Your fearful hands
Things I have learned so far from pregnancy:
Despite thrice daily bastings of Bio Oil since we started trying to conceive I developed vicious stretch marks on my stomach before my bump even properly formed. There is no way to avoid stretch marks if you're prone to them.
Despite daily pelvic floor exercises since I was a teenager, I have discovered that a sneeze whilst relaxed can lead me to wet myself. Awesome.
These annoyances I can handle. As far as I'm concerned, pregnancy brings unexpected joys and unexpected challenges. The best we can do is be well educated, well prepared and not too uptight about it because from the minute we announce our joyful news we are sandblasted with advice, opinion, old wives tales and if we're lucky - second hand baby swag. (Thanks Laura!)
At some stage, I think all pregnant women naturally get defensive about their choices and beliefs and with hormones - it's easy to get pretty vocal about that too. The main thing though, is to accept advice gracefully, especially from people who care about you.
I am lucky to know many, many people who have been pregnant and am so grateful for all the input I get. Even if their advice is outdated. What I don't like is judgement - and that's the other thing that happens. I have had friends devastated by comments on those mumsnet forums or by their baby groups because they couldn't or wouldn't breastfeed, or breastfed longer than others deemed appropriate. And why? Because some people are just plain fucking awful or ignorant.
How have I prepared for this pregnancy?
My two best female friends are a paramedic and a GP, my best male friend is a vagina (sorry Tom, couldn't resist! Haha!), almost all of my friends have had one or more children already and 7 of them are midwives, nutritionists or work in childcare. I listen to everything they have to say with an open mind and learn from it.
Is dyeing my hair, drinking caffeine, eating mould-ripened cheese, having the occasional glass of wine, wearing a seatbelt, or taking a bath over 100 degrees before 16 weeks have passed guaranteed to harm me or my child? No - of course not. There are no guarantees - even taking a knitting needle to your stomach whilst sat in a boiling bath and drinking gin isn't guaranteed to end a pregnancy.
But do I understand the risks involved in all of these things and why they are not recommended? Yes - I take nothing at face value and research everything thoroughly before I take it on board or dismiss it. Do I judge anyone who eats pate or wears an underwired bra whilst pregnant? No - part of being a parent is making your own choices. Do I open discussion about it? Sure because if you care about someone, you want the best for them and unless you ask someone about their opinions, you don't know if they are making their decision based on ignorance or not. Even better - you might learn something as a result of it.
I want my pregnancy to be as stress-free and positive as possible. I was at a high risk for miscarriage so I chose to research everything thoroughly, and take no risks. I am pleased to say that I made it to 20 weeks with no issues except for SPD and I'm looking forward to my next scan on Wednesday. I'm hoping for a girl with all of my heart - not because I want a doll to dress in frilly pink dresses - I believe in gender neutrality when it comes to raising children, but because I simply believe that I am meant to have a girl.
The main thing that I believe? My baby has not read the baby books, so whilst every parent should explore their preferences for sleeping arrangements, labour, feeding and carrying... we should be aware that the baby might want to co-sleep, might have to be formula fed, might not wean when you expect them to, might hate a sling and love a pram and might not think the routine that suits you, suits them.
I have decided to breastfeed (if I can) and therefore I have researched my birthing plan around giving myself the best possible chance for achieving that. From my friends experiences and from what the Ina May and La Leche League books have told me I now have a whole host of potential technical issues to be prepared for - from tongue ties, blocked ducts and under/over supply to reflux, positioning and engorgement.
I have also learned about the impact of cutting the cord too early and not having skin-to-skin time. Of having IV fluids and drugs during birth, of the position I deliver in and whether it's a c-section, forceps, episiotomy or a natural vaginal delivery.
I want a natural birth with no medial intervention, but I accept that this is my first birth (second pregnancy) and that, again, the baby will make her own mind up about how and when she comes.
I would like to use hypnobirthing and a birthing pool to keep me calm, focused and in an upright position to allow gravity to work with my body. Being put on my back for the convenience of medical professionals will make my labour longer, more painful and more likely to require pain relief. Of course, I know that being able to use a birthing pool depends on whether I am overdue or not as meconium in my waters or having blood pressure issues will mean it's not an option.
I want minimal cervical exams to avoid risk of infection. With a gentle birth, people have been known to deliver at only 8 centimetres and I believe if instinct tells me I can push, then I am ready to push. Equally, I don't want to be forced to push until I feel ready to minimise tearing. I want no induction, no forced water breaking, no epidural and no c-section: even if the baby is breach. Unless the baby is in serious distress and labour is not progressing, I am determined to do this myself with no forceps or episiotomy.
My baby is to be immediately placed on my bare chest after delivery to ensure minimal distress to the baby and maximum bonding. I want time to smell her, stroke her, look into her eyes, and for her to feel my heart rate. If she roots to feed, she should be allowed to latch on immediately before being removed for cleaning and weighing and measuring. Any vernix is to be rubbed into skin rather than wiped off to minimise skin peeling and irritation. I will insist that the cord has stopped pulsing completely before being cut so the remaining 3/4 of the baby's blood has been restored to her body and her iron levels are high. I also want the baby to be weighed stomach down, and if IV fluids have been given to me during labour (against my wishes as it can cause nipple distortion) - then that needs to be taken into account so that the health visitor doesn't think the baby is heavier than she actually is and therefore give me bad advice about feeding.
I aim to breastfeed for at least 6 months, hopefully 12 and then introduce baby-led weaning. I intend to make my own baby food rather than buy it.
I aim to baby-carry with a fabric sling, though I have a pram too (thanks Laura!)
I aim to co-sleep, though have the baby next to the bed, not in bed with us.
I will also not let any smoker hold my child until they are at least 6 months old.
And now... bring on the advice! What are your regrets - if you have any?
Ziggy played guitarrrrrraaaaarrrrraaaarrrrrr.
Title: Blackout by David Bowie