Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Dear Phoebe...

Dear Phoebe,

I didn't write you a letter when you were in utero like your sister.

I kept meaning to, but I was in so much pain and quite down and kept forgetting. 

I kept saying to people 'oh there's no time to commune with the bump second time around'. But really, I was a bit anxious and scared.  I struggled to feel connected to you. After early bleeding and miscarriage scares, I was worried I'd done the wrong thing bringing a baby into a pandemic, into a world overshadowed by climate change and conflict.

And sitting at my desk, working yet another day from home, I would honestly forget I was pregnant until you kicked me or I struggled to get off my chair. My colleagues would forget too, only ever seeing me as head and shoulders on a tiny video call.

But I wanted you know that despite all this, you were and are so so wanted. My vision for my future was always lots of family and friends around a big Christmas dinner table, including my own children. I wanted to make my wonderful eccentric glorious family someone else's family too.

And so, despite my infertility issues we persued treatment and were blessed with Lydia. And having had her, we wanted to give her the blessing of a sibling, the joy I am given over and over by my sisters. If you'd not come, we would have been happy with just her I'm date, but there was something there inside me saying you would come.

And you did arrive! You are my bonus, my extra unexpected joy. You were concieved on my first round of Clomid this time, another unexpected joy. You arrived unexpectedly easily for a big baby by VBAC. 

I've not been able to show you off to people the way i did your sister because of the pandemic. And I think the background level of stress that causes, along with running around after your sister has found me just surviving and struggling to connect with you.

But something has changed since you started smiling and cooing, which you did quite early at 4 weeks ish.

Suddenly I can see family resemblances in your face which prompt bittersweet pangs of love as we can't see them easily.

Suddenly I find myself wanting to play and sing to you, to make you do your purring burbling noise.

Suddenly I feel my heart bursting as your besotted sister asks to hold you and beams with pride at making you smile

So my little Pheeb, as your sister affectionately calls you, forgive me when I haven't filled in as much of your baby book or there are less photos of you. But know that you are loved, that you are wanted, and that you are the unexpected joy that completes our family.

All my love

Mummy

(as I feed you sleep, age 11 weeks)






Thursday, August 26, 2021

Another birth story

Phoebe arrived at 0801am on Thursday 5 August


After a sweep at 39 weeks, I'd been having back pain and painless Braxton Hicks for a few days, but they didn't seem to be going anywhere. I was very done with being pregnant after having such terrible pelvic girdle pain, but in the last couple of weeks, she'd dropped in my pelvis which whilst causing more groin pain, had less back pain and I could walk more freely. I'd been out to lunch with a friend, and on the Thursday took Lydia for a walk round the Common with one of her little friends and their mum, before going back to their house so the kids could play for a bit. I'd been getting lots of mucus discharge too, but nothing that looked like a bloody show.

We'd had a false alarm on the Saturday 31 July too, where I thought my waters had gone  and went to be assessed at the maternity assessment unit, but they hadn't, (probably just a urine leak 😲). My sister and brother in law had come to look after Lydia and ended up staying over as we didn't get back till gone midnight by the time the registrar was free to see us. My parents came to stay on the Sunday morning so that we'd have someone here to look after Lydia if we needed to go in the middle of the night.

On the Thursday evening I felt the baby's movements had reduced quite a lot, so we went to the assessment unit again to get checked out. We were there for quite a long time as we needed to wait for a registrar to be free to look at the results, but everyone was happy that the baby's heart rate was ok, and she had moved a bit whilst we were there. The registrar threw us a bit by suggesting that if I was still unhappy with the movements and didn't want to try the induction drip, we could consider breaking my waters. I wasn't happy to do this where I wasn't in labour, as my research led me to believe this could bring on an unnecessary fast and painful labour. So we agreed with the doctor to come home and wait and see, and proceed to the c-section if the movements continued to be reduced, as a c-section was my preference this time if there were any issues.

We got home pretty late, around 11pm and I went to have a bath to help with the aches and pains which I thought were my PGP still, then got ready for bed, and stuck on my usual GentleBirth hypnobirthing meditation tracks which I'd been listening to for the last few months. I couldn't get comfy and tried lying in lots of positions, all whilst reading e-books on my phone. Gradually the intensity of the pains ramped up, and I thought they might be contractions after all, but I wasn't 100% convinced, but got tom to put the TENS machine on me which helped distract me.

By 2am ish they'd got into a regular pattern of pretty much 3 in 10 minutes and I decided I needed to go to the hospital. We tried calling Labour Line but they kept ringing out, which made me very anxious. we really didn't want me to give birth at home so we just went in. 

When we got there, the staff were a bit surprised to see us, and we had to wait in the reception area whilst they found us a room. I was clinging on to Tom's neck as the contractions came, and where they were quite painful I was feeling very anxious and sore, and like I couldn't do this. In fact I was pretty rude and grumpy throughout my entire labour, sorry Tom!

When we got into our room (as it happens, the same one on labour ward I'd used for Lydia's birth) with a very nice calm midwife, they only had the wired monitors available, but I consented to using them as it seemed like the right thing to do. I managed to lie on my back for an inital examination and I was already 8cm dilated which seemed hopeful. I think we handed over our antenatally expressed colostrum at this stage.

For the next 6 or so hours, I tried lots of positions, mainly on my hands and knees draped over the upright back of the bed, with a little standing up and side lying. I was very hot and sweaty, in just my pj top and socks, and the wires of the monitor kept catching in the crease of my groin/ overhand of my stomach which annoyed me no end, but I couldn't articulate what was annoying me about them amid the contractions other than to swear about them. Tom had my meditations on my phone and I was focusing on these as much as possible.

Spent a lot of time in this position - good one to remember if you need to have wired monitoring. Picture from the Village Midwife I think

Tom did a great job of holding my hand, wiping my sweaty brow and restarting my mediation tracks. I was very grateful when I started the gas and air, and used that to focus my in for 4 our for 6 breathing. I would set the TENS Machine to surge as the contractions started which again seemed to distract me from the pain/focus me on my breathing. I told Tom off for yawning at one point, but don't remember this - sorry Tom again! He'd been up since 5am the previous day for work with only a little bit of sleep whilst I was starting the contractions....

I wondered a few times about asking for the birth pool or the bath as that had been my initial hope in my preferences plan, but when Tom asked me about it, I said I didn't want to change rooms as I was too busy concentrating and was worried the shock of changing rooms would slow everything down. I was a bit surprised the midwives didn't mention it but I guess they're being led by you somewhat. Where I was also 8cm, I also wonder if they thought they didn't have time.

After 6 hours and a midwife shift change, my waters hadn't gone, and the midwives suggested this as a next step to progress things along. Where I was actually in labour this seemed like a good idea. This was painful as I had to be on my back again and the procedure is painful, but it was manageable with the gas and air. There was no meconium in the waters as far as I remember, and I went into transition pretty soon after my waters broke.

Transition was scary and painful and I really felt like I couldn't do giving birth after all. Tom said I went all erratic and shouty at this stage, trying lots of different positions again, like standing up holding on to Tom, and I threw up a couple of times. I remember focusing on the prompts of my meditation track, trying to relax my shoulders etc when it suggested through the pain.  But transition didn't last very long, and when the midwives encouraged me to push, I went into a calmer focused place. Tom changed my meditation track to a pushing focused one, and I ended up back on my hands and knees draped over the back of the bed again.

Pushing simultaneously felt more and less painful than I expected. It took me a bit of time to get my breathing in order, I knew I didn't have it right. I would push for a bit with the contractions and then rest for a bit and realised I was trying to contract my pelvic floor when breathing out, which is right for Pilates but doesn't help with pushing a baby out. Once I'd got breathing put with the contraction down I felt like I was making some progress. There were a few times where I thought she was going back in rather than coming out, and one if the few times I spoke in during pushing was to tell the midwives I felt this way, bit they reassured me that was normal and she had still ultimately going to come out. They were guiding me through my pushing, encouraging me as I had asked them to in my preferences plan. I did the common poo whilst pushing which I was not aware of at all at the time.

When I felt like Phoebe was close, probably the ring of fire burning point, the midwives and Tom helped me stop trying to push when there wasnt actually a contraction, I think to stop me tearing too much. At that point I just wanted to keep going to get her out! Once her head had been born, all the midwives seemed to have their hands between my legs helping to position her to get her shoulders out, and then suddenly in rushing sliding out sense of great relief she was here. I think she cried, but I'm not sure.

The midwives and Tom helped me take my very sweaty t-shirt and the monitors off, kneel up and put her on my chest. I was so full of relief and couldn't believe I'd done it. They told me what kind of genitals she had, and gave us plenty of time for skin on skin and delayed cord clamping. The student midwifes took a couple of photos of this in Tom's phone, and whilst I'll never share them publicly I think they're some of the best photos of me, I look so strong, naked, kneeling up on the bed holding her to my stomach saying to Tom 'I did it!' whilst he has tears of relief in his eyes above his mask with his hand on my shoulder.

When I was ready, we moved to a sitting position on the bed and propped me up with cushions to give breastfeeding a go, where I needed some pointers on how to feed her like a new born rather than a 2 year old. She and I were pretty happy with the feeding and we did that for a bit all covered up with towels whilst skin to skin and Phoebe wearing the same little blue hat I'd knitted for Lydia.

I agreed to the injection to get the placenta delivered as they were a bit worried about my blood loss, and once they cut the cord, Tom had some skin to skin cuddles whilst we tried to get the placenta delivered. I used the gas and air again and they did end up kind of pulling it out, but it was intact and they were happy with that. I had a second degree tear and needed stitching up too. Whilst some of this was going on they were weighing Phoebe and doing the new baby checks and taking bets on how heavy she was. At 4.945kg she was quite a bit bigger than Lydia and we found out later, the heaviest baby on labour ward in August! And I legend amongst the midwives for managing with gas and air and TENS. I think the Gentle Birth app really helped too.

Because she was big they wanted to monitor her blood sugars, so she got a special little red hat to wear or keep in her crib to let the staff know at a glance what was happening. Whilst they were finishing up those checks and then she was napping I had a much needed bath and some of my orange juice and a breakfast bar from home whilst waiting for my tea and toast. We did our covid swabs at this point as we'd not been swabbed earlier and Tom dressed Phoebe whilst I got dressed myself and ate. At some point my socks got binned because they were covered in blood and I didn't fancy taking them home to wash...

Tom couldn't come with me to the recovery ward until our test results came back so whe it was time to transfer, he went home to see Lydia and have a nap whilst I was moved to the ward. As it happens our results never came back due to an error so I spent the rest of the day, a night and a morning  on the Covid pending ward with no visitors.

Very strange on the pending ward and the two other women there were really struggling without their birth partners. I won't go into details, but I did send feedback which I hope the hospital took on board. I know there's a midwife shortage but I didn't get a ward welcome other than ' the toilets are down there, make sure you pee in a paper bowl so we can measure output, here's your buzzer' I had to ask another ward mate if we left the babies on the ward if we needed a wee or wheeled the cribs in with us. There wasn't much night time feeding support either.

Phoebe had a shallow latch but no obvious toungue tie signs according to the midwifes so I cracked on with feeding on demand and getting very little sleep, wiggling my toes through the painful initial latch as my mum told me to do last time. 

I think she was pretty chilly as all the ward windows were open for ventilation, and we didn't have hospital blankets, only towels to wrap them up, so I ended up with her on me sleepy feeding for most of the hospital stay. 

It was very weird being allowed to go home on day 2 after having been in for a week with Lydia, but I was desperate to get back to Tom and Lydia and to be looked after by my parents. Tom missed all the early colostrum cluster feeding nights as I was in hospital for those with Lydia so he had a bit of a shock once I was home.

Lydia was besotted with Phoebe from the off and kept saying " she's so cute, she's so little' and wanted to hold her right away, and sit right by me whilst I fed, and try and manoeuvre my nipple into Phoebe's mouth like a little midwife! She has had more tantrums etc.. as to be expected but none of it has been directed at Phoebe and she seems really proud and wants to 'my baby sister' off. We got a little kids digital camera for Lydia from Phoebe as a big sister present and Tom took Lydia to choose a cuddly toy for her at the big Smyth's toy shop, and she ended up choosing a pink Kirby got her.

We're at week 7 nearly 8 now and she's been putting on weight well. She's a bit windy and I went to get my latch checked at one of the breastfeeding support groups around 4 weeks as the midwife on day 5 thought she might have a very slight tongue tie and told me to monitor if I was in any pain. Once my milk came in gradually over days 4 to 5 my latching pain eased right off and it was only the windiness and shallow latch that concerned me. The workers at the sorry group were very friendly and gave me some different positions to try and said it might be oversupply which should regulate itself after 6 weeks which it has.

I've been a bit up and down emotionally as you might expect and my day 3 baby blues had a big anger component this time that surprised me. My PGP eased right off for a few days, then I got a spasm in my right glute a literal pain in the arse which made walking hard but has improved with exercises from the NHS physio and Chiropractic treatment.

Currently I'm struggling with Dysphoric Milk Ejection in the evenings where the dopamine drops due to the prolactin and oxytocin produced at let down. I get very anxious and sad for a few minutes at the start of a feed in the evenings. Apparently it can be exacerbated by tiredness, poor diet and caffeine so I'll be watching that. Definitely worse on days when I've tried to do too much.

I've also struggled to bond with Phoebe to begin with, I think due to the tiredness induced by having two children to run after, but she started smiling early at 4 weeks and having that feedback has made connecting easier. She's currently a pretty chill baby, likes it when you talk to her, especially Lydia, sleeps nearly all day if you're out in the fresh air and looks quite a lot like my mum which really tickles me.  She makes a very distinctive cooing "Ah goo" noise when she's trying to talk to you, and has this noisy bird squawk she does before it gets to full on crying if she has the mere suggestion of a wet nappy.


Think we'll keep her!






Thursday, May 13, 2021

Breaking in to 2021

 Thought I better break the seal on the 2021 blog space. 

Still here, still unable to do as we would wish due to bloody Covid-19, hopefully days away from UK restrictions easing some, fearful as to what those restrictions lifting might mean for infection rates. That reminds me, time for my bi-weekly lateral flow test, must do that later...

Everything is quite big and stressful here at the moment. I'm happily and somewhat unexpectedly 28 weeks pregnant with baby number 2, affectionately known around the house as Thing 2. Wasn't expecting the fertility drugs to work first time. Poor Thing 2. Being pregnant this time has left no time for spiritually communing with my bump as I chase after Lydia, help Tom chase tradespeople for our hopefully impending loft conversion, and help with the admin around his now frail Dad moving back to the UK in the middle of a pandemic.

I've been keeping calm by using the GentleBirth app recommended by a few friends and acquaintances, Tom and I being lulled to sleep most evenings by Tracy's soothing Irish accent. Who knows if it will work in labour, but I feel more cheerful in myself for doing it. I've stood strong and told the midwifery team that I don't want to be induced this time based on my experience with Lydia and have a section booked in for 42 weeks. Should give Thing 2 plenty of time to make their own way out, and 2nd babies come earlier right?

I am suffering with pelvic girdle pain or PGP this time. Can be totally random whether you get it or not, but I think it's likely due to me not being as physically fit when I got pregnant this time. Chiropractor makes the biggest difference for sure, as does any physical manipulation. Have had to give up walking Lydia to nursery as that was wrecking me for the entire day ahead.

Right, back to work, surrounded in the spare room by boxes of tiny baby things down from the loft...