Monday, 22 July 2013

going into labour - 5 things I know now

As the Duchess of Cambridge (in labour as I write) could no doubt tell you, as you come to the end of your pregnancy, you are both looking forward to, and dreading, going into labour.

My littlest (and last) child has just turned three, and I'm doing a little series to mark the event, talking about pregnancy, birth, babies, and toddlers.  This is my second instalment, on going into labour.

5 things I now know about going into labour

1 - It might never happen

The due date is just a guide to let you know when your baby is fully cooked.  The chance of actually going into labour on your due date is very slim.  Once you've got to about 37 weeks your baby is likely to be fully cooked, so it's not considered premature labour after that.  Some people do have their baby early (I had one at 38 weeks, which was great for me), but most are late.  Which is rubbish.  The longer past your due date you go the more hippo-like you feel, the more time you have to worry about things, the more people come and ask you if you're still pregnant (please tell them you're not - it's funny), and the more doctors and midwives talk about induction and caesarians.

If you've opted for a planned caesarian, you've got to hope you won't go into labour.  Planned caesarian's are usually scheduled for before the due date to avoid this happening.

If you get to about 42 weeks, the medical people will probably want to induce you.  You can hold out with regular check ups if you like, because it is likely that it'll come along soon, but you might have to admit defeat eventually, and either get induced or have a section, depending on what seems best.

I did go into labour myself all three times.  Early once, and late twice.  Each time was very different, but all of them led to a sudden gut-wrenching realisation that I was really going to get a baby out of me.  An actual baby.

2 - you might not know if your waters break

For a lot of people, their waters don't break until they are right in the middle of actually pushing a baby out, and do you know what?  That's actually a good thing.  The longer you go between your waters breaking and the baby arriving, the higher the risk of infection for your baby.  If it takes too long, the medical people will want to induce you, and will want to give your baby antibiotics.  

When you're very pregnant, you, and all the people around you, are very worried that your waters could break at any minute.  Midwives say you should look out for a mucus plug or 'show'.  This is supposed to come away first.  I personally only noticed this in my third pregnancy, but there you go.

I had my waters break in spectacular fashion in my first two pregnancies, however, both times I was at home, and in a room with a mop-able floor, so it was fine.  I don't know anyone who's waters have broken in the supermarket.  What about you?  Where did your waters break?

If you've watched One Born Every Minute, you'll know that lots of people aren't sure if their waters have broken.  Let's be honest, toward the end of pregnancy there's a lot of pressure on the bladder, and accidents do happen. Amniotic fluid is clear, with a yellow tinge, so it might look like other fluids. On top of that, the way the baby is lying in the womb can mean that the waters can break, but most of it still be caught inside.  Basically baby's head is plugging you up.  

Some people feel a 'pop' when their waters go - I only did for the third one, and I was lying down at the time.  The amount of amniotic fluid varies.  You might be advised to wear a sanitary towel.  Scrap that.  A nappy will work pretty well, for a little while, and it's not like it's going to spoil your outfit.  If you're going to sit down, I'd advise sitting on an incontinence sheet  - your midwife may have given you some of these in your homebirthing kit, or you can buy them.  They might be with the nappies, for older kids who wet the bed.

You should tell your midwife when your waters break.  Also tell her what it looks like and how much there is.  She's going to be worried that the baby is distressed if there's poo in there, and will probably want to check you over anyway.  You're going to be a Mum within about 48 hours.

3 - the more babies you have had, the worse the Braxton-Hicks get

When you're coming toward the end of your pregnancy, you might well get Braxton-Hicks, or practice contractions.  These little beauties turn up randomly from time to time, but are especially keen on ruining your evenings and any patches of sleep you were getting when you're nearing the end.  I've known women who have had half a night of contractions getting closer together every night for a WEEK before the real deal turned up.

Talking of the real deal.  I have had three babies, and I have laboured for all of them, and I could not tell you the difference between 'practice' contractions and real ones.  To be honest, I think they're all the same, but they only get to be real when they result in a baby.  There are some completely different contractions later on in labour, but we'll talk about those when we get there.

I have been told that Braxton Hicks get more painful for each child you have.  That was certainly true for me.  Was it true for you?  That does not mean that labour will be more painful for each child.  For most people, the second child is a lot easier to deliver than the first.  Mainly because they have an idea of what's going to happen.

4 - there are lots of ways you can induce labour at home

When you're getting near the end you are tempted to try anything.  Long walks, going up and down stairs, eating pineapple, curries, or pineapple curries, and of course, having sex.

I was a big fan of eating pineapple.  Although apparently for it actually to work you'd have to eat pineapple every waking minute.  Having sex must work because semen has the same stuff in it that they put in in gel they use to induct you.  However, if you are desperate enough to have sex, the baby is probably coming soon anyway.

Your midwife might offer you a membrane sweep.  This is not very pleasant, as it involves her sticking a finger into your womb and moving it around in a circle, however, it will definitely cause some cramping and may get the whole shebang moving.  Or not.

The main thing that the body looks for when going into labour is that you are relaxed.  With my first baby I went into labour exactly two minutes after I'd sent my last email about a big project I was working on, so if you really want to have the baby the best thing to do is to lie on your left side and read a book, or watch TV, or chat to friends on facebook - whatever it is you do to relax.  I think this is why people say that pregnant women get a nesting instinct... it's only actually when you sit down after you've done all the housework, that the baby decides they're good to go.

5 - it can take ages to get into established labour

Very few people have very short labours, most of us will be like the Duchess of Cambridge and go on for ages.  If you're planning on going to hospital, the temptation is to get there soon, just in case, but really, you've got ages.  The best place to be for a happy labour is somewhere you feel safe, and labour is scary enough, do you really want to be in a hospital?  With my first baby I went to hospital much too soon, and ended up with lots of medical people wanting to help.  It's their job to help, and they're good at it.  It is also natural to want to stop someone's pain if you can.  However, labour hurts, but only for a day... probably not even that long.  If you're being sick it's just because the body can't do food at the moment, it's busy.  The best thing to do is relax as much as you can, roll around on a birthing/yoga/gym ball, and watch TV.  If possible get someone else to keep a note of the timing of your contractions, so you don't have to stress about it.  No doubt there's an app for that now.  You really don't need to go into hospital until you're in established labour; indeed you are best off not doing.  I had my second baby at home, and tried to have my third at home too, and if I were doing it again, or my sister was doing it, I'd totally recommend that.  You don't have to move from your comfy home, and you get two midwives all to yourself.  Even though the second time I ended up having to go to hospital in an ambulance (which was a touch rubbish, as I'm sure anyone who's had to go in an ambulance can attest to); I still felt that doing the lion's share of it at home had made the process better for me.  My two midwives came with me in hospital, and only left me when I went into theatre, which is much better attention than I'd have had in a hospital.  It also meant I only came in contact with the hospital staff when I actually needed them, at which point they were as gods to me.

If you've had a baby, what was the weirdest thing you found about going into labour? 

This is one of a series of posts on all things bumps and babies.  Here are a number of things I now know about:

Sunday, 21 July 2013

... pregnant - 6 things I know now

8 months pregnant with a big baby. If
you look this much like a tellytubby you
might as well roll with it!
Before you get all excited I am not pregnant.

My youngest has just turned four, and I don't plan on having any more children myself, so I thought this would be a good time to do a little series of posts about pregnancy, childbirth, and mothering.  They will all be in the format of the things I know now.  Where does this knowledge come from?  Well, partly it's from my own experiences, but it's also from working in midwifery research for a while, and having a lot of conversations with mums, and the professionals who help us.  I could talk more, but how about I just kick off with:

6 things I know now about being pregnant

1 - pregnancy can mean discrimination at work

I know employers are not allowed to discriminate against you because you're pregnant, but there's a whole lot of women who feel they have been discriminated against.  They've seen their chances of promotion diminish, they've found themselves having to fight for their rights, and they've found that they're not being taken seriously any more.  If I were doing it again I'd make sure I knew as much as I could about my rights (this is a good place to start, but check your employer's policies too), and if there was anything I could get done at work to enhance my position (like an appraisal it looks like you're going to ace) in the short term, I would try to get it done before announcing the pregnancy.  

You don't have to tell them until (at the latest) 15 weeks before your official due date (although you may want to, to explain why you're getting bigger, and to get time off for appointments).  Legally, all potentially pregnant women should be presumed pregnant by employers when it comes to nasty chemicals and the like, so if you need to have a word about that, see if you can do it on the grounds of general health and safety, or better still, have a mate do it.

2 - the first three months can be yucky

The first three months can be really hard work.  First off you're worried and excited about what's going on, and in all likelihood you haven't told anyone (bar your man) yet, so your brain is in overdrive.  On top of that, you may be feeling sick as a sick person from the planet bleurgh, which is not the best way to get through the day.  Lots of people recommend different things to help with pregnancy nausea.  My favourite was a ginger biscuit before getting up, although I'm not convinced it totally worked.  Some people say that sickness is worse when you're expecting a girl, and that was true for me, but not for lots of other people.  For most people it will pass.  If it doesn't, speak to your midwife or doctor.  Also, if you are really sick and can't keep anything down go see your midwife or your doctor.  You're building a baby, you've got to keep yourself in good shape.
These sleep bras are from a
 selection at Mothercare

3 - Sensitive skin needs soft fabrics

The middle trimester is the time when you've probably told people you're pregnant.  You probably look pregnant, but you're not yet feeling like a beached whale.  I felt good that my body was working, and building a real human being.  My hormones seemed to be getting into the swing of things.  Being pregnant can feel amazing.  Your hair is lush and thick, you can get great skin (although my little boy seemed to make me very spotty indeed), and you get to wear some lovely maternity clothes (I especially liked the stuff from H&M, but you can get lots of nice things now).  People don't tend to wear them for long, so you can get some lovely things second hand too.  Clothes that I really liked were things that fitted on the bump (lots of people do not like this - it's worth trying things on to see what you like). I found something soft that stretched over to be very comfortable.  I also found my boobs to be rather tender, so a well fitted bra and top were important.  I would recommend a breastfeeding sleep-bra, and I love bumpbands that you can wear with anything else to cover the bump with style and support.  You can also wear them after you've had the baby to hide your shrinking tummy while you're breastfeeding.

4 - being pregnant is an unwritten invitation to many a numpty to come and comment on your body, to touch you, and to tell you horror stories.

Sometimes it is nice to get into these conversations.  It can help you feel a part of something bigger, and it can help you get a better idea of what you're going to be going through.  
I once had a friend's husband rush over to feel my tummy, while my friends and I stared at him open-mouthed.  It's like you've been suddenly transformed into a good luck mascot!  However, your body is your body, and people shouldn't be touching it without an invite.  You are quite within your rights to ask them to back off.  

As for the horror stories. Keep in mind that if someone's had a bad experience they're much more likely to want to talk about it than the people for whom things have gone well.  The best thing you can do is to get lots of information about what to expect from trusted sources. I'm a massive fan of NCT antenatal classes, but there are other sources of information.

5 - your first pregnancy is the last time you will ever get to think that your life will be pretty-much the same after you have a baby

Having had three children, I love meeting women who are pregnant for the first time. 

Quite often they tell you that they've thought through this parenting lark and things aren't going to change too much after baby arrives.  As a parent we smile and nod, and try not to let escape what we're thinking on the inside, which goes something like this: "ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!"  We look forward to when we're next going to see the woman, with baby, massive amounts of stuff in an ugly bag, sick in her hair and leaky breasts, wondering if she will ever have a whole night's sleep again.  

It's good that they think that though, because that's how the human race keeps going (in answer to those who wonder why therefore anyone would have more than one kid, once you're in a hole you might as well keep digging).

6 - the third trimester kind of sucks

Me, at a wedding, 3rd trimester.
I'm massive, very hot, and had to
buy really ugly sandals because I
couldn't get my feet into the shoes.
There is only one reason you'd want to stay pregnant longer than you absolutely have to, and that is because you don't want to actually give birth.  The whole way through your third trimester the birth is looming over you.  Will you be able to make it to 37 weeks?  When will the baby come?  Will labour be horrible?  Will the baby be OK?  Are these Braxton Hicks or contractions proper?  

You've got bigger, and maybe grown out of some clothes.  I grew out of almost all my clothes with my third child (who was 10lb 4oz at birth).  The stress on your body is enormous.  It's hard to sleep because you can't get comfortable, lying on your back makes you want to pass out, and you need about five pillows surrounding you just to be comfortable.  Your man has probably gone to the spare room/sofa by now, and if not, he'll get there soon.  Your heart is having to pump two extra pints of blood around your body.  

Random strangers come up to you on the street and tell you you're enormous.  People in shops are scared that you might give birth any minute.  Your friends ask you incredulously if you're still pregnant?  The correct response to this is 'no', you can qualify this by telling them you're stealing a chicken or something similar, or you can just act confused and claim you're not pregnant and see them back-pedal desperately.  

To add to your misery you may well have some oedema.  That means water retention and causes your feet and ankles to swell up like big fat balloons to ensure that crocs are your only footwear, even if you're going to a wedding.  Oedema isn't limited to your feet though - you can get fat fingers too.  When I was pregnant with my big third baby I even got oedema on my tummy - because I really needed that to be bigger than it was.  

All this is important, because you're growing a human, and you want them to be as well developed as possible when they arrive.  Also, it does make the birth seem a bit of a better option.  

If you do get oedema, cool baths (and swimming pools) help; but you probably want someone strong on hand to help you get out of the thing.  Do make sure you get oedema checked out by your midwife, as it can be a sign of pre-eclampsia, especially if it comes on quickly.

Bonus - from a man's perspective

My husband came into the room as I was writing this, so I asked him what he knew now about pregnancy that he didn't know before.  He said that there are more weird physiological changes associated with pregnancy than he imagined before my pregnancies.  For example, he didn't know that I'd get loads of hair (by the way, the hair doesn't last I'm afraid).  He didn't know that I'd have a hormone that would make it really easy for me to dislocate my limbs (very handy when it comes to getting a baby through a pelvis), and cause some problems walking (I had Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction during my first pregnancy and had to wear a belt to keep my pelvis together).  He's right, pregnancy is a weird and wonderful experience.  I'm glad I did it.  And I'm glad I will never do it again.

If you're a parent, what do you know now about pregnancy that you didn't know before?  If you're not a parent yet, what would you want to know?

This is one of a series of posts on all things bumps and babies.  Here are a number of things I now know about:

Friday, 12 July 2013

naming names

Romeo and Juliet
by Frank Dicksee
What's in a name?  Obviously a name meant a lot to Romeo and Juliet's families. If the poor loves had managed to get married back then, no doubt Juliet would have taken Romeo's name and become a Montague.

But what about if it happened now?  Mrs Juliet Montague?  Stick with Juliet Capulet?  Romeo Capulet?  Mr and Mrs Montague-Capulet?  Capulet-Montague?  Montalet?  Capague?  Smith?

A woman changing her name on marriage is not universal tradition.  Women in lots of countries around the world keep their father's family name on marriage.  Indeed there are sometimes (as in France) laws against changing it (although she may use her husband's name informally).

Even in places where it is tradition, there is a move away from it. Increasing numbers of men are changing their names, and of the couple taking a double-barrelled, or blended name.  And often the couple retain their birth names.  This is especially the case for professional women.

Where women keep their own name on marriage, the children still tend to get the surnames of their fathers.  In Greece, the father has to sign a document to acknowledge his paternity to enable the child to take his surname.  Otherwise the child has the mother's name.  In Spain children are given the double-barreled surnames of both their grandfathers (I'm not sure how that works if their grandfather's are double-barrelled, but I think they get to pick the one they want).

There are people who object to taking the husband's name, because it implies ownership of the woman.  They are right.  It does.  Women were handed over from their father's family to their husbands, usually in exchange for money or riches.  However, if you keep your father's name is that better?  Women are almost universally given men's surnames.  Even in Iceland, where they still use the patronymic system, girls are usually given their father's name (so I would be Cara Tonysdaughter), rather than their mother's.  Maybe this naming for the father's family originated in ensuring paternal responsibility, but surely we can get over that now?

The day I got a new name.
Look!  I was in a church!
I wasn't very happy with the idea of taking my husband's name, but I wanted everyone in my little family to have the same name.  I also wasn't very keen on keeping my father's name.  Nothing against my father, but my familial links felt stronger with my mother's side of the family.  That said I'm afraid it came down to what I liked.  I liked the sound of Cara McKee, and I like the random capital K.  So I went with that name.

After my brother and I had had our first children I heard my brother worrying that as he only had a daughter, if he didn't have a son, he might be the last of his name.  I'm thinking we can none of us know what's going to happen with names from now on.  So much has happened to improve women's situation in the last 100 years in our society, what's going to happen next?  Some people think we should invent new names for women which we can pass down with the mother's DNA, with all children getting a surname of Mumsname-Dadsname or Dadsname-Mumsname.  Whichever suits better.  I've had a think about this and would fancy Lilliesline I think.

If you're married/civil partnered did you take your husband/wife's surname?  Did you consider doing anything else?  If you were making up a surname to pass on down the female line in your family what would it be?

Thanks to Stuff Mom Never Told You for the inspiration for this blog post.  You ladies do a fine podcast.  My thanks.  

Thursday, 11 July 2013

deciding what to do

I am a list person.

I used to have several different paper lists, but then I got a Smart Phone (I use Android OS).  I love my Smart Phone, even though I can't wait to come to the end of my contract and get a new one.  I wouldn't want to be without it.  I've gone on at some length about the apps I love here, so I won't do it now.  Suffice to say that I tried a few to do lists, and then looked online to see what people were raving about.

They were raving about Astrid.  

So I got Astrid on my phone, and soon I was raving about it too.  It was so easy to use, and I especially loved the recurring tasks - I could tell it to remind me to do something every day, or three days after I finish it, or even every year.  It was great.  You just set it up and let it go.  Also, if you wanted you could make yourself an appointment to get something done.  I love Astrid.  I've been using it now for more than a year, and it's got very complicated.  The thought of switching to something else is awful.

However, in early May I got a message to say that Yahoo had acquired Astrid.  I was very worried.  I don't like Yahoo, their look is too fussy.  I see the Yahoo home page and I navigate away.  Too much information.  Too much rubbish.  I like Google (I know Google are doing lots of annoying things like getting rid of Reader, but I still love them... so far).  I didn't want to move to Yahoo, but hubby thought it'd be OK.  Astrid is really popular, it might change what it looked like but it wouldn't be broken...

But a couple of days ago I got a message to say that Astrid was closing down!  On August 5th! Helpfully they've provided a way to download your data, but that's in BETA, so they say it might hopefully work.  Great.  They also recommend other 'to do' apps: Wrike (this looks to be project management software that you pay for), Wunderlist, Sandglaz, and  I am not familiar with any of them, but I've been looking at their webpages.  

I've requested my data be exported, but where should I put it (if it works)?  Have you used any of those apps?  Do you use a to do list?

I'm going to miss that cheeky octopus.  From looking at the webpages, Wunderlist looks like it might suit. seems to be about to launch.  I wonder if Yahoo own these too?

Does anyone know about why this stuff happens?  Why did Yahoo buy a really popular app, and then close it down? Are they trying to get us to shift to other apps they're already running?  The Next Web suggests they're busily recruiting new staff to get themselves positioned to challenge Google.  They might want the people running Astrid to work on something else, but 4 million people had downloaded Astrid, so why kill it?

Thanks for your help folks.  It's appreciated.

Update April 2014... I miss Astrid.  Wunderlist was rubbish, so glitchy, it kept losing my updates which was maddening.  I switched to Remember the Milk, which works almost as well as Astrid did, but only on one device.  I'm hoping that one day Evernote will incorporate a really good list function.  Top on the list will be checking what I was going to do in Evernote.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

the living dead

one of the awesome things about living in seaside town is that the in-laws are just down the road, and they can take the kids from time to time.  

Recently they took them overnight so hubby and I could have a night out!  It's our first night out together since March, and we headed to the flicks (well, we wouldn't want to talk to each other! ;-))

I wanted to see Man of Steel, and hubby fancied World War Z.  I'd have been happy either way to be honest.  It's so good to go to a cinema and see something with swearing in it!  

Selfie by hubby
So we ended up going to see World War Z, because we missed the start of Man of Steel.  I'm still thinking of watching Man of Steel (anyone seen it?), but I'm glad we watched World War Z because it was a really enjoyable film.

It's got Brad Pitt in it, which is a good thing for many people.  I'm afraid I don't get the Brad Pitt allure, but he did a pretty super job of acting in this film, so that's good.  I must say that come the zombie apocalypse, Brad will not be welcome in my remote Scottish farmstead, because disaster seems to follow in his wake.  Has the man been fitted with some sort of zombie tracking device?

I've not read the book, World War Z, although it has been recommended to me.  So I can't tell you how they compare.  Certainly the film has some bits which you wonder why they are bothering with (what was South Korea about?), which I guess have more plot involvement in the book.  Has anyone read it, and seen the film, and know how they compare?  

The film also features the beautiful city of Glasgow, which is disguised as an American city.  My Mother in Law went to see the film because of Glasgow being in it, and she enjoyed it too.  It's great fun.  I really liked the ending.  Very clever, and no, I'm not going to tell you.

I do not usually like zombie stories, because I do not like yucky pick-axes emerging from forehead scenes, which seem to be the done thing.  The zombies in World War Z, however, were 'realistically' zombical, but there was very little in the way of totally gross stuff.  I'd like to say they concentrated on plot instead, but no, they concentrated on getting through it pretty fast, with a fun bumpy ride.  I would totally recommend it.

Some people have commented that the zombies are fast, and zombies should actually be slow and shuffling because of muscle decay.  This misses an important fact.  They are zombies - totally made up.  I have no problem with someone taking an idea - say zombie, and tweaking it a little.  I mean, that's what story telling is all about, right?  Look at fairy tales - they've been tweaked out of all recognition, but we still know the rules.  That said, tweaking vampires so that they can go out in daylight, but they don't because they're just too beautiful.  That is just naff.  Sorry.

Some of my friends are off to the cinema to watch World War Z tomorrow.  You'll have a great time ladies, sorry I can't be with you.  Let me know what you think.

What's the last thing you saw at the cinema?  What did you think of it? 

Sunday, 7 July 2013

catching up with 'photo-a-day'

Yes! More of that photo a day stuff. While we've been on holiday lately I've not been able to upload photos, so I've saved them up to do all together.

Chris and Olly - 'red, white, and blue'
The prompt for the fourth of July was 'red, white, or blue', to tie in with American Independence day. It turned out my Mum's husband was wearing red, white, and blue, so he was perfect, and I liked this picture of him with a Harris Hawk called Olly at Birds of Beal.

The fifth of July was 'love'. I got lots of pictures of the kids with their cousins for this, and couldn't decide which one to go for. We're so lucky that the kids and their cousins get on so well. I hope they keep the relationships going. It's great to have siblings, but cousins give you a wider net.  And I think they're pretty cool too.

I ended up choosing this pic of the boy with my niece. I just asked them to look at each other, and they cracked up, which was lucky as my niece was pretty grumpy with me for crashing a tractor into her and getting her bum wet. Oops.

My niece and the boy - 'love' (not mushy mind)

Tucking into fish and chips
'fave smell' of the day
6th July brought the prompt 'fave smell'. Well my favourite smell is maybe cedarwood, or Spiritual Sky Patchouli, or perhaps lavender, and being on a caravan holiday I didn't come across any of those things, so I went with my favourite smell of the day. Fish and chips. We had them in the Neptune in Seahouses, and they were good, but the tea came with those nasty wee pots of milk. Still, they had curry sauce that was nearly as good as that you get in Bradford, so pretty good all 'round.

Today I'm getting up to date, and the prompt was 'where you are'.  Well, I woke up in Northumberland, but I'll be sleeping in my own bed in seaside town tonight, so what to go for?

I went for this one.  Taken out of a grubby car window on our way home today.  Nothing says you're nearly home quite like a Scottish flag for me.  I like the way in Scotland people talk about where you stay, rather than where you live.  It seems a bit temporary, which it has been for us for quite a while.  Hopefully we'll get to stay in seaside town for a bit longer.
Scotland - 'where I am'

I love taking part in photo-a-day - sometimes it's just an excuse to share photos of what we're doing, but it also makes me think a bit, and stops me from just taking photos of my kids... although I still take plenty of them.

This one, with the little girl as a blue lion/tiger is one of my favourite recent ones.  The topic was 'cute'.  

Do you do a photo-a-day challenge?  What's been your favourite lately?  If you can share it in the comments below, please do.

little blue lion - 'cute'