Written September 22nd
It’s 4.11am, the rain is falling outside, the world is dark and quiet and I am sitting here at my kitchen table thinking of what is about to come.
How can one truly ever be ready for this moment in life? How can one truly anticipate how life will be different in an instant? How can I prepare for the biggest change within in me that I have ever experienced?
I am just days, potentially hours, away from becoming a mum. This little person that has held residence in my belly for the past 9 and a bit months will soon be making his entrance in to the world in some shape or form. We don’t quite know how it’s going to happen, but rest assured it will be happening soon.
So many emotions!
The end of pregnancy is an interesting time, thoughts and feelings change as quickly as the Melbourne weather. One moment I am calm and the next agitated, waiting patiently or impatiently, sleepy or energised, coping or strung out. It’s a whole host of things as I anticipate what’s to come. I have a feeling it’s just an introduction to the fluctuating emotions of parenthood.
The unknown is so intangible. You just don’t know how it’s all going to play out which is a delicious mystery some days and completely terrifying on other days. At times I have felt more disconnected from what’s going to happen than during the rest of my pregnancy, it just doesn’t seem real. The baby will squirm around and I am brought back to the present moment.
After having him in my tummy for so long, it almost feels like life will continue just like this, but of course this is not true. Life will change, in all ways, good and bad but one thing is for certain, change is on the horizon.
I almost can’t imagine him being outside any more. I look at his nursery we lovingly decorated, the clothes I bought with such excitement and put away in his little drawers, reorganising them almost weekly. I imagine him lying in his cot, wrapped up in the blankets so soft and cosy. I sit in the nursing chair often and imagine the room smelling like sweet newborn baby and hearing murmurs of him in his sleep. But I just can’t imagine it quite strongly enough in my mind. I know this is something beyond imagination. How can you know what it’s like to have a part of you that has grown inside you, now on the outside, living and breathing for themselves. How can I know what it’s like to take care of this little person’s needs when I have never done so before?
Am I excited about this prospect? Definitely. Am I scared by it and how I will be as a mother? Absolutely.
Most of all, I only hope that he is healthy. The past 6 weeks of this pregnancy have been over and under shadowed with the thoughts of ‘is my baby thriving?’ We have a tiny baby in there and even though my husband and I are both small people, when we were told at our first growth scan at 32 weeks that he was measuring on the 11th percentile, it was still quite a shock.
I felt guilty that I hadn’t nourished my baby enough, like I had neglected him. This is the one time in your life when you just want your baby to be average, normal, standard. I thought even just the 20th or 25th percentile, but 11th? He was just one percentile off being classified as growth-restricted. I was scared and very concerned.
We have had growth scans every two weeks since – 32, 34, 36, and 38 weeks. The scans of course can be out either way but it showed that while he was still on the small side, he was growing on his own growth rate. I took some comfort in this but of course every waking moment was underwritten by the thought ‘is he doing okay in there?’
I was relieved to finish my safe duties at the Ballet, not just because I was tired but because people’s comments (as well meant as they were) about how small I was and how small my belly was, were only adding to my nervousness. As a pregnant woman, you become quite accustomed to the fact that everyone and I mean everyone will comment on you, your size, the sex of your baby and most likely even what it was like for them in pregnancy or labour.
It feels good to begin with, like you are joining a special club (which you totally are) and I always happily listened to people’s stories and loved talking myself about the baby growing inside me, discussing who we think he will be like and also talking about various pregnancy ailments and how the nursery was coming along. I think it’s an integral part of preparing for become a parent.
But as the 3rd trimester went along and we began to see our little one (as we have always liked to call him) was definitely little, the well meaning comments about how lucky I was started to really unnerve me. Of course I have been in the best of care, I trust my doctor implicitly and she has taken to monitoring me frequently and consistently also for my own peace of mind.
A few times I mentioned that yes our baby was a little small and that that had it’s own concerns as well, to a few people’s shock. Sensing my discomfort, they then tried to reassure me by adding “oh but he will be very healthy i’m sure. But that’s just the thing, no one knows until we see him on the outside.
My awareness of what to say to a pregnant woman is forever changed. I am grateful for the close friends of mine who have encouraged me to sit gently with my fears, reassuring me in the best way they could and check up on me to see how I was feeling. Absolute gems.
Of course I say to people, I would be most willing to forgo the vanity of ‘not putting on weight’ or ‘getting my body back quicker’ or ‘pushing out a small baby’ if it meant that our baby was healthy. Please please please grow little one.
When I stopped working, it did become easier probably because I felt less on show but also because I could eat more and rest more. Being at home made it easier to eat frequent meals, even though my appetite was down the drain. My husband made me a smoothie each day, loading it up with all the things I usually hate about smoothies. My doctor advised honey in everything – I have never added so much sweetener to things before, natural or not.
But the resting was what really helped. Not rushing off to anything unless it was appointments, scans or meeting with friends and really just taking it easy. Putting my feet up was the best thing I could do for my baby to grow and as we had more growth scans, we could see it was paying off. The little one was picking up some speed and edging ever so slightly out of the 11th percentile.
But of course it was still waiting, wishing and hoping and a little bit of worrying. I won’t deny that I kept myself distracted and kept myself hopeful. But often I would wake up in the middle of the night (like now as I write this) and just wonder. I guess motherhood and it’s worries don’t just start when the baby is born, it starts from the moment they are in you belly.
We had been on edge for weeks that he could be making a premature arrival, which if it meant he would be healthier and thrive more on the outside, then so be it. Each day, each appointment, each scan, each belly measurement would determine how the next days would turn out. This is where I can see it became a bit harder to just go with the flow as I had done for most of my pregnancy.
While I certainly didn’t feel like a failure if he had to come out early, I was nervous about what that would mean. Would he need NICU? That would mean transferring him to the Royal Children’s which is not where I would deliver. Would he need to stay in longer? Would he need steroids? Would he have issues feeding? Would he be starting life on the back foot? Is there a real reason that he has not grown? Is there something seriously wrong with my little boy? How will I cope with this?
What had been an otherwise fairly undramatic pregnancy besides all day sickness in the 1st trimester was starting to feel much more serious. I understand that high-risk pregnancies present in a myriad of ways, but I never thought me being young, fit and healthy would be moving closer to that category.
There were weeks where I would lose weight and then regain it and then lose it again. They don’t tend to comment on your weight in pregnancy until it could be a risk for you or the baby, but it was undeniable that the fluctuation in my weight was not a good sign for the baby. I had never heard of women losing weight at the end of pregnancy? I knew I had lost lots of muscle tone but had never expected to be on the under side of normal myself.
I would talk to our baby, encouraging him to grow big and strong. I would relish when my belly would grow. Fortunately, my appetite started to come back in waves so I could eat more full meals and as he dropped down lower the heartburn and reflux I had experienced in the past weeks started to subside, also making eating more comfortable.
The last scan we had was 38.5 weeks pregnant and going in I knew if he dropped off again that he would be coming out pronto. Fortunately, he surprised the doctor doing the scan, myself and my Obstetrician that he had indeed had a growth spurt and was doing very well in there. Placenta, umbilical cord and fluid levels were all great. My doctor said she had to double check the results to check it was the right patient with the right baby!
So our baby was off the hook for a little longer, he could stay inside and keep growing and thriving in there as long as he was happy. There was some relief, my husband and I feeling better that things would be okay.
A few days later and of course all the parameters have shifted slightly again. I have been on the CTG (or the Fetal heart rate monitor) for every appointment for the last 6 weeks or so. He usually shows excellent signs on the monitor, heart rate doing the appropriate up and down pattern to suggest a healthy active baby. Yesterday, he was asleep for the most part of 45 minutes, even trying to rouse him with more cold water and lollies just barely got his heart rate going. It’s meant to look like peaks and troughs and instead it looked like a flat field.
I had been feeling off all day, I said to my husband earlier that I just felt yucky. I had no appetite, felt nauseous, hot and flushed, weak and faint. I had to lie down at various points in the day and while I couldn’t sleep, I just needed to be horizontal with my eyes closed. I didn’t think much of it.
When my blood pressure was higher than normal (especially with it usually being low normal) and some protein in my urine, my doctor suspected it could be the beginnings of pre-eclampsia. Now there was a doubt that my body was coping with the pregnancy, and in turn how was my baby doing? Had he been a bit quieter that day? Every sign, symptom, signal has been second and third guessed.
I mentioned to my doctor, that as a dancer I know my body so well and am hyper-aware of what I’m feeling or even minor changes throughout the day. I was conscious not to let that mislead me in reading the signs of ‘pre-labour’ or end of pregnancy signs. I thought I was feeling off because it was just the end of pregnancy when perhaps there was an underlying reason?
I realised that perhaps it really was time for the baby to come out. My doctor said the words as I thought them. Getting over 39 weeks with all the monitoring had been a real positive but now with my belly not measuring any bigger, a small drop in weight, baby a bit sleepy and the concern of pre-eclampsia, decisions needed to be made and action taken.
I had some bloods and another urine sample to check how my kidneys and liver were doing, and I was advised at any sign that my baby is not moving well or that I am feeling worse to call my doctor and the hospital. That in itself scares me. How can I judge what is right? How will I know when I feel bad enough to tell someone? How will I know if my baby isn’t coping? So many unknowns.
All I want is my baby to come out in to the world and to know he is okay, to know he is healthy and he can be taken care of. If only there was a window into my uterus to put my mind at ease, but the reality is, this will only happen when he is outside and we can see he is doing okay. Every movement he makes I pat him and reassure him to keep doing exactly that. Please move my little one, keep moving.
Contrary to popular belief, babies are in fact meant to keep moving right until you go into labour. There is no ‘running out of room’ reason for lack of movement and although some babies go quiet just before labour, you never know this until afterwards in hindsight you can see why that happened. Any slowing in movement is a sign that your baby might be distressed.
So I talk to him, ask him to move, eat more chocolate or cold water just so I know he is okay in there. He is squirming now, more gently than usual, but there is movement nonetheless. I try to to let this comfort me. I also know that staying calm is the best thing for me and the baby. Adrenalin will not help him or me. Adrenalin stops a labour whereas oxytocin or the love hormone (when we are relaxed and feeling warm and fuzzy) not only starts a labour, but keeps it progressing.
So I wait to be induced or go into labour naturally if that’s how it works out, but in any case, we will meet our baby before the end of the week. He could be a Virgo or a Libra depending on how he feels, or how quickly the hospital can get me in for an induction. When my Doctor called, they were all full up for inductions this week, it’s a busy week apparently. I asked her what happens if I need it, and she reassured me that I will be induced if it’s necessary, it will definitely happen.
It could happen tonight or tomorrow night. She explained that because he is small baby, there is a risk he might not cope with labour so they will be keeping a very close eye on him. I will be induced with a balloon catheter rather than the prostaglandin gel, as this can cause some babies to go in to distress which with our little one, needs to be avoided at all costs. Hopefully the pressure of the balloon catheter will dilate the cervix a little so they can break my waters the next morning and get the synthetic oxytocin drip going. I will be attached to monitors, antibiotics and most likely will need an epidural because of the intensity of the contractions with an induction. I may not of course, but I am prepared for the option of needing an epidural.
Of course, the induction may not work which is often the case with first-timers, particularly if your body has not shown signs of being ready. This might mean after all this, I end up with a c-section. Also, the baby could become distressed at any point in which point the call for a c-section will be made as well. It’s hardly that “mother-nature birth experience” that most women want. But whatever it is, all I can hope and dream for is that it delivers me our beautiful baby boy and that he is healthy.
That is all I can wish for, that’s all that is at the forefront of my mind.
Please let him be okay.
It’s no wonder I can’t sleep well tonight. There certainly is change in the air. After 9 and a half months it really is all finally happening. I’m both ready like I have never been before and also hesitant of it all happening soon. I want it now but I want more time. I still can’t imagine actually closing the suitcases I have almost finished packing, closing the door to our home, hopping in the car and turning up to the hospital – either in labour or about to be induced.
It’s a whole new world of unknown but I know no matter what, we will come through the other side and this time right now will all be a hazy blur. What will be, will be.
Update: Our precious little darling Jasper was indeed born the very next day in evening. He was smaller than average at 2.9kg (tiny to us!) but very healthy which was such a HUGE relief.
He is precious, delightful, inquisitive and an absolute sweetheart. Life before him as I expected, already feels like a hazy blur.
I’m so grateful to the wonderful Dr. Meredith Tassone (my Obstetrician) and the lovely midwives at Epworth Freemasons Hospital for supporting me through what could have been a very daunting experience but instead was incredibly real and perfect just as it was. I could not be more thankful that all went well and both Jasper and myself were in such good hands every step of the way. We are so lucky.
And of course thank you to my darling husband who was with me every step of the way and is already the most natural and loving Dad to our boy. There is nothing quite like seeing your partner with your baby, melts my heart every time!
And so just like that I became a Mum!