Maternity leave – The reality of the situation!

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“How many times in your life do you get to take time out of work?”, I asked myself. Once the pregnancy was public knowledge, and after all the usual questions about ‘Do you know what you’re having?’ ‘Have you got any names?’ and so on, came the next question ‘How much time are you taking off for maternity leave?’ Well I can’t say I had ever spent much time thinking about the answer to this before last October time. Having spent many years at school, six years at university and five years in a training scheme, I felt like I had stepped on a conveyor belt at age 4 and hopped off aged 29 with a qualification and the shock of finally having to get a permanent job – with a C.V. and everything. Now don’t get me wrong I’d had a C.V. before this but it was always more of a ‘for information’ only. It never needed to get me a job before! Anyway jump to last October and I was at another point in my life where I actually had to make another decision – how much time should I take off as maternity leave? So we talked about it and, being in a fortunate enough position to make such a decision, agreed I’d take a year out. Or at least aim for a year. I also had to decide when to finish work. Lots of people seemed to stop at 39 or 40 weeks, or use up some annual leave to finish a little earlier. Most people’s rationale was that they wanted to have the maximum time off with their baby. A colleague was just about to finish for maternity leave just as I was making the decision. With holiday to use she was finishing at 37 weeks. She sat with me one lunch and explained just how glad to finish she was. She was tired and struggling to get through a day of seeing 30-40 patients. With this advice I made a decision that I would finish at 37 weeks. I didn’t have annual leave to take.

Then came my husband’s jokes about me spending a year watching daytime television, whilst I explained how busy I would be with the baby (though secretly imagining days of meeting people for coffee and gardening).  I spent many times feeling like I was required to justify finishing at 37 weeks. I almost felt ashamed to say that I preferred to have 3 weeks to myself rather than an extra 3 weeks at home with the baby. I made many plans as to what I would do before Amelia arrived, what we would do together, and all of the tasks around the house that I should aim to do before the end of the maternity leave.

Fast-forward to March 2015. Having had exactly one week of maternity leave (just enough time for an eye check, dental check-up and a haircut) Amelia arrived at 38 weeks. Well that put paid to a spa day I had planned for the following week as last minute relaxation! I could only be thankful that I’d at least had one week off to run last minute errands because her arrival was a whirlwind. I had not packed snacks in my maternity bag. In fact I hadn’t even done any shopping. So for the first week parents and local takeaways mostly provided our meals! I can probably count on one hand the number of times I left the house in the first couple of weeks. I had a baby attached to my breast for half the day (more on that another time)! If I wasn’t feeding her I was feeding myself. I hadn’t really had many preconceptions of what maternity leave might be like to start with, but I guessed it would be tiring. I really didn’t appreciate how full on the day would be with such an intense feeding regime. The concept of ‘you sleep when the baby sleeps’ was mystifying since if I did literally that then I would not have eaten or washed for some time.

I wouldn’t say the first three months went by in haze as I can recall a lot of events and days vividly. But they certainly sped by. I really did spend quite a lot of time in front of the T.V. In fact I knew the daytime schedule like the back of my hand. Amelia also used to have the best and most sustained sleep of the day between 8am and 11-11.30 am. So generally I was not out of bed until late morning/lunchtime on most days. I was so lucky in the first three months to have relatives around for much of the time. My younger sister spent some time staying with us to help out, my dad would come over at the drop of a hat after calls to say I was just exhausted after a bad night, and my older sister, in total, must have spent probably a month on and off staying with us and helping out. In fact – my sisters, and my 15 year-old niece provided respite and undertook night feeds, giving myself and Daddy a chance to have some restful sleep.

When we got to three months I couldn’t believe just how quickly the time had gone. It was a quarter of the way through my maternity leave and I had really not achieved much. I had been a fool and decided to continue a Diploma I was undertaking so in this time I had sat and written two 1500 word reports. I cannot say for certain how this happened (I was supposed to do them before she arrived). I also had an exam to sit when she was 3.5months old. This really just highlighted the lack of insight into what it would be like. I think I thought that with all the time off I’d have time to sit and revise. I just hadn’t realised that my brain would be like mush. I have no more to say on this error in judgment! I have made other sleep deprived errors of judgment, for example buying nearly 150 plug plants (not that I knew exactly what this meant) when she was two months old and having to pot them up, and agreeing to undertake my annual appraisal when she was three months old.

Somehow, by around four months old, Amelia started to need me a little less. She was feeding less regularly and able to entertain herself a bit more. She didn’t need to lie on me to nap in the day, and the number of times I have been stranded on the sofa for an hour or two while she sleeps on me is such that I can count them on one hand. So we’ve been out and about more. I have done four mornings of work (though I don’t think I’d manage a full day until she can manage a full night of sleeping through), we’ve been to visit friends, and stayed over places. In the last month I have even managed to get out in the garden, with her taking her afternoon nap in her pram, and do some gardening. She’s now at an age where she’s far more interactive so we have signed up to some mother and baby sessions for the autumn term. It just feels like it’s taken a long time to get to this stage, and now we are nearly halfway through my planned time off.

I must admit I have enjoyed the mornings that I have been to work. My brain has been used in a way that it is used to. I have challenged it and ensure it still works (I sometimes have serious doubts about this when I realized I have left the washing powder on top of the washer, carried the T.V. remote to bed with me and told the same story several times to the same person). Yet I also really enjoy the days when we don’t get dressed and have a lazy day at home! So, as I enter month seven of maternity leave I look forward to our jam-packed schedule of baby groups and meeting friends and family for lunch or tea!

The glamorous world of motherhood!

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Apologies in advance if this post seems to be somewhat of a rant! In all honesty it kind of is!

Maternity leave has brought about being awake at times of the day when there are few people to chat to, such as 4am. Or when you have a couple of minutes to yourself (admittedly I try to use this time to go to the toilet, or pretending to go to the toilet for a bit of peace). I have found that at these times I don’t have enough time to read a novel, or my eyes just wont stay open enough to concentrate on anything serious. Instead I find myself on Twitter or the Daily Mail TV and showbiz section reading trash.  It is here that I find myself feeling frustrated. Frustrated seeing all the celebrity new mums. The most refreshing story I could read would be a celebrity mum admitting that motherhood is not easy.

Reading articles about mum’s doing press tours with a two-week old, theatre runs with a six-month old and public engagements with a young baby does not do justice to how much work goes in to being a new mum. Unless I had a completely different experience to every other mum. I personally think Amelia is a pretty easy-going baby and we have it good. But if I look at all these women looking glamorous, dressed-up and looking as though they never had a baby I start to think perhaps I’m making a meal out of motherhood! Seeing photos of a celebrity on holiday just weeks after the birth of their baby with a flat tummy, no stretch marks and perfectly toned bum and thighs leaves me feeling inadequate. Admittedly I never had a flat stomach or super toned body as my baseline, but I wasn’t overweight. I couldn’t fit into my old clothes for the first 3-4 months after she was born. But then I didn’t want to get glammed up. Honestly, you’d be lucky to have seen me out of my pyjamas before noon. I also had to think about the practicalities of what I would wear because I might have to breastfeed at any moment.

This brings me to my next question – how many celebrity mothers genuinely breastfeed exclusively or at all? I couldn’t be away from Amelia for much time at all for the first three months or so. She was feeding so frequently, and if she took expressed milk then I needed to be expressing at regular intervals in order to not have breasts that felt as if they were ready to explode and so that I could produce enough milk to keep her fed. Again, maybe I just made more of breastfeeding than I needed to. Perhaps that’s why I’m in a state of anxiety wondering if she will be ok in nursery since she rarely accepts milk from a bottle any more.

I guess we don’t see what’s going on behind the scenes, and who they have helping – relatives, nannies, and personal trainers – and perhaps this makes life a little easier. We also don’t see whether they have been forced to undertake such work commitments via contracts, etc. Plus I don’t need abs of steel to make a living. I don’t know whether celebrities claim statutory maternity pay. I guess not in most cases. Perhaps I also need to consider how they really feel about their situations. Maybe they’d like to be at home spending every minute with their little one and not worrying about how they look. But in order to keep the jobs coming in they must work hard to get back to their pre-pregnancy appearance. Plus, in some cases they probably have more opportunity to take their children with them to work. Once I return to work it wont be possible for me to have Amelia waiting on the sidelines whilst I am carrying out surgeries.

All I can hope is that all the new mother’s, or mothers-to-be, out there appreciate that being a new mum is not a breeze. It is not about looking fresh-faced and perfect, or having the perfect figure within weeks. It’s about learning how to look after your little one and making the most of this period of time. It’s about sitting in your pyjamas as much or as little as you’d like. It’s about eating whatever you need to get you through the day (or whatever’s in the house), feeding your baby in whatever manner suits you and them best and doing the best you can. Whatever you’re doing, it’s most likely the right thing!

 

Not another bag!

 

thumb_IMG_8858_1024I have always had a close relationship with bags. From the necessity of having a new backpack for school each year and the best bag possible for my PE kit, to even the finer details like which pencil case I would next need. It was bordering on an addiction. I haven’t told many people this story, so you’re in on a shameful secret I hold. Only a few months after starting work and meeting some of my now best buddies I saw that Gap were collaborating with Mulberry to create a limited edition bag. It was great value at something like £60 compared to the few hundred pounds you’d otherwise spend on a Mulberry Bayswater handbag. This was my chance to own a Bayswater, albeit in red. But I could rock a red handbag right? It was around Christmas time, on a Saturday when Oxford Street was closing the road to traffic for a Christmas shopping event. I managed to convince some of the girls to come with me, knowing that the only way I’d get on of the Bayswater bags was to queue. I have never before, and never since, queued for fashion.  We took the train into London, hopped on the tube and joined the queue that curved around two corners. The time finally came for our chance to get in there. Everyone knew it was about hunting down the bag. It was right there in front of my eyes…but it was red corduroy. I grabbed it and instantly realised it was nowhere near what I had imagined. Yeah it had the features of a Bayswater, but it really wasn’t what I was looking for. It also wasn’t really worth that much money. I carried it around for a while wondering how I would break it to the girls that I didn’t really want it. I considered buying it anyway out of guilt for forcing them to get up so early on a Saturday morning and standing in a queue in cold weather. Eventually I admitted it, and to my relief they were glad. They too thought it wasn’t worth it and had been considering saying something to me. It’s taken some time, and willpower, but I no longer have such obsessions with bags. I have a trusted small selection, and cannot recall the last time I purchased one.

So when the time came that I would have to consider trading my usual bag for a nappy bag, I was certain I needed to make the right purchase. I needed one that was practical yet stylish. Good value yet reliable.  I spent a lot of time on Google searching ‘best nappy bags’, ‘most practical changing bags’, etc. I looked at things like the Mother and Baby awards shortlist, read other blogs, Mumsnet, etc.

I shortened it down to two brands – Pacapod and Storksak. I had seen a lot of women with the Yummy Mummy bags, and whilst I thought they looked cute I wasn’t sure how the Husband would feel about carrying it on his shoulder. This also ruled out a lot of patterned styles. These two brands had plenty of neutral styles and colours. After some further research I had pretty much settled on a leather Storksak bag. I had some vouchers, and thought they would contribute nicely. I made the mistake of taking someone rational with me when I went to buy it though. In my head I had thought that it was a leather bag, nice enough to carry on using after it no longer was required as a changing bag. That, though fairly steep in price, it was going to last a while, and therefore good value. Though we were in agreement that it was a nice bag, it was highlighted that it was quite expensive and perhaps I already own other bags I may revert to using once I no longer need to carry a changing bag around. True, I thought. So I found a happy medium with the Storksak Bobby.

Am I pleased with the bag? Yes is the definitive answer. I love it. It is a great size, with a removable bottle holder bag and a nice little changing mat. It has plenty of compartments and is not too bulky. It is big enough that I packed it as her hospital bag when preparing for her birth. Whilst breastfeeding I used the bottle pouch as a compartment for storing all the necessary bits for nappy change time.

What do I keep in the bag?

In the end pockets I always have some tissues on one side, and her Sippy cup in the other one. I have several nappies, which I always top up at the end of the day, along with some Metanium everyday cream and a pack of wipes. I also keep a few little nappy disposal bags in case we can’t dispose of the nappy immediately or, in the cases of poolosions occurring, we can put any soiled clothes in one. With this in mind I always keep a spare change of clothes –vest, leggings and t-shirt. These are often one size too small if we have been lucky not to have such an incident since she has grown into the next size. There’s a little pacifier case, which I store a hairclip in so we can get her hair out of her face if need be. I the bottle pouch I keep a selection of food pouches, a fabric Gro Company travel highchair, a bib and a spoon. There’s always a toy or two, a muslin cloth and a comforter. Just lately we’ve been adding a little coat into the mix too! What’s in there for me? I have learnt to travel light with just a purse, phone and a pen! My bag when I go out without her now looks very empty compared to all the paraphernalia I used to require.

Would I change anything about the bag? Sometimes I do find I can’t always zip it up unless I have packed it just right. That’s usually down to the bottle pouch being probably just a little bigger than it needs to be. I don’t regret not getting a leather one. If I had a leather one it would be filthy and water stained. We have been caught in showers, I have taken this bag to the beach, she had vomited on it, etc. It still looks just fine. A leather one would probably look pretty tatty by now!

 

Which changing bag do you own? Would you recommend it?

Breastfeeding – the bits no-one tells you about!

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This is a post I wrote last October. I am still breastfeeding to some degree and Amelia is now just turned 1 year. It amazes me that Looking back to how I felt this time last year I am still breastfeeding! It’s been a long and difficult journey…

Firstly I should say that I don’t regret breastfeeding in the slightest. I have been doing it for almost eight months, which is far longer that I would have imagined I would. But I felt that, even after read the leaflets given out by the midwife or health visitor, I was definitely not expecting it to be as challenging as it has been at times. So here is my fully honest account of Amelia and mine’s breastfeeding journey to date.

1 – The first feed – seemed easier than I thought it might be. The midwife was really helpful at assisting Amelia to latch on and advised me of how I should know if she is properly latched on. I had already been aware of the advice ‘nose to nipple’, which also helped. Amelia didn’t spend all that long on the breast for that first feed. It’s daunting as unlike a bottle where you can see how much your baby has fed, you have no real idea with breastfeeding. What I knew was, initially whilst you are producing the yellowy coloured colostrum, they only need about a teaspoon at a time as the colostrum is so rich and nutrients are concentrated.

2 – Feed number two – We went home the same evening she was born. I wanted to attempt feeding once more prior to discharge as I was not keen to go without being happy and certain that she was feeding ok, and that I was doing the right thing. The midwife watched as Amelia latched on, and advised that I would be able to see if she was feeding as I could watch for her swallowing or listen for it. At this point I asked the midwife how often I should feed her. She advised that Amelia would let me know when she was hungry and not to worry. In hindsight I wish I had read more than just the leaflets offered, as I now know that I should have been expecting to feed every couple of hours.

3 – The first days – seemed easy. I wondered at this stage what all the fuss was about! Amelia was feeding when she wanted to be fed, filling her nappy regularly and sleeping well, especially at night. The midwife visited the day after discharge and rechecked my breastfeeding technique. She was happy.

4 – The first weeks – It was at this point that it started to become tougher. After the first couple of days I noticed that Amelia was becoming jaundiced (a yellowish tinge to the skin with a number of causes). With my ‘doctor’ hat on I was fairly laid back about this. I reason that it had developed later than the first day or two after birth; also Amelia was very well with it and her poo and wee were normal colours. I knew I needed to keep a watch on her, and that at this stage the most likely cause was breastfeeding jaundice. Our midwife was due the next day so I felt comfortable to wait until her visit to discuss it with her. I would however say that if you notice this happening to your baby it is always important to discuss with the midwife/health visitor/GP at the earliest opportunity. As I say there are a number of causes, including a few serious causes, of jaundice in a newborn baby. Babies needs to be checked over, and though it may just involve some monitoring by the midwife on a more frequent basis it is best for them to be seen sooner rather than later. Our midwife agreed that it was likely related to breastfeeding. At this stage she was also due to weight Amelia. She had lost just over 10% of her initial bodyweight. The midwife felt there was unlikely a serious cause for this, and that to some degree the jaundice was probably making her a little drowsier, contributing to her not feeding quite as much. It was also important to feed her lots as the more she would feed the more it would help the jaundice resolve sooner. It was at this point where it became clear that I was not feeding her often enough. I should be feeding her two hourly, with the two-hour mark kicking off from the start of a feed and not from the end of the last feed. The maximum I should go without feeding was six hourly, in order to keep my milk production on track. The more I fed, the more milk would be produced. It was from this point on that I became pretty much house and sofa/bed-bound. I became rigid about timings and feeds. A feed often took 45 minutes to and hour to complete. The time spent between feeds involved toilet breaks, washing and thinking about food for my husband and myself. It was important to drink and eat plenty to further encourage milk production and keep my energy up. This went on for a number of weeks. Leaving the house required some degree of military preparation. I would need to feed just prior to leaving the house and know where I would be ready for the next feed, right on schedule! I did feel at this point like I was losing control of things a little and becoming crazed!

5 – Expressing – I was keen to express milk so that my husband could have some involvement in feeding Amelia, and allow me to have a little longer at night between feeds. Again, I really didn’t imagine this was a tough process. Surely you attach the pump and away you go. I started pumping fairly soon after Amelia’s birth. There is a lot to read out there on expressing. A lot advises to hold off pumping for a few weeks, whereas some information suggests it can also help with improving milk supply. I was really disheartened by pumping. Initially I was managing just 30mls at a time. Some websites were suggesting the best thing to do was to pump after each feed. If I included this in to the length of time it took to feed, plus the amount of time it took to take it apart, wash it, sterilise it and put it back together I was in the world of feeding and little else. The lowest point came when I spilt a small amount of the milk I had just expressed. I had been careful until this point to save every drop as ‘every drop counted’. My husband burst into laughter – a risky strategy in my books – and I burst into tears. He helpfully explained that I was literally crying over spilt milk. What had become of my normal, rational self? I was using a Tommee Tippee electric pump. It was not the most comfortable pump. I had been given it by a friend, so had felt I had not needed to do much research on pumps. It was during the times I was frantically trying to pump myself dry that I would Google things such as ‘why am I not producing enough milk’, ‘improving expressing, ‘best breast pumps’ and ‘how much breast milk does my baby need’. It was here I came across the Medela swing breast pump and lots of reviews said it was great, much better that the Tommy Tippee one, etc. It was also where I came across www.kellymom.com This website was a great resource and source of comfort for me regarding breastfeeding. It had really straightforward advice. I invested in a Medela swing pump. From this point on expressing improved – I was expressing more milk in a more comfortable way and quicker than previously. It was also much quicker and easier to clean and take apart/reconstruct. It was quieter, and sounded less like I was a cow being milked by an industrial sized pump, which helped my self-esteem!

6 – Breastfeeding doesn’t equal good sleep – Breast milk and formula have different proteins in them. Generally, formula tends to be ‘heavier’ and fills a baby for longer than breast milk. Hence breastfed babies need to be fed more regularly than formula fed babies. It also means they don’t tend to sleep through the night as quickly as formula fed babies. A potential benefit to this is that there seems to be a protective effect of breastfeeding against cot death. They think it’s partly related to the frequency with which breastfed babies and mothers wake during the night. However, when you’re awake several times at night it makes you really tired and frustrated at times. This is where I found the expressing became helpful – it allowed my husband, or one of my (very kind!) sisters, to give some of the night feeds to allow a great stretch of uninterrupted sleep. I always made sure to pump within six hours of the last feed. Even if I didn’t want to my breasts would let me know by becoming engorged and uncomfortable if I didn’t express sooner than this. It took six months to get Amelia to sleep through. Don’t get me wrong – I know other breastfeeding mums who have managed to achieve this a lot sooner but it’s better to be prepared for less sleep!

7 – Breastfeeding in public. This was not the part I was most looking forward to. I am not a prude but I am also not in any way and extrovert or someone that likes to draw attention to myself when out and about. So I was nervous about feeding her in public. Especially when you read lots of stories about people asking you to feed elsewhere, or making a big deal of it. However, I would rather her not scream the place down than worry about exposing myself in public. After some internet searches I found some really good breastfeeding tops and a dress that allowed me to feed discreetly, which made me feel more comfortable.

8 – The older they get, the harder it becomes again. Though it takes them much less time to actually take a feed, the process seems to lengthen out again as they become so nosy! It’s better now but there was a period where trying to feed Amelia out of the house was tough work, as she would become distracted trying to stare at people and what was going on around us. Try doing that on a busy train! It leads to her trying to reveal my breast to anyone nearby, and both of us becoming covered in squirting milk that she should be drinking!

9 – Your breast becomes a comforter. There have been many times when I have ‘fed’ Amelia. It has been clear that she is not bothered about the milk but the comfort she gest from suckling. With experience you can tell quite clearly when they are actually feeding versus just having a comfort suckle. This does not always make it easy on you. The other point here is that the little one becomes reliant on you and no one else for his or her feeds. Amelia began refusing milk from a bottle around 3.5 – 4 months old. Just like that she was not interested in anything but mummy’s breast. It was a tough period adjusting to this. It kind of also means that my breast has become other peoples concern. Now I regularly get ‘do you think she could be hungry’ ‘do you want to try feeding her’, etc. This can be come exceptionally frustrating when you know that she has fed well and she just wants some comfort. It is also frustrating when all you’d like is to have some time to yourself that doesn’t involve being someone else’s food source.

10 – Leading me on to when do you stop feeding? Amelia is now well underway with weaning, though she is still getting most of her nutrition from milk until she is 1 year old. When it was really tough at the beginning I was happy to just get to her first set of injections and then quit. By the time they came around breastfeeding had just become ‘easy’. So my timeline changed that I would be happy to continue until she was weaning. Now we are at 8 months and I really don’t know how it’ll end. I kind of have an exit strategy, which is slowly transitioning. She is starting nursery soon. My aim is that she will transition to bottles for her two daytime feeds and then slowly I will wean her off her morning breastfeed on to the bottle, and finally the bedtime feed. I am now looking forward to a time where she is not reliant on me for her milk.

Breastfeeding has been a wonderful bonding experience for the two of us. It has saved money, been much easier to go out not worrying about whether we have bottles and milk at the ready. It has not been easy for something that is such a natural process. I am glad of the experience. I just wasn’t prepared for it! So I hope that you find this account honest and helpful, and it allows you to persist with breastfeeding if you are struggling!

 

Please share your tips and advice or personal experiences of your struggles with breast-feeding

New Year, New resolutions!

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Have I made a New Year resolution? I’ve had ideas about them but in all honesty none have come to fruition thus far!

There are plenty of challenges to face this year – returning to work, continuing to learn how to parent, etc. As Amelia grows each day and reaches new milestones we are faced with new problems – the most current being how much do we need to baby proof the place and how many stair gates do we need!

Many New Year resolutions revolve around quitting something or dieting or getting fit. The last one is something that I real ought to incorporate into 2016. Just before becoming pregnant I was doing really well and exercising four to five times per week. I hadn’t made significant changes to my diet but liked to think I was eating healthily and making efforts to cut out as much processed food as possible. Things started off well in the early weeks as I was still maintaining the exercise and eating well. Then the morning sickness and tiredness arrived and my efforts waned. I probably lost some weigh in the first trimester due to a lack of appetite.  During the pregnancy I gained around 12kg in weight. I started out with a BMI in the ‘normal weight’ range and so this was around the right amount of weight gain for me. Each woman is different and the expected weight gain during pregnancy is influenced by your pre-pregnancy weight. The rumour that we need to eat for two is simply that – a rumour! Up until the third trimester we do not need to take in any extra calories, and during the third trimester we only need an extra 200 calories. This is equivalent to approximately two slices of wholemeal bread or a small bowl of cereal. It is safe to exercise in pregnancy, but you should bear in mind your fitness level and not go from zero exercise to all out high intensity exercise suddenly. Build it up gradually. There’s some good information on the NHS website athttp://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-exercise.aspx#close

During the pregnancy I became very slack with exercise in all honesty. I tried to keep active but rarely participated in specific exercise sessions. From around 22 weeks I started a Pilates class specifically for pregnancy and also pregnancy yoga sessions. I found both of these really great for helping build strength and avoid aches and pains. The yoga also helped prepare me for labour with some breathing techniques and ways to manage the pain of contractions. I changed from standard yoga to aqua-natal yoga at around 33 weeks. The aqua-natal yoga was great as it gave a greater relief from the weight of the bump during the last few weeks. I continued this and the Pilates right up until the week of labour. I then restarted the Pilates after my six-week postnatal check. I continued this regularly until December but have been very slack over the Christmas period!

I have just recently reached my pre-pregnancy weight and fit back into all of my clothes (minus the odd top which still doesn’t accommodate my new chest size). As they rightly say – It takes nine months to make a baby, and your body goes through some significant changes, so expect it to take a similar time period to return to your pre-pregnancy state. At around 10-12 weeks after the birth I went through a period of feeling pretty good as well has having plenty of people about to watch Amelia whilst I exercised, but this didn’t last long and I have been mostly lazy. I can’t say it worried me massively, but in the back of my mind was the feeling that I needed to resume some exercise. When I am in a good routine I feel better in myself, I have more energy (weirdly enough) and I sleep better. There is also the thought that if I were to become pregnant again in future I would like to start off from a good level of fitness and tone.

So in preparation for the New Year I looked at lots of options, including gym memberships. I was close to taking one out with a big chain, since they have crèche facilities. However, when I called them the rate on the website was less than the current rate available. Taking into account that I am now into my 10th month of maternity leave I felt it was a big expense, and considering my track record with gym subscriptions seemed like a possible money pit! So I will continue with my Pilates class and I have got the latest Davina McCall DVD. I have used her DVDs in the past and found them fun and easy to follow. Her latest one also has a five-week plan to follow. So I will give it a go. The aims – get fit and develop strength. I have no desire to lose weight. To support this I am making greater effort to eat well and healthy. I have so far cooked every day bar one this year which, considering the period around Christmas involved numerous takeaway meals, is good going for me! I have got myself a supermarket delivery pass because I find that if I shop online I tend to stick to the list and not end up with lots of snacks and wasted food. I will give you an honest update of how I am doing in February!

In addition to this obvious resolution, I would like to read more fiction, and not just limit it to holidays. I aim to continue to have fun with and give Amelia plenty of my time when I return to work. For her – I’d like to keep her trying a variety of food, and make sure we are really good about reading to her each bedtime. I’m also going to try and use the baby signing more at home so she picks it up and finds it helpful to communicate whilst her speech is developing.

 

If I can achieve the above this year then I will be more than satisfied. Everything else will be a bonus! Do you have any new years resolutions, or suggestions for how I can maintain mine?

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Losing control of the delivery

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I write this article knowing that this time last year I was still ignoring the fact that one day the baby making my bump get bigger and bigger was going to have to come out one way or another!

As December 2014 arrived and the 20-week scan had been reassuringly normal, I started to join some antenatal groups – Pilates and yoga. It was at these groups where I started to be exposed to other pregnant women, outside of my social group and my workplace. I was the new recruit, and as such the other women tended to be further along in their pregnancies. I’m not sure when most women start to think about the labour process and delivery of their baby but these women were all far enough along to be putting bags together, thinking about pain management in labour, etc. I admitted at these groups that I continued to live in blissful ignorance of how our little girl was going to arrive into the world.

That last sentence is perhaps not strictly true. As a medical student and doctor I did attend a number of labours – both straightforward and complicated, but mostly complicated.  I think I wanted to be completely ignorant to the birthing process but unfortunately knew too much to be in such a situation. Instead I was trying to block all my previous experience out and hide from the reality of the situation. I had tried to leave it a suitably long time between the last delivery I was in attendance of, and having my own child to help this situation. In my head I had visions of complicated labours, forceps, a ventouse, big needles, tears and episiotomies, and CTGs (electronic fetal monitoring).

So I eventually decided, around January time, that I might need to start thinking about this more seriously. There was a page in my maternity notes for me to complete my desired birth plan. Whilst many aspects seemed pretty easy to know what I did and didn’t want there were some more tricky areas. Things that I wasn’t too sure about what the answer should be. But in the back of my mind my greatest fear – being overdue and needing to be induced. A lot of the concern surrounded the little chart in my notes, produced at the scan. It gave a rough estimate of what the birth weight of my baby would be. If born 2 weeks late she was looking to be around 9lbs or so. I am 5”3’ and petite. I grimaced every time I thought about the prospect of delivering at 9lbs baby, and the ease with which such size of baby would pass through my birth canal! So my secret hope was that she would be delivered by 40-weeks. Another worry I had was the process of induction, and the success of them. In my time as a doctor I had seen many women being induced. I had done many weeks of on calls in the hospital, returning 12 hours later to find a woman still waiting for something to happen, seeing the drips they were given, the epidurals required to deal with the painful contractions that lasted for days, the need for assistance from use of a ventouse, to requiring a caesarean because nothings happening. I heard the experiences of friends and acquaintances who’d undergone inductions. I realised I just didn’t want that experience. My birth plan was for a labour that was as active as possible – I wanted to keep up and about for as long as possible. I felt that an induction had the potential to be quite the opposite. I worried that I would end up required an epidural early on to manage pain, and this would affect my ability to keep active. I also was very keen to avoid labouring for a long time, and then requiring a caesarean. I know that a labour that wasn’t induced could potentially be much the same but I really didn’t have control of when I would enter labour spontaneously, whereas I should have some control over being induced. I also knew that I wouldn’t be prepared to put my baby at risk, as may occur if you choose to continue to wait. Many sources agree that the risk of stillbirth is higher after 42-weeks of pregnancy. So I decided that should I be overdue I would wish for a caesarean to be planned on the date that I would otherwise be induced. I discussed this with my husband and he fully supported this decision. It was then time to broach the topic with my midwife.

I was nervous, as I know many midwives are keen for women to have as normal a birth as possible. However, my midwife was lovely. She asked a few questions to investigate my decision making process and offer further support in making such decisions. She then referred me to a consultant obstetrician for further discussion. I attended this appointment with my student midwife sister. We were there for more than an hour speaking to one, and then another, consultant. They questioned my decision making, the amount of experience I had in obstetrics, what my husband thought and his degree of experience, whether I had ‘tocophobia’ (the fear of giving birth!) and whether I wanted to have counselling. When in fact I had ‘melonophobia’ (the fear of giving birth to a baby the size of a melon!). They gave me statistics about induction and caesarean, they gave me other options – more sweeps for example. I took it all in, and felt that I was reasonable and listened to all other options. I just felt they couldn’t offer me what I really needed, which was reassurance that I wouldn’t be put through an induction, it be a long drawn out process and potentially end up having a caesarean anyway, in an emergency setting. I had prepared in advance of the appointment and knew that guidance stated maternal choice was a reason for caesarean.

In the end I was pencilled in for a caesarean for a date that would occur if I were 12 days overdue, with a plan that I would have cervical sweeps if they were possible at 40 and 41 weeks. My final decision was made because of my strong belief that I could live with any decision that I have made and is my own. In such circumstances if anything bad happened I could blame myself. However, had I been convinced to have an induction and anything went wrong I would hold the blame against those who convinced me to make the decision. I really didn’t want to live with such feeling. Throughout the appointment I kept reiterating that I felt this was all hypothetical and hopefully she would arrive on time. I was proved right, as the conversation clearly spurred her out and she came to the world safe and sound two days later!

Breast is best…Apparently!

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In preparation for Amelia’s arrival my aim was always to try breastfeeding, but without putting too much pressure on myself. I had seen many women feeling really frustrated or like they had failed by not being able to breastfeed for one reason or another. I really didn’t want to be in this position having reassured so many women that it was ok and that they shouldn’t beat themselves up about turning to formula.

There has been a big drive to encourage breastfeeding in recent years and you cannot avoid the propaganda. Breastfeeding does have proven benefits – protection from illness, cheaper, possibly reduces allergies and for the mother – reduced risk of breast cancer and possible help with losing baby weight (if that’s at the forefront of your mind!). New research comes out all the time with possible new benefits – increased IQ as one such possibility. I am wary over this potential benefit due to the high number of confounding factors.

I looked at breastfeeding from the following view, though I may be wrong – I was formula fed. I am well with no health concerns, I don’t suffer allergies and I have made it through medical school. So in the grand scheme of things there are other ways of keeping baby healthy and on the right track if you struggle to breastfeed, cannot breastfeed or just feel it’s not for you. I cannot fully appreciate why anyone can take such strong views either way.

In advance of her birth, I had not made any financial investment towards breast or bottle-feeding since I didn’t want to waste money on an endeavor that might not work out. I had been given a breast pump and a steriliser by a friend, and my sister had purchased some bottles for me. So when the midwife asked me if I wanted to try breastfeeding her shortly after her birth I gave it a go. With a little help she was latched on and doing what she should do. We opted to go home later that evening and at the changeover of midwives they rechecked I was happy to go. I sensibly thought I better have another go at feeding before we left in case there were any issues. Nope – everything was fine! So my parting question to the midwife was “How often should I feed her?” The response was “Don’t worry she will let you know when she’s hungry!” So off we went.

Well the first couple of nights when she did sleep she slept for a few hours. We couldn’t believe our lucky stars – what a good baby (apart from the need to mostly sleep in our arms!) The midwife checked her latching on at the visit on day 1. All was fine! Then at day 5 she was weighed – she’d lost 10.2% of her birthweight. In addition to this she had become a little jaundiced. The midwife advised that she would have to re-weigh her the next day and if she had lost any more weight she would have to refer her to the hospital. I re-clarified how often I should be feeding her since she didn’t seem all that hungry. The midwife advised that in the day I should be feeding two hourly and at night definitely not leaving it more than six hours. The night feeding was more related to milk supply and keeping this going. She suggested I download an app to monitor feeds and nappies (especially when there was a massive discrepancy between the number of nappies Daddy and I thought we had changed each day). From this point on I spiralled into insanity and crazy behaviour. My life revolved around the app and remembering to start it when I started feeding. This period lasted a good couple of weeks until the health visitor reassured me that Amelia was gaining weight and doing ok. Until this time was over I was debating whether to give in. At night Amelia would cluster feed for two hours from 10pm on and then still be hungry. The midwife had suggested topping her up at night with some formula. I saw this as a potential sign of weakness and it took a couple of days of people reassuring me that it’d be ok before I gave in and bought a few cartons of formula. It took another day or two to try it. She would gulp the full 200ml carton down, even after two hours of suckling.

Feeding itself was a long process. I would start feeding and it would take about an hour before she would have finished. I would then have only an hour to feed myself, wash, sleep, have a break before starting again. I felt like a feeding machine and it did get me down. I stopped going out because we didn’t have time between feeds. It reached breaking point when the midwife discharged me from her care and I broke down in tears at the thought of not seeing her again. Luckily I had enough insight to know this was not rational behaviour.

There is much so more to say about the breastfeeding. Though I end here looking like a crazed woman, rest assured it does get better and I will tell you about it another day!