The Happy Baby Project

A happy baby needs a happy mum


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Remedies for a Bad Back

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I’m 32 weeks with a huge bumperoo, and had some good news lately. After lots of R&R and a lovely relaxing babymoon in Kent (thanks to The Chef!), I’m feeling healthy, happy and rested. And a 32 week scan revealed an incredibly fat baby (top 97 percentile tummy size!), and no longer a vertically-challenged placenta, but one that has moved up and beyond my cervix. Hurrah.

But the latest problem I’ve had to deal with – which seems fairly common for this stage of pregnancy – is a bad back. I’ve had lower back and pelvic girdle pain, shooting pains in my pelvis from my sacroiliac joint popping out, and incredibly tight, stiff, tense back muscles from carrying the weight of El Bumpo.

While I’ve accepted that this is likely to happen on and off until baby arrives, I thank my lucky stars I’ve avoided SPD, and I’ve found several things that have helped me that I wanted to share:

  • I’ve found reflexology absolutely amazing. It gives a holistic solution to problems, dealing with both emotional and physical issues. For example, my wonderful reflexologist suggested some of my back problems stemmed from weeks of stress over Christmas, and worries about money and nesting, which caused my upper and lower back to tense up. That something which at its most basic was a very relaxing “foot rub” also diagnosed anxiety and digestion issues, shows what a powerful thing it is. I have no idea how it works, but for me it really has. I see Shirley-Ann Foster in Kingston.
  • I also do a monthly preggie massage with Shirley-Ann which relaxes me and allows me to get a good night’s sleep.
  • I’ve seen an osteopath for my back which was good, but I’ve found preggie physio really beneficial as all our body’s muscles are linked and a problem in one place often stems from issues in another. I had lower back and pelvis pain which turned out to be due to tight thigh muscles which needed to be stretched out. Agonising shooting pains in my pelvis were due to my sacroiliac joint popping out which needed to be slotted back in place. And now my lower back and pelvis pain is caused by several things, including the baby putting pressure on my thorax capacity and upper back (which has also made my breathing similar to Darth Vader), and the bump pulling my weight forwards, making my back strain to keep me upright. Physio massages are painful but brilliant for loosening up and getting a comfortable night’s sleep. I see Helen Keeble at the White Hart Lane Clinic, Barnes.
  • My physio also tried some acupuncture on me which was amazing. Based on traditional Chinese medicine, but adapted for the Western world, it works by pushing a needle into your muscle, causing the muscle to contract around it and then to relax. It also causes a small wound which sends healing waves to the area. Finally, the points can respond to different body issues – the points in my back where I was most tight responded to my bladder median. Surely not surprising that having to wee 100 times a day might have caused problems….
  • Stretching exercises have been amazing in trying to keep flexible. Try a few of these at the bus stop / train platform / at your desk:
    • Pelvic tilts
    • Cat stretches
    • Front thigh and calf stretches
    • Bum squeezes
    • Upper body and shoulder twists
    • Pelvic floor squeezes
  • Preggie yoga (and pilates I’d imagine, although I found it too difficult to do with a big bump) has really helped in stretching me out and limbering me up, the breathing and repetition making me more flexible. I see Natalie Meddings at the Garage Studio, Barnes.
  • Really practical comforts are:
    • Hot-water battles
    • Ice packs
    • Dream Genii pillow to sleep with
    • Deep heat creams (I also used Marmot Fat cream  – apparently an Austrian muscle and joint healer!)
    • I’d imagine any chemist-bought muscle relaxing creams and heated pads would help massively both for bad backs and for labour
    • Hypno-birthing relaxing CDs to breathe the pain away.

Finally, and I’m having to remind myself this all the time – TAKE IT EASY. After frantic nesting for weeks, I spent pretty much the whole of last weekend in bed, watching Modern Family on the iPad, and it did me the world of good. As a couple of lovely blog comments have already taught me, this really is the only time I can ever put my feet up, treat myself and relax, as the next time I go through this, I’ll have a mental toddler with a giant belly running round. I’m trying not to feel guilty about cancelling social arrangements, delegating housework, or asking friends to give me a pillow to sit on.

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GUEST POST: Why I Love Ina May Gaskin

Note from Sasha: My good friend Betty Soo* is one of those natural mums. She’s always been maternal since school, when I’d go round after a bad break up to be put to bed with a glass of wine and a ciggie, and she was always on the phone with great advice on everything from dealing with family issues to remedies for cystitis. So it was no surprise to me that she went on to have three beautiful children, all of whom were born naturally, at home in a birthing pool. She is an amazing, relaxed mum and I am honoured to call her youngest my goddaughter.

So when I got pregnant, she was one of the first people I called, knowing she would be full of honest, good-humoured and wise advice. And while she managed to put me at ease about lots of things (a glass or two of wine being fine etc), she was also delighted that I was going to an Active Birth Yoga class with a teacher who recommended reading Ina May Gaskin. You see, karma has a way of making things right in the world, and Betty Soo went from a City job in London to being a birth and breastfeeding counsellor in the rural North of England, a job to which I cannot imagine anyone more suited. Ina May is her idol, championing the same natural, relaxed, mother-led birth that Betty Soo herself had. I’m still aiming to have an instinctive, active birth (even if it goes tits up and I end up having every intervention under the sun) so was interested in knowing more. Here’s what she had to say: 

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Ina May, Felix & Me

Betty Soo with number 2 and Ina May

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth is the one book I recommend every pregnant mother reads, particularly if she has chosen to give birth as nature intended.

Now before you all beat my NCT-addled body, I said chosen on purpose. Not everyone wants to give birth as nature intended, not everyone gets to choose. So please don’t vilify me for writing this. I am going with the idea that Mum and baby are doing well and she would like to go down the natural choice route.

Ina May is an original hippy – a self-trained midwife, she responded to the needs of the women of the American hippy trail. There was one quite natural outcome from all that free love, and no one to help the women birth their babies – no midwives, no hospitals, no obstetricians, probably no health care insurance and certainly no NHS. So, Ina May became a midwife using books and some help from medics along the way, a large dose of love, a dash of spirituality and a strong belief that women can give birth and sometimes really enjoy it.

Spiritual midwifery

So, back to Ina May. Her book is not just fabulous, she is lovely too (I have met her! See pic above). She talks about poo, a lot. She says (about giving birth) “let your monkey do it“. She suggests you make horse lip noises in labour, snog your partner like mad and create a sexual atmosphere. Yes, a sexual atmosphere, how shocking! Anyone remember conception?

The monkey thing is all about letting go of your hang ups, your worries about weird noises escaping your lips, pooing yourself, not being able to cope – all your human issues that a monkey, frankly, wouldn’t give a crap about. There’s that word again… If you’re pushing hard into your bum as baby is coming, it might well happen. You might be worried now but remember – the midwife is your friend, she performs magic tricks with bed pans, she makes poo disappear, so if anyone is a bit afraid of showing their partner some poo, rest assured, it will be hidden, unless you have a waterbirth, in which case my husband had a sieve (aka fishing net). After two experiences of this, I am over it. I only worry that I will ‘owe’ him in later life.

And now for the science bit; currently in the UK our caesarean rate is worryingly high, 25% of all births (WHO recommend a level under 10%). I say worrying because although caesarean section is a fabulous tool for rescuing, it also increases risk. So in ideal circumstances it would be a tool to use with caution.

When Ina May published her Guide to Childbirth, it was not just the beautiful stories and wise words which captured my heart, but a tiny Appendix giving the statistics for The Farm midwifery service. These statistics made me weep.

Realistically we are talking about a group of people who one assumes are emotionally supported, have a low stress lifestyle, eat well and are supported by a very experienced normal birth midwifery team. And yet, I am still in complete awe. Their caesarean rate is just 1.4%. How do they do it?

I believe that it’s a bit like The Little Engine That Could. The midwives, the pregnant women, partners, children, everyone on The Farm believes in normal birth. They see it often, have seen it working and they know it works.

Compare this to my own experiences of birth prior to pregnancy – a few off-putting stories involving hospitals and emergencies, episodes of Casualty and ER and well, nothing else, I wasn’t that interested – I’d rather discuss my shoes thanks all the same. At my first ever booking in appointment, my midwife asked where I would birth my baby? In hospital, I replied, because surely that was where all babies were born? She suggested my home. Really? What nonsense! That never happens on Casualty. But it intrigued me. Was it possible and most of all was it safe? The answer for me was yes. Two super supportive midwives coached me through what was a nerve wracking time, supported me and most importantly, did not leave my side. This is what every woman deserves, whether they choose to birth in a hospital or birth centre or at home; proper one (or two) to one midwifery care. Just like Ina May would give. 

So what would pass on to my best friend, if she were soon to increase the population of this planet?

– Get in touch with your pelvic floor and all of its roles – wee, poo, uterus – it’s all a very fabulous part of you, don’t be ashamed by it, embrace it (although not literally).

– Read/watch/listen to every positive birth story you can lay your hands on. An awareness of the variety in length, progress and challenges of birth will help you feel prepared when your day arrives. It will also help manage your expectations to allow for a great range of possibilities during the birth journey.

– Do not watch One Born Every Minute (unless someone has edited for you and even then with caution) and do not listen to the horror stories women, who you often barely know, seem so happy to relate. Birth is like a marathon, you need cheer leaders, not people telling you how awful it’s going to be. (NB Orgasmic birth does exist, I saw the film).

– Birth, in the most part, is fabulous. Yes, it is hard work (‘labour’ kind of gives it away). But, like many jobs that take time and effort, the rewards are boundless.

– Going on from this, BELIEVE IN BIRTH – we really would not be here as a race of people if it didn’t work, would we? Sure, stuff happens, but in the most part, BIRTH WORKS. If you don’t believe me, find someone to talk through why you feel this way or find a natal hypnotherapist to work with.

– Talk to your partner about birth, about expectations after birth. If this is proving fruitless, pay for NCT classes where you will be helped to gain insight into your own and each other’s expectations of parenthood. You may also make a great support network of other parents to be to help you through the fog of first time parenting.

– Birth can be hard, breastfeeding can be hard, being parents can be hard, but what you get back is priceless and after the hard stuff you can look back with a real sense of achievement. You can say ‘I MADE this baby, I GREW him’.

And that has to be the coolest thing ever.

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* not in fact her real name, I did not go to school in Nashville


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New Baby Shopping List

Here are the things I’ve bought for me and baby in the last few months. I’m not saying these are all necessary, nor that they are the best things to buy, but they are all things I’ve seen recommended by friends or that I’ve found from trawling magazines and the internet. Seeing it all written down makes me do a little bit of sick in my mouth at how much I’ve spent (and The Chef is yet to understand the extent of it all) but I told you the nesting instinct was strong. Here goes:

Nursery basics

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Sleeping

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Travelling

  • Bugaboo Bee pram (bought second hand with rain cover, sunshade and footmuff for around £240. Borrowed Maxi Cosi car seat adaptors and bought coffee cup holder – apparently an essential!)
  • We borrowed a sheepskin rug for the pram from a friend and got John Lewis cellular pram blankets
  • Baby Bjorn baby carrier (bought for a fiver at the NCT nearly new sale post)
  • A babasling (more recommended in comments below – I bought off ebay for around £15)

Changing and feeding

  • Luckily, some lovely friends have given me a steriliser, Mendela mini-electric breast pump, bottles (Dr Brown and Tommee Tippee), and breast milk storage bags. All I need to do was to buy was a bottle and teat brush from Boots, and to bribe them with wine to come round and show me what on earth I need to do with it all
  • Skip Hop changing bag
  • John Lewis wedge changing matt
  • John Lewis birdy breastfeeding pillow
  • John Lewis muslin squares
  • M&S assorted muslins
  • I may buy a mamascarf
  • I got a second hand bumbo from the NCT nearly new sale

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Medical, bathtime and grooming

  • I didn’t buy it in the end as I bought separate items, but I like the look of the Tommee Tipee healthcare kit which has brush, comb, thermometer, nasal mucus sucker-up thing, nail clippers and file
  • I also did a big shop at Boots for: Arnica pills, paracetamol, baby flannel and sponge, baby nailfile scissors and clippers, Pampers newborn nappies, cotton wool, baby wipes, nasal aspirator thingie, dummies, antibac hand wash, Sudocream, Infacol, breast pads and nipple shields, nipple cream
  • John Lewis baby step (I thought I could sit on it while baby is in the bath)
  • John Lewis baby bath box to hold all the many baby bits and bobs in the bathroom
  • ELC bathtime baby ducks
  • A Cuddlemoo cowprint towel apron from Cuddledry
  • John Lewis baby hairbrush
  • John Lewis dino cuddle robe
  • I borrowed a baby bath from a friend and bought a baby support from the NCT nearly new sale for £1
  • Philips Advent Digital Thermometer Set
  • Advent bath thermometer

Clothes

Toys and playtime

  • Sophie the giraffe teething toy
  • Freddie the Firefly
  • Stripey horse soft toy
  • I bought a baby gym from the NCT nearly new sale for £10 and am borrowing another from a friend
  • I have borrowed 2 baby bouncers from friends, and am borrowing a door bouncer
  • I bought various rattles, toys and books from the NCT nearly new sale and have inherited lots from friends, as well as getting some lovely toys as pressies

Hospital Bag

  • Mine currently has: lavender oil & hanky, nipple cream, arnica pills & paracetamol, throw away pants, maternity pads, slippers, camera, iPhone speakers, snacks, nappies, wipes, cotton wool, newborn outfits x 3. I’m still to get some lipsalve, eye masks and ear plugs, a towel, and cheapie nighties, pants, vests and trackie bums from Primark
  • I also love the Hospital Bag checklist from Mums Make Lists and am waiting for the Hospital bag list from The Pregnant Beauty Guide


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Mo’ belly, mo’ problems

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I got 99 problems and lower back pain is definitely 1

So there I was at 30 weeks, proudly telling The Chef that my third trimester was my best, that I was feeling great, that I thought I’d “got away with it“, that pregnancy wasn’t all that bad really, actually it was fine, and maybe I could try it again after a short break.

But preggie symptoms change quickly don’t they? And when you’re least expecting them to…

….And so it came to pass that a mere two days later, there was me at 1am, on all fours, gritting my teeth as the tears flooded down my face in sheer agony and frustration at the pain shooting down my lower back and under my bump, which meant I could neither sit down nor lie down for more than a second in any one position, making sleep an impossibility. I tried a bath, the dream genii pillow and hot water bottle, and still I was only able to pace the room and try pelvic floor stretches until the wee hours, unable to get comfortable.

Two agonising, uncomfortable days later and a trip to the physio and my problem was diagnosed – my sacroiliac joint had popped out. Yup, just popped right out (its the joint between your pelvis and spine and isn’t really designed to “pop” anywhere). She said the injury was similar to those found in car crash victims.

CAR CRASH VICTIMS.

And yet when I came to work out how I’d done it, I reckon I managed to pop it out following an over-zealous hug from a friend’s toddler which, due to my new-found lack of balance, knocked me right over.

You know when you went backpacking as a teen, and tried to bend down to tie your shoelaces on a train platform, but the weight of your giant rucksack tipped you over so you ended up, beetle-like, pinned to the platform by your heavy bag, with legs in the air and unable to stand again? Well that’s about as co-ordinated as I apparently am now – the hug from a three year old is likely to pop my pelvis out of place.

But anyway the damn thing is back in now, and hopefully with some massage and TLC it will stay put. Unless, you know, I do something crazy like give someone a high five.

Which leads me to two new sources of panic:

1. If joint pain had me wailing uncontrollably, what on earth am I going to be like in labour? and

2. With all these worries, about nesting, about pregnancy back pain, about the birth, when am I actually going to have time to think about the most important thing – being a parent.

And when I think about the latter, the panic does set in a little. I’d been so distracted with ensuring my cot bumpers matched my nursery wall stickers, and that I was doing my pelvic floor exercises and hypno-birth CD, I’d forgotten to think about little things like – oh yeah – the fact that a small, crying, hungry thing is about to call me mummy for the next 18 years or so. A brief peak into what Gina Ford has to say about it all only served to scare me even more.

So in the 10 weeks I have left there’s some new things to think about – like breastfeeding, infant sickness, discipline, sleep routines, whether I would let them get a tattoo. I kind of liked it before when all I needed to think about was getting enough vitamins, and the latest offers at Mothercare.


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On Nesting

11 weeks to go before baby no 1 makes an appearance and I’m feeling pretty good. My skin is still dreadful but I’ve shaken off the vanity that has pervaded me for much of my 20s and 30s and accepted that I am likely to look a little rough until several months after the birth. The huge bump intrigues me and makes me happy. I’m excited and energetic.

But, let’s face it, I’m MANIC.

I realise all-knowing mothers will be shaking their heads thinking don’t sweat the small stuff, or wait til you get to number 2 and you’ll be dressing them in a second –hand bin bag, but this nesting instinct is pretty powerful.

Since New Year, I’ve felt I’m on the home stretch, and The Nesting is all-consuming. It’s a sickness that invades my sleep and manifests itself in lengthy to-do-lists, stressed out moans to the other ‘arf who is trying desperately to understand Mental Wife, and all sorts of phone and diary reminders. I feel like I still need so much Stuff, have so many books to read to work out what to do with all the Stuff, and there’s so little time left!

Since New Year:

  1. A new package from frantic online shopping has arrived almost every day, much to the bemusement of The Chef.
  2. I have bought eclectic objects for the house that seemed Very Important at the time. Like a tie rack and a spice rack. The Chef has since pointed out he never wears a tie and we never use spices. And it continues. I want new cushion covers! I want to move furniture around! I need new house plants!
  3. I keep booking up time to meet up with friends, as if post-March I am disappearing off the face of the planet.
  4. I am obsessed with doing all the odd jobs in the house that need doing before baby arrives. Damp-proofing, carpet-mending, dusting, gardening. Sitting down and relaxing (which I am advised to do more of) is a becoming a rare event.
  5. I am training myself to become a domestic maternal goddess. I bought cake tins! I cooked my first pie! And sticky toffee pudding!
  6. I am noting down every mummy recommendation and acting on it. My baby will be swaddled, carried in 2 types of baby sling, with white noise and coloured lights. At this rate, I will be fanning the little tyke with peacock feathers while recreating the birthing noises of a giant whale.
  7. I am finishing off the dream nursery that I have decided we must have. We have cot and chest of drawers and shelf, and now I want a glider chair and some stickers and the moon on a stick. For a baby who will be unable to focus on much for the first few weeks. But STILL.
  8. To add to our growing nursery, I am buying “essential” baby gear. Like a sheep that plays wave music, toy boxes for an unborn child who will be unable to pick up toys for several weeks, and a cow-patterned baby towel.
  9. I have a spreadsheet, a SPREADSHEET, of all the baby stuff we still need and booking up every remaining weekend from now until D Day with shopping trips for me and The Poor Chef.
  10. I am obsessively budgeting, saving, then spending my savings on Stuff. Then crying over lack of savings. Then buying more Stuff.

HELP!