28 Dec 2014

The First Trimester

So, we are having a baby in July, if all goes to plan. And this means I am (almost) through the dreaded first trimester.
You don't hear much about how crap this particular part of pregnancy can be because a lot of women prefer not to broadcast their gravid state until having had a scan. Personally, I prefer to LOUDLY BROADCAST my gravid state to people as I see them, and everyone else can find out later. Like a celebrity.

I found out I was pregnant way back in October, at 4 weeks. I didn't feel pregnant at this point, which meant the whole thing felt unreal and odd. At 5 weeks, we told our immediate families. Then my niece came out with slapped cheek, just after she'd given me slobbery kisses. Seriously, she screamed bloody murder at me for two years, but as soon as she gets a horrible virus, she's all over me ;-) You don't want slapped cheek when you're pregnant, as it can (in a small percentage of cases) cause miscarriage or birth defects. So, to the doctors I went for an emergency blood test. I hate having blood tests, not because I dislike needles, but because I am a fainter. It's not deliberate or phobic, I just do. So, I asked to lie down and the nurse said "Oooh, how are you going to have a baby if you can't manage a blood test?"
"ERM, I HAVE HAD TWO BABIES WITHOUT ANY PAIN RELIEF, SO QUITE EASILY I IMAGINE", I huffed. I didn't have slapped cheek, for the record.
I wasn't going to tell the children about the baby for a while, but then they started elbow dropping my abdomen and suchlike, so I told them I MIGHT have a baby in my tummy, but I needed an Xray to check. This provoked the wonderful comment: "Mummy, you must be VERY CAREFUL when you do poos in case the baby falls out."

Six weeks, no change, I started to get paranoid. WHYYY don't I feel pregnant? Except for my really painful boobs, and exhaustion, and weird hormonal dreams, and repeated positive tests. Why am I even bothered by this relatively symptomless pregnancy? Mainly because I had such hideous vomiting with my other two children, and I expected the same again. I looked at getting a private scan, and promptly balked at the cost.
Seven weeks, and I went to see the midwife, to tick lots of boxes, and be frowned at for being a bit fat (NB: I've always been a bit fat). I've been booked for consultant care because I have a tendency to develop quite severe B12 deficiency anaemia in the second trimester (oh yay for that again!) and need LOTS of B12 jabs, and had a moderate postpartum haemorrhage with my last baby. BUT despite this, as long as the consultant isn't bothered, I'm allowed another homebirth, provided the baby comes out before it's 10 days late. Otherwise, I'll be lectured. If you've read this, you probably know how much attention I'm going to pay to that.

Eight weeks, and HURRAH FOR VOMIT! My sister's wedding is an alcohol-less delight, and I'm not even sick on the bus ride to and from the wedding. There is dancing. There is about 12 hours travelling all told. It ruins me for a while.
Nine weeks, and I AM OVER THE VOMIT.

Ten weeks and, no, seriously, it's nearly Christmas, I have a TMA to write, and I would like to stop vomiting all the time now. Like, in the grass on the school run, and in any vessel available, including the toddler's pot. The baby is now the size of a kumquat. I have no idea how big a kumquat is and Google to find out. Apparently, a kumquat is the same size as a 10 week foetus. Thanks, Google!
Eleven weeks, and the emotions kick in. Oh gawd, do they kick in. Christmas is TOO MUCH. The assignment will NEVER GET WRITTEN. Nobody told me you produce LESS HCG at the end of the first trimester, and that's why my mad, reflexive pregnancy tests are coming back less pregnant instead of more. Panic ensues. Reassurance is given. I go back to fretting about the five million things I haven't done, and the state of the house since bending over makes me throw up. The baby is the size of a plum, or a festive sprout. This is at least something we can relate to better than a kumquat.

Twelve weeks, and it's scan day. First impressions are "wow, scan technology has improved a LOT in four years". The sonographer shows us our baby, its brain, heart and bladder. The baby is sweet, and kicks its legs at us. We breathe a sigh of relief, hang around in the antenatal unit for hours waiting for a blood test, and show the boys their new sibling. "WHERE'S ITS VAGINA?" asks eldest, on seeing this. And then the full burden of CHRISTMAS falls upon us gracelessly. I spend much of Christmas Day vomiting, because apparently the baby objects to me ever being full up.

With my first baby, I was working full time. With my second baby, I was working part time and had a toddler to look after. This time, I have two children at school/preschool, and an (almost) full time uni schedule. This pregnancy, despite the far lesser sickness, has been much harder than the previous two because of the sheer amount of STUFF I have to get done every day. This is partly because the sickiest time coincided with the Christmas run-up. I am so glad the Christmas season at school has finished now. Bloody plays, and church visits, and singalongs, and parties, and Christmas bastard jumper day, and extra money demanded here there and everywhere for everything. Ugh, it's been a bit much. But technically, things should start to get easier now. Until the dreaded anaemia kicks in. Hopefully, that won't be til around April. Meanwhile, university work beckons, and the thought of doing an exam at 36 weeks pregnant is suddenly a real and alarming prospect.

May 2015 be as good as 2014 has been!

5 Dec 2014

STOP PRESS: Mothers are bad

There has been a lot in the press recently about mothers. Mothers, I think we can all agree, are pretty important. They produce the next generation, and do the bulk of caring for them (hopefully as part of a loving family unit) until said generation are big enough to take care of themselves. You could argue that parenting is the most important job in the world. However, the press has been resoundingly negative about mothers. Mothers are BAD.

First, we had the woman prosecuted for drinking in pregnancy, resulting in a baby with foetal alcohol syndrome. Now, current NHS guidelines say don't drink ANYTHING alcoholic, AT ALL when you're pregnant. When I had my eldest, it was 2 units max a week, when I had my second, it was preferably none, but not more than 1 to 2 a week. So, in the last six years, this has changed. When my mum was having me thirty years ago, there was NO recommended restriction on alcohol in pregnancy, and very little advice to stop smoking aside from perhaps to cut down a bit. However, we were not plagued with children born with F.A.S in the eighties and before. Foetal alcohol syndrome only happens when the pregnant mother is an alcoholic. Most pregnant women are not alcoholic.
Now, women who plan to breed should probably be glad that the woman prosecuted was not found guilty, because if alcohol consumption was illegalised in pregnancy, they might risk being arrested for having a solitary glass of wine at a wedding, or after work. And that would have opened the doors to smoking being illegalised in pregnancy (which would actually be kind of sensible since the link between smoking and foetal damage is better understood than that of mild/moderate drinking and foetal damage), but I'm fairly sure that most smoking women consider the sheer weight of expectation to quit in pregnancy is a sufficient deterrent.

Next, we had the great breastfeeding in public debate rear its ugly head. And I say ugly head, because there is nothing uglier than people trying to claim there's something obscene about feeding a baby. There really, really isn't. Babies need feeding, doesn't matter how you do it. When they are very tiny, they need feeding all the frickin' time, literally, for eight to twelve hours a day. It's not obscene for your baby to need feeding. It's not militant for your baby to need feeding. It's not exhibitionist of your baby to need feeding. Breastfeeding mothers still need to leave the house occasionally, and sometimes they may time it wrong, or have a baby that is teething, or ill, or growth-spurting and unexpectedly demand food. And when babies are hungry, they scream. They howl. They cry like they are being murdered, getting increasingly hysterical, and making people tut. The nice thing about breastfeeding is that the milk is there, ready to go. No "shit I haven't got a bottle" panic.This whole idea that WOMEN DO NOT NEED TO BREASTFEED BECAUSE FORMULA is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Even the WHO call it bollocks. Formula has become the socially acceptable way of feeding babies, primarily because society is so freaked out by breasts.
I say 'society', as Farage has pointed out, it's mostly men. Urrrghhh, that woman's using her breasts for their biological purpose! Next thing, she'll be GIVING BIRTH FROM HER VAGINA, or something EQUALLY OBSCENE.
The fact is that it is illegal to ask a woman to stop breastfeeding in public. Trust me, as someone who has fed babies all over the place, from the living room, to the pub, to the party, to the shopping centre, if you are offended by seeing a curve of nipple for literal seconds, you need to perhaps re-evaluate your priorities instead of blaming breastfeeding women for making you feel slightly uncomfortable about society's preoccupation with SEXY BOOBIES. Or, you know, join the anti-Page 3 lobby.

Finally, the terrible and tragic case of Charlotte Bevan. Now, until the inquest, it won't be clear whether she was suffering from puerperal psychosis or 'just' struggled to cope with new motherhood. I put just in inverted commas, because the immediate postnatal period is a time of exceptional stress and emotional upheaval in every single new mother. The leading cause of maternal death is suicide, which should be shocking, yet oddly isn't. It doesn't matter whether it's your first baby or your seventh. It doesn't matter whether you have a history of mental health problems or not. However, with your first baby it is a more pronounced shock, because you're unprepared for the bodyshock, for the odd new emotions, for the responsibility. The key to getting through it is support, and unhappily, many new mothers don't get enough, I've discussed this ad nauseum before. The provision of mental health care during pregnancy and perinatally is rubbish. I suffered very poor mental health antenatally with my second child and received essentially no help except for my understanding GP whose hands were tied. Thankfully, I got better when he was born, not worse. It is a gamble the NHS should not be willing to take.
The Daily Mail, spawn of Satan that it is, wrote an article on how she lived in A NICE EXPENSIVE HOUSE, and had been listening to R Kelly before she went missing. All the papers have suggested NHS maternity wards need better security. They already have good security to keep out baby snatchers, but women who have just had babies are not prisoners. They need help, they need support, they need a lot of love from their families. They don't need locking up like criminals, moreso if they WANT to go home. I had to self discharge to get off the ward with my eldest child, because there was not enough staff to observe me during the day and discharge me, and then when they tried to send my husband home, I freaked out. There is nothing lonelier than being left alone all night in an alien environment with a new baby, with your partner sent away. This was not a sign of incipient madness, just a sign that I badly needed to get away from a cold, unpleasant ward with no privacy (they kept opening the curtains when I was trying to sleep - how does ANYONE sleep on a shared postnatal ward?) and home with my family. Perhaps this should be a spur to improve postnatal care, rather than a reason to exercise medical authority over women who don't want to be there.

The media are increasingly happy to demonise mothers in pursuit of clickbait, with Charlotte Bevan being a particularly poignant case. Politicians are quite willing to attack public breastfeeding (the indignity!) in order to try and win votes from their conservative brethren, rather than encourage something acknowledged worldwide to be a Good Thing. People are quite happy to sit on their high horse, judging alcoholic mothers for inadvertently breaking their children, rather than wondering why there was nothing anyone could do to help. They judge women for daring to er...feed their baby in public without the protection of a niqab or something. They judge a mentally unwell woman for killing herself and her child, rather than wondering why she was allowed to get SO sleep deprived, and where her support was.

Mothers are important. Be kind.

**It makes me sad that I have to add this to every feeding-related blog I write so I don't get attacked as some sort of breastfeeding nazi, but please feed your baby however you want. This isn't an attack on formula feeding, but an attack on people who think breastfeeding is obscene.