Wednesday, 16 February 2011

One year on - my birth story!

V - born 16/02/10 at 9.40am

Well, V is one year old today and I have been thinking a lot about this time last year. So, to mark the occasion I have decided to publish my birth story which, because of the farcical nature of some of it I can laugh at in hindsight, but at the time, it wasn't quite so funny!

This was a much briefer story in terms of time than I anticipated. After being told through much of my pregnancy that, because of my high blood pressure (a pre-pregnancy thing as well) I would probably have to be delivered early, probably by C-section, I didn’t expect to get to my due date, let alone have just a four hour natural birth experience from waters going to birth, with a labour of 1 hour 14 mins!

I was due to see my consultant at 10.00am on 16 February – the day after my due date - to discuss what would happen next – most likely an induction ASAP. However, I didn’t make the appointment!

As usual I couldn’t sleep very well, and one minute I was watching the Winter Olympics in bed, the next I felt something warm and wet gushing down my legs. It was 5.39 am and I will never forget the feeling of OMG – I think this is IT!

I woke my husband gently and, after establishing that I hadn’t just weed myself, we both ran round like we were in some kind of French farce, even though I had been packed for weeks!

I phoned the Delivery Suite who told me to come in so they could check that my waters had actually gone and then I would probably still be able to make my consultant’s appointment!! Yeah right!!

I was getting regular period type pains which were quite painful and I just assumed this was what happened! The first midwife I saw confirmed the waters had gone and explained what NORMALLY happened, which was that I would now be sent home and if labour hadn’t started properly in 72 hours they would induce. Having not been in labour before I didn’t know what to think. They were the professionals so I felt I should believe them, but at the same time I was in a lot of pain every few minutes and didn’t think I would GET home!

At 6.30am I was put on the monitor which was very uncomfortable and then from about 7.30 am onwards there was a bizarre two hours which consisted of me being in bad pain which, from all I’d learned seemed like regular contractions, but being told that it was early days!

Luckily they moved me to a delivery room to wait to be assessed by a doctor before going home and I started to ask for pain relief because it was that bad. I mentioned the epidural I needed to have because of my blood pressure and the midwife said she would examine me to see what, if any, stage I was at and so which pain relief I could have at that moment - BUT - due to infection risk, if she did that they would have to induce within 24 hours. She was quoting from the rule book but I was pretty convinced by now that it was all going to happen soon! If I hadn’t been in so much pain I would have laughed – it just wasn’t clear to them that I as well underway. I think they thought I was a first time mum just making a fuss – they were very nice to me about it though!

Anyway, at about 8.15am she examined me and I was 3 cms. As I couldn’t have an epidural until 5 cms she said she would examine me in about another 2 hours and did I want to “mobilise more” or “go on the ward” – WTF??!! Mobilise? I was already on all fours grabbing at the gas and air which was lovely – but rubbish as pain relief!

My husband was hilarious – he was worried about me tearing his shirt and I told him I could tear what I blimming well liked! Afterwards he told me I sounded like a prehistoric bird screeching and taking flight! I think that Jurassic Park was also mentioned at one point!

Another half an hour or so of me being in pain and swearing etc went by and I was desperate for pain relief and worried about my blood pressure. The midwife got the midwife in charge to do another exam as I said I wanted to push. I DESPERATELY wanted to push but hilariously (looking back anyway!) I said I thought it could be a poo!

After another weird conversation about whether it was baby or number twos the midwife in charge examined me and said the immortal words – “this baby wants to come out – PUSH – you are fully dilated!” No sh*t Sherlock! At last – they believed me! 3 cms to fully dilated in about 45 mins! She then said – “I’m sorry – it’s too late for an epidural” – the thing I had been dreading as it was that which was supposed to keep my blood pressure low!

Then the “fun” began as all sorts of people started running about bringing in equipment for the newborn. About 15 minutes later after a few pushes, my beautiful daughter arrived and I was handed a purple looking bundle weighing 5lbs 11 and a half oz. Small but absolutely fine and gorgeous! I said “Hello baby” and most remember her beautiful eyes looking up at me and, randomly, her tiny but perfect nails on exquisite little fingers!

The placenta came out about 20 minutes later and then they spent about an hour or more doing a few stitches while I stared at my baby! I have to say that this bit probably took longer than my labour - it really wasn't fun when all I wanted to do was concentrate on my baby. I remember worrying that my discomfort would have an effect on her.

The midwife had to get a doctor to do the trickiest ones and that was when I learned not to argue about football with a Man United supporter, when that supporter was a doctor with a needle and thread and was pointing them at your nether regions!

V then had all her checks and Vitamin K injection and was weighed, then daddy dressed her and had his first cuddle.There followed tea and toast, a hot bath and a lot of people telling me how quick it had been. The midwife said that Mother Nature had taken over. My blood pressure had meant that I always needed a quick labour and Mother Nature sorted that out for me. Ironically the one BP reading they managed during my labour was the lowest it had been for months- if not years!

I couldn’t believe it was over and I couldn't believe that we had a gorgeous daughter. Even now, a year on I sometimes look at her with complete amazement that I managed to grow an actual person inside me.

I have NO idea how people manage longer labours or push out bigger babies but I guess there is more time for pain management – I take my hat off to you all.

The staff at the hospital were lovely – despite their surprise at me not being exactly text book. Afterwards I couldn’t stop apologising for being so demanding and insistent that birth was imminent but they are used to it. It was certainly an experience I will never forget!

Before I gave birth I think I was in denial and never really read much about other people's labours. Afterwards I couldn't get enough of these stories so it's only now that I realise just how lucky I was - although if I'd been sent home it may have been a whole different tale, probably involving the back seat of a car!

I have also now finally realised how important birthdays are for the mum as well because it is the anniversary of what is probably the most amazing and incredible day of your life. I would therefore like to apologise to my own mother for not acknowledging this before and so, as it's my own birthday next week I will make sure that I rectify it in some way!

So there we go - that was how it happened. As it is highly unlikely that I will go through it again, I am very pleased that I managed a natural labour with only gas and air, but, as long as I had a healthy baby at the end of it, I would have accepted any decisions or intervention needed - except perhaps, being sent home!

My top tip therefore is trust your own instincts and argue the toss if necessary - or just scream a lot!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

First birthday eve - smiles and tears!

Well, it's the eve of Verity's first birthday and I am sitting here feeling a right mixture of things.

Firstly I am incredibly proud of her, she is doing so well and really thriving and I am also proud of myself because I have gone from knowing absolutely nothing about babies to successfully nurturing one through their first year!

Tomorrow is a cause for great celebration, but I have also been either on the verge of tears or actually crying for a few days now and I wasn't sure why. I have been feeling like such a wimp but this morning I spoke to three other ladies at the group we go to and they admitted that they had felt exactly the same. It was such a relief because I was beginning to think that there was something wrong with me. We then spent time over coffee and birthday cake discussing why such a momentous occasion should reduce us to gibbering wrecks!

The overriding phrase that came out was "I cried because she's not my baby anymore" and I think that this is the crux of the matter and something that us older mums feel even more keenly.

One of the ladies said that the emotion you feel at your child growing up is like an inbuilt feeling to make people have more children and keep the human race going, but when you are over 40 you know that this is unlikely to be an option and for me it definitely isn't.

Therefore, I know that this sounds weird, but it's like we are mourning the loss of children that we haven't even conceived. I think there's a lot in that. I have loved these past 12 months. Sure it's not been easy at times but it's been the best time of my life and the best thing I have ever done and I am a little bit sad that I won't have those times again.

What has added to it for me is a circumstance out of my control. We have a flat in another part of the country and all V's outgrown clothes were stored there. A burst pipe led to flooding and ALL the clothes were soaked through. I brought them back here and - 5 loads of washing later, everything she has ever worn was hanging up drying around me. There in front of me was
the past 12 months in clothes and it was a bit like listening to records that remind you of happy times and remembering exactly where you were when they were playing.

V was a small baby and her newborn clothes are tiny and I realised that I couldn't remember her being that small. Then we looked at pictures and realised that even they were too big for her. I want to remember every detail and am worried I will forget.

Then all her summer clothes remind me of those wonderful heady days of maternity leave when it was just the two of us during the day walking in the park or playing on her mat and trying to keep cool.

Every outfit holds a memory and I know that I won't ever be able to chuck out any of it. I will cling onto each small item of clothing like I am holding fast to my memories.

So where does this leave me? Well, I am 44 next week so even if I decided that another baby was the answer there is no guarantee that I would conceive. And if I did, well I remember the constant worry of my pregnancy with yoyo-ing blood pressure and virtual bed rest. It was bad enough then but with a toddler to look after well, V would suffer I think and that would not be fair.

Besides, you can't keep having children when you feel emotional that the last one is no longer a baby! And I know that at my age I am very lucky to be blessed with my one beautiful and healthy child, I may not be so lucky another time.

Therefore I must focus on my beautiful daughter and while it's OK to look back at past happy memories I must concentrate more on looking forward to the many more that we are going to make. So, happy birthday for tomorrow my lovely V, the first of many, many more!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

So - what was the plan then?!

I always feel a little bit guilty when I talk about my situation as while I was, and still am, absolutely delighted to have a my gorgeous daughter, I never had that burning desire, that ache, to be a mum - and then my baby arrived and I can't imagine being anything else now!

But I also know that there are many women, and men, out there who, since they were very young, have always planned to have children, know the number of them that they want and have even picked out names, nursery colours and themes. But then, when it comes to it, they find it extremely difficult to conceive, if at all.

They probably hate me.

So I'm sorry if what I write here offends anyone in anyway. I truely don't mean to but this is what happened to me and these are my thoughts about it. It's an accurate record and you can't help or change what's happened to you in life, or how you feel about it, for anyone.

My story is that I never really PLANNED, as such, to have any children although I also didn't PLAN not to. When I was younger I just thought it would be something I would probably do but as I got older I realised it might be something I would never do!

I never felt broody - ever - never went soppy when I looked in a pram, in fact I wasn't sure I ever really liked children enough to be a mother to one!! I always considered myself to be child-free not childless! I thought I was too selfish and had no patience and would be a rubbish mother.

I guess you could say I was lucky in that respect. If I had been one of those people who had always been desperate to have a child and felt that they would not be complete unless they were a mother, then I would have probably been a very unhappy and frustrated person because I didn't get married until I was 40.

Before that I had not been with a man that I felt I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, so there was no point in even thinking about children. If I had really wanted a child at any cost, then I could have got myself into something that would not have been a good idea!

I have to say though, I was never completely opposed to the idea. There was always a bit of a nagging thought in my mind about it, but it was mainly more of feeling that maybe I shouldn't miss out on it, and wondering what it would be like, rather than a burning desire for a child. I also thought a lot about growing old with no immediate family. I was - what I recently heard referred to as a PANK (Professional Auntie No Kids) and while I doted on my nieces and they loved me back, somehow they are not quite the same in old age!

My husband is 10 years younger than me and when he asked me to marry him we had the "children" conversation. Because of my age he knew that children may not happen but we decided that if we were blessed with a child that would be fantastic, but if not, then that was absolutely fine too because he was marrying me for me. We were happy as a couple and lived life to the full, travelling and going out etc. We were hardly ever at home!

We didn't actively try to conceive (ttc), we just didn't try to prevent it and thought we'd see what happened. After nearly two years, when frankly I didn't even think about it anymore, hey presto - PREGNANT! I was stunned, I mean, I know how these things work but still - I was shocked, terrified and excited - probably in that order if truth be told! Our daughter arrived a week before my 43rd birthday.

Now she is here and I think in a different way as our world revolves around her rather than ourselves but I'm still glad we had that selfish time, because I don't feel I have missed out on anything. My patience that I thought I never had, knows no bounds and I am only selfish for her, in that everything I want is for her! I am so happy, grateful and thankful for this beautiful gift who I will do everything within my power to protect and nurture.

I'm not saying I wish I'd done it younger though, I think that it was only now that the time was right, which is why it happened (and certainly it wasn't with the right man before!) I am a great believer in fate and what will be will be. I adore my daughter and can't imagine now what life would be without her, but I am also sure that if she hadn't come along we would still have been happy, just in a very different way.

I would have another if I could conceive today and it popped out tomorrow! I don't even mind the child birth bit, it's the whole pregnancy thing I don't want to do again!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

How could you be pregnant?!

This is the reaction - either said (but not in so many words) or unsaid - from people who found out I was pregnant with my first at 42.

I look back and laugh now, but at the time, the hormonal me used to get REALLY annoyed! I think that without fail, when I told people I knew that I was pregnant they ALL had more or less a similar reaction - even my own mother! Although to be fair she was absolutely delighted once she had recovered from the shock! In fact when I told her the good news, it was me who had to ask her if SHE wanted to sit down, rather than the other way round!

But with most people there was that brief look of horror slash surprise. It was maybe only a millisecond, but I always noticed! Then they would remember, smile widely and congratulate me before saying the inevitable - "was it planned?!" Sometimes, this would be followed by "did you have treatment?" - and if they didn't say it, then I'm pretty sure that many were thinking it - or maybe I just got more and more paranoid!

It was like the only way that I could possibly be pregnant at my age was either the result of an "accident" or "treatment". Was there no room for natural conception over 40? I have nothing against IVF at all and have total respect for anyone who puts themselves through it, but not everybody over 40 has it.

And was there no way that it could be intentional? The truth is it was neither unplanned or planned. As I have said before, we knew what we were doing, we were just seeing what happened and if nothing did then that was what was meant to be. Luckily for us, it WAS meant to be!

The only person who didn't even flinch was my GP who, when I said, "I'm not too old for all this am I?" said, "If you were too old to be pregnant you wouldn't be sitting here telling me you were pregnant!" I could have kissed him!

But nevertheless, I don't think I had ever been so gossip worthy - well, not for about 20 years anyway!

At 32 weeks pregnant I snapped but rather than be rude to someone I resorted to my usual means of getting things off my chest - I wrote it down - and felt better! This is what I put!

"This is for all those who looked so shocked on discovering that I am pregnant with my first child at 42!

1. Why do you look so shocked? I am over 16 and happily married - I honestly think you would look less surprised if I was 12!

2. No, I didn't have any treatment to get pregnant - it IS possible to conceive naturally when you're over 40. And anyway, if I did who cares, it's none of your flipping business.

3. Whether it was planned or unplanned is none of your business either. For the record, it was neither - it just happened naturally.

4. Just because I haven't had any children before, doesn't mean I don't like them and didn't want them. I am absolutely delighted to be having a baby, I just hadn't been desperate for one and didn't go on about it continually. (Actually, I'm not over keen on other children - but mine's lovely!)

5. Yes - there are risks with being an older mother, but there are risks whatever age you are?

6. Yes - I am a bit nervous about being a new mum - but isn't that a natural thing? There really isn't any need to add - AFTER ALL THIS TIME!

7. If I was too old to have a baby, then I wouldn't be pregnant would I? FOOL!"

Since having my baby I have met a number of other women in the same situation, who all experienced similar reactions. Luckily I haven't been mistaken for my little one's nan yet - but I'm sure that will come eventually and I fully intend to make the person who says it feel as small as I possibly can!

Friday, 28 January 2011

I'm not that old! The starting point, the first post!

I am a geriatric prima gravida. Yes - a geriatric. How very dare they - I am 43!

And I gave birth to my beautiful daughter a week before my 43rd birthday!

This term, which refers to being an older first time mum, has apparently now been changed to elderly prima gravida and frankly I don't know which is worse as I consider myself neither geriatric or elderly. Luckily there was only one member of my consultant's team who insisted on calling me that and she - yes SHE for goodness sake - soon got short shrift from me!

But the truth is, despite the fact that more and more women are over 35 before having their first children, there still seems to be some sort of stigma attached to it. This isn't helped by the fact that at my hospital, over 40s are immediately referred to the high-risk clinic, they are only doing their job and looking after you but the name of it is enough to put the wind up you from the start!

Certain sections of the media like to call us either selfish or foolish or both. Selfish because apparently we will be too old to be any use to lively young children and a drain on the NHS, and foolish because of the risks attached to becoming pregnant at a later age. We are also often thought to be hard nosed career women who wanted to please ourselves before caring for anyone else.

Well I can firstly dispel the latter accusation. If I was an ambitious career woman I wouldn't have been happy in the organisation I have been in for the past 10 years without going for promotions. In journalism it seems that the higher the ladder you climb, the further away you get from doing the part of the job that you love. Managers don't get to be at the cut and thrust of the story, so I was just happy doing what I was doing.

So, what about foolish? Well, yes of course there are risks associated with being an older mother, I don't deny that. But as my wonderful consultant often told me, women can have problems with pregnancy at any age.

The issue that I had with my pregnancy was down to a condition that I had for many years - high blood pressure. Because of this I was closely monitored throughout, which is something that would have happened if I had fallen pregnant ten years earlier or was 20 years younger.

And when it came to the actual birth itself, it was 4 hours from waters breaking to my beautiful daughter emerging into the world, with no complications. It still hurt though!

The thing is, yes there are risks but I didn't CHOOSE to wait this long to have a child. I didn't think - oooh, it's really risky to have a child over 40, I'll wait until then! In fact, if you'd told me at 18 that it would be nearly 25 years before I would have a child, I would have been horrified - but luckily I have never been broody!

Selfish then? Well, if you think we are a drain on the NHS well - having worked full time without a break for 25 years when I got pregnant, I had paid enough in so I think it's only fair that I took something back! And to be honest, I have regular checks on my blood pressure anyway which seems in my case to be genetic rather than age-based.

What those who call us selfish sometimes fail to realise is that some of us didn't find the right man until later on. I was engaged at 39 and married at 40. Having a child with any previous man would have been a disaster and if I hadn't met my husband then it's highly likely that I may not have followed this particular path.

When we married my husband accepted that there might not be children. We decided that if we were blessed with a child that would be wonderful but if not then that was OK too as were were happy anyway. We wouldn't try any intervention to get pregnant we just wouldn't prevent it and let what will be, be. After 22 months I thought what "would be" would be no children but then wham - out of the blue - pregnant!

So what is it like being an older mum - am I too tired to cope? Well, of course I get tired, but then again most mums do don't they? And I think it's actually keeping me fitter as I am running around after a very lively nearly walking 11-month-old instead of vegging in front of Come Dine With Me with a ready meal!

To me, there are many, many other advantages of being an older mum.

I spent the 42 years of my life before getting pregnant generally having a really good time! Pubbing and clubbing in my teens and twenties (and thirties and occasionally 40s - ssh!) I was always at the theatre, eating out, travelling, going to A LOT of football and generally doing what I wanted, when I wanted. I have had a whale of a time so I now feel no restriction by the ties associated with having a young child!

When my daughter is getting cranky because I'm not quick enough with her food I am not hankering for a boisterous working lunch with the girls, supping a few vinos before sauntering back to the office.

When she wants to play instead of going to sleep, I'm not wishing that I was boogying on down to the latest toons at a club or sipping cocktails at a swanky hotel - been there, done that! And I'm more than happy to swap a stroll down the Champs Elysees for a walk in our local park - for the time being anyway. We'll take her with us soon!

In my job I have worked unsocial hours and in doing so met and interviewed some fantastic people in the entertainment business. I am now back at work and happy to work more normal hours and leave on time and don't mind sometimes missing out on the big interview. Ultimately, that's not important and is not as fulfilling as being home to put my baby to bed. An ex-soap actor pretending they are happy being "back in the theatre" does not look at you with unconditional love!

My husband and I are more financially secure and can afford a house with a garden, plus have kept hold of my husbands flat in another part of the country for weekends and holidays.

My daughter may not want to borrow my clothes as a teenager (although who knows what fashion will have thrown up by then!) but I have loads of life experience, taken two degrees, survived relationships and seen the world and feel that I am far better placed to provide moral and educational guidance for her than I would have 20 years ago.

In fact the only "con" I can think of is that, even though strictly speaking it's still possible, I am not going to have another, but honestly, that's not a bad thing!

I do know that I am hugely fortunate to have a healthy child and, for many reasons, I am not going to risk another. But I am not a career obsessive who has gambled with my fertility. I am someone who has been dealt a certain set of cards and been lucky enough to get a full house.