You're pregnant! Congratulations!

October 2017

 

This is flippin' AMAZING news - i'm so excited for you both, and I'm so pleased you've asked for (or agreed to accept? I forget which) my advice, I have LOADS of it. I'll try really hard not to waffle on for an unbearably long time, promise. Actually, I can't really promise that becuase uhm, have you met me? I'm kind of a talker... Anyway, all the advice I have to give will be chronicled on these pages, but feel free to ask me if you have any other questions. Lots of love from me. xx


The Pre-Baby Advice - October 2017

Pregnancy Health

 

- Folic Acid: Just keep taking it till someone (a midwife or doctor) tells you to stop.

 

- Rest: Try and get as much as you can. You'll hear that a lot from everyone, but it is good advice. Later on when the baby is moving more and you need a wee every five minutes and you can't get comfortable you'll wish you sat down more.

 

- Eating / Drinking during pregnancy: Trust your own judgement, is my advice. Anything that could possibly make you sick can't be good for the baby, so blue cheese, goat's cheese, sushi, smoked salmon, cured meats, undercooked meats are best to avoid. - Caffeine: I don't know how much tea or coffee you drink, but you can switch to decaf (with tea as well, there's a slight difference in taste but it's fairly minimal) but again you can still use your own judgement and allow yourself one or two cups a day that are fully caffeinated, but you may prefer to just cut yourself off altogether.

 

- Nuts: This is kind of crazy to me but some people say to avoid the baby developing an allergy to steer clear of them, and other people say the opposite. Personally, i think the first one makes no sense at all. I say if you'd normally eat nuts then carry on but don't force yourself to.

 

- Alcohol: It's a personal choice. Some people don't touch it at all some people have a glass on the odd occasion, my sister-in-law was told that 'a cocktail or two a night can't hurt.' - that seemed a bit much for me but maybe it's just how the do it in Australia! I myself had an irrational logic; wine was fine, one or two glasses once or (with my second, aybe even twice a week) was ok, but any kind of spirit was off limits altogether, even though the educated part of my brain knows it's the same amount of alcohol!) I was probably more relaxed about it all with my second pregnancy. You just need to decide what you're comfortable with. If it helps at all Becks Blue is quite nice and you can kid yourself it's the real deal.

 

- The only thing you really shouldn't do is smoke, which I know you don't anyway.

 

- People will tell you what you should or shouldn't be doing, often in conflicting ways. Ignore them. or smile and nod and say 'thanks, we'll think about that' then do whatever it is you were going to do, because it's nobody else's business.

 

- Obviously the internet has a wealth of information. There are some more practical and scientific tips on the NHS pregnancy site (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/) which I found to be a good resource but be careful about rogue googling and some of the mum sites, they can be a bit judgy, be warned.

 

- Pelvic Floor Exercises: google them to find out what they are, we don't have to talk about it but just trust me and do them, as much as you can. You'll thank me later.

 

- People - random strangers - will touch you. If you can endure it, do, becuase they mean well, but if you don't want them to i'm sure you can find a polite way to ask them to stop. They will also offer you advice (see above), comment on if you're having a boy or a girl, tell you they can tell which it is and they're always right, tell you that you should find out / shouldn't find out the sex... later they'll also tell you how big you are / how small you are. This all gets very annoying at a time in your life when you're easily annoyed. Please ignore it all. Smile and nod - it's a good escape route from most things.

 

- You will, I imagine, be mostly happy and excited - it's a lovely part of your life. Try to tell your other half about as much of it as you can becuase being a bloke is rubbish during pregnancy because they miss out. Plus he can be your spokesperson if you don't like something and tell people to go away for you. Handy that.

 

- NCT Classes: these are a good thing - I don't think as much for the advice and information (although that is, of course, very helpful!) as the netowrk. You'll meet other local couples in roughly the same stage of pregnancy, probably also first time paretns too. These will become your people and you will be extremely grateful for them over the next few years if not longer. It does, however, cost money - and quite a lot. About £300, as i recall. I would personally recommend it despite the cost but it's your call. You will always have your family, and your friends, and your in-laws and of course my hubby and I who are a rather fabulous aunty and uncle, if we say so ourselves :)

 

The Birth (or maybe.... THE BIRTH!)

 

It's a big one alright, and one most pregnant women vacillate between fearing very greatly or working hard to not think about at all. Either is normal. I'm not going to go into detail about this one, you'll be pleased to know, it's a thing, it happens everywhere in the world and it has been happening for squillions of years. It hurts, but it's survivable and people do it more than onece. Don't be scared, or worried. It will all be just fine and everyone has a story tell tell after which you may or may not want to share with people who may or may not want to hear it (personally, I LOVE hearing the stories!).

 

For what it's worth, here's my advice:

- People will tell you - normally right before you're about to have the baby - horror stories about things that can / did once for wrong for them / their friends / someone they once heard of. DO NOT smile and nod at this. Stop them and say very loudly 'I don't want to hear it thank you' and then close your eyes, put your fingers in your ears and hum until you can't hear them anymore / they've gone away.

- Birthing Plan: lots of people (mostly midwives and other pregnant people but sometimes random strangers - see above, people are weird) will ask you if you have a birthing plan. I didn't really know what the hell they were on about and just kept saying 'Yes, I plan to have a baby!' but it is more technical than that. The idea is you can write out hopes and intentions for the birth sot hat your midwives will know what you want / don't want. In theory. In practice i don't recall there being a whole lot of time for people to stand around reading stuff when I was in labour so instead maybe use your other half as your birthing plan, talk with him about what you want and what you feel uncomfortable with. He'll share his thoughts and feelings with you and can be your advocate when the time comes. They are mostly about pain management with ought to be more your decision than his but include him in it, he is looking out for you too.

As I understand it, there are 5 basic options;

1. TENS machine. This is a little machine with wires coming out of it and pads at the end of them. The idea is you stick the pads to your back or wherever and it sends little currents to.. i don't know, distract you maybe? Perhaps it is apparent without me telling you that I've never used one - it sounded a bit fiddly to me - but some people swear by it. I gather, however, that it is more for the early stage of labour rather than the ...er... main event, so to speak.

2. Gas & Air. This is wonderful stuff. WONDERFUL. They literally have it on tap at the hospital. Take it, take it all. It doesn't interfer with the baby and leaves your system 5-10 seconds after it has had it's glorious impact. I took lungfuls of it and thought I was being fobbed off wiht some sort of placebo effect, was convinced it was doing NOTHING. Then i realised i was so high for a moment i couldn't actually speak. It was a delightful distraction and gave me something else to focus on. Also helps you regulate your breathing, I would suppose.

3. Pethedine. This is a pain reliever but all I really know about it is that it stays in your system for 4 hours and does 'cross the placenta' which means it reaches the baby. I dind't want it, it scared me a tiny bit. But i've never heard anything bad about it and lots of people use it. It might be worth looking into a bit more if you're not as easily freaked as I am.

4. Epidural - this is an injection into the base of your spine that numbs you from the waist down so you can't really feel much of what's going on. I don't know how effective this is in the numbing of the, ahem, key parts, if you like, becuase you do still have to push and whatnot. It was something that I also thought sounded quite frightening, but lots of people plan on it and ask for it almost immediately they go into labour. There is, I am told, a delicate balance between it being being too soon and then very suddenly it being too late to administer. A good friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) told me she was so swept up in the occaision that she became convinced it was some sort of conspiracy with the doctors and midwives to not let her have one, she got quite animated on the topic much to her confused fella's dismay because he couldn't understand a word of what she was saying. True story - although in fairness she tells it far better than I do. Anyway have a read up on it and make up your own mind. This is another area where your other half will come into his own in making sure the medical professionals know what you want.

5. Cesarean Sections. Some people plan these, some people have them because the birth isn't going the way it should. They are routine operations and nothing at all to be afraid of, but bear in mind that it is still major abdominal surgery and shouldn't be viewed lightly. You can't walk for a few days afterwards, lift heavy things (which kind of makes babies tricky) or drive anywhere for about 6 weeks. My heartfelt respect goes out to the mums that have had a C-Section, they are couragous women who have been through their paces and earned their parent badge. My thought was if I needed one I'd of course I'd have it, but it woujldn't be before i'd tried everything else.

There is also hypnobirthing, but for me that feels like 'breathing through the pain' and wasn't really going to cut it for me in terms of options, hence it's not included in my list!

 

Every birth is different, for every baby. You can only do what you can do and you can only plan so much.

Good luck, I'm here if you've got any questions.


Hospital Bag - What on earth are you mean to pack?!

February 2018

 

Ah, the hospital bag! Like packing for a holiday when you have NO CLUE where you are going, or for how long. You could honestly pack a freaking suitcase and still find yourself missing stuff. How the hell are you - is anyone - meant to know what you're going to need?!

I will gladly help you when the time comes, but for the most part it's about keeping you comfortable. And having snacks / drinks. They say that childbirth is hell on earth for the organised woman becuase it is impossible to plan for. You could be in the hospital for a few hours only, or you could miss a couple of meals without even noticing. Until, of course, you're suddenly ravenous and feeling very weak. And this is a time when you need all the strength you can get. Also, remember your partner will need sustenance too because although he has less to do than you - and if he mentions being hungry there's a chance you'll flip out at him - he still needs to be awake and alert and energised, and be a cheerleader for you.

You'll need clothes for the baby when it's born, a change in case it has an unexpected poop / puke / something. You'll need a phone charger becuase you're going to want to take a million pictures, some music (which personally i found a very welcome and useful distraction during labour) and also they won't let you leave the hospital unless they know you have a car seat for the baby. Also nappies, cotton wool (not wipes as newborn babies have their bums wiped with cotton and water), and nappy bags. These are pretty essential.

You may well also want to take stuff for you; clean clothes / pants, some shower gel in case you're there for long enough and in a place that is equipped with such luxuries, maybe even shampoo & conditioner and some face wipes or similar. I've written an actual list below, but obviously modify as you see fit;

MY hospital bag

For me pre-birth:

- snack bars (I think I had a box of tracker bars but that's just my preference)

- drinks cartons / juice boxes - i think I had capri sun but it's buyer's choice.

- phone charger (and phone loaded with nice playlists and a contraction timing app)

- Something to give birth in - I think it was a mothercare breastfeeding vest - they're long so i sort of felt like it would cover my decency. Obviously i had no idea if I could plan my outift prior to arrival

- socks - in case your feet get cold.

- lip balm - the gas & air dries your lips out

- hair bursh and band so you can get your hair out of your face

For me post birth (more on this later)

- Disposable pants, maternity pads, breast pads, nipple cream, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, cleanser and moisturiser, a nice towel (seriously the first shower you have after you've given birth is one of the nicest you'll ever have).

For the baby post birth

- about 5 nappies, cotton wool, nappy bags, 2 short sleeved/legged babygrows and 2 'outfits', 2 blankets, 2 muslins and if it's very cold a snowsuit.

 

I'm not saying it's a difinitive list; there may be stuff i've forgotten, or stuff you just don't need, but I recall most of this coming in handy and much of the other stuff being a bit unnecessary! Good luck!


Advice for Post-Birth (to read before birth!)

Various posts from November 2017 - February 2018

 

You will be a big ball of emotions - all 3 of you - don't try to be brave, cry if you feel like it and laugh a lot, it's a very happy time!

 

SO, the day the baby is born is effectively day '0' and they count the next day as day 1 and so on. I tell you this becasue a) when you've jsut given birth a) your brain is scrambled, and b) they tell you they'll visit 'on day 3' etc. it's helpful to know when that is. But also, look out for day 4. I'm sure I'll tell you more about it nearer the time, but just a little head's up; it's the day your milk comes in, which means your boobs will be enormous and so tender that you'll want to punch anyone that so much as brushes past you. It is also when the hormones and things settle and the shock of it all sinks in.

 

I was an emotional wreck on Day 4 and Paul took me to the pub to see our friends and then to my mum's house for dinner. It was lovely. I still cried at the table and nobody minded.

 

Sleep - hahahahaha. You will be told 'Sleep when the baby sleeps' which will feel like a smack in the face because it will feel like your baby never sleeps. It does, just in short bursts. Do try and actually do this, though. It'll help you get through it. And remember that babies are nocturnal. It is easier in the day becuase you will have visitors (more on them later) and helpers and daylight and good tv. At night, however, it will feel lonely. Try to focus on your baby and not think about the fact it's 3am and you don't have a clue what you're doing. You'll probably want to take shifts with your other half so that you can both shower, sleep a little or just not be holding a baby for a while. I used to tell Paul i needed him to sleep at night so I could take all the sleep opportunities there were in the early morning and daytime, but i'm sure you'll work out your own system.

 

Being a new mum is exhausting, but going to work as a new parent is too, so remind people to be kind to your other half, he doesn't have it easy either.

The best advice I can give you, really, is not to try and push yourself to get the baby into a routine. Babies don't know the difference between day and night or when they should or shouldn't be doing things, they're learning just like you. Trying to get into a routine with a newborn is like trying to get toothpaste back into the tube, it's just not what the manufacturer's ever intended for you to do. A routine (or indeed lack of one) has driven more of my friends into a panic than I care to think about, so steer clear of any books that insist a 3 week old should be operating like clockwork - it is lying to you!

 

Talk about how you are feeling. Lots of people get overwhelmed and get the 'baby blues' which can be miserable if you are suffering alone, but it does happen to lots of people. I tell you this not to scare you but becuase, I gather, one of the things that makes post-natal depression is because you feel like you're the only woman in the world who does or has ever felt this way and I PROMISE you it isn't so.

 

Equally please don't anticipate that the few weeks or months after the baby is here will be sad because they really won't! It may be that you feel nothing but sheer euphoria, or more likely a healthy mix of happy, tired, grumpy etc. like a normal functioning human being!

 

Visitors

Everyone will want to see your new baby because who isn't excited about the idea of a new baby? I'm already excited and it's not even here yet. This is all very lovely but make sure the visits are on your terms. If you want to go out, meet people for coffee. If you want to stay in make them come to you. When they do visit, put them to work. If it's making the tea, holding the baby (this is the bit they'll want to do most) changing a nappy (and the bit they'll want to do least - in fact you may want to save that for a select few) or even doing the washing up, they want to help you so let them. When you are tired of visitors tell them - they will go away and not be at all offended. Remember, these are the people that love you and want to help so tell them the truth, even if it is an edited version, and they'll do whatever you want. Oh, and people will say 'do you need anything?' and to this you can and should say 'YES!'

 

Feeding

The great breastfeeding/ bottle feeding debate!

This will rage on entirely regardless of what you decide, what you try and what you end up doing, so you may as well do what works for uou and accept that some people will feel differently. Most people - midwives and older parents, although i am generalising somewhat - will extoll the virtues of breastfeeding. They aren't wrong it's an amazing thing to be able to nurture your baby using the equipment you were born with.

However, just because it's natural doesn't mean it's easy. It is painful at first, can be hard to get the baby into the right positon, know when they have had enough and tricky to remember which 'side' they fed from last (I found a hairband on the wrist helped with this last one). If you are breastfeeding, drink lots of water, you need to keep hydrated. It's a really good time to sit down, rest and marvel at your baby. It's a nice bonding time.

 

Often mums like to express breastmilk into a bottle so that one feed can be done by dad and means you can sleep through a feed. You may want to do this right away, or wait a few weeks, or not do it at all, but it's an option.

 

It is YOUR prerogative where / when / how you breastfeed. I chose to cover up and do it at home or in private whenever possible, but some women are less conservative about it. Neither thing is wrong, it's just about whatever makes you comfortable. I got myself some giant muslins which i used to cover my modesty when feeding and it made me feel better about the idea of doing the needful in a cafe or park or whathaveyou, but I was always enormously impressed with those women who were so confident and able that they could just get the baby to latch on no matter where they were or who they were with and not even break stride in their conversation!

 

Bottle feeding is easier in that anyone can feed the baby and it doesn't have to always be you, but it comes with a lot of paraphernalia and involves a lot of prep work; sterilising bottles, warming milk, making sure you always have enough on you, even chosing the brand is hard work! When we moved to bottles i used the brand my sister had becuase I knew the name, but there are hundreds out there and they all do the same thing.

 

Also Dummy / no Dummy - totally your choice. I have known babies to use the breast as a dummy to fall asleep (and wake up once they are put down!) so I can see why the americans refer to them as 'pacifiers'. Sometimes they won't take one, sometimes they like ones with a different shaped teat... have fun finding out! People will always be people and no matter how you chose to feed your baby someone will have an opinion on it.

 

I always presumed that i would be under scrutiny for bottle feeding but I had a few aggressors who told me i should be bottle feeding rather than breast feeding to make it easier for people to help me. You literally cannot win. This is where all that practice smiling and nodding then doing it your own way will come in handy.....

 

Stuff you need (WAY too much stuff!)

 

Yes, you do need to buy stuff. A LOT of stuff. I'm sure cave people didn't need this much crap and we all still evolved into human beings, didn't we? Still, in this day and age, this is the sort of paraphernalia you'll need to arm yourself with in order to feel equipped to deal with parenthood;

 

- A 'Travel System' That's a buggy or pushchair to you and me. These days you need essentially a chassis which can house a car seat (sold seperately, of course) and then either one or two click-in options; one that creates a bed/cot style arrangement in which the baby can lie down and one that is more of a seat so when the baby is a bit older and spends more time awake it can be angled in various different positions. Some models have seperate segments but most are adaptable so you just change a few things about and it can swtich between the two.

My advice? Go to John Lewis where they have incredibly wise and reassuring people who will answer all your questions and offer you some sage advice about what sort of bells and whistles the various makes and models have, then go and buy it somewhere second hand as it'll be a fraction of the cost.

 

- A car seat that can, ideally, clock in and out of the car and buggy relatively easily. The baby will, with any luck, fall asleep often in the car - it's handy to be able to transfer him/her to the house or pushchair wihtout having to lift them out of the seat or spend ages tugging and heaving at a clunky contraption.

 

- Cot. There are a couple of types; a cot which does pretty much waht it says ont he tin, it's stationary and is a bed for the baby to sleep in. If you're lucky it might have 2 different levels for the bed bit so when the baby is able to pull him or herself up to a standing postion you can lower the bed so it can't also throw itself out! There are also cot-beds which are a little more expensive but convert into toddler beds when the time comes. Seems far more cost-effective if you ask me.

 

- A moses basket. Not really an essential buy i suppose if you have the cot or cot bed set up and used from the get-go, however what i did (and what i think most people do) is use a moses basket next to your bed for the first 6 weeks - 3 months or till you're ready for them to be in their own room, some people do this almost immediately which is also fine, but given you'll be up and down at all hours of the night it makes sense to have them in a moveable basket so if they fall asleep downstairs you can put them in the basket (hopefully!) and carry it upstairs when you're ready.

 

- A monitor, so that when you do manage to get the baby to sleep and you want to be awake and not in a dimly-lit and deathly-quiet room you can move to another room and still hear the baby. Some have video monitors - i felt that was a bit unnecessary but different strokes and all that. Ours also had a motion sensor mat that will sound some sort of alarm if it can't detect the baby breathing, but we never connected it becuase i just knew i would forget to disconnet / turn it off and lift the baby out of the cot and all hell would break loose.

 

- Formula - if that's the route you want to take. Many manufactureres these days have smaller bottles with disposable sterilised teats that you can arm yourself wiht in the event of a baby-freak out emergency away from home.

 

- Bottles - for either formula or expressed breast milk. Again if you're exclusively breast feeding this is a bit moot.

 

- Steriliser, for bottles and dummies, or expressing bits and bobs, but again only if this is something you're doing.

 

- A bouncy chair / seat - again not really an essential item, althought for my sanity i'd say it probably did fall into the 'essential' category. Bascially babies like to be held, and becuase they can't hold their own heads up they are either being held or lying down flat. This offers them (and you) and in-between option and can be a godsend as let's face it, sometimes you need your arms for other stuff. Our sister-in-law bought me a great one, it had a little battery pack on the front so would vibrate and not rock the baby but jostled him a bit, sometimes he would fall asleep in it. It might be a nice new baby gift you could ask for, lots of people will ask you what they can get for you, it doesn't have to be costly (i think ours was about £30 but they can go up to £100) but if it is a group present or vouchers for the same might be a good answer.

 

- An interactive playmat is also quite a good idea. Not for right away, obviously, but for when they're about 6 weeks. There are some that are a bit cushioned but in my opinion they aren't as good because i think the baby thinks you're trying to persuade it to sleep and will, by murphy's law, become more awake and agitated. Flat and square always worked best for me and if you can get one with some bars that suspend little toys or mirrors above it then all the better. But again, not really an 'essential' item.

 

- Blankets for swaddling, but in a short space of time you'll want to put the baby in a sleeping bag (or grow bag i think they're called, which sort of makes you think of growing potoatoes, but try not to let that put you off!) as it stops the baby being able to kick the blankets off itself in the night and waking up cold.

 

- A small bath tub - saves you filling your whole bath for a tiny little being, but then again if you really wanted you could wash your baby in the kitchen sink, it was good enough in the '80's!

 

- A bath thermometer so you can check the temperature of the bath water. It's a little over-paranoid perhaps, the elbow test is i'm sure just as good, but as a new mum i just found it reassuring to know there was an actual range that was appropriate and a testing mechanism. So few things are that easy to check you're doing right when it comes to parenting!

 

- Cotton wool.  The first few weeks you only wash them with warm water and cotton wool anyway, even bums, it's not recommended to use wipes right away) but after a month or so a very mild bath wash is handy.

 

- Baby nail clippers. Their nails grow crazy long crazy fast, and they can scratch themselves and you very easily.

 

- Muslins: these things are a godsend! They can be used to mop things up, cover your decency when breastfeeding, as a comforter, chew toy, tissue, all sorts.

 

- Nappy bags; you can get very cheap ones. Don't. It's to hold poo. those few extra pennies are worth it!

 

- Sudocrem - to treat / prevent nappy rash, but i think only once you're using wipes? There's also a very thick, yellow cream called Metanium that's good if the nappy rash is very bad, but it's a bugger to wash off.

 

- Oh, and one more thing; babies don't drink water till much later, usually when they're weaning onto proper food, at which point a sippy cup with handles is a good thing for the baby to hold on their own.  

 

 

And Finally.... stuff that YOU need

Okay some of this sounds horrific, but i promise you need it, and I promise you'll thank me for telling you (even though when you first read it, you'll hate me for).

- Pads. Like sanitary towels, but SO much thicker. You'll basically be on your period for about a month - maybe more - after the baby is born.

- Breast pads - because you'll produce milk, a LOT of milk, even when you aren't thinking about it. The longer the baby sleeps the wetter your t-shirt will be when you wake up. Seriously, it's weird but it's true.

- Nipple cream. Sorry for TMI.. but breastfeeding? It HURTS! Cream will help, and if you get the good stuff you don't have to wipe it off before feeds.

- Bio Oil is meant to be good to treat and prevent stretch marks, so start using it now.

- Dry shampoo - seriously it's your friend, there will be days when a shower is an elusive and impossible dream. This way you can at least look like you're clean.

- A changing / nappy bag - make sure it's one your other half is happy carting around town, some of them are a bit girly.

- Arnica. It's a homeopathic remedy for aches and pains and is very good for post-birth breastfeeding mummies who can't have the strong painkillers they would so very much like to have. Personally, I don't usually go in for the whole homeopathic concept, but I found it helpful. Possibly because it comes in tablet form so i could pretend i was taking something a bit stronger, the placebo effect clearly works on me!

- An app to time contractions. I found it useful and also it gave me something constructive to focus on.

- Coffee!!