Sunday, 12 April 2015

Learning a life lesson with Pregnancy yoga

I was struck down with Smphysis Pubic Dysfunction (SPD) at around 20 weeks pregnant, which ruled out most exercise for me, especially walking. This made me very lazy, helped me pile on the pounds and made me very anxious about childbirth. So I decided to do a pregnancy yoga course for six weeks.

I had never tried any type of yoga before so I was a real beginner and didn't know what to expect. As usual when I am trying something new, I was a little nervous, but as soon as I walked into the room, I was calm. The smell of burning incense, the cushions laid out on the ground, the lovely colours and the soothing music combined into the perfect atmosphere.

The one hour class started by explaining how to breath properly, and it moved on to stretches, gentle poses and balancing exercises. Everything is slow and gentle and if you feel uncomfortable you are encouraged to stop. There were ladies present at different stages of pregnancy and it was lovely to talk to other pregnant women.

At the first class, I was slightly annoyed by the 15-20 minute meditation section, which felt like napping, we were told to lie down, cover with a blanket, close our eyes and listen to the music. I thought I was being conned out of money - eh I could nap at home for free!! But as the weeks went on I did use this time to free my mind and try to connect with my baby.

If you have weak ankles or plantar fasciitis you may find the balancing exercises tough, like I did. Also after a few weeks the yoga seemed to aggravate my SPD.

I would highly recommend the course though. After just one session my lungs felt ten times bigger, I could breathe easily and I felt that the stretching elongated my body giving my womb more room. It was of course relaxing and it was one hour a week to free my mind or any worries, stresses or to do lists and just tune into my body and baby.

Above all that, I feel like I learned how to breathe properly and that is a real life lesson. The breathing exercises are excellent for calming your body and are invaluable for labour pains. Moving forward from pregnancy I still use the breathing techniques frequently to clear my head before sleep and also during exercise classes to get more oxygen into my body.

It also improved my sleep, helped with some back pain and gave some ideas for different birthing positions.

Also check out: The First 12 weeks
First Maternity Hospital Visit

Sunday, 5 April 2015

First maternity hospital visit

The first pregnancy hospital appointment is a big one, you are nervous, excited and don’t know what to expect.

My first visit  to Cavan General Hospital was at 17 weeks, we chose the public maternity route (which is FREE in Ireland). I had only been to my doctor prior and thankfully had not needed to visit the hospital until then.

Cavan General Hospital. Image from

So what should you expect? - A long wait. On our first hospital appointment, we were there for almost 3 hours!

First up was the ultrasound, the images were blurry but the technician seemed to see what she was looking for. In relation to my strange uterus, she said she could see one womb with a separation down the middle which was a “possible bicornuate uterus.” We asked about gender, but she said she couldn’t be sure … but we would know at our next scan.
She said that my uterus situation may become clearer as the pregnancy progresses or we may have to wait until after birth to find out the true situation.

Then came my first visit with the midwife, I know many people are lucky to see the same midwife the whole way through their pregnancy, but this was not the case in Cavan.
She measured my height and weight, she took the blood tests my doctor did and I was sent to get one more blood test.

Then the questions came. My husband came with me to the hospital, but aside from the ultrasound he may as well have stayed at home, because he had to just wait by himself.

I think the purpose of not having your partner in there is so that you answer the questions honestly!
The midwife asked a million questions about my medical history, my husband’s and our families. I couldn't be 100% sure for all the questions relating to our families but answered in relation to our immediate family. There were a lot of questions about alcohol, smoke and drug use. She also asked if there had been any violence in our relationship.
After what seemed like hours, she said I was very healthy and would have been categorised as low risk pregnancy only for my unknown womb situation. As a low risk patient I could have opted for the midwifery led unit, which is supposed to be a nicer experience but it would rule out the use of epidural or drug based pain relief during labour. I also think there are less ultrasound scans using that unit.
It being my first pregnancy and as I was unsure what exactly my womb was at, I was happier to have a consultant led pregnancy.

I was born with a clicking hip, so the midwife made a note of that and the baby will be assessed for that issue after birth.

Breastfeeding was also a big conversation. I was unsure of my feelings about breastfeeding at the time, but said I would like to breastfeed if only for a few weeks. I was send home with a lot of literature to read and told my next hospital appointment was in four weeks time.

At my second hospital visit, I brought a urine sample. My blood pressure was tested and I met a doctor under my consultant. The doctor said my baby was growing on target and there was no sign of “another womb” on the ultrasound. There was also no sign of gender … next scan will show “for definite.”

After doing a lot of googling and trawling through forums at home, I had a lot of questions for the doctor, such as will I go into premature labour, can I have a vaginal birth etc.
The doctor said she saw no issue with my pregnancy and birth being normal, which annoyed me a little as we had no idea if it could be normal because we didn't know what shape or position my womb was!

For your first hospital visit:
- Try and go alone, it is a long wait for your partner/ friend
- Schedule a lot of time, such as the whole morning or afternoon
- Have a rough idea of your family history
- Expect you may have to give a blood sample
- Make a list of any questions you have and bring it with you

***This post relates to June 2014***

Sunday, 29 March 2015

The Honeymoon of Pregnancy: The second trimester

The second trimester is really the honeymoon of the pregnancy journey. You have passed the first test - getting through the first 12 weeks and you begin to come to terms with your bundle, getting to know s/he, feeling movement, dreaming about the future and getting comfortable before the impatience, frustrations and pains set in!

Heading to a wedding at 13 weeks pregnant
The second trimester greeted me with a little boost of energy, which I lavished in until about 20 weeks, when I once again had to take to bed for early evening cat naps after work.
My weight gain over the first 12 weeks was about 5lbs, but by the end of the second trimester I had piled on a stone.

At the start a little back pain, stretch aches and some sleep disturbance was met with intrigue, but as time slipped by I was plagued by pain cause by Smphysis pubic dysfunction (SPD). At 4 months pregnant, I was starting to look the part and by 5 months I was moving into bigger sized and looser clothes with some maternity items on board.

I had no particular cravings, I just loved all food and wanted more! The only food aversion I had was to coffee - which really was a good thing. At a wedding, I took a glass of wine with the dinner but I had no desire for alcohol.

Baby kicks - what a wonderful moment it is when you start feeling those first flutters. They are hard to explain, but felt like popcorn popping inside! As time goes on the kicks felt like a slight muscle spasm. I remember feeling as if the baby was leaning to one side, and getting a strange ‘stretch’ feeling on my left side … which would become more apparent later!

On honeymoon in Greece

I had my first two hospital visits in the second trimester, which I will write more about later. In between the visits I also went away on a late honeymoon … a sort of babymoon, which also will need more detail. We went on a Greek Island cruise and it was soo relaxing - a short trip away during your pregnancy is very much recommended.

At around 20 weeks pregnant I was diagnosed with smphysis pubic dysfunction (SPD), I was in a lot of pain, had to take time off work and started to see a special maternity physio in hospital once a week. During the peak of my SPD pain, I went on a buying spree for baby. It felt necessary as the threat of crutches or bed rest towards the end of my pregnancy was looming. Buying baby stuff was tooo much fun, a little stressful, but a very happy time.

I took up pregnancy yoga at around 16 weeks, it was fantastic as a way to relax and prepare for labour but agitated my SPD as the weeks went on.

20 weeks pregnant
My husband and I started to drift further and further apart …. ha ha - only in the sense that our bed was now totally taken over with pillows!! I had to have one in front of me, one behind me and one between my legs - but it did help me sleep!

I had two very scary moments during my second trimester, one was a showing of brown discharge and the other was a horrific trip to the dentist. The brown discharge, turned out to be “nothing”, I attended the doctor and heard the baby’s heartbeat and it was clear in a day. The doctor explained that it was probably ‘marginal placental bleed’ which is harmless and is caused by a burst blood vessel from my placenta or my placenta moving into place. I was told to rest and to return to the doctor if I saw any fresh blood or had cramping. My advise if you get any strange colouring down there, see your doctor, if only for the peace of mind.

24 weeks pregnant
My trip to the dentist was the worst day of my entire pregnancy. My gums were bleeding a lot so I went to get a check up and get my teeth cleaned. It was nothing short of TORTURE. I was so scared and in pain the whole way through, I thought it would never end. The only reason I didn't stop the dentist, was I kept thinking about labour, how I will be in so much more pain - so I let her go on, with no pain relief. My gums were left black and they bled for 24 hours afterwards. My mouth was so sore I couldn't eat or drink - unless it is an emergency leave the dentist visit until baby had arrived.

During the second trimester we also made huge inroads into baby names and settled on a boy and girl name, we told no one. But I think I did let it slip once!

And in a flash the second trimester was over and we were staring at the few weeks left till we met our Baby Boo!

**This post relates to 2014 ***

Also check out: The First 12 weeks
First Maternity Hospital Visit

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Springtime glamping

There is something about Spring, the flowers, the new lambs, and fresh feeling of the day that makes me want to go camping ...well glamping!

Ards Forest Park, Donegal

I think it it because Springtime brings us back in touch with nature, with the bright mornings and longer evenings, we tend to recognise our surroundings again without the harsh imprint of Winter.

Camping is fun, but in Ireland at this time of year, it is for the brave, because it is still oh so cold at night and the weather as well as the landscape is still quite unpredictable.

But there is a solution, you really can have it all, thanks to cosy wooden pods - camping without the frostbite - glamping indoors!

Last year some friends and I headed north to the wilds of Co Donegal. Such a beautiful county with a stunning coastline, majestic mountains and a fun vibe.

We stayed at the Wild Atlantic Camp in Cresslough, 25 minutes drive from Letterkenny and beside Dunfanaghy. This location is situated at the beginning of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way a world famous coastal drive that is 2,400km long. If you are looking for adventure - and an authentic Irish experience, this is the place to start.

The campsite is also the perfect base to explore the well known and lesser known spots of North West Donegal.

Things to bring:
-Waterproof and warm clothes (think layers)
-Good walking shoes
-A camera
-A good appetite
-Sense of adventure

Marble Hill Beach

During our two day adventure we took a drive up to Horn Head which has spectacular views, we took a stroll and watched the Atlantic push in and out at Marble Hill Beach. We also set out for a fun trek at Ards Forest Park, a 480 hectare Coillte managed forest park, which has forest trails, treks across sand dunes and a beach and playground.

For our glamping experience we stayed in a lovely cosy wooden pod. The pods can house up to 4 adults have lighting, heating and are so snug with cute decor, making them romantic and functional.

The camp also facilitates traditional camping (but who wants the hassle of setting up a tent?!) and motor homes/ caravans.
There are free hot showers, campers kitchen and a den with TV, games and dining area, the wifi is free (seriously though you are camping - get off the phone!) and there is a children’s playground (can also be used by adults when the kids are in bed!) You won’t miss the astroturf as you drive in, we got to watch a local game while we were staying.

This is really a fun Spring get away, whether you are looking for romance,wildlife, culture or fun.
For more info check out The Wild Atlantic Way and Wild Atlantic Camp.

Beautiful scenes in Ards Forest Park, Donegal

Sunday, 8 March 2015

The Best Baby Books

I love to read and I love to learn, so when I was pregnant I stocked up on some good solid reading. Yes I had subscribed to all the web newsletters and week by week updates, but for me personally I need to read a book, to feel the ink, to glide across the glossy photos for it all to sink in.

There are millions of ‘baby’ books and you will learn new information in all of them, but I will review the three best books that I read and how they helped me.

There is a reason this book is in it’s fourth edition, it is superb.
The new book contains a lot of information on cesareans, which account for almost 30% of deliveries in the UK and Ireland. It has a week by week development of your baby and also week by week changes to your pregnant body. It covers all aspects of pregnancy from conception to delivery, problems, solutions and the need to know info.
I like that it lays out the information and does not try to influence you into a particular way of thinking. It is something you will dip in and out of and open every week or so. It answered more questions than my random google searches… and there were a lot of those. I left the delivery part until my third trimester as it scared me so much, but I felt empowered after reading this.

I LOVED this book. From the very first page to the end, it is funny. Lucy gently guides you through some of the basics for your first baby and also boosts your ego and assures you things will go horribly wrong and perfect in the same hour! It addresses the needs of the baby, but also the parent. The best chapters for me were - what happens immediately after the birth and what to do when you get home. It provides reasons why babies cry and even the useful diagrams on how to hold a newborn, winding and feeding. It goes through baby development, sleeping, feeding, games to play with your baby and a huge amount of baby concerns.
The moment I knew this book was for me? When I read the top ten new parent worries and the number one question was “Will my baby die? (Yes, we all worry about it.)”
Don’t think about it just buy it!

Now this one is probably a little controversial. I will write a post soon on our baby’s routine and how we started it, why, and how we got on. This book was given to me with the advice “you don’t need to be as strict as this, but it is a good guideline.”
At first reading of the book I thought, wow this author is a b***h. It sounded so mean, like your baby was robot, it seemed like every minute of the day was dictated by this book and the routine that she guarantees will work.

If you are an organised person, someone who likes routine, who works to deadlines  and who understands time keeping then having a baby will turn you upside down and when that happens reach for this book. It helped to put order on life with a chaotic newborn and within one month I got the result I worked for, my baby slept through the night.

**This post was not sponsored - this is my own opinion**
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Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Ultrasound: Baby's first picture

I was so nervous on the morning of our ultrasound. We had not told anyone we were pregnant as we wanted to wait until the 12 weeks to be sure everything was going ok and also so we wanted to have a photo to show everyone.

In the waiting room of Ultrasound Dimensions, Blackrock, Dublin I felt sick, not pregnancy related, just that feeling deep in the pit of your stomach. What if I wasn't pregnant?  What if I had made it up in my head (despite the pregnancy test and doctors confirmation)? What if I had been pregnant but had lost the baby? What if there was an issue?

Having never had an ultrasound before I didn't know what the protocol was, I was expecting the gel to be cold (from all the movies!) - but I did not expect it to hurt! The technician really pushed that thing down on my tummy! We heard the heartbeat, looked at each other and smiled and then looked to the technician, she confirmed it was our baby’s heartbeat. I saw a flicker on the screen - but she moved away from it. She seemed confused and I started to sweat.

“Nothing to worry about” she smiled as she changed utensils, pushed hard on my tummy and moved it about “we will come back to baby in a minute” she said. Then she went to “check something” and my heart was in my mouth, what was going on - how was my baby?

She came back with her book and announced “You have two wombs”
What about baby?

Baby was fine, kicking about, doing back flips and baby even waved at us!

The first picture of our baby

But baby was not what our technician was interested in. She said she had never seen this before but believed it was a Uterus didelphys or a Bicornuate uterus. She had only ever studied the 'abnormalities' - which did not put me at ease.
She assured me that the uterine didelphys wouldn’t cause any problems with the pregnancy, but that I should check it out after birth.
She found it strange I never knew, but I had never had any issues, expect heavy periods - which I thought was common.

In the cafe afterwards, my husband and I laughed. We were overjoyed that out baby seemed healthy, we had a good picture of our bundle of joy and our heads were filled with dreams. But we had also come away with unexpected news.

As I tried to come to terms with my two womb situation, we went home and told our families the good news.
My freak out about my wombs came a few days later!

*It turned out to be a Bicornuate Uterus - more on that later!

Anybody else have an unusual first ultrasound experience?

Check out: The First 12 Weeks
The Honeymoon of Pregnancy: The Second Trimester

Sunday, 22 February 2015

12 things to do in the First Trimester

The first trimester of pregnancy can be the most agonising, as you wait to get to the “magical” 12 week stage. Although getting past the first trimester will not mean you are safe from any issues arising it is a good indicator.

If you find out early that you are pregnant, you could be looking at the next eight weeks wondering what the hell you should do - but have no fear. After being, there, doing that and getting a baby - I have some ideas.

1. Confirm your pregnancy
I would advice going to see your GP at the 6-8 week mark. Sooner than that and your chemist bought pregnancy test is just as accurate. All the doctor will really do is confirm your pregnancy as this stage. But if you have any concerns voice them now.

2. Start taking Folic Acid
If you have not been taking them already (you should have - I didn’t) start popping them as soon as you see the positive blue lines. I would also recommend a good prenatal vitamin, it helped me to stay healthy throughout the pregnancy and you need all the help you can get!

3. Private or Public
In Ireland you need to decide whether you want private or public health care for your maternity. Public health care is free and I can vouch that it worked perfectly for us. But private care may provide more scans or a plan better suited to you, so check it out now.

4. Quit smoking
I think once you start reading about the effects of smoking on your unborn baby, you will find the willpower.

5. Stop drinking alcohol
The professional advice differs daily on this one, I think a glass of wine every now and again would be fine, but I found that I just didn't want any alcohol when I was pregnant.

6. Cut down on caffeine
If you drink a lot (more than 3 cups) of tea or coffee a day it makes sense to cut down, try a herbal tea or even better start drinking more water.

7. Avoid hazardous foods
Again this list can change regularly, but try to keep them in mind and be sensible. When I was
pregnant the advice was no tuna - I love tuna so I limited it to once a week. Also do try to make healthier choices, cut back on take aways and read food labels (when you are not falling asleep in the supermarket!)

8. Sign up to loads of baby websites
You can  get offers and discounts on items and week by week updates on the baby and your development. Try these. And buy baby books.

9. Maternity Rights
If you are working, look into the type of cover, time off and plan your workplace has for soon to be moms.

10. Baby names and baby clothes
Don’t make any quick decisions, but start to look at names and discuss them. Although you feel the need to start buying loads of cute baby clothes, hold off until later in your pregnancy, maybe buy one of two items to cuddle!

11. Take care of yourself
Seriously, we all live hectic lives. When your body is tired listen to it. Rest, relax, try to avoid stress and maybe take your life out of the fast lane and enjoy a Sunday drive - for you and your baby.

Yes I was snapped taking a nap - one of many!
12. Baby news
Plan how you are going to let your family, friends and the whole world know that you are growing your own little bundle of joy - so exciting!