You may read this, roll your eyes and go ‘HOW DID YOU NOT KNOW THAT?’, but I really only had 3 months to educate myself and attend the odd antenatal class or two. I’m still disappointed that we didn’t get to sit on birthing balls, like Bridget Jones did. I’ve put together a short list of things that mums-to-be (near future or distant future) may find useful, or existing mums may relate to.
Who’d have thought it? If I realised that this was a symptom of pregnancy, maybe I would have found out sooner. As I went into the third trimester, these leg cramps became unbearable. I know they say ‘you prepare yourself for the sleepless nights’, but oh my goodness they aren’t kidding. I’d be up early hours in the morning, every single day, with cramps in my calves (which sometimes lasted up to half an hour). Not fun! Unfortunately, I didn’t find a way of easing the pain other than whinging about how painful it was whilst frantically massaging my calves. However, I did read that apparently rotating your ankles and wiggling your toes whilst you’re resting can help to prevent leg cramps.
For those unknown 6 months of pregnancy, I was strangely happy with the condition of my hair. Why? Because you were pregnant, Chloe. The hormonal fluctuations help to either strengthen your hair growth, or make your hair super greasy. Although the sound of ‘hair growth’ sounds highly appealing, you have to take into account that we have hair in places other than our heads (I did say that all I lost all of my dignity in child birth). I’m sure it would have been hilarious to watch a whale-like woman trying to reach her legs. It wasn’t as hilarious being the whale. After pregnancy, your estrogen levels plummet, which can sometimes cause your hair to fall out. I haven’t experienced this drastically, but I do find that a lot of my head hair comes away in the shower or when I’m brushing it. I’ve also noticed that my eyebrows are looking a bit more sparse, and my eyelashes aren’t so thick. Gently massaging coconut oil onto my scalp (before a shower to avoid grease) and eyebrows seems to have helped with stimulating hair growth.
I had absolutely no idea that you could get contractions in your back. This is probably common knowledge, but personally I had never heard of it before. I wish I did know so that I could have been slightly more prepared for the pain. I had absolutely no pains in my stomach during labour, and my contractions were predominantly in my back. It’s true that you really cannot describe contractions, but the evil people are the ones who tell you that ‘they aren’t that bad’. They hurt. But, as soon as you think that you cannot stand it anymore, it eases out. However, I am probably the worst person to ask about pain as I didn’t make it to hospital in time for any pain relief (I was 9.5cm when I arrived, and had entonox for about 5 minutes). All I had in my head was ‘remember the end result’, and it really helped to get me through.
I was also extremely unprepared for after birth contractions. I remember holding Amelie in hospital, and suddenly feeling what felt like another contraction. Twins?! What a thought. I spoke to the midwife, and she told me that a lot of women experience cramping following the birth of their baby; as the uterus contracts as it returns to it’s original size. Seems logical, but I was still unprepared nonetheless. I still stand by saying that I was in more pain after labour than I was in labour, and nobody prepared me for that. However, each person is different!
For some reason, I had in my head that you’re only in established labour if your waters have broken. Wrong. Whilst I was at home, roughly 8cm dilated, I was convinced that I had to wait for my waters to break before returning to the birth centre. Even once I had got to the birth centre, and was told that I was 9.5cm dilated, my waters did not break. Amelie is a 1 in 80,000 baby who was born in her amniotic sac; meaning that my waters never broke. I was very drowsy from the entonox at this point, but I can imagine how incredible this would have looked; especially as I had given birth in water. Although 1 in 80,000 doesn’t make this scenario particularly common, it can happen (and is apparently very lucky).
For those of you who are like me, and did not know this before, ‘fontanelle’ is the fancy word for ‘soft spot’. I was gently stroking the top of Amelie’s head when I noticed that her soft spot was slightly more inward than usual. After letting my protective instinct get the better of me, my health visitor confirmed that a sunken fontanelle is a sign of dehydration; and suggested that Amelie could be having a growth spurt. What a relief! However, I’m still glad that I seeked medical advice as it gave me peace of mind; and I would always urge new mums to do the same if they were concerned.
I am obviously not a midwife, and I’m sure I have still got a few things slightly wrong (I’m again relying on my midwife to correct me if I’m wrong… Amy?!), but I really hope that you have discovered a new thing or two from reading this!