Friday, 6 November 2020

Pregnancy Diaries; The Third Trimester

The Third Trimester; Weeks 27 to birth. 
I started writing this post on the 10th May 2020. This was the introduction I wrote: 
Every Sunday, a little tradition for me & Brad is to check our 'What To Expect' Pregnancy app and see the updates and information for that week of pregnancy. Today, it seems we are now in the third trimester! I'm not sure how much more real this whole pregnancy feels now, but saying 'third trimester' makes birth seem so close now! 

Now I'm finishing up this post (at around 36 weeks) it feels so surreal looking back over all three trimesters. I know there's still more to come with the birth and fourth trimester. I'm so glad I've managed to pen little details and memories from this time being pregnant. 

The baby has been the same size as … 
A  walkman (very Guardians of the Galaxy!), a coconut 🥥, Slinky Dog from Toy Story, a Polly Pocket Adventure Playset, the Eggo box from Stranger Things, a pineapple 🍍 and as we move into weeks 37 onwards it's melon and pumpkin territory! 🍉 A McDonalds Happy Meal box is week 39 ... so if I go to full term, that will be very apt for me! 

Hospital Appointments; the third trimester maternity and hospital appointments were not the greatest if I'm being perfectly honest. Coronavirus was still causing lots of restrictions including that partners were not allowed to attend appointments with mother's to be. At first this restriction didn't bother me, however the more appointments I had, and then the more things that were going wrong at those appointments, I really felt I could've done with someone there to help me through the appointments. I had a midwife appointment at 29 weeks - health wise everything was okay (blood pressure, movement, heartbeat) At this appointment, my midwife realised she'd forgotten to book me in for a blood glucose test. My understanding is that, depending on which NHS trust you are with, some mums to be are not screened for gestational diabetes; the midwife told me because my BMI was above 30, that's why I needed to be tested. She looked genuinely mortified she'd forgotten to book me in for it, and called the hospital to book me in for 3 days time, and her reasoning to me was that 'she keeps forgetting my BMI was over 30 because it doesn't look it' ... she was in such a fluster, I just let her book the appointment. The midwife didn't explain what the test was (to test for gestational diabetes) all she said was that I had to fast the evening before the appointment from 10pm, and arrive at the maternity day care centre at the local hospital for 9am the next morning, I'd have blood taken and then have to drink a sugary drink and have my blood taken again. The midwife also said, because they would be taking blood, that she wouldn't need to take blood as planned during this appointment today. At the time I didn't think much of it and just went along with the appointment. 

When I got home, I explained to Brad what I had to do, and then to explain what it was, looked up the blood glucose test in pregnancy. It was then, that I found out the test was to see if I had gestational diabetes, something that was not explained to me. To be honest, I was absolutely mortified. The potential outcomes had not been explained to me nor any symptoms to be aware of. What's more, upon further research, the test included a two hour wait at the hospital between blood tests ... now at the time, I was not allowed to see my own family due to the coronavirus restrictions, yet was required to sit in a waiting room for 2 hours. Something that I later found out too... whilst the test is recommended, it is the patients choice whether to take the test. Unfortunately none of the midwifes I spoke to prior to attending the test said that which I find to be unacceptable and upon reflection I'd realised a few occasions where decisions which should have been choices were made for me. 
At this point, my mental health started massively deteriorating. I was feeling masses of guilt for my BMI being just over 30, potentially having higher risks of pre-eclampsia and potentially having to inject myself daily for treatment from what I'd read off of Dr Google. I messaged my midwives to say I didn't want to attend the appointment but heard nothing back. The day before the appointment, I called the maternity day care ... they re-assured me that the test was a simple blood test and that there would only be one other patient in the maternity day care at that time having the test done, temperature checks on the door and no partners or excess people allowed to reduce the potential infections of coronavirus. The nurse I spoke to said it was important to attend the appointment so feeling more at ease, I decided to attend. 

I got to the hospital the next day, having fasted and only drank water. As myself and Brad don't drive, I got a cab to the hospital alone and went to the maternity day care. Upon entering the hospital there were no temperature checks at all taking place. Mums to be had their partners with them which massively upset me as I really wanted Brad to be with me and was furious having been lied to. There was no security checking who was entering and exiting the hospital. Whilst waiting to go into the maternity department, one couple had all their belongings spread across surfaces - if I'm being honest, it was a joke.

I went into the appointment... due to the fasting they struggled to take my blood. The nurses asked me whether my midwives were aware that I was difficult to take blood from, which they was and was then told they shouldn't have sent me for excess bloods such as routine then. I also was asked why my test was happening so late and did I miss an appointment - explaining my midwife forgot, through tears was just a real rubbish experience. I had a panic attack as they struggled to take the bloods and ended up with multiple bruises across my arms from failed attempts. In the end, they got just enough blood to do the test but not my routine bloods and then tried to book me in to come back to the hospital to have my routine bloods done. I said I'd contact my midwives about getting the appointment done - for one, it cost me £30 getting to and from the hospital, and to turn up and have been lied to about the infection control measures and people's partners being allowed to the hospital was not good enough.

Two weeks later, I had two telephone consultations as part of my maternity care. One was with the obstetrician from the hospital who gave asked questions regarding my mental health - I explained I'd referred to the perinatal mental health team and was awaiting assessment. Other than recommending medication if they felt I needed it and scheduling a follow up telephone call at 36 weeks, the appointment was soon after. My second telephone call was from the midwife. My midwife team work in pairs, so this time I spoke to the other midwife (aka the one who didn't forgot to book my test!) ... I explained to her the negative experience I had, and told her how much I was struggling thinking about giving birth and current restrictions in place. She re-assured me that pregnancy care is looked at on a case by case basis, and that the midwives had the discretion to make allowances and look at alternative solutions so not to worry about giving birth as that is something to focus on at the 34 week appointment. Talking things through with her, I felt a lot better about engaging with maternity care. 

At my 34 week appointment, things took a turn for the worse. This time the appointment was with the first midwife ... mid hearing the baby's heartbeat, the midwife decided to break the news that home births weren't going ahead for first time Mum's, so I needed to have a different plan. When I didn't have my belly on show and was sitting at the desk, I explained to her that I didn't feel comfortable going into hospital given the situation, and that given my mental health I felt giving birth in a familiar environment is what is best for me and I could guarantee a birthing pool. I also expressed the incidents I'd heard of friends experiences in coronavirus times such as birthing without a birth partner and not being told in advance. Her response was 'it is was it is' and 'midwife centres aren't that bad' ... the complete polar opposite of what the other midwife had said. I left the appointment feeling so deflated and genuinely felt I never wanted to see another midwife again. What upset me the most, is in between the 30 - 34 weeks, I'd read Milli Hill's 'Positive Birth Book' and I knew it was my right to give birth where I choose. I started researching and wrote letters to the head of midwifery, my local MP and basically anyone and everyone I could to try and get the support moving forward. I think I'll cover what happened in another post regarding home births what happened next as there were multiple telephone calls and meetings in the weeks prior to birth. 

At 37 weeks, I had another scan at the local hospital which my area request first time mothers to attend to check the baby's size and check everything is okay. The sonographer was really lovely; she was very chatty and we was laughing about how much I wanted to know what I was having and generally put me at ease having the scan, especially as partners were still not allowed into scans. I then had to go to maternity day care, where they checked the growth chart and scan results. They said the baby was head down too, and the midwife showed me where the baby was laying. 

I had an appointment at 38 weeks which again was a routine blood pressure and general check up. We covered some symptoms and early signs of labour at this appointment, and I asked about the procedures surrounding induction if it was needed - but was reassured it was unlikely that induction would be needed as the baby's head was now starting to move into my pelvis - which got me as I hadn't felt the baby had moved, but since the scan the week before, the baby had moved down! 

Cravings; One of the weirdest cravings I'd had during this trimester is water. I'd been living off of fizzy drinks and squash throughout the second trimester, and as I entered the third, all I wanted to drink was lots of water. Pre-pregnancy, I'd drink water all the time and it's an unusually healthy craving for me to have! 

Symptoms; the good news this trimester is the sciatica in my left leg had worn off. The heartburn was seemingly here to stay... Brad made a little concoction of water and bicarbonate of soda which seemed to do the trick of curing it every couple of days! I also had a loss of movement and strength in my lower back. At around 32 weeks, I said to Brad I definitely felt the baby move position, and my bump started looking different, so I'm assuming the position change may have had something to do with the loss of feeling. A separate symptom update from the second trimester; at 33 weeks, I finally got my sense of smell back after 12 weeks of being unable to smell due to suspected Covid 19! 

By 39 weeks, my smell had changed again! Everything smelt so strong and my sense of taste went a bit awol as well... I constantly felt paranoid I smelt bad, and could have a shower and still leave the shower knowing I was clean but thinking I smelt ... my midwife said this was hormonal and a sign labour was soon approaching. 

At 39 + 5 I had had Braxton Hicks - just the one again to begin with! 

Mental Wellbeing; My mental health and wellbeing took a bit of a battering in the third trimester. I'm planning on exploring the ins and outs in a lot more detail on this blog & on socials, however I'll try a keep it short and sweet version in this section now. 
At week 30, I had this sudden sense of panic; the thought 'a baby is going to be coming out' seemed to keep flashing up in my mind (honestly even typing that out makes me feel stupid, but it really hit me in that week for some reason!). I then had a personal issue come up which started triggering small bouts of anxiety. 
  When I had my blood glucose test, the negative experience at the hospital meant I spent an afternoon in a depression spiral - I literally stared at a wall, cried and had an influx of the most horrendous thoughts which I felt I couldn't control. The next morning, I contacted the local perinatal mental health team to self refer as feeling as awful as I did from one negative experience I knew wasn't right for me, and I wanted to safeguard myself as much as possible whilst I could in a more balanced frame of mind. Unfortunately, being diagnosed with adjustment disorder then having to deal with lots of changes at last minute due to the coronavirus situation wasn't ever going to be the best combination. I ended up going through lots of different assessments with the perinatal team, was sent an updated care plan and then self referred for counselling as part of the care plan. I discussed medication, however my hope being to have a home birth, the nurse advised me if I started taking medication there would be a very high chance I would be refused a home birth due to the limited amount of time I would've been on medication... we agreed together that I would not explore medication yet, but upon giving birth this could be a path to take. My counselling came through in week 36 of pregnancy and I opted to try CBT counselling again to try and find coping strategies. I'd like to think that my mental health could have been more balanced if I felt properly supported by certain health professionals around me and with the coronavirus situation not throwing out every ounce of normality in my usual everyday, however remembering from my last therapy sessions the year before, I remembered that it wasn't the actions of others that mattered but how I responded to them. I can't predict the future or how my birthing journey and fourth trimester will be, but knowing I had a weekly counselling session over the telephone felt productive and a step in the right direction. 

Physical Changes; As I entered into my third trimester, still in lockdown, I found at first I wasn't really showing at all. When we could finally socialise in our back gardens, or when I went out to appointments - you couldn't necessarily see a huge bump. At 31+6, we went for a 4D scan which involved a bit of travelling which I felt I was up to as I wasn't that big. Then at 32 weeks on the dot, it's like something changed and all of a sudden I felt huge and the bump felt huge.

At 35 weeks, I felt massive. I found a maternity dress I'd bought for £5 in the sale in Mothercare (pictured above), and swore I wouldn't need to wear as it was 'definitely too baggy' ... well I put that dress on at 35 weeks and it looked bodycon! The bump definitely has popped out! I didn't get many stretch marks at first, generally being a 12 - 16 through my mid twenties, I've always had stretch marks anyway. 

This trimester, the baby moved a lot more than in previous weeks. Regular wriggles felt so lovely throughout each day and I actively looked forward to meals and bedtime where the baby kicked a lot more. 

- When I first found out I was pregnant, the one thing I really wanted to do was have a 4D scan. As coronavirus shut the country down, I knew the likelihood of this happening would be nothing short of a miracle. Well, as the country started opening up in June, I managed to book in for a 4D scan at 31 weeks and 6 days ... 1 day off not being able to have it done. Brad was able to come with me, we heard the heartbeat together and saw our baby's face. It was a long day as we had to get the train and we were concerned taking public transport, but it was worth it. I said to family and friends, if that day would have cost me thousands of pounds, I would've paid it as the happiness and connection we both felt with the baby as a result of that scan experience really was priceless. 
- I treated myself to a full length mirror to start taking bump photos in; I wasn't going out, and had hardly any photographs of my bump... I'm not the most comfortable taking photos, so I thought to myself how can I get memories in an easy way for me. Enter and their lush mirrors and I was away! 
- The increased baby movement - it honestly was just one of the best feelings. 
- My sister bought face paints and decided to do a bump painting on me when we 'bubbled' up in July. She created a poke ball which looked awesome other than the fact my belly button was very off centre! 
- Swimming in the Whitstable sea at around 33 weeks - it was so refreshing although I found I couldn't float easily with the bump! 
- Seeing friends and family and seeing how excited they all were - me and Brad generally were super chilled about the prospect of birth. In the weeks and days approaching the due date, the baby fever slowly started catching on to everyone ... cue the odd text, or panicked message if I missed a phone call! 

The above was written from May to 38/39 weeks. From 39 weeks and with my birth, I went through a mixture of a positive but mainly negative birthing experience which I'm hoping one day I will be able to one day articulate. 
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