The Happy Baby Project

A happy baby needs a happy mum


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My Anti-Plan Birth Plan

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At 36 weeks, I’m now contemplating the realities of labour and birth and, for the first time, getting really excited about what lies beyond – the adventures of babies and crying and breastfeeding and what on earth are we doing?

But for now, I’ve written my birth plan and shown it to my midwife. It describes the ideal birth of my dreams, mirroring the ones I’ve read about from Ina May Gaskin, in Maggie Howell’s fantastic Birth Preparation book and from stories read out at my Active Birth yoga class. This means:

  • Staying at home for as long as possible, using homeopathy, movement and massage
  • No inductions / sweeps unless medically necessary (and I will pester them to tell me why so)
  • A water birth
  • No pain relief (although I am tempted by gas & air)
  • No interventions unless medically necessary
  • Staying in control of the process, asking for full information and time to assess risks and make decisions
  • Privacy, music and candles, dim lights, encouragement but no time pressure
  • Letting the cord pulse until it stops
  • The moon on a stick.

So far, so unrealistic?

Maybe not. But we all know life does not always go to plan and only a very small handful of my friends had a blissful, empowering birth experience. Most had surprise illnesses and complications, some had real horrors. All seem pretty unfazed by the whole thing, which shows as long as you have a happy healthy baby at the end of it then how you got there probably doesn’t matter.

Add to this the fact that we also know that pregnancy has a lovely way of throwing spanners in the work and lo and behold, at 35 weeks I was diagnosed as having possible OC (obstetric cholestatis) from tests done after I mentioned that I had been itching. OC is basically where your liver doesn’t work well and doesn’t filter out bile salts properly, which stay in your body causing incredible itching. The bile salts in turn can harm baby by increasing the risk of late-stage stillbirth, so you are normally advised to induce at around 37-38 weeks.

To sum up, therefore, my peace n’ love hippie birth – all surges and turning down the pain dial and breathing in golden light – may well now turn into an induction-cranked chemical fest which has all the potential of turning into an intervention-filled nightmare.

Thing is, I’ve been itching since day 1, given my hives and excema (lucky me) but it’s never been the on-hands-and-knees-ripping-off-skin-til-4am type of itching – mainly on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet – that OC sufferers describe and I actually feel really, really good right now. So the fact that my body might be letting me down is annoying. While my bile salt tests are normal, my liver function test (ALT) is high so they still worry I may have it and need to monitor me carefully. I have accepted that I can’t do anything to stop it and obviously if the baby is in danger (and as long as I’m sure I have all the information to allow me to weigh up the risks myself) then we will induce and intervene to get baby out safe.

But something interesting has happened since I’ve found all this out. After initial panic, worry and tears (heaven help a hormonal lady with a google search button), and taking several days to get my head round the fact that I could be induced several weeks before I thought I would have my baby, I found an acceptance, a letting go of expectations and plans, which has actually made me feel liberated, calm and in control. So back to the theory behind my original birth plan.

Yes, for a planner like me, the idea of things happening sooner than I expected, at a time when I can’t control it, was at first terrifying. But I moved important appointments forward to my 37th week (well – my hair won’t colour itself), leaving week 38 and onwards entirely free. I wound down at work so I could leave promptly if required. I washed all the baby stuff, had a lovely lunch with my best friends, finished all the odd jobs round the house (or rather got The Chef to help). I read the birth stories I wanted to read, played the hypno-birth CD on repeat, packed the hospital bags.

So now, I feel ready. And more than that, I have discovered a new sense of purpose, a new open-mindedness that I didn’t have before and which I believe will make me stronger for what lies ahead. A very clever friend of mine said to me that all this OC stuff was actually a good thing because it was teaching me perhaps the most important lesson of motherhood:

That nothing can be planned. Expect the unexpected.

At our first NCT class (more later – actually really enjoyed it), we were shown a photo of a doctor-led medical labour ward room – as opposed to the midwife-led nest we’d all come to want – and asked how we would feel about that being the place we were told we had to give birth in. While most of the couples appeared to hate the thought of such an industrial, medical environment, choosing words like “anxious” and “worried”, I went straight for a card that appealed to me. It read:

IN CHARGE

And on the back of this was marked the hormone that I’m aiming to harvest more than anything – OXYTOCIN – the hormone of love and labour.

Straight away I realised my mind set had changed. That, having first embraced a natural, instinctive birth, I now knew that if I need an induction, an epidural, hell if an entire team of scrubbed up consultants came in and told me I had to have an emergency caesarean, then I would probably be able to stay in control, to make this birth the way I wanted it to be.

So that’s my birth un-plan. Wish me luck!

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My first NCT nearly new sale

So, my mummy friend invited me to my first NCT nearly new sale last Sunday. Yes, its mega early (I’m only 18 weeks this Saturday) but I thought as I didn’t have to buy anything it might be a good way to leisurely sniff out some bargains.

Well, leisurely it was not. We got there 20 minutes before it opened (NCT members get in 15 minutes before everyone else) and there was already a queue. There then proceeded to be a lot of pushing and shoving and annoyance and general angst before we all flooded in. And from then on it really was handbags (and prams, and bumps) at dawn. My friend was brilliant, shouting “there’s a baby bjorn in the corner – grab it!” and “get that bumbo under the desk!” while I stumbled round confused, wondering what on earth is a bumbo?! When I found said bumbo, another be-bumped lady told me she’d got it first and I was unceremoniously pushed to another stand.

Anyway, thanks to my friend who I shouted to across the stands “what should I buy next?!” every 2 minutes, I managed to buy some very cute stuff at bargain prices so I’d definitely recommend you check out your local sale if you want to pick up some bargains. My tips for surviving another one (and it really is survival of the fittest) is:

  • get there early
  • ditch the jacket / pram as its boiling and rammed
  • carry a large bag for your purchases (I had to make two trips to the car)
  • bring a friend / partner to recce the whole place and tell you what is good and what to go for
  • look under the tables and in baskets to find hidden treasures
  • don’t buy the first thing you see – there might be more of the same brand in better condition in other stalls
  • work out what you really need / want in advance otherwise it’s overwhelming
  • make sure you take a break after about 15 minutes of manic haggling – you’ll need it

So, to my surprise as a complete novice at these sorts of things, and parenting generally, I reckon I got some good stuff. Here’s what I bought:

A bumbo for £15 (RRP approx £40) – without tray which needs to be bought separately. Wish I’d shopped around as there were actually loads for around £13, many with trays

A travel cot for £20 (RRP approx £60-80)

Baby bath seat £1

A very cute rocking horse, (looooove!), £12

Baby bjorn (a little dirty) £5 (RRP approx £70)

Cute play matt thing £10

Tommee Tippee baby monitor (£8 – new) (RRP approx £35)

Assorted toys & books, £1 and £2 each