As I mentioned in my maiden blog post, I approached pregnancy, birth and parenthood with a very clear set of ideas as to how it would all go. I am a natural planner. Before I do anything new I like to thoroughly research it. Books are read cover to cover, the internet is well and truly ‘googled’. I am probably keeping Amazon in business single-handedly. So my journey to parenthood was no different. Before we had even started trying for a baby I had several books on conception and pregnancy. Within days of that oh-so-exciting blue line I had added to my book collection and was building my knowledge of the next nine months and beyond. By the time I got to my ante-natal class I probably could have taught it had the various midwives, health visitors etc. been indisposed.
So today I thought I’d reflect on all those plans and compare them to what actually happened…
1: I will follow an optimum pregnancy diet and exercise regime
I would be giving my baby the very best nutrients she could have as she was growing inside me, and no nasty chemicals doing untold damage. A daily long walk and yoga work-outs would get my body fit and healthy in preparation for childbirth.
Thoroughly tired and fed up (and missing runny eggs and rare steak) I ate what I wanted, when I wanted. I had the munchies most of the time. SPD destroyed any chances I had of walking to keep fit and the hot summer finished me off. I spent the vast majority of August spread out on the sofa with a large fan pointing at me.
2: I will have a water birth
It all sounded a bit weird and hippy-ish before I was pregnant. But as the months progressed I became more and more convinced that a water birth was the way for me. I visualized myself in my watery cocoon in a relaxed, hypnotic state, listening to whale music and letting the contractions wash over me. Maybe I might need a bit of gas and air to help. In what seemed like no time at all my baby would be floating up into my waiting arms. To be fair I did have a plan B. If I found the pain too much then as a last resort I would request an epidural (although the thought of someone sticking a tube in my spine made this very much a last resort). What I definitely didn’t want was to be induced as I knew it led to a fast, more painful labour with much greater intervention.
Following my first sweep my waters broke, but I didn’t go straight into labour. After two sessions of being monitored on the hardest bed in the world, a sleepless night due to the pain and a maxed out tens machine I was told I wasn’t even in labour yet. “What do you mean I’m not in labour yet” I screamed inwardly. By the time I was hooked up to the syntocinon drip and multiple monitors I was begging for every drug going. My Darth Vader impressions on the gas & air distracted me from the pain briefly but I was soon onto diamorphine and high as a kite. A couple of hours later I was begging for an epidural and didn’t care what they shoved in my back. By the time I met my baby I had also experienced second degree tears, an episiotomy, forceps, infection, green vomit, 700ml of blood loss, uncontrollable shaking and more people in the room than I ever imagined would be seeing my private parts in one go. I didn’t care. I was exhausted but I had my beautiful baby girl.
I still got to subject everyone to the whale music though.
3: I will breastfeed
Breast is best. Even if I had not read one book or internet article throughout my entire pregnancy I could not have missed this message. It’s on six-foot displays at the ante-natal clinic and even plastered across buses. My ante-natal class devoted a session to the whys and the hows of it all. I bought a book on baby-led breastfeeding and studied it in depth. It all seemed so logical and simple. Just get your baby to latch on and you’re off and running.
Latching on is not easy. My baby and I really struggled to get to grips with it. She couldn’t get it right and I couldn’t help her get it right. We got breastfeeding support in hospital and once I returned home. But any progress they made just reversed itself on the next feed after they left. Baby got to the point where she cried at every feeding attempt and after a while so did I. I was in the depths of baby blues and sleep deprivation and I just couldn’t do this thing that was meant to be so natural. On day eight I resorted to a formula bottle feed. The immediate difference was amazing. One happy baby in my arms, contentedly sucking at her bottle until she was full. By day ten, with tops soaked through in minutes and feeling thoroughly rotten I abandoned breastfeeding altogether. I felt like a failure. I thought the midwife was going to tell me off (she didn’t). It took a fair few weeks and a lot of reflection before I completely forgave myself.
4: I will keep the house spotless
Like many, I have watched ‘How Clean is Your House?’ with horror over the years. While the state of my house has never been quite so horrific, the results of the germ swabs Aggie sends off to the lab each episode have always scared me. Have I got that sort of thing in my house? I’m not a natural cleaner, but I vowed that once I was a mum I had to keep the house spotless for my baby’s sake.
Where I thought I’d find the time for this I have no idea. Every now and then I look at the lounge rug in disgust and make a mental note to hoover it as soon as I find the time. To be honest what it really needs is either a steam clean or an incinerator. I wash my hands more thoroughly and frequently than I ever had in the past and I spray the surfaces I use to make up bottles with antibacterial spray but on a regular basis that’s about it. I seem to accidentally be following the ‘dirt is good for kids’ approach. Since baby has been born, me, my husband and my visiting mother have all caught a tummy bug. Baby was absolutely fine.
5: I will lose the baby weight within six months
I know that celebrity mums have personal trainers and a lot of childcare to thank for their miraculous figures within a few short months of giving birth, but six months seemed reasonable. I’m not saying I planned to be stick thin and flat tummied after six months (I wasn’t exactly that to start with), but with sensible eating and daily long walks with the pram surely it shouldn’t be too difficult to get back into my size 16-18 clothes?
OK so I’m only five and a half months in, but barring a miracle weight loss system equal to that episode of Doctor Who in which peoples’ fat turned into little ‘adipose’ creatures overnight (admit it, who wasn’t tempted by the idea?) it’s not going to happen. If the lack of walking due to post-pregnancy hip and back problems and pretty un-tempting weather weren’t enough, the middle-of-the-night-feed fridge raids were a final nail in the coffin. I’ve lost a little bit. But I’m stuck feeling like a slob in a very limited wardrobe as I refuse to / can’t afford to stock up on size 20 clothes. Now the spring seems to be here maybe I’ll have more motivation.