Fed is Best

Breasts, bottles, both…

I’m not really ready for this yet but let’s talk about the emotions of feeding.

Before we start, please reread the title, FED is BEST. This has nothing to do with the options available and the choices made when it comes to feeding our children.

This is all about acknowledging that feeding is the most talked about, emotionally loaded, hot topic out there.

It’s the one everyone has an opinion on and can be surprisingly hypocritical about. The most prominent example are those who lecture new mums on the properties of breastmilk but then flip out at mothers breastfeeding in public.

There is a particularly prickly minefield for those who do not direct nurse and express milk to take out and about. This may be because there have been challenges establishing direct nursing or because you don’t want to direct nurse in public. Even before I started exclusively expressing I was planning to pump for feeds beyond my front door because I am so uncoordinated I couldn’t envisage a time when I wouldn’t flash someone by mistake. (Those of you who can seamlessly and confidently lift up tops, pull down bras and simultaneously get a baby to latch on are magicians in my eyes).

Let’s Start Here

Although it is the most talked about and heavily advocated, breastfeeding is hard.

It is painful, hormone-fuelled and difficult to master. Even for those who pursevere with nipple cream in hand and come out the other side successful, it is a long slog of especially sleepless nights, anxiety over the quantity being consumed by your little one and hours of crying.

The crying isn’t just from mum either. My husband found our (eventually unsuccessful) breastfeeding attempts to be heart-wrenching, anxiety-inducing affairs where both baby and I were in tears and he felt utterly helpless. (I actually think it was more intense than the birth from his perspective).

If breastfeeding is not established; latching difficulties, challenges with milk supply, exhaustion, and so on, it can result in a huge amount of negativity.

A lot of this is from mum herself. Feelings of guilt, anger, disappointment, of failure.

If there have been supply challenges then formula feeding is often the next step, and many feel this is the most sustainable option as expressing can be all consuming. Some will still be topping up with formula despite putting in the long hours it takes to express. Some do a combination of breast, expressed and formula.

There are those for whom formula feeding is the most suitable and sustainable choice right from the start. This is perhaps the hardest choice of all because of the continuous pressure, attitude and opinions piled on by society, friends and family. These mums face harsh judgement, constant commenting and the most vicious external obstacles.

Let me know your feeding stories. As mentioned in the main body of the post, I did try to breastfeed so have no experience of choosing to formula feed from birth so I would especially love to hear from you. 

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Pain in Pregnancy: It Isn’t Always Wind!

Late Friday night I was admitted to the maternity ward with severe abdominal pain.

It had begun on Thursday, and I assumed that it was the usual pregnancy fun; bloating, trapped wind and the general nausea trend. During the second trimester you can also experience the gradual reduction of your stomach capacity as your uterus increases with size.

So discomfort after eating was not a huge surprise or of noted concern.

‘It’s Just Wind’

I woke up on Friday morning with the same discomfort, still assuming that it was attributed to ‘normal’ (we discussed how inappropriate that term is in my last post) pregnancy effects.

I went to work as usual, guiding tourists around the city. This appeared to escalate the discomfort to intense pain, shooting up my left side from my lower abdomen to under my ribs. After almost vomiting from pain, I finally limbed my way back to the tour office.

Almost in tears, I entered the staff room and was met by concern from some of my colleagues enjoying a cup of tea. As I told them what was wrong, I started to cry. They lovingly reassured me that ‘it’ll just be wind’.

Trapped wind is very common in pregnancy and really can HURT! But I still felt embarrassed and silly for making a fuss about something so typical and that I had experienced on many occasions.

This sense of shame worsened as the pain failed to abate, even with peppermints, ginger tea, and reduced movement. I was observing trainees on tours in the afternoon, but even though this is considerably less effort than delivering a tour, the pain continued to worsen, accompanied by severe nausea.

I had assumed that once I got home, I would be able to relax and finally get some relief. However, the pain continued to increase until I was finally in tears. This is not a usual response from me, it alarmed my husband and made us wonder if it really was ‘just wind’.

A Midnight Trip to Hospital

After a call to NHS 24, we were given an appointment at the Out of Hours clinic, were two lovely doctors examined me and concluded that it defiantly wasn’t bloating or wind, but an infection of some kind.

They considered it best that I get seen by an obstetrician to be on the safe side, and get confirmation that baby was absolutely fine. To be honest, I was reasonably confident that this pain was occurring around the baby, and not actually related to it, as I had no cramping pains or spotting.

We were at the Maternity Unit for almost 4 hours, with a series of urine and blood tests. It was concluded that it was likely that rather than an infection, I had a kidney stone and the immense pain I was experiencing was the resulting symptom. The official term for this pain is renal colic, which sounds about as pleasant as it is.

Kidney Stones in Pregnancy

The risk of developing a kidney stone is apparently increased during pregnancy. Given the increased workload for the kidneys during gestation, due to the mother’s increased blood volume and the fact that the baby has no kidneys of its own until about 10 weeks. The amount of fluid you need to intake is increased as well, which makes hydration increasingly important to ensure that the kidneys are filtering your blood effectively.

You can get more information about kidney stones here and of course on the NHS website.

A New Lesson

To be honest this post is a little more personal than I was envisioning when I started blogging. I never intended to be sharing hospital trips on the internet. However, I felt that it was important to share this particular experience because although my colleagues are right and a lot of the time the discomfort you are feeling is part of a ‘normal pregnancy’ experience, sometimes it isn’t.

A lot of the time pregnant women will be told that how they are feeling is just part of being pregnant, to grin and bear it, and it can feel that your experience is minor to someone else’s. But as I stated in my last post, Samuel’s aunt gave me great advice: not to diminish how you feel because someone else is feeling something else.

It is great to share experiences, they can be reassuring and beneficial, but never take someone else’s opinion or advice over your own instincts.

The other thing that pregnancy women are told, usually in preparation of birth, its to know and trust your body.

I have experienced bloating and wind A LOT during this pregnancy, and deep down I could tell the difference. Although my colleague had originally reassured me that it was ‘just wind’, she also could see that by the end of the working day, my condition was not improving and suggested that I seek medical advice.

I delayed in doing this because I was worried about being embarrassed again, of calling out of hours and being told it was ‘just wind’. No one likes to feel that they are making a fuss over nothing, or that they are overreacting. My colleague had not given any impression that she thought this, as I say her reassurance was very lovingly given, but it didn’t change how I felt about myself.

So that’s my lesson, especially to first-time mums. Know your body, trust your body, and have the confidence in your conviction that your body is reacting differently, or more intensely, because it is reacting to something new.

You can follow my medical adventures here.

Trimester Transition

This pregnancy is going by so quickly! This is the start of Week 15, baby is now the size of an apple and I am now officially in the second trimester.

The End of the First Trimester

I was looking forward to this point in pregnancy. I listed the effects of early pregnancy has on the body; the influences of hormones, the additional toxins a mother processes for her baby before they develop their own organs, and the physical changes that are beginning to take place.

The second trimester is associated with renewed energy, a waning of the signs identifying early pregnancy and begins at 13 weeks. It is an arbitrary development marker, which, of course, I was not anticipating to immediately banish all the effects of the first trimester, however, I did not anticipate them to accelerate.

The Start of the Second Trimester

Last week (14 weeks) was the most challenging to date (I’m still waiting to see how this one pans out, but given this morning’s nausea, I’m not feeling hopeful).

My morning sickness increased to day long nausea, I have suddenly developed food aversions and my hormones have gone through the roof. Whilst these are all perfectly usual and effects I expected, I’ll confess to expecting them to occur weeks ago, and was preparing for a temporary lull in the second trimester.

It doesn’t seem to matter if I am sitting, standing, walking or lying down. Waves of nausea just keep washing over me. It truly is like a giant green wave rising up from my belly and splashing down over my head.

Lesson Learnt: Comparing Pregnancies and Why You Shouldn’t

So I admitted to being VERY wrong about my expectations for the early weeks of the second trimester and it serves as a good example of why you should not compare pregnancy experiences.

Don’t get me wrong, swapping stories, sharing notes; great comfort can come from knowing that what you are experiencing is typical. The term ‘normal pregnancy’ is about as misleading as the idea of ‘morning sickness’. Nausea and vomiting are not confined to the first part of the day and ‘normal’ spans a huge range of experiences. ‘Normal’ essentially means an absence of complications during that pregnancy.

I am extremely fortunate that whilst I have a very small family, with very few young relatives, Samuel has a HUGE family comprised of many infants and young children. I have a lot of women with recent pregnancy and birth experiences to gain knowledge from.

There is another lesson to be learnt from talking to other women about their pregnancy experiences. Comparison does not just risk unfulfilled expectations (such as hoping that the nausea will diminish after the first 3 months have gone by) but also of diminishing your own experience.

Yesterday, we were at a baby blessing for our new cousin and I was chatting away with his mother (one of Samuel’s aunts) who I am extremely grateful for as she consistently provides me with a plethora of good advice and tips for endeavouring to have a positive pregnancy and birth experience.

She was asking me how the pregnancy was progressing, and how I have been feeling, and I mentioned how I have been surprised with the escalation of hormones and morning sickness since the second trimester commenced. I followed this up with comparing how I felt to the experiences of others, I really do consider myself fortunate to only be experiencing nausea and not full-scale sickness and vomiting.

However, she had a very sensible response to this: not to diminish how you are feeling and experiencing pregnancy, just because someone else is experiencing something else. Pregnancy is a very unique experience from woman to woman and whilst some of us might not be vomiting every morning that does not reduce the validity of what we are feeling.

Something New 

Since the first scan at 12 weeks I have been experiencing something new that I haven’t been able to find much information about. It’s a sensation that occurs in the very top of my abdomen, under my chest. It’s not a spasm which is what the internet has come up with, more like a contraction of the muscles around my diaphragm.

This was something else that I was discussing with Samuel’s aunt, and she suggested that it could be Braxton Hicks contractions which (in some cases) can be felt very early on. They aren’t technically referred to as Braxton Hicks until the start of the third trimester, but the sensation, a painless contraction of muscles, is the same.

I remain curious about how high up I am feeling this ‘contracting’, and from some of the research I have done, whilst first-time mums definitely cannot feel the baby’s movements until at least 16 weeks, it is possible to feel the effects of these movements much earlier.

The long and short of it is that I still don’t know what this sensation is, but as it is not cramping, is painless and brief, I am (at least at present) not concerned.

Never forget, if at any point in your pregnancy you have an experience which does cause you concern, you should always seek professional assistance, not just the advice of the internet.

 You can see how this weeks panned out here.

Week 7: I was Warned about this Week

Congratulations, you’re over half way through the first trimester. This is 1/6 of your pregnancy already! Astounding isn’t it? You possibly aren’t feeling very miraculous at this point but what is happening in your body is truly amazing. You’re doing great!

I was warned about this week. Among our relatives at least, this is the week when those pregnancy signs move it up a notch. Everything is feeling more intense; the aches and pains, the indigestion and that nausea. For a lot of women in our families it was around about now that (if it hadn’t already) morning sickness started to kick in. As baby is going through a growth spurt inside you, it’s not surprising that you are feeling everything more strongly.

Morning Sickness
I was unaware until I started researching that the term morning sickness does not just refer to being physically sick. It covers the whole range from nausea to vomiting. It’s also such a misleading term as it isn’t just in the morning, it can be constant throughout the day or even just occur at night! When vomiting in pregnancy becomes particularly severe, when you can’t keep anything down or even water is making you sick, this is termed hyperemesis gravidarum (or amongst my acquaintances at least; ‘That thing Kate Middleton had’) and medical assistance is necessary (NHS Choices, 2018).

Morning sickness is often associated with the first trimester but (at least from the experience of close family friends) hyperemesis gravidarum can also develop later on. The nausea often comes in waves, sending chills and dizziness right through you, making you unsure as to whether to sit down or rush to the bathroom.

Digestion… and Its Issues
There are other pregnancy signs that may be sending you to the bathroom (or keeping you out of it). As your body is searching for extra nutrients for the developing embryo, your digestive system is slowed down, which can dramatically alter the consistency of your stools. It is very common to experience diarrhea, constipation (or both) throughout pregnancy.

If you have made changes to your diet to assist with getting the right nutrition, these effects will be a natural result. If you haven’t made any changes it is possible that these effects are still diet related as your body becomes more sensitive to certain foods. It is probable that you will have already experienced cravings or food aversions in the weeks leading up to this point. Your sense of smell may also be increasingly sensitive at this time, not assisting with food aversions or that morning sickness!

The rapid growth of baby at this time might not be having any visual, external effects on your body yet, but already your uterus has doubled in size (TodaysParent.com, 2017). As your uterus is positioned above your bladder, it is already applying additional pressure, another cause of more frequent bathroom trips!

Along with the morning sickness and bowel complaints, indigestion and heartburn are other aspects of being a mother-to-be. This has been one of the most constant complaints my body has had (thus far) during pregnancy. It is coinciding with an increasing appetite. More food and digestive issues are not usually a happy pair, but with baby’s growth spurt, it is not surprising that mothers-to-be are getting the urge to take on more nutrients and that the slowed-down process required for delivering this nutrients to the womb is resulting this this discomfort.

I have found a few ways of relieving this discomfort:

  1. Staying hydrated is always a good place to start, along with eating plainer foods or blending ingredients to form soups. As soup contains a large amount of water it is retained in the stomach for longer, assisting with the decreased pace of digestion and the absorption of nutrients.
  2. Another trick that can assist with digestion is chewing your food more thoroughly. As with soups, this technique is borrowed from weight loss advisers, but as it helps kick start digestion by getting the enzymes working away before the food has even left your mouth, it again assists with the slower digestion process experienced during pregnancy.
  3. Grazing is also advised in pregnancy (and labour) as it reduces the amount you consume in one go. By eating little and often you are getting the calories and nutrients your body and baby need without over-loading you system. You are probably aware that the notion of ‘eating for two’ is no longer encouraged, so rather than having additional portions, graze through a few additional healthy snacks throughout the day. It can also help relieve mild nausea.
  4. I have found that the gas produced from the bloating and indigestion is frequently getting trapped and built up under my ribs. We discovered that if my husband rubs my back, as you will with your newborn or your birth partner might during labour, it is very effective at relieving the discomfort.

Pregnancy Fatigue
This is really getting me this week! I’m having increased nausea and feeling faint a fair bit, which is quite a new sensation for me, but whilst these are unpleasant I can either work through them or they reduce after a little extra rest. Pregnancy fatigue, on the other hand, is not something which you can just power on through.  One of my colleagues recently shared that during her pregnancy she found herself asleep with her head on the top of the cooker! She had been out for three hours.

For me, personally, we are still in the process of renovating our house and the awaited new arrival has hastened the deadline. This has had many positives, for instance, it has persuaded my husband to have carpets in the rooms upstairs, but with reduced energy, I am not being as much help as I would like.

This is the pregnancy sign I am struggling with most, I think because I wasn’t really aware of it. I expected to feel tired and low in energy much later on, when the baby is bigger, I will be heavier and my mobility would be reduced. That I feel so tired, so early on, has taken me by surprise and whilst I had prepared myself to feel nauseous and uncomfortable, I hadn’t strategised for feeling drained.

It does pass though.

You have probably heard about the energy boost you will receive when the second trimester begins. If you are anything like me then you are looking towards it longingly, hoping that the stories are true and you really will resemble your past energetic self. But you don’t have to wait a further 5 weeks to get some relief. A bit like the nausea, pregnancy fatigue can come in waves. For me, it lasts a few days at the time where I am having to nap once or twice a day, and then I get a little of my old energy back and don’t feel as limited.

Napping really is the best thing to do to get relief from pregnancy fatigue. If you are like me and this state does not come naturally to you, or dozing off for a few hours usually makes you feel worse, give it a go anyway. This is not a regular form of tiredness and a quick nap might be what you need to recover and push through. I’m making no promises, but it worked for me. Sometimes (and this is something I struggle with) you really do have to find the time to rest. It is important for you and your pregnancy.

So Many Emotions…
The fatigue is not assisting with the other common early pregnancy sign, mood swings. Again, these will have been noticeable for a few weeks now, but the emotional side of things has really heated up this week. Sadly, this is very literal in my case as one of my biggest flaws is a quick temper and it has definitely been quicker this week.  I have also gone from being a little bit teary to full on weeping.

At the beginning of this pregnancy, in fact before I even had any concrete notion that I was even pregnant, I had been getting moist eyes at a number of church events. One of them was Mother’s Day, so perhaps this one could be expected, but I am not a particularly emotional person and talks rarely move me to tears. This has drastically changed in the past month and a half.

Last night I broke down into noisy sobs for reasons that I am still not certain of. But I most certainly felt better for having a good cry and am embracing this surprise occurrence as a necessary release of hormones and a natural part of pregnancy that I am just going to have to ride out.

The hormone we can thank for our emotional outpourings (or outbursts) is HCG. This is the common abbreviation of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin. It is this hormone that is detected by home pregnancy tests, usually by Week 5. Even though we were trying to conceive, at Week 4 when my expected period did not appear and I took a pregnancy test, it came back as negative. There simply wasn’t enough HCG in my system at that time.

Breast Tenderness
This is often presented to be the most common and, frequently, the first sign of pregnancy. Not for me. It was actually one of the reasons why I assumed I wasn’t pregnant when I took the initial test. It was actually my husband who twigged I was pregnant because the fatigue kicked in really early. From Week 4 onwards I have not been able to be awake beyond 9pm and I even slept last night with my watch still on my wrist.

This week, however, WOW. The tingling and tenderness is definitely there. Personally though, I would describe this as a dragging. My breasts are fuller, heavier, denser and hanging a lot lower. Gravity is not always kind.

Again, I was taken by surprise with the level of discomfort I was getting from this common sign of pregnancy. It is often just reeled off as one of the things that will happen. Of course, it is inevitable and like everything else it has its own specific purpose as your body gets ready for baby. Without a doubt, breasts are (biologically) a big part of your body’s baby survival kit. Even if you decide, or already know, that you are not going to use them to feed baby (absolutely no judgement from over here, Mama, you are growing a human), they are still going through that process.

What was surprising to me, or what I was simply unprepared for, was the discomfort and even pain I felt from my breasts when I was trying to sleep. Sure I could doze off with my watch pressing into my face, but I have to be very careful about positioning so that gravity doesn’t have too great an effect. What makes the difference for me is which breast is bigger and the exact angle I’m at.

Being lopsided isn’t helping. It is not uncommon for women to have one breast that is bigger than the other, but currently, it feels like the left one is working overtime and that the right just really isn’t bothered!

Cramping in Early Pregnancy
Throughout the earliest weeks of this pregnancy I was experiencing a lot of cramping. This is one of the most alarming signs of pregnancy because whilst it is perfectly usual, it can be cause for concern. It is one of the signs that should be discussed most and if you are concerned then speak to a professional.

Fortunately for me,  I experienced no spotting during the earlier weeks and by this week the cramping seems to have alleviated (replaced by more continuous and persistent indigestion).

Cramping is particularly common during Week 4 of pregnancy (I still find it odd that the first 2 weeks that are counted are before conception has even occurred). As pregnancy is counted from the first day of your last period, Week 1 is the period itself and Week 2 is your body preparing your uterus in case the egg released at ovulation is fertilised.  This happens in Week 3, and in Week 4 (when you would have your next period if the egg was not fertilised) the small cluster of cells (blastocyst) implants into the lining of the uterus (endometrium).

For me personally, the cramping felt on a level with my period starting, and although it was almost constant, it never felt concentrated in one spot or elevated beyond the pain level of a regular period cramp. I also had no spotting. At one point I had the sensation all women are familiar with when you feel the initial flow of your period. This scared me. I was at a poetry event and had to wait for the act to finish before I could rush across the tiny performance area to the toilets. Fortunately (this time) there was nothing and I am still not sure why I had this feeling.

I am not a medical professional. The paragraph above is in a spirit of solidarity with women who are also experiencing mild cramping during pregnancy. With severe or concentrated cramping, spotting, or anything else that is making you feel concerned, always seek medical advice.

Dreaming of the Temple: Part 3

Dreaming of the Temple. I have mentioned before the associations these words conjure for me. The temple is a literal place, it represents calm and tranquillity with oneself, surroundings and circumstances. However, I’m not just dreaming of one day going to the temple and being sealed to my husband, that is not were the dream ends. There is a huge emphasis on family in our church, and especially at the temple. We have the belief that families are forever.

When my husband and I are sealed any children we have will also be sealed to us. This is not just children born following the sealing ceremony, but children who were born before, and if a convert’s parents choose to join the church years later they also have the opportunity to be sealed to their children and future grandchildren.

For us, dreaming of the temple represents our hopes for our family. We have not been married very long and as a result currently have no children. We have been discussing starting to try and conceive and, I’ll be honest, it has thrown up more questions than we thought it would.

Call me naïve, but I really thought that once we had told each other that we both wanted to have children and we felt like we were in a good place to do so, that that would be it. We both knew that this is what we wanted, it’s one of the reasons we got married when we did and we even bought some baby books we saw in the window of a charity shop that we passed on the first day of our honeymoon (as a joke gift to ourselves).

But since that initial decision we have been going round in circles. I created this blog as a thinking space, and that is what it is going to be over the next few days.