The Happy Baby Project

A happy baby needs a happy mum


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10 things you should never say to a pregnant woman

1. You’re HUGE!

This is normally accompanied by a laugh – ah wah ha ha ha! And sometimes pointing.

Yes, we all love to be laughed at, don’t we?!  Ha – yes – I’m the size of a bloody WHALE! I could blot out the SUN!

What people seem to forget is that we are still women, still filled with insecurities and vanities, even after getting knocked up. And we still quite like to look nice, especially when we’re out of the house and have taken off our “house clothes” especially to see you. We have no control over the size and shape of our bump, unless we’ve been eating dohnuts solidly since day 1.

Actually I love my huge bump, I have no stretch marks, and its a nice neat shape. I love compliments and comments on it, just not about its enormous SIZE thank you very much!

2. Your baby will be HUGE! You better hope you have a LARGE PELVIS!

This often accompanies 1. It was followed in one case by a GP who said “what you need is one of those large African pelvises.” Which was helpful.

I have recently been offered an induction on the basis that my baby looks like it might be big and there might be problems with delivery, including shoulder dystocia. That’s a lot of “ifs”, and in my mind not enough to justify an induction, with all the inherent risks and delivery complications. So I don’t believe I’ve been reckless in saying no.  

Let’s start with some basics. You don’t KNOW my baby is huge, no-one does until it comes out of me. I also can’t change the size or shape of my pelvis, although I know that it is actually DESIGNED to cleverly move and open to let my baby out. I know plenty of mums who were scared shitless by doctors telling them they’d have huge babies (some of them opting for inductions or caeserians on this basis) and actually ended up having 8-pounders. Scans can overestimate weight. And, if we trust our bodies and they created these babies, surely we can trust them to birth them too? If you read Ina May’s guide to childbirth there are plenty of HUGE babies born naturally, without pain relief and often with no tearing or episiotomies. In fact, practically speaking wouldn’t big babies be better at pushing themselves out quickly and easily?

And anyway what is the POINT of telling me my baby is big?! It only scares me and has no real benefit to me, other than making me google “shoulder dystocia” in a panic at 4am.

Anyway, now you’ve told me my baby is big, I am choosing to make it a positive. I have a big, healthy baby and that’s BRILLIANT.

3. Let’s just split the bill

Yeah sure! Much easier! I don’t mind paying £10 for each of the 3 sips of Rioja I had! It’s not like I have anything to buy right now, not like I need to budget for anything like maternity leave or essential baby clothes! Yeah, you go ahead and order your third round of digestifs, I didn’t need that cotbed anyway!

4. You’re giving birth next week? Oh my god, I / my friend / colleague had a NIGHTMARE birth… [INSERT NIGHTMARE BIRTH STORY HERE]

This isn’t a recent thing – my own granny told me on several occasions that giving birth was like having your leg amputated without anaesthetic. Thanks granny! WHY do other mums insist on doing this?! Don’t they remember what it was like to be about to give birth and be a bit scared? Do they think sharing battle stories will help?

I don’t need to know right now about the baby that got stuck, the organs that fused together with caeserian scar tissue, the pain and the agony and the panic. Yes, I’m realistic about what might happen, but you should couch all information right now in a positive way – that everything with baby and mum was OK. I want to be surrounded by positive birth stories please!

5. Get all the sleep you can now, you won’t be getting much later!

Good advice in theory, unhelpful in practice, given you need to get up 5 times a night to pee, are wedged uncomfortably on your side by a pregnancy support cushion which doesn’t allow for any movement, while being kicked constantly by a squirmy baby who decides to wake up between the hours of midnight and 5am. You might as well get used to insomnia now ladies.

6. Make sure you [go to the cinema / eat out / go for weekends away / insert other seemingly innocuous activity] now as you WON’T GET TO DO IT AGAIN FOR 18 YEARS!

No. I’d rather spend the entire day watching a Modern Family boxset on the sofa in pajamas while eating choc ices, thank you very much.

7. Wow, you’ve got some appetite!

Yes, at 38 weeks, my appetite is equivalent to that of an 18 year old rugby lad. I could literally stuff my entire body weight in carbs and chocolate in my gob right now, and I’d still want seconds. Now, pretend you didn’t notice, make yourself useful and go get me some cake.

An addendum to this is that pregnant women often cannot help but emit some rather embarrassing noises at this time, at no fault of our own. This includes farting, burping, hiccuping, and I once saw a pregnant friend involuntarily snort like a pig at the sight of chocolate. This is also best to ignore, and blame entirely on the baby.

8. You’re definitely having a girl / boy, I can tell by the [shape of your bump / colour of the moon / other completely unscientific method of detecting gender]

No you can’t. Shuddup.

9. Oh, so you’re OK to [drink that wine / have that coffee / eat that prawn sandwich] then? *frowns*

Well I was just enjoying my twice-weekly glass of vino, really loving the taste, savouring it – my little ray of sunshine in an otherwise shitty week. But now I’m worrying about harming the baby, thinking I’m a terrible mother, and suddenly it doesn’t taste as sweet and I might as well pour it back in the bottle. It would be nice to be trusted that I’ve read up all the advice and am making sensible, responsible choices for me and my baby, whatever you might personally believe.

Add to this the opposite which is “you aren’t going to be silly about eating this are you?” (while simultaneously placing an underdone piece of steak or similar on our plate). This makes you feel obliged to eat it even though you wouldn’t have chosen to do so otherwise, and are unlikely to enjoy it. Again, mums should be trusted to make their own choices about food and drink, whether or not everyone else agrees.

10. AND FINALLY…(on being told the intended name of the child in question)….Really? That’s the name you want?! I thought that was a joke name?!

Thanks mum 🙂 xxx

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38 weeks and the due date approaches…

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38 weeks today and I’m feeling…well..uppy, then downy, then uppy again. Poor Chef.

Good news is maternity leave is wonderful, giving me time to put my feet up, do some “grooming”, see friends, and sort out the house in wierd and wonderful ways that only an expectant mother could come up with (we must plant herbs! we must fill the freezer with ready meals! we must buy drawer storage boxes!)

Also good is the fact that my liver function seems to be settling down and out of the last 3 blood tests (am human pin cushion), 2 had gone down to almost normal, and only the last annoying one had crept back up a little. But hopefully I’ll be left in peace until baby decides to make an entrance.

Bad news is the hormones, the tick-tocking of  time to d-day, are making me rather irrational and emotional.

I have previously spoken about people discussing your first child’s arrival as a sort of armageddon. Having recently finished NCT and gone to a Bumps & Babies class, I am filled with the impression that in the weeks following the birth I will be a shell of a woman, unable to do much more than make a sandwich and brush my hair, on a good day. I’ve been advised to avoid visitors for the first 2 weeks to allow us time to settle into things. Food shopping, cooking and basic personal hygiene appear to be impossible tasks. Certainly, having read Look Mummy No Hands description of breasfteeding round the clock, it would make sense to prepare for the worst.

Will it really be that bad? The Chef doesn’t seem to think so, and having suffered from insomnia for much of my life (see this post I wrote for The Happiness Project London on being a “troubled sleeper“), sometimes I think I will cope pretty well. But I can imagine that after the highs and excitment of the first few days, the hormones and tiredness will kick in, as will any problems with breastfeeding, and we’ll just have to take every moment as it comes.

The other thing I’m finding, is that I keep getting told all the things I should be doing now BECAUSE WE WON’T GET TO DO IT AGAIN FOR AT LEAST 18 YEARS! (That was a direct quote from my NCT teacher). Way to put on the pressure. I’ve been told to:

  • Go to the cinema lots
  • Have date nights
  • Eat out
  • See friends
  • Sort out all the things wrong with the house as you’ll never have time later
  • And…somehow find time between all the above to nap, have baths, and read.

And being someone who is probably more suggestive to other people’s opinions than most, I’ve been running round like a headless chicken trying to do all the above at once. Phew. So a couple more weeks before baby decides to show up would be nice.

Which brings me to my final worry. The Birth. It is becoming more tangible every day, with my belly swelling and the bump moving lower, and the little stabby pains in my pelvis I didn’t have before, and the shock of every twinge making me think IS THIS IT?!

And it’s scary at times, really overwhelmingly emotionally scary. And it could utterly overwhelm me if I didn’t try to stop it. Because although I’m calm and controlled and an active-birth-yoga-hypno-birth follower, there is a little part of me that wonders whether when the time comes, maybe I will just not be able to handle it, will thrown my fricking frankincense out the window while screaming for an epidural NOW. And I know that won’t be the worst thing in the world, but it’s the fear of the unknown that gets me.

I want to be able to let go completely, to give my body over to this baby to make its way out as it knows how to do (a girl in yoga class described the birth of her first child as being like when you vomit – an abandonment of your body to instinctive urges), to accept the feelings of my body splitting open, with a certain calmness and power. But how do I know if I’m strong enough or powerful enough? How will I be able to follow my primal instinctive side when my brain is telling me that MY BODY IS ABOUT TO RIP OPEN?!

I don’t. I’ve done my best to prepare and the rest will be up to me, The Chef, our midwife, and my body. And perhaps a large glass of red wine.


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A medical update & thoughts on dealing with obstetricians

As some of you may know, I was recently sent to an obstetrician to see whether I might have obstetric cholestatis (OC), in which case they may have induced me early (around now actually!) due to possible harm to my baby. This led to a dramatic turnaround in my original birth plan and was a real eye-opener in terms of learning to expect the unexpected.

Well, the good news is that it is very unlikely I have OC as my bile salts are fine and my symptoms aren’t very suggestive of it. But the original tests still show a high ALT (liver function) test which is abnormal, and the weight of medical science suggests that this is a bit odd. That’s pretty much all I know, but I’m beginning to think its just a wierd symptom of pregnancy, of baby causing all sorts of problems. But in terms of hard, cold facts (which, as a risk-averse control freak I always like to be in possession of), I’m yet to know why I have this or what it means to me or my baby, so until we know more I am in a state of limbo, not knowing whether I will be able to have the natural birth I want, and worrying that things will get worse.

Note I have nothing against induction for medical reasons, I know how common they are, and I know that many inductions can lead to wonderful, natural births. Although I also know that something like 70% of inductions lead to epidurals (many are done at the same time) due to the sudden, quick contractions that don’t build up gradually as they do in natural labour, making you work super hard to cope. I also know you need to be monitored in hospital so my prefence for privacy at home for as long as possible, for active movement, would be reduced. Although as I say, I’ve heard some wonderful stories about brilliant induced births where mums managed to move around and have lovely, natural (and blessedly very quick!) births.

The obstetrician started by telling me: “Its my job to worry; and I get worried about heavily pregnant women with abnormal liver functions walking around in late pregnancy.”  Which hinted to me that he was thinking about induction. At this, I burst into tears, and when he asked me why I was so against induction (he seemed genuinely surprised), I explained I’d just rather things happened naturally, given all I’d read about the body’s natural production of oxytocin, and my hypno-birth/active birth preparation, although of course if there was any chance my baby could be harmed I’d induce at the drop of a hat.

I also asked him what was causing the dodgy liver function, and what harm it could do to me or my baby, and it transpires that he didn’t have a clue. It was an anomaly. It could be anything, possibly a virus that I’d picked up, but it was unlikely that we’d find out what it was. I suggested a liver scan (thanks to some great advice, as always, from twitter mums) to see if it was something as simple as the baby kicking my liver, and he proposed a raft of blood tests to check for things like hepatitis.

So, subject to the tests showing up something specific (unlikely), or the ALT levels increasing to a worrying level (fingers crossed), or me starting to feel ill (I feel great), or the baby stopping moving (baby appears to be doing a daily marathon inside me so no worries there), then I suppose I can carry on happily until labour starts naturally. Which is great news. The consultant isn’t seeing me again for another 2 weeks which shows he can’t be that worried. And I’m doing all the natural things to induce in the meantime – long walks, gardening on hands and knees, raspberry leaf tea.

However, I’m not sure we would be here in this relaxed “lets wait and see” situation if I hadn’t made it clear that I was against induction, and hadn’t asked a raft of questions about why my wierd liver results were a problem. So my tips if you find yourself in a similar predicament are:

  1. Find out as much as you can before you see the consultant. Ask your GP for information, speak to your midwife, ask twitter and find out what you can from the internet (although don’t panic if you read anything bad).
  2. Be clear about your personal choices for birth – you shouldn’t be pushed into something you don’t want to do if it isn’t necessary. If you’d rather only induce if absolutely necessary, make this clear as it won’t be assumed. I’m amazed at how many women I’ve seen on mummy forums saying they actively want to be induced even if its not clear that there’s anything specifically wrong.
  3. Ask lots of questions – if they want to induce then WHY – why are you or your baby at harm? What is wrong? If they don’t know, the next stage should surely be more tests – blood tests, ultrasound scans of your organs.. If you don’t know what you’re dealing with, how can you properly evaluate the risk?
  4. If you do find out you might need an induction, don’t panic or get upset, speak to other women in your NCT group, or email Natalie at Tell Me A Good Birth Story, to put you in touch with other women who have had happy, successful inductions, to hear some positive birth stories. It may not be what you planned, but with a little mind-change and some planning you can still have the birth you want.