Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Whatever the weather

Spring has come to England!  Well, it was here--last week was absolutely glorious, but the rain and chillier temps have showed up again in the past two days. You never know how long nice weather will last here.  The English seem to spend most of their time grumbling about how bad the weather is, then when the nice weather comes, you just hear "Well, it won't last, will it?" It's hard to just live in the moment and appreciate what you've got!

I must say, having Gus around makes living in the moment a bit easier. I think he has really been enjoying the nicer weather--I'm enjoying sharing it with him, anyway!  We played out in the grass for the first time last Wednesday. He didn't want to sit (he never does!), but I took his socks off and stood him on the grass.  I picked a daffodil for him to play with. He thought it was a great toy: bright colors to look at, nice to touch, interesting smell. But apparently it didn't taste very nice, because he only put it in his mouth once, accompanied by a rather confused look! He also played with some rocks and a rosemary bush--he kept trying to taste/smell it, and got poked in the face by the leaves.

I couldn't play and take pics at the same time last week,
so you'll have to settle for this picture from last month of Gus and a tulip :)

I really like to take him out to experience the world. We go out walking most days (some days you just need a relaxing day in!), usually with Gus in the wrap. It is hard knowing how to dress him for the weather, though. He seems so vulnerable, first as a newborn in the cold, now with his delicate skin as the sun comes up. But at the same time, I want him to be able to feel the fresh air on his face (he always seems excited by a gentle breeze!) and the lovely sun kissing his skin. And I think a few light drizzles can't hurt him, and he probably enjoys the different sensations, as long as he is warm and his clothes don't get soaked through.

So I usually end up having him in multiple layers that come on and off as I feel is necessary. I especially like to have a fleece baby blanket in the colder or drizzly weather, as it is both warm and water resistant, can cover his face from gusts of wind (although my scarf works well for that as well!), and can fold up into the changing bag when we reach our destination. It is generally not a hands-free option, though, which is why I would really like a purpose-made vest or poncho--better save up my pennies or bust out my sewing machine for one of those, though!

But in the sun, I find it a bit more difficult. I never really worried about Gus getting too cold in the winter, except maybe on the most wet and frigid of days, because I wear him under my (unzipped) coat, where he has the benefit of my body heat. But in the sun, it seems to be a choice between being covered and too hot, or skin showing, but possible harm from the rays. His skin has never known this much sun before! Plus, I almost never burn, so I can't use my own experience to gauge when enough is enough. And what about vitamin D--how much sun is appropriate for a baby's needs? I have bought sunscreen for him now, so hopefully that will make things a bit easier, but I still think I'll be adding or taking off layers every two minutes.  (As an aside, I used to worry that people would think I was a horrible mother because Gus didn't wear as many layers as a baby in a buggy would need. It took me a while to convince myself that I had a better idea of what my baby needs than some stranger on the street! Although, I think I might have to do this again with regards to the sun and heat!)

So in conclusion, I want Gus to be safe, but I also want him to have fun in the world, experience all its various ways and weathers, and not be afraid to go outside anytime it is something other than 70 degrees and sunny. I imagine this is similar to what most parents want, so why is it so hard to figure out how to get it right!? 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Meat-free recipes for Lent or anytime

Well, Lent has begun, and for many in the Catholic world, that means meatless Fridays (or more!). Last week, Elizabeth at That Married Couple posted her family's favorite veggie meals, which inspired me to dust off some of my own favorites (although I am too busy lazy to type out recipes and take pictures, so I just have links to share). Seeing as I am vegetarian, I have a load of well-loved recipes bookmarked. Although, beware--these are so delish, you won't feel like you're giving anything up!

Not-So-Dirty Rice from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen:  I love this rice recipe. I have never eaten dirty rice, so can't speak for its authenticity, but I can testify to how yummy it is. I am a pretty lazy cook, so instead of making it in the beautiful little eggplants like in the original, I just make the rice on its own. I usually add half a cup of dried lentils with the rice (increasing the amount of liquid and adding more as needed) and throw in some spinach toward the end to get my green veggies in.

Curried Couscous Salad from Giada de Laurentiis (via): I don't really know why, but there's something about an aliterative ingredients list that really appeals to (the big nerd in) me. This one is great for that: curry, couscous, cucumber, cauliflower, cashews, and cranberries. Yum! It sounds a bit out there, in terms of ingredients, but it is so good.  I didn't put the full amount of cranberries in when I made it, because Jon generally doesn't like to mix sweet and savoury flavors, but we both agreed that they really make the dish, so I'll be adding more next time. I served this as a main dish, and the two of us polished it all off.

Ten Minute Tasty Asparagus and Brown Rice from 101 Cookbooks: This is kind of a ridiculous name for this recipe the way I make it because  a) I make the rice from scratch rather than use frozen rice, so it takes longer than 10 minutes; b) I rarely make it with asparagus, since I'll only buy asparagus when it is in season (even though I buy most other things year-round)--instead I use zucchini, cauliflower, or broccoli; and c) the stand-out part of the dish, for me, is the tahini sauce, which isn't even in the title. But, as long as you like tahini, it is tasty!

Creamy Pumpkin Penne from Cara's Cravings: I love everything with pumpkin or butternut squash, and probably have a dozen recipes I could share with that as the main ingredient, but I chose this one because, when I made it for the first time a couple of weeks ago, Jon commented about 10 times, while eating, how much he loved this dish. It must be a winner, with praise like that! Oh, and the original recipe calls for sausage, which I am sure is lovely if you like / are eating sausage, but I left it out with no ill effects.

Butternut Squash and Hummus Sandwich (inspiration): Lunch is a toughy for me, because I don't really like plain sandwiches, but it can be hard to cook something every day. I had this the other day, and it really hit the spot. I mashed together 3-4 tablespoons of leftover butternut squash (or micro-bake a sweet potato, if you have no squash) and 1-2 T store-bought hummus. Add hot sauce to taste, a tsp of apple cider vinegar, and some black pepper. Spread on your favorite bread / toast / wrap. Top with grated carrot and half an avocado.

Que aproveche!

Friday, March 11, 2011

7 Quick Takes (volume 7)

Apparently I can't count and now have two editions of Volume 5 of my Quick Takes. Oops!  So this one is volume 7, even though there is no #6. This blogging thing is confusing!

After posting about baby-led weaning the other day, I came across a post of 10 Reasons to Choose Baby-led Weaning at Diary of a First Child. She has some things that I didn't think about on there, so if you are interested in more reasons for BLW, go check her out!

Ash Wednesday was this week--beginning of Lent!  Gus and I went to Mass on Wednesday, but he didn't get any ashes. I figured this was because the priest who baptised Gus on Sunday was saying Mass and distributing the ashes, and he thought that Gus probably didn't need to "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel".

I'm always so bad at Lenten fasting and prayer. I still haven't figured out what I should do this year.  I have a feeling I should limit my internet time. I usually just go on when Gus is napping, but it is too easy to "just finish reading this one thing" once he wakes up, which then turns into 10 things! But I am scared to do it--I don't really like doing things that are hard ;)

I saw this list of Top 10 Parenting Scriptures by Dulce de leche. I thought it was really good; I hadn't even thought about looking for Bible passages about parenting (I am not very good with my Bible, I must admit). But then I thought this might be a good thing to add to my prayer life for Lent--meditating on Christian parenting and God as our Father. I might need to search around for more passages, though, so if you have a favorite parenting-related Bible verse, let me know!

This past Sunday was Gus's baptism.  It was a really great day--lots of Jon's family were able to celebrate with us, although my family wasn't able to make it over. Gus was really happy throughout the Mass. At the welcoming at the beginning, we were up on the altar, I was holding Gus, then all of a sudden, the congregation started laughing. I looked down to see Gus smiling and making faces at everyone. During the rite of Baptism, Gus looked like he was really listening to everything Father was saying. Jon's stepdad said it looked like Gus was touched by the Holy Spirit. We are so blest!
Being anointed with the holy chrism.
Our washing machine broke last week. We tried to get it fixed, but that only lasted 1.5 loads before breaking again. So for my birthday yesterday, I got a new washer! We got it delivered today, and it is so quiet compared to our old one. I love it already!  And I am looking forward to being able to use the cloth diapers again--they were definitely taking a break while we were without a machine. No hand washing of diapers for me, please!

Hope you have a great weekend!  Head over to Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thoughts about weaning

Weaning talk seems to be everywhere these days. Or maybe that is just me, as the mother of a four-month-old (yikes!). And there is so much information that is, I must say, rather poor (yes, I mean you, health care providers that don't follow the evidence). It is not helped by things like the article published in the British Medical Journal in January, which everyone seemed to interpret as saying that people should introduce solids at four months. (The NHS has a great explanation of what the article really did say here. Long story short: the authors suggest the government do a full review of the scientific literature to ensure that the recommendation of weaning at 6 months is based on up-to-date information. A full review is likely (in my opinion and others') to confirm the government’s current recommendations, but it is known that there are a small number of recent studies that show some possible benefits to earlier weaning. Oh, and some of the authors have, in the past, been paid by infant food companies, so there is a possible conflict of interest there.)

Before I go any further, I should define what I mean by weaning. Weaning can mean cessation of breastfeeding, but the way I am using it today is in the other sense of the word: introduction of complementary foods. For some people, the two go hand-in-hand, which, I guess, is why the one word has two meanings, although we are not planning on stopping breastfeeding anytime soon. I would prefer not to use such an ambiguous word, but introduction of complementary foods is a faff to write out all the time, so weaning it is! 

Anyway, I thought I would round up all my thoughts on the matter here. I did a research project a few years ago with regards to food and nutrition among children under 5 years of age. I read about all sorts of things, but one thing I learned about was baby-led weaning.  In this, you skip the whole step of feeding baby purees and instead give soft finger foods that baby can feed himself, such as banana, avocado, or cooked vegetables (more information in book formpaper, or blog). I really liked the idea of this, as it seemed to fit in with my general outlook on parenting (such as breastfeeding on demand, being sensitive to his needs, etc). 

One thing I noticed while reading the literature is that I could find information on possible benefits of both baby-led and traditional weaning, but I didn’t really read anything about negative consequences of either system. On balance, though, baby-led seems to be a good fit for our family, for various reasons, which I have outlined below for your reading pleasure!

1. Developmentally ready—inside and out. It is so important, when introducing solid foods, that your baby is ready to eat and digest them. Obviously, there is no magic switch that gets the gut ready for foods, and we can’t peek in to check if it is developed. However, the outer developmental signs give us an idea of internal development; basically, the skills baby needs to eat develop simultaneously to the intestinal tract. This is thought to occur at around six months old, which is why the WHO, UK Dept of Health, American Academy of Pediatrics, and others recommend waiting till 6 months to introduce solids.

Now, I was going to do a big list of what are and are not signs of readiness for food, with lots of detail. But then I found this page on the excellent website Kellymom, and the work was done for me! I’ll just give a quick list, then, and send you over to Kellymom if you want more details.

Many people think that a baby should be given solid foods when they stop sleeping through the night, as they probably aren’t getting enough milk. This isn’t a very good indication, though, as babies can wake up at night for a whole variety of reasons, including growth spurts for which breastmilk (or formula) should be sufficient. Dr Sears suggests that babies wake up more often before hitting developmental milestones, as they are dreaming about grabbing that toy or sitting up, and maybe even trying to do it in their sleep! I’m not sure how anyone might know this is going on, but it is a sweet thing to think about.

Another common reason for introducing solids is because baby is “interested” in food, watching what the parents eat or grabbing at it. I don’t really go along with this one, because Gus has seemed interested since about 3 months old, and has even swiped at my plate several times (spicy pasta probably not a good idea for baby!). The thing is, he shows a similar amount of interest in my polka-dotted pajama shirt, trying to grab and eat it too. So I don’t think he understands yet that food is for eating, just that it looks like an interesting toy and he wants to play with the things that we are playing with.

Signs that are generally thought to indicate readiness for food include being able to sit up unsupporteddisappearance of the tongue-thrust (when baby pushes things out of his mouth with his tongue), ability to chew rather than suck everything, and development of the pincer grasp (picking things up with thumb and forefinger rather than palm).  Obviously, babies develop at different paces, and parents are generally the experts on their own children. But, for the majority of babies, these things will all come together at about 6 months of age. 

It is actually perfectly possible to wait until full development before introducing solids using either baby-led or traditional weaning. However, for me, I think it will be easier to know for sure using baby-led weaning. It would be so easy (and tempting—I’m excited about his first solids!) to shove a spoon in Gus’s mouth when he isn’t quite ready. But if he isn’t ready for foods yet and we are doing baby-led, he just won’t try and eat it. He might mash and throw the foods, but he won’t try to put them into his mouth. Thus the baby-led part of this method. I really believe that babies do know when they can do things (instinct or whatever), they just need to be given the right opportunities and appropriate modelling and encouragement.

There are also lots of health benefits of exclusively breastfeeding a baby until 6 months of age. Kellymom can help us out with that one as well. A quick word about iron: many people worry about this, but if baby was born healthy and full-term and mom had a healthy pregnancy (and especially if you were able to delay clamping the umbilical cord), an exclusively breastfed baby should have plenty of iron for at least six months. There is less iron in breastmilk than in some other foods, but the bioavailability is high, meaning more of the iron is absorbed by baby’s intestines.

2. Going at Gus’s pace. I mentioned this a bit above, that with baby-led weaning, the child decides which foods and how much to eat. This helps them learn to regulate their appetite, as they will stop eating when they are full, rather than when mom stops putting the spoon in their mouth. Some people think this can help prevent obesity, because babies learn to listen to their bodies’ cues about satiation. And since breastfed babies already decide the when and how much, it makes sense to me to continue developing this skill.

I recently heard the phrase food is for fun until they are one. The WHO agrees that most of baby’s calories and nutrition should be met by breastmilk until she is 12 months old, and that even for children 12-23 months old, breastmilk can make up 35-40% of a child's caloric intake (here, p 12). This is why they use the term complementary foods. Solid foods shouldn’t be replacing milk feeds right away; they should be supplementing them. As baby grows, more calories come from solids. With baby-led weaning, baby will increase the amount of food actually ingested as needed (which may change day-to-day). Ellyn Satter recommends a division of responsibility in feeding in which it is the parents’ job to offer a variety nutritious foods at appropriate times, but it is the baby who decides how much and which specific foods to eat. Taking the focus off of shoving food in baby’s mouth in order to get enough calories instead gives baby the space to learn about tastes and textures of different foods at her own pace in a low-pressure environment. To me, baby-led weaning is the more natural way to achieve this goal.

3. Learn the social aspect of meals. Eating is about so much more than just getting the calories in. Mealtimes should be fun, relaxed times to spend with family and friends. All experts that I have read suggest that babies and children should eat with the family, and eat family foods, as often as possible and practical. Again, this can be done using either method of weaning, but it seems easier to do it with baby-led. I don’t think I could eat my food and spoon-feed a baby at the same time! I have lovely visions of Jon and I sitting at the table with our meal, Gus in his high chair, and all of us eating and talking together. Okay, Gus will probably do more throwing and playing than eating and talking, but it will be a family affair.

4. Save time and money. Or in other words, I am lazy. The idea of spending hours filling my freezer with purees does not excite me. Washing up all the accoutrements that do along with making those purees excites me even less. I know how our house works, and we will leave the pureeing utensils to sit dirty for days, because they are a pain to clean, will run out of food for Gus, and will have to open up a jar, which we will have paid an arm and a leg for, just to have him eat 2 bites. Excitement levels diminishing even more (I think I am actually digging a hole here for my lack of excitement to reach the appropriate depth.) Much better for my lazy self to peel a banana or steam a veggie or two in the microwave. Or just grab a bit of the dinner I am cooking for Jon and me and hand that over to Gus. Ahh, the bliss of the easy option!

5. Infant food companies. This reason gets me up on my political high horse a bit, but it is still important.  Infant food companies have in the past and continue today to engage in immoral and unethical practices with regards to promoting their products, particularly infant formula. Yes, some people do need to use breastmilk replacements for a variety of reasons, so it is good that they are available. But that doesn’t mean that they should be advertised using lies that undermine women’s confidence in their ability to breastfeed or to people who cannot ensure a safe, adequate supply of formula (i.e. people who would have to spend a majority of their income on formula or do not have access to clean water and sanitation). I am reading The Politics of Breastfeeding by Gabrielle Palmer at the moment, which has both horrified me with some of the advertising practices she describes and gotten me really passionate about the issue.

What does this have to do with weaning? Well, I know that if I use purees as the main part of Gus’s diet, I will be much more likely to rely on pre-packaged foods to feed him (see above re laziness), which all come from these same companies. I am sure that I will make some purchases of baby food anyway, but any way to limit the amount I give to these companies is good by me. I so far have not tried to join the complete boycott of Nestle, but I can do my little part. (There’s a good round-up of the reasons for the boycott, with lots of links, here)

6. He’s just so little! OK, this one (and the next one, really) don’t have to do with baby-led weaning per se, but they are too central to my whole thoughts about weaning to leave out. So many people start to give solids at four months, but I could just not handle that yet!  I am still getting used to Gus actually being here on this earth, much less be able to think about him growing up so fast that he can eat solid foods already.  I know I can’t keep him a baby forever, but if I can hold on to this bit for just a little longer and him still be healthy, I gladly will.

7. Proud of myself as a woman. To me, it is really empowering to see Gus growing and developing and know that it is all because of the food that I am creating for him with my own body. I don’t mean to imply that I am somehow “better” than non-exclusively-breastfeeding mothers, or that every breastfeeding mother should feel the way that I do.  But for me, in my own experience, it is a pretty awesome feeling. And to be able to go until 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding will be the icing on the cake for me. (Or really, the cake part of the cake, since I prefer it to the icing. But I digress.)

Anyway, that encompasses our weaning plans. Stay tuned for them to all come crashing down around us (hopefully not!).

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Gus's birth story (part three)

At last, the part you have all been waiting for--the actual birth part of the birth story!
Parts one and two.


Around 8 o’clock, MW2 left and MW3 came.  I had gotten out of the tub and was back on the landing, labouring on my hands and knees, or lying on my side to get a bit of rest. Gradually, I started feeling sicker and sicker during the contractions—literally nauseous. It felt like my body was going in two directions, pressure going up and going down. Transition.  I think I even mentioned to Jon that this must be transition because, apparently, at this stage, the contractions change from the uterine muscles pulling up in order to open the cervix to pushing down to push out the baby. And that is exactly what it felt like. Every contraction I wanted to retch, which was not a nice feeling, especially after my burrito lunch! And it seemed to go on forever. MW1 asked if I wanted some gas and air, but pain wasn’t the least concern for me (although it probably was there). Instead, I would have taken anything to get rid of the retching feeling! Lots of fervent prayers were said at this time: God, please help me get through this. God, make it stop soon!

Luckily, I did have my wonderful birth partner, Jon. My husband was an absolute star the whole day. He was always so encouraging and right there next to me, supporting me physically and emotionally, rubbing my back, offering food or drink as needed, giving encouraging words. I definitely couldn’t have done it without him. And apparently he was coming down with quite a bad cold and felt like crap all day, but never let it show, as he didn’t think I would appreciate his little miseries very much!

All the while I was labouring, MW1 was intermittently taking phone calls, talking to another labouring woman.  This really annoyed me, especially as I was getting toward the end; I was mentally quite ready to start pushing, but I felt I needed to wait for her to get off the phone.  I later found out that her daughter was in labour and having some complications, and she was helping her make some decisions. I didn’t mind once I knew, but she could have told me before, so that I didn’t have to waste energy being annoyed! And I think I only waited about 2 minutes. I don’t want it to sound like she ignored me the whole time, because she didn’t, it’s just that 2 minutes can be a long time in labour! But finally, she did a VE and told me what I was pretty sure I already knew—10cm, time to start pushing!

We started off quite relaxed, me kneeling and leaning over on Jon, pushing as I felt the urge. After about half an hour of this, I was getting really tired. MW1 suggested sitting down, so I sat in front of Jon, putting my hands on his knees or arms around his neck behind me to lift my bum up a bit with each contraction / push.  I found it really difficult and tiring to push. I would start pushing at the beginning of each contraction, but get exhausted and stop after about 30 seconds. Additionally, I couldn’t really tell when the contractions were ending, so I didn’t realise I should (according to MW1) keep pushing. She wanted me to push through the whole contraction, to minimise the amount that Gus slid back up in between, I guess. Also, she was not happy with me making a lot of noise; apparently it wasted energy, although I couldn’t figure out how to do it without making noise, so I basically just ignored her on that one.

Pushing seemed to just go on and on. I was so tired, I think I was crying. I felt like I wasn’t doing it right, as MW1’s manner was quite prescriptive. All I wanted to do was rest. I thought maybe changing position would help, so I went back on my knees. But then it was really hard to rest in between in that position, and MW1 said that my pushes were more constructive when I was sitting, so I moved back to that position. At the start of each contraction, Jon would put his hand on my stomach, and let me know when it had stopped. This way, I could push throughout the contraction, although I still would have to take a break halfway through, out of sheer exhaustion.

Finally, Gus’s little head was visible and stayed in place, but there seemed to be a bit of a lip that I just couldn’t get his head around. (Jon looked and said it was really cool to see baby’s head and all his hair. He also liked that he could see my abdomen “deflating” as Gus moved downwards!) I thought maybe changing positions would help again, but I was too tired to move! After about an hour 45 minutes of pushing, MW3, who had been monitoring Gus’s heart rate with the Doppler every few minutes, told us that Gus’s heart rate was starting to slow. Not so much that we needed to worry, but that I really needed to muster all my energy and make these pushes count. I found this really encouraging. Not that Gus’s HR was dropping, but MW3’s manner. Up until this point, he had been really laid back, but the change in attitude really helped.  So I pushed with a more concerted effort, but that baby’s head still didn’t want to move. MW1 suggested an episiotomy, which I really didn’t want, but after about 10 minutes, I couldn’t do it anymore.  She made the cut, and with the next push, Gus’s whole body shot out, face up (so that explains the pain and pressure in my back!), screaming his little head off!

We have a Gus!

It was amazing. He was put straight onto my chest, but he just kept screaming away. Jon and I were touching him and talking to him, telling him how excited we were that he had arrived. And how much we already loved this amazing little person.  MW1 asked Jon if he wanted to cut the umbilical cord. He was about to do it when she said Make sure not to cut his penis, which really freaked Jon out, and he decided to leave that bit to the professional. (I am not sure how you could get the two confused, or why the cord would have to be so close to the penis, but nevermind. Jon didn’t care too much about cutting the cord anyway.)  I vaguely thought, Wait until it is done pulsing, but was too enamoured with my new baby to care. And then the placenta was delivered about two minutes later, so it probably had stopped by then anyway. It was funny, because I was completely wrapped up in my baby (trying to comfort him to stop crying—he went on for what seemed like ages!), but part of me noticed when MW3 commented on the true knot in Gus’s umbilical cord (!) and the assessment of my blood loss (<500 ml). A researcher’s brain never rests, I guess. J

We just cuddled Gus and helped him to suckle (champion eater from the start!) there on the landing for some time, then MW1 suggested I move to the bed so she could stitch me up.  I was very thankful for the gas and air during the stitches!  Jon sat on a chair in the bedroom, shirtless, holding Gussy to his chest. They were so beautiful.  Gus was also weighed at this time, basically the only time he was out of our arms till we fell asleep that night.  Then, after a quick shower, Gus was back at my breast. As the midwives left at about 2 o’clock that morning, Jon, Gus and I were cuddled up in bed together; as exhausted as I was, I couldn’t take my eyes off him.  I briefly thought about asking the midwife to take our picture, as we hadn’t taken any yet, but I decided against it. The moment was just too perfect, I didn’t want it interrupted by anything. But it doesn’t matter, because I think I will always remember the overwhelming love at the start of our new life with this precious little boy.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gus's birth story (part two)

Here is part two of the story. Unfortunately for you, I have broken my internal edit button, so this is only the middle of our tale. But, as with Titanic, you know how it will turn out (quite a bit better for us than for the ship, thankfully), but the journey is exciting! Hope you enjoy it.
Part one is here, in case you need to catch up.


When we got back home, Jon wanted to start timing the contractions right away, but I had lots to do before the labour could start!  I had expected to have several hours of early labour where we could set up the house (we had just gotten new carpets the week before, so I needed to get those covered up!), relax together, maybe even wash some of the dishes I had neglected for the past two days ;)  But we didn’t have much time at all.  Luckily, I had already gathered all the supplies we would need, so we spent a bit of time moving things out of the bedroom, putting waterproof sheeting down, and generally getting ready. Jon had a couple of emails to send to work, to let them know that he wouldn’t be in the office that day! I called my mom and texted my best friend, Dacia, to let them know I was in labour so they could start the prayers.  Then we were finally able to settle down with some lunch (frozen burritos that I had made, which were delicious at the time, but I regretted choosing that as my lunch later!), Gavin & Stacey on the iPlayer, and a stopwatch to time the contractions. By this point, I could consistently tell when they were starting and stopping, but they still weren’t more than a little bit uncomfortable.  At one point, I was watching the show, and halfway through a contraction, started laughing.  Jon kept asking Is the contraction ended yet??, but I couldn’t tell due to the laughter.  Which just made me laugh even harder!

Finally, around 4:30, we decided that the contractions were coming regularly enough and close enough together that we should call the midwife. They still were extremely manageable, so I was a bit hesitant, but Jon convinced me that we had better make the call.  She (MW1) was actually at our local clinic but had to go to the hospital to fetch the equipment, so she said she should be at our house within an hour.  No problem, we would just keep chilling out.

Then, about 10 minutes later, I went to the toilet, and my waters broke.  It was unmistakeable—there was a big POP! and fluids squirted everywhere.  This I found really funny. For a couple of minutes, until the contractions really started increasing in intensity.  We called MW1 back to let her know the situation, but all still seemed under control.  I was feeling the pain mostly in my back, so Jon and I adopted a position whereby he sat on the birthing ball and I knelt down in front of him, using his lap or shoulders as my support. This was my go-to position throughout the labour. It seemed to be the easiest way to get through each contraction. By this time, the contractions had gotten closer together, and I was definitely feeling them. The pain wasn’t horrible, but I started to feel a LOT of pressure in my bum.  We called MW1 back, asking when she thought she would be at the house. She, of course, was stuck in traffic.  Not encouraging.  We called again 10 minutes later.  She had made it to the hospital and was on her way back, but still a lot of traffic.  Jon was getting quite anxious on the phone, so she asked if I had the urge to push.  I was hoping that the immense pressure I was feeling wasn’t an urge to push, so I told Jon no, not really, which he relayed to MW1. She said she would call MW2 and see if she could make it out to the house first, to help relieve our anxiety.

And so we waited.  Jon was very supportive, but I could hear the stress in his voice. I was trying not to give any downward pushes to relieve the pressure that was so strong. I thought that, if the baby did come this quickly, then it would probably be healthy, but I didn’t think Jon would be able to cope with the idea of catching the baby unassisted! (Secretly, I thought it would be pretty cool, since we were in the situation and the MWs were on their way, but not so cool that I tried to actively speed the process along!) The contractions weren’t lasting long—at least the part of each contraction that I had to concentrate through was only about 30 seconds long—but I didn’t get too much of a break in between. This was something that surprised me about labour, and that I kept dwelling on throughout (in my more negative moments during the labour!). I had thought that, although the contractions might be intense, I would get to relax in between. But I really didn’t have a lot of time to relax. 

After what seemed like ages (I think it was about an hour and 15 minutes or so from the time we first called MW1), both midwives arrived on our doorstep at the same time. Jon went down to let them in while I stayed upstairs, vocalising through each contraction.  And the midwives were completely calm—too much so, in my opinion! They said hello to me as they passed, bringing in all their equipment and setting it up. But they didn’t show any urgency about the situation.  I wanted them to examine me right away—the contractions felt so strong, and I just wanted to push this baby out!

Finally, they had everything set up and did an examination. Seven cm.  I could not believe it. This was very discouraging news, and I could completely understand why some women do not like to hear how dilated they are. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I felt that the contractions were so intense, that I couldn’t possibly go on for hours more until full dilation. It wasn’t that they were painful—pain was hardly ever an issue for me throughout the labour. At various points, I used water, hot water bottle on my lower back, and pressure/massage on my lower back, and that really helped with any pain.  Intense is the best word I have to describe the contractions, but not really in a good way. And pressure.  Lots and lots of pressure in my bum. And I was already getting tired—both physically and mentally.

But, obviously, I had to power through.  So I moved to the toilet while Jon got the midwives tea. (MW2 really like the tea, and at one point when I was feeling well, she asked what type it was. We said regular old PG Tips. I couldn’t figure out why she thought it tasted so nice, until I later realised Jon had put cinnamon-sugar in it!)  I chatted to MW2.  This seems strange, now. My memories go from lying/kneeling on the floor, feeling really deflated about the dilation, and then next thing I remember, I was sitting on the toilet, doing really well, having a conversation. Obviously, it is true what they say, and changing position can really help. We were talking about my waters breaking, because when they broke, there had been some red / pink liquid.  And I was still leaking red.  I asked MW2 if they knew why this was. No, not really.  I wondered if it was something I should be concerned about. You seem fine, blood pressure, temperature, etc. And baby’s heart rate is really strong and steady. So no, it doesn’t seem to warrant worrying. I asked if they thought we could stay at home. Yes, if all continues the way it is, we don’t really see a reason to transfer, even with the red.  She was really calm about it all, just a little unsure about what exactly was causing the blood. So I was relaxed too, as there didn’t seem to be any reason to worry.

So we continued with the labouring.  I went in the bathtub for a while, and Jon sprayed the shower on my back. I found this quite a good way to help with the pain/pressure in my back, but it was hard to get in the perfect position and switch positions as needed while in the tub, so I didn’t stay in there for too long.  I did give little pushes during most contractions, secretly, without telling anyone, as that really seemed to relieve the pressure that I was feeling.  All I wanted was for that pressure to diminish, and there was hardly anything I could do about it.  I didn’t think the midwives would think I should be pushing before full dilation, though, so I kept this little trick to myself ;)