sized lumps of it from the shower plug hole to allow the water to go down).

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Shame I can’t keep it – the excess will all drop out after the baby is born. Jake’s pet theory is that pregnant women retain all their hairs as a hangover from their cave women days, so they can shed the hairs after the birth and make a bed / nest for their newborn.

I think it’s so the big hair can visually balance out the size of the pregnant woman’s body, and distract her mate from noticing that she’s ballooned to the size of a festival portaloo. I’ve also read that it’s to try and salvage some sexual allure for the male and stop him running off with a lithe, non-pregnant and invariably less grumpy female.

The blind shave

Before I launch into this, I just want to apologise to any family members that find this post a bit much. In my defence, the blog is meant to be a memoir of the trials and tribulations of being pregnant – warts and all. And that is what it shall be.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve clapped eyes on the Notorious V.A.G.
(Stolen from the hilarious ‘101 things to call your lady garden’)

It is now 100% obscured by my tremendous gut. Trying to catch a glimpse of it from above is like sitting behind a member of the All Blacks in the cheap seats at the musical ‘Cats’. You can crane your neck and strain around them all you like – but you’ll only ever get a fleeting glimpse of side fluff from Mr Mistoffelees.

This has posed a problem which I’ve been brushing under the (excuse the pun) carpet for the last couple of weeks: how to maintain an orderly bush.

I desperately don’t want to have to go through a bloody Brazilian wax in my third trimester.

How is this girl going to give birth if she can’t withstand a Brazilian wax? I hear you ask.

Well, to that I say: I have pretty much no option other than to squeeze this infant out in eight weeks time, but I do have the option of whether to lie like a basking walrus on a slab, have hot wax poured on my nethers and my pubes wrenched out by a thin-wristed, nineteen year old beautician. I really feel like I deserve a break at this point – don’t you?

Veet, by the way, is not an option. They don’t recommend putting the chemicals so close to your unmentionables during pregnancy.

I’ve been thinking around this problem for a while and come to the conclusion that a blind shave is the only way to go. I did consider asking Jake to assist but eventually decided I needed to harvest dignity where I could in the run up to the birth – because heaven knows the reserves will be depleted after it.

I commenced the operation in the bath with my Venus. The whole thing felt dangerously precarious. Ideally I would have had an ear piece on with someone shouting directions from below, but alas, it was down to me and only me to complete the mission.

The ensuing twenty minutes delivered tension to rival any ‘red wire / blue wire’ bomb disposal scene you may have seen in a Hollywood film. In fact, if you find yourself watching a scene with a heavily pregnant woman blindly shaving her muff in the bath whilst staring at the ceiling, praying – you’ll know the producers of ‘Speed 12’ took my idea on board.

When it was all over, I was quite chuffed with the unseen results. In my mind’s eye I now have a beautifully coiffured lady rat. In reality, it is probably a mess. Not dissimilar to the grounds of Glastonbury on the Monday morning, or a hairless cat donning a toupee.

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