Bump&Taryn - Weeks 32-36
As the weekly BabyCentre email reminded my husband and I yesterday – by the end of this week, our little man will technically be ‘full term’, which is a crazy thought. There is a fully grown, fully developed little dude curled up inside my tummy, and he probably weighs between 2.5 and 3kg, and is gaining about 30g per day. I had breakfast recently with two girlfriends who both delivered their babies just before 37 weeks. They both said that they were surprised (even though they are a doctor and a lactation consultant) at the early feeding difficulties their babies had, and how those extra few weeks in utero potentially would have given their daughters stronger sucking abilities and a better ability to create an optimal milk supply. So Button… stay in a little longer if you can, please?
I have spent this blog reflecting on how I’m feeling at this ‘nearly full term’ phase of pregnancy. There is still some mild guilt at how good I feel… because I’m fully aware that many women do NOT enjoy pregnancy, especially late pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve mentioned before about my varicose veins, constipation and lower abdominal discomfort that stops me walking, among other things. But in general I’m sleeping well, I’m embracing my big belly and my extra 13kg, and I feel strong – I actually have a little pang of sadness when I realize that soon I will have to share little Button with the rest of the world rather than have him to myself. I love growing life inside of me. But on that note, do I feel love for this son of mine? I don’t know yet. I have read and heard other women talk about feeling unconditional love for their unborn child… I feel that for my 6-month-old nephew, for sure. But little Button is still so hypothetical. I am really looking forward to him becoming ‘real’ - meeting him, naming him, and getting to share the feeling of unconditional love together with my husband. So close now.
Things that seemed so far away...
After a very very busy July and August (including organising a stall at the Pregnancy, Babies & Children's Expo, flying to Sydney for an education workshop, and presenting a talk on abdominal muscle separation at the Australian Physiotherapy Association), with a mostly absent husband whose work kept him over east for the best part of 2 months, it has been strange to reach September and all of the events that seemed so far in the future.
I created a Pinterest board about Button's nursery and a general idea of how I would like it to look early in the pregnancy (the pale pink and grey themed board had to get put to the side after the 19 week scan!). I've had an idea in my head of an 'Adventure' themed room with mountains, hot air balloons, biplanes etc in a navy, grey and light blue theme. And finally in the past few weeks I've had time to 'nest' and put these plans into place - and it's been so much fun! As a non-creative person working in a non-creative career, it has been quite a learning curve, but also quite therapeutic, to create a space in which I will no doubt spend a huge amount of time in the coming months and years. And although I have probably driven the nice people at Bunnings crazy, I am quite proud of what I've done with minimal help (proud photo above!)
The 'Adventure' themed baby shower crept up very quickly - mid September had seemed so far in the distant future! My Mum, sister and sister-in-law put in an amazing amount of effort to create hot air balloon decorations, a white wooden 'adventure treasure chest' full of toys for Button, and two long tables full of high tea goodies for us all to enjoy. I actually got teary reflecting on where I was at emotionally this time last year, going to so many other peoples' baby showers and feeling so torn between the joy I had for them and the devastation at more and more failed attempts to have a baby myself, as I approached the 18 month mark of trying. I remember saying to my Mum that I worried that everyone would be bored of baby showers by the time I finally had mine. That's why I was even more grateful and appreciative of how much effort was put into the organisation of my baby shower, and how much people spoiled me (honestly, this kid is set for the next three years, we won't have to buy anything).
And the last milestone that has now happened is going on maternity leave. There have been such mixed emotions about this! I gradually cut back my work load from about 25 weeks onwards, firstly stopping the higher intensity postnatal group classes, then halving the number of clinical pilates hours that I was teaching per week (which involves lifting and moving equipment, and being on my feet for 4-5 hours at a time), and then by 35 weeks I completed my last shifts and classes. The first feeling was definitely relief - there is no doubt that it was getting harder and harder to get through shifts at work without fatigue and back pain setting in. And those crazily busy recent months had meant that I hadn't felt on top of FitRight admin for a long time, and it was a relief to have more and more 'free time' to work on the business from home.
But there are other emotions too, all wrapped up with the fact that this career, and my business FitRight, have been my 'babies' for the past decade. I have put blood, sweat and tears into building my professional life to the point where it is now, and I feel like my identity is completely wrapped up in being 'Taryn the Women's Health Physio'. Who will I be now that I don't go to work each day? What will it be like with this new identity 'Taryn the Mother'?
It's almost a relief that I still have this blog, and the administrative and financial side of running FitRight, and even just yesterday I went and lectured about incontinence to a group of GP Registrars at their continuing education day. But the thought of continuing to balance FitRight with raising a child, and doing both to the best of my ability, is daunting, and I haven't quite got my head around that yet. No doubt when Button is born, my priorities will shift dramatically, but this limbo state of maternity leave is an interesting time of life (and one that I am determined to fill with coffee dates and massages).
The Looming Birth
Obviously as the birth approaches, my thoughts have been more and more pre-occupied by the delivery. I have to consider how this little human is going to get out of my womb and into the real world, which in reality is such a tiny part of his and my lifespan. However, in this day and age, birthing in a private hospital, I have the right to take all of my personal medical history details into consideration, and to decide whether I will have an elective Caesarean or try for a vaginal birth. I feel a huge responsibility to choose the birthing option that will set my son up for the best start to his life.
What if I choose an elective Caesarean, only to find out in years to come that it is likely that I have caused him to have health problems like allergies and gut issues that could have been avoided by his passage through the birth canal? What if I have a vaginal birth and he suffers trauma during delivery from the cord being around his neck or his shoulder getting stuck?
And it’s not just him – there is a big selfish side to this decision too. What if I have a Caesarean and I end up with a uterine scar that causes problems getting pregnant, or staying pregnant, a second time? What if I am in the high proportion of women who end up with bladder or bowel issues from pelvic floor muscle damage sustained during a vaginal birth? (Obviously quite a pertinent question in my line of work!)
So… the bottom line is that my husband and obstetrician are fully supportive of whatever I decide – which means that the decision lies squarely on my shoulders. What is obviously reassuring is that the overwhelming majority of mothers and babies who go through childbirth in a country as medically well-equipped as Australia are fine no matter how they choose (or how circumstances force them) to birth, and in my job I meet classes full of mothers and babies every week who have birthed successfully.
What is not so reassuring is that unfortunately there is a lot of judgment out there surrounding this choice (you’ve got to love this day and age of gossip mags, social media and ‘mummy trolls’) A pregnant woman and her partner should have rights – the right to full disclosure of the potential risks and benefits associated with both modes of delivery, the right to the birth of their choice (within the boundaries of safety) and the right to not be judged on their decision. Judgement is hard to avoid in this age of articles labelling people who decide to have a home birth as ‘putting their unborn child in danger’ and people being ‘too posh to push’ if they have an elective Caesarean.
When I spoke about my concerns over this big, looming decision with my obstetrician, he told me about another patient who broke down in tears when told that her baby had moved from breech into a ‘perfect head down position’ in the final few weeks before her due date. She confessed that she had been relieved to have a breech baby because there were other reasons that she thought a Caesarean section would be the best option for her, and the baby’s feet-down presentation had taken the decision out of her hands and given her a valid excuse to tell her friends and family. Now she was left in the decision-makers chair again and it petrified her.
I meet dozens of postnatal women every week, and they share their birth stories with me, mostly amazing stories but some traumatic – and nothing makes me sadder than when a woman says ‘I feel like I was forced into that type of delivery’, ‘I wish I knew these risks beforehand’ or ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me that this could happen?’ I believe that knowledge is power, and I don’t really think that many couples are fully informed during their pregnancies about the benefits and risks of different modes of childbirth. Which is why I have spent a large amount of my first week of maternity leave researching and writing an article on this topic, which is published in a different blog post. I hope that in it’s own little way, this article may help women to choose the right setting for their birth, to ask the right questions through the pregnancy, and to feel empowered to make the birthing decisions that are right for them.
Exercising at this stage of pregnancy...
I have been lucky enough to rely mainly on my job to provide my 30 minutes or more of exercise per day - but not anymore! Keep an eye on the FitRight Instagram page @fitrightphysio for more short series of exercises that are appropriate at any time during pregnancy (or after giving birth). I will do routines specific to strengthening glutes, core muscles, legs and arms, and other routines specific to having a good stretch through your spine, legs and shoulders.
As always, feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment below, with any specific questions about exercise in pregnancy. And remember - the 3 hour FitRight PregEd workshops have been designed to cover everything you need to know to keep fit the right way during pregnancy.