Going to bed has suddenly become something of a routine dreaded chore. Worse than cleaning the drain cover in the shower.
Sleep is necessary. I know this. In fact I hate my past self for taking sleep for granted so much. Burning the candle at both ends, enjoying life on minimal sleep, or in contrast, squeezing in a Sunday afternoon nap just because. All that freedom and control over my own sleep pattern seems like a distant memory, something I probably dreamed in a past life when I was able to do so.
Instead, there’s a wriggly little monster in my belly intent on dictating when I can and can’t get comfortable enough to sleep. Up top, eyes and brain are flagging to the point of talking nonsense and taking extra long blinks that I pray turn into naps. But below the neck, there’s heartburn and acid reflux, working down to kicks in the ribs, elbows to the bladder and someone else’s limbs pressing against my spine.
And when my body does eventually give in to sleep (or exhaustion), that’s not so pleasant either. More like a series of intermittent naps broken by trips to the loo, changes in position and working out if enough time has passed to take more painkillers washed down with a generous helping of Gaviscon.
Whilst still having to work full time and adhere to a 9 to 5 workweek routine, I’m barely coping by running on what feels like empty. Already I’m joking with colleagues and pals that I can’t wait for bump to arrive so I can get a decent sleep.
They all scoff; don’t I know that babies keep you up through the night, waking to be fed or changed? I will never get a proper sleep again, they proclaim, saying I should make the most of the time I can sleep and nap now.
Honestly Sandra, do you think I’d come in here with eyebags bigger than Kanye West’s ego, no make-up and dry-shampooed hair if I’d been able to get my beauty sleep and naps on demand? Do you think I’d be fixated on your fancy coffee like a lion stalking a gazelle if I was awake, alert and fully rested? Might I know what day of the week it is and who was just on the phone 5 minutes ago if I was on the ball from all that rest?
Being a first time mum, I was naturally a bit clueless as to how the old giving birth process works. I had (wrongly) assumed that if you went into labour, you just casually sauntered up to the closest hospital to you at the time, and by the miracle of the NHS there would be midwives on hand to deliver your baby, pronto.
Instead, where you give birth largely depends on where you’ve been booked for your ante natal appointments and checks, which is mostly based on your home location and GP practice. In this respect, some women then don’t have a choice as to where they give birth – there’s simply one labour ward in one hospital anywhere near (or sometimes not so near) where they live.
I’m fortunate enough that where I live allows a choice for where I choose to have my baby, providing my pregnancy remains normal and healthy. All being well, I have the choice between a community maternity unit literally 2 minutes from my home, or a consultant led unit in a city hospital 45 minutes away.
CMU v consultant led unit
Of course, it seems so perfectly practical that I would choose to have my baby at the hospital so close to my home. After all, it’s where both myself and my other half were born too. However, back in that day (nearly 30 years ago – ouch!) the hospital was a state of the art (for its time) fully-operational hospital, with community maternity unit, labour ward, A&E and more clinics than you could think possible. Nowadays, it’s been reduced to a shell of its former self, with a community maternity unit consisting of just 3 birth rooms.
This doesn’t bother me, and in fact, all of the suites are absolutely lovely. Truth be told, I’m not-so-secretly dying to try out one of their mega en-suite baths. What does bother me is that with such a small unit comes a couple of disadvantages in comparison with a consultant led unit, or even a community unit within a larger hospital. Firstly, if anything were to go wrong during birth, I’d be punted into an ambulance and sent to the city hospital 45 minutes away. There are no paediatricians and no emergency doctors on call in my local hospital, so if I was suddenly in need of an emergency caesarean or little baby boy needed special assistance after birth, we would have to be transported before we could be properly treated. And with health, time can make all the difference.
Secondly, and not so life-threateningly, the fact there are only 3 rooms worries me a bit. I know the number of women giving birth in that maternity unit is pretty low, but there is the possibility that I will be in and out in a flash to make way for the next woman to use the suite. It’s a bit of a selfish reason, for both my recovering body and my terrified mind, but their aim for a 6 hour (or less) turnaround is nothing short of petrifying for this first time mum-to-be.
Positives of giving birth in a CMU
Quite apart from the lovely baths mentioned, there are various positives for electing to give birth in the local CMU. Convenience plays a big factor – not only do I live within walking distance, my parents and OH’s parents are minutes away too.
As I’ve been visiting that hospital for parent education classes, and have been attending ante-natal appointments at the GP surgery which is on the hospital premises, the chances are, I’ve already met the midwife who will deliver my baby – at least once. The reassurance and comfort of a friendly face can only be a good thing in a time of infinite pain!
On top of this is the added benefit that it’s a quiet unit, which means more freedom to move around and invite visitors. More to the point, the other half won’t be turned away at 8pm because that’s when visiting hours end. At the city hospital, he would be expected to leave at 8, and be called to come back when baby is about to make his grand entrance. Which other half would likely miss, as he’d be driving 45 minutes to get to the hospital – or worse still, looking for parking in the minefield of a car park. Then he would have to leave immediately after the birth, not allowed to return until after 8am.
Which leads on to another point – at the city hospital you can only park your car for 4 hours max, before having to move it. So if little bump decided that labour would take longer than that, or if other half wanted to spend time with baby during his first minutes, he may not be able to due to the inconvenience of having to leave to find alternative parking. A very first world problem, but annoying all the same.
So where should I give birth?
To be honest, I’m still weighing up the pros and cons, but the conveniently local option is sounding the best at the moment. My next ante-natal appointment is there next week, and is a routine criteria check. So maybe they will have the final say in whether I can give birth there or not, and take the choice away from me if they feel there would be too much risk. I’m still open to feedback and advice from anyone who has either had that choice to make or who has experienced either or both CMU and consultant led births as I know this is not a decision to be taken lightly, so answers on a postcard please!
I recently attended my local ante-natal class on breastfeeding, held at the community maternity unit of my local hospital. I’ve never felt particularly strongly either way about breastfeeding, so my goal in attending was to find out as much information as possible to make the best informed decision for my circumstances.
Breast is Best
We are all told breast is best for a million different reasons, and you can’t really argue with nature’s way. I mean, a couple of hundred years ago, breast would have been the only way, never mind the best way. So I get it, I really do. But unfortunately, most of us don’t live the same lives as folks did 200 years ago.
Even more unfotunately, the NHS don’t seem to care about that. From the class, I noticed that the midwives were so intent on pushing breastfeeding for as long as possible, that it begged the question of just what world they think we live in?
Need a rest? Dad will do everything else…
This was seen as a viable solution to having a baby wanting the comfort of your breast on an almost permanent basis. The scenario we were painted was one of a mum being led by her baby (nothing wrong with that), but that baby wanted to nurse for 45 mins and sleep for about the same amount of time. Our expectancy was to sit there and deliver when baby demanded, leaving dad to do the winding, changing, soothing to sleep, oh and of course all the housework, ensuring mum has food to eat and everything else in between, all whilst mum got to enjoy something resembling a nap during this time.
I can’t even begin to factor that into my reality, and my SO is pretty good with cooking and housework. At what point do I wash? Have a comfort break? Exercise and fuel my body for this constant endurance test? And that’s just the basics. Heaven forbid I want to bond with my baby in another way, leave the house, or even just give my breast a few hours respite tucked into a bra caked with nipple cream.
The most shocking part of this scenario however, was that this same charade could last for 12 weeks or longer. Now, I don’t know about you, but since statutory paternity leave is only 2 weeks, I doubt I’ll be able to rely on daddy to “do everything else” whilst he’s working 12 hour shifts in a workplace over half an hours drive away. Another girl at the class was also concerned as her husband is in the Navy, so often called to sea for months at a time. And then there’s single mothers, mothers with other young children in the house and about a million other different family and lifestyle makeups that simply don’t coincide with this notion of mother as dairy cow whilst everyone else swans in to take care of things.
Another major point I took issue with was the insistance on perseverance. Persevere past the above scenario, persevere when baby can’t latch on, persevere whilst your nipples are cracked and bleeding, persevere if your milk won’t come. Whilst that’s ok to a point, at what point do we start to take a mother’s mental and physical health and wellbeing into consideration here?
When it comes to other health and wellbeing issues such as domestic abuse or either pre- or post-natal depression, midwives could not be more forthcoming and helpful with information, questions and options. It’s ok to not be happy every day of pregnancy, the baby blues an their descendence into something potentially worse are explained in detail, with a range of opions, solutions and reassurances for potentially struggling mothers. So why should struggling women be expected to persevere through this charade without any support (apart from the regular post natal visits) or information about alternative feeding options, other than what they can find out from relatives, friends or a quick Google search themselves?
I recently read in a Guardian article that one woman felt like “any woman who doesn’t want to stay at home and nurse for at least six months is thrown under the bus of shame.” And I have to say I empathised with her a lot. I really want to try breastfeeding and hope it works for me but the system is not set up for those that breastfeeding doesn’t work for, despite trying, which is equaly off-putting and intimidating.
A friend recently told me of the struggle of feeding her little one for the first few months – no guidance on formula feeding despite her child suffering from colic and other feeding issues. She was left to her own devices to figure it out, with nobody to tell her such simple things like the fact it would be necessary to buy bigger bottle teats when using a milk thickener. I can only imagine the frustration, helplessness and panic I would feel if I were in that situation with no family or friends able to offer their experience or tips, and no support from trained professionals.
It’s not the end of the world as said friend has a very happy, healthy child. However a lot of panic and misery could have been avoided if the NHS just took more of an open approach when it comes to feeding in both ante-natal classes and routine appointments and checks. I’m not saying it’s radically wrong or that the NHS midwives don’t do a great job (they bloody well do), but it would just be nice of them to be more open and honest about other feeding options if you feel you’re not managing with breastfeeding.
I do want to give it a try and I know everyone is different, that it could end up being a breeze for me. That being said, I don’t want to be putting baby in danger if I’m a sleep deprived, sore angry mess! I guess I’m just such a worrier and like to know all the options – only 6 more weeks to wait and find out how I manage!
Caffeine (or lack of) is one of the first things mentioned by a midwife, well-meaning mother, and even complete stranger when it comes to pregnancy. Whilst it’s preferable to scale back the shots and dial up the decaf, us preggos are still allowed a little bit of caffeine in a day.
And what better treat to enjoy on occasion than Nescafe‘s new Gold range? I was given a variety of these for free to review and report back on – the unsweetened cappuccino, the caramel latte and the double mocha. Admittedly, it’s no Costa or independent roasted coffee, but a girl will take what she can get within the 200mg limit. Plus, we all need treats to brighten up the work day and what better than one which can be made quickly and easily in the afternoon tea round?
DIY flavoured latte
The instructions on each are pretty simple – boil the kettle, let it cool to about 85 degrees (or, like me, wing it after about 5-10 mins in absence of a thermometer) and pour the boiling water over the pre-portioned sachet of Nescafe Gold. The perfect caramel latte it seems is simple; stir vigorously for a minute or so, wait 20 seconds then go back and stir some more. Leave to let the milk settle and there you have it, a quick, easy, homemade latte fix, right?
The good news is that it definitely didn’t taste as awful as some of the other powdered or packet coffees available. In fact, after a couple of tries, it’s actually pretty good! Once you get the stirring action, consistency and standing time right, you feel like you’ve made your own shop-bought latte!
The caramel latte was without a doubt my favourite from the bunch that I was given to try. Don’t get me wrong, the unsweetened cappuccino was a great quick-fix and something I could see myself drinking regularly throughout the day (when allowed higher daily doses of caffeine!) but for a real treat, the caramel latte was a winner. The double mocha was certainly an indulgence, but not something I’d probably go back to until the wintry weather kicks in and I’m in need of both a heat and a chocolate fix.
The new Nescafe Gold range is definitely something I’ll be going back to buy again, especially now my trips to Costa and other coffee shops will be few and far between with a newborn to look after soon!
As the weeks march on (32 and counting!), and as bump causes my stomach to expand at what feels like an exponential rate, I’ve found myself having to do something it pains me to do: slow down.
Having had a fairly easy pregnancy so far, I’ve not had to change much about my usually busy lifestyle so far. Weeks are made up of work, exercise classes, gigs and of course all that mundane stuff like cooking, cleaning and generally making sure the other half and I don’t starve in a hovel. So far so normal. Until about week 29.
For the uninitiated, this is around the early part of the third trimester, and basically where the baby inside me is now a fully-formed, mischief making wee human. And boy does he make mischief!
Aside from ensuring I wake at least twice in the night to use the bathroom, he’s now grown so big that my lungs and digestive tract have had to take a backseat for his current home. With that brings the joy of even more pertinent heartburn, not to mention an increased appetite I struggle to feed properly as indigestion and hiccups are inevitable if I try to eat at any normal rate. On top of that, my lungs don’t seem to be able to take the same amount of air as before, meaning I get breathless from simple tasks like walking upstairs. As you can imagine, this is problematic living in a flat, let alone one where the bedroom and bathroom are on different levels.
All of this has meant having to slow things right down; a concept I’m not really familiar with. As someone who has been blessed with being able-bodied for pretty much my whole life, there’s nothing that’s ever been particularly “too much” for me to do. In fact, I relish life on the go, buzzing from one project to the next, filling my days with a balance between work and play.
So you can imagine my frustration when my body simply refuses to squat properly, or when I have to master the precision of a military sniper to aim to pick things off the floor in one go. Even basic daily things like washing the dishes have become a battle as I stand further back from the sink, stretching my arms and soaking my belly, meaning multiple outfit changes may be required after normal household chores.
With broken sleep and full working days, I’ve found myself too exhausted to comprehend exercise after the 9-5. Even organising laundry or standing ironing has become a daunting task if I’m expecting myself to do this past 7pm.
Getting used to the changes
I used to run on caffeine and sarcasm on a weekday, now I have a single weak coffee and forget half the words of the things I’m supposed to be making fun of. It’s difficult, frustrating and has caused more than a few tears and tantrums over the last couple of weeks.
At work, I’m having to force myself to take loo breaks and fresh air breaks where I would normally power through – simply to stop back pain and relieve heartburn. Similarly at home, couch potato nights are now filled with tossing and turning and trips to different rooms just to stretch my legs and relieve discomfort. Which is an annoying catch 22 when you feel too tired to do anything more productive with your evening.
The worst part though is trying to come to terms with the fact that not everything is neat and tidy and clean at home, exactly how and when I want it to be clean. Curling up on a couch trying to find a comfy position is bad enough without spying dust on the coffee table or washing on the radiators you know you should fold and put away. But that requires digging out the duster, folding or ironing laundry and making another trip up and down the stairs. It’s an internal battle and I haven’t had anyone visit my house in weeks out of embarrassment but I’m slowly getting used to the idea that everything won’t always be perfect and I can’t do everything myself – despite being a fiercely independent individual!
I’m all for beauty hacks, tips, and anything that generally makes life easier when it comes to your beauty regime.
Painting nails has always been one of my favourite aspects of beauty. Whether it’s my own or I’m painting a friends nails, I love trying out new colours, patterns and styles and dedicate time to taking care of my nails. However when painting nails, there’s always been one thing that’s bothered me – the nail polish bottle always gets in the way!
Minimising time, maximising space
Finally, the solution to this popped up on my Facebook newsfeed recently (thank you targeted ads!). The Tweexy wearable nail polish bottle has definitely come to my rescue. Worn on your fingers like some sort of knuckle-duster, it fits pretty much everyone thanks to the flexible rubber material it’s made from.
Just about any standard nail varnish pot will fit in it too, meaning you can use it with all of the nail polishes you already own. Smaller ones fit too, as you can see from the image above. I’ve even managed to fit in the big, rectangular Tanya Burr bottles I got from her beauty advent calendar. As someone who sits and paints my nails at the coffee table, at work, on a plane, or anywhere I can fit my hand, this product takes the worry off where I’ll sit the bottle. It also avoids the dance of having to try and hold the bottle whilst painting nails with said holding hand, in a minimal space situation.
The way the ring positions the nail polish bottle means you won’t spill any excess anywhere, and you free up your hands to paint or position your nails. Genius huh?