Making and using an umbilical cord tie

One of the birth choices I made this time that I really rate was to make and use an umbilical cord tie. Up until the week before Delilah was born I’d intended to just go ahead with the standard hospital clamp that the midwives provide. As the due date approached, I started to remember why I didn’t like them. With Talitha I felt like it got in the way. It seemed a hard, ugly object between us.

I knew I didn’t want to do another umbilical cord burning like we had with Ophelia. It took too long (which is kind of the point because it’s a slow, ceremonial separation between baby and placenta) which wasn’t a great idea since she was a bit cold. It also smelled while healing which is apparently normal with burning.

For us, it just wasn’t something we fancied trying again. I had intended to make an umbilical cord tie with her, braiding embroidery threads, but I was disorganised, not expecting her to arrive at just 40+3 when her big sister had arrived at 40+13. The idea came to mind again with Delilah.

After asking other home birthers how they’d made theirs, I crocheted three ties using double knitting, so that we’d have spares just in case. They started with shapes: a heart, a flower and a star. There are so many instructions for these shapes out there and it’s totally the kind of project a beginner could do. When I finished each one off, I carried on stitching a 30cm length for the actual tie. The process was such a joyful way to get ready for Delilah. The girls were involved in helping me choose the shapes and were intrigued to see what I was doing.

Then I boiled them, put them in a sterile breast milk storage bag and kept it in the freezer. Sterilising is apparently unnecessary but I didn’t want to get into a debate with a midwife who might already feel uncomfortable with using a homemade tie.

As it turned out, our midwife was uncertain but in the end she was willing to give it a go, warning that she needed to be able to get it tight enough. I’d taken them out of the freezer as soon as labour started so they were defrosted. The wetness helped to pull the tie tighter. In the end, we were all satisfied with the end result.

It was easy to keep out of the way of the nappies (we did eco disposables the first two days and cloth after that) and healed quickly. I eventually got a bit fed up of the bit at the end so I cut it off after a while. Even cut, it looked so pretty whenever we changed her nappy and she was mostly in a nappy her first week because it was the hottest week of the year!

What can I say? It was such a little thing – frivolous maybe – but it brought me such joy to see this pretty tie. If we ever had another baby, I’d do it again.

To read more, check out Delilah’s home birth story, Ophelia’s home birth story or my ideas for preparing kids for a new baby.

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Delilah’s home birth story

Delilah was born on the morning of Monday 18th July, a week ago today. I wrote this birth story that night in the urge to debrief. I have gently edited it since.

I’d been having lots of little surges (the hypnobirthing term for contractions) from 36 weeks so I knew my body was gearing up to have my baby, whether that meant at 40 weeks or beyond. Either way, Delilah was extremely low down, grinding her head on my cervix and had been since week 38. I felt sure that whenever it happened, this labour would be my shortest. At just over six hours from first surge to finish, it was.

At 40+1, I felt lots of smaller surges throughout the day as I cleaned the bathroom and picked raspberries from the garden. Laurence and the girls had gone to church without me as I couldn’t face being asked about a due date that had now officially passed.

I walked up the stairs at one point and caught my breath. I felt the baby had slipped down even further. The shape of my bump had noticeably changed. I felt sure it would happen today or tonight but also knew that could be wishful thinking so didn’t entertain it too much. Laurence had got used to me musing that each night could be the night.

I was usually high spirits that day, feeling more energetic than I had in the entire pregnancy. So I did lots of rushing about while my in-laws and my mum were over, not thinking that the energy might be needed later.

Suddenly, that evening, I got extremely emotional and stressed about a lot of different, unrelated things. All of them were real issues but none warranted the explosion that took place. I ended up turning off my phone, sipping a glass of prosecco and sticking on Chalet Girl while chatting on the sofa with Laurence about all sorts. I do think that’s the only way to watch that film, by the way, especially if you’re with someone who actually snowboards. It was the best “date night” we’d had in a long time. I felt insanely connected to him and felt sure that this was all leading somewhere soon.

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Sure enough, at 1:30, after about an hour’s sleep, I heard something pop so jumped up and ran to the toilet, where waters gushed out of me. It wasn’t enough to be the full waters and didn’t continue to leak but I reckoned something as happening. As soon as I got back into bed, proper, intense surges started.

I got up and went downstairs, thinking I’d hang out on my birth ball for a bit before waking Laurence up but discomfort was building quickly and a look at the clock said surges were about five minutes apart. I woke him up and told him we needed to get the pool ready. I actually had to tell him a few times. I’m not sure he sensed my urgency.

Once he was up, though, he snapped into action, covering our living room in builder’s plastic, shower curtains, towels and incontinence pads. He inflated and filled the pool, getting the temperature and level right and set my hypnobirthing tracks to play. Between surges, I tidied a few toys that had been left around, mixed ylang ylang and frankincense in the essential oil diffuser, lit a few candles and tuned in to the tracks. I constantly felt the need to rock and sway. When a surge came, kneeling felt most effective. It made it super intense but it just felt so right.

I went up to the loo, feeling like I needed to poo but after having a quick succession of surges there, I knew what I was really feeling was her head. I considered spending time in the shower and on the loo like I had with Ophelia but it felt like I might as well get in the pool. I asked Laurence what he thought and he reckoned I might as well. The pool felt gloriously comforting. I instantly relaxed. My surges slowed but they became increasingly effective. I could actually feel the baby move further down with each one as I breathed into it and visualised the sunrise, floating, bubbles and hot air balloons.

By this time, Laurence had called the midwives. We had a disagreement over it as having them too soon was a real fear of mine. In both my previous labours, everything slowed as soon as someone different entered the situation. I worried about this so much last time that I didn’t let him call until quite late. The midwives had got lost on the way and arrived when I’d already started pushing! So I told him he could decide when it was right to call and I think the fact that I’d been hanging off him during surges, squatting was probably pretty convincing!

In retrospect, my body was getting my baby into position for birth. Still, before I agreed it was time to call, I suggested we go lie for a bit in bed and cuddle through some surges. The minute I got into bed, I leapt up, went back downstairs and declared that I didn’t know what I’d been thinking – of course I was in active labour. There was no way I could have lain there.

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I stripped off my tunic and knickers and got in the pool. Getting naked always seems a big sign for me that things are happening. I kept my eyes closed when each midwife arrived to give Laurence time to explain that I was hypnobirthing, trying to stay in the zone. But things slowed right down and lost intensity. Worse yet, the first midwife, though lovely and gentle, was a bit too chatty. She kept making small talk and asking me questions that took me out of my primal brain and lose my concentration. She insisted on sitting next to the pool, watching me. The second also sat in the room and I felt increasingly irritated with their presence.

Laurence had asked them to be in the dining room, to keep monitoring to a minimum and not to talk to me. In the end, the monitoring was fine (despite continuing to talk to me unnecessarily, though my birth plan made it clear I wanted it done silently and quickly) as I was convinced throughout that everything would be fine, which luckily it was. Delilah and I were both find throughout.

My plan stated that I didn’t want internal examinations and I didn’t want one offered unless it was deemed absolutely necessary. That she offered me one made me desperate to give birth because I felt they were watching the clock. Aloud I just said no but in my head, I said, “I know this baby is coming and we know all is fine. A number won’t change that.”

On one hand, all of this made me feel a little annoyed that we’d called them so soon. They were following protocol but this was my body, my baby and my home. I had already been through all my plans with my community midwife and she’d felt everything I suggested made sense.

On the other, I realised they might not realise how far along I was so I tuned further into my instincts. When one suggested I go use the loo since I wasn’t managing to wee in a jug, I ended up hiding out in the bathroom where things became fast and furious again.

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When I returned to the pool, I found it really difficult to relax into the surges and let them do their work. I kept pushing myself against Laurence and raising myself out of the water. I realised I was getting pushy but my muscles all felt tense. I was getting tired and impatient.

That’s when I asked for gas and air. The first item on my plan was that I didn’t want to be offered pain relief. Having practised hypnobirthing, I do not think of labour as pain but as work. Laurence had accidentally passed on to me that it was being offered just when the midwife arrived (before they’d gone through my plan) and from then, the idea of it was stuck in my head though I kept trying to ignore it.

The sensation of fighting the surges made me think I needed something to override my conscious brain so I could let the muscles work. I agonised over it because gas and air with my first labour (an induction) had taken me out of the room, out of the experience. I couldn’t even get into an upright position to push, I was so out of it. I blamed it as one of the factors that made bonding with my first baby difficult. But I felt sure that I could control it this time and hoped I would stop if it was overwhelming me or that Laurence would help me see that I needed to.

So I discussed it with the first midwife. She warned that her supply was limited. I decided to go for it and make do if we ran out but I really didn’t think it would be much longer. Unhelpfully, the second midwife said, “So I guess we’re throwing away the birth plan.” That totally pissed me off and made me determined to get this over with. What a disempowering thing to say! Laurence replied, “Only this part.”

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When I started taking it, I found myself stopping before the surges were finished so I didn’t dull the whole sensation. I also found (and was a little disappointed!) that it didn’t offer as much relief I’d expected – I should have remembered this from five years ago. I was too far along for that. I still felt the surges but the entonox helped me to go with them instead of fighting against them. I wasn’t trying to push myself out of the water with each surge but could instead breathe.

We never did decide what we’d do with the girls. It seemed for a while that it might all happen with them asleep. But when 5am approached, we started discussing what to do because Ophelia would likely be up at 6.30 and I needed Laurence too much for him to be able to attend to her. We also knew that with an hour’s sleep and hours of labour there was no way we wanted to be looking after them that day! So he called his father who came to pick them up. While they sorted car seats, I held the first midwife’s hand through my surges. By now I was finding her encouragement to breathe slowly very helpful.

The first midwife suggested I get out of the pool for a bit and I decided I’d stay out. For some reason, I’ve felt throughout this pregnancy that I wouldn’t give birth in water. In fact, I asked Laurence to set up an area in the playroom because I felt it might happen there. At her suggestion, I sat on my birth bill for a bit. Moving around on it, everything quickened. She suggested I sit on a chair. I decided to kneel and hold on to it instead. It was the position that had felt the most right throughout the labour. It felt like the way this baby was going to be born.

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At this point, I was breathing in the entonox but only half breathing, half growling it out. She told me to save the energy I was spending making noise. But I knew I didn’t want the gas and air anymore. She must have sensed this because she said, “You can just push if you like.” My body had been pushing but I needed to just go with it.

I stopped using the entonox, started breathing down through my nose as best I could while growling and to my surprise, the hypnobirthing image of ripples came to me. In three minutes and two massive pushes, Delilah slipped out into the midwife’s hands and she was handed to me. It was 7.50am. I’d planned to catch her myself as I had Ophelia but I actually couldn’t have done it as I wasn’t in the zone or position.

Instantly, I was overwhelmed by how much she looked like Ophelia and how surprised I was that she was really here. A real baby. When the cord stopped pulsating, the midwife cut the cord and despite uncertainty about using the cord tie I’d crocheted instead of a hospital clamp, she went with with it in the end.

I’d had stuff in my plan about delaying baby checks and letting us be quietly together but I think the gas and air had made me little more “let’s get on with this” and less “rush of love” than I’d been with Ophelia. But I also think it may have helped speed things along by helping me to relax and keep my focus.

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The placenta took almost an hour to come and we were all getting impatient. With Talitha I’d had the syntometrine injection so it came away quickly. With Ophelia, breastfeeding and standing had made it slip out easily. I ended up accepting the offer of having my bladder catheterised, which didn’t make much difference.

I said I’d consider syntometrine as I might as well throw away the birth plan (the second midwife’s words were still with me). Laurence reminded me that I had had a lovely, straightforward, calm home birth, which absolutely was my plan. When the next surge came, with mind over matter I forcefully pushed the placenta out while the first midwife put pressure on my tummy. It was such a relief. And it was the first time I’d seen a placenta properly, this being our first daytime birth. It was fascinating but neither beautiful nor revolting. It just was.

Both midwives were extremely competent and I always felt that we were in safe hands. The first gushed about how well I’d done pushing Delilah out gently which made me feel really good. It had been a serious concern of mine as Ophelia had shot out like a cannonball and they couldn’t work out how serious my tear was, so I was transferred to hospital, which I was desperate to avoid. As it was, I tore again this time but it was straightforward and easily stitched upstairs on our bed, after which I snuggled into bed with my baby and Laurence. We stayed there for most of the rest of the day, getting up to have a shower and the just enjoying being in and out of sleep and feeding with newborn Delilah.

Delilah's home birth story

All in all, it was the easiest of our births and we kept noting how amazing it was to just be at home this time. I loved not eating hospital food for lunch and Laurence marvelled at being able to hang out with a baby this young. It was lovely having this time just the three of us to recover and enjoy getting acquainted before the older girls came home with Laurence’s parents and my mother at supper time, extremely excited to meet their new sister.

I think my take away from all of my births is that an experience doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. Talitha’s ended up with induction and I found it traumatic in a lot of ways but looking back, I now mostly see the bits I am grateful for, like stopping to touch her hair. Ophelia’s carried the shadow of Group B Strep which I’d refused antibiotics for, choosing to birth at home. It ended with transfer to hospital and a two-night stay after the birth. But it was such a calm, utterly empowering birth. Delilah’s could have benefited from me knowing my midwife beforehand, unfortunately not currently possible on the NHS in Bristol. It would probably have been a good idea to have a doula this time. But, there were no concerns at any point and it all happened swiftly and relatively easily. I always felt safe in the midwives’ excellent care. And we got to do it all here, in our home!

She’s quietly joined our lives in a birth that really was just part of normal life. Sitting up in bed, cuddling her and breathing through after pains while I write this all down, I just can’t stop thanking God for these three children he has given me and for the man sleeping beside us who is absolutely the best birth partner I could have had.

Maternity shoot with Annie Crossman Photography

Last year, we did a family photo shoot with Annie Crossman, a Bristol family photographer and friend. I’d booked the shoot as a birthday present to myself – a way to celebrate our family with one-year-old Ophelia in it.

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We then considered our family complete, not expecting to have any more children. Three weeks ago, Annie beautifully documented for us in a maternity photo shoot at Clevedon sea front how our plans can change.

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I didn’t do a maternity shoot with either of my first two babies so it feels extra special to anticipate this baby with one. It’s exciting to share it with you the day before our due date.

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Although this has probably been my easiest pregnancy from a physical point of view, even taking exhaustion into account, it’s psychologically been my most challenging.

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There have been two older children to consider, a lot of change happening in our lives outside of this pregnancy and it’s actually taken a long time to wrap my head around the idea of having a third and doing the newborn thing again. She has always been wanted. Without reservation. But it took me a few months to move on from feeling daunted.

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It’s easy to get impatient in the final weeks of a pregnancy. I won’t pretend that I haven’t. Every night I go to bed wondering if surges will wake me as they did with Ophelia. Then I wake up in the morning, disappointed and annoyed.

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Nine months has been long enough for us to feel as ready as we’re ever going to be, to long now to meet this whole other person who’s going to join our family.

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As before, the photo shoot experience with Annie was great fun. She has a real way with children and our two warmed to her with the camera right away, which (perhaps surprisingly, considering how photographed they are!) isn’t always the case. She even got them checking out some bits we’d got for the baby, including this jumper which each of our newborns has worn and which was Laurence’s originally.

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For me, this maternity shoot wasn’t just about celebrating this pregnancy for us grown ups but it was a way to involve the children in the anticipation. It was as much about focusing on them as sisters as it was on the bump.

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And for us, it was a chance to slow down and reflect on this growing family of ours and this life that we are building together that we are so grateful to share. We are mindful that we need to work to good care of all we’ve been given.

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This time I won’t make any grand declarations about our family being complete. It’s seriously unlikely that we will ever announce another pregnancy but life keeps reminding us that it is fluid and open, resistant to inflexible plans.

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Do check out Annie Crossman’s website and Facebook page and follow @anniecrossmanphotography on Instagram.

PS: Since a few people have asked, the girls’ tunics are from Mini Boden, a Christmas present from their grandmum.

How to prepare children for a new baby

I’m 39 weeks pregnant tomorrow and the children are keenly aware that the baby is coming soon. On the whole, I’ve worried less about what this transition would mean for them than I did when I was pregnant with Ophelia. Back then, I wondered if Talitha would feel displaced and was genuinely concerned about being able to give them both what they needed. Now I know that a certain shortfall is inevitable and I’ve seen how much my children have benefited from having each other.

Adding a third brings its own questions. How will my now middle child react to no longer being the youngest? Will I inadvertently expect more independence and responsibility of my eldest than she’s ready for? Will our home be totally chaotic? Yet, I’m safe in the confidence that I really will love them all, we will muddle through and that these three sisters are already invaluable to each other.

I’m by no means an expert in preparing children to meet a new baby but I thought I’d share a bit of what we’ve done. I’d love to hear your ideas too.

how to prepare children for a new baby-2 This is 2.5-year-old Talitha and I’m struggling to believe she was this ever this little!

Show them their own baby pictures
When we were expecting Ophelia, I had a toddler-sized photo book of Talitha’s baby pictures made so she could see the highlights of her first year and get into the idea of having a baby around. She absolutely loved it and still enjoys looking at it. I haven’t made one for Ophelia (must get on that!) but we’ve been looking at lots of her baby pictures on the computer and in a family photo book we got made the year she was born.

Talk about the baby and listen to what they have to say
While looking at these pictures and just generally as it comes up, we talk about what a baby needs and what we can expect life with a new baby to be like. The girls have their own ideas about what the baby might be doing in my tummy and love talking to her. Now that she really is almost here, Talitha has abandoned calling her “Butterfly” in favour of her name. Ophelia is still calling her “the baby”.

Both of them have wanted to sit on our laps more and Ophelia has needed more holding generally. I remember at this stage in the pregnancy, Talitha started having nightmares and was super-glued to me during the day. They may not be able to articulate what they’re feeling about the change but I’m trying to listen in to what they’re telling me in other ways and to wordlessly reassure them that they still have a place as our babies.

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Read books about pregnancy, birth and babies
I read Talitha the book There’s a House Inside my Mummy, which we both found helpful for explaining what was happening. I gave it away after Ophelia was born but she happened upon it in the toddler room at our church and was delighted by it. Mostly, we’ve been reading How You Were Born by Monica Calaf. It’s a beautiful home birth children’s book but the mother packs a suitcase in case she has to go to hospital (as I’ve done) and it’s just generally a positive image of birth. It’s filled with ideas I’d love my girls to grow up with, wherever they decide to be if they have babies later on.

Discuss names with them
We weren’t sure whether to do include them in the name choosing but discussions around a name inevitably happened while they were present and Talitha certainly had opinions. While we’ve made it clear that we will choose the name as she is our baby, just as we chose hers and Ophelia’s we’ve been open to what she thought about the names we suggested. In the end, there’s only one name she’s latched on to and, after a lot of deliberation, we all agreed that that was the one.

Watch birth videos
We don’t know yet whether the children will be present for the birth but we’re open to it as a possibility. The reality of home birth means that they could wind up being around anyway. So, to prepare them, we’ve looked at gentle birth videos, which they’ve really enjoyed. I showed Talitha these videos last time too and although I ended up wanting my in-laws to take her, which they did, it really helped her to connect my changing body with the idea of the baby she’d eventually meet.

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Belly painting
Art for children is often about exploration and celebration. I was keen to give them the opportunity to do that by painting my bump with facepaints. Last time, Laurence drew henna patterns on my bump but he didn’t fancy doing it this time and, as it turned out, it was more fun for the girls to paint me anyway. Each had a side.

Pack their bags with them if they’re staying somewhere
They knew that I’d packed a birth bag and a bag for the baby so I’d have everything in one place for the home birth but would also be prepared in case of a transfer. I know some people find it pessimistic to do this but it gave me peace of mind and I really valued having done it last time. It also means that the girls aren’t shocked if I do go to hospital.

The girls were excited to pack their own bags. They got their Trunki suitcases out and I helped them decide what to take in case they needed to go to someone’s house (we discussed the options as we have a few people on call), complete with new toothbrushes – a point for much excitement. I asked them whether they’d rather be here or at someone’s house and they both said, “Both!” so at least they’re open to every possibility too.

Let them help get the baby things ready
They’ve also been thrilled to check out all the tiny baby things. It melted me when they loaded the washing machine with baby clothes, oohing and aahing over how small and cute it all was. They don’t realise they’re still quite small and cute themselves.

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Make a present for the baby
I had in mind to get some ideas from Pinterest for baby toys they could make but we just didn’t get around to any of that. In the end, I grabbed a couple of plain items of baby clothing and some very old paints from our baby shower with Talitha (binned them after as they really don’t work well anymore) and they had a brilliant time painting them. It’s going to be hilarious dressing the baby in them!

Buy presents from the baby
Finally, this is not really “beforehand” preparing but it’s a nice way of introducing them all to each other. I’ve bought Ophelia a Grimms wooden rainbow as she’s rainbow obsessed and I think she’ll have a lot of fun with it and Talitha a Maxamorra hooded onesie because she’s been asking for a hooded onesie for ages. When Ophelia was born, I bought Talitha an IKEA wooden train set as a gift “from the baby” and she actually wasn’t that interested in it at all. She was much more taken with her new baby sister but I think it’s a sweet way of celebrating this new stage in family life.

38 weeks pregnant with baby number three

It’s weird to think that I’m less than two weeks from my guess date. I’ve stopped calling it my due date because at this stage in the pregnancy it’s unhelpful for me to get too fixated on a date.

Talitha was born at 40+13 and Ophelia at 40+3 but that’s no real predictor for when this baby will arrive. I realise, though, that last time, because I expected a baby two weeks “late”, Ophelia felt early. This time, I think I’ll struggle if I go on that long. Two weeks is not a long time. Four weeks seems like it is. Then again, in the grand scheme where this child is a member of our family for life, what’s four weeks?

I am feeling impatient, though. I had a massive growth spurt a few days ago and feel enormous. The midwife was surprised to find my baby as low as possible and told me her head is in my hips, which is frankly I already knew.

Looking back on posts I wrote around this time with my first two, all of my babies have descended and engaged around 37 weeks. I feel like I wasn’t this impatient last time but I have a post from then literally called “Suddenly Impatient“. I was certain I’d never experienced Braxton Hicks before but, reading back, I did! How did I forget all this?

I am so glad I wrote it all down because it’s helping me makes sense of Ophelia’s sudden clinginess. She wants to sit in our laps and even be spoon fed a lot of the time. Talitha has become extra cuddly too. Their world is changing but they can’t quite articulate how they feel about it.

I can’t, either. I go to bed most nights hoping that this will be the night I wake with surges, strong and steady. Yet the reality of looking after a newborn is still a little daunting. We are stepping out into something both familiar and unknown.

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I’ve re-read Katharine Graves‘ book, The Hypnobirthing Book and have been practising her relaxation techniques on my own and with Laurence. It still amazes me how effective they are, more so now because they’re so familiar. I mostly sit on my birth ball when we’re at home, both because it’s more comfortable and because it helps me avoid slouching and encouraging the baby to go back to back.

We’ve finally not just settled on but fully embraced the baby’s name. This is new territory, struggling to agree on a name. Talitha’s name was chosen before she was conceived. We stumbled across it in the Bible and joked that if we ever had a little girl, we would call her “little girl” which is the Aramaic Jesus uses when he raises Jairus from the dead. Ophelia is a name that has kept coming back to me over the years. I fell for it from the Natalie Merchant song and we both loved its pretty but slightly haunting quality. Both names were settled long before this stage in pregnancy.

In the end, Talitha has helped us choose a name. Out of all the names she heard us discuss, there’s only one she liked and she has point blank refused any other we suggest. While we’ve talked about “the baby” in this pregnancy, she’s referred to her by name.

Now, though, we feel settled that she’s right. Unless there’s been a mistake on the scan (I kid that Laurence is hoping) that’s the name. We can’t wait to say it freely.

37 weeks pregnant – full term with third baby

A few days ago, I hit the 37-week mark. Full term. Really all it means is that this is the final stretch. The baby could come any day or it could be another five weeks. I’m holding on to the statement on my hypnobirthing CD, Katharine Graves’ reassuringly intoning, “Baby will come when baby is ready. Baby knows best.”

At the same time, I’ve gone from feeling not even marginally ready for the birth to fighting back impatience. The clothes, nappies and blankets are all washed, dry and put away. The birth bags are packed. Everything is gathered for the home birth. Birth preferences have been written, printed and laminated.

Though I’m still tired, I’ve suddenly had a lot more energy. It’s timed beautifully with becoming heavy, stiff and sore. Pelvic girdle pain still isn’t nearly as severe as it was with Talitha but it’s becoming the theme of most days just the same. I know osteopathy would help as it did last time but I can’t realistically fit it into the budget. Luckily, it’s annoying rather than debilitating.

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Part of me wonders whether my intermittent desperation to have this baby comes from a desire for distraction. While the children certainly occupy my mind, there’s still space to panic about what’s happening in the world outside, whether it’s Brexit, the terrorist attack on Istanbul or distressing situations in my personal life that I can’t mentally escape but also can’t address right now.

I’m reminded of how important it is to make time for peace, to hold to quiet, to simplicity, to give the things I’m worried about over to God and to remember to keep loving, whatever that means.

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I’ve been getting lots of practice surges this time around. One evening they were so powerful, I wondered if things were really getting started. Then things trailed off. I’ve heard from lots of mothers that this is common for third pregnancies. This could go on for weeks yet.

A doula friend reminded me that it’s all doing something, even if it doesn’t seem it. She also reminded me that feeling impatient in this last stretch is itself a way of getting ready.

The girls are both so aware of the baby now. Talitha loves seeing her move my tummy. Both speak so sweetly to her. Talitha keeps asking if she will get to see her coming out. I’ve made no promises but we’ve packed the kids’ bags and they’re happy with either option of staying or going to someone’s house. Ideally, it will happen at night and they’ll be asleep but we’re prepared either way. Now, if someone asks Ophelia about the baby, she’ll point to the bump and as we have friends who’ve recently had babies, she seems to be connecting my changing form with the reality.

Speaking of reality, I think I’m still in denial about what it’s going to mean to have a newborn again, while caring for my older two. I wonder if this is the brain’s way of protecting the family.

I can’t worry about it anymore because I can’t really remember what it was like, adding a baby last time. Even though I rationally remember how hard it was, I feel an overwhelming sense of peace that amid the chaos, life will carry on. And it will.


Read more updates from this pregnancy with baby number three:
34 weeks pregnant
31 weeks pregnant
28 weeks pregnant
25 weeks pregnant
22 weeks pregnant
20 weeks pregnant
18 weeks pregnant
16 weeks pregnant
12 weeks pregnant

34 weeks pregnant with baby number three

Six plus weeks to go still feels a long time but a look through our calendar with most weekends booked up until then and it really isn’t a long time at all.

Physically, all is looking as it should. A midwife appointment last Thursday confirmed that the baby is head down and that my iron levels are in good shape. A Spatone smoothie a day has kept the anemia away so far. This is my first non-anemic pregnancy.

The girls went with me this time. Talitha was delighted to hear the baby’s heartbeat and fascinated when the midwife took my blood. I’m not sure how much Ophelia understood because she was mainly fixated on showing the midwife her boots, repeatedly.

Other than being a bit sore and stiff at the end of a day when I’ve overdone it, pelvic girdle pain isn’t an issue this time so far, which I’m so grateful for because I haven’t been able to make it to an osteopath as I did in my second pregnancy and I was practically housebound at points in my first.

I do have to watch it, though, and am trying to listen to my body in terms of walking and lifting. The kids inevitably keep me active, which is a good thing, even if I pay in soreness later. I’m finding a shower in the evening really helps with that.

I am, however, feeling utterly, utterly exhausted. I can honestly say, I don’t think I’ve ever felt this tired in my life. Not even in that first sleep deprived year with Talitha when she woke all. the. time. I’ve upped my vitamin D but I think feeling tired just going to be the theme for the next few weeks. I remember feeling so much better after having Ophelia so I’m hoping that will happen again.

A pregnancy massage at the Lido in Clifton yesterday was just what I needed. Laurence bought me a voucher for my birthday as he had in my first pregnancy five years ago. I may have drifted in and out of sleep, hopefully without snoring! I’m still feeling its effects today, despite nursing a headache.


Emotionally, I am really looking forward to the birth. I’ve been listening to Katharine Graves’ hypnobirthing CD and despite falling asleep by the first few affirmations (I need to start listening in the day time too!), it’s been helping me to get into a really positive, empowered mindset. Maybe it’s reminding me about the things I loved about the last home birth?

We also went to another Bristol Home Birth Group meeting last night, which was interesting because it raised a big topic for us. We’ve been discussing whether to have the kids there. We planned to just keep Talitha home last time but I changed my mind last minute as I found her too distracting. In retrospect, though, I was still in the early stages of labour and had quite a long way to go. If she had been around, perhaps I wouldn’t have given my surges more attention than they required too soon.

Talking about it last night, we realised we had a conflict of approaches. I want the birth to be normalised as a part of our everyday life as far as possible and I feel it’s better to focus on what we want and expect to happen than give to much energy to what might happen. Laurence, on the other hand, is being far more pragmatic, probably because he’s the one who will be saddled with their care. In the end, I think we’ve seen that both perspectives have value and balance each other. So, we’ve made arrangments with various family members (we’re so lucky to have so many in Bristol) and we’ve agreed to wait and see.

I’ve almost completed the blanket I’ve been crocheting for this baby. The last bits are boring so finishing them feels a real labour of love, which it is. I love her already. It’s my first project of this size so it’s been a real journey getting here, even though it’s far from perfect. I hope to share it with you soon.

Practically, I haven’t sorted most of what I had by this stage the last couple of times. I’ve gathered clothes here and there but I haven’t actually laid everything out to see what I need. Hilariously, a pregnancy website I was looking at was telling me that at 34 weeks, it might be worth giving the hospital bag a last minute check! I’m definitely not there yet.

Nappies weren’t sorted up until the weekend when a friend sold me her cloth stash at a bargainous price. I said I was going to make cloth wipes since all of ours are pretty much threadbare but it doesn’t look likely now and having seen the quality of some Cheeky Wipes the same friend had, I may just buy a set of those.

34 weeks pregnant-2

I’ve also been starting to think about what I’m going to wear after the baby’s here. I didn’t give this any attention in either of the last two pregnancies and found myself with clothes that were either annoying to breastfeed a newborn in or didn’t fit well in the postpartum period. So I’m appreciating getting my wardrobe started with this blue dress [pictured] sent to me by Vertbaudet. I can wear it now while pregnant but it also has poppers for breastfeeding once the baby is here. I think I may well end up in dresses until the autumn now, especially when it’s hot.

Parenting feels like it’s evolving as we get ready to add a third child to our family. I’m aware that having a baby sibling will be different for Talitha at five than it was at two years and eight months. Yet I’m also aware that it will be different for Ophelia than it was for Talitha, not just because she’ll be three months younger but because she is a different person.

While they’re both more conscious of my bump than I am a lot of the time, Ophelia is the one who draws most attention to it, probably because she’s the one who most needs a lap, a cuddle in bed or to be carried. It melts me when either of them talks to the baby but Ophelia is the one most prone to do so.

Ophelia is still breastfeeding, albeit for only a few moments at bedtime, only ever on one side. Often she will decide she’s had enough. I find it a relief because I’m experiencing even more nursing aversion than I did with Talitha. Perhaps my body is saying, “Too much.” Her latch has also changed and I’m not convinced that she is getting any colostrum, though it is there.

It seems entirely possible that she could wean in the next month. Part of me feels sad to think that she could wean so soon when I breastfed her sister to age four. There may also be some guilt there because I know I’ve encouraged her quite a lot, with more limits than her sister had. Yet, breastfeeding isn’t something that can be measured or predicted.

I wonder how both girls will adapt to a new sibling. Attentions already divided will become more so. Already they don’t always get what they want or need. It’s just not possible. I have to trust that what I give will be enough in the long run and appreciate how much they have already gained in each other.

I look at these two, how different they are and how easily I love them both, and wonder what my love will look like when it expands to a third.


Read more updates from this pregnancy with baby number three:
31 weeks pregnant
28 weeks pregnant
25 weeks pregnant
22 weeks pregnant
20 weeks pregnant
18 weeks pregnant
16 weeks pregnant
12 weeks pregnant