31 weeks pregnant – starting the countdown

We’re down to single digits now in terms of weeks. So, on one hand, two months feels like ages but, on the other, that’s quite soon, especially when I pause to consider how much is about to change.

I actually feel pretty amazing compared with my last two pregnancies. In fact, I keep forgetting how pregnant I am until someone mentions that I’m huge. I wind up making plans that seem perfectly reasonable at the time and maybe not so great afterwards.

Because I’m tired. I feel energised and like I can do anything between 8am and 2pm but suddenly this strange, chemical exhaustion sweeps over me from there on.

Still, even with a bit of a stiff and sore pelvic girdle, I’m not in agony changing position in bed and I don’t have to plan going up and down the stairs as carefully as I did by this point last time.

I wonder if part of it is that I just have to get on with things. Or maybe it’s all those postnatal osteopathy sessions from last time. Or maybe it’s that Ophelia is walking a lot more than Talitha was even at months older than she currently is. She’s definitely encouraged by having a big sister but she also just loves to be on the move. Or it could even be that I can drive this time, which means I’m not walking (or running after trains and buses) as much. Pros and cons to that last one.

In some ways I feel healthier in this pregnancy. I’m more aware of what I need to eat to feel good, two kids means I have to keep moving, I’m a lot more disciplined about going to bed on time even if I could be more so and now that the cloud that’s been hanging over me for most of this pregnancy is lifting, I’m able to think more productively and take more action to protect and feed my inner life.

I mentioned being low on iron and deficient in vitamin D in my 28-week pregnancy update. I’ve increased my over-the-counter vitamin D and have made more of an effort work it into what we eat since. We also have had so much more sunshine recently, which has felt glorious. Don’t we all feel differently moving out of winter?

I tried taking the iron prescribed for me by the GP but even though it was a relatively low dosage and a syrup meant to be gentler I just found the side effects too unpleasant so have gone back to taking iron-enriched water and focusing on iron in my diet too. I feel like both changes have had an impact and while I’m still tired, I’m not feeling desperate most of the time.

That said, Laurence is working away in London at the moment. He’s coming back on the weekends and I know it isn’t a lot compared to what many have to cope with but it isn’t our normal and it’s made me realise just how much I rely on being able to just wander into the kitchen on an evening and catch up, having a second pair of hands picking up the house and another nighttime parent for when one of the girls wakes up.

I’m waking up a lot regardless. Baby movements, needing to wee at 3am or just feeling hot, I’ve moved into the stage of pregnancy where my body is getting ready for erratic newborn sleep. Funny how it didn’t occur to me last time that sleeping well during the last trimester indicated that Ophelia was a sleeper.

In fact, I kept waking her every two or three hours after she was born, concerned that she get enough milk (I so didn’t want to have another low milk production situation) until her prodigious weight gain and the fact that she started refusing to wake up to feed stopped and reassured me. Not so with this one. I’m pretty sure this baby is a lot more like her eldest sister in terms of waking. Certainly, she seems the most active of my babies. It’ll be interesting to see what it all means, if anything at all.

We’ve reached a place where we’re fully looking forward to meeting her. In that respect, two months feels a long time to wait. I’ve started imagining holding her, feeding her, wrapping her in a sling, seeing the girls with her, watching Laurence carrying her little body skin-to-skin. He’s said too that he’s excited about her which has been beautiful to hear when it’s taken both of us a while to wrap our heads around the idea of having a third child.

Funnily enough, I now feel like we were always meant to be a family of five. And that we already are.


Read more updates from this pregnancy with baby number three:

28 weeks pregnant
25 weeks pregnant
22 weeks pregnant
20 weeks pregnant
18 weeks pregnant
16 weeks pregnant
12 weeks pregnant

28 weeks pregnant – Hello, third trimester

Somehow I’ve hit 28 weeks pregnant and am in the final trimester.

In some ways, it feels like July is creeping up on me. We still haven’t totally settled on a name. For now, she’s mostly “Butterfly”, the girls’ placeholder choice. We still haven’t made many birth decisions other than that we’re aiming for a second home birth. Twelve-ish weeks seems like such a long time and none at all.

It’s got to the point where I feel like I will never not feel this brand of tired. Thankfully, I remember with Ophelia that pregnancy exhaustion dissipated soon after she was born. It’s not the same as the fog of sleep deprivation – a beast of its own – but rather a strange, overwhelming, chemical experience, coating all of life.

A visit with a GP threw up that I’m a little low on iron and deficient in Vitamin D so I’m hoping that addressing both of those might help with energy levels. Regardless, I’m now managing to push through our days a little more, figuring I might as well if I’m going to be tired anyway.

Today as I wilted into a chair, yawning, Talitha asked: “Mummy, will you be pregnant forever?” Pregnancy must seem endless to her.

Perhaps more than with either of my previous pregnancies, I’ve psychologically needed all these months and need the ones to come. I no longer feel daunted by the idea of what’s ahead but am actively looking forward to growing into a family of five, to meeting this new baby.

I had a midwife appointment on Friday. We confirmed the baby’s position and it was a thrill to know that what I’d figured was accurate. Listening to her heartbeat, strong and clear, was a powerful reminder that she really is here, with me, while I carry her through all the distractions of the day.

She seems to move more than the other two did, often late and night and early in the morning. I’ve started enjoying lying on my side and tuning into her movements in the early mornings before the rest of the family wake up.

28 weeks pregnant - third trimester

My moods have improved quite a lot. It could be the sunshine. It could be that I’m out in the garden with the kids more or that I feel able to walk more now that Ophelia is willing to walk and doesn’t need to be pushed or carried as much. It could be that Laurence has been around a bit more, with work coming in more slowly. It could be that I’m planning ahead more, committing more cautiously and ticking more off my to-do list. Whatever it is, I now feel like I’m coping most of the time, which isn’t something I could have said a few weeks ago.

I’m even looking forward to the birth now. The dread that themed the idea has been replaced mostly by feeling open.

I’m keenly aware that I need to exercise more than I currently am. Not only will I need the fitness for birth but a friend recently reminded me of how important movement in pregnancy is for the baby’s positioning. I also want to get started on listening to the hypnobirthing CD this week and revisiting its concepts. I know these are things I need to do to get ready for the birth but they’re not hanging over me as overwhelming self-imposed obligations.

Mostly, I’m grateful to enter this trimester able to imagine this baby, at last.

25 weeks pregnant – Out of denial

I hit 25 weeks last Saturday and this week has been about getting a couple of big things sorted and seriously getting my head around the fact that we are actually having another baby.

I’ve been anxious about a lot of things lately, both to do with day-to-day living and with the big life change happening this summer when baby number three joins us. Without realising it, I feel tense at the thought of giving birth again.

That really surprised me when I stopped long enough to uncover it. Ophelia’s birth was absolutely amazing. It was a calm, empowering home birth in water.

It was not entirely straightforward, though, as I ended up transferring afterward to have my tear checked and stayed in for observations since I’d been found Group B Strep positive a couple of days before the birth but had decided against antibiotics in labour. I partly comforted myself on the maternity ward, frustrated by being unable to sleep, that at least we wouldn’t have to make difficult decisions around birth again.

But life often doesn’t come neatly packaged and planned. We are doing this again. Just as it did last time, pregnancy is bringing to the surface many feelings not dealt with. Once again, I see the connection between how I approach birth and how I live. Recently, my inner life has been chaotic so it’s not a surprise that I approach the thought of birth with some anxiety.

So I’m looking forward to getting back into hypnobirthing by re-reading Katharine Graves’ book, listening to her CD and practising the scripts in the folder she gave us on the course we did with her three years ago when I was pregnant with Ophelia. We both think the “fear release” script will be particularly good for us to read again.

I’m also getting back to reading the Bible more regularly, talking to God about the stuff that’s tumbling around in my head and just listening. I used to expect these disciplines to be an instant fix – perfect peace on a plate. Sometimes, I still impatiently want this to be the case. Actually, I’m mostly learning to wait, to be quiet, to accept that nothing I’m feeling excludes me from this relationship.

When I admitted to Laurence that I was feeling worried about the birth, he pushed for us to go to the Bristol Home Birth Group meeting on Sunday night. His brother babysat while we went and swapped stories with other couples who’d had babies before, chatted with the midwives volunteering there about birth preferences and even got to unpack bits of our last birth experience that we’d never had the chance to talk about with health care professionals before.

Leaving the meeting, I felt a mix of things. I felt closer to Laurence because we’d opened up about things we’d not had the mental space to discuss. I also felt connected to the women I’d met there and a part of me looked forward to birthing this ever active baby.

I also felt sad about how unsupported I’m feeling with hardly seeing a midwife in this pregnancy and never seeing the same one. I still woke up multiple times that night, worried about the unidentifiable. It occurred to me that part of why I’ve mostly ignored the fact that I’m pregnant is that it’s easier than actually dealing with the things that are bothering me, not all of them even to do with the birth or this baby but brought to the surface now that I feel vulnerable. Yet, these things manifest themselves in other ways, anyway.

I finally went to see the GP this week to rule out physical causes for my constant exhaustion and my low moods. The lab is going to run some tests to check my Vitamin D and iron levels and to make sure I don’t have a bladder infection or diabetes. I am grateful that he took me seriously enough to be willing to offer all this. I’m still trying to decide whether to call someone to discuss talk therapy as a route to explore.

This week, it’s becoming impossible to ignore the fact that I’m pregnant. I can see the baby moving about when I buckle myself in to drive. Talitha and Ophelia keep asking to feel “Butterfly” (their nickname for her while we try to settle on a name) but she helpfully stops moving the moment they put their hands on me – and then they lose patience waiting!

I’ve started to feel pain mostly in my lower back from ligaments relaxing. If we’ve been out and about earlier in the day, I groan my way up and down the steps and shuffle about in the evening. Osteopathy wasn’t going to be on the card this time since money is tight but I’m starting to reconsider it, even if it’s just a session here and there.

Thankfully, Ophelia walks a lot more than Talitha did at this age, though. It makes such a difference not having to lug a toddler around all the time or push a pushchair that often. Talitha has also become really helpful around the house, even taking down the washing from the line the other day.

I think I’m all out of denial that our family is expanding, that this is really happening. I’m also embracing the fact that I don’t know what that’s going to look like. It is different every time. This time the journey isn’t just Laurence’s and mine. This time we get to share it with our two-year-old and “four-and-three-quarter-year-old” (as she likes telling people she is).

And that means that even though there’s a lot of weird stuff I’m dealing with, it is still a whole lot of fun.

25 months pregnant-4

It’s OK not to be OK

I keep finding myself responding to any of the question “How’s the pregnancy going?” with “Fine, thanks. Just tired.” It’s not totally inaccurate.

Even compared to my own two previous pregnancies, I’m physically feeling positively spectacular to the point of sometimes forgetting that I’m even pregnant. That is if you don’t count the fact that I almost always need the toilet and even if you don’t see me making millions of bathroom trips when we’re out and about, you can bet “Need a wee” is there on my mental list of things I’m trying hard to ignore.

When I say “tired”, though, I mean crushingly exhausted. By 2pm most days all I can think of is lying on the sofa and letting the kids do their thing, checking in with me now and then. Any afternoon activity that requires my involvement has become something I will pay for later, usually by needing a 7pm bedtime, which means stuff that needs to get done in the evenings does not get done.

That has a knock on effect with the other thing I’m not saying in “Fine, thanks. Just tired.” I know that I’m a bit depressed. I have been for a while.

Most days involve mustering all of me to get out of bed, stay out of bed, do the basics and try to be present with my kids. It helps that we have commitments to meet with other people most days and even if I don’t talk about what’s going on, the company and the change of scene help.

Heaviness and hurt walk around with me most days, with a little anxiety joining us when I’m not expecting it. I find myself obsessing over every detail of the day when I wake up for the loo in the middle of the night. What happened? What did I get wrong? Why did I say that?

There is actual stuff going on in my life that I can’t talk about here but mostly, I have every reason to be happy. And I am. I enjoy my children and my husband immensely, work has slowed but is still coming in here and there (probably for the best with the lack of time and energy), we are comfortable and I am really looking forward to meeting this baby.

The girls have dubbed her “Butterfly”. “Heh-oh, Buh-fy!” Ophelia says to my tummy, stroking and kissing it. Who could but melt? She really does seem to understand there’s a baby in there now.

On the flip side, I find myself getting needlessly stressed over small day-to-day details, I am irritable with my family, I often feel like I’m not doing anything well, I am not enjoying getting bigger, needing to wee all the time, having little energy, and at 22 weeks pregnant, I’m still scared about what adding another child to this family means.

She is unquestionably wanted but the thought of spreading my resources in yet another direction, of establishing breastfeeding again, of sleepless nights, of coping with my other two children’s changing needs, of helping my Ophelia transition from being the baby of the family, of delaying other things I want to do a bit longer, of the general upheaval that comes with a new baby, of the thousand other things I can’t help worrying about…

No amount of anyone saying, “You’ll be fine” actually sates these thoughts. Because along with some of the perfectly valid stuff on my mind trundles a whole load that doesn’t make any rational sense, not even to me. Yet they are taking up as much space. And that’s probably because I am so often feeling like I’m not coping right now.

At the same time, it’s been difficult to identify for myself that something is up, rather than that I’m just being a bit pathetic. This isn’t like the crushing lows I experienced pre-kids years ago where I was literally out of action and needed to be medicated or else.

I have been depressed at times since having children but I’ve somehow managed, as I am now, to keep going, even if I am operating at a lower level than is normal for me. So, I’ve remained reticent, questioning how bad it has to be before I can call it what I know deep down it still is, depression.

I see the strangeness in being unable to say this face to face yet being willing to speak it into a computer screen, knowing that people who do and don’t know me will read it. It’s been a back and forth debate over whether to talk about it here either.

Anything I write about here opens me up to criticism and well-meaning but sometimes misguided attempts to solve a problem that can’t be solved by someone else. It’s one of the reasons I tend to only blog about the hard bits of parenting through the lens of what I feel I am learning from them or once I’ve reached some sort of resolution I can reflect on.

Yet even though I’m only at the point of knowing that I need to do something, I feel it’s worth sharing in case it helps someone else feel less alone, and that maybe it’s OK to not be OK.

Boy or Girl?

We had our 20-week scan today. Encouraged by friends, we decided to take the girls with us. As we parked, Laurence admitted that he felt nervous, in a good way. I worried last minute that the hospital staff night not be so keen but they were more than welcoming.

This was particularly kind of them because I totally mixed up the times! We were supposed to be there at 11.45am but I wrote down 1pm which is actually the time of my next midwife appointment! Baby brain to the max – is there any hope?

Our sonographer was friendly with us all and even engaged the girls, while still doing all the important bits. Viewing the heart, brain, stomach, vertebrae and all the rest, I held my breath at times, hoping it would be OK and aware that there was a chance it might not be. But it was. Our baby wriggled and waved and kicked the sonographer’s hand away at times. It was all incredible to see. A real baby.

Talitha was spellbound, visibly delighted. I don’t remember the other anomaly scans being quite so clear. Both times I had to take the sonographer’s word for it when she described what was on screen. I was especially glad for the girls’ sake that it was so incredibly clear this time. We got a close up of the nose and lips (checking for cleft lip) and they looked just like Ophelia’s!

Ophelia was quiet but attentive, sitting on her daddy’s lap. I still wasn’t sure how much she understood but she’s been pointing to my tummy and saying “baby” ever since so I think the experience has made an impression on her.

A we left the room, Talitha was quiet. Then she admitted that she was disappointed the baby’s sex wasn’t what she’d expected. As for us, I think we’re both still processing the revelation but we are, of course, delighted. The reality that this is a real, live baby that we’ll be meeting pretty soon is truly setting in. All looked healthy and normal, a relief.

As for the news of whether we’re having a boy or girl, sorry to tease but I’ve put together a little video so the kids can tell you.

18 weeks pregnant – baby number three

I hit 18 weeks last Saturday and the theme of this pregnancy continues: I can’t believe how tired I am. I veer between thinking I probably was just as wiped in my last pregnancy and thinking, I’ve never been this tired in my life. You can tell it’s pretty much always on my mind which probably only serves to make me feel – you guessed it – even more tired.

We hung out with Jess and her kids at National Trust property Tyntesfield last week for the better part of the day and I ended up crashing out on the sofa the moment I got home, going to sleep at 8am and moving at a snail’s pace all of the next day. The same happened after going to the Chinese New Year celebration at Bristol Museum a couple of weekends ago.

I’m accepting that I need to take it easy and plan our days in a way that works for all of us. Thankfully, Laurence has been around quite a bit (the ebb and flow of freelance life), which has made it easier for me to resist pushing through too much.

He’s admitted recently to finding it difficult to connect with the reality that we’re having a baby as he did both times before. I’ve talked about this a bit in my 17 weeks pregnant vlog:

Once we’ve had the second scan next week, I think I’ll feel more prepared to start looking into some of the measures we agreed my help both of us to prepare emotionally like going along to either a Bristol homebirth group or a Positive Birth Movement meeting.

In the meantime, a few practicalities have been sorted. My friend Fritha generously gave me her birth pool and ball as well as some maternity clothes for which I’m so grateful. Not so practical but I’ve bought a couple of fun baby bits (a t-shirt and a cloth nappy) and crocheted a newborn hat. I’ve been trying out my new sewing machine and am looking forward to making some harem pants soon.

A lot more sensibly, we’ve moved the girls into the bigger room that was serving as our guest room. It’s meant we’ve been able to clear space in our room and that’s set me off on a serious decluttering mission. It’s frustrating that I don’t have the energy to do much at a time but gradually the house is feeling far more comfortable. It’s making it possible to imagine a fifth person living here.

I’ve talked about where we are in making mental and physical space for the baby in my 18 weeks pregnant vlog:

My bump has suddenly got a lot bigger and Talitha is giving it lots of attention, asking if the baby can hear us and trying to feel movements. Ophelia seems completely oblivious to any change. In fact, she keeps elbowing or accidentally kicking my bump and demanding that I get in uncomfortable positions at night.

I’ve had to put limits in place with regard to nighttime and she is bit by bit accepting a cuddle from Laurence instead of plastering herself against or on top of me exclusively. I’m definitely in a phase of not loving the bedsharing but it’s still the option that gets us the most sleep at the moment and change is happening. Once we’ve painted and sorted the new guest room, we might look at our sleeping options again.

The “20-week” scan is just a week away, the day after Ophelia’s second birthday. Next week is going to be an exciting week around here!

Sixteen weeks pregnant – all the thoughts and feelings

In some ways I can hardly believe I’m sixteen weeks pregnant now. That’s only four weeks to being half way to my due date (though past experience of having “late” babies means I’m not too focused on a date, anyway).

On the other hand, having found out I was pregnant at just two and a half weeks, it feels like it’s been absolutely ages.

I spent the first trimester wishing the time away because of how yucky I felt. I was exhausted. I could easily sleep the afternoon away, which obviously with a four-year-old and a toddler at home, wasn’t often possible. Nausea struck every evening, often waking me at night along with frequent bathroom trips, the latter a symptom I’d never experienced at this early stage of pregnancy before. It could usually be kept at bay during the daytime if I ate constantly, which I know is quite fortunate though it has meant I’ve gained weight more quickly this time around.

Yet I kept hoping July wouldn’t roll around too quickly because I still hadn’t come to terms with the idea of having a third baby, partly because Ophelia still feels like a baby. My milk quickly dried up, nipples became sore and breastfeeding began to trigger nursing aversion and nausea as they had when I breastfed through my second pregnancy.

Night weaning was far more challenging with Ophelia, which was a surprise though it shouldn’t have been, because she is a different child. Talitha moved into her own bed at two but I think Ophelia, two in February, is unlikely to be leaving our bed anytime soon.

We are still breastfeeding, though, and I will blog about the experience soon because there can always be more stories shared for women considering breastfeeding through pregnancy and tandem breastfeeding.

16 weeks pregnant-2

Now, at sixteen weeks, I’m grateful that nausea has subsided, though it occasionally resurfaces. I’m grateful too to be less tired, though getting struck down by a virus that is either a terrible cold or some form of flu has taken its own toll recently. Thank you, pregnancy immunosuppression. All in all, I’ve come to a point of starting to enjoy the pregnancy more, which is something I can’t take for granted, knowing how many women suffer far worse than I have and sometimes without the support of friends and family that I’ve had.

It’s helped too seeing the scan and being able to imagine a real baby inside there. I can now feel the movements with certainty and imagine another baby snuggled on my chest.

We’ve started working out the practicalities involved, making it easier to imagine a third child in our family. We’ll move the girls into the bigger room to give them more space and so we can put more storage in for the baby’s things and make the tiny box room the guest room for when my parents come from Trinidad to stay. We’ve started vaguely thinking about what we need and want to get for the baby this time around since our terry nappies are worse for wear and we gave away almost everything. We’ve accepted that we can’t afford a bigger car and will have to make our little car work somehow.

All of those things are minor details, though. At some point, I want to start thinking about the birth. After a beautiful, calm, homebirth in water with Ophelia, I’ve been unprepared for the little anxieties that surface when I think about giving birth again. I think it’s partly because there were things that happened that I didn’t fully process because I didn’t really need to. As far as I was expecting, I wasn’t going to do the work of labour and birth again.

So, I’m thinking I need to start practising hypnobirthing again, working on fear release and, of course, praying about it all. I don’t know if that means taking another hypnobirthing class. We’ll see.

Certainly, we’re keen on having a doula again but this is something I keep procrastinating on. There are a few birthy things I’m not going to choose this time but having a doula isn’t among them. Maybe I keep putting it out of my mind because once I started meeting doulas and booking one, I’m admitting that this is all really happening? Maybe there’s still a touch of denial there?

Apparently this baby is the size of an avocado now. Not that that comparison means much to me because it certainly doesn’t refer to the big fleshy fruit I grew up with growing in my mother’s garden. Even if I imagine the tinest UK supermarket avocado, though, I’m amazed at how quickly life can change.