the workouts which have kept me fit in pregnancy

 

I’ve been really feeling the effects of being heavily pregnant and about to pop these past couple of weeks. I feel heavy and uncomfortable all the time, and even finding a comfortable way to sit has become a struggle. My pelvis feels tender, my lower back is sore and I’m constantly feeling crampy or dealing with the hell that is trapped wind. I’ve sailed through this pregnancy, but it feels that as soon as I hit 37 weeks it all caught up with me.

Yesterday though I did something I’ve not done in over a week – I worked out. And I felt like a new woman afterwards! Admittedly by the time evening rolled around eight hours later I’d started to feel like an injured whale again, but I do think how good I felt after doing a bit of exercise is proof of how important it is to stay active even when you’re due to give birth any day.

Before I got pregnant, my exercise levels were a bit inconsistent. I the months before we got our positive test, I’d gone from three 5.30am weight training sessions a week to cancelling my gym membership and just going along to one Clubbercise class. I’m not sure now what the reason for the drop in my commitment was, but I wasn’t the fittest I’d ever been.

It wasn’t until I got to about halfway through this pregnancy that I made a real effort to make fitness my focus.  I kept up the Clubbercise until 30 weeks, when I started to worry about impact levels and balance, and at around 18 weeks I dusted off the antenatal DVDs I bought in my last pregnancy.  Last time around I only used them halfheartedly, but this time they have been the basis for my exercise levels. I’ve used a couple of online workouts too, so I thought I’d share what’s been working for me in case anyone else is wanting to exercise during pregnancy but doesn’t know where to start.

 

Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?

Keep in mind that I’m not a fitness professional, and this is just my experience.  The Royal College of Midwives advises that:

“The exercise pregnant women take should reflect their previous exercise regime. So for example it would not be appropriate for a woman who has done no exercise for many years to suddenly start running long distances in pregnancy. If women exercised regularly before pregnancy, they should be able to continue with no adverse effects.

“If women have not exercised routinely they should begin with no more than 15 minutes of continuous exercise, three times per week, increasing gradually to daily 30-minute sessions and if they any questions we advise them to talk to their midwife or GP”

So that doesn’t mean if you were inactive before that you shouldn’t exercise now, but that you should build up gradually.  Particularly if you’re a mum who isn’t used to exercise, pregnancy-specific programmes are the best option as the moves in them should safely take into account the changes going on in your body.  But if someone is used to a certain type of exercise (like I was with weights and dancing, and other women are with running) then pregnancy is no reason to stop outright.  It’s all about personal preference, health and ability, and keeping an open mind to the fact that what you can handle is likely to be different by the time you hit the 3rd trimester than what it was at 12 weeks.

Take the time to read up on your exercise of choice and about your body in pregnancy to make sure you’re always keeping yourself safe and doing the best for your body and baby.

 

Pregnancy Yoga

Probably the best place for anyone to start is yoga.  It’s a great way to activate your muscles, but also to quiet your mind and work on breathing and relaxation.  If you’re lucky enough to have a class in your area I’d definitely recommend heading along.

Unfortunately budget, work and location meant I couldn’t get to classes, so the yoga I do is one of my DVDs.  It’s by Desi Bartlett, but I don’t think it’s sold as a DVD any more.  Amazon have it on their streaming service though, and she has released another one since.  I like this one because it’s quite relaxing but it has a good lower-body focus.  It also doesn’t get too hippie/spiritual, which works for me (a reason why I’m a fan of another yogi called Adriene), but includes enough explanation of the names behind the moves to make you feel connected.  This is the workout I did yesterday, and I plan on trying to do it most days until this baby is ready to come join us.

 

Swimming

I wont labour (*boomboom*) this point, because I already wrote a whole post on why I think swimming in pregnancy is awesome.  But again, this is a great for everyone from beginners right up to the superfit.  You can do it alone, but again if you’re lucky enough to live in an area where aquanatal is available then definitely head along.  You’ll meet other mums and also have the support and guidance of an instructor which is always very handy to have.

 

Strength training in pregnancy

If you’re a little more advanced, or you’ve built up your fitness during the pregnancy so far, strength exercises are a great addition to your routine. Building muscle gives you the strength needed to carry around your ever-growing body and to support you to be active during labour.  This is also the type of exercise which you’ll find no end of options for, either as DVDs or online videos.

And a confession?  I’m a weights girl, so this is my thing.

The first workouts I started with this time around were some I found on Popsugar Fitness (which is a great site with lots of free videos, whether you’re pregnant or not).  They’re short, so they were a good place to start as I’d been out of the habit for a while.  I could then combine them for a longer workout.  The two I used were a total body one and an arm one, but there are others available on the site.

I then moved on to some other DVDs in my stash.  The first is Lean & Toned by Suzanne Bowen, which is a low-impact body weight programme.  It focuses on high reps of mainly leg and arm movements, with some core work in the mat section.  My only bugbears with it is that you need to figure out your own water breaks and keep your core and pelvic floor engaged (as you should be doing anyway!) without being reminded as she doesn’t really mention it.  But it’s a good total-body workout with a chilled pace.

My other DVD is Erin O’Brien’s Prenatal Fitness Fix, which I love.  I’ll start with the bad point – the music is godawful.  Thankfully during the workout it isn’t as noticeable as the title/menu music, and if I can ignore it (and I have to leave shops if they’re using those cheap cover version CDs) anyone can.  But Erin herself is motivational, explains a lot about how to exercise safely and is just really fun to workout with.  The moves in this can be quite tough, but they are mixed with easier ones to create a workout which is challenging but achievable.  It also comes with a postnatal workout, which I obviously haven’t used this time yet but I think I used it last time and enjoyed it just as much.

Once I felt my strength had built up again, I threw some of my true love into the mix – weights.  I used this great free programme on BodyBuilding.Com called Lifting for Two by Nicole Moneer.  Obviously, this is one for those who are used to working with weights and equipment.  But the video, article and the moves themselves are brilliant and I think this is a great resource.  We have a home gym with free weights and a pulley machine, so I was able to do all but the thigh moves, and the feeling of strength and confidence this workout gave me was worth it’s weight in gold.

And although not a workout, I can’t mention weight training without linking to one of my all-time favourite resources for women.  Girls Gone Strong have a bunch of great articles on exercise in pregnancy, as well as articles on general pregnancy health and postnatal stuff too.  I can’t sing the praises of this site enough, this is where my weight training interest was sparked back in 2015 and I love that the site doesn’t ignore pregnancy.

 

So what you waiting for?

A fit pregnancy is the best gift you can give yourself.  Along with managing my weight gain, being active has made this my easiest pregnancy so far.  I’ve avoided the SPD and back issues I had in my last pregnancy and the high blood pressure I experienced in my first, and there is a ton of research out there to support that exercise reduces those and other pregnancy complications as well as helping you to have a shorter and complication-free labour and birth.  What isn’t there to love about that?

 

What exercise worked best for you in pregnancy?  Let me know if you’ve tried any of the types of exercise I mention, or used any of the resources I’ve linked to.

The Amazon product links in this post are affiliated, but the opinions are my own.  I genuinely bought these products and have used them myself.

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my birth plans [ part 3 ] – hypnobirth

I’m sitting on my birth ball, in the closing days of my 38th week of pregnancy.  Birth is on my mind a lot…in fact, about the only other thing in my head beyond that is housework (thanks nesting) and I know which of those two I’d rather write about.  I’ve written already about two elements of my plan for birth – that I want to have this baby at home and that I’ll be using a birth pool to labour and hopefully deliver this little man.  This final part is all about how I really want this birth to be as calm an experience as it can be.

As I mentioned previously, my last baby was born in the hospital car park in what was quite a fraught and distressing experience.  Whilst it makes a good story and I can tell it almost as a joke now, it was an experience that left a scar and from which it took me a long time to heal.  More than anything I want this, our final birth experience, to be on our terms and above all to feel calm and in control during it.  That’s why I don’t want to leave the house, and why I think water will be a great coping mechanism for me.

When my friend, who is a midwife, heard of my plans she suggested hypnobirth as a good tool to help me achieve the birth I hope for.  She is a trained practitioner, and offered to take Hubs and I through the course as a favour.  I also trained as a midwife ten years ago, and back then my only experience of a woman using hypnobirthing was not a particularly positive one.  This was more down to the woman being quite a difficult person to deal with rather than her preference for hypnobirthing, but something had stuck with me which left a bad taste in my mouth. However, my friend really sold the concept to me.  It turns out it wasn’t all hippie nonsense, or a fad just for stuck-up middle class madams.

 

What is hypnobirthing?

Hypnobirthing focuses on taking the body and mind to a deep relaxed state, so that the birthing muscles are free to do their job.   We have been conditioned to see birth as a scary and painful experience, and as a result most of us involuntary tense up and fight against contractions (or surges, if I use the hypno lingo).  But hypnobirthing theory says that if we remove the resistance caused by tension and fear we can work with our bodies rather than against them.  By using my contractions and natural pushing instincts rather than fighting them, I can retain that sense of calm and control that I want.

That’s the hope, anyway!

In fact, it had a lot of links with things I’ve dabbled with myself – yoga breathing, mindfulness and relaxation techniques.  More than that, it is based on what I know and believe about labour and birth – that it is not a medical event which needs intervention or lots of drugs as long as the mother and baby are healthy and things are progressing as they should.  It tackles the issues of fear and tension as being the two obstacles most likely to turn birth from a natural process to something more complicated.  It supports my belief that my body is perfectly designed to bring my baby into the world, and builds on the confidence my two previous fairly quick and straightforward deliveries have given me.

 

Making hypnobirthing work for me

I have to be honest about my own limitations and abilities though.  I’m quite a highly strung person with a ridiculously short fuse, so I’m worried that in the moment I’ll struggle to put myself into relaxation or to zone out enough.  But that’s exactly why I’m trying to apply hypnobirth principles in the first place, because the techniques give me some tools to use.

So far I’m finding the different types of breathing and the progressive relaxation to be the aspects which speak to me the most.  I struggle with a lot of the visualisation exercises, and find physical anchors work better to encourage me to relax – a touch from Hubs, or having him massage me, or even just triggering the relaxation through my body by loosening my jaw and the muscles around my eyes.

I’m going a bit rogue when it comes to my birth soundtrack.  I listen to my relaxation recording to practice putting myself into the relaxed state, and I will have it on standby during labour if I find myself struggling to get there.  But for the most part I will be listening to my own playlist.  Music is a huge part of my life, and I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to what I will listen to.  I think if I used “real” relaxation tracks I would actually end up less chilled out as they’d just annoy me!  Instead I’ve put together a playlist of some fairly calming songs which either have lyrics which speak to me or which have a wall-of-sound quality for me to focus on.

But above all, I’m just going into it all (labour, birth and hypnobirthing) with an open mind.  Whatever works is right at the time, and I’m not going to get too hung up on any one thing or doing something the “right” way.

 

Hypnobirth blogs

As I’ve done with home and water births, I’ve been reading birth stories where bloggers have been kind enough to share their experiences.  These ones were my favourites…

Fred, Ted & Company – a calm birth

Love Your Birth – my third hypnobirth

Bumps n Babies – Hannah’s birth story

 

Have you used hypnobirthing techniques?  I’d love to hear about your experiences!

 

 

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the good, bad + ugly of parenting a teenager

 

This week, my first baby turned 15.  This sparks in me a domino run of cliche-but-true observations – those 15 years have flown by, parenting doesn’t necessarily get easier it just changes, and teenage boys really do sleep/smell/grunt a lot.  But how do I mark this occasion here on my blog?  I could write a post to him, but he’d never read it.  I could write a post about him, but I think he’d find that pretty cringe-worthy.  So I figured I’d reflect on what being a mum to a teenager has been like so far – the good, the bad and the ugly.

 

Raising a teen – the good

  • Seeing all our efforts pay off.  Of course we’re all proud of our kids and they make us proud in different ways at different times – the first time they write their name, or the first time they swim without arm bands.  But the teen years is where you see your efforts in encouraging, supporting and building your kids up really start to come to something.  All kids break away from the pack in one area or another, to achieve something that not everyone else can, to show a real talent for something.  For us, it’s his academic achievements and his competitive swimming success, both of which he makes look easy but which are far beyond anything I could have managed at his age.
  • Sharing music and book recommendations, and (if you’re lucky and your kid has taste) actually finding common ground to bond over.
  • Watching our child grow out of being, well…a child.  Of course it is heart wrenching to say goodbye to those days, but leaving behind childhood also means learning more about the person he will grow up to be.  And that is beyond exciting.  Seeing “when I grow up” fantasies turn into real interests and subject choices, sharing (slightly) adult humour and watching him get the joke, hearing his opinions on topics bigger than Minecraft…it’s pretty mindblowing.
  • The hugs.  They may be rare, but they mean that little bit more because I know there’s real emotion behind them.

Raising a teen – the bad

  • Seeing your child suffer and not being able to save them like you could when they were little.  I’m talking about bullying.  This has been a reality for my son for a large portion of high school so far, and I have felt pretty powerless to help him.  He doesn’t want me to get involved, and so I’ve done only what I could do from behind the scenes.  Ideally I’d like to set fire to the little shits who are doing this to him, but having been bullied myself I know that adult intervention is like a red rag to a bull. It hurts me every time the issue flares up, to see how it has impacted on his confidence and willingness to be sociable.  But I have to just guide him, reassure him, and make the school aware of things they can do to help him.
  • Worrying about how he’s going to cope with big issues – sex, smoking, alcohol, drugs.  We’re lucky just now as our teenager isn’t in with a crowd that hangs about, parties and tries to act older than they are.  But I know it’s only a matter of time before he is exposed, and although he’s fairly sensible I also know that on the surface that’s probably how I appeared at that age…and my decisions were anything but!
  • Think it hurts when your toddler tells you mid-tantrum that they don’t love you?  Try hearing something like that when your kid is old enough to understand the gravity of their words.  I’ve been lucky so far – I don’t think I’ve hit the milestone of being told I’m a bitch, but teenagers don’t always have a filter in the heat of the moment.

Raising a teen – the ugly

  • Still having to listen as he relays the fascinating intricate details of his latest Xbox game obsession.
  • Hearing the sound of my own voice, saying the same things on repeat.  You think it’s bad with a toddler?  Try chanting the following at least three times a day for the past five years – have you brushed your teeth, can you please sort your hair out, put your dirty laundry in the basket, for god sake can you please shut the door without slamming it, have you done your chores, have you done your homework, untie your shoes before you put them on.  I remain in constant hope that one day he will leave the house with all his responsibilities dealt with, looking presentable, without wrecking yet another pair of shoes and without slamming the door…all without me saying a word.
  • The bathroom after the three hour shower or midnight toilet trip…
  • Being demoted from fountain of knowledge to she-who-knows-nothing.  I realise that sometimes, when I talk a glaze comes over not just his eyes but his whole face. Our son has perfected the brick-wall look, where I know every word we say is just bouncing off without even being heard.  Apparently he  knows it all already.
  • Sometimes, the only sign he’s returned home is the dog sitting at the bottom of the stairs with an expectant wag of her tail.  Because apparently we don’t say “hi” anymore.

 

It’s not easy, parenting a teenager.  It’s a mindfuck, a stress and yet another one of those oh-so-wonderful learning curves of parenting. But it’s rewarding and hilarious and fascinating all at the same time.  No one gets it right, we all just stumble through, but the good points usually outweigh the bad and you can usually (eventually) laugh at the ugly points.  I’m excited what this second half of his teen years holds in store for my son, and for the rest of us!

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my pregnancy at 37 weeks

Week 37 is done and dusted!  I finished up for maternity leave in a cloud of cake and very generous gifts last week and the midwives go on call for my homebirth from tomorrow…the end is in sight!  But actually, I hope I’ve still got a little while to go yet, as I don’t feel ready for birth or for meeting our new little man just yet.

I’m sure this boy will be like his brothers and show up late, but a lot of people are convinced I’m going to go before my due date, so I’ve always said that as long as I get at least a week of maternity leave to put my feet up first, he can come whenever he wants.  But that’s me been on leave for nearly a week now, and I’ve not done any relaxing at all!  I went shopping with my mum all day for my birthday, spent a whole day waddling around the Ideal Homes exhibition on Saturday, we were out celebrating the christening of my friends’ beautiful little girl all day Sunday and yesterday I took the boys to a local farm where I went on a tractor ride (honestly thought my waters would burst) and walked through the woods looking for fairy doors.  In amongst that I’ve been doing housework and trying to nest, and today I need to get things ready for my oldest son’s birthday tomorrow.  I don’t see me chilling out until Friday, so this boy better stay put for the foreseeable!

Plus…I’m not sure I’m ready to let go of being pregnant.  This is our last baby (though my friend and I did get Hubs to agree to baby number 4 at the christening party…though I think that may have had more to do with the cheap bar than any serious commitment), and this pregnancy has been such a wonderful experience.  So as much as I want to meet our little wriggler, I’m not ready for this pregnancy to be over.

So how have things progressed since I last updated at 35 weeks?

Body at 37 weeks

  • I don’t feel I look very different to how I did a few weeks ago.  And people tell me mixed things too (“oh, you’ve dropped” or “you’re still carrying quite high” or “you’re still so neat” to “you can really see a difference this week”) so clearly I’m not the only one unsure.  But I feel different, especially if I’ve been on my feet for too long.
  • Weight wise, I’ve put on another 1.5lbs since 35 weeks.  That makes it a stone since I started being mindful about my weight at 18 weeks and probably 1.5 stone (21lbs) overall.  Hopefully at least 10lb of that is baby, fluid and placenta!
  • I’m still getting off fairly easy on the symptom side of things too – no real heartburn, no leg cramps, only very slight restless legs last thing at night sometimes.  Even the trapped wind which was really bothering me a few weeks ago has eased off.
  • I do hit a wall in the afternoon most days were I could definitely do with a nap…but that might have more to do with how busy I’ve been more than anything.

Mind at 37 weeks

  • It’s not a quiet, chilled out mind, that’s for sure!  Like I’ve mentioned, I don’t feel ready for this baby yet, and I think that’s a big part of it.  The house is a mess and I can’t seem to find the time or energy to fix that.  So instead I lie in bed worried that I’ll go into labour in a pig sty.  I know if I pull my finger out and get it done today I’ll be much happier tomorrow, but time just seems to run away.
  • My main feeling is one of sadness.  I’m sad that this pregnancy is nearly over and I’m little sad to think that for the four year old things are going to change quite a lot.  He will no longer be the baby, and I blogged about how that upsets me.
  • On a more positive note, I’m excited for the birth and confident in my ability to cope with it.  We’re all set for our home waterbirth, and a lot of that confidence comes from the Hypnobirthing course I’m doing, which I’m hoping to blog about this week.

Baby at 37 weeks

  • We have a name!  And it was chosen by our four year old.  What’s impressive is that it is neither dinosaur nor construction site related!
  • His moses basket is all ready for him, the cloth nappies are washed and waiting, and he has more clothes than he will ever have time to wear.
  • We’re still on track for a big chunky boy…but that was never in doubt.

Fuel, Fitness & Rest

  • I’m quite sad that at the final hurdle I’m really failing on the fitness and nutrition fronts.  I’ve made bad food choices for a few weeks now, and can’t seem to get myself back on track.  I’m feeling guilty about the amount of sugar I’ve been consuming and I’m worried that I’m letting myself down by not fuelling my body better.  I need to think of my upcoming labour and birth as a marathon – no runner would prepare for that by eating cake after cake in the last weeks before the race!
  • My motivation to workout seems to have disappeared.  I think that’s a symptom of feeling like I have so much to do, so I talk myself out of a workout and instead promise I’ll do some housework…and then neither gets done!  I’m cutting myself some slack in this respect, as I’ve been out and about so I’m not exactly inactive, but I had hoped to exercise right up to the birth so it’s annoying me on a personal level.
  • Sleep is still pretty great, mainly thanks to my pregnancy pillow.  So I can’t blame not sleeping on my lack of motivation.

 

Overall, things are still going great.  I think I’m just psyching myself out.  I’m hoping that the next couple of days will be all I need to get me back on track and get my house sorted out, and that I still get that week of chill-out time before baby boy decides to join us!

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sleeping like a baby when pregnant

It’s been a bit quiet on the blog this week.  All my energy was focused on dragging my very pregnant butt through the last few days of work.  But after a lovely cake-filled send off I’m ecstatic to report that I’m on maternity leave!!!  Such a great feeling.  No more work for ten whole months, and another milestone crossed off on the journey to meet our new little member of the family.  My homebirth kit was delivered today too…talk about things getting real. With maternity leave comes (hopefully) more time to write in here, at least until the little guy decides to put in an appearance.  So I better grasp the opportunity!

My blog has become something of a confession booth for me. First I was talking openly about my affair at 25 weeks pregnant, and now I’m going to tell you all about the other man in my bed.

Allow me to introduce you to…Pierre, my body pillow.


blissed out woman pictured isn’t me, this is a link to the pillow I bought :: Amazon Associates – not sponsored
Broken sleep is probably right up there with pregnancy woes like heartburn and morning sickness as something most of us find ourselves bitching about.  It’s so frustrating, as sleep is something we need and crave but can sometimes feel impossible to get.  In my previous pregnancies getting comfortable at night was like a military mission.  A slapstick military mission, with pillows wedged under all different parts of my body that needed to be readjusted every time I shifted position.  They were always moving about or falling off the bed and I had a lot of restless nights.

This time though, I think I’ve nailed the whole sleep thing.  It’s made a massive difference to how I’ve felt and how well I’ve kept through the whole pregnancy.  And I thank Pierre for that.

 

Why I bought a pregnancy pillow

Pierre was a bit of an impulse buy, as I was sceptical he’d be any better than my usual cocoon of cushions, especially when I saw the price of a lot of pregnancy and body pillows.  But I searched around and found some cheaper options with good reviews (I’ve linked above to the model I bought), and thought it was worth a punt.  We’d only just got our four year old to sleep through the night, so I thought I deserved at least a few months of proper rest before we started the sleepless nights all over again.

I remember when Pierre arrived, I was shocked at how big he was.  He really is like having another person in bed with us at night, which is why we felt we had to give him a name.  Thankfully, we have a huge bed so Hubs hasn’t been relegated to the spare room, but I think some reviews did mention poor partners being shunted to the sofa to make room!

Honestly though?  If I had to choose between Hubs and Pierre at the moment, Hubs would be on the sofa.  And I’d only feel a smidge of guilt.  Because even now at 37 weeks, the only time I wake during the night is for the obligatory pregnant-lady-bathroom-trip.  Then I slip back into Pierre’s arms (Hubs says it’s Pierre’s legs, but I’m not really down with picturing myself nestled into a gigantic crotch), and I’m straight back to sleep.

 

How I use my pregnancy pillow

I had to do some research, as I wasn’t sure what the best way to sleep was to avoid hurting my back, and I couldn’t quite figure out what to do with my arms!  But if my fling with Pierre has made you think that maybe you could do with a new man in your bed, let me share how I get comfortable.

  • Firstly, I lie on my side.  I know that sounds obvious, as there isn’t really any other way to lie once your bump grows, but lying on your side (specifically your left) is best for the blood flow around your body when you’re pregnant.
  • I rest my head on the curve of the u-shape (or as Hubs like to point out, Pierre’s crotch).  You’re meant to have your shoulder against the pillow and your head on top, like the girl in the picture. But I’ve put a light pillow in the gap to create a slope as I found it a bit too much of a step.
  • I wrap my arms around the arm/leg of the pillow and hug it to my chest.  One over and one under, otherwise it was a bit like that awkward issue when you spoon someone and don’t know what to do with your bottom arm.  Apparently hugging it is good for your upper back too.
  • I keep my legs fairly straight (not at right angles like the woman in the picture), but stick the pillow leg/arm between my knees to ease the pressure.  Another way is to keep my lower leg straight and just have my top leg at an almost right angle resting on the pillow.  I find too much of an angle puts pressure on my lower back.
  • I tuck the other pillow arm/leg snug into my back.  It stops me rolling back and feels so supportive.
  • When it comes to my bump, I actually don’t do anything.  I find all the rest of my positioning takes any pressure off it.  I do read that women wedge some of the pillow under their bump, but maybe my pillow is too firm or large, but it doesn’t fit under my bump.  If I try to wedge it underneath, it forces me on to my back a little and I don’t like it.  But different strokes for different folks…or different lumps for different bumps?!

 

I’m not a big one for gadgets and gimmicks, and so Pierre has been a pleasant surprise.  I would definitely recommend getting a pregnancy pillow if you’re having trouble getting comfortable, as a crappy night’s sleep can make all the other little things seem so much worse.  Plus, there has been a study which implies that if you have too little sleep you can end up with a longer labour and the increased risk of complications or interventions which comes with that.

Which reminds me…naps are like a maternity leave must, right?  I’m going to make sure I treat myself to a few of those!

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worried about my baby

 

Lying in bed I hear the feet clattering down the stairs, a small elephant tripping over itself. A moment of hesitation. And then there at the door, with five cuddly dogs clutched to his chest, is my baby. All four years, eight months and about-to-start-school of him. He gives me a tentative grin with one eyebrow raised – is it time to wake up? He knows it isn’t, his clock tells him so, but I’m awake anyway and can’t resist his mussed up jammies and bedhead. My tiny nod from me is all the permission he needs, before he and his pack of stuffed toys catapult on to the bed. He expertly finds his space between mummy and daddy and can’t contain his naughty laughter as he sticks his finger into poor, snoozing daddy’s ear. Warm and drowsy, I cuddle into his back as it judders with giggles. My heart sings at this perfect way to start the day…but then it breaks.

This little boy’s life is about to change in big ways. And it’s all our fault.

 

Life is currently coloured by the fact that in a few weeks I’ll be popping out a sprog.

We’re all very excited about our new baby’s up-coming arrival and, as I’m sure most of you know, as that magical due date approaches we’re all a bit distracted by tiny little clothes and worries about sleepless nights.

But underneath all the planning, prepping and daydreaming I’ve got this sense of yuck. It makes my stomach sink, my heart flop and my thoughts cloud over. I’ll watch my four year old grinning with glee or giggling away at something and feel suddenly very sick.

Sick with guilt.

This is not my second baby, it’s my third, but I didn’t struggle with feeling like this as I waited for our now four year old to join our family. My oldest son was ten when we finally got around to making him a sibling, and whether it was because he was older or because we knew that a brother was something he had wanted for a while, I approached the expansion of our family from a totally positive place. There was no guilt, only excitement.  But with the four year old, things are very different.

We are the centre of his world…

(…well, as long as grandma and grandpa aren’t around. And daddy is a smidge more central than mummy).  Our four year old thrives on our attention, is a constant presence no matter what we’re doing (even as I type this, Hubs is trying to replace some guttering whilst answering questions from his welly-wearing spectator), and lives confident in the knowledge that we are his. Rightly or wrongly, he is often the point around which everyone else orbits. Sure, some of the spoilt brat tendencies which come from that frustrate me. But I do love the self-assurance, articulateness and passion for life he exhibits, all of which I think come from having a family which are so interested in what he has to say or what he wants to do.

But soon he will be sharing that particular limelight with his new little brother

In the past few weeks my sense of guilt has been building and the worries are swirling in my head.  How will he interpret the sudden shift of attention from himself to the new baby?  How will his relationships change? Will his confidence take a knock?  So far he is very positive about becoming a big brother – he has moments of incredible tenderness towards my bump and has even chosen his brother’s name.  But will that blossoming love be enough to help him understand why mummy and daddy are suddenly too busy to play with him as much as usual, is it strong enough to grow even when he feels jealous?  I don’t know.

Of course, there are things we can do to help him.

We’re already talking a lot about how much work a new baby takes and what that means for us and him, and we’ve read books from the library about older siblings and new babies.  I’ve encouraged his sense of being a big boy, by asking him if he will help me look after his brother and talked about how sure I am that he can be so grown up and responsible.  We’ve looked back at videos and photos of him as a newborn and talked about how special that time was.  I’ve shown him the clothes which were his, and asked if he will let us use them for his brother.  We’ve talked about how he’ll feel sharing us with the new baby.

We’re going to keep his nursery hours the same over the summer, which at first felt counter intuitive (especially on a maternity pay wage!) as it pushes him out of the house.  But he loves nursery and that’s his routine, so I actually think having something he can rely on and which doesn’t change at the same time as the baby comes along will be good for him.  He starts school after the summer, which is another big change, but we are making a point of celebrating that with him, so he has something which is special and just about him.

Once the baby arrives, I’m going to ensure that he still gets time alone with both me and Hubs – we’ll protect his bedtime routine and make a point of at least weekly one-on-one activities which don’t include the baby.  But equally, we will be encouraging him to spend time with his new brother, as well as his older brother, to build that sense of family.  I’m hoping to keep things like housework, exercise and blogging to times where he is at nursery or asleep, so that when we are together the focus can be on fun as much as possible, even if that just means flicking through a book as I feed the baby or playing with his cars whilst his new brother has tummy time on the playmat.

I’m hopeful all of this will ease the transition and get us off to a positive start.

But that doesn’t stop me from those moments where I look at him and feel a panic rising.  Watching him dig in the garden with Hubs today, in his little blue rain mac with his face streaked with equal measures of dirt and grins, I sobbed into the washing up.  This chapter of our time with him is coming to an end, and I can’t shake the sense of guilt that we are going to turn his world upside down.

I’m sure I’m not the first mum to have felt this way, and maybe hormones are not helping.  But I never anticipated this emotion.  I can only hope he thrives in his new role as a big brother, as the middle child, and that we handle this transition well enough that he never questions the love around him or his own worth.  I guess the fact I’m even thinking about this means I will be mindful of it, and he has an incredible big brother to show him the way too.

Maybe I just need to find a way to swallow the guilt and embrace this next stage in his life right alongside him.

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my birth plans [ part 2 ] – water birth

 

I recently posted about how I am planning on having a home birth this time around, and how I’d come to that decision after the slightly traumatic and quite public birth of my second baby in a car park.  I really enjoyed writing that post, and sharing the links to other bloggers I’d found who shared their home birth experiences.  So I wanted to write some more, this time about my hopes to birth (or at least labour) in water.

 

We finally got round to trying out our birth pool

This has been niggling at the back of my mind for a while now, as we had no idea how long it would take to set up, whether the hose would be long enough to fill it up from the bathroom if it was set up in the living room, and whether attachments we had all worked.  Thankfully it inflated fine, and the hose was plenty long enough.

We didn’t try filling it, as at the time I felt pretty confident – we have a great combi boiler which I’m sure will be up to the task, and calculated time based on filling the bath.  But now the nerves are kicking in and I’m thinking we should do a full trial run…I can’t wait to see Hubs’ face when I make that suggestion!  I did see someone else mention that it’s a good excuse to chill out in it with a Netflix binge, so that might convince him.

 

Why we bought a pool rather than hiring one

Our pool kind of fell into our laps – after making my wish for a home birth known, the midwife encouraged me to look at buying rather than hiring a pool.  She said there wasn’t a lot of difference in the cost, so I did some research and for some of the models she had a point.

I’d decided to go for the Birth Pool In A Box, based on reviews and the fact it came with everything you need, when Hubs spotted someone selling the exact same one at half the price on Facebook.  It had never been used, as the previous owner had bought it thinking she could have a VBAC at home only to find out this wasn’t the case.

It looks like a great bit of kit, with support handles and even a seat, so I’m excited to use it when the big day comes.  I can’t believe we were able to buy one cheap in our local area.  I’m not spiritual or superstitious, but it isn’t often you see something like that being sold on Facebook – that’s got to be a good omen.  It’s a lot bigger than I expected – when it was blown up the four year old was running around shouting “we’ve got a swimming pool!!”

 

Why a water birth?

To help me be active in labour…

I’ve already blogged about why I love swimming during pregnancy, and a big part of that is the freedom of movement and lightness being in the water gives me.  Being active during labour is so important, both to encourage your baby to get into the best position for a smooth birth as well as for your own comfort and sense of control.  Water helps you to change your position easily, because you don’t feel like a ten ton weight!  But it also helps you stay in positions like all fours or upright longer than you could otherwise, because of the support it gives you.

Being able to chose your position or move when your body tells you to is so empowering.   I was induced with my first baby, and as a result I spent my labour lying on my back in a bed, strapped to monitors.  It wasn’t an awful experience, but I definitely felt very much as if labour was something I had no control over.

I also think that being stuck in the bed meant I needed more pain relief and spent a longer time pushing.  There is loads of research that backs that up too*.  With my second baby, although our long journey to hospital meant he was born before we got there, before things went cray-cray I felt much more in control and part of the process.  That was maybe why I was able to labour to the pushing stage before needing to head to hospital – I didn’t feel desperate for pain relief.  It’s probably also why he was born so quickly, because he was in such a perfect position that nothing could stop him!

To help me chill the hell out…

Of course, you can be active in labour without a birth pool, so I want it for more than that.  For me warm, deep water is magical when it comes to relieving stress, tension and pain.  I’m actually more of a shower than a bath type of girl normally, but I know that when I sink into warm water something special happens.  As I’m also hoping to use hypnobirth techniques during labour, it makes sense to me that water would be the most peaceful and relaxing place to be.

To give my baby a gentle welcome…

I love the idea of my baby being born in water, it seems like a smoother transition into the world.  I always think it must be a bit of a shock to the system for babies, coming from the warm and muffled world they’ve known for nine months into the cool air and noise of the room (or car park) they’re born in.  Water births always seem a bit gentler, especially if the baby is brought up calmly and their body is kept in the water for some skin-to-skin right away.  Neither of my previous babies were delivered on to my chest and both were taken away before I held them (one because he was unresponsive thanks to diamorphine, and the other because we were in a cold car park), so I’d like to be the one to guide this baby gently up for snuggles and to be with him right from the start.

 

Water birth blogs

I said last time that I love reading other people’s birth stories, and like last time I want to share the ones I came across that touched me.  There seem to be less blogs with waterbirth stories in them, but these three are lovely.

Autumn’s Mummy – my waterbirth story

The Double Mamma – the beautiful birth of Ailbe Fox

My Tales from The Crib – my journey to motherhood: my water baby

 

Did you have a water birth?  I’d love to hear about it!  Or if you know of any other bloggers who have shared their stories, please let me know.

 

 

* The Royal College of Midwives summerise it all well in their Positions for Labour and Birth guidelines
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my pregnancy at 35 weeks

So that’s me crossed off the 35th week of pregnancy, and with just a week and a half left of work it’s getting really exciting to think that this little man is nearly here.

I arrived home on Saturday, after taking our 4 year old to a birthday party, to find all my lovely girlfriends standing waiting for me on the driveway.  They’d only gone and thrown me a surprise baby shower!!  And it really was a surprise – I’ve never had one before, and everyone had kept it really secret.  Even Hubs, who let me have a bit of a bratty (I blame the hormones) moan earlier in the week after the green eyed monster bit me – another friend is having a shower thrown for her in a few weeks and I was feeling left out.  Little did I know they’d been planning mine since February!

We played some games, ate a lot of food and just spent a few hours chatting.  It was lovely to have all my favourite people in one room, as some of my friends hadn’t met one another and I got to introduce them to my step-daughter, mum-in-law and my mum.  I was so touched at the effort made, and I was reminded just how lucky I am to know such a wonderful group of women.

That’s a nice head-space to be in as I drag myself through the last few weeks of pregnancy.  So how have things progressed since I last updated at 30 weeks?

Body at 35 weeks

  • I swing from thinking I’ve not grown much, to feeling bloody enormous!  My H&M maternity trousers are uncomfortable around my bump now and leave an unflattering muffin-top look halfway up, and I certainly feel heavier when trying to get comfy in bed or on the sofa!  But when I look down, or when I’m in my workout gear, I don’t see a big change.  I’m still “all bump” and can still see my waist, which is a new thing for me because I usually just swell out in all directions!
  • I’ve put on 5.5lbs since 30 weeks, and I’m hoping most of that is baby…but I have a feeling that’s wishful thinking!
  • I’m still pretty symptom-free, but I did have one episode of heartburn that I literally thought was going to kill me from the oesophagus out.  It woke me up and left me coughing and struggling to breathe because the stinging and burning was so bad.  And I have the most wickedbad trapped wind, I’ve been in agony most nights this week…who knew a lost fart could cause so much pain?!

Mind at 35 weeks

  • In general I’m feeling pretty positive, though I could feel myself starting to get a bit defeated now that discomfort and pain are getting to me.  It was amazing to have the lift of the baby shower yesterday to catch me before I sank, and put me back on a positive wave length.
  • I do have a constant nagging feeling though.  We still have a lot of things to get ready, and at times I panic that this will be my first baby to come early and we’ll be caught off-guard!  But then I rationalise with myself that my babies always come late, so I do still have time to play with.  Hopefully this week I can get the essentials dealt with, and then have time to focus on getting myself prepared!
  • Our birth plans are coming together.  I already blogged about our plans for a home birth and hopefully will be blogging this week about our water birth plans too.  I’m doing a hypnobirth course, so that will probably get it’s own blog post as well!  I know plans don’t always come off the way you want (trust me, with one induction and one car park birth under my belt, I know), but I’m planning for the best case scenario this time around.  The midwife is coming out for a home visit this week to stake out our joint – fingers crossed my house keeping meets her approval!

Baby at 35 weeks

  • With a previous 9lb 7oz baby followed by his 8lb 1oz brother (and daddy being 9lbs 11oz!), a small baby was never on the cards.  I was sent for a growth scan last week, and we’re hovering around that 90th centile again.  I’m not that bothered with any of that though, as I’ve never heard of anyone whose growth scan got it right, and whatever his size it will be the right size for him, and that will be perfect.
  • We have one or two crazy busy periods of movement a day, with other ones in between.  He’s head down, but obviously spinning around on it like a breakdancer as at times he’s all limbs to the front, jabbing away at me.
  • Still no name.  Shortened long-list, but no finalists.

Fuel, Fitness & Rest

  • After keeping a good handle on my diet and weight gain between 17 and 30 weeks, I’ve really struggled recently.  I’ve not been motivated to keep a food diary, which always signals trouble.  I had a craving for a burger this week so had a big indulgent meal, and then there were a lot of cakes (still are, my house is full of them!) at the baby shower which I just didn’t control myself around.  And that’s just been this week.  I think I’m on track for another big gain, but I’ll make peace with that and just try to be more health-conscious in the weeks I have left.
  • My energy levels are pretty good though, even with my less than perfect nutrition.  I managed to stay up to 4am at a party a few weeks ago, though I don’t think that’s something I’ll be doing again!  But I don’t feel as tired as I did at the start of the 3rd trimester, so I’m enjoying it while it lasts.
  • I think a lot of this is because my sleep is still generally as good as it was before pregnancy.  I’m usually only up once for the loo, and getting back to sleep isn’t usually an issue either.  What a difference to my last pregnancy, and I owe it all to my body pillow.
  • I went to my last Clubbercise class at 29 weeks, so I’ve been swimming instead.  I’m also keeping up with my strength workouts and yoga too.  I’m finding them a little tougher, but besides struggling to motivate myself a bit I’m still pretty regular with my sessions.

 

So, ticking along nicely. And it makes me feel all warm inside to know that next time I do a recap like this…I’ll be on maternity leave!!

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my birth plans [ part 1 ] – home birth

 

Things (finally) got underway in preparing for our little man’s arrival this weekend.  I’m due in six weeks so it’s high time we got cracking, but because this will be boy number 3 and we kept everything from last time (and some things from the teenager’s baby days too!), we’ve got a bit too relaxed about things.  I always go overdue, so it feels like we have so little to do and so much time.

But this weekend, a smidgen of nesting must have taken hold.  I blame it on the fact we spent most of Saturday volunteering at the nursery, helping them to refresh the gardens.  Painting fences and murals to get the place looking good for the summer clearly set off some sort of chain reaction in my head.  I came home and sorted our mountain of baby clothes into sizes, washed the 0-3 month stuff and went to town with the stain remover on the white items.  We dug out the cot, Moses basket and carry cot so we can get new mattresses ordered too.  I just need to clean the pram and car seat, and figure out how to work our new Perfect Prep machine…and then I think we’ll be pretty much good to go.

 

Looking forward to birth

With getting things ready, my mind has turned to the birth.  Ok, who am I kidding – I’ve been thinking about the birth for a while!  But things are getting real now, and I thought I’d do a few blog posts in the coming weeks about what our plans are.  I had swithered about telling people, either in real life or on the blog, as I’m conscious that plans change.  But I’m getting more confident about saying that we’re hoping for a water birth at home this time around, and I have an urge to write about it.  So this is part one, about why I want to birth at home.

 

Wanting a home birth doesn’t make me a crazy, placenta-eating hippie

(no offence if you ate/buried/painted with yours)

Reactions of those I’ve told that I’m planning a home birth have been mixed.  Actually, most people have been very positive.  But there are some who had a sharp intake of breath, pulled a face or made some sort of rather-you-than-me comment.  I suppose I can understand where they’re coming from – what with the only representation of a home birth you’re likely to see on tv being in a Call the Midwife 1950’s slum or as part of some shock-tactic documentary about women who are more interested in their placenta than their baby, a lot of people don’t have a reference point.  Rates are still low, sitting at around 3% of all births, so not many people will know someone who has done it.

But I’m hoping to be one of them.  And my placenta can go in the bin, for all I care.

 

A home birth wasn’t something I had considered until this pregnancy.

I was induced with the teenager so had him in hospital, and when we were having our four year old I was quite happy to deliver at the local birthing unit.  I don’t have anything against hospitals or birthing units, our old house was too tiny, we have a highly strung dog and I couldn’t be bothered with organising things, so a home birth just wasn’t on my radar.  All I wanted for my birth with my four year old was a relaxed atmosphere, hopefully a water birth and to use only the minimum of pain relief.  The where wasn’t really an issue.

That was, until the where became an issue, and left me with a birth experience that took me a long while to process and make peace with.

 

My last birth experience took me while to get over

At a routine appointment in my last pregnancy, the midwife thought she heard a missed beat in my baby’s heart rate, and without even seeing me to assess it themselves the powers that be medical staff decided I could no longer deliver at the birthing unit.  I would have to travel to the nearest hospital 35 minutes away, and when my labour started it became apparent how long 35 minutes in a car can really feel.

I went into labour naturally, and spent the day quite happily pottering about at home with intermittent contractions.  Unfortunately, my mum turned up at about 4pm and nagged me into going to the hospital before the rush hour traffic got too bad.  As I knew would happen, come 7pm I was on my way home having been sent away as my labour wasn’t established.  I was cautious about making another wasted and uncomfortable trip only to be sent away again, so I held out at home…

We were caught off-guard by how fast things progressed and just a few hours later Hubs had to bundle me into the car as I started to push.  We didn’t make it to the hospital.  After a panicked drive where I fought every contraction and urge to push, my baby was born in the car park while smokers standing at the entrance watched on.

For a long time afterwards I would wake up in the middle of the night in a panic thinking I was still in the car.   I’d then then lie awake and pick apart all the things I felt I’d done wrong – I didn’t fight my corner to deliver at the birthing unit, I stayed at home too long, I didn’t trust my own judgement, maybe we should have called an ambulance.  I blamed my mum for nagging me to go to the hospital too soon, I blamed the medical staff for their decision (they took a 2 minute look at my baby after he was born and said his heart was fine), but most of all I blamed myself.  Hello post-natal depression.

 

Why I want a home birth this time

Well, I think that’s kind of obvious – to feel relaxed and in control, to avoid any time in the bloody car, and to have some privacy to birth in.  I just want to concentrate on bringing my baby into the world with as few distractions and worries as possible, and for me that means being in my favourite place.

I am a “low risk” mum – no health conditions and no pregnancy complications which could pose an issue, and with two quick and straightforward births to my name already.  I’m healthy and confident in my body’s ability to give birth naturally and with minimal pain relief.  This all means that for me, home is just as safe (if not more so) than a hospital setting for welcoming my baby into the world.

Being at home also means I’m guaranteed a water birth or at least use of a pool in labour, without the risk of someone else getting in before me, as we have bought our own (I’ll talk more about that in part 2).  It means I can eat and drink if and when I want.  It means I can have candles and my oil burner to create the atmosphere I want, with my own comforts around me.  It also means that after the birth, Hubs wont have to disappear home and I wont have to spend a night in an alien environment.  It means being somewhere where I feel I can have my say and make my own decisions.  And I wont be freaking out about delivering my baby by the side of the road.

 

Home birth blogs

Although every birth is different, I  love to read about other women’s experiences and I’ve been really enjoying all the bloggers out there who have shared theirs.   So to finish off, I thought I’d link to my favourites in case anyone else wanted a read.

Rock My Family – a calming home birth

Gas & Air Blog – home birth stories (especially Annalise’s story)

Making Luna – birth story

Monkey & Mouse – birth story

 

Have you had a home birth – what was your experience?  If you know of any good blogs to read about babies who were born at home, I’d love it if you could share in the comments!

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managing my pregnancy weight gain with slimmingworld

 

Balance is key to a healthy lifestyle…and so I feel I want to add some balance after my rant about SlimmingWorld the other week.  Because you may be forgiven for thinking I hate every last thing about SW, and that isn’t true.  After all, it has helped me have my healthiest pregnancy ever, and that is not something to be shrugged off.

I went into my first pregnancy blind.  It was unplanned, unprepared for and I didn’t have the first clue about health.  I was an overweight teenager who drank heavily, lived on junk food and the extent of my cooking skills was to fire up the deep fat fryer in my grotty little council-flat kitchen.  I have no idea what my weight gain was, as I didn’t own scales, but I went from a size 16 to a 22 so it’s safe to say it was probably near or even more than 4 stone.

My second pregnancy came ten years later, and I was a much different person as I’d been through my 6.5 stone weight loss journey.  But although I’d achieved that loss and made big changes to the way I ate and lived, that pregnancy came at a time where things were sliding.  I’d made the shift from an active job with time for fitness to a desk job which left me with little (perceived) time for exercise.  The job also made me miserable and I had turned to food, so I ate my way through my pregnancy and put on nearly 3 stone.

This time around, I’m different again.  My knowledge of health and nutrition has grown beyond diet/light/low-fat and I’ve made big advances in my fitness levels too.  That saw me get down to a size 12 less than a year after our four year old was born, and down to a size 10 for my wedding two years ago.  Unfortunately though, some things have not changed – I still struggle with using food as a coping mechanism, and my control around food is tied to my mood and emotions.  So I came into this pregnancy overweight again after a stressful year at work, culminating with both losing my job and having the stress of starting a new one after dropping the pregnancy bomb.  Oh…and then Christmas.  I put on nearly a stone in the first 18 weeks, and it looked as if I was on track to pile on the pounds yet again.

But something clicked in my head.  I’ve never enjoyed my changing body in pregnancy, and always felt self conscious about my weight gains, but as this is my last pregnancy I didn’t want to spend it hating how I looked.    And then there are the health consequences of a bad diet and big weight gain, both for myself and my baby.  I didn’t have the excuse of ignorance this time – if I wasn’t going to be healthy for me I should at least be healthy for my baby.

So that’s where SlimmingWorld came in, and where it has helped me.  I’ve been critical about some of their “free” foods and approaches, and I stand by that.  But following a plan and going to weekly weigh-ins has been key, and that is what SlimmingWorld has given me.  I’ve written before about how I’m more of a Weight Watchers girl and that too gives a plan and weekly weigh-ins, but SlimmingWorld have gone a bit further and had themselves accredited to accept pregnant members.  Having to be mindful about my food and being held accountable at the scales each week have helped me to make good choices whilst also ensuring I don’t overeat – two things I struggle with when left to my own devices.  Two things that are pretty much all you need to nail to maintain a healthy weight.

If I hadn’t been allowed to join a group, I fully believe I’d have carried on putting on weight the way I had when I started.  But thanks to SlimmingWorld (and my own efforts!), at 32 weeks I’ve only put on 3.5lbs since January.  I know I’ll probably gain weight each week from now on, and that will be something to get my head around, but most of that weight will be my little man filling out and getting ready for his arrival.

I’m hoping that after the birth, my overall weight gain will have been less than a stone.  That just blows my mind, how different this pregnancy has been to my others.  And the impact has reached further than the number on the scales.  I feel happier, I have more energy and I’ve been able to keep active.  I’m sleeping almost as well as I did before pregnancy, I’ve had minimal heartburn and no back issues.  And more importantly, I’m enjoying the pregnancy and don’t feel self conscious or bad about my changing body.  I’m hoping this is all gearing me up to the birth I want, and of course a healthy baby!

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