28 Weeks – Warts and All

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*Warning, this blog post may contain a bit of TMI but it’s all true and sometimes you’ve just got to share this stuff because lets face it, sharing it caring (or so I try to teach my children when I want some of their chips).*

 

I often get asked how this pregnancy compares to my previous singleton pregnancies, so far it’s been kind of the same minus the extra scans and the same repetitive questions from people (are they identical, do you know the sex, are there twins in your family etc etc) but OH MY GOD something has seriously shifted in the Hooper uterus because in the past week I have noticed some seriously weird goings on in there!

  • Firstly the movements, they still feel like a bag of dancing squirrels but both babies are breech at the moment and the kicks down onto my cervix and vagina are UNREAL! I swear the other night if I had examined myself internally I would have discovered 2 sets of wriggling feet in there (I know logically this is impossible but still) #fanydaggers
  • And whilst we’re on the subject of ‘down there’ let’s a just say it’s a good thing I can’t actually see it any more because by the end of the day I feel like I’m smuggling plums in my pants. I did in fact get my poor husband to have a check to make sure nothing more sinister is going on, he reassured me there wasn’t but did ask if I was ever going to wax again……
  • Which leads me onto the ‘to wax/or not wax question’. I’m not sure I want to expose that area unnecessarily and lets face it I’m not getting my bikini on ANY TIME soon maybe I’ll leave it au naturale, I always tell my women anyway that midwives don’t bat an eyelid
  • The feeling of two hard heads under my ribs is so uncomfortable. I’m no longer able to wear underwired bras, I’m living in this one at the moment and in all honestly I’m most likely to be found braless by 6pm by my husband when he gets home from work
  • I’m moisturising  my bump like a crazy lady with Bio Oil but my skin this week feels like it’s really being stretched to its maximum capacity, if I get to the end of this pregnancy without one single stretch mark it will be nothing short of a miracle
  • My back is an absolute killer especially when driving. I’m spending lots of time in the deepest, hottest bath I can tolerate but I’m also seeing my Doula Beccy ‘magic’ Hands for regular massages. She’s seriously the best in the biz check her out here  and yes Hands is her actual surname, amazing
  • My boobs resemble a road map with the veins that have sprung up in the past few weeks and I’m already noticing a few drops of colostrum on my pyjama top when I wake up in the morning. All good stuff for the bubbas I guess
  • My husband made me laugh so hard the other night I wet myself. Yup. First I thought my waters had broken but luckily it was just a sign that my pelvic floor has given up entirely on it’s main function, Tenna Lady anyone?
  • Iron is not my friend or my bowels friend for that matter. I’m taking Pregnacare and extra iron (a recommendation for twin pregnancies) but I’m seriously bunged up. Flax seeds are being sprinkled on just about anything I eat but nothing is really helping. And anyone who has experienced constipation when pregnant knows how awful it is. There’s nothing worse, and straining on the loo ain’t pretty, nuff said
  • I did do the unthinkable at the weekend and weighed myself which surprisingly wasn’t as horrifying as I imagined –  just short of a stone heavier than my usual weight which I guess is ok considering there’s 2 of everything in there (but I doubt I’ll weigh myself again, not even for lolz)

BUT on a positive note to end with, we had our first Hypnobirthing session last week with the incredible Hollie de Cruz. She is literally something else. I know I’ve banged on about the amazing tools hypnobirthing teaches women but SERIOUSLY after one session we both felt so calm and connected and learnt all about breathing. Yes breathing, the simple thing we do totally subconsciously but it’s so important for labour and birth.  And my slightly sceptical husband has totally taken it on board, he’s put my positive affirmations around the house and has been doing the breathing exercises with me before I go to sleep. We are hooked!

Disclaimer: Whilst I am a registered midwife, I do not endorse or promote any specific brand or product in a professional capacity. My opinions are my own and are based on my personal experiences as a woman and a mother.

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Suzanne and Thea

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If at the start of my pregnancy, you’d asked me how I hoped I would give birth, I would have informed you that natural childbirth, not to mention a drug free, pain free one, was a myth!  And then I would have gone on to tell you that the only possible way our baby was coming to join us was via caesarean section.  Now, this isn’t a birth story where I turn a full 360 degrees, and tell you my daughter glided out into a pool at home with me smiling, and yogically breathing my way through labour.  Almost but no, not quite like that!  But my view of birth and my approach certainly changed as my pregnancy progressed, and my wonderful midwife Clemmie, was one of a number of people who played a part in that.

Throughout and since my teenage years I’d been told war stories of the pain of childbirth and more importantly, the aftermath and scars that are left, both physically and mentally on the female body.  I think women tell these stories partly to exorcise their own perhaps unhappy memories of difficult births, and also throughout history  we know that in small communities, women assisted younger women through pregnancy and childbirth, sharing experiences and aiding and teaching future generations of mothers.  So I think it’s mostly well intended, though it left me with such a fear of the butchering my body would undergo, that I spent my twenties telling people I didn’t want children!

But as is often the way, I entered my 30s with my biological clock ringing in my ears and after a long struggle, we were delighted when we got pregnant with our first child.

Around the time that Clemmie was assigned as my midwife, two other things happened that influenced my opinion of how I might give birth:

A friend recommended I read a book called Birth Skills by Juju Sundin, an Australian obstetric physiotherapist.  To say it blew my mind is an understatement.  It was the first time that I truly understood both the physiology and psychology of labour, and I began to believe that my body ‘knew’ what to do.  I learnt that labour pain is not the pain of illness or disease, but the healthy pain of the uterine muscle working.  It’s just a muscle that works hard, gets tired, and aches.  I accepted that though a part of me would be in pain during contractions, the rest of my body would be pain free!  And that it would only hurt for the duration of the contraction.  And I grew to accept that as I can’t control the pain of a contraction, why waste precious energy and time trying, why not put my energies into something else.  It also felt like the first time that someone was saying, you’re afraid of the pain of childbirth? You’re absolutely normal!

This message was also reinforced when I hired a doula named Milana Silva.  She believed that you could achieve a peaceful pain free birth though the power of the mind, but she also told me a doula was there to support the mother in anyway she needed, and if that meant assisting her though a c-section, or discussing an epidural, a doula is there for you.

And then there was the wonderful Clemmie, who listened to and answered my many questions, talked through my worries and concerns, and allowed me the time to work out my own birth plan.

The other truly important message of Birth Skills, (and that of my doula and midwife and mum) was that no matter what happens during your birth, the important part, the truly important thing to take away with you, is that you did your best for you and your baby, and it doesn’t matter how they arrived, what matters is they’re here.  You meet your baby!

So, how did my beautiful daughter Thea eventually join us?

I experienced Braxton Hicks from about the middle of my pregnancy, and I often wondered how I would know that I was having actual contractions.  But 3 days before my due date, I went to bed one Tuesday evening, and just as I was drifting off to sleep, I knew.  It suddenly felt different.  I glanced at my husband Rich who was sleeping beside me, and decided that until it was truly time, I wouldn’t wake him.  I then spent the next 9 hours making a note of how long each contraction lasted and how far apart they were.  When Rich woke up at 7am he said, “someone’s been wriggling around all night”, to which I replied, “someone’s been having contractions all night!”

I texted Clemmie and my doula to warn them, and attended a pre planned appointment with the consultant at Kings.  This appointment had originally been booked in to discuss their preference to not allow women aged 40 and over, to go beyond 40 weeks.  But on examination, I was told I was 2cm dilated and the lovely consultant,  said, “I’d be surprised if this baby wasn’t born within the next 48 hours!”

So off home I went to busy myself through the early stages of labour.  On the advice of Clemmie I baked a cake!  Two cakes actually!  I think secretly she likes to eat cake when she visits her ladies, but she says it’s a good way to take your mind off things!  I went for a walk to buy ingredients and had to stop quite often to breathe though the contractions, all the while thinking, OMG I’m in labour here, actual labour, but here I am walking along Lordship Lane buying cake ingredients!!

By the time we went to bed on the Wednesday evening, the intensity of the contractions was starting to increase.  Though Rich had been following me as I walked around the house, massaging my back with a wooden massage roller, I decided it was time to use the TENS machine I had hired, only the week before as a last minute decision.  Oh how glad I was that I hired it!  The TENS machine was perfect for me.  I paced the bedroom floor (as Birth Skills had taught me), focusing on my breaths and counting through the contraction or rhythmically repeating, healthy pain, healthy pain, with the TENS doing its thing on my lower back.  My little walks would take me to various baby girl dresses that Rich had hung up around the house, some of them with our 3D scan picture attached!  A sweet reminder of who we were about to meet.  In between contractions I sat in a comfortable chair in the corner of our bedroom, with the sound of waves playing quietly on the iPod.  I love being by the sea and had adored swimming throughout my pregnancy, so the wave sounds were hugely comforting to me.

On Thursday morning both Clemmie and my doula arrived and both commented on what a peaceful and serene scene they had entered into.  When I think back to my early fears I had not imagined any of this!  After examination Clemmie told me I could move to the pool if I wanted.  From a fearfully planned c-section to a birthing pool that was sitting in the dining room!  So you did do a full 360, and your baby did calmly glide out into water you ask?  Well no, not really, as two contractions in the pool later and I was yelling loudly to anyone who would listen that water alone does not cure pain! What was I thinking?!

But the next game changer then arrived in the shape of gas and air.  Oh it was Heaven!  For the next few hours I floated about in the warm water, with a fantastic chill out playlist playing in the background, and blissfully declared my love of entonox.  Really, this bit was just lovely.  I must have felt pretty ok throughout this stage of my labour, as I apparently offered pizza to anyone who was hungry and directed them to the freezer!

But as is often the way, things changed a little.  I became pretty worn out (by this time I hadn’t slept for two nights), and Thea became a bit stuck (holding a hand up by your ear will get in the way of your route through a birth canal y’know!).  Eventually, and happily, we transferred into hospital.  An epidural and some forceps later, and Thea was born on Thursday evening at 22:51, an hour and 9 minutes before her due date.  In the theatre a radio was playing Don’t Take Away the Music by Tavares.  Yes, baby was born to the sound of disco!

In the weeks after Thea arrived, a few people (on hearing my birth story) said, what a shame you ended up in Kings, rather than birthing naturally at home.  But honestly I look back and I don’t mind, nor care, that Thea was born in a theatre at Kings.  My birth choices were mine.  I’d educated and empowered myself and though of course was scared of the unknown, felt, if not confident, comfortable on the day I went into labour.  Not how I had originally imagined it at all.  From the early days of wanting a section, to deciding to buy a birth pool, and eventually to having the epidural, I was happy to make these choices for my baby and I, and they were all good choices at the time.  I learnt to be prepared to deviate from ‘the plan’ and trusted that it would all be ok, whatever happened.  The important thing is that I got to meet my daughter Thea.  How she arrived is really irrelevant.  She’s here and she’s amazing.

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So Did Kate Do It Her Way?

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Unless you’ve been living under a large rock for the last 24 hours or have no access to the media, Twitter, Facebook or any human contact, then you will know that Kate delivered a baby boy yesterday afternoon. My (invisible) midwife hat has been firmly on my head since the news broke that she was in early labour. I could not help speculating what has going on inside The Lindo wing and neither could my colleagues either. Heading over to Twitter this evening proved I wasn’t the only one with my spies out and here’s why.

The wonderful Rebecca Schiller aka The Hackney Doula has written a fantastic piece on her thoughts (and mine) on what we hope and believe Kate achieved to birth her baby boy.

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‘I’ll admit this is entirely speculation. I have no idea what has been going on inside the Lindo Wing for the last 36 hours and it’s good that I don’t know. Very few people, with the exception of Romola Garai , want the world’s media to have knowledge of the state of their post-partum perineum.

However on careful viewing of the footage of Kate emerging 27 odd hours after birth, I’m putting myself on the record saying that I think she had a spontaneous vaginal birth without instruments and without an epidural. Why? Well, as @midwifeyhooper, @beverleyturner and I have been saying on twitter she is walking and carrying her baby with ease. There’s no hesitation or grimacing when going down steps or into the car; all of which would be pretty impossible so quickly after a caesarean.

The baby has no tell-tale lumps from a ventouse cup or forceps marks on his face. Kate herself has no bruises on the back of her hands or wrists suggesting no epidural or synthetic hormones.

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Of course, anything is possible, but her apparent lack of discomfort, her energy and her short stay in hospital and seemingly quite speedy timeline all point to a straightforward birth.

In many ways I feel guilty for speculating, for grubbily pouring over the photos searching for evidence. She’s just a woman adjusting to one of the most momentous changes in her life and I’m sure she doesn’t need us all wondering about ‘mode of delivery’ (hateful phrase). It’s her business and as long as she feels happy, well-supported and that it was a good and safe experience who cares if she had an elective caesarean or a water birth?

Yet, I can’t help feeling it does matter. If Kate was really keen to have a natural, vaginal birth and had really spent time practising antenatal yoga, Natal Hypnotherapy and the like I feel delighted for her that she had the birth she wanted and prepared for. In many ways the odds were stacked against her. Like over 90% of UK women she gave birth in a consultant-led unit (in her case with two dedicated consultants) when the evidence clearly shows that midwife-led care is the most appropriate, safest and cost-effective for low-risk women. She also gave birth at a private hospital with, reportedly, a 100% epidural rate, a high caesarean rate and no birth pool. (Though I wonder if an inflatable pool is being deflated as I type).

Sadly many UK women aren’t so lucky. Shunted in to consultant-led care through lack of available options they have a 45% chance of having an operative birth. Shocking when you think that the birth centre down the road would have dropped that chance by nearly 30%, while costing the NHS less and giving identical outcomes for the baby.

While medical intervention is life-saving, much-needed and also for some a positive choice there are too many women wanting to have Kate’s birth who end up feeling that the decisions have been snatched out of their hands.

So, perhaps I’m justifying my tabloid curiosity as I guiltily examine the backs of Kate’s hands, but the fact that the most high-profile birth of our time seems to have been a natural one, in a sea of rising interventions and rising dissatisfaction amongst women, seems important.

The headline “Woman has birth experience that she wanted and planned for” wouldn’t probably go down too well at The Sun’s news desk, but sadly it is becoming almost deserving of the front page.’

Follow Rebecca here @HackneyDoula

Birth Story Of The Week – Rachel and Ted

Summer is in full swing (I think I actually said yesterday to my husband in a teeny tiny voice that it was too hot). I’m doing my visits on my bike today and life is good!  Hope you all had a wonderful weekend and nobody got too burnt. Saw some hideous sun burn at our local Lido yesterday, ouch! Factor 30 people or you will look like a stripy lobster.

Today’s birth story comes from Rachel who writes a hilarious blog which I discovered when the Kirsty Allsop vs NCT row erupted on Twitter. Rachel writes with such honesty about Motherhood and says exactly what most of us are thinking, but don’t have the balls to say it. Here is her story

Blog: When The Baby Sleeps

Twitter: whenthebabysleeps

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There are many things people tell you about giving birth that are true. The rest of what people tell you is irrelevant. One of the truest things I’ve read about giving birth is this: 

“When you’ve done it (given birth) you look back and realised that everything that happened, somebody had … told you would happen, but nobody put the information in the right order and they failed to really stress the important bits. They will tell you curiosities with more energy than they tell you about the main bits, where an actual baby comes out.” Zoe Williams, Bring it on, Baby (2010)

‘Ms Williams is 100% correct. As it turned out my labour featured a lot of the trivial details people had suggested it might, but the delivery was something else altogether.

It started with a sweep. A really vigorous and painful sweep, given as a way of trying to avoid a 39 week induction due to a (mistaken, in my humble opinion) diagnosis of gestational diabetes. Four hours later I was cramping and shitting and texting my husband urgently to ‘BRING HOME LOO ROLL!’. Body clearing out for labour? Check. We had a quiet evening in the bath, trying to time what were very half arsed contractions. There was a lot of standing up, sitting down and wondering if this was it.

I had a doula sorted to try and support me through an experience I was expecting to find very difficult. My husband’s amazing but he was keen to have a doula too, to help with practical things and provide a different dynamic to the one we feared might kick in if we both got tired and scared. I had many fears about childbirth which I’m sure most women share, and I felt I’d spent literally years preparing for something that I knew I couldn’t really prepare for.

My doula came over about midnight and we sat up for the next few hours talking, listening to music and pausing silent for contractions when they came. I’d had lots of things lined up to support me through labour such as a TENS machine, birthing ball and the like but when it came to it I just didn’t fancy any of it. As the contractions got stronger my doula got out her homeopathy kit, read me a poem and rubbed my back; all of these things seemed preposterous at the time (because they were) and I was still very much thinking through my labour at this point. I knew I time would come when I’d stop thinking, go inside myself and probably turn a bit feral but it hadn’t come yet.

About 5am I got a bit restless so insisted we go to hospital. Looking back on it I was wildly perky at this point and if my doula had been firmer with me she could have persuaded me out of going and kept me at home to progress. We arrived, I puked on a few people, peed in a bucket and then was told I was only 1cm dilated. Obviously. So home we went in a taxi that I had to get out of half way home because I was convinced I’d peed myself. I hadn’t. This was the thing that shocked me about labour; the total loss of control I felt. I was doing all of the bodily functions all the way through and it was weird. My body was starting to become ‘not-my-own’. Eeek.

Back at home I rested in the bath while my husband got some sleep, and my lovely doula stroked my hair, kept me positive and helped me relax enough to sleep through what were some intense contractions. I’d done hypobirthing during my pregnancy and it was at this point that I think it really kicked in. I was definitely in unrest mentally and physically very uncomfortable but what I felt wasn’t pain. That is until my waters broke. Two hours after getting into the bath I bit into a biscuit, threw up immediately and with my sick came the most almightly gush of stuff. I was sitting in a bath of puke, wee, womb water and all manner of bits that I could not identify. As well as the gunk there was this hard, intense pain and all I could think was ‘Get! This! Baby! Out! Of! Me! Now!

This is where labour memories become hazy as I shut my eyes and didn’t open them until it was more or less all over. Getting to the hospital was the hardest bit by far. I have vivid memories of trying to sit in the back of the car thinking it would be much less hassle to get out of the car and have the baby on the goddamn road. I think it may have been transition, folks. My doula and I shuffled into the hospital and were found a room on labour ward, while my husband left the car somewhere hugely inappropriate for which we got a parking ticket around the time my boy was born.

I was hoping to get straight into a birthing pool but the midwives had other ideas. My diagnosis meant close monitoring so I was strapped up to monitors – pre-labour I was adamant I’d still try for an active labour and wouldn’t be getting onto any beds to push. As it turned out I was so far gone by this point both physically and mentally that it was all I could do to crawl onto that bed and stay there. I was good for nothing else, too weak to stand and plus I was already ready to push. I tried gas and air around this time but it made me feel too light headed and scared to persevere, and although I did politely request an epidural even I knew that was pointless by now. Gulp. “You can start pushing on the next contraction.” It all felt too sudden and I had no time to acclimatise to the hospital setting, although the pain was telling me this baby couldn’t come soon enough.

The pain stopped for the first time in what felt like hours and I had a real moment of clarity. I looked around the room and asked ‘Will this bit really hurt?’ The answer was an emphatic No, as apparently I’d done the hard bit. Well, pushing a baby out is really hard to get the hang of isn’t it? I got all the ‘like you’re having a poo’ instructions but just couldn’t cut it. After every contraction I got the strong sense that I was doing pretty poorly as the midwives all looked very disappointed. And then they looked concerned. They were gathered around the monitor which was printing out my baby’s heartbeat, telling me to ‘push whenever you want!’ and then all of a sudden everything changed. An emergency cord was pulled and about 6 new extra people appeared out of nowhere. Equipment was gathered, lots of instructions were barked, and it became clear we had to get this baby out PDQ.

First up the doctor tried a ventouse, which hurt like hell and was ineffective, so thanks for that guys. She tried a cut too, which didn’t really hurt at all much to my surprise. It was the big guns that brought out my baby in the end: the dreaded forceps. Which, turns out, aren’t as bad as you think. I mean, it’s no picnic and I did immediately report it as ‘like being ripped apart by wild animals’ but considering what a brilliant job they do of getting your baby out they’re not quite deserving of their terror inducing status. I had a local for the forceps so couldn’t feel anything except pressure, and when baby came out he was just fine. It was all done there and then so there was minimal hanging around and the whole awful saga was over within 20 minutes. My boy came out screaming but well and he shot out with such force that he sprayed birth blood and gunk all over everybody – a fact I am more than a little proud of. Well, it’s the least they deserved for the drama right?

 He was well. 6Lb 5 and the spit of my husband as a baby. We were relieved beyond measure, swallowing our terror and trying not to think about what we thought might go wrong. Shell shocked, I think.

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The next day I was visited by the doctor who delivered my baby. Now she’d definitely done an ‘oops’ face when she saw the state my genitals were in once my baby was born. She talked me through everything that had happened, reassured me that my baby was fine but that they’d been very worried, and explained that I’d take some time to heal. “Did I just not push hard enough?” I asked her. “No. You did a really good job.” I thanked her, and she left me to it.’