I arrived home last night and asked N whether he’d seen my new blog post.  He said that he had and remarked, rather huffily, that he felt he warranted more than a brief mention at the end.  I said that he would be the subject of the next post.  I don’t think he believed me, so here I am, proving him wrong.

It must be a peculiar thing, being the partner of a pregnant woman.  You’re part of the pregnancy, and yet you’re not.  From the moment that I knew that I was pregnant, I felt both mentally and physically different.  It was impossible not to.  And yet for N, life continued much as normal.  He said to me that the turning point was our first scan.  I thought that it would take several minutes for the sonographer to find the baby, but she put the wand on my stomach and bang, there she was.  A grainy but distinct face on the screen.  N grabbed my hand.  He said that was the moment when it all became real.

Our little monkey, however, wasn’t interested in inviting her Daddy to the party.  As time went on she began to move around and kick.  I would point to the strange lumps and bumps she made, and they’d instantly disappear.  I’d grab his hand to place it where she was kicking, and she’d become perfectly still.  She was not prepared to perform for anyone.  We laughed about it but I wished that he could have been able to join in a bit more.

That said, he did have a free chauffeur for nine months.

It was when we went to our series of ante-natal classes (we did hospital ones as well as NCT ones) that it became clear just how vital a role he could play in the late stages of the pregnancy, the labour and the birth itself.  Not for him the ‘sit in the pub and have a cigar when it’s all over’ scenario of our own fathers and grandfathers.  I think it’s a credit to both the NHS and the NCT that they were both so keen to inform and involve the partners.  He was the one busily taking notes about contraction timings, hospital bags, pain relief options and potential complications, because he knew that he’d be the person best placed to deal with all of those things as and when the time came.  I was both amused and delighted when he came home one day with several copies of our birth plan, illustrated and laminated, for us to take to the hospital with us (I didn’t want to think too hard about why the lamination might be necessary, to be honest!).

When it came to the crunch, he swung into action like a trooper.  The bags were packed, the car was full of petrol and he orchestrated the to-ing and fro-ing from the hospital without a hitch (he also paid the eye-watering parking charges at the hospital, but that’s another story).  He knew what our preferences were, he knew what options should be available to me and, importantly, he kept my head high and a smile on my face when our carefully constructed plans took a 180 degree turn.  I think that, secretly, he was a little disappointed that everyone in the hospital was so fabulously accommodating because he’d wanted to play the role of Superhero Husband a little more, but I could be wrong.

He bought lots of food for me, only to discover that I wasn’t allowed to eat any of it.  Undeterred, he stocked up on jelly babies and tactfully ate his own lunch in a corner when I wasn’t looking.  He breathed with me.  He held me steady while they put needles into my spine.  He cracked jokes.  He lifted me into the bathroom when I couldn’t walk any more.  He spurred me on with encouraging words when I was at the absolute end of my tether.  He got closer to a lot more gore than he really wanted to.  He told me that he loved me when M was finally born.

And, of course, he got to do all of that wonderful father-y stuff.  He cut the cord (tougher than he thought it would be, apparently) and, while I was busily dispensing of the placenta, he took off his t-shirt and hugged his little baby girl to his chest.  I’d been a bit worried about how he’d bond with the baby (having been told how one of his friends had really struggled to do so) but knew in that moment that he was smitten.

I’m also obliged to say that as soon as the midwife was out of the room he was begging to have a go on the gas and air.  Which, of course, he did.

In the blissful calm after the birth, while I munched on a warm scotch egg (don’t ask … I was ravenous) and contemplated a nice hot shower, I felt immensely proud of him.  I genuinely couldn’t have done it without him, and for that I am eternally grateful.


Well, we’ve got to that stage where the baby’s arrival feels very close indeed, so much so that we packed our hospital bags at the weekend.  We’ve had loads of advice about what to take, from the sublime (‘biscuits and big knickers’) to the ridiculous (‘plenty of booze’), so I thought I’d share it.

I’ll start with the star of the show … the baby.  I’ve not had a particularly weepy pregnancy, but I have to confess that packing stuff for her did bring a lump to my throat.  I picked up this tiny babygrow and thought ‘we’re going to bring that back with little person inside it’.  Strange, magical, emotional and slightly scary all at the same time!  So, for her, we have some babygrows (in a couple of sizes, some full-length and some short); scratch mitts; socks; a hat (we were told they like a newborn to wear one for about the first four hours); a sleeping bag and cellular blanket (who knows how hot it’s going to be?); cotton wool and a bag of nappies; a hooded towel (we’re hoping for a waterbirth so I’d like to have something soft to wrap her in).

Then there’s me.  Clearly I’m much easier to cater for in the clothing department!  It does make me laugh, however, that all the recommendations say ‘comfy clothes’, the implication being that you might accidentally turn up in a corseted balldress and six-inch heels.  I discovered several weeks ago that maternity yoga trousers are a pregnant woman’s best friend, so that’s what I’m taking.  Then there’s the whole issue of what to wear during labour itself.  From what I can tell, most people just strip off (especially because it can be incredibly hot in a maternity department).  Given that I might actually want to walk around the hospital without terrifying anyone, I have a nightshirt and a set of nursing pyjamas.  That should cover all eventualities.  I also have some socks because apparently your temperature drops after the birth, and I’m not a slippers kind of a girl.  For the waterbirth, rather than opting for a bikini/tankini or similar I’m just planning to go in as nature intended.  Something tells me I really won’t care by that point.

For managing the labour itself, we have a tens machine (apparently brilliant for the early stages, but do remember to take spare sticky pads as they lose their stick quickly); hot water bottle; aromatherapy oils (lavender, clary sage and peppermint to be precise … apparently the hospital keep some too); a wooden back massager.  Sadly we’re not allowed candles.  The hospital have swiss balls, so we won’t be attempting to pack one of those, but apparently can be short of pillows so we have some on standby.  Comfort, as we know, is going to be key.  Again, given the warnings about the temperature on the ward, we’ll probably take a handheld electric fan and some water spritzers (but only if I manage to purchase them in time!).

Absolutely everyone has mentioned food and drink.  The recommendation is high-energy foods, and plenty of liquids (preferably in a sports bottle or with a bendy straw because you may be in a strange position for most of the time).  I’m planning to take some powerade-type still energy drinks (a very dry mouth can make eating difficult, apparently), some snack bars and fruit, and maybe some biscuits.  There is food available in the M&S at the hospital, but not around the clock, so we’ll have some change for vending machines too in case it’s needed.

Then there’s the whole host of other things you’re told to take for use after the birth: nursing bra and breast pads; paper pants (although with hindsight I wish I’d just bought cheap cotton ones); maternity towels (the less said about those the better); nipple balm; toothbrush, lip balm and toiletries (a good idea to do this in advance … a friend described decanting shampoo into minature bottles during full-on contractions  at 2am and doesn’t recommend it).  This is too much information, really, but I’ve also been advised to take some Fybogel immediately after the birth to make any subsequent, er, ‘movements’ as easy as possible.  Sound advice, I think!  And while we’re in the toilet, a couple of friends have suggested taking toilet cleaner or cleaning wipes because cleanliness can be an issue.

I think that’s about it.  My husband, N, is taking shorts and t-shirts (again, conscious of the heat) and a spare change of clothes in case I throw up on him.  Now there’s a lovely thought.  It sounds like we’re packing for a month, but I can assure you that all of this fits into one small wheelie case and one equally small holdall.  OK, except the pillows!

So now we really are ready and the waiting game continues.  The midwife came to visit me this morning and confirmed what I thought … the baby has moved down, her head is in my pelvis (although not fully engaged) and everything is as it should be.  Tick tock, tick tock!

Since the last post I’ve found out that two of the six women in our NCT group have had their babies, two little girls.  I’m really delighted for them both and it’s really making the whole thing feel very real (and, for us, very imminent!).

I was planning to write a post about the NCT, so this seems as good a time as any to do it.  It’s one of those default topics among mothers-to-be … are you going to go, or not?  Is it all a bit too worthy?  Is it worth the money?  Do they have their own agenda?  Is it horrendously middle class?  Everyone seems to have an opinion about the NCT, but the prevailing feeling seems to be that the connection you make with other new mothers in your area is invaluable.  We’d already attended a series of free ante-natal classes at St. Thomas’s, so felt reasonably clued up about what to expect, but felt that there was no harm in learning some more and, if we met some people we got along with, so much the better.

We signed up for two all-day Saturday classes and a half-day breastfeeding session during the week.  I was, I must be honest, a bit cynical about what it would be like.  I imagined being lectured about the wonders of natural childbirth, how to cook your own placenta and the evils of formula feeding.  The good news is that I was a long way off the mark.  The woman who led our sessions was brilliant.  Not only is she an NCT counsellor but a doula as well, so she’s attended oodles of births of all kinds.  Her point of view was refreshingly objective, and just on the right side of hippie craziness.  I really enjoyed listening to her, and her impersonation of a woman in labour is something that I definitely won’t forget in a hurry (nor will any of the men in the group, I’ll bet).  Importantly, she kept stressing how much of a bond we would form with each other and how this would really benefit us in the future.  There’s something toe-curling about saying ‘you will become friends with this group of strangers’, but she carried it off and really helped us to get over that initial awkwardness.

The only part I was a bit ambivalent about was the breastfeeding session.  The counsellor was one of those women that a friend of mine hilariously refers to as the ‘breastapo’.  I know there are benefits to breastfeeding, for both mother and baby, and genuinely believe that people should at least try it.  I also know, however, that for some women it simply isn’t an option (it’s too hard, the baby isn’t responding or getting enough milk, it’s too limiting if they need to go back to work, etc.).  I’ve heard some absolute horror stories from perfectly sensible friends and colleagues of mine who have put themselves through hell because they equate formula feeding with failure.  There’s an incredible amount of pressure on women to do it, there really is.  I’ve kept quiet while I’ve been told a long list of pro-breastfeeding claims: less ear infections, reduced risk of gastric diseases, less likelihood of obesity or diabetes in later life, higher IQ, world peace (OK, not world peace but not far off!).  I did, however, get annoyed when we were told that formula feeding is A Bad Thing.  It’s apparently unsuitable for human offspring because it is based on cow’s milk and their physiology is different from ours.  Not only do I think that is absolute hogwash, but there is a very real chance that some (or all) of the women in the group will need to feed their baby formula at some point.  All the counsellor has achieved, therefore, is to add another layer of guilt to that decision.  I don’t think that’s helpful or constructive.

That small issue aside, I would firmly recommend the NCT to anyone.  Not only have we met a fabulous bunch of people, but we really did receive some excellent advice and had fun to boot.  It’s yet one more step towards us both feeling confident and comfortable about the prospect of the birth and beyond.

I had a visit from one of the midwives yesterday for my fortnightly check. I’m fine, the baby’s fine and, most importantly, she’s lying with her head down and her spine to the front. Hallelujah. Here’s hoping that she doesn’t do something crazy like wriggle herself into a breech position in the next couple of weeks.

This is going to sound bonkers but, prior to the pregnancy, I had no idea about the importance of midwifery care. I think I assumed that I would be looked after (as such) by my GP. In fact, I don’t really know what I assumed. I knew that I would have a couple of scans, and that someone would probably want to prod me around a bit to make sure that everything was normal. I think I thought that a midwife would show up at some point during labour and that would be about it. There’s something slightly alarming about the fact that I could reach my grand old age and be so thoroughly ignorant about the actual ins and outs of pregnancy. They certainly didn’t teach it to me at school, that’s for sure.

What I’ve discovered is that they’re actually right at the heart of your care and, I’m guessing, the quality of that care will be largely dependent on your relationship with them. We are in something of a fortunate position. The midwives from our local maternity hospital (St Thomas’s) are affiliated with my GP’s practice. This means that, over the course of the last few months, I have met all of the women on that team and, therefore, the woman who will actually deliver my baby. The advantages to this are huge. Not only have we been able to get to know them, but they’ve shared a real breadth of knowledge and advice with us: their personal opinion, ‘standard’ practice, hospital protocol etc. That’s been invaluable because, as any pregnant woman soon discovers, opinions and procedures can differ wildly.

I always find that I come away from a meeting with them feeling enormously calm and reassured. Confident, even. Given that pregnancy and birth is such an overwhelming prospect, that reassurance is worth its weight in gold. I never thought that anyone could actually make me look forward to labour, but they’ve managed to achieve that. They really have demystified the whole thing. And that’s not to say that I necessarily agree with everything that they say. Because of the nature of their job they are very supportive of active labour, so-called ‘natural’ childbirth, breastfeeding and all of those things. Some of the issues that are raised during discussions with them can be quite polarising and even contentious (just raise the question of administering a drug like pethidine, for example).

There’s a real risk that you can end up being steamrollered into a type of labour and birth that you don’t necessarily want simply because the preferences of the hospital or obstetrician are presented to you as necessities or ‘just the way it’s done’ … and probably at a time when you are least prepared to have an intellectual debate about the whys and wherefores! I’ve come to the conclusion that the midwives really are the people that will help to ensure that this doesn’t happen. They are your front line allies and they are there to support and encourage you. However your midwifery care is set up, I would definitely recommend that you have as open and questioning a relationship with them as you can. It can only be to your benefit.

‘I’m pregnant’.

I have to be honest, those are words that I never thought I would hear myself saying.  I was well into my mid-thirties before it even occurred to me that having a child might be something I’d like to do.  My husband (then boyfriend) was equally non-committal about the whole idea.  But, slowly and surely, the topic of kids started to creep into our conversations on a reasonably regular basis.  Then we got engaged, got married, and by the time we got back from honeymoon the deed was done!  It all happened very quickly and, I’m delighted to say, very easily.

I knew I wanted to blog about the experience of becoming a Mum for the first time, but choosing the right time was really tricky.  Start at the beginning and hope nothing goes wrong?  Start in the middle when, frankly, there’s not much going on?  Wait until it’s all over and you’re overwhelmed by the new arrival?  In the end, I settled on waiting until fairly close to the birth, at almost 37 weeks.  My due date is 3rd August.

So, how has it been?  Strange, is the short answer!  I know I’m not alone in this, but the mental transition from career to motherhood has been interesting.  I’m amazed by how quickly my priorities shifted from the demands of my 9-5 and my clients, to the impending arrival of our daughter (yes, we found out).  I was surprised by how much of an (increasingly irrelevant) annoyance my job became, and I’ve always loved my job.  Slowly and surely, I found that my mind was telling me ‘there’s a baby on the way, ignore all this crap!’ and it was quite difficult to stay focused on work.  I’ve been on leave for two weeks now and, frankly, work feels like a different world.

Having started this blog towards the end of the pregnancy, I’ll give you a brief overview.  I’ve been very lucky, in my opinion.  I was nauseous for a few weeks, but never actually sick.  I couldn’t go near anything that was strongly flavoured or scented (garlic, onions, spices, fried food, even my beloved red wine!) and retreated into this weird world of bland children’s food.  I lived on cheese and pickle sandwiches, fishfingers, sweetcorn, bread.  Anything yellow, it seems!  Then, suddenly, I hit a turning point about four months in and my appetite came back with a vengeance.  I was mightily relieved.

I did have one setback in the early days.  At around twelve weeks I had flu, which became a chest infection that totally poleaxed me for three weeks.  I struggled to get up my own stairs without having to rest halfway up, developed asthma into the bargain, and spent weeks on antibiotics that didn’t even make a dent in it.  It was horrible.  I couldn’t lie down and had to sleep propped up on the sofa.  It’s odd … you always hear about early pregnancy symptoms of tiredness and sickness, but nobody tells you that you can have respiratory problems too.  So be warned.

After that cleared up, along came the heartburn (thank goodness for Gaviscon, I was drinking it by the pint) and comedy hiccups that were pretty much constant for about a month.  More amusing than troublesome, frankly, although it made holding a conversation very interesting.

Since then, it’s been pretty much plain sailing.  Almost textbook.  We’ve done our homework, been to ante-natal classes, set up the nursery (more on all of those things to follow) and are eagerly awaiting the day when two becomes three.  I can’t wait.