The Happy Baby Project

A happy baby needs a happy mum


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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 preggie girl’s guide to being “a bit hormonal”

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As I approach 27 weeks and the third trimester with a certain joy at knowing me and my baby will meet each other before I know it, a raft of new symptoms appear.

My body is swelling all over. The bump feels enormous, and with its new curves and weight comes surprising, uncontrollable physical symptoms. The sore back, the swollen ankles that threaten to make knee high boots a thing of the past, the new-found clumsiness, bringing an impromptu “oof” when doing up shoes or having to pick something up off the carpet. The heat and hot flushes that make me thank my lucky stars this isn’t the height of summer. There’s bleeding gums and spots, hiccups and heartburn and constipation. There’s the fact that, like many of the women in my pregnancy yoga class, I have been known to let out an unexpected burp after eating. I don’t feel beautiful or voluptuous now, I feel creaky and ancient, like an old dusty bookcase.

And then there’s the emotional stuff. I’ve been told – oh don’t worry, you’re probably “a bit hormonal” – which suggests a bad case of PMT or teenage heartbreak. But I’ve been reading up on what these hormones are doing, what they will do in future, and am frankly amazed we pregnant ladies manage to get our shoes on the right feet in the morning, let alone do a full day’s work*:

  • There’s progesterone that basically stops the baby falling out. And if you imagine it sending waves of stupor to do so, you can also envisage it being responsible for that sluggish feeling, that slow heaviness, and with it constipation, heartburn (and also spots, aching bones and bleeding gums).
  • And we have oestrogen which stimulates blood flow, giant boobs, and is responsible for that attractive “glow” (bright red sweaty puffy look).
  • There’s relaxin that makes your hips expand, your pelvis grow, and I am personally blaming for my giant bottom.
  • As well as oxytocin to trigger contractions and prolactin to make milk and unwanted hair, and which is also bizarrely linked to sexual satisfaction – seriously, look it up.
  • And finally there’s adrenalin to help you push and endorphins that will be secreted during labour – your own natural pain-relieving happy pills – that some say, perhaps optimistically, can make the process enjoyable…

So, hang on a second.

If I’ve got this right then, left to go about its work unhindered, and without help from man or science, my body can hold in a baby for 9 months then push it out by summoning up super-human strength, while pumping me full of pain-relieving chemicals, and others which put me in such an animal-like trance that I will barely know my own name, and might even make the whole thing pleasurable?

A little idealistic perhaps. But while I still don’t understand why I find myself flying uncontrollably from clingy affection, to red-mist rage, to pathetic sobs, and back to boundless joy within a manner of minutes, I expect its something to do with these powerful chemicals inside me. And though I can’t use them as an excuse for bad behaviour generally, it does allow me to give myself a bit of a break, to respect what my body is doing and allow myself a bit of rest and relaxation.

For me right now, this involves massages, chocolate, sofa time, comfy PJs, cuddles, yoga and reflexology. And a very understanding Chef.

* please note this is based on no medical or scientific knowledge whatsoever