Yes, I know… I haven’t been blogging for almost a month now. February just flew by! I was house-hunting (to no avail), preparing for Baby G’s arrival (that is, setting up the nursery in my tiny little apartment, shopping for last minute essentials, learning how to use the pram, car seat, etc, etc…). I thought I’d write something before the end of February or by the first week of March at the latest – after all, Baby G wasn’t due until 17 March! Little did I know the little angel decided to come early! It’s a good thing of course – I couldn’t wait to meet her, and I was already pretty bored with being pregnant. In fact, I made many attempts to induce labour naturally at home – I increased my raspberry tea leaf intake, I stayed active and did a lot of things around the house (hey, I heard gravity helps), I ate a lot of spicy food, and of course, I had sex. The day before my waters broke, I actually did all of those (including taking a nice long walk in the neighbourhood)… I guess, something must have kicked start the whole process.
Anyway, I was 37+1 when my waters broke in the early morning of 2 March 2015. There was no sign of labour, but I was advised by the Birth Centre to come in and get my pregnancy and baby’s health assessed. Everything was well and I was told that I should go into labour spontaneously within the next 24 to 48 hours. If I didn’t, I had the option to get an induction to ‘jump start’ labour. Obviously, I didn’t want to have to do that… I wanted everything to happen naturally and I wanted to give birth at the Birth Centre and not the Labour Ward! So I did everything I could that day to get my contractions starting – I walked around, I vacuumed, I bounced on my gym ball, etc, etc… and it worked (or maybe it was just a coincidence… but who cares)… I felt my first contraction at around 10pm (nearly 16 hours after my waters broke). It felt like cramps but more painful than your usual cramps – I remember telling my husband “this is bad” (although, looking back, it was actually very mild in comparison to the contractions I was getting at the ‘active labour‘ stage (that’s when your cervix begins to dilate more rapidly and contractions are longer, stronger and closer together)). My husband was a dear; he’s got this ‘contractions app’ on his phone, which I personally think helped us a lot in keeping track on how my labour was progressing. We called the Birth Centre at around midnight when I was having a 1 in 5/6 (that is, 1 contraction in 5 or 6 minutes) and was told to come in when I had a 1 in 2/3. That happened around 2am and by 2.30am, we were booked into our room.
My labour progressed very quickly. I’m guessing within an hour of being booked into our room, I went into ‘active labour‘. The pain was excruciating! It’s nothing like I’ve ever felt before! And the contractions were so close together I didn’t have time to catch my breath! I asked for painkillers and was put on Gas and Air (a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide gas)… it helped regulate my breathing but no, it didn’t take the pain away! So I asked for my birthing pool to be filled up – the warm water helped for a while, but it didn’t last. Towards the end (that is, during the ‘transition and second stage of labour‘) nothing helped! That was when I screamed for Epidural. I had to be transferred to the Labour Ward if I really wanted one, but I remember screaming “I don’t care, I want an Epidural!” But, I was actually already in the ‘pushing’ stage, so really, there was no point of getting an Epidural… I couldn’t at that stage have gotten out of the pool anyway. So I just got on with it… throughout the entire process, I somehow was able to remember everything I learnt from my antenatal classes with the NHS (not with the NCT!) and as a result, I was able to give birth to Baby G at exactly 6.49am without any assistance, interventions and drugs to help with the pain. I had a straightforward tear which required minor stitches, but again, I didn’t need any drugs to help with the pain and was able to move about the same day.
So, everything was over in 8-9 hours… not bad for a first timer, huh? And by the way, I didn’t have a Birth Plan written out – I personally think it’s overrated. The things that really helped me out throughout the entire process are: the NHS antenatal classes (especially the session on what to do and how to push during labour), hydrotherapy (seriously, water birth is amazing and I highly recommended it), the environment at the Birth Centre, the brilliant midwives at Lewisham Hospital, and of course, my dearest husband who’s been nothing but great the entire time.
Baby G was 38 weeks when she was born and she weighed 2.8kg. She’s my little angel who completes my life.
If you’ve been following my blog, you’d know that I haven’t been impressed with the NCT antenatal classes so far (if you don’t know why, please do read my posts on what we did in the first and second sessions). Last week, my husband and I attended our third session, and again, we were disappointed. Honestly, we haven’t learnt anything at all. We talked about skipping the last 2 sessions, but when we thought about how much they cost (£200 for 5 sessions), we were like, “never mind, let’s just go”. That is until we attended one of the NHS antenatal classes, which made us realised that the NCT ones are a complete waste of time and money! I wish I had known better – I would have just gone to the NHS ones right from the start! I mean, we’ve only gone to one so far and already we’re finding it very informative, practical and useful.
Anyway, in the first session, we learnt about natural and uncomplicated labour (so things like: what are the signs of labour, how do midwives measure dilation, how will the baby descend, how and when to push, what can we expect after delivery, etc etc). There’ll be 2 more classes after this, which we will of course attend – in the second session, we’ll learn about painkillers and complicated labour (so things like: breech babies, inducement, assisted delivery (including c-section), episiotomy, and we’ll even be shown the ‘tools’ used in assisted births (forceps, ventouse, etc) – which I think will be very interesting); and in the third session, we’ll learn about breastfeeding. I can’t recommend these classes highly enough; I think they really prepare you for childbirth and beyond (unlike the NCT-run classes!). Plus they’re free and are actually taught by a midwife who will be able answer all of your questions (again, unlike the NCT-run classes!). So yeah, if you’re pregnant, do find out about the antenatal classes that are available at your local hospital. Even if you’re not convinced and prefer to pay for the NCT ones, you should still attend at least one of the NHS classes – it’s free anyway so you’ve got nothing to lose.
“You’ve survived the first trimester! Congratulations! But there’s still plenty to do before your baby arrives. Here’s a checklist to help you get organised.”
1. Keep taking your daily folic acid (400mcg) and calcium (10mcg) supplement
I’ve talked about the importance of taking these supplements before (see my post “Looking back at the first trimester“), so I’m not going to repeat it here. But I’d like to reiterate that if you’re like me and you can’t be bothered with buying different supplements separately, you can always take an all-in-one pregnancy tablet (such as Pregnacare) which contains all the vitamins your body needs. I just find it so much easier.
2. Keep going to your antenatal appointments with your midwife
If this is your first pregnancy, you’ll have 3 antenatal appointments during your second trimester (one at 16 weeks, another one at 25 weeks and the last one at 28 weeks); otherwise, you’ll have 2 at 16 weeks and 28 weeks. Your midwife will test your urine sample for protein, check your baby’s heartbeat, bump size and your blood pressure at every appointment, and at your 28 weeks appointment, she’ll also take your blood sample. They’re all pretty routine really and each appointment lasts about 40 minutes or so (depending on whether you have a lot of questions to ask or not).
3. Go to your anomaly scan appointment
This is a detailed scan, which checks how your baby is growing and for physical abnormalities in your baby. This is also the scan at which you’ll be able to find out the sex of your baby (if you want to, of course). It’s supposed to last about 20 minutes, but mine took almost an hour because my baby just refused to move so the sonographer couldn’t check everything properly the first time. I had to move around, jump up and down to encourage my baby to change position. Luckily, she did; otherwise, I’d have to come back for another scan and that would be a pain. As with your dating scan, don’t forget to bring some change if you want to buy photos of your baby.
4. It’s probably time to break the news to friends and family
At the end of the day, this is your pregnancy, so you should have the ultimate control as to when to tell your family and friends and how to go about it. My husband and I did it in stages – we told our family after my first scan and we started telling our close friends when I was in my second trimester. But that’s about it; I suppose, we’ll tell more people after the baby’s here.
5. Keep yourself active, healthy and comfortable
Basically… watch what you eat, listen to your body, take extra care when taking any medicine (check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist if you’re not sure), exercise, get enough rest, etc, etc. I’ve written about this in my post “Looking back at the first trimester“, because, well, you should start doing all the above right from the start anyway and continue to do so throughout your pregnancy.
6. If you haven’t already, start organising your finances and prepare for your new arrival
Again, this is something that I think you should look at from as early as possible, especially if you want to get your hands on amazing bargains. So, if you haven’t done so, make a checklist of what you need for your baby and slowly buy them when you spot a good price. My husband and I managed to save more than £1000 just by being organised. If you’re interested to know how we did it, read my post “For all those bargain and freebies hunters out there“. While you’re at it, don’t forget to think about insurance, childcare, benefits, etc. On that note, you might also be interested in “From bump to baby: understanding your benefits entitlement and financial options“.
7. Go for a holiday
You and your partner might not get the chance to go on a holiday alone together for a while after your baby is born. For most couple, the second trimester is the perfect time to book a vacation – you’re not feeling as sick and tired as you were in your first trimester and you’re also not feeling the strain of being heavily pregnant yet. My husband and I went to Tenerife for a week when I was 28 weeks pregnant – it was perfect, it was a beach holiday, so I was able to relax and it’s nice to be able to get some sunshine when it’s freezing in London. If you’re flying, remember to get a letter from your midwife stating that you’re fit to fly. I didn’t have to show mine but it’s good to have it with you just in case.
8. Start shopping for maternity clothes (if you need to)
I didn’t. I’m now 33 weeks pregnant and I’m still wearing my normal clothes. I just stay away from jeans, tight-fitting skirts, etc, and embrace leggings, loose dresses and jumpers. I personally think that if you choose your clothing smartly, you can get away from not having to spend money on maternity wear. My post “Style bible: ‘non-maternity maternity’ wear” should give you some ideas on how to choose what I like to call ‘double-function’ pieces.
9. Decide which antenatal classes you’d like to go to and book your place
The free NHS-run classes or the pretty expensive NCT-run classes or both – the choice is yours. I signed up for the NCT-run classes and paid £190 for 5x 2 hours classes. Why? Because I read and heard that they’re much better than the NHS-run ones. Unfortunately, I was wrong. In my opinion, they’re just not worth the hefty price tag. You can read all about it here and here… the classes are not finished yet, but I’ve come to terms that I will not learn anything from them. I’m utterly disappointed – I’ve attended 3 classes, that’s 6 hours, and I think it’s worth 10 minutes on google. So if you asked me, I’d say, go to the free ones and google everything else. And of course, bring your partner along to the antenatal classes.
10. Start thinking about your maternity leave, benefits and entitlements
Remember that you have to tell your boss that you’re pregnant by the 15th week before your baby’s due date and you also have to tell your boss in writing the date you propose to go on maternity leave. If you’re not entitled to receive statutory maternity pay, you may be able to apply for maternity allowance, and there also other benefits that you may be entitled to depending on your circumstances. So it’s a good time to start sorting these out and don’t wait until the last minute.
So, my husband and I had our second NCT antenatal class this week. You already know that we didn’t find our first session particularly useful, but we were willing to cut it some slack because it was the first class so it was kind of like an introductory session. I thought that the second one was definitely going to be better. Unfortunately, I was wrong. For me, it was a complete and utter waste of money and time (but mostly money). My husband didn’t enjoy it either. For 2 hours, we were split into small groups of 4 or 5 and asked to discuss among ourselves things like: what does it mean for us to be parents, what kind of parents do we want to be, what kind of things we think our baby would inherit from us, who does what at home at the moment and how do we think that’s going to change once the baby’s arrived, etc, etc… I mean, seriously? We paid £200 for this? Our trainer probably wanted us to bond with other prospective parents and what she asked us to do was a good bonding exercise – there’s no argument about that, but I just think that we could talk about these things ourselves outside the class over coffees or something (if we want to). What I expect out of a pretty pricey antenatal class is lots of useful and practical information that’s going to help me get through labour and birth and care for the baby. Leave ‘bonding with other couples’ out of it – we’re all adults, we’re all capable of talking to each other and staying in touch ourselves (again, if we want to); it doesn’t have to be forced on us. The trainer should have done most of the talking in class, not us. Anyway, we learnt nothing about labour, birth and baby care so far. And I thought that antenatal classes are supposed to shed some lights on these things. Oh well, we’ll see what happens in the third session.
Last week, my husband and I attended our first NCT antenatal class. NCT classes are supposed to be the queen of all antenatal classes. At least, that’s what people say online and offline. They say that NCT classes are typically smaller, so it’s easier to meet prospective parents in your area, and they’re also very informative. So despite the hefty price tag (we paid £190 for 5 sessions), we chose them over NHS. Are they worth it? Well, it’s too early to tell – if it was only based on the first session, I would say no, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and see if they get better.
We started our first session by introducing ourselves. I think that’s pretty normal, but then we were asked to introduce someone else (anyone except our own partner) to the group. I get it that the trainer probably wanted us to mingle a little bit, but it kind of reminded me of school and the whole introduction thing took more than 30 minutes. I personally think that it wasn’t necessary. She then went on to explain what happens during labour – the three stages of labour, how to recognise that you’re in labour, how to count your contractions, when to call the delivery suite, when to go to the hospital, etc. Now that’s useful and I actually took a lot of notes (so did my husband). Unfortunately, the usefulness of the session stopped there. We then took 15 minutes break and when we came back, again we were asked to talk to other couples – this time, it was about our hopes and worries, and about baby names (whether or not we’ve chosen one; if yes, how did we go about it; if no, why not… what’s the problem, etc). The session then closed with a 5-minute breathing exercise and that’s it.
So, in a nutshell, out the 2-hour session, we got: 45 minutes of introduction, 30 minutes of useful information about labour, 15 minutes break, 25 minutes of ‘sharing session’ and 5 minutes of breathing exercise. Was it worth £38? Honestly, no! But let’s see what happens this week.