My Birth Plan {Preparing for a Homebirth}

I never wrote a birth plan when I was pregnant with Jasmine. It felt a bit pointless writing a ‘plan’ for something that, let’s face it, can’t really be planned. Jasmine’s birth ended up being quite dramatic, I arrived at the hospital 10cms dilated and my body already pushing her out by itself. The midwife who looked after me upon arrival at the Birthing Unit didn’t have time to read the front cover of my maternity notes to see my name, let alone read a birth plan!

This time around I’ve felt more inclined to write a birth plan. For two reasons:

  • Because I’m *hopefully* going to have a home birth – I should have at least one midwife with me for the majority of my labour, meaning they will actually have time to read and follow my instructions! I also feel that because I’ll be setting up my own ‘birth environment’ that I will be more in control of how I labour.
  • Having experienced giving birth already, I have some idea of what to expect (granted, all labour/births are different) and therefore I found it easier to know what I do and don’t want to happen – especially when it comes to post-partum procedures such as cord clamping and the administration of Vitamin K to baby.

I’m sharing this birth plan as I found it helpful to read through other people’s when writing my own. It’s short and sweet (which is the best way to keep it if there’s any hope of it being followed) and doesn’t go into too much detail. I’ve based my plan on my own research and my previous experience of giving birth so I’m not looking for opinions on my decisions to do ‘x’, ‘y’ or ‘z’. ;)

Jenna’s Birth Plan:

Birth partner: My husband, Stephen.

The birth environment:

I plan to labour/give birth in our living room (furniture such as the coffee table will be removed to give me more space to move around and change positions). I may also want to have a bath/shower (upstairs) to help ease labour pains. I have prepared a music playlist that I may wish to listen to using either headphones or a speaker. I have put together a homebirth box which is full of items that I feel  I may want/need during labour.

Pain relief:

When managing contractions, I would like to use my TENs machine and Entonox as well as using my Daisy Birthing breathing techniques. I am keen to avoid using Pethidine. Please do not ask me if I would like pain relief, I will state ‘I would like x now please’ when I feel I need something.

Positions for labour and birth:

I intend to remain as active and upright as possible during my labour and birth (particularly during the pushing stage) and would like my midwife to help me to achieve this. I also have a birthing ball and a CUB support available in which to aid me.

Cord clamping:

I would like the cord cutting/clamping delayed until the cord has stopped pulsating. I have provided my own cord tie which I would like to use instead of a plastic clamp. Please offer my husband the opportunity to cut the cord.

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Placenta:

I would appreciate it if you could administer drugs to help me deliver the placenta quickly. We do not wish to keep the placenta.

NB. I was seriously considering having the placenta encapsulated but after a bit of research I decided against it in the end.

Skin-to-skin:

I would like to keep the baby unclothed and close to my skin immediately after birth, to maximise skin-to-skin contact.

Feeding Baby:

I would like to breastfeed our baby as soon as possible after the birth. I’d appreciate some assistance with this to ensure the baby’s latch is correct.

Vitamin K: Please administer an injection of Vitamin K to the baby after the birth.

Sex of Baby: We do not know the gender of our baby and would prefer not to be told by a midwife (sorry!) but instead, find out for ourselves.

Please note: Our two-year-old daughter, Jasmine, may be at home with us depending on what time of day it is and whether or not we’ve managed to arrange childcare. If I’m labouring at night then we are happy for her to stay in bed and sleep through.

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I had a midwife read through my birth plan at my 36 week appointment and she said “This is exactly the kind of birth plan I’d write for myself.” And then went on to ask “But do you have any special requests?” which I must admit, totally threw me. I joked that I wasn’t a diva and wouldn’t be asking to give birth in a room full of Labradoodle puppies!

But actually, the more I think about it…

Did you write/are you writing a birth plan?

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Life Lately: The Calm Before the Storm

With less than one month to go until Baby Button-Nose’s due date, I thought it would be nice to sit down and just write. Not about anything in particular but whatever springs to my mind in a period that I’m currently calling the ‘calm before the storm’. Before our lives change again. Before we become a family of four.

Yesterday we had our house deep cleaned in preparation for a homebirth and regardless of whether or not that’s the kind of birth I end up having, I’m glad we’ve had it done. It’s just another one of those things that make me feel a little more ‘ready’. I’m a bit of a clean freak at the best of times so you can only imagine what I’m like when I get into nesting mode. However, I’ve realised that I need to start taking it easy – this pregnancy has been so much harder on my body. Some days, walking up the stairs is a real struggle due to hip and back pain so scrubbing walls and floors myself isn’t an option. I have been going crazy with my label maker though – now that’s my kinda nesting!

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As the cleaners were working in our house for 6 hours, I decided it would be best for me and Jasmine to go out somewhere, to get out of their way. I thought it would be fun to take Jasmine to the cinema for the first time (if you don’t count the Big Scream showings I took her to when she was a baby). I was a little nervous as although I know she is able to sit and watch a whole film at home, I’m wasn’t sure how she’d behave at the cinema. Especially as she seems to have developed a fear of the dark. I booked tickets to a Junior showing of Ice Age: Collision Course which only cost £3.60 for the both of us (bargain!) so I figured if she played up or wasn’t keen on being there – we’d just go to the park instead and there was no real loss.

I needn’t have been so worried because she was as good as gold – sat through the entire film perfectly. She’d occasionally get excited and shout something like “Look mummy, a hotcano! Look everybody, a hotcano!” (That’s a volcano to you and me.) She munched her way through a big bag of popcorn whilst I spent most of the film watching her watch the film. I couldn’t stop from smiling. I also felt a little sad that our days alone together are numbered. Having another baby is so bittersweet. On the one hand, I cannot wait for Jasmine to meet her sibling and become a big sister but on the other, I will miss our time together, just the two of us.

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We had our annual visit to Undley Pumpkin Patch at the weekend (we’ve gone there every year for the last 3 years). It’s only when I look back at our photos of our visits that I realise just how much Jasmine has grown and changed. This will probably be our last ever visit to this particular pumpkin patch as we are relocating back to the South West early next year. I’m sure we’ll be able to find somewhere just as awesome to pick our pumpkins!

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I’m not sure how much Jasmine understands about the ‘baby in mummy’s tummy’. We try to talk to her about the baby but it’s a lot to take in for a 2.5 year-old. Hell, sometimes I can barely get my head around it. To think that I’m growing a brand new human inside of me – it boggles the mind. I do think Jasmine understands more than I give her credit for though – the other night she pointed at my tummy and said “baby”, completely unprompted. When asked “Do you want a brother or a sister?” which tends to be something that family, neighbours and strangers ask her a lot. She’ll either reply “no” (oh.), or more often than not, “a baby brother”. No pressure then.

She’s also become quite protective over me, shouting “my mummy” at strangers in the supermarket. As if she suspects the lady buying milk and baked beans is going to pick me up and carry me away. To be fair, she reacts the same way with the toy cars at playgroup. (“My cars!”) But at least there, the threat is real. You’re gonna have to learn to share real soon, baby girl!

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I should probably touch upon my mental health, seeing as I’ve written about it a fair amount on blog over the last few months. I’m still taking my anti-depressants and I feel like I’m currently in a good place. Yes, I feel quite anxious at times but at 36 weeks pregnant, I think that’s perfectly normal. On the whole, I am excited about meeting our newest addition and whilst I know it’s going to be a big adjustment. I feel I will be able to cope – and if I can’t, I won’t be afraid to ask for help.

I ordered our last few baby essentials last night. I’ve packed our ‘just in case’ hospital bags. Put a box together for my homebirth. Bought biscuits for the midwives! Written a birth plan.  And so I’m feeling as ready as I’ll ever be.

There are a few things I’d like to do before baby arrives such as have a dental check-up (joy!), get my bump Henna’d and treat myself to a haircut and some reflexology. Time is of the essence so I need to get a move on!

Any advice for a soon-to-be mummy of two?!

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Antidepressants and pregnancy: My experience so far…

When it became apparent to me that I was suffering with antenatal depression, I spent a lot of time reading blog posts about others who had been in a similar situation. Reading those posts was what gave me the courage to walk into my midwife appointment and tell her everything I had been feeling. However, what I found frustrating was that nobody really talked about what happened AFTER they’d been to see their midwife/GP. Did they take medication? Did it help? Did they opt for some kind of talk therapy? Did that help?

I, of course, don’t expect anyone to have to write about such personal details for the whole world to read. But I was desperate to know what worked for people and what didn’t. Which is why I thought I’d write a bit of an update post for anyone who is the same same boat as me.

A little bit of background information:

I suffered with depression in my late teens/early twenties due to stressful family situations and although I was eventually prescribed antidepressants, I gave up on them in less than a week because I was scared they were going to turn me into some sort of emotionless robot. I taught myself CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) and through using the tools I learned, managed to find my way out of a deep, dark hole and become ‘happy Jenna’ again.

In February, I found out I was expecting another baby (after having a second miscarriage back in November 2015) and was cautiously excited to be growing a new member of our family. I had a much easier first trimester than I did with my daughter, only being sick a handful of times in the first 3 months, as opposed to every single day. Other being tired – I felt well, both in body and mind.

Unfortunately, shortly after reaching my second trimester things started to go downhill and I knew from past experience that I was almost certainly suffering with depression. I was crying every day and had stopped enjoying life. I was no longer looking forward to having another baby, and instead, dreading it. I felt like a terrible mum to my two-year-old because I, quite honestly, was hating spending all day, every day with her.

The cause of my depression is very much situational. I live hours away from my friends and family and I miss them all terribly. The isolation and loneliness of being a stay-at-home mum, in a town so far away from my loved ones, for over two years had finally taken it’s toll on me. Add to that, all the raging hormones and emotions that come along with pregnancy and I was broken.

At my 25 week midwife appointment, I broke down in tears and explained that I thought I was suffering with antenatal depression. I instantly felt better for having it ‘out there’ and that conversation has lead to me being where I am today. I booked an appointment to see a GP – who was wonderfully supportive and offered to help me in which ever way I saw fit. I asked for medication.

Type of medication and dosage:

My doctor prescribed me Sertraline as it is safe to use during pregnancy (and breastfeeding).

Sertraline is an antidepressant in a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Sertraline affects chemicals in the brain that may become unbalanced and cause depression, panic, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive symptoms.” – Source.

The standard daily dose of this medication is 50mg, which is the amount I’ve been prescribed. However, my doctor explained to me that because I’m pregnant, my body will break down the drug a lot faster, meaning I’m only really having half the dose. I was told that if I felt it wasn’t enough then I should let her know and she would up the amount. At this moment in time, I don’t feel the need to do so.

The side effects: 

My doctor warned me that for the first couple of weeks of taking this medication, it may make my anxiety worse. She told me that if this did happen, to continue taking antidepressants and plough on through it because it wouldn’t last. Fortunately, I didn’t experience heightened anxiety but I thought it might be worth mentioning it in this post as I got the impression that not everybody gets this warning from their GP when they start taking Sertraline.

For me, it’s been hard to tell if some of my ‘side effects’ are a direct result of Sertraline or whether they are normal pregnancy symptoms – or a mix of both.

In the first week or so of taking the drugs I experienced dizziness and heart palpitations (at the same time). As you can imagine, this was quite unpleasant, and I remember being sat in a restaurant with my husband, my heart racing and the room spinning, but feeling unable to talk. But, it passed quickly and I’ve haven’t experienced anything like that again for several weeks now.

I also had (and still get) hot flushes several times a day. I can safely say I am not looking forward to the menopause!

The side-effect that I’ve suffered with the most, and still continue to do so 6 weeks into my treatment, is the night sweats. These are very much like the night sweats I experienced in the weeks after giving birth to my daughter, when my body was expelling all the excess fluid I had left over from pregnancy.

Every night I wake up absolutely drenched in sweat – my duvet and sheets are sopping wet. It’s pretty grim and makes me feel disgusting. My bedsheets had never the inside of a washing machine quite so much as they have over the last month or so.

How is my mood now?

Better, so much better. I haven’t cried since I first walked into the doctor’s office 6 weeks ago. I haven’t become an ’emotionless robot’. I have days when I feel grumpy and fed up, just like anyone else would but the difference is that my moods are now on a much more even kilter. I’m finally starting to embrace pregnancy and look forward to having another baby. I feel like I’m a much better mummy to my daughter because we play and laugh together. I’m more inclined to take her out to the park or playgroups whereas before my depression and anxiety would stop me from doing so.

I still wonder how on earth I’m going to cope with two children but I think that’s normal, isn’t it? I know it’s going to be a big adjustment but I will cope.

I should also mention that since I’ve started taking antidepressants we’ve had some quite big news which will have also affected my outlook on life. My husband’s job role will be changing in the next few months which means we will be able to relocate back to Bristol in the New Year. It still seems like a long way off but it’s given me a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. In all honesty, I don’t think the antidepressants are 100% responsible for my change in mental attitude but they’ve certainly helped. I do not regret starting medication and I will continue to use it for as long as I feel I need to. I suspect once we’ve moved house and I have my support network of family and friends back, I will feel ready to stop my prescription.

If anybody reading this wants to talk about this topic further then do feel free to send me an e-mail or tweet me @_tinyfootsteps. 

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This post was originally published on the 29th September 2016.

Pregnancy after a loss & blogger guilt

I spent a long time um-ing and ah-ing over whether or not to write about my current pregnancy on my blog. As somebody who has had to deal with the heartache of having two miscarriages, I know how upsetting it can be for somebody going through a loss or infertility to constantly see pregnancy updates. I know how it feels when it seems like everybody else is celebrating bumps and babies and you’re not. It really bloody hurts. And now that I’m pregnant again? Well, I feel guilty that my happy news could be causing somebody else to feel miserable. I hate the thought of that.

What I realised though, when I was going through my own grieving process, was that every woman should be able to celebrate, feel happy and talk about their pregnancy – in whatever form that takes. The fact that I got upset about seeing/hearing about other people’s pregnancies was my problem. Not theirs.

I spent a lot of time blocking, muting and deleting pregnant bloggers on social media. And I know – I know – how horrible that makes me sound. I still feel a little disappointed in myself and ashamed for reacting that way. But in all honestly? It wasn’t personal. It was self-preservation. And that’s what I needed to do to get through that stage of my grief. I had to protect myself from hurting anymore whilst I licked my wounds and allowed myself the time and space to heal.

Of course, not everybody who goes through early pregnancy loss will feel the same way I did. I don’t mind admitting that I was angry and bitter at the world. I’d love to have been able to be genuinely happy to hear of other people’s baby news but it turns out I’m just not wired that way.

Thankfully, the ‘angry and bitter’ stage did pass and over time I gained better control of my emotions. Deep down I understood that people weren’t trying to deliberately hurt me or rub their pregnancies in my face. (It’s crazy how self-absorbed grief can make you). But my biggest ‘eurka moment’ was when I realised this: No matter how resentful I was towards others, it wasn’t going to bring my babies back. I was wasting all of my energy on something I could never change. I had to move on.

For me, moving on meant trying again for a baby, but for others it might mean something completely different. You’ll know what’s right for you.

Forgive me, I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this blog post, it was never one I had planned to write but it was something that has been on my mind ever since I found out I was pregnant again.

I guess, amongst all of the “and what do ya know, we got pregnant straightaway” pregnancy blog posts out there (and they are no less worthy than any others) I wanted to write something for those who have been or are going through what I went through. I think this is the blog post I was desperate for somebody to write 8 months ago.

So, I’ll tell you what I wished I could have read then:

Whatever you’re feeling, it’s normal.

You’re not a bad person.

It wasn’t your fault.

Want to try again? Do it. Need more time? Take more time. Done with trying to conceive? Who could possibly blame you?

It gets easier. You won’t feel this bad forever.

Do what you need to do to protect yourself from further hurt. If that means temporarily pulling away from pregnant friends or relatives then that’s what you need to do. Anybody with an ounce of compassion will understand.

There is hope.

There is support, you just have to find it.

And once more… it was not your fault.

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On toddler groups and why they are NOT the answer I’m looking for…

I had my 16 week midwife appointment the other day. Leading up to it, I had played the whole thing out in my head several times. The bit where she asks “and how has your mood been?” and I casually lie “Oh fine” and we move swiftly on to checking my wee or blood pressure.

Except it didn’t happen like that. When asked how my mood had been lately, I felt my eyes fill with tears and my face get hot. “Up and down” I replied. And then I broke down. I sobbed as I blurted out about how I am struggling to cope with feelings of isolation and loneliness. How I don’t have any support network. How I hate living in this town. How I tell my husband every. single. day but he just doesn’t get it. How I have no idea how I’m going to cope with two children.

The midwife passed me a tissue and looked at me sympathetically. She then asked if I took Jasmine to toddler groups to which I told her “yes, most weeks we’ll go to them”. My heart sank because baby and toddler groups are not the answer I’m looking for. In the last two years since having Jasmine I feel like I have given those groups a ‘good go’ – we’ve done baby sign, baby massage, visited the play sessions at the local children’s centres, sang hymns at toddler church groups (I’m very much an atheist), met fellow mums off the internet for cups of tea. I can, hand on heart, say that I have tried to ‘put myself out there’ and make connections with people. But, for whatever reason, it just didn’t really happen.

I made a couple of mum friends when Jasmine was a baby who I saw regularly but as soon as they returned to full-time work I stopped hearing from them. That’s OK, I get that. I’m busy, they’re busy – life goes on.  I probably didn’t make as much effort to get in touch either. I felt guilty for even asking to take up any of their ‘free time’.

But honestly? I’m now at the point where I’m bored of trying. I’m tired of trying to make conversations with strangers. I’m fed up of hoping and wishing people might just like me enough to want to hang out sometime. It’s exhausting trying to build up a support network from scratch. And after 3 years of trying (that’s how long I’ll have lived here in July), I have nothing to show for it. NOTHING. I’m embarrassed by that and I feel like a total failure. People move to different parts of the country all of the time and they seem to make it work. They make connections. Why haven’t I? It’s a question I ask myself a lot.

The problem is, I don’t think I’m ever going to find what I’m looking for at toddler groups. They’re great for Jasmine and that’s why we still go to them. But going to toddler groups won’t stop me from feeling isolated and lonely.

What I need is support. Not small talk from other mums about toddler tantrums and potty training every Thursday morning over a cup of tea and some stale biscuits. That’s no more stimulating than talking to the Tesco delivery man about the weather (which is often the only adult conversation, other than with my husband, that I have all week). I need more than that. So much more.

I need people around me who love me. I need genuine connections with people who like me for being me. Not for being mum to someone who is the same age as their own child. Does that make sense? I want my old friends. The ones I’ve known for years – the ones that came before motherhood. But I feel so far away from them.

I want to move back to Bristol and it’s just not going to happen anytime soon – if at all.

I feel trapped here. Completely and utterly trapped.

I don’t want to look back on these early years of motherhood and remember nothing but how sad and lonely I was. But I fear that could end up being the case if things continue the way they are now.

Jasmine’s just woken up from her nap and is throwing things out of her cot so I need to go and be ‘mum’ again now. I wish I could say I feel better for writing this but I don’t. I’m still no closer to finding a way of making things better for myself and my mental health. I just know that going to ‘Rhyme time’ isn’t going to solve these issues. And I only wish people would stop suggesting that it would.

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