10 Postpartum Truths

The truths no one told me about that first month. If you are an expectant mama; here is the honest truth. Not sure whether to say ‘sorry’ or ‘you’re welcome’. If you are already a Mama , you will identify with most of the below…

1. You will still look pretty pregnant for a while yet. I looked 6 months pregnant from the day Maxon was born until he was 6 weeks old (When I then only looked 3 months pregnant, sigh). I promise it will get better. Your uterus will eventually gets it’s act together and shrink back to its original home.

2. You will cry. At anything and everything. For at least a month. Staring at your baby, cry, drop your biscuit on the floor, cry. My biggest advice here? Look away from the TV at any hint of an animal charity advert.

3. C-Section mamas – you won’t be able to stand up straight for a good few weeks. Your posture will temporarily resemble that of the old witch from Snow White. I promise that one day in the not too distant future, you will be able to pull your shoulders back.

4. Wind. Don’t really need to say much more here. Everyone gets it postpartum but from what I’ve read, it’s most common post section. Try and time it with your movement/tired groans if you want to hide it; but let’s be honest most of your dignity left you a few days back and it’s the least of your current concerns.

5. Your boobs will engorge very suddenly. The phrase ‘your milk comes in’ is literal. Definitely take a picture of them,  it’s probably the best they will look from here on in.

6. You will lose all concept of time in those first few weeks. Paradoxically the days are long but go extremely fast.

7. Those Bridget Jones knickers you bought for the first few days post birth? The ones that you scoffed at? You will come to love them. They hold everything in. I didn’t give mine up until 2 months pp.

8. Having a shower and washing your hair in the first month of your baby arriving will feel like an amazing accomplishment. Because IT IS.

9. Leaving the house for the first few times with the baby will feel terrifying. And more often than not, you will get out (after hours or equipment prep, it’s like getting ready for a flight but never going anywhere), and want to go straight back home.

10. You will both want a break, but also wince at the thought, of being parted from your baby. You dream of an hour off, but if you take one, will spend the whole time missing them and feeling like you’ve lost a limb. And this fact alone sums up motherhood from here on in.

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My Birth Story

Disclaimer – if you are squeamish, you have been warned!

It’s strange writing ‘Birth’. At times, I’ve wrongly felt that I didn’t give ‘birth’ owing to having had a planned c section. But, when I really think it through, I’m just as much of a badass mother for having been cut open as I would have been had I had a natural birth. And most importantly, our son arrived safe and sound.

As I mentioned in my pregnancy post, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes at 26 weeks. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the implications, GD usually means that your baby is bigger than they should be. Hormones from your placenta interfere with your bodies ability to regulate insulin levels, your blood sugar levels rise, and this results in your baby taking in elevated levels of glucose.

Maxon was measuring ahead even as early as 20 weeks. We laughed it off, ‘oh hes going to be chunky’, but when I got the GD diagnosis, we realised that his size was the result of my condition. After reading up on birth complications that were more common in babies of GD mothers such as shoulder dytocia, (where the head is born but the babies shoulder becomes stuck behind the pubic bone), and discussing it with our consultant, we agreed that it was sensible to have a planned caesarian to avoid any such risks.

We were given the date of my section at our 36 week appointment and it felt surreal being told the exact day we’d meet our boy. As I neared the date, I became panicky that I would go into labour and lose control, but apart from the odd Braxton hicks, we made it to 39 weeks.

The night before the section I’d envisaged having some sort of last supper where we’d relax and enjoy our last night as a twosome, but my anxiety was through the roof and I was awful to be around. I spent a good few hours screaming and ranting at my husband and totally lost my shit. I barely slept and woke up at 5 and started rechecking all the bags for the millionth time.

We arrived at the hospital just before 7 and were told that there was myself and one other lady in for a planned section, and we’d be told who was going first after the team held their morning brief. Luckily, we went first and our consultant (who we really liked) would be doing the op.

Pre Theatre Selfie

Walking into theatre I started to feel a little panicked. The surgical team however, were fantastic; they chatted to me none stop and made every effort to keep me calm. Their positivity and excitement started to rub off a little and I began to feel excited more than fearful. It felt bizarre knowing in as little as an hour I’d be holding our son.

The spinal was administered and nowhere near as painful as I’d imagined, the hardest part was leaning forward over my giant bump to get into the right position for them to do it! Once I was laid down, they started testing my levels of sensation with ice cubes. 10 minutes had passed and I still had sensation in my left side…so the bed was tilted down to the left to try and even me out. another 15 minutes passed and I still had some sensation. The Anaesthatist started to discuss ‘options’ and the potential of a general if they could not get me numb, but luckily after another 5 minutes, I’d lost enough sensation for them to go ahead.

Once they’d started cutting (again, don’t read on if you have a sensitive disposition), I could feel lots of pressure. If I had to describe what it felt like, I’d say almost like that strange twisting sensation that you get in your stomach when you go upside down on a rollercoaster. I alternated between staring at the ceiling and looking nervously at my husband (Who, for the record, was insanely calm and watched behind the screen…but he is a surgeon himself so I guess peoples insides are much of a muchness!). Our consultant talked me through each step and the Anaesthetic team at my head repeatedly asked me how I was feeling.

At 10:43AM, I heard the words, ‘Oh he’s a big boy and he’s got a lot of hair’ as Maxon was lifted up and briefly shown to me before being whisked to a table nearby for checks. I burst into tears and felt relief like no other when I heard him cry out. All I could say was ‘Is he ok, is he ok’ over and over. Tracey Chapman’s ‘Baby can I hold you tonight’ was coincidentally playing on the radio in the background. My husband cut the cord and held him close to my head while they started the process of closing me up.

Those first few moments together

The next part was where things started to go slightly wrong. I started to feel more than just pressure and felt an overwhelming wave of nausea from the pain. Apparently I cried out but I don’t really remember this, and was given anti-sickness meds to help. They suspect that my spinal had started to wear off owing to the delayed start. I asked for my husband to hold Maxon away from me as I was terrified I was going to be sick on him! I have very little recollection of the final 20 minutes in theatre, and I suspect that’s my heads way of protecting me from an unpleasant memory.

Once back in recovery, Maxon was weighed and given a second set of checks. At 8lb 2oz he was nowhere near the forecasted 9lb+ that had been estimated on the growth scans. I still wonder to this day if I’d have managed to deliver him safely naturally. Within an hour, I’d regained full sensation in my legs (further confirming that the spinal hadn’t been as effective as it should have been). I’ll be doing a separate post on recovery from a section, as it’s something I get asked about a lot.

The first skin to skin hold
1 hour later, together in recovery

All in all, I would say my birth experience was positive for the most part. The environment was calm, I had confidence in everyone around me, and the regaining of some sensation was an unfortunate end to things. Do I feel like I missed out on a traditional ‘birth’ experience? In some ways I think I do. I wonder how I would have coped; would I have managed it on gas and air? Would I have begged for an epidural? Most probably the latter. But what I do know, is that post op, laid with Maxon in my arms, that it all kind of melted away and reinforced to me that the feeling of missing out ‘on an experience’ was nowhere near as monumental to me as the feeling of having him safe and well.

My Pregnancy

So I always assumed that once we actually got pregnant (after 3 years and 4 cycles of IVF), that I’d be able to relax, but the start of my pregnancy was terrifying and miserable. The week before Christmas 2017, I was hospitalised after developing OHSS (Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome, a reaction to the IVF medication, which I’ll go through in more detail in a separate IVF Post). I was given an early scan at just over 6 weeks pregnant on Christmas eve whilst in hospital to confirm viability, only to be told that the pregnancy sac was empty, it looked to be a ‘blighted ovum’ and I would likely have an early miscarriage. We were heartbroken and spent all of Christmas and New Year holed away on our own, grieving and wondering when and if we’d be able to face another cycle.

6 week scan showing an empty sac

When I hadn’t naturally passed the pregnancy by the 8th January, we were given a repeat scan before any medical intervention and lo and behold, to everyone’s amazement, there was a very definite baby and heartbeat. We were astounded, the consultants were amazed. It took us days to get our heads around it. I suppose this start to everything was a huge factor in the anxiety I felt so strongly in the first and second trimesters.

And then there was a baby

My pregnancy was classed as high risk and very closely monitored from the onset. I had additional scans prior to the typical 12 week scan. And my life at that point was simply a case of getting through the day and counting the time down to when I could next see a heartbeat and be reassured. I regularly went to bed at 8pm, not through exhaustion, but so I could get the day over with and move on to the next.

I thought getting to 12 weeks would make me relax but no, it was all just a countdown exercise of getting to the next ‘stage’ and assuming it would get less stressful. It didn’t. I had a very small amount of spotting 3 days before our 12 week scan during a weekend when my husband was working. I was wracked with anxiety. I barely moved from the settee, the fear of going to the toilet and seeing blood was crippling. But sure enough, it passed and we were relieved to see a healthy baby at the scan.

We found out that I had low Papp-A levels off the back of the 12 week blood tests. I was told that this may be associated with several issues; such as having a low birth weight baby due to placenta problems, an increased chance of an early birth and an increased risk of pre-eclampsia. I was devastated. I was told that I’d be given extra scans (which I would have had any way with it being an IVF pregnancy). So now in my head, I was doubly high risk and utterly convinced that something would go wrong.

I felt Maxon move from 17 weeks, which I thought might reassure me, but nope, I then just stressed that he wasn’t moving enough. Looking back, I struggled massively with the fact that I was pregnant after so long. It all seemed very surreal, like it was happening to someone else; and I was waiting for it to come crashing down around me.

Finding out the gender at 17 weeks was a huge step for us in the pregnancy feeling real. We needed to have some control after having had none for so many years and knowing more about this baby seemed to help that. I’d felt very strongly from day 1 that we would have a boy so was not at all surprised when the sonographer announced it. To be honest, we would have been happy with a baby goat by this point but I’ll never forget the look on my husbands face being told he was going to have a son.

Bumping at 18 weeks
Chubs at 20 weeks

I ticked along for the next month and started to relax a little. At 26 weeks, I was tested for Gestational Diabetes after some sugar in my urine sample. By this point I’d gained only a stone in weight, and having started out with a BMI of 20 and in good health, did not think for a second that I’d have it. I have no family history of diabetes, have never been overweight…I just didn’t fit the profile. So when my fasting test showed elevated blood sugar levels I thought it was maybe just a one off, so had the test repeated a week later only to be told that I did in fact have GD and I needed to start finger prick testing and controlling my diet.

Telling a pregnant woman she can’t have sugar is CRUEL. I was definitely angry when I turned up to my diet review appointment (poor nurse!). Over the next few weeks I learned that pretty much any interesting carbs would cause my levels to spike. So for 14 weeks, I lived on porridge for breakfast (no honey or anything exciting to jazz it up), a ham pitta for lunch (forget about sauces) and protein and veg on an evening.  The highlight of my day was being able to have 3 apple slices with a spoon of peanut butter. It was bloody miserable but I knew I had to be careful; my babies health could be compromised if I wasn’t.

Party bump at 26 weeks…and the last time I wore heels!

Diet restrictions aside, once I was finally able to accept that this was happening to me (from around 28 weeks); I started to enjoy my pregnancy. I loved feeling Maxon wriggle and I began to feel a pride in my body that I hadn’t known possible. The bigger my bump got, the more real it felt so with that in mind, I really didn’t mind my body changing (even when the dreaded stretch marks made their appearance!).

32 week bump

The 3rd trimester was a real turning point for me. I felt great. Yes, I was starting to struggle to sleep and my lower back ached but I was lucky to feel pretty much myself otherwise. The final month was tough going in the heat but I managed to make it through to 39 weeks still feeling pretty good. I had scans every 2 weeks, all was looking well and I began to look forward to, rather than fear, the scans.

38 week bump

My bump was ENORMOUS at the end and, looking back, I don’t know how I managed to do anything. But there I was, in my final weeks, bleaching skirting boards and repainting rooms; I became completely obsessive about cleanliness in the house and my poor husband was barely allowed to breathe. I nested BIG TIME.

There are times now when I actually miss being pregnant (needless to say, those times are not when I’ve got a glass of wine in my hand). I miss stroking my bump and feeling the little jabs trying to discern which body part it was. I miss staring down trying to imagine what it was going to feel like to hold him; it felt equal amounts scary and exciting. I’m so pleased I took thousands of photos and videos and spent so much time appreciating the feeling, as it really is incredible to look back on.

Writing this all out really does highlight to me that I probably should have reached out for help, and if anyone out there is reading this and struggling with pregnancy anxiety, please know that you are not alone, and there is help available through your GP. I’d like to say that if we were lucky enough to have another child in the future that I wouldn’t struggle in the same way, but there really are no guarantees and in some ways, I think our IVF journey has changed me in a way that can’t be reversed. But anxiety aside, I will always look back on my pregnancy as one of the most incredible years of my life, and I still feel, to this day, incredibly lucky to have had the experience.

First Post Nerves…

So Hi! I’m Courtenay, first time mum to Maxon (and yip, as my name suggests I’m a Geordie, nope, I don’t know or am related to anyone from Geordie Shore, just want to clear that up from the off). I’m not sure why but writing this first post almost feels like a bio for a dating website and I’m a little nervous, so please bear with!

Why am I writing a blog? Why should you read on? Well, I think my journey of getting into motherhood (and hell, was it a LONG journey) may provide hope to those struggling; after 4 IVF cycles and dwindling odds, we finally got our boy. So I intend to write about our IVF experience. It was gruelling, 3 years long and I’m not ashamed to say I am bloody proud of myself for soldiering on through the treatment.

So IVF is my recent past. And Maxon and being a new mum is my present. He’s now 6 months old and wow, I’d be lying if I said motherhood hasn’t been a huge shock to the system! I’ll be sharing my honest experience thus far, pregnancy, birth, the 4th trimester and all else to come.

One of the things I’ve noticed since becoming a Mum, going to baby groups and meeting other new mum’s, is that you never seem to talk about yourself, your line of work, your likes, dislikes etc. It is so easy to fall into the habit of forgetting about YOU. So with that in mind, I’ll tell you a little about Me rather than ‘Mum Me’.

As I said, I’m Courtenay (just pronounced Courtney, my parents just thought it looked fancier), I’m about to turn 31 and live in Gateshead with my husband. I am currently on maternity leave but work in International Franchise for a Fashion brand; I love my job and have been lucky enough to travel the world with it. I wear black, a lot, and my love of monochrome extends to my home. I love to sketch, will never say no to a few glasses of red and am a big Tolkien fan (I even have a tattoo in Elvish, shhh). I don’t cook, I am neurotic about cleaning and am incredibly indecisive. So thank you for reading, welcome to my ramblings, and I hope you enjoy hearing about all our adventures ‘in the toon’. Oh and please get in touch if you have any feedback or questions!