Why I decided against a home birth

I want to start by saying I LOVE the idea of a home birth and adore hearing people’s experiences of giving birth at home, so please don’t read this as anti home birth, these are just the reasons it wouldn’t have worked for me.

I had never considered a home birth until a saw a friend talking about it being what she wanted when she was pregnant and later what a wonderful experience it was. It piqued my curiosity and sure enough several of my friends had done it or planned to. I joined a group on Facebook (as you do) and started seriously considering it myself. In the end, for a couple of reasons, I opted for a birth on the midwife led unit at my local hospital.

So, why didn’t it happen?

I mentioned it to a few people, close friends and family and they were all terrified. No matter how much I explained why it was just as safe as the hospital and that it would be okay there was always fear. My husband witnessed my previous traumatic birth and still struggles with it himself and my mum had to have an emergency cesarean with my brother. These were to two people I needed on board, wholeheartedly, or it wouldn’t have worked.

I don’t want to hear how it’s my body, my birth and my choice – I know that, just ask the midwives who were around for my birth. If I had gone ahead with a plan for a home birth they both would have stood by me but not with the confidence and conviction I would have needed from them. I didn’t have my heart set on it and I certainly can’t hold it against anyone, it just wouldn’t have been right and it was 100% my choice. A home birth is supposed to be in a relaxed environment with no fear or negative energy and as supportive as they would have been if I told them that’s what I was doing I have a feeling they would have been poised to call an ambulance the entire time.

Of course, there is also the small matter of my house not being at all “birth ready”. I’ll be the first to admit that it is a total mess, particularly towards the end of pregnancy when I could hardly move without pain and a four year old with a massive aversion to tidying. Not to mention the fact that I wanted a water birth and had nowhere big enough for a birthing pool. I really didn’t fancy giving birth in the chaos.

I stuck around in the Facebook group I joined. It was a hugely helpful resource for learning my rights as a pregnant woman and helping me decide how I wanted my birth to be. I’m not sure exactly how confidently I could have delivered a 9lb 8oz baby at almost 42 weeks with no intervention without them.

I would encourage every pregnant woman looking for an empowering birth to at least look into home birth, even if you decide it isn’t for you. The things I learnt along the way shaped my attitude which got me the positive birth experience I craved.

Have you had a home birth? How was your experience?

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A New Mummykind Baby!

My baby arrived a couple of weeks ago so I thought it would only be right to introduce her to our followers with a bit of a “life update” after so many pregancy posts (and more to come from my drafts folder that need a bit of polishing up!)

As you may have noticed I don’t share the name of my son online and the same goes for my daughter, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some gorgeous pictures of the new baby Martin.

She arrived when I was 41+3, weighing in at an eye watering 9lb8oz which might not have been so bad if she didn’t pop an arm out at the same time as her head. Not cool little lady, not cool.

We have been spending the days breastfeeding pretty much non stop, as she rather unsurprisingly has a tongue tie and tires easily when feeding. Getting used to life as a family of four has seen a handful of fairly small challenges so far, we’ll see how it is when the oldest starts school next month!

Keep an eye out for my labour and birth story and a backlog of pregnancy posts including: packing my hospital bag, why I decided against a home birth and how I handled my late term pregnancy.

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Sarah's birth story

What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?

It is only natural to worry about the safety of your beautiful new baby, and to do everything you can to keep them safe. I’ve written before about struggling with anxiety during pregnancy, but when I read about SIDS, my anxiety was definitely kicked up a gear in the first few weeks after having delivered my daughter. I’m very medically minded and wanted to be armed with all the facts, but honestly, my friends will tell you that I’m not very good at dealing with things that are out of my control!

So, if you’re like me and want to know everything (to be prepared, obviously), here’s the low-down on SIDS.

SIDS used to be referred to as ‘Cot Death’, however this name was abandoned as it carried to connotations that babies would only die in their cots, and were safe everywhere else. SIDS usually occurs when a baby is sleeping, though can sometimes happen when the infant is awake.

SIDS is the unexplained and unexpected death of an infant who otherwise appears to be normal and healthy.

In the USA, around 3000 babies die from SIDS a year, In the UK around 200 babies die due to SIDS. While this may sound terrifying, the statistics mean that SIDS is quite rare (in 2017 there were 679,106 live births in the UK, and 3,853,472 in the USA).

Causes

The exact cause of SIDS is currently unknown, which I found the most troublesome thing when my monkey was young. There is always research being undertaken to try and determine the cause, such as the Lullaby Trust ,who have been funding research since 1971.

It has been proposed that SIDS occurs at a particular developmental stage, and most affects infants who are vulnerable to particular stresses. Important environmental factors to remember are smoke from tobacco, baby having an illness (however small), becoming tangled in their bedding, or being unable to breathe due to an airway obstruction. It is thought that these stresses can change how babies regulate their blood pressure, temperature and heart rate.

There is also an association between SIDS and co-sleeping.

Risk factors

Because not much is known about SIDS, it is difficult to say what puts a baby at more risk. However it is apparent that babies born prematurely or at a low birth weight are more susceptible. There is also a slightly higher occurrence in baby boys than baby girls.

Prevention

Unfortunately, SIDS can’t be completely prevented. However, a big part of tackling this issue is practicing safe sleep for your baby. Here are some key things to remember

  • Always put your baby to sleep on their back. Babies put to sleep on their stomach or sides are more at risk of choking, and young infants cannot turn themselves back over. Once your child is able to roll themselves, you do not need to worry.
  • Always put your baby to sleep in the feet to foot position. Place your baby in their cot or moses basket with their feet touching the end. This means that baby is unable to slip down under any blankets in their sleeping environment, and is less likely to have their face covered. This applies to all sleeping environments in which you are not holding them, i.e. a cot, moses basket or pram. Don’t let your baby sleep in a car seat, swing or stroller for a long period of time.
  • Keep baby’s sleeping environment clear. Don’t use cot bumpers, pillows, quilts or soft toys in baby’s bed.
  • Stop smoking. Do not smoke while pregnant or after baby is born, and do not allow anyone to smoke near yourself or your child. Research shows that 60% of SIDS deaths could have been prevented if the baby was not exposed to smoke.
  • Sleep in the same room as baby for the first 6 months to halve the chances of SIDS
  • Don’t let baby get too hot or too cold. Feel baby’s temperature by touching the stomach or back (don’t use their hands as a measure for their temperature as they are often cooler than the body). If baby is sweating or her stomach is very warm, remove a layer of blanket from them. The best sleeping temperature for a baby is 16-20 C.
  • Do not Co-Sleep if you or your partner has taken drugs, smoked or been drinking alcohol
  • Never sleep on a sofa or armchair with your baby.
  • Breastfeed as long as you can, or consider using a dummy (pacifier). This is a tricky one. Breastfeeding is thought to provide protection from infections which could raise a baby’s SIDS chances. I wasn’t able to breastfeed my daughter (cue mum guilt) so I settled for a dummy instead, which came in handy when my daughter had her surgery. Research shows that using a pacifier can reduce the risk of SIDS, though researchers are unsure why. So, if you’re feeling worried like I was, it could be worth a shot.

While this seems like a lot of overwhelming information, the best thing a parent can do is follow safe sleep advice, and try and enjoy the time with their new baby. If you have any concerns, speak to your GP or paediatrician right away.

In Emergencies

If you notice any of the following signs, call 999 / 911 immediately.

  • If your baby is struggling for breath
  • If your baby stops breathing or turns blue
  • If your baby is unconscious or seems unaware of what is going on around them
  • If your baby won’t wake up
  • If your baby has a seizure for the first time, even if they seem to fully recover.

Things that new Mummies and Mummies to be are sick of hearing…

It might not be the same for all women, but you can pretty much guarantee that the second that you announce your pregnancy, comments will start to roll in. Quite often, positive and supportive comments, slowly start to roll into slightly more rude and patronising ‘advice’. I truly believe that most people offering this advice, mean well. However, I am a firm believer that- unless you are asked to give advice OR a baby appears to be at risk due to a new Mother’s uncertainty (even then, there are ways to go about this nicely!) then you shouldn’t feel compelled to launch comments and advice from your mouth, so sternly that it wounds. In fact, really you don’t need to mention anything at all.
Listed below are the comments that have got to me the most, in my nearly year and a half of being both pregnant and being a first time mummy.
“You can’t expect him (the baby’s father) to take an interest in the baby straight away. When the baby starts doing more, he’ll find the baby more interesting and become more involved!”
Okay! SO a man can partake in making a baby, he can do the dirty, the dance with no pants. BUT doesn’t have to commit any responsibility until ‘the baby becomes interesting’? If everybody had this outlook, babies would be solely raised by robots up until the age of around 4/5 months. Important bonds are formed within the first few weeks of a babies life, and although they won’t remember if someone doesn’t play an active role in their life during this time. The people who worked so hard to keep the baby happy and ensured that they were set to flourish, WILL remember.
AND it WILL hurt their feelings.
“Was it planned?”
IT?! IT?!  Regardless if a baby is planned or not, a child should not and cannot be branded as an ‘accident’ or mistake. If a woman has made it clear that she is happy with her pregnancy, referring to her unborn child as “it” is endlessly rude, disrespectful and hurtful.  Due to many issues, including but not limited to; Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a right ovary that is believed to not be functioning properly, a cyst in my uterus, taking the contraceptive pill for hormonal control and the intended use. Topped of a with a very large bleed- Conceiving Florence was nothing short of a miracle for my Partner and our families.
This question is rude, hurtful and honestly? The answer is none of your business.
“Better get used to having no sleep!”
Nothing like new parents being filled with fear before the baby has even arrived. I have found this to be a total myth when it comes to my Baby’s sleeping habits, although I think that I am pretty lucky! Florence has slept through the night on and off, from exactly 1 Month Old and takes frequent naps… So no, I haven’t had to adjust to having no sleep YET.
Thank you for your concern.
“You’re not married? What a shame! I thought you were a good girl!”
Helllllllloooo! We are in the 21st Century where, lots of marriages last as long as a clean nappy. You don’t have to be married to have a baby. You don’t have to have a baby if you don not want one. You can use contraception can prevent pregnancy (well its supposed to, but there is enough stories on the baby group to suggest otherwise). You can have a baby if you’re a same sex couple. If a woman decides to keep a baby that was conceived after a one night stand and raise the baby herself? Good on her- A Happy mummy = A happy baby, and really, that is all that matters. We live in an age where families aren’t always ‘conventional’ and I think that it is beautiful. I’m no less of a person for having my daughter when I had her. Married or not.
Your views are outdated, please get with the times.
“Nappies are so gross! Hope you don’t mind yucky things!”
Nappies can be gross. butttttt… so is your sick after drinking too much and your own poop, for that matter. Worse stuff  has happened. I’m just going to leave this one here. It is so childish and so ridiculous.
You too sat in your own wee and poo. So you really have NO room to comment.
“Your body will never be the same again!”
It might bounce back, but it might not. Most women end up with stretch marks whilst pregnant, but some lucky ladies do not. I personally resemble an albino tiger- Pale. pasty and covered in stripes (haha) but you know what? My body is quite literally a temple of life. As shitty as it may be and even if I do hate it sometimes… My womb made a human life. I grew a beautiful, healthy and strong baby girl. I almost died getting her here, but I did it!
Now that, is pretty badass.
“Well, back in my day…”
Or
“Well, I didn’t do *that* and my baby turned out fine.”
I don’t know, I would like my child to turn out a little better than just ‘fine’? Yes, we get it. You weaned your babies at 3/4 months. Some smoked and consumed alcohol whilst pregnant because you had no idea of the risks, no one did! You didn’t have a massive list of foods to avoid whilst pregnant. Amongst many, many other fairly substantial changes, that have been based on research over a very vast time period. Times have changed and even if babies haven’t- Guidelines to keep them safe and healthy has changed too. No, we don’t need your opinions or comments on breastfeeding or formula. Dummy or no dummy. We’ll give you a shout if you need help though! 
Lets face it, we only want the best for our babies- regardless of if they are 23 days, weeks or years old.
Giving birth was a breeze for me, I cannot see what all of the fuss is about?”
Or
“Yes, I know about your experience, but mine was awful.”
Labour was easy for you? Fab! You go girl! Tell me about your experience! Labour was awful for you? Lets talk about it. I can understand your pain. Just because you had a baby and had no issues with labour, it doesn’t mean that everyone has had the same experience. Women need to be kinder to eachother and support one another with this massive life shifting change. Not turn it into some kind of competition between who had it the worst and who had it the easiest.
We’ve all achieved the same incredible result, so where is the love?
“There goes your social life! Wave goodbye to freedom, nights out and time to yourself!”
Haha. I will keep this short, but sweet. I didn’t have much of a social life before my baby. So I can say with confidence, that not much has changed. In fact with baby dates, I’m probably socialising more than ever.
“Everyone from school is having babies and I am over here, planning my next holiday.”
It’s great that you have a desire to travel the world. But, having a baby doesn’t stop you from traveling the world or doing anything else that you want to do. I am very lucky to have gone on numerous holidays a year, to a variety of places when I was growing up. I’ve been 1/5 of the American states and visited several different contries. In no way, do I feel that my baby has restricted my life or the way I wish to live. She has enriched my life tremendously and I couldn’t have welcomed her into my life at a better time.
“I hope that you’re planning on waiting before you have your next baby! You need time to enjoy this one!”
I don’t plan on having another baby right away, as having Florence was quite nearly the death of me. But, if I wanted to have another child so that my children would be close in age, then I would. Your opinions have no weight on how I decide to live my life. Or how anyone else should live theirs, for that matter. If you spent too much time planning for the correct time and suitable age gaps- you’d probably never have a baby, let alone multiple babies. If a women wants to have a baby straight after having two sets of twins… Her body may not like her for it- but that is up to her! Not you! 
You can stop it right now, with your “you two have been busy!” Crap. 
“How do your parents feel about you having a baby? Are they excited?”
My parents have always been incredibly supportive. This hasn’t changed since them knowing that I was pregnant or since having my baby. You know what? I was so ill before being pregnant with Florence, that my parents thought something was seriously wrong. So a baby was almost a relief to them. However, if they weren’t supportive- it wouldn’t change my wanting to keep and care for my baby. I think I speak for most Mums when I say that. You don’t need supportive parents to be a good parent. Ultimately, it matters to some people, to a degree as to what their parents think- but to some it means nothing. 
Having a baby doesn’t have to have anything to do with your parents. Although having amazing Grandparents is lovely for your children.
Oh, and the incessant and constant sharing of pictures showing horrific nappy spillages on to our Facebook walls, with a comment saying “Good luck, lol” needs to STOP. If you haven’t got anything nice or useful to say, don’t say it at all. 
I hope you enjoy reading these and feel a little less alone, in your constant battle against the views and voices of the world around you.

You’re doing a great job. 

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Postpartum haemorrhage : what you need to know

While delivering my daughter, I suffered a primary postpartum haemorrhage (PPH). I knew it was likely, because due to my EDS I’m prone to bleeding and have weak connective tissues. However, during my recovery in the postpartum period, I was surprised by how little others knew about PPH, but I understood every mother’s fear about suffering excessive bleeding.
Here’s what you need to know about postpartum haemorrhage.

What is it?

A postpartum haemorrhage is defined as losing more than 500ml of blood from the female genital tract after a natural delivery, or more than 1L after having a caesarean section.  There are two types of postpartum haemorrhage –
1) Primary – this occurs within the first 24h after giving birth, and affects 5 in 100 women. A severe primary haemorrhage is much more rare. This affects 6 in 1000 women, and involves losing more than 2L of blood.
2) Secondary – this occurs between 24h and 12 weeks after delivery, and affects 2 in 100 women.

What causes it?

A PPH happens most commonly because the womb doesn’t contract strongly enough after birth. It also happens because part of the placenta was left in the womb (retained placenta), or because of an infection in the lining of the womb (endometritis).

Who is more at risk?

How is it prevented?

During labour you will be offered an injection of Oxytocin as your baby is being born to stimulate contractions to help deliver the placenta.

How will having a PPH affect me?

It is important to treat a PPH quickly, as it can be life threatening. Once treated effectively, it is important to remember that having a postpartum haemorrhage can worsen the tiredness all women feel after delivering a baby.  If you had a previous PPH you have a 1 in 10 chance of experiencing it again,

How is it managed?

PPH is managed in different ways depending on the severity of the bleed. Treatment can involve massaging the uterus to stimulate contractions, inserting a catheter to empty the bladder to help the uterus contract, injections to make the uterus contract (which may cause nausea) and checking to make sure there is no retained placenta. If bleeding continues heavily, blood transfusions or surgery may be required. 
The NHS has a fabulous leaflet with more detailed information on more detailed management of PPH here.
While the concept of a PPH is scary, the reality is that doctors and midwives are trained in controlling heavy bleeding, and bleeding after childbirth is quite normal. Have you experienced a PPH or know someone who has? Let us know your story below.

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I didn’t fall in love with my baby right away

Everyone knows the scenario. A woman is in labour (and absolutely exhausted), the midwife is shouting ‘one more push’, and finally, a baby is born. The cord is cut and the baby is handed to mum, who feels this overwhelming rush of love they’ve never felt for anything in their life, right?

Well, that didn’t happen for me.

While I was only in active labour for four hours, I’d had what some may call a nightmare of a pregnancy. Due to my EDS I had spent a good portion of it in a wheelchair, I was having hydrotherapy for the SPD and PGP that I developed (if you’re not sure on those, click here for more info), and I’d broken my foot because my EDS couldn’t keep up with the constantly increasing weight that comes with being pregnant. In the early weeks of pregnancy I contracted a viral infection which increased my risk of miscarriage, and baby developing foetal hydrops. And those were just my issues. Add in having scans for little one three times a week because she refused to be active, growth scans because my doctor thought that at full term she would weigh less than 5lb, steroid injections as I’m high risk for preterm labour, and a short inpatient stay towards the end of my pregnancy because my hips wouldn’t stop dislocating, we were essentially living in our hospital 5-6 days a week.
So it’s safe to say I was relieved when she was born, and she started breathing around 30 seconds afterwards.
I was so excited to be passed my new baby, and to feel this huge rush that every woman I know had been telling me about since I announced that I was pregnant that I pushed through two second degree tears, a dislocated hip, failed pain relief, a small haemorrhage and an incompetent midwife just to hold her. The midwife handed her over to me, and I was so amazed that this tiny (yet huge?) person had been with me for the last nine months.
But I didn’t feel that huge rush of love that everyone was talking about.
To be honest, I panicked a little bit, and I thought something was wrong with me. She felt more like a really cute stranger that I had a really strong urge to protect (and cry all over). I tried to breastfeed her twice, but as I’d been given diamorphine too close to delivery, my new bundle of joy was a little dopey, and kept crawling past the breast to suckle on my neck. Cute.
I continued to feel this way for the next few days. I had panic attacks whenever I was left alone with her because I was terrified I was going to break her, I couldn’t sleep if I was alone with her because I was terrified something was going to happen to her, and in the end, including the time I was awake and in labour, I didn’t sleep for three days. I got so worked up about that initial meeting with my daughter that I couldn’t think about anything else. I was convinced I was broken, and that it meant I was going to be a bad mother and this was all a very bad idea. Don’t get me wrong, I thought she was adorable; I was so proud that I had made her, and I wanted to take care of her, but I was just so disappointed that I didn’t get that first meeting that people claim to be the best moment of their lives.
Looking back on it now, I realise it’s totally normal. The birth and pregnancy I had with my daughter was far from normal, my body had been through a whole ordeal, and I was exhausted. I was hormonal, sleep deprived, very drugged from labour, and did I mention they handed me my baby for the first time while stitching me up with no pain relief?
Ouch.
How did you feel when you first met your baby?

Mental Health Monday: Anxiety about having more children after PND

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When I was a 14 year old, my dream for my family life was to have twin girls (Lily and Olivia) and then a boy (Henry). I don’t think i need to go into the whys and wherefores about how that changed, but it certainly did.

Following the birth of Olivia, I suffered with Postnatal Depression for the majority of her first year. Having also had antenatal depression and just not being in the best mental state generally, I sort of knew that I would suffer with PND, though I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was or to last as long as it did. Whenever I think back to her being a baby, it makes me sad. I didn’t enjoy her being a little baby because I was under so much mental stress at the time. Of course, I can think back to happy times as well as times when I was in the middle of a breakdown, but on the whole, reflecting on her baby stage just makes me feel angry at myself, and terrified it will happen again.

Like I said, I no longer want twin girls and a boy (and my plan for having the twins first has gone to pot anyway), but I have written previously on the blog about why I don’t want any more children now and why I never want to be pregnant again. The PND plays a huge part in that.

I carry so much anxiety with me from my experience of having Olivia that things would be the same again. I honestly could not face that same depression again. It was quite crippling in many ways, and 2 years after Olivia was born I am still dealing with the aftermath and the guilt.


There’s a great twitter chat hosted by Rosey at PND & Me which has covered this topic before, and I liked reading the comments of people joining in and their very mixed experiences…

Some had PND only with the 1st child, some with both, some only with the 2nd or subsequent. I suppose, the point is, that everyone will have different experiences and every pregnancy will be different.

But we knew that already! So…

What are the actual statistics?

  • PND affects more than 10-15% of women within a year of giving birth (that’s about 35,000 women!)
  • Up to 1 in 10 fathers also suffer from postnatal depression following the birth of a baby
  • 33% of mothers who experienced depression in pregnancy then suffered with PND
  • A history of depression makes it more likely that you will suffer postpartum depression
  • Mums who have had postnatal depression with one child are more likely to suffer again with subsequent children

I’d like to think that I’m not the only mum who worries that this would happen again, after all, there are so many of us who have suffered with it once, twice or however many times.

My husband and I often look at each other when Olivia does something unbelievably cute, suggesting another one, but he knows that I don’t want anymore and I feel guilty for that too. But at those times when we think “aww, look how cute our baby girl is,” I do wish I could bring myself to have another child. I wish I could do it knowing that I would be able to enjoy the baby stage like I couldn’t with Olivia, but there are no guarantees, and really, I don’t think I’m cut out for doing it all again.

In my moments of weakness (as I call them) when I think I want another baby, I feel so conflicted because as much as I would love to have another child, I can’t face feeling like I did during my pregnancy and feeling all of the guilt afterwards of not being able to bond with the baby and feeling like I’m simply inadequate!

I know that things are really quite different now – I have none of the external drama going on that I did during my pregnancy with Olivia, so maybe because my life is more stable now, my mind would be too. If I do end up having another one I’ll be sure to let you know 😉 but, for now, Olivia is more than enough, and I am enjoying being her mummy. I can’t go back to what I was when she first arrived, so I’ll carry on being the best mummy I can be to her and we’ll just see what fate has in store for us.

Have you survived PND and gone on to have more children? How were things a second time around?

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What Hyperemesis Gravidarum meant for me

This week, I spoke to my lovely friend Becki about her experience of Hyperemesis Gravidarum. For those of you who don’t know, around 10,000 women in the UK suffer from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) every year. It is often dismissed as normal morning sickness in pregnancy, but in reality can leave the women who experience it with PTSD, a torn oesophagus, burst blood vessels and eroded tooth enamel. 



What did you know about HG before you were pregnant?

I can remember reading a news article online about the Duchess of Cambridge suffering from it when she was pregnant with Princess Charlotte and feeling sympathy for her, but not really understanding exactly what it was. It was initially described by the media as “extreme morning sickness” which I’ve come to learn is not the case at all. I knew next to nothing and I didn’t think I’d ever need to educate myself. My friend Roo has also suffered with it, but I had no idea to what extent it affected her- it was pure ignorance. 

 What treatments were you offered through your pregnancy to combat HG? Did they work?

When I was finally diagnosed in September 17, I was initially prescribed cyclizine and ondansetron-both anti-emetics. I was advised to take them in tandem with each other, but the ondansetron soon ran out. It’s the more expensive for the NHS to prescribe. Unfortunately for me, cyclizine didn’t do the trick on its own. I continued to take it, but it wasn’t effective and I ended up back in hospital a few times, quite poorly.  People did make suggestions for foods that helped them. There were some foods that helped for a time, but my body seemed to tire of them really quickly and I’d end up not even able to think about them, let alone eat them, without throwing up. 
In the end, rest and putting my body and it’s needs first was the only thing that kept me going. It meant missing out on a lot of stuff and sacrificing things but I needed to be selfish.

What strategies or coping mechanisms did you employ to deal with your HG?

Hypnobirthing techniques and mindfulness breathing really helped, especially when I felt completely overwhelmed emotionally.  Baths helped too. Washing my hair always made me feel better again after feeling really lousy. Having a risk assessment and plan in place at work, as well as a few key people I trusted who I could warn if I was having a bad day and they’d keep an eye out for me. 

 What was your HG like at its best and worse?

At my best- I could manage a nice meal and a day out and go to bed and sleep without being sick. Our anniversary weekend away was one such time.
 
When it was bad- I remember kneeling on my bathroom floor at 3am, after being sick for the 7th time that night, crying and apologising to my husband for the umpteenth time, and just wishing I hadn’t gotten pregnant. 

At its worst – We thought we were losing our baby, and could do nothing about it. 
 

 

How did HG affect your mental health?

It made me feel so guilty. All the time. Guilty that I was possibly and inadvertently harming my baby, that they were suffering (they weren’t), guilty for putting my husband through it, guilty for bailing on parties and birthdays and events, guilty for being angry at people who just didn’t understand and made flippant comments, guilty for wishing I wasn’t pregnant, when I knew full well I had friends who were struggling to conceive. I felt guilty for myself, that I wasn’t having the pregnancy I had envisioned and I felt like I’d cheated myself somehow. 
 

 What do you wish people knew about HG?

That it isn’t “bad morning sickness” or even morning sickness at all. It’s a genetic and hereditary condition that affects around 1% of pregnancies and has an 84% chance of recurrence in subsequent pregnancies. It’s so debilitating that some days getting out of bed is hard; keeping water and food down is hard. I lost weight in pregnancy because I struggled to keep things down- that was a huge worry. Some women report being sick of 50 times a day. 

Personally, I wish people knew how lonely HG is. It’s so lonely sitting on the floor of your bathroom crying because you’re in pain from the stomach muscles used to be sick, or your teeth ache and throat hurts from the acidic vomit. It’s hard but I promise you, it does go. Within minutes of her being born, my nausea lifted and I honestly felt instantly better. 
 

How can family and friends best support you if you have HG?

  • Be there. My husband was a complete and utter rock. He was up with me every day and  night no matter how many times I was sick; he rubbed my back, held my hair, let me cry and didn’t judge or make me feel like I was doing a bad job. He helped educate those around us who just didn’t know and ensured I was supported at work. Having a support network was one of the most fundamental blocks we needed during our pregnancy and we are really grateful for that.
  •  Be accommodating. If someone you know has it, expect them to cancel on you. Don’t make them feel guilty about it. But also, don’t stop inviting them! There are good days where I could go out and I honestly lived for them. 
  • Educate yourself on the facts surrounding HG. My family were brilliant at doing that and so knew triggers and anxiety points and how to avoid them. My Dad and husband in particular loved the phase I went through where only a certain fast food chain’s greasy burgers and strawberry milkshake would stay down!
  • Avoid strong perfume or cologne- my poor Husband had to retire his expensive bottle because I couldn’t stand the smell. It still remains a trigger for me. 
  • When you go to the loo, run some toilet cleaner or bleach round the bowl and floor. Not for your benefit, but for the poor girl that can’t face cleaning it but knows she’ll have her head in it later! 
  • Remind them they’re doing an incredible job. Pregnancy is tough full stop. HG in pregnancy is horrible. 

What was the most helpful and unhelpful thing people said and did in regards to your pregnancy?

The most helpful thing was along the lines of  “Yeah. This is really really crap and it suck that you have to go through this. I’m sorry”. To have acknowledgement from someone that actually yeah it wasn’t great and glamorous (!) was so affirming and refreshing. It didn’t make it go away and it didn’t make me physically better, but it made me feel less lonely. 
The least helpful comments included “It’ll all be worth it in the end”, “maybe it’s all in your head?” “It’s just bad morning sickness- mine stopped at X weeks”, “I hear ginger helps”, “Try eating certain foods or doing certain exercise, maybe

that’ll help”, “it’ll soon be over and you’ll miss being pregnant”, “maybe you won’t have it with the next baby”… I could go on!

What advice (if any) would you give to someone who has (or thinks they have) HG?

Tell your health practitioners- your doctor, midwife, consultant whoever. There is much more advice and info out there now, so if you think you have it, find out about HG and take that info with you. Not all maternity health care professionals are fully up to date or even aware of the symptoms. You CAN take anti emetics safely in pregnancy. If you need them, ask for them! 

Ketones are NOT a lone accurate indicator of dehydration in HG. Make sure that if you aren’t well for a long period of time, you get yourself checked and if necessary, admitted to hospital and on an IV drip.

**I’m not a medical professional, but at times I had to really push to be listened to**

There’s so much support out there. Pregnancy sickness support UK is an incredible charity that helped me through and continues to help others. It’s partnering with specialists throughout the world to develop more research all the time. Their helpline is a lifeline for when you are really struggling, because these are real women who have experienced it and they can give you practical advice, as well as a shoulder to cry on when you feel really lonely. 

Embrace every craving. Seriously. You may only like it for a short period! One day I chowed down on an entire bag of iced gems. They revisited me a few hours later, but I really enjoyed being nostalgic for a time! 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

 My blog, “Dear Luna: Love letters to my Daughter” talks quite openly about my experience in pregnancy and HG and the various times I was hospitalised.

Would you like to know more about Hyperemesis Gravidarum, or had experience with it yourself? Let us know in the comments below

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8 things I wish I knew would happen postpartum

Before Olivia was born, I didn’t give very much thought to what would happen postpartum. The extent of my worrying into that period was limited to my mental health, as I was already suffering from antenatal depression. But, actually, there are a lot of things that I wish I had known about what I would experience in the days and weeks postpartum. Warning, some of them are gross, but childbirth is gross so I’m not apologising!

1. The first poo
Sorry to start off on possibly the most cringeworthy one, but holy mother of Christ… the first poo is a bitch. I tried to go for days. Days of needing it but not being able to get it out… it’s such a glorious and magical time… not.
A friend of mine who has just qualified as a midwife and was training at the time recommended that I try Lactulose (a liquid laxative). Hey, presto! It worked! But it takes a few days to kick in – so if you’re expecting, get some in the house ready for when you need it!
2. The first wee
I promise these aren’t all toilet related…
You may or may not know that you will be expected to produce a certain amount of wee in a bowl and present it to your midwives. However, if you’ve just been stitched up down there, and even if you haven’t, it bloody stings! So for your first wee, I recommend sitting on the toilet backwards and leaning forwards over the tank so as to angle the wee away from your very sore lady parts.
3.  You’ll be expected to leave the hospital ASAP
It’s no secret that the nhs are in crisis and need beds to be available, but sometimes it can seem like the midwives are simply trying to discharge you as quickly as possible. It didn’t make a huge difference to me either way as I wanted to go home the following day, but if you are struggling with any aspect of your postpartum physical or mental wellbeing, breastfeeding or your newborn’s health, then STAY IN THAT BED! Don’t move until you get help from someone. They cannot kick you out before you’re ready (unless you’re obviously taking the piss), so make sure you’re comfortable to leave those hospital walls because once you do, assistance is that little bit further away.
4. Don’t wash your hair
Thankfully after giving birth, my midwife could tell how much pain I was in and I was still pretty weak and shaky from throwing up throughout my labour. So she, being a wonderful kind soul, gave me personal wash down so that I didn’t have to go and brave a bath just yet. That being said, I did take a shower the next morning… and I washed my hair… with shampoo. Am I an idiot? I’d like to think I’m not, but it was pretty stupid to think that as I washed the shampoo out, I would form a magical protective bubble around my vagina that would prevent any shampoo going near my stitches… Think again!!!!!
5. Maxi dresses are your best friend
I wish I’d had more, because that first week, at least, postpartum, is so painful downstairs that you need to have absolutely no pressure on the area. A maxi dress will also conceal the hairy legs you’re 100% not going to shave and is just the most comfy thing that you can possibly wear after just giving birth.
6. Stock up on maternity pads/mats
For the car journey home from hospital I had to borrow maternity mats from the ward to put on the seat of the car. I say borrow… I didn’t give them back, don’t worry! I hadn’t even considered that. Even more shockingly – I hadn’t even considered that I might need them for when my waters broke on the way into hospital! They didn’t (they broke over a midwife’s hand instead), but it is still a possibility and you really don’t want to be cleaning that out of your car when you’ve got a newborn.
7. You will need separate bags
I don’t think I was quite realistic about the hospital stay. I assumed my birth plan would be totally accurate and so only packed one outfit for me, far too many for Olivia and absolutely nothing whatsoever for Jamie. Obviously, he then had to leave me with Olivia’s godmother in the hospital while he went home for provisions. Put whatever you want in your bags, but do pack separate ones for each of you!
8. Finally, it will go too quickly
All of the pain you feel and the sleep exhaustion will make the days and nights seem never-ending. But I promise you this, I wish I had known that it flies by in what feels like a blink. I don’t even remember my baby as a baby – she is a completely different child in both appearance and personality. I’d give anything to go back to having my tiny Olivia again and at the same time I love the way she is now (except the tantrums). For all of the stress, emotion and being so physically and mentally drained, it is worth it, and you’ll realise that all of those people who really pissed you off by saying that in your last weeks of pregnancy we’re absolutely right.

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A daddy’s view on postpartum mental illness…

Hello everyone! I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog recently as my gorgeous husband is back from Afghanistan for a very short 12 days.

But… making the most of him being back in the UK (currently in partially cloudy Clacton), I’ve roped him into doing an interview in what I hope will be the first of many in the Daddykind Corner segment of our blog!
So we’ll consider this a trial run on a topic for our usual #MentalHealthMonday posts…
 

What do you remember about your two girls being born?

 
Apart from them being 6 years apart? With Kiera I was being asked every two minutes if I was going to cry. I’d just got back from Afghanistan and that was when 3 guys from my regiment had just been killed. Kiera’s nan was annoying me, asking if I was going to cry, and made a comment about me reading the newspaper story about my friends who had died in Afghanistan. She was very overbearing.
With Olivia, I remember playing Cotton Eye Joe at 6am while Sarah was in labour, cancelling the cinema trip to see Alice in Wonderland with Kiera. We had an Irish midwife saying it didn’t hurt Sarah that much as she wasn’t that far along, so I started thinking how is she going to cope when it starts to really hurt? Then we moved upstairs to a room where Sarah wouldn’t allow anyone to turn on the air con, so I was really sweating out. I had bad B O thanks to that, so didn’t get skin to skin with Olivia.
How did you feel once the babies were out into the big wide world?
 
When Kiera was born I laughed nervously – it was real then. It was quite daunting because I was a dad for the first time. I had Kiera on my lap, slumped over, and I didn’t know if I could move her or if I would break her neck – she looked so delicate. She looked around and I gave her a bottle while her mum had her c-section stitched up.
I didn’t feel daunted by Olivia being born. I knew I was a good dad.
 
Was there any difference to you between baby number 1 and baby number 2?
 
Because of having Kiera when I was younger, I felt more confident having Olivia when I was older. I thought that, if Olivia was like Kiera, this was going to be easy. I was worried before having Olivia that I wouldn’t be able to love a second child as much as I loved Kiera.
 
What did you know about postnatal depression?
 
Not a lot. In hindsight, I think Kiera’s mum had it after she gave birth but she didn’t get it treated, unless she did after I went back to Afghanistan. I thought maybe she did when I spoke to my friend about his wife having PND. The stuff he was saying was very similar to what she was doing at the time.
I had more of an understanding when it came to Sarah but I wouldn’t say I knew what was going on.
How did antenatal classes prepare you for what was coming?
 
They didn’t, really. How can they?
What postnatal mental illnesses have you heard of?
 
Only PND.
Did you know how to support your partner through PND or other mental illnesses?
 
No, but I’m a positive person. I tried to infect Sarah with bits of my positivity (unsuccessfully). I still didn’t understand what she was going through but I don’t think I ever will unless I suffer with a mental illness myself.
What do you think could help men and boys to understand mental illnesses and to create more awareness?
 
I think mental health is getting a lot of publicity and awareness now anyway. The mentality of telling someone to “man up” is rife in society. I don’t think we can change that now – it’s a generational thing. If we started with getting depression talked about at a young age it will hopefully, as children grow up, start to remove that stigma.
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