I’m massive! Absolutely flipping humongous. Admittedly I didn’t quite realise just how big I was until I saw these photos and I let out a little yelp to Leigh and said “Jeeze, your mother is right.”.
I’m 36 weeks today and a just a few short days away from Christmas. My parents arrive tomorrow and the house is looking like a festive building site. My hallway still has no floor and my pantry has no doors but we have made a start on the nursery and things are progressing quite quickly with that little room. The rest i’m hoping to be tied up and finished before she arrives but with so many factors at play (Babies having minds of their own, the terrible weather causing delays to deliveries and my husbands desire to surf the big storm waves that we’ve been getting so much of lately) who knows if this goal will actually be achieved. I’m a hopeful realist. Baby could arrive at any time so I thought that I had better get this blog series up to date before I become too sleep deprived.
In my third trimester I have been doing a lot to prepare my body and mind for babies arrival and i’m going to cover these daily practices in this blog.
Protecting the mind
Throughout my pregnancy I have been really protective of my mental space. I have politely asked friends from day one of our announcement to not share traumatic birth stories with me and I’ve protected myself as much as possible in the digital realm from anything trauma related. Everybody loves to share their birth stories and it seems that the more traumatic they are the more vocal people are about them. As someone who has worked in the field of psychological trauma for many years I recognise that for women to heal it’s crucially important that they talk about their experiences. However, I also recognise that I don’t need to be that person or at least not whilst i’m pregnant with my first. All of my friends have plenty of other friends around them that they can talk to about their experiences and if they really want to talk to me about them then they can, just after I’ve given birth myself.
This may seem harsh but I began to notice very early on that as people where sharing these stories I would become tense, my heart rate would peak and this anxiety would remain in my system for a good few days leading to sleepless nights (and a few tears) worrying about the birth of my baby. My anxiety around labour ran the risk of stealing all the joy from actually being pregnant and I considered my pregnancy such a blessing and had so much joy about it that I didn’t want to give it up without a fight. I also knew that the more scared I allowed myself to become about the birth, the more tense I would be by the time that labour day actually came around. The research I did about birth made me realise that being tense, full of adrenaline and panic stricken would only cause many of the complications and trauma that I was hearing about. Allowing myself to enter into other peoples birth trauma would ultimately lead to a self fulfilling prophecy of me experiencing my own birth trauma.
The chief person in charge of looking after my mental space is me, I can’t blame others for not protecting it, its not their role and their too busy protecting their own mental space, so I set to work very early on working out my personal boundaries and threshold for other peoples stories and then fiercely protecting them. This meant I had to do the following
1) Tell friends in advance how I was feeling about birth and letting them know that i’m not wanting to hear any birth stories that aren’t positive at the moment.
2) It meant cutting people off mid sentence (usually after a comment like “I nearly died” or something along those lines) and saying “I’d really love to hear your birth story but is it ok if we wait until after i’ve given birth myself”.
3) Fully keeping hubby Leigh in the loop with how i’m feeling at all times. It’s meant that he has been a full team player in upholding these boundaries with me and has been able on a number of occasions to steer conversations in other directions when he can see i’m beginning to loose it with a repeat “trauma story” offender.
4) As a last resort I’ve had to actively distance myself from those people who despite repeated polite requests to not share their trauma with me have continued to do so. I’ve only had to do this with one person but I think it’s important that we give ourselves permission to do this guilt free if certain individuals are unable to operate within clear boundary lines.
I also invested heavily in researching, practicing and engaging with the topic of hypnobirth. I have so much to say about this topic but I feel that it is better communicated through the lens of someone who has given birth using those techniques. I will park this topic and cover it in a later blog post once baby has made her arrival but it’s worth noting that although hypnobirth focuses on mental tools that help you give birth it has also helped me massively throughout my pregnancy. I can proudly say that I have no anxiety about giving birth and Im actually really really excited about it. I literally can’t wait to birth my baby and experience labour but thinking like this has required a conscious effort and mental boundary enforcement on my part.
Body care - Feet
One of the things that I’ve been trying to do more of whilst in my third trimester is actively carving out time for self care. I’ve created home spa days by getting my friend Janey from Elemental Massage to come over to my house and give me an extended pregnancy massage (She’s @elemental_massage on instagram ) and I’ve even booked in for luxury spa days at the Scarlet Hotel (Find a blog on that here ) . I’ve created little rituals that give me a moment to just sit back and relax and care for my body in a beautiful way whilst focusing on my breathe and connecting with my babies every move. One of my favourite little rituals is a foot soak. Like all the rituals I create I make them as sensory as possible.
Sight: I took an enamel antique bath tub that I bought ages ago specifically for these kinds of home ritual treatments and filled it with warm water, a touch of milk (better to use breast milk if you have it), some himalayan sea salts and fresh cut flowers from the garden. I wanted it to look as beautiful as possible so I chose the prettiest flowers I could find. Much to my shock and delight the Proteas in my garden where still blooming in December so I snipped a couple of heads off and added them to the bowl with a few sprigs of lavender.
Sound: I’ve created a birthing playlist which I’ve been playing whenever I take a moment to relax. I want to condition my brain to associate those familiar sounds with deep relaxation. You can use whatever music relaxes you but I highly recommend investing some time in creating your own relaxation playlist that you can use whenever you practice self care.
Touch: The warm milky water is comforting enough but I’ve loved combining this ritual with a foot treatment too. I use the Soothe and Smooth Leg and Foot Balm by Made for Life Organics this 100% Organic Foot Balm is made with olive oil, beeswax and essential oils that are used to soften dry feet and cracked heals and the rosemary helps improve circulation. A little goes a long way, as is the case with all the Made for Life Organics products, and the box comes with a helpful pamphlet showing you all the acupuncture points to focus on whilst you carry out your treatment. It’s a delight to use and I always make sure I allow myself plenty of time to gently massage this luxurious, thick, silky rich balm into my tired and heavy soles before slipping them into my favourite White Company cashmere bed socks.
Smell: The Smoothe and Smooth Leg and Foot Balm is infused with peppermint, lavender and rosemary giving off a wonderful aroma that leaves you feeling both comforted and fresh. In addition to this I often diffuse some essential oils into the room. It’s worth checking with a qualified aromatherapist that any essential oils are pregnancy safe before use as many are contraindicated.
Taste: I boil the kettle and prepare myself some raspberry leaf tea. It’s important to not confuse raspberry leaf tea with raspberry flavoured tea when pregnant. Raspberry flavoured tea often uses hibiscus flowers to give the tea a reddish colour making it look pretty and raspberry like. Hibiscus is used in herbalism to balance the hormones making it unsafe to consume whilst pregnant.
Pro tip: Because of the peppermint, rosemary and lavender, the Soothe and smooth leg and foot balm Is also a fab product to rub into your temples if you’re suffering from headaches. Give it a try before you next go to grab the paracetamol bottle and you may just find that you’ve discovered yourself a natural headache cure.
Pregnancy health for home birth…. and birth in general.
At the moment we are planning a home birth. Obviously baby may have other plans on the day meaning that we need to transfer down the road to the hospital but in an ideal world i’d love to give birth in the comfort of my own home, in a birthing pool, in front of the fire with my hubby and dog by my side. That’s what we’re gunning for anyway. There are plenty of reasons that make the home, over a hospital, an unsafe place to give birth for many people but as a low risk woman in good health and in close proximity to a hospital it is actually considered one of the safest places for someone like me to give birth. Home births carry less risk of getting an infection, they also eradicate the risks associated with interventions like forceps and ventouse and theres less chance of your baby being admitted to a neonatal department, even after a complicated pregnancy. After much research, consideration and consultation with my midwife and other health care providers we are all in agreement that birthing at home is a safe and wonderful option for me. It is yet to be known what baby thinks about it but she will make her thoughts clear on the day and we will gladly follow her lead.
I’m a member of a few home birth Facebook groups and have found them a fab place to learn about 1) What i’ll need to home birth comfortably 2) What the main reasons for transfer are 3) What conditions make it unsafe or not advised for home birth.
One of the main reasons I see otherwise healthy women being advised against home birth whilst they’re pregnant is their Iron levels dropping in the later stages of pregnancy. To deal with this women are often given Iron pills to boost their Iron levels in the hope of them reaching a good enough level to be approved by a midwife as safe for home birth. However, one of the main side effects to taking Iron pills is constipation which in pregnancy can be extremely uncomfortable. This requires women to be given other pills to cure the constipation, these pills also have side effects which then also need to be cured with yet another set of pills which also have side effects and so begins the vicious circle of medication which i’d like to avoid entering into at all costs if possible.
A natural alternative to Iron pills with reduced side effects is Floradix. Floradix is a cheap but not so great tasting liquid iron supplement thats packed with other B vitamins. I’ve been taking it daily and so far my Irons levels are doing great and I keep being told by everyone that my energy levels for a 36 week pregnant women are through the roof (even though I may not feel the most energetic i’ve ever felt).
Consuming dates in the later stages of pregnancy has been clinically proven to lessen the need for pitocin augmentation during labor, increase cervical ripening, reduce the need for inducement and reduce postpartum haemorrhage, all good things if you ask me. For links to the evidence and research on date consumption in pregnancy check out this page on the Evidence Based Birth website (A fab place to dispel any myths and research any evidence there is around anything to do with birth). I buy my Medjool Dates online in bulk from Amazon and consume about 6 a day which can seem quite a challenge if you’re not used to eating them. They have really satisfied my evening sugar cravings and with a bit of practice they easily replace a bar of chocolate and give your sweet tooth the kick it’s been craving. However, most days I just throw them into my breakfast smoothie and consume them that way as it’s part of my routine anyway and they’re down me very quickly (not that they taste bad at all) and without much thought.
Cramping during pregnancy - Post cramp body care.
I’ve been given plenty of opportunity to practice my ‘up breathing’ technique for pain management lately as i’ve been suffering a bit with painful leg cramping. It usually occurs in the middle of the night when i’ll suddenly be woken up with shearing pain working its way up my calf muscle. A little research tells me that it’s a common symptom of pregnancy often brought on by 3 things. 1) My expanding uterus pressing on certain nerves 2) Calcium or magnum deficiency 3) Dehydration. I’ve worked it out through a process of elimination over a series of months that mine are caused by dehydration so I’ve had to seriously up my water intake to never seen before levels to counter this painful consequence of being dehydrated. However, there is still the odd day where i’m busy, or just forget, and I dont get enough water in me leading to painful prancing about the bedroom at 3am doing heavy breathing and convincing hubby Leigh that i’ve gone into labour. The pain is intense but it’s not long before they’re over so they’re manageable in that sense but what I have noticed is that for a good 2-3 days after my calf is quite sore and painful. For these after pains I have found a miracle cure in the form of Made for Life Organics Soothing Muscle Balm . The following morning, as soon as I awake, I spend a couple of minutes massaging my calf with some of this balm and also apply it that evening before bed too. It completely takes away any after pains that I’ve had. Whenever I forget to apply it the afterpains return and whenever I simply massage it with another oil or cream it doesn’t have the same effect. This cream really, really does work and is now permanently placed at the side of my bed to remind me to apply if after I’ve experienced cramping.
You can find this product here and I also have a 20% exclusive discount code for you to use, using the code STOVES20.
I hope you’ve found today’s blog on my third trimester interesting and helpful. I’d love to hear if you have explored any of these topics in the comments below.
I’ll round off this blog series with a review of my 4th trimester once baby has arrived but in the meantime I wish you all a very merry christmas and happy new year.
All photography by Lizzie Churchill www.lizziechurchill.com