32 Weeks

Today marks exactly thirty-two weeks of my pregnancy…

I had originally planned to give birth to our baby in St Lucia, but my husband and I decided that returning to the UK would be a better option, and I flew to London at the start of November. Time moved quite slowly whilst I was in St Lucia – the Zika virus and intense heat had me largely housebound, and as a result I didn’t have many activities to fill my time. Since arriving in London I’ve been busy meeting friends and catching up on all the things I missed whilst I was living abroad. When I moved abroad it was the small things I missed the most: Shopping for all my favourite foods at my local supermarket, taking walks in my local park, and the changing of the seasons. The cool UK weather has certainly made pregnancy much more comfortable – taking long walks in nature is such a simple pleasure.

Pav is still working in St Lucia and plans to fly to London for the birth in January. He’s only allowed to take three weeks off, so we’ve decided to hire a Doula to help me through my labour and the birth in the event he isn’t there. I decided early in my pregnancy that I wanted to use hypnobirthing techniques during labour. My Doula is a trained hypnotherapist and fully supports this. When I tell people I plan to hypnobirth they often ask me if I intend to spend labour in some sort of trance. I imagine this highly amusing misconception has been brought about by that dodgy Paul Mckenna show in the nineties! Others associate hypnobirthing with the sole purpose of achieving a natural birth. Whilst hypnobirthing advocates certainly promote and encourage the idea of a natural birth, this isn’t the ultimate goal of hypnobirthing. Hypnobirthing is a state of deep relaxation, achieved through controlled breathing and meditation. It encourages parents to educate themselves on the process of labour and birth, facilitating greater awareness, and as a consequence, helps to alleviate fear and panic. It treats the birthing process as a natural and spiritual one, rather than the highly medicalised event it has become today. It asks women to believe that their bodies are fully capable of birthing their babies and that birth is something which women do, rather than something which happens to them. Some women will practice hypnobirthing techniques from the start of their pregnancies but still ask their doctor or midwife for an epidural in labour. Others plan to have a natural birth, but their labours do not progress as intended, and as a result their babies are delivered by emergency cesarean section. Hypnobirthing does not deem these women failures. Hypnobirthing aims to empower women in all circumstances, so they may approach their situation from a position of calm confidence.

My hospital offers women two options; a birthing centre led by midwives, and a delivery ward offering consultant-led care. I have chosen the midwife-led centre which offers a more holistic approach and minimal intervention. I would also like to have a water birth and this isn’t available on the consultant-led unit. I’m preparing myself with three sessions of meditation a day. I do a mindfulness meditation at the start of the day which focuses solely on the breath and calming the mind. At lunchtime I complete an analytical meditation where I examine any areas of tension in my life that I need to let go of. I finish the day with a long guided hypnobirthing meditation that relaxes the mind in preparation for labour and birth. I am also practising the breathing techniques which my Doula gave me for the different stages of labour. More than anything, I think a positive mindset is the most important tool in overcoming life’s challenges and I express gratitude every day that my body is healthy and doing such a wonderful job of growing and nourishing my unborn baby.

I’m interested to hear from other mums on how they prepared for labour and birth, and other mums-to-be on how they’re getting ready for the big day – but positive stories only please! 🙂

Grand Anse Beach, Grenada, Caribbean

I’m a real beach bum at heart but often wonder how this came to be. I was born in London, one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas. London is about as far-removed from beach life as Alaska is from Dubai. If you’re lucky the sun might shine twice a year and bikini temperatures are even less common. I was lucky enough to travel abroad at least once a year as a child, but my parents always preferred museums and castles to ocean and sand.

The beaches of my native country present a myriad of problems. The occurrence of a few days sunshine per year brings Glastonbury-sized crowds to England’s coastline on warm days. Instead of burning your feet on powder-white sand, you’re more likely to twist your ankle on slippery stones. Intersected by enormous piers selling everything from candyfloss to fish and chips, fun fair rides to arcade machines, you’ll be glad you packed your sunglasses, even when the unpredictable weather brings an unforeseen rain shower in the middle of the day. England has a lot of beauty, but let’s just say it’ll never be famed for it’s beaches. So it is perhaps no wonder that I was most excited about living by the sea when I first learnt I was moving to the Caribbean…

Oddly enough, and unconventional to my nature, I did very little in the way of research before arriving in Grenada. Most of my travel planning revolves around finding the nicest places to stay, and their proximity to the beach. As we’d be staying in a corporate apartment allocated by my husband’s company, I figured it might be better to do some research once we knew which area we’d be staying in.

About a week after arriving, we were introduced to Grenada’s magnificent two-mile stretch of white-sand paradise, otherwise known as the Grand Anse Beach. Situated on the south-east of the island, this beach is at the heart of Grenada’s remarkably laid-back tourist hub. Dotted with upmarket resorts, vibrant restaurants and water sport centres, the beach offers something to every visitor.

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In the middle of the beach, close to the car park, you’ll find the Umbrellas Cafe and Coyaba Beach Resort. Umbrellas is a large beachfront diner catering for students, tourists, and expats alike. It serves cocktails, sandwiches and occasionally features the odd bit of live music. Coyaba is an upmarket resort with beautifully manicured gardens, a relaxing poolside bar and ambient evening restaurant. Head to the far right of the beach and you’ll find Coconuts, a French Creole Restaurant with a cosy intimate atmosphere.

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The real draw is the beach itself. The Grand Anse is one of the prettiest beaches I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. Situated on the relatively placid Caribbean Sea and absent of the tourist swarms found on many of the beaches in Europe and Asia, this beach is certainly deserving of it’s prestigious reputation. The white sand is powder soft and the crystal-clear water free of stones, seaweed and other debris. At about 5.45pm, the sun sets over the water, producing a magical sunset worthy of generating some seriously divine holiday snaps. You’ll find a cosmopolitan mix of locals, expats and tourists, who come to cool off, dance to reggae music and even take swimming lessons in cordoned-off lanes in the sea! Whilst commercial, the beach has resisted the pitfall of over-development, something which the Grenadian government are apparently wary of. Head to the far corners of the shore and you’ll find some fairly secluded spots where you can relax completely undisturbed.

We’ve got one more week on Grenada before we head north to Saint Lucia, which is where we’ll be living. I’m quite sure we’ll be spending many more days and sunsets in this beautiful location before our departure…

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