When baby brain takes over, it really takes over. I couldn't even remember which side my parting sits on when asked at the hairdresser's the other day, for God's sake!
Another reminder of the mush-like status of my grey matter was laid bare when discussing my previous blog post with a pregnant friend. I realised when she asked me a few questions that I had totally missed out some fairly important things I meant to include - the perils of not writing things down immediately when heavily pregnant.
So, another pre-childbirth post is born (although it remains to be seen how much sense it will make with baby brain currently doing its worst!)
As those who know me well or have read my blog from the beginning will know, I am an anxious person by nature. Identifying the fact that I suffered with anxiety was half of the battle, and it is a part of my personality that will rear its ugly head from time to time, often without me realising what is happening until it is too late. The panic overwhelms me - not always into a full scale panic attack, but enough to leave me freaked out, or tearful, or just feeling horribly out of control. One of my aims over the coming months as I embark on the exciting but very daunting world of motherhood is to learn more about spotting the warning signs for when the anxiety is growing, and to stop it in its tracks before it has the chance to overwhelm me. Far easier said than done.
For the most part during my pregnancy however, my anxiety levels have been fairly low. I have been far more relaxed than pre-pregnancy, and perhaps have been very lucky in not having a huge amount in that time to worry me. Work has thrown some large and complicated projects at me and I am proud to say that I have managed not to cry as a result of work since the night before I discovered I was pregnant.
However, as I hit around 34/5 weeks and work began to ramp up, I was unfortunately hit with some bad news in my personal life which I hadn't been expecting. The combination of those with my increasing nerves about labour all became a bit much, so finally being able to finish work and embark on a week's holiday before maternity leave kicked in gave me some control back. I could stay in bed as long as I needed, do some yoga, take myself for a walk in the sunshine, meet my NCT friends for a coffee, tick some things off my to do list or just chill out in front of Netflix on the sofa. Absolute bliss. I can't remember ever having such freedom :)
However, I still noticed with each week that passed, the fear consistently seemed to increase. Shouldering the weight of other people's excitement when you are the one who actually has to go through childbirth can also add to the mental load. So once again I have worked to wrestle back control from Bernard the anxiety goblin and send him on his way. (F**ker).
As I have now hit 40 weeks (today, 1st November is my due date), I am feeling far more positive and excited. However, had you asked me how I felt a mere 5 days ago I was a very different person.
For those of you who may be pregnant and anxious yourselves, or those of you who may have pregnant partners, here's what has been enormously helpful to me in getting on top of the fear. I'm no expert, and these things may not work for everyone, but I'd say they are definitely worth a bloody good go.
- YOGA: Since summer 2017 this has been my absolute refuge. How I didn't find it sooner is beyond me. Yoga keeps me sane. It keeps me grounded and forces me to focus on something outisde of my own panics or worries and to just forget them, even for half an hour. The good that the combination of exercise and breathing does for anxiety cannot be underestimated and I really cannot recommend it enough. Also, the breathing systems often employed in yoga (breathing in through the nose, and a longer breath out through the mouth - although not everyone in yoga uses this )- is invaluable practice for early labour in handling contractions so if you already have that down beforehand then it is one less thing to stress over! I set my mat up in my living room in the morning (before I get too tired) and start my day off in the most calming way. Alternatively, you might want to join a local pregnancy yoga class (this can also be a good way of getting to know more pregnant women who are local to you). A lot of pregnancy yoga classes are designed for those who do not already practice yoga, so even if you have not tried it before, do not let that put you off.
- HYPNOBIRTHING: A lot of people see the "hypno" in hypnobirthing and assume that it must be all about hypnosis. But do not let the name put you off as really it isn't that at all , but a whole lot more to do with breathing and relaxation techniques, positive visualisations, and learning to work with your body rather than against it. I found my anxiety levels really dropping once I started looking into hypnobirthing, and the incredible power of the human body during labour. In the western world we have been so conditioned into believing that labour will hurt, will be traumatic, will be scary, will go on forever, that before we even get there we are tense and terrified. Yet the more you read up on labour and the hormones that are necessary to facilitate birthing a baby, the more you learn that what we have been conditioned to believe is actually so bad for us because it encourages us to work against our own bodies in fear. Essentially it is like self-fulfilling prophecy - often if you tell yourself something will be a certain way, usually it will come to pass because your mindset is so negative. Obviously we cannot control all aspects of how labour will go, but surely it is worth trying to control what we can - our attitude towards it? And of course, I haven't been through labour myself yet, and I am sure it will be a huge learning curve for me, but I am determined to go into it feeling as positive and brave as I possibly can.
To learn more about hypnobirthing, Lee and I called on the services of a lovely lady named Ali James (you can find her on Instagram under @hypnobirthingmumma) whose services stretch across London, Surrey and parts of Berkshire. As well as offering hypnobirthing classes local to where she lives, Ali also offers a private courses where she will travel to you. Lee and I found the latter to be the best option for us, and greatly appreciated the one on one time to learn and absorb as much as we possibly could. If you are interested in hypnobirthing it may be worth doing some reading up on it (I will add some book recommendations below) or talking to someone like Ali to work out whether hypnobirthing might be right for you. Although these days there are now also more options in the form of digital courses offered by companies like the Positive Birthing Company and the Mindful Birth Group (both of which can be found on Instagram or at the website links provided below). For me, having someone I could talk to in the flesh, as well as using an audio course and reading various books, was the best combination as I found it left me feeling as armed as possible.
ESSENTIAL OILS: Through our hypnobirthing teacher, I came across a 2 hour course in Twickenham entitled "Essential oils in pregnancy, birth and beyond." This two hour course has proved to be invaluable to me as I have been combatting my anxiety ever since by diffusing frankincense like a maniac. So my flat may smell like a church, but the familiarity of the smell, and the calm it gives me is so worth it. I mentioned this briefly in my last blog post, but frankincense is known to combat negative emotions, lift the spirit as well as balancing out your mood and I always have it on when practicising yoga. Lee and I recently bought ourselves a water diffuser on Amazon, (there are all sorts available online at various price ranges) and I have greatly enjoyed the sense of calm it has brought to our home. I even find the sound of it bubbling away and releasing the steam into the air mesmerising and relaxing. Most health food shops or good pharmacies will stock a good supply of essential oils in their pure forms so you should not have too much of a problem getting hold of them.
As well as frankincense, lavender oil is also known to be a very good oil to use for pain during labour, and Clary Sage is very well known for its ability to encourage the uterus to contract and bring on labour (be sure however, to read up on this before use and do not open or use prior to 37 weeks).
WARNING: Please do remember to read up on the suitability of any oils before use and to use them sparingly - not all oils are suitable for all stages of pregnancy and only a few drops can go a long way!
SELF EDUCATION: The final thing that I found to be super helpful to my own personal journey and anxiety management has been improving my overall knowledge of the birth process, but via a positive means. Earlier on in my pregnancy, I had no problem with people sharing their horror stories of birth and labour with me (and boy do people like to share that kind of information). In fact, I delighted in hearing them as a kind of morbid rite of passage to help with preparing myself for what I might experience myself. However, as time went on and the reality and fear set in, I concluded that perhaps this was not the best way forward for me and so set about learning about the birthing process in more practical terms, both through my hypnobirthing books and a few others. What I found from this was not more fear, but excitement and wonder at what my body could do. The more I have read, the more I have I found myself looking forward to giving birth and meeting our little man. Knowledge really is power, and with a positive mental attitude added to that, I feel so much better about the prospect of going through labour.
Self-belief is such a powerful thing, and all too often as women, that is something that so many of us (myself included) are really lacking. With something like this, that we are made to do, we should feel more confident and powerful than ever! I know I am no expert, but as I said earlier, I am all about learning to control what I can control - my outlook. So whatever else comes my way, I will handle, but I am determined not to allow myself any further panics.
I hope that this blog post proves to be a helpful one for those who may really need it. That was my main aim in writing it - if even one person feels better, or gains something from it that leads them to feel more in control then it will all have been worth it.
For now, all that remains for me to say is, I'll see you on the other side. :)
Prenatal yoga videos - Yoga from home
Tonic Pregnancy yoga can be found on YouTube and I have found their videos to be especially helpful later in pregnancy as my usual yoga hero, Adriene Mischler unfortunately does not have much in the way of pregnancy yoga available on her YouTube channel.
If you need something to energise you but without pushing your body too far:
- Energising Flow: 32.52
A little more hard work than the above, but still a nice 30 min odd slot:
- Strength and Stability: 34.05
Something a little more dynamic and challenging (perhaps if you are already a regular yogi or just still quite fit):
- Vinyasa Flow: 56.07 (At 40 weeks I can only manage about 35 mins of this and I am exhausted afterwards).
Courses and contact details:
Hypnobirthing Mumma - www.hypnobirthingmumma.co.uk - See website for details of various courses available.
The Mindful Birth Group - www.themindfulbirthgroup.com - (Among other products) Audio self study course - £30
The Positive Birth Company - www.thepositivebirthcompany.co.uk - (Among other products) Online hypnobirthing course - £35
The hypnobirthing book by Katherine Graves
Your baby, your birth by Hollie de Cruz - This also comes with access to some free positive visualisation MP3 files.
Hypnobirthing: The breakthrough approach to safer, easier, comfortable birthing by Marie Mongan.
Essential Oil Water Diffuser by Yegu. Available on Amazon (£25.99)