Ready for Birth

Ready for Birth

In my last post I talked about how terrified I was about giving birth. I couldn’t stop crying and was dreading it. I left you all on the edge of your seat (in my mind anyway) ahead of my Birth Rewind session, where I was to relive my birthing experience and get myself ready for birth. I’m sure you’re itching to find out how it went and what else I’ve done to get myself into the slightly surprising place that I’m kind of looking forward to giving birth to my third child?!

I didn’t really realise that I was traumatised by last birth. I know it sounds melodramatic but apparently splitting my gooch inches away from three unfamiliar faces while my husband looked on shouting “DRIIIIIVE” was just a step too far for my sensitive disposition.

After a painful couple of weeks post-birth, I wrote about it for your enjoyment and then promptly tucked it away in mental box never to be opened again.

Until I fell pregnant again. Turns out the locked box method isn’t the best approach for trauma! Who knew!

Is it PTSD?

For the first 28 or so weeks it didn’t matter but then my mind did that thing our minds do and started whispering “you do know you’re going to have to push a baby out of your vagina again, right?” at the most inopportune moments. It was like Patrick Swayze in Ghost. I was Whoopi.

The midwives and consultants were all pretty pro-Caesarean after reading my notes. But consider looking after a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old and a newborn whilst unable to get up the stairs or walk for the first week, do any of the promised fun stuff like Peppa Pig World (yep!), playing in the garden or drive for 6 weeks?! This was not my favoured option. Not to mention the inability to exercise for 12 weeks afterwards – both of our Mums are (rather inconsiderately) re-marrying within a few weeks of me giving birth so exercise is pretty high on my agenda. I’m desperate not to be eternally immortalised as the hippo on the wall in both of our Mum’s houses.

As well as that, my husband is pretty awesome as husbands go but even he would draw the line at driving me and our brood everywhere for 3 months! Particularly as he’s the only earner at the minute so he does reasonably need to head out without us sometimes. A C-section just isn’t for us at this point and I’ll be pretty peed off if it ends up going this way.

Which means there’s only one way out for this Bad Boy.

And it’s not one I have a great experience of. It was in fact the original inspiration for this blog!

After admitting just how scared I was to myself and then to you, I looked into what I could do about it. Not a lot is the answer! Other than get myself into a psychological state where I feel ok about the fact that I am giving birth again.

Birth Rewind

My chosen way of doing this was via my new hero, Shirley Stump. A local doula (woman who helps you through birth), hypnobirthing counsellor, musician, Indian head masseuse, local Positive Birth Movement leader…general pregnancy and baby obsessed superstar helping the mothers of Hampshire, Sussex and Surrey maintain their sanity. She performed something on me called a Birth Rewind Session.

The Rewind method, I later found out, is a common treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). I felt embarrassed that childbirth gave me PTSD. Only me. But then I remembered the ever growing bump. And turned my attention back to my session with Shirley.

I was dreading it.

Before I go on, you have to imagine Shirley. She’s little and Irish and bouncy. And very funny. And very warm. She loves a cuddle. Both Husband and I are a little bit in love with her (don’t tell her though, she’ll think we’re weird).

She arrived on a gloomy Monday afternoon and I was in tears before I even opened the front door. The next two hours were rough! We spent the first hour talking through the whole labour in minute detail, interspersed with my body wracking sobs. Poor Husband hadn’t been adequately prepared. I had told not to come in the room so, unknown to me, he paced up and down the hallway hearing me cry but not able to come in and comfort me. Big error on my part. Big soz to Husband.

Once all my tears were out, I was able to be a bit more rational and we got to the bottom of the things about the birth that had upset me. Weirdly it wasn’t the pain, as I had attributed it to, but a multitude of other things. The lack of control, the bright lights, what sounded like a murder victim in the birth room next door, the long journey to the hospital, the metal table I was examined on, the not being able to do the things I had been told would be ok (birth pool, no monitoring etc)…and the biggy, the 3 midwives all in a row staring at my fanny for two hours as they all barked instructions at me on how to push effectively. Oh, and the fact they made Husband look at a baby’s head poking out of me when we had explicitly agreed that we didn’t want him to look. So apparently quite a lot about the whole event had really got to me.

We then talked about how I imagined the perfect birth to look. We picked out the key things that really mattered to me – privacy, dim lighting, as few people as possible – and then my mind was left to imagine what a positive birth could look like for me.

We did a guided meditation where I had to watch myself watching my previous labour from beginning to end, then watch it again and then relive it. We then smashed it up and recreated a positive story, where all of the important things to me were included.

I immediately felt more at peace, if not a little bruised. I slept all afternoon, after reassuring Husband that Shirley hadn’t been torturing me.

Feeling Better

For the next few days I had a stinking headache and was still pretty emotional. But in the days and weeks that followed, everything kind of levelled out in my mind. Shirley and I spoke regularly and we did another guided meditation a couple of weeks later. After three weeks I found that I could talk about labour without crying. I was amazed.

Husband and I agreed that we could do with more of this magic and signed up to some Katharine Graves Hypnobirthing sessions with Shirley. I read the book, asked Husband to read the book (he read a third, not a bad result), listened to the tracks and then we threw ourselves in as good students. We have the pictures around the house, we listen to the relaxation tracks every night and I repeat the mantras daily. And a couple of weeks ago we started the pièce de la resistance….perineal message.

It’s not the most enjoyable but we have been repeatedly reassured by all the health professionals that it really does make a difference. I selected an organic heaven-produced-and-tended-to-by-angels oil and sent Husband a few links to learn how to do it properly. We agreed every other day was enough for us both and have stuck, almost, to this plan. In terms of the errrr….stretching part, I don’t know if it works or not. What it has done, rather unexpectedly, is taught me how to use the hynobirthing technique. I can take myself out of my head and forget it’s happening and relax to the point where I almost can’t feel it.

And that, my friends, has led me to the point where I am actually beginning to feel quite calm and confident about the whole thing. Success!

Ready for Birth

We are trying to overcome all the other problems from last time by having a homebirth. I am trying to balance confidence in my abilities with accepting that sometimes you have to transfer into the hospital. But generally I tell myself that this little man is being delivered on the sitting room floor. I’ve just finished my shopping list – extra large groundsheet, plastic polythene sheeting, puppy pads, towels, Tenna pants – it’s happening people. It’s like preparing for a murder clean up (according to Dexter, not my experience).

Even if things don’t go to my plan, I have at least done everything in my power to prepare for a good birth. The things within my control are being controlled, and anything beyond that I am prepared to accept as natures way. From a practical perspective, Angel Shirley has helped me recover from the crippling dread I was feeling and got me into a positive mindset with an incredibly supportive team of midwives caring for me. Which is why I think it’s worth it, regardless of what happens.

It’s here I leave you. 38 weeks pregnant and full of fresh hope.

I’ll report back après birth!

If you want to know more about any of this then happy for you to message me directly! I can highly recommend finding your local Shirley, finding your local Rewind Practitioner attending your local Positive Birth Movement groups (don’t be put off by the name) and putting in the time to prepare just to get yourself in a good headspace, maybe with hypnobirthing. That can never be a bad thing, surely?!

Please like and share if you have enjoyed!

The Fear of Giving Birth Again

The Fear of Giving Birth Again

You may have been surprised when I announced my third pregnancy. Particularly if you recall that my very reason for starting this blog was my outraged horror at giving birth naturally, after a c-section with Girly no1. Now I am having to confront my fear of giving birth. And, let me tell you, the fear is massive. (Warning: there’s a lot of vajayjay chat in this one…)

My last childbirth experience was awful. My husband did more than watch his favourite pub burn down – he watched it be vandalised, torn up, petrol bombed and then burnt….while his friends were still in there drinking. Labour itself lasted for days. I tore from front to back. I was exhausted for not having slept for 3 days. It took 7 hours after the delivery for me to be sewn back up again. I was in hospital away from Girly no1 for 3 nights. The recovery was far from the ‘tired and achey post-gym’ feeling I was expecting. I was in agony. I couldn’t sit down. I went to the doctors sobbing after ten days because the itching and stinging I felt was like gyrating on razor blades. I had thrush. I bled continuously for months. It was shit.

That’s Childbirth Baby

If you’ve had a baby you’re probably sat there nodding or wondering what I’m bitching about. “That’s childbirth!” you’re probably saying with a “get over it” type smile on your face.

And I know it’s not like I nearly died or anything. I know this stuff happens to everyone. I just think that most people just deal with it much better than I have. That or they just don’t talk about it. I think my problem is that I just wasn’t expecting it to be like that. I mean I knew labour would hurt. But I did not expect to be broken in half and feel like I had been raped and beaten repeatedly for a month. It hit me hard.

I did recover physically. More quickly than I would have with a c-section, and eventually I even had sex again, though that was no walk in the park for a long time. Mentally, I tried to get over it. I wrote about it and I talked about it (a bit). In reality, I still felt like I was being a drama queen. 

Ok Let’s Go Again

But as often happens, my flat out ‘no, I’m never giving birth again’ feeling eventually started to ebb away. With our relationship back on track, everyone sleeping and life and businesses moving on; we decided last year that we would have another baby while we were still in the baby/toddler phase of life. We didn’t want to find too much independence only to lose it again so we agreed that we should just bosh them out (for want of a better expression). One surprisingly devastating miscarriage later and two years after one of the most horrific experiences of life so far (yep, there was little magic in childbirth, I found), here we are.

28 weeks pregnant. 10 to 14 weeks away from giving birth. And it has all come flooding back. I am not feeling good about it! In fact I’m terrified. I can’t talk about giving birth without bursting into tears. I have realised this in the last few weeks as people have started to ask.

hows it coming out?

Husband was the first ahead of our last midwife appointment. He carefully picked at his words to ask if we were going for natural or asking for a c-section, him having found the whole thing no less traumatic than I did. I started bravely telling him of course natural – a c-section is major surgery, the recovery is too long, I won’t be able to drive the Girlies, I want to get straight back into exercise etc. He looked slightly alarmed but agreed to go along with it. A few minutes later he found me weeping in another room as I finally let myself think about what was about to happen to me again. He did exactly the right thing, held me for ages and then told me he’ll do whatever I want to do. He’ll have the fights. He’ll defend me to the death. That’s his job.

A few days later my mother-in-law asked the same innocent question. Again, I erupted into tears, admitting I was terrified.

It came to a head in my pregnancy yoga class. We normally have a nice cosy chit chat before we start and the nervous first-time mums rub their about-to-pop bellies talking about how they’re “sure childbirth won’t be that bad.” I have done my best to tread a line between honesty and fear-mongering to the first-time mums I have come across since. I gave birth. In this situation I just  stared at the ground. I fought with my face to try and keep it neutral. I probably looked like Jim Carey in the Mask from the outside.

sharing’s caring

As I sat there listening to them ‘wish it would just happen now’ my hands ground into each other and started to clam up. I felt that familiar lump at the back of my throat and the corners of my eyes start to sting. Our very smiley yoga teacher, pregnant with her second baby, talked fondly of labour and tried, rightly so, to keep things positive. She asked why there aren’t more positive birth stories out there. I continued to stare down at the floor silently begging her not to ask me about either of my previous two. As one of the ‘more experienced Mums,’ she often asks me to share. She looked at me for slightly longer than necessary finally sensing that I’m wasn’t a good person to ask.

Normally I am quite happy to share – ‘don’t worry, your baby will let you know when it’s hungry’, ‘sure, you’ll have sex again one day,’ ‘take your time with breast feeding, it’s a skill you have to learn, and it doesn’t always come easily’. Even to the second-time Mums – ‘no1 will be a pain but they will come through it,’ ‘the life change isn’t so severe the second time round as you’re already in a family-friendly routine,’ ‘don’t feel bad about sending them off with grandparents for days out, they’ll love it, and they probably won’t remember this in a month or two’s time.’ I’m fairly good with reassurances. I have quite a calm and confident demeanour so people tend to believe me.

It’s exactly why you don’t want to ask me about childbirth.

my fear of giving birth again

After very nearly crying in a room full of near-strangers I realised I needed to do something about it. This baby is coming out of me one way or another and even I no longer believe my casual “it is what it is” response I had been giving anyone that asked. I also know, on a logical level, that the more fearful I am going into labour, the more my body will be flooded with adrenaline which will negate the oxytocin my body needs to progress with labour. One way or another, I need to find a way to try and relax into this birth. It’s not complex. On a scientific level, I get it. On a practical and emotional level, I really don’t.

I have been looking into things I can do.

be positive

There is a general wave of positivity around birth at the minute. A desire to share more positive birth stories. I have joined a group – the ‘positive birth movement’ group in my local area. I didn’t want to because the name made me feel like I would have to get smelly dreadlocks, wear Birkenstocks in the winter and carry all my children in a fabric sling around my body at the same time. But I fought my mean pre-judgements and joined the group, first on Facebook and then in real life. I went to the first meeting, hoping I wouldn’t have to share my birth stories. “Hi I’m Jess and I’m a Birthaphobic”.

I took the Girlies with me as cover. They are a great distraction in times of discomfort. If anything will stop me crying it’s them. They are also a huge distraction when you’re trying to listen, but that’s the pay off.

The group was actually really nice. It was a great mixture of pregnant women, new mums, second, third and fourth-time Mums, doulas (women who support you through labour), post birth doulas (didn’t know that was a thing), and breast feeding counsellors. There were even two mums that I could be friends with. They are why I’ll go back next time – because there are other ‘normal women’ like me also in need. More importantly than new friends though, the lady that runs it is a counsellor/doula/hypnobirthing expert. And I think she is the only person with the power to help me right now.

what’s a girl to do

I am going to have some one-to-one sessions with her. Tomorrow we are doing a ‘Birth Rewind’ session where we talk about everything from last time around, try and process it and move on.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

I am also, despite my disappointment and writing it off last time, having another go at hypnobirthing. Whilst it might not have helped me with pain management, it was my one saving grace helping me rest between contractions. And I did enjoy the excuse of lying down for 20 minutes every day to ‘practice.’ This time I am doing it properly. I’m taking the course. I’m reading the books. I’m listening to the tracks. I may even get a t-shirt.

moving on

And these things are why I have written this today. Because I’m not allowed to be negative anymore. I’m getting it all out of my system before my Birth Rewind session and I am moving forward with positivity. You can laugh if you like but just do me one favour. Keep it quiet ‘til the baby is out!

Huge thanks for reading as usual! Feel free to share. And do me a favour and publicly or privately admit that you were scared too – it will make me feel better. Any tips also much appreciated! Big love to you and your families. 

The Awful First Trimester

The Awful First Trimester

Peeps, it’s been a while. And I’m sorry. But I have been harbouring an enormous secret. And the time has come for me to announce what you may already know, may have been waiting for, or may not have given a second thought to (rude!)…Sprog 3 is on it’s way! We’re in the so-called safety zone and out of the bastard-first-trimester. Woohoo!

This post is little more than a pregnancy rant so I apologise in advance. Remember my first post childbirth post? (If not, feel free to refresh your mind here!). This has the same outraged overtone. It’s is my thousand word rant on how bloody awful the first 12 weeks of pregnancy are. It might not be 12 weeks if, like me, you found out at 5 weeks but my lord it feels like 12 years! In fact, my bad patch lasted until I was 14 weeks pregnant. It could be worse though, you may be one of those women that suffer for the whole 9 months. I salute you ladies, I don’t know how you do it. That’s only-child territory.

Nothing? Seriously?

However there are also some of you arseholes (I mean lovely people – it’s the hormones!) that have no symptoms at all. I can’t even look at you right now and it is best we avoid one another. I need another week or two. Personally I like to embrace things fully. Which means I have been exhausted, nauseous, sad, angry, snappy, in pain, sore boobed….all of the things. All at the same time. All of the 14 weeks. Oh, and did I mention the migraines? Another delightful side-affect. It’s ridiculous.

Not Me

My feeling-sorry-for-myself phase lasts for a standard first trimester only. This one though, felt particularly bad. I had days when I couldn’t get out of bed. I stayed horizontal for full 48-hour periods, excepting the two 30-minute round trips to drop off and collect my existing children from nursery each day. I felt physically horrendous, looked even worse and have emotionally been like a bag of teenage sisters. I spent 9 weeks with a pink eyed, blotchy cheeked white/green face telling everyone I’m fine.
But, having been through this twice (actually, three times) before, I know that this is all pretty standard for the first trimester. I can get over it. And I know it passes. I can even, after time, bring myself to be friends with some of you “no symptoms” people.

Judgy McJudgerson

But there is one thing I cannot get past and simply cannot understand.

That we’re not supposed to tell anyone.

We are ‘supposed’ to keep this huge, enormous, gut-wrenching, tear producing, anxiety inducing thing a secret from everyone we know! It’s so….weird. If you tell people you are 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 or even 11 weeks pregnant then you are met with Judgy McJudgerson face. “Oh. Well. We never told anyone until we reached the second trimester….you know….in case the worst happens…”. 

“Yes, I do know.” I want to growl. Because the worst has happened. But surely if I would (and did) share with you my deep sadness at experiencing a miscarriage then it’s OK to tell you that I’m pregnant now?!

Some of our closest friends were more shocked by us telling them we were expecting our third child than the fact we were having a third child.

Bad Secrets

I have described previously how blown my mind was after I wrote about my miscarriage here. The reaction was astonishing, not just from a sympathy point of view but from the perspective of the staggering number of people who had been through similar experiences. This strange secret 12-week period seems to me one of the reasons that miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies and a whole raft of other awful experiences people go through are not talked about more. And why it’s so much more of a body blow when it happens to you.

I can’t understand why it’s not OK to talk about pre-12 week pregnancy. Or why it’s not real news until you’re past 12 weeks. It is crazy because there is no less pain attached to something that wasn’t here as long.

Blabber Mouth

Of course at the other end of the spectrum there are the its-not-my-secret-to-keep-so-I-can-tell-anyone people. Which is how my father-in-law found out he was to be blessed with a third grandchild! That’s not actually fair, it was an accidental blab, but he still found out through someone else not guarding our secret as a secret. Pretty much everyone I told once we were in the so-called safety zone already knew through someone else.

Is it a secret or isn’t it?! I’m so confused!

Lots of people questioned our decision to tell Girly no1 our secret when we reached ten weeks. But the poor child was in turmoil. Everyone was whispering over her head and I was either screeching at her for not being able to do a shoelace up (can any 3-year old?) or suggesting we spend quality time together then promptly falling asleep. It got so bad that she started playing with my eyelashes, I assume in a bid to get me to open my eyes? All she knew is that Mummy kept disappearing, spent lots of time in bed and wasn’t her normal smiley self.

We knew that once she knew, she would tell everyone she met. I’m not sure the postman or the Poundland cashier cared but it was beautiful. Watching her be excited about this big news for our family was heart achingly lovely. We enjoyed every moment and wouldn’t change a thing!

Our news

Ultimately it is every couple’s decision when they tell but I think we should stop being so outraged at other people’s announcement choices and keep our Judgy faces to ourselves. For us, our measure was, and is, would I tell this person if I suffered a miscarriage or something else awful happened? If the answer is yes, then why wouldn’t we tell you before 12 weeks? It was nice not to be asking ‘will this person notice that I’m not drinking or smoking?’ like it was the first time around! With our Girlies, we try and be as open and honest with them as we can. The last thing we want to do is add to all of the confusion and anxiety that exists in the world. And when they’re happy, we’re happy!

This whole post may leave you asking why I didn’t tell you about this baby sooner. It’s not because I didn’t want to. It’s because I was too busy shouting at the Girlies from behind my bowl of pickled onion Monster Munch, hiding my wet cheeks and pretending my voice wasn’t breaking. Or I was asleep.

Until next time amigos!

If you have enjoyed this post, please feel free to share with your friends. Love you! Bye!