My Labour Case

At the bottom of my bed currently lies a huge black suitcase which would have you thinking I was about to head off on a month-long cruise of the Mediterranean. Sadly no, this is my labour case. Thanks to the NHS’ extensive packing list it’ll now need two people to haul it downstairs.

My labour case has been a work in progress. I started it at about 28 weeks and I’ve been slowly adding to it ever since. I’ve packed most things which were suggested on the NHS website and had a few ideas of my own. Snacks took top priority for my husband and I, as we’re both a nightmare if we’re hungry! Most things are now packed and ready to go, some things I’ll add just before heading to the hospital.

dsc_0549Gorgeous warm baby clothes from John Lewis Baby.

Here’s my full list (Be warned, it’s lengthy):

Towels

Dressing gown

Slippers

Comb

Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear book by Elizabeth Gilbert

Waterbottle

SNACKS! ūüćęūüėč

Extra pillows – apparently the ones in the hospital don’t provide much comfort!

Mobile phone and charger

Hypnobirthing music

Meditation music

SLR camera and lenses

Make up

Wallet

My beloved SLR – for capturing those first special moments

Keys

Lip balm – apparently your lips can become chapped and irritated during labour.

Maternity notes

Car seat

Pen – Kingston hospital get you to fill out a feeding chart after birth and have already warned me that they are possessive over their pens!

Medela breastfeeding bottles – Unlike ordinary bottles, Medela bottles require babies to mimic the sucking action they’d use for the breast. Nevertheless, I’ve been strongly advised by the feeding team at Kingston not to use any type of bottle of dummy until I’ve established breastfeeding. This usually takes about six weeks. I packed them as a precaution, should in case I struggle to breastfeed.

Hipp Organic 1 formula milk – Also packed as a precaution, should in case I struggle to breastfeed.

Cotton wool pads – The midwife told me baby wipes should go no where near a newborn’s skin.

Maternity underwear

Maternity pads

Breast pads

Eye mask

Face wipes

Ear plugs

dsc_0556My phone which contains all my hypnobirthing and meditation music

Mouthwash

Nail scissors

Toothpaste

Shower gel

Dental floss

Toothbrush

Nipple cream

Hair products

Moisturiser

Shampoo

Conditioner

Deodorant

Handheld fan

Warm babygrows

dsc_0547I’ve bought most of my toiletries in minature size for convenience

Winter bodysuits

Baby cardigan

Baby socks

Baby hats

Muslin squares

Baby blanket

Swaddles

Nappies

Pyjamas

Socks

TENS machine

Nursing bras

Cardigan

Boots

Warm and comfortable nursing dresses from JoJo Maman Bebe – I’ve lived in skinny jeans for the past couple of months but imagine these would be fairly uncomfortable after giving birth, so I’ve packed three nursing dresses specifically designed for breastfeeding which I’ll pair with black soft tights.

dsc_0534Comfortable nursing clothes from high street retailer JoJo Maman Bebe

What has everyone else got on their list? Is there anything mamas with more experience can advise me on? Is there a ‘must have’ item which I’ve forgotten?

For all the mummies-to-be who are reading this, have fun packing your case and the very best of luck! 

xxx

Full Term

In the UK, full term of pregnancy is officially classified as 37 weeks. Yesterday I reached this all-important milestone and it’s a wonderful achievement. 

I’ve really loved being pregnant and think I’ll miss my bump, but can’t wait to meet our little one, who is due in just under three weeks on the 26th of January! 

I found the pregnancy questionnaire below online and thought it would be a fun way to update you all on these final weeks of my pregnancy. 

How Far Along? 37 weeks and 1 day 

How big is baby? I’m not sure as this generally isn’t measured past 20 weeks, unless your midwife or doctor think your fundal height (bump size) is too big or too small for your due date. What I will say is that baby definitely feels cramped now, and his movements can be quite painful! On average babies are about six and a half pounds by 37 weeks.

Total Weight Gain/Loss? I’m not sure, as neither the doctor or midwife weigh me at my antenatal appointments. I often ask to use their scales as I don’t have any at home. My estimate would be that I’ve gained about 30 pounds by now. 

Maternity Clothes? I was living in St Lucia until I was 28 weeks pregnant. There I just wore loose summer trousers and linen tops to keep cool. I bought some new stuff but luckily a few items in my wardrobe still fit me. When I got to London in November I bought two stretchy long-sleeve maternity tops and two pairs of maternity jeans – one in black and one in traditional denim from JoJo Maman Bebe. I also bought a winter maternity coat from JoJo and a few maternity bras from Marks and Spencer. The rest of my wardrobe is made up of items I wore before pregnancy. 

Sleep: I don’t think I’ve slept properly since about 32 weeks. There are a number of reasons for this: Weird dreams, pelvic girdle pain and a compressed bladder are the main ones, but let’s not talk about changing sides, and in fact getting out of bed. No one warned me this can be likened to a mini workout! ūüėā Like morning sickness, disrupted sleep is definitely a downside to pregnancy. It is as if the body is preparing the new mother for all the sleepless nights that are to come! 

Best Moment this Week: Reaching full term

Movement: I’m carrying a baby who loves to punch and prod the organs around him! ūüėĪ His movements have been quite uncomfortable since about 24 weeks, now they can be downright agony. The silver lining is that lots of movement is usually a healthy sign. ūüėä

Food Cravings: None

Food Aversions: Aubergine. Thai food seems to set off my indigestion so I’m avoiding it for now. I loved it before!

Gender: We are team blue! ūüĎ™

Labour signs: According to the midwife I’m about 2/5 engaged. I feel some pelvic pressure from time to time. 

Pregnancy symptoms: I’ve had just about every symptom in the book: non-stop nausea and vomiting at the start, indigestion, pelvic girdle pain and the urge to nest! The only symptom I seem to have escaped is cravings. My main symptom this week is sore hips and disrupted sleep. 

Belly button: Out since about 34 weeks.

What I miss: I don’t really miss anything about my pre-pregnancy life and would do it all again in a heartbeat. I’m sure once the baby is here I’ll miss elements of my old life from time to time. 

What I am looking forward to: Meeting our little one and having a large Baileys! 

Stretch marks: I think I have a few faint ones, but I’m not sure. Generally they don’t show up on my skin until they’ve faded to silver – I have a few on my hips which look like this and have no idea when I acquired them – probably during a growth spurt in my teens! 

Wedding rings: No longer fit!

Weekly wisdom: “Enjoy your me time whilst you still have it, life is about to change drastically.”

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! ūüôā

A New Chapter…

It’s been more than four months since my last blog post. I’m a Newbie in blogging terms, having only written a handful of posts since moving to the Caribbean last February, but despite this, I’ve been struggling to find content. After some self-reflection, the reasons for this are clear: When I first started my blog back in March, my life looked significantly different to what it does now. Whilst I think I’ll always have the soul of a free-spirited traveller, one can’t deny that I’m now embarking on a new chapter, one where everything I’ve known changes exponentially, and the new life growing in my belly takes top priority. Unsurprisingly, planning for birth and parenthood have taken centre stage, leaving little time to consider travel or adventure, at least for the time being.

Writing in any medium is a form of self-expression and I’d like this blog to be authentic to my interests. Therefore, I’ve decided to change direction slightly: In future I’ll be blogging more about pregnancy, and expat life as a parent; topics which I love to read about on other people’s blogs! I think this will give me more to write about, but most importantly, more motivation to continue writing.

Another issue which I must address is my perfectionism! I’ve confused blogging with high-brow journalism, agonising over every adjective and sentence. This inevitably sucks all joy out of my hobby, as a short post which should take no longer than a couple of hours takes days or even weeks of tweaking. From now on I’m going to try and write in a more concise and down-to-earth narrative. Not least because I won’t have time for great elaboration once my arms are full with a newborn! I’m searching for a new name for my site too – please get in touch if you’ve got any ideas for suitable names.

I’m excited to say I’m now almost thirty-two weeks pregnant. I’m currently back in the UK and loving the cooler weather, which has made pregnancy much more comfortable. Generally I feel fine in myself but have some mild pelvic girdle pain. My midwife told me to slow down all activity and be careful not to overstretch in yoga. I’m also struggling to complete some basic tasks such as taking off my shoes. Bending over strains my back so I have to squat or sit down to reach things at a low level. My hips are also sore at night and turning over is a nightmare, I often get stuck on my back whilst trying to change sides! However, I must say all of this is a small price to pay for the joy of feeling our baby squirming and kicking every day. ūüėä

Having a Baby in St Lucia

I’ve looked after children as part of my professional life for the past four years. Those four years brought about some of the biggest challenges I’d ever faced at work but I’m exceedingly grateful for that time. Armed with ideas for educational activities, the knowledge of developmental milestones and how to establish routines, I’ve a better grounding in early childhood development than most parents to be. However, I’ve no idea if this knowledge will translate to real life when I’m severely sleep deprived and suffering chapped nipples. What’s more, having a baby abroad is uncharted territory. Who will handle my antenatal care? How do I meet other mums in my community? How will I feel when my husband returns to work and I’m at home on my own with a¬†screaming newborn? I’ve been told that parenting is one of life’s toughest gigs.¬†I’d imagine that parenting in a foreign country doesn’t make things any easier.

I had my first antenatal appointment in St Lucia at¬†approximately eleven weeks and two days into my pregnancy. We’d had a disappointing experience at SAMS hospital in Grenada and were desperately hoping that the medical care in St Lucia was on a different par. From what I understand, British women initially make an appointment with their GP¬†who refers them to a midwife at a hospital or birthing centre and most give birth at the same establishment. In St Lucia, women tend to seek the services of a public health clinic which offers antenatal care led by midwives, or the services of a private obstetrician. Some opt for a combination of both, then refer themselves to the public health hospital once in labour. Others opt only to receive private care, either using just the private hospital or a combination of the hospital and private health clinics. Antenatal counselling such as breastfeeding advice and breathing techniques for labour are only available at public health clinics. Depending on your outlook, you could say that antenatal services in the¬†UK are more streamlined, or that the care in St Lucia is more flexible.

We’ve chosen the services of Dr Nadia Samuel at the private Tapion hospital in Castries. She’s a St Lucian obstetrician and gynecologist who has worked in the UK for twelve years and has vast¬†experience of dealing with obstetrical deliveries and emergencies.

After being weighed, Dr Samuel asked me a series of questions about my medical history. She took my blood pressure then asked me to lie down on the bed for my first ultrasound scan. For numerous reasons, I’d been unable to bridge many emotions¬†to my pregnancy until that point. Being pregnant is a lot like partaking in your own wedding – it feels oddly surreal. I’d also spent a month concentrating all my efforts on the exhausting task of morning sickness boot camp. This had left me little time to ponder life’s changing course and if I’m being honest, had¬†me feeling partially¬†unresponsive.

As Dr Samuel slid the ultrasound Doppler across the jelly on my stomach, a¬†beautiful¬†image came into view on the screen. For the first time, we laid eyes on our unborn baby. My husband mentioned something about being surprised the baby was moving so much and I fell silent in a rare moment of speechlessness. What I felt in that moment was a surge of pure love that was both primal and all consuming in it’s nature. Any suffering from previous weeks was suddenly eclipsed in the miracle of maternal biology.¬†Mummy and Daddy already love you more than you could ever imagine and we will do all we can to protect and guide you in the years to come.¬†

We left Dr Samuel’s office on cloud nine, heading downstairs to the laboratory in quiet contentment. She’d been professional, thorough and sensitive to our questions, and seeing our baby was the icing on the cake to our first successful appointment.¬†I’ll have an ultrasound scan and appointment every month. These will get more frequent¬†as I approach¬†labour.

The laboratory took a blood test and urine sample. I was given a total of twelve tests which included:

  • Diabetes
  • A test to establish which blood group I belong to
  • A complete blood count
  • A few tests for sexually¬†transmitted diseases, including Hepatitis B, HIV and Syphilis
  • A hemoglobin test which can identify serious illnesses¬†such as sickle cell and leukemia
  • A test that establishes the likelihood of a series of serious illnesses, including a rare type of cancer called adult T-Cell lymphoma
  • Rubella
  • Thyroid
  • Urine infections

A week later Dr Samuel emailed me to state that all my tests were clear.

Before planning our family, Pawel and I sat down and discussed the sort of parents we’d like to be. We believe children should be shown the same love, respect and understanding as adults. We believe children need¬†gentle boundaries, but that these should always be given¬†from a point of love rather than fear or threat. We are strongly against the idea of corporal punishment. We’ll strive to put our child’s needs before our own but try to avoid the pitfall of¬†becoming¬†martyrs to them.¬†We’ve agreed not to read a single book but to parent entirely on our gut instincts.¬†The problem with books is they facilitate the idea that there is one way and only one way¬†to¬†parent.¬†Children are actually fairly individual in terms of the communication, boundaries and affection they require and parents are just as unique as their offspring. Some parents work. Some parents stay at home. Some parents roll around with their children in the mud. Others prefer to cheer them on from the sidelines. All possess the¬†universal¬†goal of wanting what is best for their kids. None of us really have any idea of the type of parent we’ll be until that becomes a daily reality. One thing I know for sure is that life will never be the same again.

DSC_059313 weeks and 3 days. Our baby is approximately the size of a lemon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Caribbean Baby!

By the time we’d arrived in¬†Grenada in February, my husband’s broodiness had reached feverish levels. I had my usual ambivalence towards the issue; I’d always wanted a family, but was selfishly reluctant to give up the freedom one become’s accustomed¬†to after living child-free beyond the age of thirty. I was also plagued with the common anxiety of wondering what a good parent was, and if I was even capable of being one.

Moving abroad forced me to examine the unforeseen direction my life had suddenly taken. Now prohibited from conventional employment due to visa restrictions, I explored different ideas, from starting my own business to embarking on another stint of travelling. Neither idea came to fruition for the simple reason that most ideas fail to come to fruition: I lacked the passion to pursue either. Starting a business felt too big a leap for a novice expat who’d just arrived in their adopted land, and whilst I loved travelling, the one and only time I travelled sans husband, I missed him terribly.

After a couple of months in Grenada I finally found myself on the same page as my husband. I’ve been practicing Buddhist meditation since last summer and have begun to use it as a tool for tuning in to my intuition.¬†By honing intuition, one is supposedly able to follow their heart’s desires, as opposed to the conflicting desires of the mind, and in turn lead a life which is more authentic to their true self rather than what society and other influences¬†expect of¬†them. So what does any of this spiritual mumbo jumbo¬†have to do with starting a family I hear you cry?¬†Whilst I’ve reluctantly come to accept that there is never a perfect time to¬†procreate, a messy home filled with happy children is an ambition I’d wholeheartedly love to fulfill at this time in my life.¬†In my gut, the decision to grow¬†our¬†family feels right.

I took a pregnancy test a few days before my period was due on the 17th of May 2016.¬†I knew I was pregnant as I waited for the results whilst simultaneously trying not to vomit!¬†Nonetheless, a haze of surreal excitement and disbelief hit me as I watched two positive lines slowly appear in the test window. What followed has been a roller coaster¬†few months. We’ve felt jubilation as we watched our baby dance in my womb at our first ultrasound scan, and apprehension¬†as the Zika epidemic predictably took hold of the Caribbean at¬†the start of the rainy season. We realised we’d seriously underestimated the emotional upheaval of having a baby abroad as we navigated foreign health systems, but felt relieved I was unemployed as I battled debilitating morning sickness that had me bed bound for a month.

I will try my very best not to morph into that social media nuisance who posts incessantly about pregnancy and babies, as I’m aware that many people¬†have zero interest in either topic. However, our journey into parenthood is now a significant story in our expat life here. I hope you won’t think me self-indulgent for including a few posts on the topic and I hope that these are both interesting and informative.