Tuesday, 8 March 2016

When a pregnancy is ‘overdue’

The hospital bags are packed and we’re ready to go.  But we’re still waiting for our baby to appear.  I’m now 8 days overdue. 

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I’ve been getting a lot of painless contractions, some quite strong and uncomfortable, but they don’t stay regular for very long, and they don’t develop into full-on labour.  This stage is sometimes called pre-labour, but it doesn’t necessarily progress uninterrupted into labour. 

It has been hard to wait, my hopes rising with regular contractions, only to have them fade.  I’m thankful that I feel the baby moving often, reassuring me that everything is still okay.  I have been trying to be patient, but it gets harder the longer we wait. 

I wanted to write about some things that I think are helpful for friends and family to do when someone they love is experiencing an overdue pregnancy.  This is also for my own benefit, for future reference if my friends go overdue. 

I’m introverted, and happy to spend time at home alone, but at some point you run out of things to do.  I think even the most introverted person would appreciate a visit once they’ve gone overdue.  It’s boring sitting at home waiting.  You’ve been on alert for three weeks already and nothing has happened. 

I’ve had my parents visiting for the past week, which has been helpful in a number of ways.  Before they arrived I felt a bit like I had cabin fever.  But now we’ve all been waiting together for a week, which isn’t as bad as waiting alone, but it’s still waiting.  It has been nice for me to see some other people too.  This would be even more important for those who don’t have parents around to help, or a community around them for support. 

Don’t say “still”
Some people have exclaimed things like “you’re still here!” or “you’re still pregnant!”.  We all know that she’s still pregnant, you don’t need to tell her.  You can use the word ‘still’ of course, what I really mean is try not to make too much of the fact that she’s overdue.  The baby will come when the baby and the body are ready, and it’s harder to tell yourself this when everyone exclaims over the fact that you’re overdue.  I know that people mean well, and they are trying to be sympathetic, but hearing the same thing from everyone is wearing.  Others might keep asking “has the baby come yet?”  This is similarly wearing I imagine, but I haven’t experienced this question much.  We will tell you when the baby comes, never fear!

Instead, you can ask other things about the pregnancy or baby-preparation.  How are your swollen feet?  Have you chosen an outfit to bring baby home in?  What did you do today?  Be creative and start a conversation rather than making a statement. 

Let her know you’re thinking of her
I have one friend in particular who has been wonderful in remembering my dates or significant appointments and texting me that she is praying for me.  It’s lovely to get a message out of the blue and know that someone is thinking of you, and even better if they have remembered something about you.  I think this is actually a good life-skill in general, everyone likes to be thought of and remembered!  I’ve been encouraged by my friend to do this in any situation. 

Other tips?
Maybe you’ve experienced an overdue pregnancy.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on what’s helpful in this time. 

Questions from a soon-to-be new mum

During probably the last trimester of pregnancy I found myself wondering how we’re going to look after our baby.  We know next to nothing about looking after a baby!  I had lots of questions bouncing around in my head, but haven’t been very sure of where to look for answers.  

Maybe you’ve been there and find some of these questions familiar.  Or maybe you have also wondered these things as you are preparing for a baby.  Here are some of the questions I’ve had and how they have been answered, I hope someone finds them helpful. 

Who teaches you to change a nappy?
The antenatal class was where we learnt how to change a nappy.  It was on a doll though, which I’m sure is much easier than on a real baby.  The midwife teaching the class told us that we would be taught how to do this again once our baby had been born.

How does a swaddle work?
Swaddles help the baby to feel cosy by tucking their limbs in against their body.  This is a familiar feeling for the baby, because they were pretty tight while in the womb, and it can help relax them.  Two techniques for this were taught at the antenatal class (and we were also reassured that we’d be taught again once the baby arrived). 

When should a baby use a dummy/soother?
It’s recommended that you don’t use a dummy in the first six weeks of life.  If you want to breastfeed your baby (and this is the best-for-baby, best-for-mum, best-for-the-bank account option) then you don’t want to confuse the baby.  Both mum and baby have to learn how to breastfeed, and the baby feeding helps to increase the mother’s supply of milk.  If the baby is sucking on something else then the mother’s body is not being encouraged to produce milk, and the baby gets confused about how to suck for milk. 

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Should the baby sleep in my room or a different room?
This comes down to preference really.  Apparently when I was born I spent one week in my parents room before I was kicked out for being too noisy.  I may have got my own room before I got my own name!  Some mums I’ve spoken to have said that they like the reassurance of having the baby in their room, particularly in a cot or bassinet next to the bed where they don’t even have to get out of bed to check how the baby is going.

Edit: Actually, I was wrong.  The recommendation is to sleep the baby in the parents’ room for at least the first six months, even up to 12 months.  This lowers the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).  Recommendations were different when I was a baby of course, but now midwives are adamant that the baby should sleep in our room.

Do I need a post-partum girdle, and where can I buy one?
A post-partum girdle is like a wrap support for your stomach, to help hold everything together after the baby is out and everything’s floppy!  My GP told me that I would only need one if my abdominal muscles have significantly separated.  If this happens then the hospital will loan me a girdle to use, to help the muscles come back together again.  Usually, the abdominal muscles will come back together on their own by about 6 weeks.  Despite this, I’ve wondering about using one anyway, just to help things along. 

What forms (if any) do I need to bring to the hospital for after the baby is born?
As far as I’m aware, in Australia we don’t need to bring anything of this sort of thing. Of course you would bring your pregnancy record card and some form of identification like a drivers licence, but I think that’s it.  I’ll update this if we discover the answer is something different. I think once the baby is born the hospital gives you a bunch of forms!  One of these in particular (I think it's the orange one?) is what needs to be shown to Centrelink if you are hoping to get monetary support from the government for your baby. 
If there are forms we need to bring, I can always send J home to get them after the baby is born!

I’m sure there’s more questions I’ve had along the way but these are the ones that I remembered to write down.  I hope other new mums might find this helpful. 

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Disappointingly Present

I don’t think pregnant women should be told they could give birth any time from 37 weeks pregnant to 41 weeks pregnant.  It creates this expectation from 37 weeks that labour could begin any time.  By the time you get to your due date at 40 weeks you’ve been in a state of expectation for three weeks and you don’t want to wait any longer.  Well at least, that’s how I’m feeling!

The reality is that most first pregnancies don’t happen early (before the due date).  And they do tell you this, but you hope to be early anyway.  They’ve given you a four to five week window and the due date isn’t right in the middle, so you’d think your chances of being early are greater. 

But I’ve discovered that this expectation in the pregnant mother’s mind doesn’t just come from medical professionals.  It’s from other people around you too.  It’s like everyone is expecting that you’ll give birth before or on your due date because as that date gets closer people remark on the fact that you’re still pregnant. 

Now that I’ve gone over my due date (by only one day mind you!) I feel like I’m disappointing people when I turn up to events, or pick up the phone, or respond to a text message.  I understand this.  I’m disappointed too that I haven’t gone into labour yet.  But this started before I even reached my due date. 

I think it’s probably more likely that my family and friends are just excited about the impending birth and any sign that it’s happening (e.g. I don’t answer my phone).  Perhaps they don’t remember exactly when I’m due but they know I’m really pregnant and it could happen any time! 

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I didn’t think I’d get to my due date, I thought the baby would come early.  But I find myself here, still waiting and wondering why I expected this when I was told that first pregnancies are usually late.  Why did I think I would be one of the minority? 

Maybe it’s the words “due date”.  For everything else in life a due date is the last date possible.  The milk has a due date and you usually wouldn’t drink it after that date has passed!  But it seems that a pregnancy due date (technically called “Expected Date of Delivery”) is just a ball-park date.  Babies can’t be relied upon to be on time!  I knew this, which is why I wasn’t too worried about having February 29th as our due date.  But there’s still something disappointing about going “overdue”. 

So I was thinking that maybe doctors should change the way they talk about when a baby could be born.  They should tell you that it’s fine if the baby is born at 37 weeks, they’re developed enough to thrive.  But calling this “full term” invites expectation and disappointment for too long. 

I don’t think I’m going to change the way medical staff talk to pregnant women just because of my disappointments!  I write this in the hope that I can help other pregnant women handle their expectations, and that I can remember to be sensitive to those who may in future go over their due date in pregnancy.  The baby will come when the baby is ready and that’s probably for the best.