Baby B: Scattered All Over The Place

32 weeks, six days

My plan has been to publish a weekly column on the baby and / or the pregnancy each Sunday. Yesterday, however, I just couldn’t come up with anything positive. I imagine that some hormones have been making themselves known and tears have not been too far away. When not teary, I would slip into fits of anger that would bring up pregnancy posts that didn’t feel right.

So I waited. Not exactly for the hormones to give me a break but just to pass enough so that anything I wrote was genuine.

In four weeks and one day I will be considered full term which means the baby could make an appearance at any time around then. My due date is seven weeks and one day away, my last day at work is nine days away and I still haven’t set up the cot. The baby bath arrived and so did the Moses basket where the baby will sleep for the first few weeks / months. The mattress arrived separately from the cot and it is light and measures 120cm x 60cm and the baby will spend a couple of years sleeping on it so that feels quite magical.

I woke up Saturday morning and my left hip / pelvic band (something like that) hurt. Apparently this is normal but since I couldn’t turn or put any pressure on that leg without it feeling like agony, it didn’t feel too fabulous. That might have been one cause of the tears although paracetamol helped.

Kris, the Big Issue vendor by Temple Meads, and I were saying goodbye for Christmas before the holidays and we got to chatting about babies etc. ‘Are you getting married?’ he asked me and I said no, ‘but you’re together with the father?’ and I replied no to that as well and it didn’t seem to make for a great start to the day. Then I was reading a book on HypnoBirthing and there was the following quotation:

Somebody said that no one
can love a child the way a mother can.
Somebody was never a father.

That didn’t help either. However, I didn’t give up. The chapters that followed were called ‘The Power of the Mind’ and ‘Falling in Love with Your Baby’ and I started to cheer up a bit. Staying positive and loving feels nice even when things look tough. I guess it helps especially when things look tough.

Of course it could be the hormones again but just on the other extreme of the dimension. My colleague was telling me about when she was at the later stages of her pregnancy and finding things hilarious. She’d spent 10 minutes laughing at the following Mighty Boosh line:

“I read a pamphlet”,
“So, I once saw a hedge, what’s your point?”

[see full conversation]

Still laughing.

Baby B: Antenatal Class 1 – Breastfeeding

31 weeks, four days

I have been offered two antenatal classes by the NHS and the first one was on breastfeeding. The second one in just over a week is on the labour itself and they both run for two and a half hours.

Apart from being told that breastfeeding is a good thing I wasn’t sure with what they could fill up two and a half hours but I was definitely going. There were over 20 of us expectant mothers with different shaped and sized bellies. I ended up sitting next to a woman with the exact same due date as mine, February 2nd.

The first thing we did was go around the room and say what we would like our baby to inherit. Some people said patience, love of life, love of socialising, sense of humour, I said my love of running with the thought that it encompassed perseverance, dedication, a healthy lifestyle (perhaps) and being ok with solitude. We’ll see, of course.

We were then told about the inner workings of the breast and about how the milk is produced with the beginnings set off by the chemicals prolactin and oxytocin.

We were encouraged to feed the baby when he/she wants, for as long as they want or whenever we want to feed him/her. Crying is the last clue a baby will give when it wants to eat so some of the cues are as follows:

  • Smacking their lips
  • Sucking on fingers or fists
  • Rooting (head bobbing)
  • Stirring and appearing restless
  • Moving lips in a sucking motion
  • Rapid eye movement before waking up

When you see these cues offer your baby a feed. Frequent feeding during the first few days is normal and helps with the establishment of feeding.

Benefits of breastfeeding

When you breastfeed the baby has:

  • Less risk of gastroenteritis
  • Less risk of chest infections
  • Less risk of urine infections
  • Less risk of being obese
  • Higher IQ
  • Better eyesight
  • Better dental health

If you give artificial milk (infant formula) your baby has increased risk of:

  • Allergies e.g. eczema and asthma
  • Childhood diabetes

There are also benefits for the mother

  • Reduced risk of ovarian cancer
  • Reduced risk of breast cancer
  • Reduced risk of hip fractures in later life
  • Less risk of excessive blood loss after birth
  • The hormones help you get mothering off to a good start
  • Reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes if you have a family history of diabetes or if you have diabetes in pregnancy

Skills for breastfeeding were introduced as tips on how to hold the baby, how to help the baby feed and how the mother’s position could be made as comfortable as possible.

Baby should not be given milk from a bottle for the first few weeks because giving bottles leads to less needing to be sucked at the breast and it gives the message to your body not to make much milk. No one should offer bottles of formula, water or glucose to a breastfeeding mum and baby, except for a clear medical reason.

There is a lot of information out there so please check out the NHS pages as well.

One of the last parts was a little test where we answered true or false to questions about the session. One of them was that fathers can’t help with breastfeeding but of course this was false as they can support mum in the process. Then the midwife looked at me and changed the wording to birth partners or anyone that is helping out, ‘it need not be the father’ she added. Very true.

Baby B: Shopping But Not As I Know It

30 weeks, four days

A cot: L127 x W68 x H101cm, conforms to BS EN 716, requires a continental size cot mattress (60 x 120cm) – check -, suitable from 0-24 months, 3-position mattress base height. Ordered online and paid for by mum.

Nappies: Boots own brand £2.99, Huggies newborn – unsure of price – but the sizes look good. Size 0 for low birth weight babies up to 3kg, Size 1 for newborns 2 to 5kgs. I pick up a packet (x24) of size 1, I’ll order a jumbo pack online later (or two) and get it delivered. Apparently newborns go through 10 to 12 nappies a day. “Get the size 0 for newborns” she says, that’s for low birth weight, I say. “How much do you think babies weigh, get the size 0”. I point out that size 0 is for ‘up to 3kg’ and size 1 is for newborns. “Get the size 0, 0 is the smallest so it’s for newborns”. I point out once again the sizes and the weight. We go on for a bit and then maybe she understands because she says nothing further.

I turned to Google and asked what I would need for a new baby and I added ‘NHS’ in the query. I then had my first official source of information: What will I need for the baby?

Nappy changing, Bathing, Sleeping, Feeding, Clothes, Getting out and about, and Also useful.

I don’t have a car so should I buy a car seat? What if the baby needs to travel by taxi or go in a friend’s car at some point? I look at car seats. I have no idea which one to choose. I settle on a Moses basket because suggests that babies outgrow them soon so you’re better off getting one second hand or borrowing one.

Cotton wool: always buy white. I pick up cotton wool balls. She comes by and replaces the balls with cotton wool pads. This is at the end of the hour long visit to Boots so I don’t say anything.

Microwave bottle sterilisers v electric bottle steriliser system all in one. ‘You don’t have a microwave’. ‘It broke recently and we’ll replace it’. ‘You don’t need it, you have no space’. ‘That’s not the point, we will get one and the microwave bottle sterilizer will be more useful’. ‘Get the electric all in one, you don’t need a microwave’. On and on and on.

I still need a baby monitor but bought a forehead, ear and room temperature thermometer. Nappy rash cream, a dressing gown and slippers for the hospital. A baby bath and a foam bath support.

You should always buy a new mattress – Mothercare Spring Interior Mattress with Amicor- Cot Continental £64.99.

Also Useful list: Blunt-edged scissors or baby nail clippers. From Boots in the end, £2.49. Put them back, she says. Why? They’re blue. What difference does it make? I guess they don’t have any other colours. We’ll get them.

The baby’s probably a girl but I won’t know for sure until he or she arrives. 66 days to go, give or take a few here or there.

Baby B: and Iron

Third trimester, 29 weeks, four days

I had some blood tests at my 28 week midwife appointment and one of them was to check my iron levels. Five days later I received a phone call informing me that they were too low and that I should contact my GP. The midwife spent the next couple of minutes telling me the kind of foods I should be eating and that orange juice should be drunk with meals to help absorb vitamin c. I wrote some of it down but took more time researching it on the internet.

The baby is having a growth spurt apparently and I’m now entitled to 200 more calories a day.

The baby needs iron to help it form red blood cells. How much extra did I need however? Apart from knowing that it was about double the ordinary intake, I wasn’t too sure. The normal levels are 12 to 15 mg and my levels were down to 8.4 from 12 in June.

As the volume of blood increases in the body so the nutrients are diluted. My nose bleeds had stopped the past couple of weeks and the GP paused a moment when I told him. I can’t tell if that’s a good thing or not. I was told that the breathlessness and the heart racing were probably due to the low iron levels. The last few days, I have had to go back to bed after eating because my heart just wouldn’t slow down from its breakneck speed. My normal heart rate is just over 90 these days.

I was given iron supplements and told to continue with my pregnancy multi-vitamins. I went shopping. I changed my whole diet, primarily adding lots of meats, cereals, juice, leafy greens, chickpeas, black pudding and Marmite to it.

On that first night after the phone call I had an iron rich meal.

240gms of chick peas
250 gms of beef steak
1 slice of black pudding 4.4mg iron

And on a personal note it was my birthday last week. The first birthday where the baby exists.

Celebratory Birthday Menu
Sultana Bran – around 80gms – with soy milk – 200 mls
Starbucks Venti soy latte 20ozs (1.8mg iron, 10gms protein, 80mg calcium, for 8oz)

2 rashers of bacon
1 slice of black pudding 4.9mgs iron
1 bak choi
some carrots / sweetcorn / green beans

20 dried apricots
1 small brownie

Happy Birthday.

Baby B: Mama In Tears, Baby Chilling

28 weeks, four days

I was talking to Baby’s dad, a few days ago, and mentioned that there had been little kicking and activity going on that day. Baby had been all over the place the previous week, kicking and rolling and arching out. One early morning, I woke with a start as I was kicked very energetically near the ribs. I admire the energy and enthusiasm that must be behind all these movements and I half enjoyed it while still maintaining a level of wariness at the sustained attack.

The wariness turned into confusion as the activity slowed right down. The first morning of not being woken at the usual times of 3am to 5am was a slight interest. Since the 20 week scan there had been a gradual build up of activity and it had now slowed down. The next day there were some movements but very small ones. That night I kept waking and waiting for some movements but nothing really happened. I barely slept and woke in a panic. I had read a leaflet from the NHS about reporting any change in movements straight away. It said “don’t wait until the next day but call someone now”, so I did.

The first time I was put through to the midwife I was crying so much I could barely make out the words. I was told to call the Hospital instead and nearly had to get my housemate to come back home from work to call for me. I managed to stay coherent however and then trekked my way up St Michael’s Hill and on to the Day Assessment Unit.

The first thing they did was to scan the bump to make sure everything was ok. Baby was on its side and the beating heart was visible and much bigger than previously. The whole baby was much bigger since it had been two months since the last viewing and was facing me – more accurately the little scan machine thing – and the little hollows of the eye sockets were visible. The umbilical cord was pointed out and the little tummy. That was one very chilled baby, barely moving at all but doing very well.

The next stage was to hook me up to a machine which traced the baby’s heartbeat and recorded it. I was there for about half an hour and heartbeat was in range and steady. Sighs of relief all around.

I was impressed with how nice and calm all the staff and midwives were. They told me to call whenever I had any doubts, to not worry about wasting anyone’s time and they even wrote in my notes that I should do so.

Baby’s back to being a kicky little creature again but is more into somersaults and bouncing around from side to side. I even had a flurry of little kicks at some point as if she was pedalling to get away. The frenzied activity has calmed but we’ll see what happens. My favourite is when she kicks the laptop off my tummy. When I get a chance to record that I will post online.

Baby B: Some Stories To Tell

I have been hearing friends’ and random strangers stories about their pregnancies and some of them just leave me astounded. Mine are full of ooohs and aahhhs of pain mostly, messy nose bleeds, frequent night time awakenings (every night), painful feet and hot flushes. Other women seem to be going through Wonderland pregnancies that even the weekly newsletters don’t tell you about.

Two women I met recently, both at 20 weeks of pregnancy, hadn’t felt any of the morning sickness or exhaustion that I encountered, but both claimed to have started to feel a little tired recently.

A friend with a 15 month old baby told me about how she loved being pregnant, loved getting bigger, loved having everything taste delicious and wonderful and wished she could do it all again soon.

Someone on Twitter mentioned a friend who was able to keep running and cycling up to her seventh month before she started to rest. I am seven months this week and I have managed perhaps two runs in all that time.

My mum claims to have had no morning sickness and to have been just fine all the way through both her pregnancies. She may be experiencing some post-hoc rationalisation though because I doubt she remembers the fine details 33 or so years later.

Sometimes I wonder whether it’s psychological rather than physical. While other mothers-to-be have their partner’s support, the house with the nursery and the clothes already bought and accounted for, I am planning to share one room with the little one and have the cot in the same space. I haven’t bought anything yet but have received lots of little clothes and blankets. There are 85 days to go until my due date and I’m starting to think I should get a move on.

On the positive side, I have started to feel better physically. The tiredness from the physical exhaustion is creeping away and I’m just stuck with the ordinary five-times-a-night-wake-up tiredness. My body has replaced its constant queasiness with a constant heartburn which doesn’t encourage much eating, although I do my best. The reduced eating means that while the bump is growing well, the rest of me has slowed down somewhat.

I have already mentioned the nose bleeds and they are the most unpleasant part, although struggling to put socks on is a close second. All in all, the baby is growing and the pregnancy is progressing. My first hope, above all, is for a healthy baby and second to that is for a healthy and pain free me. 12 weeks to go, hopefully.

Baby B: Forgetting The Baby – Pregnancy Brain

My midwife is on the first floor of the building and I usually get in the lift, press the button which indicates Midwife and head on up. This time however, I walked into the building and saw that the lift was broken so I walked up the stairs but couldn’t remember which floor to go to. I went up to the third and then worked my way down to the second. Then made it successfully to my appointment on the first. When I left 15 minutes later I noticed that there was nothing wrong with the lift. Nothing about it suggested broken at all.

A few days later I was determined to get the 8 o’clock train and I set three alarms to make sure I woke up on time. I’ve had a tendency to sleep through just the one recently. The alarms went off and I was up in plenty of time to leave at 7.30. The day seemed a little brighter than I would have expected but I dismissed it. I bought two croissants from Tesco and a vanilla soy decaf latte from Costa.

I checked my phone and there was still plenty of time. While crossing over Pero’s Bridge I realised that my phone had said the time was 8.05. How could that be right? It doesn’t take me more than four-five minutes to get to Costa. I decided that I had read it wrong and yet when I made it to Temple Meads the big hand was pointing at four and the little one at eight. I was late and I had completely missed the train.

I am also convinced that no coffee was added to my latte. I saw her make it but I saw no coffee going in. In this case I had the evidence of the awfully sweet soy milk to accompany my perceptions so that one I believe. The rest however are still lost in a fuzzy state of reality.

Pregnancy brain, apparently, is a condition that affects expectant mothers, usually during the first and third trimesters. Sometimes known as placenta brain or baby brain drain, the condition is usually characterized by short-term memory loss or forgetfulness. I won’t quote the part which states that some ‘medical experts’ call it an urban myth.

I had a dream last night where I had placed the blue woollen capped baby into the car seat and then went off to talk to a friend of mine who also had a baby. At some point I heard a noise and I woke up in a panic because I’d forgotten the baby. My heart took its time slowing down after that and I hope that it all gets a little more back to normal by the time Baby comes along.

Baby B: versus the Midwife

“So you decided not to have the Down Syndrome screening test?” the midwife asked me.
“Um no.. I didn’t decide, I thought I’d already had it”.
“No, it says clearly here that I explained to you about having the test” she pointed down at my notes.

At my 16 week appointment I had a different midwife, one who was only in England for a while and back to the US a couple of weeks later.

“I thought it was one of the blood tests” I said.
“No, I clearly explained to you on our first meeting…” and this is all she said as she pointed out in the notes that the word ‘explained’ was written down.

It was now too late to have the test and she was on the defensive because my lack of knowledge may possibly have put her in an awkward position (legally?). She explained again to me about the screening tests, that they were accurate about 60 to 65% of the time and were likely to present many false positives. This means that the risk may be seen as high when in fact it is not. Serum screening is a blood test that screens for Down’s syndrome, usually at around 16 weeks of pregnancy. It measures three or four pregnancy-associated chemicals to assess the chances of having a baby with Down’s syndrome.

I mentioned that it wasn’t offered to me the last time I saw some one but she went back to pointing at the book so I just agreed with her when she asked if I would have declined it. It was too late now for anything of course and I felt like a horrible ‘almost’ mother. At some point I had given up finding out about the pregnancy and just let things happen. I figured that I would be told about anything I needed to know and was upset to be confronted with such an important thing passing me by.

I also realised yesterday that whilst I received my MATB 1 certificate, the all important bit of paper for my maternity leave, I didn’t get a claim form for the pregnancy grant. My fault again. Things are passing by so quickly.

My next appointment is in three weeks as they now get more frequent. Could be that it’s all starting to feel a little more real.

Baby B: Carefree and Kicking Around

Ain’t thinking ’bout love today
Lost in the sunlight
Walking down memory lane

I don’t think about running any more. I spend too long trying to waddle to work, find some comfort on the couch, sleep without pain, put socks on with some measure of grace, impossible.

I dream about running instead. I wake from training for marathons, running effortlessly along the Ashton-Pill path, cycling down the Portway, and find myself heavy and unresponsive instead. I wake up knowing that I am pregnant with little surprise. The bump is hard to ignore and the heaviness even more difficult.

Child In Our Time says that some babies can recognise music played to them while in the womb after birth, and may even be able to distinguish between voices and recognise them once born. They recommend playing a melodic song twice a day so I have been playing some in the morning. So far the baby kicks along and wriggles to Pearl Jam’s ‘Just Breathe’ and is mostly chilled to the rest.

Ain’t thinking ’bout you today
People from the past that I knew
Are slowly slipping away
Seems so long ago
Since we were carefree

I played Jamie Cullum’s ‘Pointless Nostalgic’ to the baby but there was little response, unlike to Die Hard 4.0 where there was a constant stream of kicking and wriggling in response to all the gunfire and battles. I was thrilled for a bit but then wondered whether the baby was unhappy at all the noise and protesting. Did it then perhaps not like Pearl Jam? Maybe something smoother was the way to go. Katie Melua, who provoked no response at all may be the better song to choose. I don’t know.

Photographs lost in time are all I see
A pointless nostalgic-
That’s me
That’s me

At 24 weeks the baby is now ‘legally viable’, meaning that if born now it would have a chance of survival with specialist care. Also as the baby gets bigger, I have begun to get more breathless, as hormones relax my lung muscles and the growing uterus pushes up against my diaphragm. I don’t miss going out and I don’t miss wandering around Bristol for hours since the mere thought of it only reminds me of the exhaustion that’s sure to follow.

Thoughts running round my head today
Times from the past popping up where they’re from I don’t know
Reminiscing my cares away
Wishing I could go back and change the points that were low
Till I’ve realised what life’s meant to be

I had morning sickness until week 18. On average it’s meant to last until the beginning of the second trimester at 12 weeks and my colleagues would try to suggest that it would soon pass but day after day it was still there. One thing that helped was constant eating but not everything was suitable. I couldn’t touch porridge from about week six to week 19 and I still haven’t been able to eat any bananas. Nutella sandwiches became breakfast and were the only thing I knew that I could eat. I remember feeling so bad one day that I ran to the bathroom holding a nutella sandwich in one hand and an apricot in the other. I couldn’t eat because I felt so bad and I couldn’t go into the bathroom because I was holding on to food. Finally a colleague came by and she took me to the first aid room as I burst into tears.

Photographs lost in time are all I see
A pointless nostalgic;
That’s me

There are also the happy tears when I receive clothes for the baby that seem too tiny to be true. My housemates mum has knit some white booties and a hoodie cardigan. Colleagues have given me two bags of clothes that include some tiny mittens, pink corduroy trousers, bibs, little dresses and onesies.

I don’t miss the running, the socialising, the alcohol, the caffeine or the few foods I can’t eat. I do wake up occasionally though and wonder about the girl with no bump who is happily running around Bristol.

Pointless Nostalgic by Jamie Cullum

Baby B: What’s In A Name?

Baby names have been on my mind the last few weeks. After the 20 week scan I thought it might be time to start placing this little person in a real context and a name would probably be a useful way to start.

In Greece, children are traditionally named after the grandparents which is why I have four to six cousins and nephews called Vasili after my dad’s dad. The first child is named after the dad’s parents, the second child after the mother’s and then you can be flexible I guess. I don’t have to worry about the father’s parents on this occasion so it’s a Greek name from one of my parents and then an English choice for a middle name. Probably.

I have found myself being very conservative when it comes to the baby’s name and I keep practising saying them to check their ‘usability’ as such.

However it’s not only the end-result name that counts. The little person will have been gestating for over nine months (hopefully) by the time he or she appears. So what to call present little one and future baby? Some women go with ‘bean’ or bump. I find bean a little offensive to the poor thing. It’s not a bean! I have seen little arms and legs and it’s putting a lot of effort into growing a tiny body. According to my pregnancy newsletter, the baby can now blink and therefore open its eyes for the first time. Not that there’s much to see.

I mostly call him / her the ‘little one’ because it doesn’t even become a baby until it’s out in the real world. The first few weeks sees the little being called an embryo and then at eight weeks it becomes a fetus. As I’ve been growing bigger however it’s become easier to think of a baby so in a combination of all I’ve labelled he or she as Baby B – B for Bump.

There are 16 and a half weeks to go and so far I’ve settled on a first and middle name for a girl, a first name for a boy and various names for the baby bump that is gaining lots of prominence in my life.

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