The pointy end

I’m writing this post purely for myself, to remember what it was like to be 38 weeks and 5 days pregnant with my first baby.

I’m still feeling good in general, not too tired, not in pain, not weird.  I don’t think I’ve had any contractions, or at least if I have I haven’t felt them.  I’ve had what I’d describe as various types of niggles and twinges, not consistent or lengthy enough to be considered contractions per se, but I think they are just signs my body is getting ready and baby is changing position to engage.  In the last couple of days baby has gone from moving crazily to being incredibly quiet and moving only very gently.  Gone are the big belly flops and twirls and spinning that baby has been doing since the beginning of the third trimester.

I still have reflux, on and off, but I’m so used to it now that although it’s uncomfortable I just kind of deal with it.  I haven’t taken a tum in ages.  I also still have swollen ankles, despite having discovered the magic of Spirulina, whose initial effect was to dramatically reduce the swelling.  I think it’s just because I’m getting so close to birth and my body is focused on that rather than keeping the fluid moving.  I’m heavy, I notice it whenever I stand up, and my pelvis aches, as does my tailbone occasionally and my lower back on and off.  It’s not really painful, it’s just noticeable, it’s just there from time to time.  Sleeping is hard because I have to keep changing positions from one side to the other and as much as I want to it’s not comfortable to lie on my back for any length of time.  I have been randomly waking in the middle of the night, getting up to go to the toilet because I’ve got nothing else to do, and then lying there waiting to go back to sleep.  It’s odd, I haven’t ever had broken sleep in my life except when really sick.

A week or so ago I had a positive test for Group B Strep which was initially a little off-putting and worrying, but I read up on it and realised there was no need to panic.  I thought long and hard about it, based on what I had read, and I decided a few things.  Even if the second swab, which I did last night, proves to be positive, I won’t have antibiotics at any point unless I am seriously running a fever and clearly have an infection that I can’t shake.  Their effect on me is so awful, instant thrush, and I can’t imagine the agony of thrush and recovering from birth, not to mention the fact that I’d be concerned for baby ending up with thrush on its face and then passing it to my nipples, could be absolutely disastrous!  In the UK, they don’t do the GBS test; instead they monitor mum and baby during birth, and offer antibiotics if there are risk factors.  Then they monitor baby after birth to see if any fever strikes, which they would do anyway.  The GBS test result is often ambiguous, or rather, it can show up one day and then be gone the next.  If I didn’t have any bacteria in my vagina, baby wouldn’t receive it during birth and the formation of gut flora would be seriously compromised, a huge issue in terms of digestion, and probably even worse for a new baby whose digestive system is being used for the first time really.  Lastly, I also realised why this positive test had occurred; to teach me to take my diet seriously!  I’ve been pretty good since the positive test came through, avoiding refined sugar almost entirely, which is a huge deal for me, as my diet is the one thing in my life I have problems controlling.  I’ve even cut right down on my bread intake, in order to avoid the yeast.  What I also realised is that this bacteria is me; I’ve always had high levels of bacteria in my system, high acidity.  I know this because as a child I always had thrush and spent many an hour sitting in a basin of salt water to soothe it.  I think the concentration of bacteria is normal for me, but it has been kicked out of balance due to my poor diet and indulgence in foods infused with refined sugar.  It’s been a great wake up call!

I still think the baby is a girl, although it’s been hard to work it out, and Mr Chewbacca is now saying he thinks it’s a boy.  Because it was so active and a few people had looked at me and said it was a boy I started to wonder.  I’ve thought it was a girl ever since that 13 week ultrasound when I saw its face it was like a miniature version of myself.  I’ve studied the 19 week ultrasound images and can’t see anything resembling a penis or a vagina, despite having looked up what ultrasound pics should look like for both sexes.

I’m almost totally prepared – birth pool and oxygen have been delivered, I have the hose and fitting, plastic sheets, Emergency Essence, apricot kernel oil, maternity pads, biodegradable wet wipes, cloth nappies… I’ve even washed all the baby clothes and re-folded them in their drawer in piles of ‘types’ (ie. all singlets together, all onesies together etc).  I’ve read all the books I wanted to – Michel Odent, Sarah J Buckley, Pam England, Ina May Gaskin and so many more than I didn’t have on my list but were lent to me by my midwife.

Speaking of the midwife, she asked me an interesting question at our appointment yesterday: what do you plan to do for pain relief?  I was slightly taken aback, I have to admit, because I’m having the baby at home, probably in a pool – I mean, there is no pain relief, or at least no real external intervention.  I just assumed that because I’m giving birth at home, we won’t think about the pain as real pain per se, it’s more about the psychology of birth and how I’ll turn off my brain that registers that pain and work with it to give birth smoothly and as I’m meant to.  I can’t ever imagine being in enough pain to want to have, say, an epidural.  The idea of someone sticking a thick needle in my spine in order to inject fluid that will numb my legs is far more frightening than being torn in two to allow a baby to pass through… I know, it probably sounds weird, but I only feel like this because I think of vaginal birth as natural, but an epidural as very unnatural.  So what happens naturally in birth is ‘right’, but what is caused by external intervention is ‘wrong’.  It’s just how I think of it, what works for me.

It’s true, I haven’t done the preparation I expected to do, like prenatal yoga and meditation.  I didn’t read the Hypnobirthing book or Calmbirth, and I don’t have specific techniques for breathing or noises or focusing or positioning that I plan to use.  I have read about so many different ways of doing things, and the way I see it, I’m really good at listening to my body and what it needs so I will do what it asks of me.  My pain threshold, or more precisely, my ability to deal with pain is pretty high; especially this kind of pain.  Of course I’ll also listen to what others say, especially the midwife, as her experience is really why I hired her.  I am also acutely aware of my family history in birth and that no woman on either side of my family has ever had a caesarean or a really complicated pregnancy or birth.  The worst to happen was stillborn babies or miscarriages, and there were always clear causes – alcohol, cigarettes, bad diet, advanced maternal age.  I also think babies come when it’s time, when they want to be here, and this one really desperately wants to be here.  I think it’s like its daddy, impatient, full of energy and desperate to connect!

My prediction for the birth date?  17 May.  This will be three days past my due date, and a full moon, so that’s when I’m expecting to at least have some movement.  I’ve thought for the last few days that things are happening because of the lack of movement and the deep ache in my pelvis, but I know I won’t go into labour before the 40 weeks.  I occasionally have odd ‘scared’ feelings, usually just after I get into bed with my husband.  I feel a little overwhelmed at what I’m about to go through and what might happen.  It’s purely fear of the unknown and it’s okay.  I just keep focusing on the fact that baby will arrive, eventually, it will come out and I will have a baby, one way or another.  So one day this will be over.  One day soon in fact.  I just hope it is the transforming and rewarding experience I have heard it is, and I hope I have the capacity to stay calm, tune into my body and my baby, and let them do their work.

Advertisements

Pregnancy and nesting

So I’m now 27 weeks along and feeling just fine. It’s certainly been an interesting ride so far.  Baby’s head is sitting firmly in my pelvis (not a pleasant feeling on the bladder) and feet and hands are moving almost constantly. Which is good, it’s what’s meant to be happening apparently. Despite being overweight, I’m healthy, blood pressure is normal, baby’s heart rate is normal and I feel good.  Being pregnant hasn’t been hard yet, but I suspect as I venture into this third trimester I’ll start to feel a bit heavy.

I’m having the baby at home, not in a hospital, which has been my wish from before I even wanted to be pregnant (or had someone to get me pregnant!) and I’m really excited about it all. At first I was a bit apprehensive about giving birth in our loungeroom, as we live in a tiny one bedroom flat under a big mansion, so it’s not like I can dedicate a room as the birthing room, and baby won’t have his or her own room (not that it’s needed anyway early on). We’d talked about moving out to somewhere with two bedrooms before baby arrived, and I thought this was the plan until a couple of months ago my husband mentioned casually how he’d been telling people I was having the baby in our lounge in our current flat.  I was surprised to hear this!  Turns out he’d worked it all out in his own head but had forgotten to mention it to me.  He said he thought it made sense – we live in one of the best suburbs in Sydney, right up on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  It’s so beautiful that tourists come here from everywhere just to walk around across the road from our house, and it’s the perfect place – calm, natural, quiet, awe-inspiring – to bring a baby into the world and for him or her to spend the first few months of life.  He commented yesterday that the lounge is such a peaceful room, not too bright but not too dark, large enough to fit a big pool in, wooden floors to help deal with any, erm, spills, and just a generally serene place, perfect for the arrival of our first baby.  I soon realised that he was right and that we didn’t need to move.

And that brings me to the nesting part of this post.  I still can’t get used to Sydney as my home.  I don’t want to, the truth be told.  I don’t want to be a part of this place.  It’s like it bores into my soul, or strips something out of me every time I drive through the city.  Just being in Sydney often makes me feel like my life is at an end!  I feel hopeless here.  We’ve made some lovely friends, good people, whose company I enjoy; but at some level it feels a bit like we’re trying too hard.  It’s like Jerry Seinfeld says, you get to a point in your life where you have your friends, and you don’t need or want any more; you’ve only got a certain number of ‘slots’ to fill and those are all filled.  I guess I’m also unique in this sense because I don’t ‘need’ friends as such, or at least I don’t have to socialise to feel complete.  Socialising for me is an effort.  Don’t get me wrong, I usually enjoy it once I’m doing it, but sometimes I just want me time, alone time.  My husband is the opposite, and although he loves doing his own thing or just spending time with me, he really needs lots of people around him and lots of stuff happening constantly.  He’s an extrovert and I’m an introvert, in the simplest sense.

I’m really over complaining about Sydney; I don’t like it, end of story, and I will never feel at home here.  I want to move to Melbourne.  At least the city has no negative affiliations for me, I can start fresh there, and I do have some good friends there who I’d like to see more often.  More than anything, it’s about starting fresh and settling down properly, instead of this forced ‘plonking’ I’ve done in Sydney.  I’m only here because husband wanted to come here, and I figured it wasn’t fair of me to make him move to a city that he, at the time, hated; he’s coming to live on the other side of the world with me, so I should at least give him the choice of city.  Oh how I wish I hadn’t relented!

I’ll never forget that moment I chose my Sydney fate.  We’d had a few drinks, more than a few really, having come from an annual rugby club dinner at the Houses of Parliament (London), and we were partying the night away at the after party which was on one of those permanently moored boats along the Embankment – Tattersall Castle?  Or was it Queen Mary or whatever that other one is called…? I can’t remember.  It was somewhere close to midnight, and we happened to coordinate our air (read: cigarette) breaks up on the deck outside.  I wore a cheap, black cocktail dress I’d bought off eBay for 30 pounds and I was hot and sweaty from dancing downstairs in the nightclub.

“Okay. Let’s go to Melbourne then.”  He looked at me with the most forlorn look on his face.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and asked him to repeat it, which he did.  My reaction wasn’t what he or I expected; it was delayed, and not because I was utterly overjoyed at the prospect of moving to a city I’d wanted to live in for a good ten years.  I couldn’t handle allowing him to make that sacrifice for me, to move to a city that, four years prior, he’d experienced as cold, unfriendly, and generally boring, when he knew Sydney a little, and had found it so friendly, warm, sunny, full of fun and beaches and pubs and his favourite rugby.  I finally hugged him and said “thank you”.  But I couldn’t feel happy; I felt deflated, like it was a bit of an anti-climax.  And he was clearly miserable.

We went back downstairs and I told a friend from Melbourne that the decision had been made; needless to say she was very happy, as was her Kiwi boyfriend who was going to be moving down around the same time as us and knew no one in the city.

I really wish I’d ignored my man’s misery and ploughed ahead with the plan of Melbourne; but how would we have booked a wedding venue when neither of us really knew the city?  How could we have moved there any way?  We’d have had to organise every aspect of our wedding in the four months between arriving in January and getting married in April, and that’s ignoring the fact we’d need to find a place to live and get jobs.  Could it have been done?  I can’t answer that, because we never attempted it.  Maybe there’s a parallel universe somewhere with a version of me living in Melbourne, buying a house there, decorating a room for this baby, planting vegies in the garden, working as a freelance editor for some awesome publishing house… Or maybe that other version of me is just as miserable as this one, knowing that Australia is the wrong place to be.  Coming home has made me question why we ever did it, why we left London.  I know it was because I wanted to bring my children up and settle down somewhere more family-friendly, slower-paced, with better weather and more social freedom.  But that idealistic picture I had of Australia is slowly becoming eroded, as I realise more and more just how behind we are here, and how maybe being here doesn’t suit me as I thought.  Maybe that realisation I had at 18 that I was actually Australian and not European is being turned on its head, and once again I struggle with my cultural and social identity.  Time will tell…

Birth

So I’m beginning a new phase completely – I’m pregnant.  Coming up to 18 weeks, so well into it, and feeling fairly good, no serious health issues etc.

What I wanted to write, purely for my own future reference, is the story of my journey towards motherhood and all that it involves.  I think motherhood, and parenthood to some extent, are very different from what they used to be.  It’s gone full circle – back in ancient times women were revered and even worshipped for their ability to give life, some might say a ‘God-like’ ability, able to create, even though in fact all human beings are creators.  Then motherhood was a woman’s only path, and everything else secondary; slightly less sacred, but special nonetheless.  Later, being a mother became more of a rite of passage, something that validated a woman’s existence, and, in Elizabethan times for example, it was really the only reason women were kept around.  Childraising became a chore, birth a difficult and dangerous process, and women who once tuned into their God-given instincts around pregnancy and birth became frightened of their own abilities – in fact they no longer recognised them as abilities.  Birth was something that happened TO a woman, she was subjected to it, this torturous experience, and so it became a big medical ordeal, where women needed the help of medical professionals to do something that their bodies were actually designed to do.  The excuse for all this: ‘oh but it’s so worth it in the end when your baby is in your arms’.  So we haven’t forgotten how special children are, but babies coming out of women, this is now a real hurdle in life.  This is where we are now… well, almost.

I’ve never gotten to that stage; I’ve always known my body would be fine and be able to give birth.  I wouldn’t dream of asking some doctor, who doesn’t know anything about my body or me, their opinion on the matter – what would they know?  So they’ve got a degree that took them five years and probably even more as an intern, they’ve read a lot of literature, studied a lot of medical history, seen lots of women pregnant, maybe been present at lots of births, but have they really observed birth in its natural state?  When would a doctor have had that opportunity, given that they’re only called in when something goes wrong?  I suspect never, purely because they are doctors, and ultimately they’re about ‘safety’.  Oooh, you’re bleeding, you’re dying, let’s put lots of drugs in you to stop it!  Umm, hang on, what if the bleeding is part of the process?  What if it’s a message from your body?  No one panics when a woman has a period, and some women have really heavy periods – do they expect a woman not to bleed profusely when giving birth?  Yeah.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I’m planning to have my baby at home.  Why?  Because pregnancy and birth are not medical conditions and do not require any kind of medical assistance or intervention unless something is seriously wrong.  And how will I know if something’s seriously wrong?  I’ll know.  Life is risk; going to a hospital is a massive risk; exceeding the speed limit is a risk; so is bungee jumping, playing rugby, drinking alcohol, telling someone you think they’re a dickhead, loving someone, crying, travelling, sleeping… they’re all risks, and the levels of risk vary, not depending on the activity, but depending on the individual circumstances.  Life is all about risks and weighing them against your individual situation.  In my opinion, the risk of something going medically wrong is heightened by being in a medical facility and being interfered with.  The risk of something going medically wrong at home is a hell of a lot lower. Fact.

I don’t think I’m ‘brave’ or it’s any amazing achievement or I’m special or doing something really different – birth at home seems far more normal to me than birth in a hospital.  I guess it’s to do with upbringing, and the fact that I’m luckily a really healthy person with a strong constitution and I don’t tend to ask doctors what to do when I’m sick, I just get on with sorting it out myself.  (Actually it’s not just luck that I’m so healthy, I’ve got good genes and my mum did everything to give me a healthy upbringing.)

I have to say I hate that people think having a baby at home instead of in a hospital is some great, brave, amazing feat, like I’m really pushing boundaries and taking this massive risk.  I hate to say it but I think it’s ignorance, and social conditioning.  People just don’t take responsibility for their own bodies any more, and in hospital you give up any control, ownership or power you may have had over your own body – which is insane, who would want to do that unless you’re completely helpless?  The problem with Western medicine is that it’s all about chemistry, physics and biology and doesn’t acknowledge the part that psychology, spirit and emotions play in it all.  Just because something’s manifesting physically doesn’t mean the cause is physical… What makes a baby grow, what makes it ready to be born, what makes a woman’s body push the baby out?  Sure as hell isn’t the woman herself.  Time and time again I’ve read accounts of birth from mothers saying, ‘I didn’t do anything, my body just pushed out the baby’.  Really?  So all that huffing and puffing and shouting ‘push, push, push… now, now, now!’ is all just for the benefit of those delivering and watching the birth… They think they’re in control, that they’re actively ‘delivering’ a baby, that giving direction to push or pant or stop or lie down is causing the birth to occur, when really it’s just a distraction from what’s already happening naturally.

I can’t wait to give birth – it’s going to be the most intense experience of my life, but I can’t wait!