35 Weeks Pregnant – the Toddler, the Baby and Me

I saw this model of an eight-month-old fetus at AtBristol Science Centre last week. Jess from Along Came Cherry and I took our kids there for a Toddler Takeover and we both reckon this baby looks huge for that gestation! I couldn’t believe how heavy the 9-monther was. Not that I even understand pregnancy in terms of months, really.

Talitha’s conversations with the baby are becoming more elaborate now. She tells her what she’s doing. She’s even started – occasionally – using her name. She’ll say things like: “I’m splashing in my bath, —” or “I will wash your hair when you come out, —“. The latter isn’t that affectionate, really. Talitha hates having her own hair washed! Today she brushed her hair then brushed my tummy, telling me that she was brushing her sister’s hair. She thinks it’s funny that the baby is upside down. “I want to be upside down in your tummy with —,” she says. I remind her that she was in there when she was a baby. We frequently look at her little book of baby pictures. I really hope that I can continue to make her feel as loved as she does right now while giving this baby all the attention needed.

AtBristol Toddler Takeover

I’m waking up a lot at night now. It’s bizarre how that happens in the last stretch. Just when your body should be storing up sleep, it decides you should learn the daytime-zombie-nighttime-live-wire pattern instead. Or at least my body does. I remember having a bit of pregnancy insomnia in the last trimester last time around too. On the upside, I’m getting lots of practice listening, breathing and relaxing to the Colour and Calmness CD from KG Hypnobirthing.

The nesting instinct has kicked in, in a big way. I’m organising all of our things, working my way through the bedrooms and the playroom trying to get every thing as sorted as possible so I’m not hating myself hunting for things when everything goes mad. It’s strange how I didn’t really experience this with Talitha. I was excited about getting her baby things but I felt little impetus to sort the house, whereas it’s such a strong instinct now.

I’m going through a mental nesting period as well, flying through books about birth and parenting, some new, some old. I can’t remember when last I read so voraciously. I love that I feel confident enough now to take what I feel fits our family and leave the rest behind.

Toddler Takeover AtBristol

In many ways, that defines my outlook on this new adventure we’re taking. No doubt the transition to life with two children will be unbelievably challenging and of course this baby is a different person altogether, but I don’t feel like I’m venturing out completely into the unknown this time. I’ve done alright these past 31 months. It may not always feel that way but I know, ultimately, it’s true.

This baby may never have my undivided attention the way Talitha has but she’ll no doubt have a mother who knows a bit more about what she’s doing.

All photos taken at the Toddler Takeover at AtBristol


Pregnancy Tales – Journeys into Parenthood

I just finished quite a fun read, Pregnancy Tales – Journeys into Parenthood, edited by Amy Tilston. I zoomed through it, in fact, as it’s a light and often entertaining read. The book claims to gather together stories of parents telling their stories as they really are. From conception to birth, young mothers to mothers with many years between their children, unplanned pregnancies to long struggles to conceive, a wide range of experiences are told. The book is at times humorous and often heartfelt. I imagine it would make a good gift for a pregnant friend, especially if it’s her first pregnancy.

The stories are told through a cacophony of voices. At times, it’s a bit Mumsnet and, at others, it’s kind of The Vagina Monologues. I admit, I found the use of acronyms a bit distracting though I understood that they’d been retained for authenticity and there were a few typos here and there. Overall, though, I felt like I was in a room with those women, listening to their stories. There was something quite enjoyable about that. I would have liked for the book to have included more of the longer stories, where we got to stay with a woman for an extended part of her journey. I was drawn into Kathy’s story of falling pregnant at university and finishing her degree regardless, and found that I would have liked to have stayed even longer with her.

I must admit, too, the birth stories chapter left me a bit sad in the way that watching One Born Every Minute does. There were hardly any stories which weren’t highly medicalised or which featured the calm, gentle births I believe women can have. I understand that all the mothers were just speaking from their experience and telling it like it is but as someone who is preparing to do it again and doesn’t believe it has to be that way, I’m not sure I want to read this right now. It’s great to hear that women can get through just about anything but it would also be great to hear more stories where they didn’t have to.

Pregnancy Tales ends with some final thoughts from a second time mother, which for me, provided the greatest gem in the book since I’ll be doing the newborn thing while doing the toddler thing. Rachel writes: “First: being a mum is a noble task. But that task is made up of hundreds of menial tasks. The challenge is not to mistake menial as meaningless.”

On the whole, I think the book encourages women to talk about life-changing experiences that others may not consider so important and that’s pretty valuable in itself. Pregnancy and birth connect us to other pregnant and birthing women as a universal experience. And we are not alone. We never have been.

Over to you – how much would you have liked to have heard (or would you like to hear) about pregnancy and birth beforehand?


34 Weeks Pregnant – Heavy and Happy

After spending so much of this pregnancy saying that I’m not thinking about it much, it’s as if in this last stretch – especially with Christmas out of the way – something has clicked. It’s suddenly so real. I’m enjoying playing with little feet as they kick through my skin. It’s a familiar feeling yet so different.

It’s becoming natural to talk to this baby – something which came much easier to two-year-old Talitha than to me. She takes many opportunities when we are alone to kiss my tummy and say: “Hello, baby. Having a nice day?” We’ve told her the name many times now and she’ll repeat it but the baby is just “baby” to her and if anyone asks, she still says her name is Sally. It’s still not.

Toddler honeymoon

We’re in a kind of one-child-honeymoon, Talitha and I. I’m so all-encompassingly in love with her at the moment. Delight is probably the word for it. I wonder if it’s because I subconsciously know I need to drink in these last days weeks of just us that I’m enjoying our days together so completely.

A mix of feelings lingers there. I know that the changes the new baby brings to all our relationships are normal and good. Yet change always brings with it a measure of uncertainty. While knowing I will have enough love for both children, I expect that there will be a time of navigation or of finding balance. New babies need so much but my older child still needs me too. At times, I feel nervous about this. What will sleep deprivation be like? What will breastfeeding be like? There’s no way of knowing ahead of time.

Positive vibes

On the whole, I’m feeling confident about it all. Laurence and I both are. We went to a Positive Birth Movement meeting on Wednesday. It was great being around other expecting couples, hearing positive birth stories and spending time chatting about birth in an atmosphere of calm. We didn’t come away with anything particularly new to us but it provided another opportunity for us to go away and talk about what’s coming ahead. We both feel really good about this upcoming birth, which is exactly where we need to be right now.

We’re practising with KG Hypnobirthing breathing and visualisation scripts most days. We go to sleep with the CD each night. It’s become a running joke that Laurence falls asleep within a couple of lines of birth affirmations. I listen to the rest with his snoring in accompaniment. We laugh that he’ll probably conk out during labour, which will probably do him some good!

I need to get more serious about doing my pelvic floor exercises. I’ve put little signs in different parts of the house to remind (and motivate!) me to do them. Perineum stretches start this week too to try to avoid tearing this time. Oh, to think there was a time when I didn’t know what either of these things were!

34 weeks pregnant

Living large

In general, I’m physically more aware of being pregnant now because of how heavy I am now. I’m finally experiencing some pelvic pain – unsurprising since all the ligaments are softening in preparation for birth. I’m booking in for another osteopathy appointment as that’s worked so well for me so far. The discomfort is still nowhere near as severe as it was in my last pregnancy. I’m still out and about, and I’m not having to exercise caution when turning over in bed.

I am, however, finding I have to be a lot more sensitive about how I bend, how much we do during the day and how heavy the things I lift are. Unfortunately, this means I can’t lift Talitha very much. She’s mostly accepted this though she does sometimes still ask me to carry her up or down the stairs. Maybe she’s checking whether I’ll change my mind. It’s become annoying with playgrounds so I’ll have to start taking her only to ones where she can use the equipment independently.

I’m also getting more and more tired, which is expected toward the end. We do a combination of retreating to one of the beds with some books for cat naps and a calm DVD on the sofa if I need more time. Talitha doesn’t nap anymore (alas!) but she’s beginning to understand how much I need rest because she’ll often give me a searching look and ask if I’m tired!

Anaemic?

It’s been said that I’m borderline anaemic by the midwife I saw this week. Another earlier said that my haemoglobins are within the normal range but low. They’re both looking at the same blood test results, so I’m trying to make up my mind about what to do. When I was feeling faint, having mini-blackouts and feeling short of breath, I massively upped my iron intake. I cut down on caffeine (I’ve cut it out completely now), paid closer attention to eating lots of Vitamin C and iron-rich foods, started drinking nettle tea and added Spatone (iron-rich water) to my supplements. It apparently takes weeks (sometimes months) for your iron stores to rebuild, though, so there’s no way of knowing if that’s been enough.

I’m feeling a lot better on the whole though – just really tired, which isn’t necessarily out of the ordinary for 34 weeks. I’ve also read that it’s normal for your iron levels to be lower in pregnancy due to haemodilution – another way the body prepares for birth. So, I’m weighing it all up and deciding whether to take the iron supplements my GP is prescribing me. I’ve refused ferrous sulphate tablets as I had hideous side effects with them last time and am not convinced, looking at the research, that they do the body much good at all. They’ve instead prescribed ferrous gluconate which is supposed to be a bit kinder. I just need to read around and think about this a bit more, really.

34 weeks pregnant with toddler kissing tummy

Birth plans

On a brighter note, I’ve written the birth plan (or birth preferences, rather). Laurence is designing it up so it’s a bit clearer and looks like something my care providers will want to read. It’s been a different process this time around. I’ve not bothered with obvious minutiae like “no epidural” but, rather, asked not to be offered pain relief medication and said that I’ll ask for it if I need it. I’ve also made it clear that we are using hypnobirthing techniques, asking that the word “pain” be avoided. I may share it here at some point. We’ll see.

It was lovely to have our doula over yesterday to go through the birth plan and to discuss hypnobirthing too. She has lots of good ideas and is generally a reassuring presence. We feel very clear about what needs to happen in practical terms for the home birth. We’ll next see her at February’s Positive Birth Movement meeting then at the birth!

Nesting is kicking in a bit with furniture being moved around, clothes sorted, books read. I always feel better getting things done. I’m also going to bed a lot earlier than usual so I can spend some time reading the Bible and praying before going to sleep. All in all, it’s a happy time. How amazing it would be if we could stay in this place for the next 6-8 weeks!


31 Weeks Pregnant – On growing a baby over Christmas

I printed off a free 2014 calendar the other day and wrote in the pregnancy weeks as I keep finding myself making plans for next year and struggling to figure out how pregnant I’ll be by then.

Then I worked out that by the time I’m in a place to focus on getting things ready for the new baby (or rather, before the new baby, since she herself doesn’t need much) I’ll be 34 weeks pregnant. I’m almost expecting to go to 42 weeks so that makes it 8 weeks from then, less than 11 weeks from now.

I’m really glad I’ve not had too much time to overthink things but I’m also becoming conscious that there are things I need or want to sort out in that short time – shorter because life with a toddler carries on.

Activity Advent Calendar

But there’s no time to think about it now. We’ve had a wonderfully busy Advent, doing most of the things I hoped we’d do. Talitha has loved her activity Advent calendar and asks for it every day.

It’s got us to decorate far more creatively than I would have done otherwise and to get the cooking done mostly on time. I’ve started showing her that it’s almost done (ours finishes tomorrow).

White clay ornaments - moose

We’ve been talking a lot about Jesus, his birth and why we celebrate Christmas. She dressed up as a bear for the church Nativity on Sunday but refused to go on stage (as I suspected she would). Dressing up was fun for her though.

She also met Santa Claus at a toddler group and she stayed as far away as possible until he offered her a present. She reluctantly went up to get it from him and mumble: “Yank you.”

We even went to Westonbirt Arboretum for their Enchanted Christmas which was absolutely beautiful and though I got unduly grumpy about our party getting split up, I’m really glad we went.

Iced Trinidad Black Christmas Cake

I was a little worried that the Christmas season might lose its momentum with so much planned and from so early. I did have a sense of humour failure a couple of times when I’d stayed up too late. I pretty much said Christmas could do one next year.

That was a mixture of pregnancy exhaustion and having the cold (ill for the 3rd time this month!) talking and, in reality, I don’t need to do anything I don’t want to do. It’s remembering that. It’s not exactly as if anyone is honoured by me cussing over icing a Christmas cake, after all.

And if life is a bit overwhelming next year with a 9/10 month old and a 3.5 year old, well, we’ll just do it all more simply. Hopefully I’ll remember I said that and just buy the damn gluten and dairy free Christmas pudding.

Gluten free dairy free Christmas pudding

We had a real stress out over the tree this weekend when we realised it needed to change pot as it wasn’t taking up water properly. Laurence ended up having to hack off branches and go get a big pot with sand at B&Q. We even ended up moving the tree to another corner of the room. The whole thing was enough for me to swear we were going for a fake tree next year and for him to almost agree (he’s a die hard real tree guy).

In the end, it looks SO much nicer than it did before and we’ve even ended up using the branches to line the stair case. But, it did give me the reality check that children don’t need this big fancy tree. They don’t need a tree at all and, actually, one of the tiny £5 trees we’ve seen on sale would probably do just as nicely!

Stair case decorated with holly, tree branches and orange slices

Something I’ve been struck with in all this Christmassing is that while I’ve finally got it into my head that our baby is already with us and that we are welcoming a whole new person into our lives, it isn’t as real to Laurence yet. It probably won’t be until the birth.

He keeps referring to the future, talking about our child rather than children and is surprised whenever he feels the baby’s strong wriggling. It seems weird that Talitha’s always thinking about it. Now that I can feel lots of movements and sometimes even see my bump moving, I’m really conscious of the baby coming too. Yet, he’s not there yet. Not that he’s bothered, mind, but it’s like the three of us (me and my babies) have this little secret club that we’re just waiting to invite Daddy to.

Christmas card display

Every time Talitha asks for “milky” she takes a moment to talk to the baby and asks when she can see her. She tells the baby that she’ll have lots of milky when she comes out. My colostrum has come in fully on both sides now, which makes it more comfortable to breastfeed but I still find it irritating so I limit Talitha, which she’s fine with. Oddly, she’s started telling me that milky is a bit yucky. She’s becoming a bit more take-it-or-leave-it about the whole thing too. To know what she’s thinking about it!

Our Christmas tree

Maybe the New Year will make the life change seem more real to all of us. And maybe we’ll get stuff done before the baby comes. Or maybe we’ll decide that, just as with all this Christmas prep, quite a lot of it is unimportant after all.


30 Weeks Pregnant – Fainty Whale

Like lots of things in this pregnancy, the baby bump crept up on me. I feel like it’s happened overnight. One day, I was my usual size and the next, it was all pregnant woman ahoy! In fact, I still think of my body as being, well, unpregnant. In my mind’s eye, my waistline is still in tact. Then I bend to tie my shoe laces or reach across a table for something and can’t understand why it’s so difficult to reach. I pull up my jeans and wonder why they won’t pass my thighs. I’m betrayed by jumpers that won’t cover my tummy. Even when I remember there’s a bump, my subconscious assumes that all the other bits of me have remained the same (they haven’t). So, looking in the mirror is a slightly disorienting experience.

In contrast, I was so amazed and absorbed with every change in my last pregnancy that I distinctly remember noticing every change. I guess it didn’t help that I had pelvic pain and other discomforts. And that’s another testament to how much better I’ve felt this time around. I don’t feel like I’m lumbering. I mostly don’t waddle unless I’ve overdone it earlier in the day. I’m probably also just too busy with my toddler to notice – this seems the ongoing theme.

Yet, when I do take a moment, I’m hit with how incredible it is that so much change has taken place in so short a time. The baby is incredibly active now. Many days I can actually see my bump moving and she scrambles about. Talitha has even felt her move – though she’s not overly keen when I offer for her to put her hand on my belly. Maybe she thinks it’s a bit weird really. It is, kind of. So random that a whole, busy person has grown so much inside me in the space of a few weeks.

30 week pregnant

This is definitely something I didn’t appreciate last time. Last time, I thought pregnancy took such a long time. And that made sense – 40 weeks gave enough time to change your life and get used to the idea. This time, I feel a little ill-prepared. On one hand, I’ve lots of clothes but they need sorting, lots of nappies but I haven’t decided which to use, thoughts of Elimination Communication but no books read. I’m just relieved we did the KG hypnobirthing course and booked our doula long before Christmas. Otherwise, this bump would make me panic.

A meeting with my doula this morning was good for refocusing a little but I won’t settle a birth plan until early next year. She did help me think about a few things I might want to look into like where different things will be set up in our home, trying frankincense to see whether it’s a scent I might like use in labour, what to tie the cord with (she recommended silk thread – I’ve been thinking for a while about how I want to weave it) and whether to burn the cord instead of cutting. I hadn’t considered that last option before so am going to read around and talk to Laurence about it.

Not so pleasant are the strange mini-blackouts I’ve been getting for the past few weeks. Out of nowhere the lights and sounds go. I sit as it’s happening and wait for them to come back. They quickly do but it’s not a welcome experience. Thankfully, Talitha doesn’t seem phased. Annoyingly, there doesn’t seem a medical reason for it. My blood pressure is fine and though my iron is on the lower end, I’m not anaemic (though, man, I really feel like I am – it would explain the exhaustion). So, I’m upping my iron and Vitamin C and trying to be sane about what I do to my body. A couple of nights ago I got the most painful leg cramp I’ve ever had. Breathing through it, I thought: I’d forgot about these! So it’s time to up the water intake as well.

My hormones are still all over the place so it’s a mixed blessing that I’ve had Christmas to focus on. A blessing because it’s helped me distance some other stuff going on that I’m upset about but can’t really do much about at the moment but mixed because I got disproportionately grumpy last night about Laurence having drunk the cider I’d bought to make mincemeat with. As it turns out, I found a much better recipe that doesn’t need it so, crisis averted – but that is was a crisis in the first place I can only blame on pregnant/festive insanity.

All in all, I’m looking gratefully and expectantly toward Christmas as I pat this bump, this pleasant surprise. I’m grateful and surprised that my baby grew inside me without me willing her to, without me even looking.

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To see this new baby with the simplicity of a child – There’s a House Inside My Mummy

I started writing a 28 weeks pregnancy update instead of this post but I’m still feeling pretty much as I did last week, swinging between extremes with irrational lows. It doesn’t hugely make sense to dwell on that so I’ve instead been busying myself and accepting that getting to the point where I feel balanced against is probably more of a journey than a quick fix thing and that’s OK.

I let a stranger pray for me yesterday which isn’t something I often do. I don’t feel comfortable being that vulnerable with people I don’t know. I meant to ask for prayer about a big practical decision I was making but instead ended up blurting that I hate what my pregnancy hormones are doing to my mind at the moment. That really surprised me but then I was thrown off even more by her not praying so much about my pregnancy but about the baby and my relationship with this baby.

It made me realise that as much as I’m still prone to forgetting that I’m pregnant, I’m even more likely not to focus on this baby. I think of her in terms of how this pregnancy is affecting me or how her existence will affect my toddler. I forget that she is here with me in the same way that Talitha was. I know I love her already and that when she’s born, my heart will inexplicably expand to encompass her. But right now, I guess I’m just not giving myself the space to think about it.

There's house inside my mummy

It continues to amaze me how much Talitha thinks about it. Where I see a bump, she’s always talking about my baby. She always has an opinion on what the baby is doing and what the baby is going to do when she comes out. We just got our birth pool back from a cousin who borrowed it for her home birth and Talitha is intrigued that the baby may be going swimming first thing.

I wonder whether what I need to do is allow myself to think about the baby in the way she does. We’ve been reading a book called There’s A House Inside My Mummy that’s so “on it”, practically every mother with more than one child asks me if we have it. It’s that well suited to preparing a toddler for a new baby.

As we look through its pages, Talitha wants to know all about what’s happening with the baby. She’s taken now to telling me whenever I’m eating something that the baby is having some too.

Getting both of us ready - There's a House Inside my Mummy

She often insists that we have baths together because that’s what the mother in child are doing in the book. When we do, she talks to my belly. She tells the baby what she’s doing and asks the baby about what the baby did today. It’s all so natural. It’s all so funny!

To see this baby with your simplicity - there's a house inside my mummy

She even lists the things she’ll show the baby how to play with when the baby’s out – let’s see how well that actually works!

And she practical squeals with delight at the last page when the baby is out and in arms, a reality for all to see.

I so want to embrace all of this with her simplicity.

For the toddler having a new baby - There's a house inside my mummy

”books”


27 Weeks Pregnant – Exhaustion and Self-Doubt

It seems my pregnant body is being very text book about things. Whereas I felt pretty rubbish inside and out almost the entire time I carried Talitha (from morning sickness to pelvic pain to anxiety) this time around I experienced an incredible lift almost as soon as I’d entered the second trimester. I had more energy and felt stronger than even before I’d conceived. There’s been little discomfort and virtually no pain, which I thank osteopathy for. I felt limitless, joyful, productive, incredibly alive. Much of the time, I kept forgetting that I was pregnant. My skin and hair hadn’t cottoned on that they should be glowing (both have got a bit ratty in this pregnancy) but I finally understood why people call this trimester the best portion of the pregnancy.

Moving into the third trimester, though, feels like I’m being dropped from a great height. It’s as if the same hormones that fuelled feelings of power and elation have turned on me. The exhaustion of the first trimester has returned, except my two-and-half-year-old no longer naps. I suddenly feel fragile. Carrying her up and down the stairs winds me. I’m having to insist that she walk more. I am suddenly conscious of where my belly is. If something startles me in the street, I instinctively grab both Talitha’s hand and my bump. Bending down for things is already getting annoying. But these are all just little things.

Without warning, I have become quick to despair. A simple driving error leaves me crying over the wheel in a parking lot, having taken the irrational leap from “I made a mistake and no one got hurt” to “I can’t do anything. Maybe you would all be better off without me.” All my senses are heightened. All the colours in my world are bright, deep, bold, almost unbearable. When the house is messy, I see failure. I’m not organised enough. She’s growing up in chaos. When my child is bored, I see failure. A better mother would have plans, would create a richer environment. When I look at our bank accounts, I see failure. I should be contributing more. If one of my friends told me that this is what she saw when she looked at herself, failure, I would be quick to tell her what I see, what I’m sure her family sees. I’m even capable of viewing myself with this objectivity. Yet, too often, I feel paralysed by this self-doubt. It all depends on which colour is burning most brightly at the given moment.

27 weeks pregnant

It doesn’t fix things to be told that you’re doing OK (though I do need to hear it) when you just can’t believe it right now. I’ve wondered what would help. An unexpected answer came to me this morning: “You are a failure. That’s OK.” I’ve been busy making plans over the Christmas season. The gift list is set, the cards bought, the calendar is being booked, our Advent plans are in place. Without meaning to – in fact, in spite of insisting that I wouldn’t – I’ve let a sanitised, gutted version of the Christmas message prevail in my imagination. It’s one where angels are cute, baby-like creatures whom no one would fear and where the season’s focus is to have as nice a time as possible, sprinkled with nice words that have been repeated so many times we’ve forgotten what they really mean. Words like “peace”, “hope” and “love”. I know you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this so please bear with me.

It suddenly hit me this morning that the event we’re preparing to celebrate is far removed from all of this. That God is not in the habit of choosing perfect people and ideal situations. That Jesus was conceived under embarrassing circumstances and born into an environment of poverty, violence and scandal. That if God could choose Mary, He could choose me. That I don’t need to be perfect, to tick every box in my to-do list, to even be sorted in order to be enough.

That doesn’t mean I won’t despair some time tomorrow. But, hopefully, it gives me yet another reminder that I don’t need to stay there.