The Happy Baby Project

A happy baby needs a happy mum


The growing pains of a pregnant mum

Below is a list of all the myriad fun I’ve been having with my pregnancy, and some things that I’ve found useful. I have sadly found some GPs and midwives not to be very helpful in diagnosing exactly what’s wrong and trying to work out solutions that actually attack the cause rather than just the symptoms (one female GP pretty much told me that pregnancy sucks – deal with it which was lovely), so I’ve had to self-diagnose and try a few different things:

1. Nipples – my god where do I start? Cracked, sore, red, flakey. There’s a red ring around the nipple now. They are itchy and quite frankly revolting. And I’m supposed to be maintaining a normal sex life?! Hmmm. The normal nipple creams are Lanisoh (Vasoline-like) and Kamilosan (more of a soothing cream) but thesehaven’t really worked for me. I’m now trying to use a mild steroid cream (hydrocortisone + 1%) which I’m hoping works. Alternatively I’ve self diagnosed that it might be nipple thrush (lovely!) which likes warm moist environments (and therefore using a nipple cream might not be a great idea after all) so I’ve booked a GP appointment to get a thrush cream – miconazole seems to be the one most people refer to. I’ve also bought really comfy soft disposable nipple pads from Lanisoh to put under my bra and protect clothes and some cotton nipple pads and breast shields. The latter two aren’t very comfy though and hard to use. I’ve also heard its good to walk around topless to get air to them – but its a little hard to do that in a cool October night!

2. Hives – luckily after one female GP just told me I had to live with this, another GP diagnosed this properly although I’d self-diagnosed in the meantime. It’s when your body is either allergic to the pregnancy hormones or when the preggie hormones make you allergic to something you were previously OK with. It shows up in dry red or white blotches all over your skin – for me my chest, neck and face, for others it can be on legs and belly. They are itchy and can join into one big blotch – attractive! Sadly it is hard to treat but I visited my GP and got anti-histimines including Piriton which is a drowsy one for night to help you sleep. He also gave me antibiotics but this sadly didn’t clear this up. Again a mild steroid cream helps, as does being relaxed and getting loads of sleep. You could also try cutting out the usual baddies from your food – glutens, sugars, dairy – to see if this helps. Also look out for what you put on your skin – you might need to change to a lighter less chemical range during your pregnancy – I’ve found Liz Earle pretty good or some people swear by Avene products.

Obviously I don’t like taking anti-histimes or steroid creams when pregnant, and worry it could harm the baby (even though there is no proof that it does and the doctor prescribed them) but I have come to believe that stress is the worst thing for the baby and it is much more important that mum is healthy, happy and relaxed, so its worth it in the end. I now need something for the horrible niggle that its not great for baby though!

3. Pelvis / joints – In your first trimester and then towards the end, your body is pumped full of relaxin which helpfully expands your pelvis to allow baby room, but rather unhelpfully makes your joints less stable and often they can ping out at great pain and make you feel like a granny. For me, I felt a painful ache in my right buttock which turned out to be because my glutes were tighening round my right pelvis bone which had slipped out of place. Some people swear by osteopaths (I saw Finn Thomas at Barnes osteopath) but I’m also having great results from a physio (Helen at the White Hart phsyio clinic) who is giving me gentle pelvis strengthening exercises. Preggie yoga is a great help too. It’s best to see someone when you get pain – unlike what the GP told me this isn’t the sort of thing you should be putting up with!

4. Exzcema – If you had it before pregnancy, it will either go away or become even stronger. Guess what happened to me?! Yes of course, even worse. Unlike what panic-ridden mums on forums say, taking piriton or other anti-histimines, and using steroid creams where necessary is fine. Better for mum to be happy and not stressed and itchy, which is of greater harm to the baby. Best to go to the GP first to check they are happy with it and to check it isn’t actually something else (like hives or acne!).

5. Smelly pee / discharge / sweat – Yes how lovely. I started finding my pee started smelling pretty strong / funky and hadn’t a clue what it was. Mums on my baby forum said this was normal (phew) and that you should carry round baby wipes to freshen up all day but in fact I worked out what it was by mistake. Due to my hives, I stopped taking the preggie vitamins for a bit and lo and behold, all smelly pee stopped. So my theory (based on no science whatseover) is that the preggie vitamins have just such high concentrations of vitamins that your body has to discharge it somehow and it must pump through your pee and sweat etc. So it is totally normal and controllable but I haven’t had any problems with this since I stopped taking the preggie vits. Obviously I wouldn’t recommend you try this before speaking to your GP / midwife first, although I understand the vitamins are only really need in the first 12 weeks anyway.

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An introduction to The Happy Baby Project

I write the blog The Happiness Project London and here’s the last post I wrote which may explain why we’re now here:

I’ve been quiet over the last few weeks because life has changed somewhat, and it has something to do with the little wriggly person that’s been growing inside me. Yes, the HPL is having a baby!

And while I’m wildly happy about it now, there were times in first 12 weeks when I really struggled to remind myself of all I’ve learnt about being positive. Of course I appreciate how lucky I am, and what an exciting thing is about to happen to us, but my body’s reaction to the news wasn’t exactly pleasant. And it took this wonderful blog post by Caroline No to give me the strength to say IT’S BEEN BLOODY SHIT! I’ve been a bit rubbish at this pregnancy stuff! And finally – who cares!

My skin decided it didn’t like the preggie hormone or the preggie hormone didn’t like certain foods anymore and broke out in giant red itchy spots all over my chest, neck and face, which might or might not have been hives. I got teenage acne. I developed an agonising pain in my right buttock which turned out to be my pelvic girdle pinging out of place, making walking nigh on impossible. I found myself sobbing like a heartbroken teenager for hours on end, once hysterically laughing and sobbing at once, not knowing why. I felt nauseous and fat and bloated and frumpy, unable to squeeze into my old clothes but not big enough for maternity gear. I ate three burgers in a week. I missed wine and hangovers, still do. And don’t get me started on itchy boobs and cracked nipples and giant wire-less maternity bras which make cycling to work an interesting exercise in pot-hole avoidance and agonising bouncing droopy pendulous bosoms….

A cumulative force of utter exhaustion, the need to cry repeatedly and teenage acne-like skin meant I lived as a hermit for weeks – not even wanting to go for a walk and covering my face when I saw anyone including a man reading our meter: “Don’t Look at Meeeee!”.

There were sudden periods of anger, an unbearable urge to snap. The Poor Chef got the brunt of it, being the only person in my vicinity for much of the time. You put a wine glass in the dishwasher the wrong way – YOU IDIOT!!! You didn’t put the plant pot in the right place – YOU RUINED MY BIRTHDAY!!! And how could he understand the raging hormones that were filling my body with negativity and fury and sadness, when he was just really really happy?

But on the cusp of 12 weeks things got better. I got my energy back, which built up to something like hysteria when I realised I could finally socialise and actually see my friends again (lunches and walks along the Thames best – drunken dinners not to the most fun when you’re sipping on Schloer all night and wondering why everyone’s laughing at an unfunny joke). My skin cleared up and my hair went from greasy to full. I contacted friends, I felt positive, I started thinking about the future. And The Poor Chef came out of hiding.

And then this week we had the scan. I was a bag of nerves, wondering if it was there at all, or alive or deformed, or multiple. But then we saw him (for we call him “he” after the scan but we don’t know if he is a she yet of course). What a gorgeous wee wriggler. He was tiny, of course. But with a round little belly and a lovely face with big lips. And beautiful frogs legs and two feet, which he kicked in the air before turning his little bottom towards us. I can’t feel him yet but my tummy is getting more solid and I love the little reminder that he’s there, wriggling and waiting.

So now it’s different. I’ve told people which really helps. I’ve bought a few bigger clothes and am enjoying better skin and shaking off the indignity of the last few weeks. I’m loving my new body – the round curves, the bigger breasts, the hardening belly. I’m so proud of my body, so impressed at its strength and the way it seems to know exactly what to do. I can see why women who’ve given birth often want to do marathons  afterwards – and I feel the same – because I love my body in a way I never have before and I’m amazed at what it is capable of and I want to get fit, not just work out at the gym to lose weight, but get stronger and faster and show myself what my body can actually do. I feel womanly and dare I say a bit beautiful.

I am already aware of competitive mum syndrome and what lies ahead. There are the I’m-still-a-party-girl mums (I stayed up til 2am and wasn’t tired at all! Yes the baby is two weeks old lets book that girls’ holiday to Ibiza!). There are the body-beautiful mums (I’ve not put on ANY weight! In fact I’ve LOST weight! Who’s the first for botox?!). There are the capitalist mums (I’ve just bought the most fabulous baby papoose to match my bugaboo pram travel system in a neutral colour to match my tastefully decorated nursery!). And there are the this-is-totally-natural-to-me mums (vitamins? I didn’t bother with those. Epidurals? I’m just going to power breathe with my doula).

So what sort of mum will I be? Well who knows. But I’m not pining my party days any more. In fact I’m loving getting to bed at 10pm and being cosy under a woollen blanket on the sofa. My favourite recent purchase is a great pair of sheepskin slippers.  I’m looking forward to my body getting big and round because I have a feeling it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be doing and I really want to take care of it from now on. And I believe what my child really needs is our unconditional love, and a favourite cuddly toy which is soft and old and worn, and being read to all the time, and its grannies and granddads and aunty and uncle teaching it about life and the world and where it came from.

I know one thing for sure. This is the biggest adventure of our lives and its one that I’m finally ready for. And sometimes it will take all I’ve learned about happiness and positivity to keep me going when times are tough, but the joy this little thing will bring will teach me more about life and love than I ever imagined possible.

So wriggle away wee man, we love you very much, and we can’t wait to meet you in March!