Thursday, 20 December 2012

Introducing M

Once again there has been a long silence on the blog, but with very good reason this time. Our new baby, M, was born last month so I've been rather too busy with feeding and sleeping (me and the baby) to get on here!

For those of you who like that sort of thing here is her "birth story" for the rest of you, scroll down, the cute pictures are at the end!

Once again Neonatal teleportation had let me down by failing to be invented, and so, on the allotted day I walked into the operating theatre for my pre-arranged c-section. I felt fairly calm, actually for some reason, my main thought was surprise that there were windows. I suppose it's fairly obvious, if you think about it, that daylight is unlikely to cause an infection. But the last time I was in theatre it was 2am and dark. I dont think there was a window but I was half deranged from pain and exhaustion and really didnt care about the view. This time it was late morning and the sun streamed in as I climbed the steps and sat on the table, trying not to expose my backside in the hospital gown. Like somehow my bare behind might shock the people about to crack open my abdomen and rummage in my womb.

One bump ready to go

Perhaps another reason that the windows were such a surprise was that we'd been in a series of windowless rooms since before dawn. First there was the waiting room, three anxious couples on plastic chairs, all waiting in line for the surgeons knife. Then my name was called and we were moved to a little triage room to don the gown, hairnet and particularly fetching thigh high surgical stockings.

We were in there for hours, my lovely midwife arrived (more on her in another post) and I was visited by an anaesthetist to talk through what would happen, another midwife to get my consent to collect the cord blood and yet another to ask for the umbilical cord for medical students to practice on. Recycling is not just for bean tins! We had been second on the list (because we got there second) but just as I thought it was nearly our turn we were bumped to third because of a more complicated case. A bit stressful as I really wanted the surgery over and done with and really really didn't want to get moved to the next day but just when F went off to find a coffee a midwife arrived to move me to the theatre prep room.

So we found F and then set about waiting in another small room. This time I was visited by the surgeon for the now much repeated conversation:

Medical person: So tell me what happened last time
Me (breif summery of E's birth)
Medical person: Gosh, that sounds awful. So you didn't want to do that again then?

At least all the waiting gave me time to get a picture of F in surgical scrubs, although it took him a while to figure out the hair net. Then, just when F nipped to the loo a surgeon arrived to move me into theatre.

So we found F and walked across the corridor to meet our new baby.

My very own George Clooney

Once up on the operating table a spinal anaesthetic was administered, I'd not been looking forward to this bit after a battle to get the epidural in last time, but I guess it's a lot easier for all involved when the patient isn't contracting. F held my hand, the midwives offered encouragement and after a bit of fiddling about the aneasthetist found the right spot. I didnt once have an overwhelming urge to call her a f**king b**ch, so that was an improvement and then I lay down, waiting to go numb.

It only took a few minutes, spinals are much quicker than epidurals and once they were sure I wouldn't feel any pain a blue screen was put up and the surgery began. The screen is for sterility and also to stop the patient seeing their own belly sliced open, although this wasnt entirely effective as I was able to watch everything in the reflection in one of the lights! I could roughly make out what they were doing and could feel them tugging at my belly but was in no pain. I was shaking a lot, a side effect of the spinal but I was expecting that so it didnt worry me. In fact i didnt really feel scared at all, F sat by me, checking I was ok and very soon the surgeons announced that the baby was about to be born.

When E had been born she was silent. F stood up and peered over the blue screens to tell me that she was a girl and then she was whisked away before I had even seen her. I lay sobbing on the table convinced something awful was happening, it wasn't, but no one thought to tell me that. When I eventually saw her she was cleaned and wrapped up, she had to be held in front of me as I couldn't get my arms out to even touch her.

This time it was very different. The blue screen was dropped and I saw my new baby being born, another little girl, but this one was was crying boldly, wonderfully, before she was even fully in the world.

A brand new person

She was taken by my midwife, this time someone I knew and trusted, who quickly checked her over and then brought her to me. My arms had been kept free this time and the midwives carefully rearranged my gown so that M could be snuggled into it with me. While the surgeons continued their business of tugging and stitching I lay oblivious, grinning at my new little girl.

Amazingly she tried to wriggle up for a feed. I hadn't believed babies really did this especially at only minutes old, after E had shown so little interest in feeding and having heared so many times that c-sections make breast feeding harder. She had to make do with cuddles for a bit though (feeding wasn't really possible in that position).

Finishing up the surgery took a bit longer than expected. Unfortunately there was some scar tissue and adhesions left over from my last c-section so it took a while to sort that out and close me up, I lost some blood in the process and it was the only point where I did feel a bit worried but everyone seemed perfectly calm and with M less than an hour old, F finally got his cuddle as he carried her through to the recovery room with me not far behind.

Once in recovery and propped up a bit M was straight in for feed, and I got a cup of tea and a snack (it was now gone 1pm and I'd been nil by mouth since 2am). M was checked over again and the midwife brought over the placenta to show us. Yes you read that right, the placenta. It was gross but quite interesting, also slightly alarming just how excited the midwife was about it! The cord blood lady popped in to say they had got enough blood to bank. Then, just when F had popped out to the loo the porter arrived to move me to the ward.

So we found F, (again).

I ended up being taken to the antenatal ward as postnatal was full, but this was rather good luck as it meant mine was the only baby screaming in the night. I felt rather sorry for all the pregnant women having to listen to her, although less so for the women in the bed next door who snored deafeningly all night. The problems with scarring and blood loss meant I had to spend two nights there so they could make sure I didn't need a transfusion. I'd been hoping for just one, after last time I almost dreaded the ward more than the birth (long story) but this time Fred was able to stay with me and the staff, even the night staff, were actually nice. One midwife, who brought me painkillers in the middle of the night asked if there was anything else she could do. Joking I said "make the baby sleep!" and she replied "ok" wrapped M up and carried her away. I awoke some time later to find her fast asleep beside me! Being in for two nights also meant I could start my recovery with a bed that could sit up for me. A c-section is very disabling for the first few days and I think I would have struggled in a normal bed.

So after two days of blood pressure monitoring half a ton of my mums homemade fudge and my mother in law suplimenting the woeful hospital food with pâté and blue cheese, I was allowed home. All things considered I'd still have preferred the teleport but the entire experience was immensely better than last time and more importantly than that I had had my beautiful healthy little baby. I even felt well enough to care for her and actually enjoy these first chaotic, sleep deprived weeks.

Oh and when I was moved from hospital to home, F hadn't just popped out somewhere!

E cuddles her new little sister

Trying to get a nice posed photo of a 3yr old and a new born

Thursday, 8 November 2012

A Big Sister and a Bigger Belly!

A few pictures from this evening,

E decides to give Smidge2 a present and requests we photograph the event...

either that or she was procrastinating about going to bed....

(38wks +2 days )

PS. I'm not actually texting the whole time this is going on, I'm using my phone as a remote viewfinder for the camera!

Friends - Thank You

I should really have managed to post a whole lot more on here as I've now been on maternity leave for four weeks but the time seems to have been eaten up by three things:

A husband and toddler with a vomiting bug
An unexpectedly large list of baby things to buy and organise
Friends and family

The first of those was hideous, the second was expensive, but this post is a thank you for the third, for the Grannies who have done a great job helping me out with E over the last few weeks and who I'll be relying on even more in the days to come and for the friends who have made time to join me for brunch, lunch or dinner  and who I may not now see for a while.

I am hopeful that my recovery from this C-section will be better than from the last (I don't intend to be in labour for 34 hours first), but I have been preparing myself to disappear from the world for the rest of this year. While everyone else in London will be dashing into the festive season, getting drunk at the works Christmas do, and trying to arrange the logistics of visiting 37 different sets of relations (in four days, on public transport), I expect I'll be at home, in my pyjamas, feeding, feeding, feeding and quite possibly unable to move around much. So I thought it would be nice to try and meet up with a few friends before I "go dark" and I've been really touched by how many people have made time to see me, and in some cases travelled some distance and braved London public transport to do so!

It's also reminded me how much I value having friends who are parents themselves, and those who are not. When I was expecting E I wrote about the number of friends who had invited us round for lunch or dinner. It was lovely but we were a little worried at the time that these were farewells. The assumption being that once we had a kid we would have no interest in child-free friends, or would be utterly intolerable and talk about nothing but the contents of our little angels nappies. Over the last few years some friendships have faded, life moves on as ever, but others have stayed put and new ones have come along too.

The mummy friends have been invaluable. Every new mum needs someone to throw the endless "is that normal???" questions at and who else is there to call at 10am on a Tuesday when you just HAVE  to leave the house to go anywhere at all so long as it has cake!? The rest of the world slept last night, got themselves dressed without anyone wiping snot on their shoulder and now they are at work, using their brain for something other than trying to anticipate and avert the next screaming fit.

But I've also come to be very grateful for my child-free friends. I have chosen to be a mother and E is the most important thing in my life but that's not for everyone. Sometimes it's good to remember that life did have meaning before I bred and that there are perfectly nice, valuable individuals who just don't have or don't want kids. It would be easy enough to only ever mix with those who have made similar life-choices to me, but it's a big world out there and I still want to be part of as much of it as I can.

So thank you to everyone who I've managed to meet up with over the last few weeks, it's really meant a lot to me. Sorry to those for whom the logistics just didn't work out and I hope you will all bear with me over the next few weeks if I'm not around or even in contact very much. I hope to re-emerge, phoenix like (haha), in the new year and by then I will probably be in even greater need of coffee, cake and friends of all kinds to consume them with.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Decisions. Part 2 - Time to Decide

Firstly a quick apology, I'm now on maternity leave and had been intending to update this blog a lot more. Unfortunately I've so far spent much of my leave waiting around at the hospital for routine tests, in bed with colds or dealing with a three year old with a vomiting bug! Fingers crossed that's all done now and of course I'll have loads of spare time once the baby arrives (hahahahaha...)


I'm now 36 weeks pregnant, sadly neonatal teleportation still doesn't seem to be on offer on the NHS so at my Obstetricians appointment on Wednesday it was time to make the decision; try again for a vaginal birth (VBAC) or plan an elective caesarean*.

I've been thinking about this ever since E was born, at the time I was desperately disappointed and utterly shocked to have had an emergency C-section. In the bubble of middle-class London mums with ante-natal yoga, parent blogging and NCT groups, childbirth isn't just something that must be endured to bring your baby into the world, it's supposed to be a life enhancing, "empowering" experience with bonus points if you home birth with no pain relief and minimal medical assistance. C-sections, even emergency ones, can be looked on with suspicion. They are an easy option, or an "unnecaesarean" caused by mothers too weak to stand up to doctors who are terrified of being sued, desperate to do some exciting choppy surgery stuff or just in a rush to get to the golf course. My NCT teacher made it quite clear that my surgery meant I had failed the course exam.

So before I was pregnant again I was sure I would try for a VBAC, re-sit the test and see if I could get a pass mark this time. The first 24 hours of my last labour were really fine, sure it hurt but had E been smaller and in a good position I'm pretty sure I would have got her out without much medical intervention.

But then we got that little pink line, it all started to become real again and I changed my mind.

So on Wednesday I went to the hospital and booked myself in for an elective caesarean. Here's why:

Yes a successful VBAC should mean an easier recovery, I could perhaps even lay a few demons to rest by finally joining the "wonderful birth experience" alumni, but the problem with the term "successful VBAC" is the "successful" bit and that is far from guaranteed . I'm told recovery from vaginal birth is generally better than from surgery but I know from experience that recovering from both labour and surgery is, frankly, horrendous. If I'm honest I am now a bit afraid of childbirth and of the pain involved (which I wasn't last time), but both of those are passing, what really terrifies me is feeling as physically and emotionally shocked, exhausted and broken as I did after E was born, but this time with two children to look after. The only way to be sure to avoid that is to opt for an elective caesarean, rather than risk an emergency one.

Statistically an elective C-section is a tiny little bit safer, and a small part of me does worry that, although things went badly last time they could have been far worse - what if this babys head makes it through but it's shoulders get stuck? What if my scar ruptures? All very very unlikely but I still struggle to believe my luck that we both survived last time, that I have a healthy child and another well on it's way. Even in our western world of modern medicine I know those who haven't been that fortunate, who am I to risk it all, even with the odds on my side?

Finally, it looks like that much aspired to natural birth wouldn't really be an option anyway, to make a VBAC as safe as possible I'd have to be on a bed strapped to a monitor with an antibiotic drip in my arm (I tested positive for group B strep). The movement and water pool that helped so much in the early stages last time wouldn't be an option and without them I suspect I'll be reaching for the drugs far quicker.

So there it is, after swinging back and forth on this for years I've made a decision, signed a form and I'm happy with it. I'll never have that natural child birth experience**, and I will always be a bit sad about that. But what I can do is get my second baby safely into this world, with me in a fit state to care for him/her and that is an experience that millions of women across the world, throughout human history and even today can never have. So people can call me too posh to push if they like, I don't care, the baby is more important than how it arrives.


PS. Of course sods law dictates that this baby will now turn up early. If I go into labour before the C-section I'll just have to decide what to do on the day as there are too many variables to make that choice in advance.

* I'm lucky enough to have been given a free choice by the hospital. It's often thought that once you've had one C-section all subsequent deliveries must be surgical, but modern techniques mean this isn't the case and in fact at the hospital where E was born the policy is to insist women try a VBAC. This is similar to many maternity units in the UK where the ceaserean rate is monitored, with targets to reduce it. In other country's especially the USA repeat C-sections are the default and it can be very hard to find any doctors willing to be involved in a VBAC because of the fear of litigation if anything goes wrong.

**Even if we were to have more children, after two C-sections the risk of scare rupture is much higher in subsequent labours, so the hospital have warned that they would be very anti- VBAC in that situation.

Friday, 5 October 2012

London Schooling - Educating E

I don't want to write this blog post.

I want to put my fingers in my ears and shout LaLaLaLaLa until it all goes away (I appreciate this isn't a very mature response).
My little girl only had her third birthday two months ago, but two months ago it was August so we must now start the process of "choosing" which school she will be starting in less than a year.

Despite being summer born, it's very unlikely that she'll be the smallest kid in her year and I'm fairly happy that she'll be ready for it. I'm just not sure that I will!

But emotional trauma aside, the process of choosing a school is far from simple. As a friend pointed out on facebook "this is the advantage of living in a village". That should perhaps be followed by "with a good school" but of course that sort of thing can be planned (and paid for) when moving to said village. Those of us still in the big smoke face a bit more of a challenge. Even though London schools are now rated the best in the country you can never guarantee you'll get into the one you want. There are 17 state primary schools within a 1 mile radius of our house, this isn't because we planned to move to an educational hotspot, it's just like that in London, there are lots of schools and lots of kids and our chances of getting into all but perhaps two of the 17 are very small indeed.

So here's how the admissions procedure plays out in Southwark:
1- Parents put down up to six schools in order of preference
2-The schools (who don't know preferences) rank every child who applies according to their admissions criteria*
3-The council put these two lists together and then:
  • If your number 1 school has 30 places and ranks you number 29 you get in there. 
  • If it ranks you 31 and your second choice school (also with 30 places) ranks you 29, you get the second choice school. 
  • Unless four kids at the first choice school already got places somewhere else, then you get       bumped back up to 27 there and get the first choice again, and so on down the list. 
  • If you don't get a place at any of your chosen schools you are assigned to somewhere else in the borough, or if you're really unlucky, you're not put anywhere at all.
4- Parents are informed of the school they have been allocated
5- Parents have a massive panic, followed by a jolly good moan about how unfair it all is on the East Dulwich Forum
6- Parents accept offers, reject offers, join waiting lists at other schools, go private, shout at local councillors, move house, move out of London, set up home schools, set up free schools, moan about it again on the EDF, slay a dragon and win the tri-wizard tournament.
7- Somehow, most kids end up with a school, somewhere.

Oh and then there is the wild card - the bulge class.

There aren't actually enough permanent primary school places in Southwark for the number of children who want them. So each year the council pick a few schools to take extra kids. This means a one form entry school that normally takes 30 kids, suddenly takes 45 or 60, just for one year.

Good news if you wanted to get into that school but live just too far away, less good if you'd paid a 70k premium to live opposite the gates of the lovely primary with the big playground, only to find that playground now full of portacabins. Or worse still, that you now can't get a place at all because the bulge was two years ago, and with only the normal 30 slots available this year, they've all gone to siblings of the bulge class.

Phew - does that all make sense? I'm not entirely sure it does, but as of this morning we are part of the process, we attended our first school open day. It was one of the two we stand a good chance of getting into and it seemed nice but how to tell? I've not been in a primary school since I was a pupil at one. This place has computers and interactive whiteboards, every child learns to play an instrument and the lunch menu contains actual fruit. It's very different from the tinned spag bol and one slightly prone to exploding BBC computer of my old primary, but as this is the first place we've seen I have no idea if what looks flashy and new to me is actually standard issue these days, and that's before we  get onto mind-boggling things like what system they use to teach phonics, their value added score or latest Key stage 2 results. Gah!

But we still have seven more schools to look at before we make our list and fortunately my husband does know all about white boards and phonics and er stuff and isn't afraid to corner an unsuspecting head teacher in the corridor and quiz her about them (at least if today is anything to go by).

So perhaps I could just stick my fingers in my ears and leave it all up to him instead? Maybe? Just a little bit?


*Admissions criteria can vary between schools but generally first priority goes to children with statements of special needs, then those in care, then siblings of children already at the school. After that the faith schools can chuck in their religious quota then in goes on distance. In most places, including Southwark, catchment areas don't exist, it's normally straight line distance to your house and the furthest away child that gets in can vary a lot year to year.  Last year for one local school the furthest away child lived 191 meters from the school gate.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Lost Cuppas of Motherhood

There is a sad, sad sight in our house, on any given evening you are likely  to find forlorn, discarded mugs dotted around. Broken promises of a few minutes of peace on the sofa, now unloved and undrinkable.

There's the cuppa my husband managed to make for me in the morning, delivered to our bedroom just in time to go cold while I chase a partially clad three year old along the landing, trying to convince her that she can't go to the dentists in only last nights pull ups and a tutu.

There's the brew made more in hope than expectation while trying to eat my breakfast, make my work packed lunch and provide for E's four course breakfast demands. A mug destined to be, at best, half drunk, before nursery and the first capital connect train timetable demands I abandon it on the kitchen board.

Then there's the cups boiled up in desperation, with the intention of abandoning good parenting pretences and just sticking E in front of Cbeebies for ten minutes. Yet even these are doomed to be unfinished, victims of a prolonged toddler toilet trip or the sudden need to clear up whatever unholy mess has been created today.

So here's to you my once steaming friends, I am sorry (really I am) that your purpose was never fulfilled, but your existence was not for nothing. In your warm, fresh moments you were a small brown beacon of hope, no British crisis, be it war or a really messy kitchen, has ever been endured without you, and one day, one fine day, I'll just stick on Toy Story for an hour and you will be mine.

All together now, "oooh, that's better"

Friday, 24 August 2012

Stuff I know now...

(that I wish I'd known last time)

Recently a few people have said to me: "at least you'll know what to expect this time"
I'm afraid my response tends not to be: "oh yes it'll be much easier this time". More: " ahhhhhhhhhhhhh" *terrified, wide-eyed look* "Yes. This time I know EXACTLY what's coming" (vocalising this may possibly have worried a few members of the pilates class. Oops).

But it is true that I have the benefit of hindsight this time and that despite desperately over researching everything before E was born, there were a few things I only learnt through experience. So in an effort to stay positive (and in case I forget them all in the sleep deprivation haze that will no doubt follow Smidge2's arrival) I'm going to put into writing the stuff the books didn't tell me. Listen up SouthwarkBelle:

Baby feeding:
Breastfeeding is really really bloomin hard.
At the start Its excruciatingly painful and not just where you'd expect. It encourages your womb to contract, which really hurts, plus it takes hours and hours and hours so pretty soon you'll have a sore bum too. At some point It will seem like you don't have enough milk, then you will get a cold and not be able to take any drugs for it, which sucks. You will wonder how the human race ever survived when this was the only option and if lactation is now the sole reason for your continued existence. BUT hang on in there for those first months, once you get the hang of it it's cheap, easy and totaly worth it and  yeah, its really rather lovely.

Anyone feeling a bit er Friesian ?

Mummy feeding:
4 or 5 frozen meals in the freezer is not enough. Fill the freezer with as many pre prepared meals as you can before the baby is born. It's not just that you won't have time to cook once it is, no one else will either. Babies eat milk and time - without sufficient preparation you'll just have to subsist on crisps and kitkats. Also- make sure that whatever you cook can be eaten one handed, preferably with a spoon, as you'll probably have all of your meals for the first few weeks while also breast feeding. ( and it is probably considered bad form to drop an entire steak on a suckling infants head)

You won't get much, sometimes none at all, but you'll cope. I have no idea how, but you will. Don't drive yourself mad counting how much you've had and certainly don't start comparing sleep deprivation with your partner. It's not a competition. You're basically both losers in this anyway.

Proof - we did sleep (at least once)

Personal hygiene:
Yes, having a shower is an achievement. If you then manage to find some non sick/milk/dinner encrusted PJs to put on afterwards then that's the mummy gold medal. Actual clothes may be aiming too high though, don't set unrealistic sartorial targets.

Ask friends to lend you DVDs, This will reveal that:
A some of your friends have surprising taste in films,
B breast feeding your way though every series of "The Wire" won't actually lead to your child having a Baltimore accent (phew)

Ask for it. This is going to be really really difficult. You may normally look after yourself,  but this isn't something anyone should attempt alone and you know what? There are lots of really lovely, kind people out there who'd actually like to help. Let them. Right now it doesn't mean you are needy or a burden. It means you are a mummy. 

Everything is temporary
Eventually the baby will sleep, s/he will feed properly and do something other than scream and vomit. There will be first words, first steps, birthday partys and trips to the zoo and those first few weeks and months will be just a tiny segment of your life that you vaguely remember having to get through, before the real fun started!


Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Decisions. Part 1 - Show Me The Stats!

I have a decision to make.

Suddenly I am 26 weeks pregnant (ok I should have seen that coming I know) and it's looking increasingly unlikely that my preferred method of birth (neonatal teleportation) is going to be an option.

So, I have to decide - repeat C-section or VBAC*?

There are a huge number of things to consider physically, emotionally and practically in this but I'm trying to remind myself that childbirth is, at worst, a few days. What comes after, the child, is the rest of my life and his/hers too. With that in mind, safety has to be the trump card.

Recent studies have shown that repeat cesareans are slightly safer than VBACs for both mother and baby, but the risks are so small in both scenarios that you may as well start worrying about being killed in a car crash on the way to hospital. Emergency cesareans are considerably more risky.

So, before I just go for the planned c-section, I want to know this - how likely it is that an attempted VBAC, would end in another emergency trip to theatre?

Billions of women have given birth, millions have had c-sections in modern hospitals, with scientifically trained doctors, and gone on to have more children - we should have the stats on this right?

Well, I'm hoping someone reading this can tell me I'm wrong, but it seems like the answer is no.

When I put the question to my obstetrician he gave me the standard figure - 70% of VBAC attempts result in a vaginal birth. But when I started to dig a bit, there were no more answers.

The thing is, 70% seems a little, well, vague. There are a huge number of reasons for that initial cesarean; a planned c-section for a breach baby, a terrified dash to theatre because the foetal heart rate suggests the baby is in distress etc. etc. What I want to know is - what is the chance of success in my specific situation?

Does the fact that I got to 10cm dilated (all be it with chemical assistance) mean I am more likely to give birth vaginally this time than, say, someone who's previous labour never got going after a failed induction? Or does the fact that my last baby was physically stuck in my pelvis mean my chance of success with a second is less than someone who may well have popped the sprog out easily had they only got the chance?

When you start asking about the specifics, 70% is utterly meaningless. Perhaps 90% of women who had the same problems as me succeed in giving birth vaginally next time or maybe its only 5%. I've plucked those figures from the air but either is possible if there were enough women in other groups whos success/failure rates are different.. 

You wouldn't need elaborate experiments to answer these questions, just someone to keep good records of lots of births and then crunch the numbers.  I spend my working life with scientists who study the tiniest actions of genes and molecules that may or may not  influence rare human diseases. It is exquisitely precise, detailed, study into things so tiny no human could ever see them, the interactions and variables are mind boggling but it's work actual humans can do. Surely we should be able to answer a simple question about getting 8lbs of baby out of a space hopper sized womb?

I need to make the decision in 10 weeks time. What do you think my chances are that a study will suddenly emerge that answers my questions by then?

Perhaps I should just keep hoping for teleportation.


*VBAC - Vaginal Birth After Caesarian

Friday, 10 August 2012

Too much information?

If you've had a difficult experience of childbirth, what do you say to first time expectant mums if they ask you about it?

This came up earlier in the week when I attended a pregnancy pilates class. All the other members of the group were first timers and, after the lesson, the conversation inevitably turned to labour and birth. One lady was telling us about her NCT classes and hypnobirthing sessions and how using this technique gave x% of mothers shorter/drug free/tear free births. Then another women asked me about E's birth.

So what to say?

I got a healthy baby, that's the main thing. But the truth is that it was the most exhausting, humiliating, terrifying experience of my life. After 20 hours of unremitting contractions with only hypnobirthing to help me I'd have sold my soul for an epidural. After a further 14 hours of drugs, interventions, failed interventions and emergency surgery I thought I was going to die and I didn't even care. Frankly, it was all a bit grim.

Or is that a bit too much information?

You're not supposed to tell horror stories to pregnant women, and while I don't agree with the theory that fear is the main hinderance to easy, natural childbirth, I would certainly concede that being terrified can't possibly help. Also, if you leave aside the issue of "truth", then what is the point in giving all the gory details? Will it stop anyone from putting their faith (and large sums of money) into unproven techniques? Will it leave them more prepared for the realities of childbirth and therefore better able to cope? I doubt it.

Thinking back to first time me, if I'd have heard a similar story from a stranger I'd have assumed she was exaggerating. Just one of those people who love to tell you how awful it all is, how afterwards you'll never sleep again and life as you know it is about to thunder down around your ears. First time me would have suspected this stranger had been silly and scared, unhealthy, suffering from some other undisclosed risk factor. Basically first time me would have thought it wouldn't happen to me.

 So what - or rather how much, to say?

The group already knew I'd had a C-section (I'd "confessed" in class in a slightly pathetic attempt to excuse my total lack of abdominal muscles) so I did my best to explain, without any drama, why it had happened.  E was big and back to back, hypnobirthing etc, was fine while everything was normal, but in the end it was just bad luck, her head was stuck in my pelvis and a C-section was the only option.

So should I have said more? Less? I'm not really sure.  I don't want to be that lady with the horror story. Most healthy, western, pilates-class-attending women will have more straight forward births than me whatever I say, so it's hardly sage advice. But I don't want to pretend it was all wonderful, self-affirming loveliness either. If you're a  healthy, western, pilates-class-attending women then you probably get plenty of that already and (at least in my case) too little fear can be just as bad as too much.

What do you think? Is it only right to tell the truth? These things happen and people need to be prepared for them or is it all a bit TMI?


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 3 August 2012

A Sneaky Peek at Smidge2

E's 3rd Birthday is very nearly upon us, so it's all about her at the moment but we have managed to give Smidge2 a little bit of a attention.

We had a 4D scan with E and were amazed at how much it looked like her when she was born so, even though we're having far more scans at the hospital this time, we gave into temptation and had one done to get a peek at little sister/brother. E found it all utterly fascinating too.

If you find these things spooky - look away now:

Smidge2 at 24 weeks


Sunday, 29 July 2012


My name is E and my last dummy was 9 days ago.

Back when I was a perfect mother (ie. before E was born), if someone had told me that she'd still have a dummy at almost 3, I'd have been horrified. These were the tools of the lazy parent, stuffed in the gobs of their offspring by those who couldn't be bothered to breast feed on demand or come up with entertainment on a train journey.

Then I actually had a baby and after 4 sleepless weeks of constant, toe curling, nipple grating agony my mother told me to stop being so stupid and give the sucky baby a dummy. Actually she probably put it a little more kindly than that, I can't entirely remember, but either way she was right. It helped enormously, and far from interfering with breast feeding, may well have saved it. But what was useful in those first few weeks looked like a bad habit when weeks become months and an all-out addiction when they became years. So with that third birthday looming I took a deep breath and decided it was time to stage an intervention.

I'd love to say at this point that I had some clever, child centric, holistic method to do this. I didn't . I had £15 and good ole fashioned bribery.

So on the last day of our recent holiday I took E into a toy shop and told her she could choose a toy, but she could only have that toy once she'd gone 7 nights with no dummy, to my surprise E was really keen on this so we added a sticker chart to the basket, headed home and kept our fingers crossed for the first night.

I'd anticipated a battle, but E went to bed determined to earn her sticker. She did wake up in the early hours crying for us to bring her the dummy but when I went in, expecting this to be the point we gave up for the night, I explained to her that she could have her dummy but then she wouldn't get her sticker and she immediately changed her mind, asked for her bear instead and went straight back to sleep cuddling up and muttering to herself "I want my sticker, I want my sticker".

7 stickers in a row! (plus a few extras, and some drawing)

This was the pattern for the next couple of nights until she stopped waking up altogether and after 7 nights, and amazingly little fuss, the chart was full and a very very excited E threw her dummies in the bin and collected her toy. Her beloved cuddly Gruffalo now comes everywhere with us.

I'm utterly stunned at how easy it was, dummys had seemed like such an addiction and I had no idea that E had the willpower to break the habit on her first attempt. Was bribery the right way to go? Well I'm sure some people would say no, but she is very proud of herself and, frankly, it worked - so it'll do. Yeah,  I'm not the perfect mother anymore, but I think I am a good enough mother, which is probably as much as anyone can honestly claim (and I no longer have to get up in the night to grovel under the bed to find lost dummy's*) so that's good enough for me.

*well, until Smidge2 arrives...

Monday, 2 July 2012

Little Miss Bump

To be honest I feel rather lucky that we've made it almost to E's 3rd birthday with only one dash to A&E, so I guess we were probably due another one on Tuesday when poor E was running along in front of me and suddenly, for no apparent reason, fell on her head.  She just tripped over from standing, but doesn't seem to have yet realised that in this situation it's a good idea to put your hands out. As a result she just flipped forward at considerable speed onto her forehead with an audible crunch.

She screamed, I panicked, thus fulfilling our individual roles in this scene perfectly. But once we'd both calmed down a bit E seemed perfectly fine and I was pretty sure she was ok. Even so (and following advice from NHS direct) I took her along to A&E just to be on the safe side as it was just before nap time and I didn't want to leave her alone in bed with a potential head injury while I sat fretting downstairs. 

A&E,  it turns out, is brilliant fun if you are 2 and 3/4. The paediatric A&E at Kings is thankfully separated from the main unit (anyone who's watched 24 Hours In A&E will appreciate what a good thing this is!) and it has a play room! E immediately found a toy BBQ and a very kind older boy who she could boss about mercilessly (whoever the parents of that 8 year old are, I hope they are suitably proud - their son has the patience of a saint!). The only thing more exciting that this (and getting to miss nap time) was the nurses. In triage the lady asked E to explain what had happened, which she managed fairly well before giving the poor women a lengthy, and not wholly accurate description of her lunch. When we went for assessment the nurse had a torch in the shape of a frog which she very nearly didn't get back when E decided to use it to "stamp" every single page of her hefty drugs manual (another nurse, facing away from us and attempting to draw up an injection for someone else, was struggling with her task as E was making her giggle so much).

So worries allayed, we headed home with a print out of things to look out for* and let my Mr Bump cool pack make everything better.

I'm glad we've only had 2 trips to A&E in 3 years. I hope we can keep it that way!


*The sheet contained the useful advice that we should return if E had a seizure or lost consciousness and that we shouldn't give her any sleeping pills that night. Just thought I'd pass that on in case anyone else was unaware of those little parenting gems.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Baby Brain

If you don't already know me in real life, let me explain something:

I am not the cute but ditsy one in the group. I am not the girl who's forever loosing her mobile phone, leaving her keys at work or turning up late for everything because she got sidetracked and didn't allow time for traffic. I've just never been like that and over the years it has led to a few conflicts with my more "faff" prone friends (you know who you are) but basically, I'm happy with who I am.

That is until I'm pregnant and the dreaded baby brain arrives.

I've posted here before about my belief that pregnant women should be treated as intelligent, rational adults and I still stand by that, it's just that I'm well, a bit easily befuddled at the moment.

On Monday E had a longish nap in the afternoon, pretty normal after a busy weekend. I only started cooking once she was up and found myself rushing to have dinner ready for our normal time of 5.30pm. But I managed it and sat down to eat with her, surprised that I wasn't at all hungry. Until I looked at my watch. Then the kitchen clock, and the one on my phone, and finally accepted that it was actually 4.30pm and I'd been an hour out all afternoon. E got a very, very long bath that evening.

Worse still, a couple of weeks ago I had arranged to meet some old friends at 3pm on Sunday afternoon. At 4pm on Saturday I got a text saying: "We're all in the bar - are you ok?"

As if being a day late wasn't bad enough I decided to pile just that bit more humiliation on myself. It had been a cold morning and I'd been out in the only coat that still fitted me, a large, thick winter coat and a scarf too. As I ran out the door, yelling an explanation to poor Fred, I pulled these on and it was half way to the station when I realised:

A- It was no longer cold - everyone else was in summer clothes and I was dressed for carol singing

B- One can not run in maternity jeans - that oh so comfy elasticated waist will rapidly head for the half-way down your back-side teenage boy look if you try

C- However ludicrous you look as a result of A and B, wearing a "baby on board" badge at the same time only makes it worse.

D- My pregnant and inappropriately dressed running speed is exactly the same as the cycling speed of the perfectly sane looking man taking his young son out for a bike ride - we kept pace with each other wonderfuly, apart from the moments I had to pause to hitch my jeans back up over my bum.

Sadly I know from experience that this isn't just a first or second trimester thing, and even if it wears off after the pregnancy then the sleep deprivation of early parenthood will have much the same effect.

So if you do know me in real life, please take this as advance warning and apology for any future stupidity, hang on in there, I'm expecting my brain back in about er two years time?


PS - I know there are plenty of baby brain stories out there - anyone else care to confess?

Monday, 25 June 2012

Parties with a Passenger

I think it's fair to say that I enjoyed a good night out back in the day. On one university field trip I got the blame for pretty much everything that went on, purely on the basis that I was a member of the rugby team so it must be my fault (I won't state here if that was fair or not)!

Our Bride-to-be, who said Brummies weren't classy!
Unsurprisingly things are rather different these days, the knowledge that you will be woken up at 6am by a loud and energy filled toddler turns out to be the thing that finally makes those "I'm never getting drunk again" vows stick and it seems that some child-free friends just assume you're never going to go out again anyway, so don't bother asking. Being pregnant again doesn't really help matters either so I was somewhat daunted by the idea of a hen weekend  which was to include a burlesque dancing class and *gulp* a night club.

As it turned out it was all fine, actually it was really good. I did feel faintly distinctly ridiculous tottering about to "Diamonds are a girls best friend" in my highest heals and a feather boa (and plenty of other clothes I hasten to add) but frankly a 6 foot women in 4 inch heals she's only worn once before (and then only to sit down) was never going to have Dita Von-Tease trembling in her Martini glass! Besides this was all being done with some of my best friends, and uni flatmates at that, so it's probably not the worst state they've all seen me in! 

Look who we found at Breakfast!
(only strictly fans will get this)
I was also rather pleased to still be on the dance floor at almost 1am that night. Although as it started to get busy I was more defencive than ever of my personal dance space, not wanting my passenger to get clobbered (in that respect being 6 foot and having elbows at most peoples chest height it a benefit). When I did give up, instead of heading for a curry then tottering back to our vile student digs, I and a similarly pregnant friend got a nice civilised cab to our very pleasant hotel for a good cup of tea!

E "helps" get the BBQ ready
(she plays drums on it)
Last week was also my birthday (no I'm not saying which one!). When we moved into this house we identified a spot in the garden that would be perfect for sitting around the BBQ and celebrating but it hadn't yet happened. This is now my third birthday here and on both the previous ones I've had to flee, with E,  to my parents place, as something major and messy was falling/being pulled down at ours. This year, at last, we are hopefully (touch wood, fingers crossed) structurally sound! So with a brief break in the hideous weather we lit the BBQ, got a few friends round and popped open some bottles of fizz (for me to watch them all drink)! 

So no 3am curry, no waking up having managed to remove only one shoe but good times non the less. Quite what Smidge2 made of a his/her first trip to a dance floor I'll never know I hope s/he enjoyed it as much as mummy!

More help - blowing out my candles....

...and helping me eat the cake of course


I may be a very good girl now, but I did give the groom-to-be a cheeky snog!

Friday, 15 June 2012

R2BC - Wiggles, Friends, Bump

I have two rather special reasons to be cheerful this week and I'm going to throw in a first bump picture too!:

1- Wiggles
I've felt the odd bit of movement from Smidge2 in recent weeks, but it's always been in could-just-be-gas territory and followed by days with nothing. But this week he/she has decided to make a proper appearance. Actually I think he/she has decided to take up a very energetic form of street dance! So this probably means I will now get no peace for the next 5 months (actually lets make that 18 years) but it is nice to know that there really is someone in there and it's finally making this pregnancy feel a bit more real. Hello in there!

This afternoon I am off up to Birmingham, where I spent my student years, for a lovely Uni friend's hen do! I can't go into detail of what we'll be doing as the bride to be hasn't been told yet but I can say that I am looking forward to, er, most of it! I'm also really looking forward to catching up with some of my old uni flatmates again. Our lives have taken us all over the country and can make it very hard to find time to meet up, or even chat on the phone. But when we do manage to get together we seem to just slip comfortably back into our relationship and it's hard to comprehend that 11 years have passed since we were all sat around our kitchen table worrying about our finals and how the heck we were ever going to get a turn in the shower!


17 weeks - here we grow!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Childbirth and the Science of Woo

I spotted a notice today for a free childbirth workshop, I took a look and immediately wished I hadn't. On the plus side it may have gone some way to improving my low blood pressure!

The notice said you would learn (amongst other things) how to avoid the need for pain and unnecessary interventions and how to breath, rather than push your baby out. It reminded me very much of my NCT classes.

I've heard very differing reports of NCT classes. A while ago I did a rough survey of friends with scientific and medical backgrounds who had attended them and although some felt they had been given balanced and useful information, others thought that a natural birth agenda had been pushed far too hard. This was certainly the case with the classes I attended. We were told, as fact, that we were just like any other mammal, perfectly capable of going off alone into a corner of our cow field and gently mooing until our baby arrived. We were also told that all doctors had a hidden agenda to medicalise our births (basically letting one anywhere near us was tantamount to inviting a physical assault). Home birth was strongly encouraged and one couple (both doctors) were forced to justify their choice of a hospital birth at our very first class.

To be clear, I'm not against natural childbirth or homebirth in the right circumstances. I have friends who have had wonderful experiences of both and had aimed for a doctor and intervention free waterbirth with E. What I am against is people in a position of authority talking nonsense.

We are not just like any other mammal, we are uniquely bad at giving birth. Human childbirth is a finely balanced compromise; in order to walk upright our hips and pelvises are proportionally far narrower than those of our mammal cousins, at the same time we have utterly enormous brains and thus heads. To allow for this the mothers pelvis can stretch a little during birth and the babies skull can safely squish a bit. We also have our babies when they are far less developed than most other mammal young and the baby comes out facing in the opposite direction to it's mother. The latter adaptation means it has to perform complicated turns to get through the pelvis but it's less likely to get stuck. Thanks to all these adaptations the majority of births are safe and straightforward, the continued existence of the human race is testimony to this - but it isn't proof that "all women are exquisitely designed to give birth easily and naturally" as I have read far too many times. The benefits of being smart and bipedal are so great that even if a small percentage of women die in childbirth as a result, it's still worth it for the rest of the species.

I learnt all this studying human evolution at university, as far as I know it's not particularly controversial in scientific circles but it seems to be a complete taboo to some childbirth educators. The over-riding concern is that all women are terrified of giving birth and must be eased towards the event with a relentlessly positive, almost pseudo-spiritual, message.

I'm not saying for a minute that an anxious pregnant woman should be sat down and lectured on the shortcomings of her anatomy. Being confident and calm in labour is undoubtedly helpful but can't we just assume that most pregnant women are intelligent adults and give them accurate information? Here is the message I wish I'd been given:

For the vast majority of healthy women childbirth is painful, but perfectly safe. For a few it will actually be easy, even enjoyable and for a few others it will be difficult, scary and exhausting. But even if you are in that last group the chances of anything going really, horribly wrong are utterly tiny. Doctors aren't lurking in the doorway desperate to cut you open, but if things go wrong you are immensely fortunate to live in a country where you and your baby will be saved. You can do a lot to prevent being in this group, be informed and have a good birth partner, keep healthy, eat well, don't smoke or get obese but also know that if it doesn't end up how you'd wanted it to, that's just bad luck and there are people there to help you. Basically, you'll be fine.

What's so bad, so dis-empowering, about all that?

I did the hypnobirthing, the NCT, yoga, swimming, birthing pool etc. etc. but in the end I could no more breath out my baby than the burly surgeon could yank her out with his full body weight and a sink plunger. It wasn't because I was afraid, or had no faith in my intuitive maternal powers, I was just unlucky. But I was also lucky enough that ultimately non of that mattered, my baby and I would have been fine whatever happened. No well meaning lies, no denial of basic biology, and absolutely no woo* required.

PS. of course this time around I will be placing my faith in a Koi assisted birth - the universe is telling me to.

*Woo-woo (or just plain woo) refers to ideas considered irrational or based on extremely flimsy evidence or that appeal to mysterious occult forces or powers.
Definition from the Skeptic's dictionary

Sunday, 10 June 2012

A Present From Big Sister

Today E decided to give her baby sister/brother a present and if you're two what is the best, most exciting present you can give anyone? Stickers of course!!

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