Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Introducing Eleanor Rose

Warning: This is my birth story - if you don't want to read about the exciting, painful, messy process of giving birth, then skip this one. It might have a few too many gory details for you!

Everyone always says that you'll know your in labor when it begins. Well mine started out more as a question mark than anything else. On Tuesday, July 5th at 3:30pm I was laying on the couch watching TV when I felt cramp-like tightenings in my abdomen. It wasn't anything dramatic, just noticeable. I know that many women have stronger Braxton-Hicks and false contractions near the end of their labor so I didn't want to get too excited yet. I decided to keep my plans and go to my yoga class in Edinburgh. I drove the half an hour into town, breathing through 3 tightenings in 30 minutes. They were distracting, but manageable. By the time I arrived in class, I was sweating, walking on my tip toes, and needing to stop and sway and breathe through each tightening about ever 5 minutes. I didn't do much in class, but it a wonderful way to begin the early stages of labor. I decided it wouldn't be safe for me to drive home so I had Paul take a cab out to meet me. 

As labor can take so long, we decided to go to Costco to pick up some last minute groceries. I used the cart to breathe through the tightenings and other than walking slowly, I wasn't being impeded much. I know that being upright and moving is good for labor so I wasn't worried about being out and about. 

We got home and I let my parents know I thought I was in early labor, but not to worry I knew it could take a very long time.

We started timing the contractions just to get a gauge on what was happening. They were coming every 3 and a half minutes and lasting about 45 seconds, so we called the midwife while I tried to scarf down some food. I knew once it got going it might be hard to really eat! The midwife told me to call back when my contractions were 3 minutes apart, lasting for a minute each and that pattern continued for 3 hours. I told her that I planned on a warm bath, my TENS machine and maybe a funny movie and to stay at home as long as possible. She agreed this was the best choice, and I went about my business. The bath was soothing as I began using my hypnobirthing CD and positive affirmations. I got out and Paul helped me with my TENS machine and I tried (and failed!) to work through the contractions laying down to rest. Instead I needed to be standing, rocking, squatting, and moving. I tried my birth ball (I hated it!) but preferred laying with my head on the bed and standing. I watched Pitch Perfect, zoning out every 3 minutes or so to breathe - count of 4 in, count of 4 out. Working with my body. Picturing opening, embracing and working through each one. I encouraged Paul to get some rest - who knew how long this would take? 

By 2:15 I had been having regular contractions every 3 minutes lasting for a minute (or sometimes more) so I tip-toed downstairs and called the midwife. Although I agreed that I could probably stay home longer, I was struggling to work through the contractions while sitting and we had a 15/20 minute drive to the hospital. If we waiting too long, we could end up in morning traffic and the sitting while contracting would have been very stressful. They agreed I should come in, so I woke Paul up and we packed up the car and headed out.

On the way to the hospital, we saw a fire by the side of the road! We decided to pull over and check it out, as it is near a very large, dry field. It was an electrical fire, and it was spreading, so Paul called the fire brigade, notified them about it, and then we continued on our way.

We arrived at the Edinburgh Royal Birth Centre about 3:15, and they took me to my birthing suite. It was a large, lovely room with a big pool and lots of other useful things such as bean bags and birth balls and mats and an ensuite bathroom. They gave me my first exam and I was already 5cm dilated, but my waters hadn't broken and the sac was bulging through my cervix. I was so pleased with myself, and asked to get in the bath. We put on my hypnobirthing tracks and I urged Paul to get more sleep so he could be awake and energetic for the end. I felt calm and floating through the contractions, as they got stronger, but further apart. I started to worry that the bath was slowing down my labor, and the midwife said my temperature and pulse were too high (because of the hot bath). I got out to labor standing up, using the same posture as before of leaning over the bed. They let me labor on my own and work through the contractions with my hypnobirthing for another 7 hours before the next check at 10:15. The contractions had gotten closer together again and increased in intensity. This check showed I was only dilated to 7cm and they suspected because the baby's head was not putting the needed pressure on my cervix to help it dilate. I agreed to having my waters broken which they did quickly and painlessly. 

They allowed me to labor for another 7 hours without disruption, only now I had a midwife and student midwife in the room near constantly monitoring me. I was still using breathing and hypnobirthing, but the pain was increasing and the contractions were much longer so I asked to try the gas and air. This helped take the edge of and reminded me to breathe, but also made me violently sick and I was throwing up after every contractions. The contractions then increased sharply in intensity and began doubling, one after another without rest. I pushed on, having moments of doubt and feeling like I needed to know how much longer. I needed an end-point, just like all of my races. I couldn't see the finish line so I didn't know if I could make it. I remember looking at Paul and saying, "I can't do this!" and the midwives and Paul saying, "You ARE doing it!" The sensations, the pain, was exponentially more than anything I had experienced but I still knew that each one brought me closer to meeting my baby. I tried to remind myself that they could not be stronger than me - this was MY body making the contractions, they WERE me, they weren't stronger than me. Several times I felt like I would explode with the pain, that there was no way I could make it through the end of that contractions. All you mamas out there know what I'm talking about!

About 5:00 they checked me again - I was still at 7cm with no progress. The midwife said that we needed to put me on a drip to move on labor and that I'd have to be transferred to the labor ward. I turned to Paul that moment and told him I needed an epidural - I had made it this far and I was so disappointed, but I knew the drip would make what was already nearly unbearable even more so. They whisked me into a wheelchair, gathered my things and brought me upstairs. An anesthesiologists came in to give me the epidural and asked me to stay completely still through the contractions. They monitored me and the baby for about 30 minutes, when a midwife came back to tell me that the baby was in distress and had an erratic heartbeat. After several consultations they decided that the baby would not cope with continued labor and that I would need an emergency c-section. Although it is not what I wanted, a safe, healthy baby was most important to me. We agreed, signed the papers, and I was told I'd have a baby within 30 minutes. They topped up my epidural with stronger meds for the surgery, took Paul to change into scrubs and whisked me away. 

I'm on a lot of drugs here, as we wait for the moment we become parents. 
I was rolled onto an operating table as the piles of people poured in for the surgery. They started draping me with a cloth when a surgeon poked her head around the cloth and said, "Hello Elizabeth, do you recognize me?" I said no, sorry, and then she introduced herself as one of my student's parents. I immediately realized who she was, and she asked if it was okay to operate on me. I thought it was nice to have someone who personally cared about my progress to be in charge of my surgery. Before they started everyone in the room checked in and said who they are and why they were there. They stated the reason for the surgery, and then began. Paul was next to me, but facing away from my tummy. At 6:15, they pulled the baby out and let Paul see - It was a girl! I couldn't believe it! They cut her cord and took her to a separate table for a check. Within minutes she was on my chest and I was trying to hold her, even though my arms were numb. Paul and I were both crying, we had our precious, perfect little girl. They sewed me up and cleaned up and put Eleanor into a cot and wheeled us out. They gave me the chance to breastfeed and she latched perfectly the first time! 

Meeting Eleanor for the first time.

Our first family picture!
The doctors came out to talk to me about the delivery and how everything went. Overall, there were no complications and everything had gone to plan. Apparently Eleanor had slipped back-to-back and was trying to come out with the side/back of her head. The surgeon said it was a good call to take her out via c-section; she was not going to make it out in her position, and the stress of the labor was too much for her to cope with. I was in labor for 27 hours total and had a perfect, amazing, beautiful little girl to show for it. Eleanor Rose was 8 pounds, 14 ounces and 24 inches long. Her full head of hear and bright eyes make her look just like her daddy. 


The next few nights in hospital passed in a blur of feeding, checks, visits, and cuddles. I didn't want to put her down I just wanted to hold her close to me like she had been in my tummy. After two nights in hospital I asked to be released early so I could be home with my family. Eleanor passed all her tests and so did I, so they sent me home. Phew! It was all worth it for my perfect little bundle who continues to amaze me every day. 




Coming home for the first time!

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Different Two Week Wait

The beginning of my TTC journey was filled with anxious two-week-waits. I didn't understand how my body worked and how long my cycles were, which occasionally led to three or four-week-waits (when I thought I had ovulated, but never got a period!). Then I started taking my temperature and learned more about my cycle and began medication and then I got to experience that real, terrible two-week-wait. The weeks between when you ovulate and *might* be pregnant, but might not. When it is too early to test but you are full of hope because maybe, just maybe, this time you'd be pregnant. You try not to think about it every day and fill up your time with work and friends and a moderate amount of wine and sushi in case this is your last hurrah. You pay attention to every little sign. Was that nausea a sign of morning sickness? Is that cramping implantation? Is the fatigue caused by pregnancy hormones? Are my breasts tender? Is _________ a sign of early pregnancy? Cue Google which, incredibly, can find that nearly every single sign possible as one that you are pregnant. Most of the time this two-week-wait would just end in tears despite all my "symptom spotting" with another negative pregnancy test (and two more, just to be sure) or my period showing a day or two late. Then the cycle would start again with temping, medication, a two-week-wait, symptom spotting and then heartbreak. Until finally, that one exceptional day, when the test was POSITIVE

That is what started out this whole exciting 9-month-baby-growing journey. The first three months were full of anxiety and watching for any signs of a miscarriage. Every twinge and cramp made me anxious and I couldn't wait to get through it. Then the second trimester arrived and time flew by until suddenly it was the third trimester. That flew by too, as I enjoyed feeling bigger kicks and movement and thinking about how much my baby was growing. 

Finally, the day I had waited for - my due date! - arrived. And then it passed. And now I am in a completely different type of two-week-wait. Admittedly, this one is much easier to deal with and much less likely to end in tears and feelings of failure. This two-week-wait WILL end in a baby, my baby, and it might not even be in two weeks! It might be tomorrow! It might be tonight! But I am still trying to fill my time up, trying not to be impatient and paying attention to every little tiny feeling in case it means labor is starting. It's hard not to "symptom-spot" at this point because I know labor is imminent. I'm trying to just relax and remind myself that no one has ever been pregnant forever!

Without work to keep my mind busy, I have tried to have something every day that I can look forward to. Meeting my NCT friends and their newborns for cake and coffee, or going to a movie, or taking a long walk - having something planned lets me be excited for the future while not just counting down the minutes until Wriggles arrives. Still, it's not the easiest few days as it feels like my life is sitting on a knife edge, but at least this wait is definitely worth it.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

40 Weeks and Waiting!

Well the big day has come and passed - my due date! I know it is really the E.D.D., or "Estimated Date of Delivery" and that babies arrive between 37 weeks and 42 weeks. I have lost count of the amount of times people have said to me, "Babies come in their own time" and "Be patient and enjoy these last few moments of peace and quiet". You can bet your buttons that those same people were cursing to get their baby out when they were overdue!

To be honest, it's not that bad yet. I'm only 2 days past my due date and I know I've got another 12 before they'll induce me. I'm just feeling quite large and uncomfortable and now getting up nearly every hour to pee in the night! Although I am loving my hot tea and long naps and quiet time, each day I get more and more excited to meet little Wriggles. I also thought June would be a great month to have a birthday - right at the end of school but all your friends are still around and the weather is great. In reality, July isn't that bad either. Quite a few people have joked that I'll have an Independence Baby, born on July 4th just to prove it's American up here in Scotland. My hubby thinks the birthday 7-7 would be great, as he would always be able to remember it. I'll take any birthday as I know it will be such a special day to meet our new addition. 

I've tried everything in the books to get labor started - curry, pineapple, nipple stimulation, sex, walking, cuddles, the list goes on. So far nothing has helped, but I know that Wriggles will come when s/he is good and ready. I just wish she'd send me a text message to let me know so I don't react to every little twinge or ache with a quick googling of, "Is ____________ a sign of early labor?" I already KNOW the signs of early labor, I think it's just me and my wishful thinking that will make it appear out of nowhere.

So now I've got 12 more days maximum and I know I should be enjoying every moment of this last bit of me time. Instead, I'm going to go out and cuddle a whole bunch of newborns as apparently, this might bring on labor!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

38 Weeks and on Maternity Leave

It's been far too long since an update here, but I have to say it was all I could do to scrape myself off the floor and get into work on time looking semi-decent. The prospect of doing anything useful on the weekends (besides cleaning and organizing my whole house!) was just too much.

Yesterday, however, was my last day of work as I've started Maternity Leave!!! I am so lucky to live in a country that allows me time before the baby to rest and time after the baby to take care of my little person without feeling like I need to rush back to work. I get 3 months full pay, then 30 more weeks of a maternity stipend. So it's Saturday morning and instead of worrying about getting everything done over the weekend I am nothing but relaxed. What should I do today? Drink a cup of tea, watch another movie or have a nap? All of the above?

At 38+4 right now, I have to admit I am still feeling pretty great and overall much better than I expected. Yes, I am large, and yes, I have difficulty getting off the couch. But I have been able to work without any problems (exhaustion is the exception, but what teacher isn't exhausted at the end of the year?). My ankles still look like ankles (not cankles), I have avoided varicose veins, my weight gain has finally slowed, and my emotional state is relatively stable. Except when my sweet students give me gifts or cards or hugs - but that would make anyone tear up! I know it could be another 3ish weeks until I meet Wriggles which I am A-OK with (at least for now). I'm happy to have some rest time ahead of me and for Wriggles to come and meet me when s/he is ready. 

So now begins the waiting, with every day ticking down until I get to meet my sweet little one. With a due date of June 28th, I am definitely considered "full term" at this point and Wriggles could appear any time. I think because I had so much uncertain waiting before when I was trying to get pregnant that I am okay with the waiting I'm doing now. There is a real and concrete date that Wriggles will have to arrive as they don't let you go more than 2 weeks past your due date. That kind of waiting is much better than having no idea if you'll ever have a baby!

Excuse me as I go make myself another cup of tea and contemplate a lovely, calm day.

Monday, May 23, 2016

35 Weeks and Nesting!

At this point of the pregnancy, things seem to be both crawling by agonizingly slowly and rushing by so quickly I can't catch my breath. I can't believe I am already 35 weeks along with only 5 weeks until my due date and a guaranteed 7 until I meet my little ball of Wriggles. I'm still at school working with my students, so some days seem to stretch on and on and on and on. I spend my days on my feet, helping little people learn, picking up pencils off the ground, patrolling independent work, sitting on the floor in reading groups, writing on the board, the list goes on. When you're a primary school teacher you cannot teach from a chair; no one would listen!

And so, with only 4 weeks of work left, I am really counting the days. 18 more work days total, which seems like such a tiny number when you think about it. Even though I am large and uncomfortable, I think I might be bored out of mind if I was already staying home on maternity leave at this point. We are getting enough done on the weekends that I don't feel too harassed. This weekend we put together the baby's chest of drawers and I organized the closet (I know, so exciting!). This coming week is our big delivery of baby things including a cot, baby monitor, baby carrier, etc. Wednesday my work is throwing me a baby shower and Sunday is a 2 hour pregnancy massage. I have to say, I am looking forward to all of it!

I can definitely feel more and more of Wriggle's large movements, especially in my right ribs when I bend over. I was organizing the food cupboard, fridge and freezer this weekend (nesting, anyone?) and every time I bent down to get something I got a sharp kick in the ribs. "Hey mama," Wriggles seemed to say, "Remember I'm here and when you bend over I get squashed! Stand up straight!" As if I could forget about my bundle of joy!


Symptom wise I'm feeling pretty good for being this large. I have occasional heartburn, back ache, my face is breaking out in dry patches and now I definitely have stretch marks. The Braxton-Hicks contractions are more pronounced, and Wriggles enjoys squashing his/her head down on my bladder that makes me clench quickly before any wee escapes! I have to walk slowly otherwise I feel a great deal of pressure on my pelvis and I'm still waking up at least once a night to use the loo. Overall, I just LOVE my big pregnant belly. I love that I am growing a whole person! And as anxious as I am to meet this person, I love my time with them right now. Today is a day off work, and I spent most of it in the garden, reading, working, eating and resting. I loved sharing it with my little one so happy and cozy in my tummy.

I'm sill trying to stay active too - pregnancy yoga and limited gymnastics keep my strength and flexibility up. 

Hopefully the next month continues to pass smoothly as I make my final preparations for Wriggle's arrival!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

30 Years old and 32 Weeks Pregnant!

Well, it really crept up on me... I'm actually really and truly 30 years old. Contrary to previous birthdays, this was celebrated very quietly. I worked during the day and my lovely students sang to me, wrote me birthday messages, brought me a cake and even made up a dance for me! My colleagues were lovely all day and then I left school "early". My husband and I went out for dinner at a local pub and then I got myself in bed early. Basically, a normal day but with a little extra cake! I definitely haven't been this sober on my birthday since I was 21.

I've always been anxious about turning 30 and becoming "old", but now with my little Wriggles growing bigger every day I was excited. I knew that I wouldn't meet Wriggles until I was 30, so I was ready for the big birthday!

30 years old and 32 weeks pregnant... And I almost can't see my toes!

So I'm 32 weeks pregnant now and $h*ts getting real! Wriggles is rapidly running out of womb (pardon the pun) which means I can feel nearly everything. I'm loving the little head and bum and elbows and knees and hands and feet. I like to rub them as they protrude out of my belly and talk to my little one, say hello, and think about the day that I get to hold their whole tiny body. Wriggles got in a very awkward position this morning, stretching my uterus sideways and causing quite a bit of discomfort. Luckily, that didn't last long! At my midwife's appointment last week, Wriggles was head down on the right side. I can feel that Wriggles is practicing that position daily - the pressure on my bladder and pelvis is pretty clear as I waddle down the hall! Another new thing in the last week were my first stretch marks... I tried my best to prevent it, but I guess I am just too small to fully house my growing baby! I've got just one strange little circle next to my belly button but I suspect as Wriggles continues to grow, so will my stretch marks. Turning over in bed (not to mention getting out of bed!) is also quite a struggle, and breathing and eating are both more difficult than before. Sometimes I wonder how the next 8 weeks are going to go - how am I going to get even bigger?! Where is baby going to go? Also, I've got 6 more weeks of work... yikes! Some mornings it feels like I'll never make it through, but I always do. I've just got to take it day by day, and remember that each day brings me closer to meeting my baby.
Weekend birthday celebration continues in Haddington!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

30 Weeks and the Third Trimester

Stepping over into 30 weeks felt like a huge milestone. The "30s" mean you are really in the home stretch and almost there. 37 weeks is considered full term even if most women deliver after the 40th week. I have also seemed to explode in the last two weeks, my belly swelling even further than I thought it could go. People at work have started commenting that I'm "blooming" (what a kind phrase), and at least I'm not waddling yet. 

I can definitely feel the difference in how I'm able to move now compared to just a few weeks ago. Turning over in bed is quite a struggle that wakes me up as I heave my body over. Getting on tights and trousers is a challenge, as is picking things up from the floor. Wriggles is still quite active but is more likely to be kicking and jabbing multiple parts of my tummy at the same time or flipping around causing a great rolling sensation. I still have to say that large or not I still love how I look. I love feeling little body part protruding out of my tummy knowing that it's my baby I'm growing in there. I'm sure the next ten weeks will surprise me even more as Wriggles is due to put on about 1/2 a pound EVERY WEEK until s/he is born. I'm surprised my appetite hasn't increased any, but I just keep trying to eat healthily and get all the nutrients I need to grow a strong baby.

Each week my husband and I work through our list of baby related things to get done before Wriggles makes his/her arrival. Last weekend we put up the curtains in the nursery and it's really starting to look like somewhere a baby will be. We can't finish the nursery yet, because we are waiting for the John Lewis delivery of all the rest of our baby things - which won't come until the end of May! We still have quite a few house projects to do (more curtains and blinds to mount), as well as smaller but important things, such as updating our wills and preparing freezer meals. 

Yesterday was quite exciting as we had our first NCT class (National Childbirth Trust). Most people say the women you meet in your NCT group will be your friends for life, starting with the birth of your babies. Everyone is due within 8 weeks or so of each other, so we'll all be popping them out in late spring/early summer. All the couples seemed lovely and kind and excited (or nervous!) about having their babies. Many had never even changed a nappy before, and more still had seemed quite uniformed about labour and birth. I wonder if perhaps I am a bit overenthusiastic about learning, as I read my pregnancy app every morning and am also reading two pregnancy books and learning about hynobirthing at the same time. A part of me is actually quite excited about labour and birth, traumatic as I know it can be it. It's going to be the start of when I get to meet my baby, which is so exciting!

I'm also trying to break up my day with more resting, as teaching primary students is not even remotely relaxing. I still have 8 weeks of work left which feels like an eternity. I know at the end it will be quite a struggle to get up and moving so early and keep myself energised all day. For now I'm just thinking it through one week at a time and then at the end, perhaps one day at a time. Pregnancy is a tough job and at this stage, the mom comes first!