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Separating ‘The Mum’ from ‘The Student’

It’s a lot harder than I anticipated.

I was worried, before SB arrived, that I wouldn’t be able to stop being a student, and I’d find it difficult to adjust to being a mum. Much to my surprise, I’ve found the opposite – I love being her mum. Everyone’s said I’ve taken to it like a natural, and if I can be big-headed for a while I’d be inclined to agree – it just feels like the most natural thing in the world. The difficulty is in going back to being a student.

I’ve got a couple of essays due in – one for the 30th of this month, and the other for the 16th May – and I’d hoped, what with thinking I had until the 28th, to have finished them before SB arrived. Of course, with her coming three weeks early, it threw all the plans into disarray – not that I’m complaining, I absolutely wouldn’t be without her! – so I’m left in the odd situation of trying to finish my essay with a two week old baby (two weeks old today!). I could apply for an extension, and I’m not necessarily opposed to doing that, but if I can avoid it I’d like to – the sooner I can get the work done, the better. I’ve got incentives in place – as well as finishing uni for the summer once these essays are handed in, we’ll be taking SB back to our hometown for the weekend, to see the sea and the beach for the first time and to see family. 

We’ve been discharged from the midwives and are meeting the health visitor for the first time today, which I’m a little bit nervous about – I’m not entirely sure what a health visitor does, apart from weighing the baby (and I really hope her weight is ok, we’ve been struggling with bottlefeeding but finally seem to have cracked it, so if there’s a problem, I may cry). I’ve heard a lot of horror stories – but in fairness, I heard horror stories about the hospital where I gave birth, and yet I’d recommend it to absolutely anyone, so you can’t always believe what you hear!

As for the physical recovery, it’s taking so much longer than I thought, and it is frustrating – I want to be able to get out and about and do everything I want to do, and I want to be able to walk around with SB without struggling, and get up and do her bottles and changes with ease, but it is a long process. The stitches are the most painful part – and from a slightly more vain point of view, I am worried about what my bits will look like afterwards, because the doctor made no secret of the fact that it looked a mess at the time, but I’m hoping that’s just because anyone’s bits would look a mess after pushing a 7lb baby out. Emotionally I think I did get the ‘baby blues’ three or four days in, along with my milk coming in (I can’t wait for that to dry up, it is sore and uncomfortable and inconvenient and useless too!), but I’ve been very lucky and so far, emotionally I feel great – going into everything with a positive viewpoint has been so important, but I know I’m lucky and that for some women, no amount of positive thinking can prevent them from getting postnatal depression.

D has gone back to work – only for a couple of hours per shift to begin with, so that we can both ease into it – him back into working, and me into looking after SB alone. The first shift was nervewracking, but I’m starting to get a bit more confident with her – it’s taken two weeks, but I’ve finally realised that yes, I can pop her down to sleep in the moses basket next to me while I get on with some work. Until now I’d been spending all day holding her, which is lovely but not exactly the best way of getting work done.

It has been a crazy, whirlwind two weeks, but it’s actually really hard to believe that she’s ever not been a part of my life, never mind that she shouldn’t even have been born yet, technically. It’s also hard to imagine her not being a girl – D and I were discussing it yesterday; it’s like we’ve known she was a girl all along. She’s never been a boy, not really (which is weird, considering we have both insisted she was a boy for the last 20 weeks of the pregnancy, based on nothing more than a feeling). She’s just a little sweetheart.

And just to show you the change two weeks can make, you saw her as a newborn in the post announcing her birth – now here she is, two weeks on.

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Motherhood: Week One

I knew having a baby would change my life. I knew it’d throw all my plans into disarray, and any schedule I had would go out of the window, and any semblance of normality would be eradicated instantly.

I didn’t realise how it’d change my life for the better too. I was expecting nothing but nappies and sick and crying and feeding, with no reward or reason to keep pushing through the hard parts. In fact the reward is there, with interest, every time I look down into my daughter’s face. She’s got the most expressive eyebrows – she’s had us howling at some of the expressions she pulls! You wouldn’t believe the change in her; she can go from looking so peaceful, with what could be mistaken for a smile (I say mistaken because it’s usually just a burp) – to pulling some really impressive faces. She’s definitely got an attitude – a little diva in the making. 

See, I could gush about her for hours, because she is just that fabulous. I’m coming down with a severe case of PFB-itis – ‘PFB’ is a mumsnet term, standing for ‘Precious First Born’ syndrome – because anyone who’ll listen, I’ll just drone on for hours about how absolutely interesting she is. I mean, she’s a newborn baby! I need to get it straight in my head that just because she is so riveting and amazing and impressive and I’d want to hear about her all the time if it was me, not everyone else feels the same way. (That’s not to say I’ll have momentary lapses when I can’t help but rave about her, and yes, my Facebook is plastered with pictures of her that are all beautiful, natch).

The thing I’m finding it hardest to deal with is the physical recovery from the birth. As I said last time, I was stitched pretty extensively, and those bitches HURT as they’re healing. A messy birth is a great contraceptive; D is going nowhere near that bombsite for the far forseeable future. The doctor at my six week check will be lucky to get within six feet of it, actually. SB doesn’t have that big a head, but giving birth in four pushes is a bit of a speedy exit for any size baby, so it’s hardly any surprise. Another thing I was never warned about was that your uterus has to contract down after the baby is out, back to it’s normal size. It makes sense, I just never realized it’d take actual contractions to do it – nowhere near as bad as the real thing, but they’re really sore. Yesterday, one week after giving birth, they measured my uterus as being the size of a 14-weeks-pregnant woman. I started this blog when I was 14 weeks pregnant! The change that has happened in that time is too big even to comprehend. 

The first week of motherhood – and indeed parenthood, because D is on this learning curve with me all the way – has been a bit hazy and very crazy, and there have been ups and downs – SB’s feeding dilemna, which I’ll go into more detail about in a later post, was a definite low, but now that she’s settled on formula and seems happy, things are much better. I’m sitting here now surrounded with muslin clothes and child benefit application forms (it’s all looking a bit scary!) and trying to remember when SB is seeing the midwife and the health visitor. I don’t feel stressed though. The three of us are sprawled on the sofa, watching a film on TV and just enjoying being a family. That’s definitely the highlight of my first week of motherhood – the moments where nothing much happens, but we can just sit back and enjoy being together as a three. Always thinking vaguely about the next nappy change, the next feed, the next load of sick-covered babygros to go through the wash – but for now, just enjoying the moment. 

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The Elephant – Well, Goat – In The (Delivery) Room

Labour taught me many things.

A long, slow, drawn out induction lasting over the space of three days with just paracetamol for the majority of it, taught me that I have a high pain threshold, but a low boredom threshold.

A surprisingly fast labour taught me that I again have a high pain threshold, but a low ‘let labour progress at a steady pace’ tolerance.

Hallucinations mid-contractions about farmyard animals and men with bagpipes taught me that m threshold likes gas and air, but my sensibilities despise it.

I spent much of my 2hour 49 minute ‘real’ labour – that’s the exciting bit, not quite at the pushing but its on the horizon – thinking I was salmon fishing in a stream with my dad, seeing goats and animals and threatening to punch geese with my induction drip if they came near me.

In fairness to me, I may have been a weird trippy labouring woman but I wasn’t rude… Mostly. There was one occasion when D was talking to a midwife, and I growled at him to ‘Shut… Up….’. Once the contraction had passed, I apologised to them all in a very small voice, saying ‘I’m sorry… You were getting on my tits’.

I have all this on the authority of D and my mum, both of whom were there, as my memories are all a little hazy. I vaguely remember saying some of the things I’m accused of, and have no memory at all of the others. The gas and air affected me a lot more than I thought it would, and add that to the hazyiness of the diamorphine – I stuck to my plan of no epidural! – it made me very trippy! Still, apparently I kept the midwives and my family amused, which is always nice to find out afterwards!

Despite the slight hazy fuzz I remember it through and the menagerie appearing in my hospital room, I’d go through the birth again in a heartbeat. Not the pregnancy, and it’ll be a long time before we’re ready to consider that again, but the birth holds such amazing memories. Not just the funny ones but the great ones too – the one that will always, always stand out will be them lifting SB straight onto my chest, this warm slippery little thing, and hearing D in my ear telling me we had a daughter, the emotion in his voice so raw, and just looking down at her and wondering how the hell I’d just created this perfect tiny human, how I’d helped to make the most beautiful thing on the planet. Hearing her cry and feeling her clutching at my skin, so little and warm and alive, feeling D’s sheer joy mixed with my own, the thrill of finally knowing our little girl – I’ve never experienced a feeling like it, nothing even close.

Nothing could’ve eliminated that massive natural high. I was being stitched for two hours afterwards – second degree tear, but it had branches, so I’m told, and was such a complicated one to fix they had to call in the consultant on call to do it. But even then I just kept at the gas and air; the euphoria of having just given birth was like some kind of painkiller anyway. I couldn’t take my eyes off my little girl.

There are two morals to the story of this blog post. The first is that it is true what they say – I think the pain was immense, but I’m not sure – it all melted away the second I saw and held my baby, and I can’t remember the pain of crowning or anything like that. It really does just go when you hold your baby in your arms.

Moral number two? Don’t pick a hospital with a giant farmyard mural in the main corridor. If you have gas and air, you will hallucinate about it.

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And unto us, a Speed Bump was born…

ImageAfter a slightly unexpected induction for high blood pressure at 37 weeks, an induction and labour lasting over 50 hours (but somehow progressing from 3cm to 10cm in the space of 4 hours), some spaced-out ramblings on gas and air, and three pushes – the Speed Bump ceased to be a bump, and made her – yes, her! – entrance into the world at 11:45pm on Thursday, April 10th 2014, weighing in at 7lbs3oz, with my nose and pretty much everything else of her daddy.

I’ll do the whole birth story (it’s a good ‘un, I promise) later on, but for now I’m going to enjoy being out after a week in hospital, and much much more importantly, we’re going to enjoy our strong, beautiful, precious daughter.

Welcome to the world, SB.

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Latent Labour: About as fun as it sounds…

I woke up at 4am this morning with two very worrying thoughts on my mind.

The first was, “I think I’m going to be sick”.

The second was, “I think I’m going to be sick because I’m having a contraction and ouch ouch OUCH it hurts”.

 

About an hour and a half of panicked Googling, squeezing D’s hand and going from vowing no-one should ever, EVER touch my back to begging D to massage the small of my back to try and get rid of the ow-ow-fecking-ow pain there, we ascertained that I wasn’t in full on actual physical “I’m-gonna-have-a-baby-any-second” labour.

However, it does seem to be long-lasting, uncomfortable and painful, ‘my-uterus-is-physically-contracting-but-I’m-nowhere-near-having-a-baby’ latent labour.

 

Yeah. It is about as fun as it sounds. From What To Expect -

The first of the three stages of labor is usually the longest, but (thankfully) it’s also the least intense, by far. Over a span of time from several hours to several weeks, your cervix will dilate (open) to three centimeters and will begin to thin out (a process known as effacement). You’ll experience mild to moderate contractions that last 30 to 45 seconds and are spaced five to 20 minutes apart — although you may not even notice them until the final two to six hours (if you’re dilating gradually over a period of days or weeks, you probably won’t feel them at all until labor starts in earnest), and they might not come in perfectly spaced intervals. It’s possible that your amniotic membranes will rupture now, but it’s more likely to happen later in labor and not without a little help from your practitioner. What you probably will feel now is a backache or cramps, and you’ll also probably notice a blood-tinged mucous discharge (also known as the bloody show).

Several things about that stand out to me.

Over a span of time from several hours to several weeks

although you may not even notice them until the final two to six hours

I assure you, I noticed them last night. I am noticing them now. Do I look like I’m two to six hours away from giving birth? No, no I don’t.

What you probably will feel now is a backache or cramps

 

(I promise that’s the last of the moving pictures for this post).

 

The ‘Speed Bump’ description of latent labour, kindly provided by yours truly, is as follows.

The latent stage of labour means absolutely nothing. Prepare to wake up thinking you’re about to pop that baby right out, with contractions coming every three minutes. And then seven. And then two. And then they’re lasting thirty seconds… then a minute and a half… then ten seconds. And it means bugger all. You’re no closer to having your baby. By the time you wake up tomorrow, your contractions will be gone. Your back will still hurt, and you’ll maybe have one or two tightenings, but don’t get too excited. You could still be waiting weeks. Fun, eh?

I suppose, on the bright side, it means that my body is trying to gear up. It knows what it’s meant to do, at least. I could do without the occasional contractions (which, I’m assured, are nothing like real contractions), and the backache, and the fluey run down feeling, and the fact that my boobs hurt so much I’m ready to rip them off. Oh, and the hormones. They aren’t much fun either. Crying because someone stared at me in the supermarket with a look of disgust on their face – at least, it looked like disgust. It may have been amazement at the sight of a manatee pushing a shopping trolley.

23 days until I’m induced, if SB hangs on that long!

 

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36 Weeks: And suddenly it becomes very, very real…

Today has been crazy. I knew it was a busy one – internet being installed, washing machine being delivered and D’s parents visiting – but I was thinking I’d be in uni for most of it, after an appointment at the antenatal clinic this morning. I was nervous about this, I felt certain that the doctor would turn around and say nope, decided not to induce you, we’ll let you go until the middle of May before we do anything.

Not exactly. In fact, quite the opposite. He’s put in a request to book my induction for the 28th April. This time in a month, I’ll either have had the baby, or still be in labour (I’d quite like to have had the baby by now, but I’m steeling myself for a long induction process). It’s hard to describe how it feels – I think I’m a little bit stunned. This is what I wanted; the pain is getting too much to handle and the stretching looks like I can’t stretch much more (although, as everyone reminds me, I’ve got another month of growing to go!). But at the same time, it’s like… wow. The end of the journey – or rather, the beginning of an entirely new one – is so close I can practically grab it.

So I’d probably have been fine to go into uni after my appointment today, but my blood pressure was doing crazy things – 140/100 on the first go, which is high. Then they tried again with the electronic monitor, and they couldn’t even get a reading – and then finally, on the third go with a different cuff, they got a slightly more respectable 138/85, which is high for me but not worryingly high from a pregnancy point of view. But that scare, combined with killer headaches, my pulse being 125bpm when it should really be less than 100, and my feet looking more like pufferfish, meant I decided it was probably best to give uni a miss for the day.

(N.B it’s important for me to point out here that these can be the symptoms of pre-eclampsia, so if you’re reading this and thinking headaches, swollen feet… ahh but she was fine so I must be too, don’t make that assumption! It’s a dangerous one to make. If you’ve got high blood pressure (if you have a home monitor; I don’t), headaches and visual disturbances and abnormal swelling in your hands and face especially, contact your midwife immediately and get checked out. Better to be safe than sorry!)
After uni and a scan yesterday (baby wasn’t in the mood for posing, but we got to see its tufty hair at the back of its head! Clearly taking after D, who has lovely tufty soft curls at the back of his head), we went to the supermarket because cravings still haven’t let up, and it’s still fresh fruit. We ended up making a massive fruit salad and, inspired by seeing articles about pineapple bringing on labour, we ended up with five tins of sliced pineapple. Turns out it’s fresh pineapple that is rumoured to bring on labour, but I’m happy with five (well… four now) tins of pineapple anyway. We left the last of the fruit and veg aisles and, sure enough, I burst into tears. It was a combination of the fruit and veg aisles finishing (don’t ask; I can’t even see the logic behind that one), and seeing nice cider on special offer and… well, something about it upset me. I don’t think it was the fact that I’m not allowed it, because one drink isn’t going to hurt, especially not now. And I can’t really see any other explanation for cider making me cry. I’m going to blame hormones, because I won’t be able to get away with it for much longer.
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‘But manatees AREN’T photogenic!’

I mean, look at them.

Cute? They’re adorable! But photogenic they are not.

As you probably know, I feel a spiritual connection with manatees – more so than ever just lately, with my manatee-like body and perpetual feeling of floating around with no real sense of direction.

A bit like that (come on, did you really expect me to post a manatee post without that gif?)

The latest deepening of this spiritual connection is that, like manatees, I’m not photogenic in the least. I wasn’t photogenic before I got pregnant, and pregnancy definitely hasn’t worked any miracles on my ability to look even vaguely human in a photo. I can’t even take a picture of myself without blinking, so other people taking pictures of me is an absolute nightmare.

So hip hip hooray, we got an email the other day informing us that we’re having our headshots done on Friday. And then an agent is going to see them and give us tips, apparently. I’m guessing my tip will be something along the lines of “wear a paper bag over your head”.

Now I understand, a lot of people say they aren’t photogenic, they aren’t pretty etc, and often it is just fishing for compliments. I’m not fussed about compliments because in the long run they don’t really do that much for my self confidence; D tells me I’m beautiful but it doesn’t mean I’ve suddenly had a huge boost of self confidence. So when I say I’m not photogenic, it truly is because I look awful in photos – I don’t want compliments, or people to tell me I look fine, because the proof is in the picture, and the pictures tend to look rubbish.

Pregnancy has been a massive knock to my self-confidence, but weirdly it isn’t about my bump. I quite like my bump, I don’t think it’s a bad one as bumps go… it’s the effect pregnancy has had on the rest of my body that bothers me. And I know the pictures we’re having done are only of our faces – and although mine isn’t photogenic, and is a little puffy just lately, it isn’t the worst in the world.

It’s the confidence. It’s knowing that my hands are swollen and my feet barely fit into my trainers anymore, and I have put on weight – not a massive amount, but it’s still weight I can’t wait to lose over the summer – and knowing that when people see me waddling down the street, that’s what they focus on – the waddling, and the pained look on my face, and the fact that I have to stop for Braxton Hicks every couple of minutes. Even if my hair looks great that day, or my skin is nice and clear, or I’m wearing nice clothes, that’s not what they’ll notice – they’ll notice the fact that I don’t look like a human should look, and that is such a confidence knock that even when it comes to having a picture taken of your face, it’s hard to imagine you’ll look anything but awful.