my pregnancy, tests

How to Panic an Unlikely Mum

So I’d planned to write a blog about what a great baby shower I had on Sunday, despite being a bit sceptic about the whole concept of such things. But then something happened later on the Sunday which sent me into a bit of a panic.

Normally chilled and laid-back (most of us probably say that about ourselves), not a lot tends to phase me. I’ve been taking this unexpected pregnancy in my stride and feel I’ve been coping ok (others may agree differently!) with all the changes to my body, hormones and general life as a result. But panic hadn’t featured until Sunday.

Bad blood

In my last blog musing, I wrote about how we had made it full term and that it was basically all systems go for delivering in the local community maternity unit. So far, so smooth. The only thing that could have prevented this from being an option would be the results of the blood I had taken at my ante-natal check up that day.

I chose to use a witty blog sub-heading which made me hum a Taylor Swift song all day (I’ve used it again. You’re welcome), thinking I didn’t really have anything to worry about. Sure, when donating blood mine tends to take longer than most to drip out (I hate to part with anything apparently), but any time I’ve donated in the past, the blood gets out eventually and is good stuff to use. At least nobody has ever told me otherwise.

So I was quite confident my blood would pass whatever tests they were running. Aside from this, I’d been feeling fit and healthy, and none of my previous ante-natal bloods showed any problems, so in my head there was no issue.

You have one new message

Post-baby shower, I was ferrying around friends and family members as pregnancy equals sobriety which also equals guaranteed designated driver (Not that I mind driving, I mostly offer/insist). For that reason, my phone was out of my hands and general realm of consciousness for quite some time. The other half had stopped in to pick up a takeaway on the way home, so I had a quick check of my phone as I waited for him to return to the car.

There was a missed call from an 0800 number I vaguely recognised, with one voicemail waiting too. Wrongly assuming it was a sales call, I quickly opened my voicemail to get rid of the notification, but on hearing the voice at the other end, I received quite a shock.

It was one of the midwives, or doctors, I can’t recall her explaining, looking to discuss my blood results. As she couldn’t get hold of me then, she would call back in the morning. I don’t know about you but from all previous experience, if tests are fine, the medical professionals don’t need to discuss anything with you. Usually you just get printed results added to your notes, possibly sent out to yourself in the post too.

So this already panicked me. On calling the number back, I went to an NHS switchboard. With little to go on apart from the caller’s first name, I knew I wasn’t going to get any further forward. Plus, there was now Chinese food taking over my sense of smell and distracting me.

Sunday night blues

Post takeaway with the in-laws, I started to think more about the missed call and voicemail. My inner Sherlock/paranoid hormonal mum-brain started doing overtime. Who would call at 7pm on a Sunday if the results could wait till Monday? Surely it would have to be serious to call when no doctors surgery or pharmacy would be open, and with the community maternity unit only open for another hour that day? Why didn’t she leave more information so I could try to reach her that evening? What was I supposed to do all night thinking about this?

Of course, option 1 is always to Google the symptoms. But I was partly too afraid to do that, and partly thought there could be literally anything wrong with my blood so wouldn’t know where to start. Instead, my mind just went into overdrive wondering how badly ill I was without knowing (I still felt wholly fine, heartburn and sciatica aside), if it could affect baby, what I should prepare for in the morning and much more.

As an avid Hollyoaks fan (problem?), I was aware of a current storyline involving a pregnant character who found out she has ovarian cancer whilst halfway through her pregnancy. So naturally the other half had to convince me I didn’t have blood cancer and that was a bit extreme to be casually noted in a voicemail of a Sunday night.

So whilst most of the nation tossed and turned, anxious at the thought of going into another working week with only Monday blues lying ahead, I lay awake thinking about all the things that either could be wrong or that I’d have to change now in light of this voicemail. My hospital bag had been repacked in my head, with visions of me being carted to the city hospital the next day, ready to meet baby a couple of weeks earlier than planned.

Relief

It was lunchtime on Monday before the midwife managed to call me back. I’d put my phone on loud for the first time since I was about 16 and had a cutting-edge polyphonic ringtone, just so I wouldn’t miss the call. She was calm and blase, which was nice but annoying at the same time. She casually asked if I was taking iron tablets, to which I replied I hadn’t ever taken them. I panicked, thinking I possibly might have poisoned my unborn bump with too much iron.

Her response was that she would phone the GP to get a prescription sorted out for me as my iron is borderline low. That was it. Low iron. A ridiculously common issue in pregnancy and general life depending on your diet/where you live. Nothing that couldn’t have waited till the Monday morning, and nothing, it transpired, that would mean any changes to my pregnancy and delivery. I was overwhelmed, relieved, angry and ecstatic all at the same time.

Most of me knows that it was 100% my fault for overreacting and sending my brain into overdrive, but I can’t help but feel the vagueness and casualness of said midwife had a part to play in panicking this unlikely mum.

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labour and birth, my pregnancy

Choosing Where to Give Birth

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!