Unwanted Advice

One of the hardest things about being pregnant and a new mum is the unwanted advice that people feel they have to share with you. When pregnant it was everything from “are you sure you can eat that, do this, go there, wear that” etc. During my pregnancy I had no problem smiling and saying thanks for the advice. After all, they were only trying to be friendly.

I can’t say the same for being a new mum. The Indians are very child-friendly people and they love to have a look, peek, cuddle with a new born baby. We were touched on many occasions in the early days where someone would see Annabelle and want to bless her. She has received hindu blessings, muslim blessings and christian prayers. It’s very touching to watch someone unrelated coo over your child.

However on the flip side, Indians, by their culture, like to offer advice. I don’t know if it’s because I’m foreign or if it’s just normal. First off there’s the 40 days inside that Indian mothers and babies do. It sounds like a lovely relaxing time (not leaving the house for this time), but it wasn’t something I wanted to do. So, we were in Cafe Zoe when Annabelle was 2 weeks old and the young waiter there told us to put a hat on Annabelle even though she was perfectly warm in my arms. It wasn’t a suggestion, it was a command.

After Church one Sunday we met a family who wanted to see Annabelle, first of all they were shocked she was out the house before the 40 day limit, but secondly the old lady said to me “is that your baby”, proudly I replied “yes!” and she said “oh, I thought you were pregnant”, I was like “she is only 1 week old”… yet, she persisted…”you need to start exercising”….

When Annabelle was 5 weeks old i took her for a walk and at the end of the road I picked her up out of the pram, she was fussing a little and I suspected wind. Two women stopped by and started telling me she had a cold and I should take her to the doctor.

My maid is very sweet and clearly dotes on little Annabelle but she insists on telling me what I should be doing whether it be baby massage, using baby powder, changing her nappy a different way or whether it be stating the obvious “she’s not sleeping”…!

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My Dad, Annabelle and me, Carter Rd, 2 weeks old.

I try to take it all with a pinch of salt and be thankful for their interest, but when I’m tired and I have a rough idea what might be bothering my baby, I really do struggle to nod and smile!

 

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Pick a Song

During our ante-natal classes our midwife explained to us that if we picked a song and played it to our baby every day, studies had shown that when that same song was played to our baby outside the womb, she would feel calm and reassured. In short, it would make her feel ‘at home’.

We chose Mumford and Sons, I will wait (listen here), and indeed we would play it every evening before bed. Our baby, Annabelle, was even born to this same song.

It was not until 4 weeks later, when I was having a rough time with Annabelle and could not find anything that would settle her, that I tested the theory. It had been 3 hours of shh’ing, rocking, cuddling, feeding, burping and still she was howling. Suddenly I remembered this idea of using a specific song to soothe a baby and so I grabbed the iPad and hit play on Babel (the Mumford and Sons album). I am not exaggerating when I say it took less than 10 seconds for Annabelle to stop crying and lye calmly in my arms. I am not saying she went off to sleep in 2 minutes. But the calming effect was undeniable. She lay there peacefully for about 20 minutes, allowing me a chance to regain my composure.

Additionally it later transpired that our midwife used to babysit Marcus Mumford. How ironic! She sent the picture below to him, saying that this new life had been brought into the world listening to the music he created!

I have used it once since and again, it did not let me down. Textbook, both times.

If you are pregnant now, I highly recommend choosing a song now. You will appreciate it later!

Annabelle and Mumford

Annabelle and Mumford

The Delivery

As soon as the ECV failed (read about what we did to try and turn the baby here), the doctor took us into her room and we started talking about a caesarean section. I had been prepared for this moment so tried to hold it all together. I had prepared questions in the event of this happening and had reviewed our c-section birth plan. My first question, was posed as more of a confirmation: my husband will be allowed into the operating room, won’t he? “no” came the answer, and it was only the beginning. No to skin-to-skin, baby had to go straight in the warmer, no choice in vaccinations, baby is given whatever the hospital deems necessary and no to many of our other requests. Initially it was all brushed aside “don’t worry the operation is nothing to worry about”. I had to express that it was not ‘the operation’ that was upsetting me, but that this is more than just an operation, it’s the delivery of our child. More than that it was about having at least some say in how our birth went. I felt that the more questions we asked the less control we had.

We once again left the hospital with me in tears, I think it was starting to wear thin on my poor husband, but as usual he was excellent and said that we’d contact the head of operations and see if we couldn’t change their mind at least about him being allowed into the OR. Otherwise it would mean that it would be up to one hour before he knew the sex of our child and if everything was OK.

We did write a letter to the medical director and our request was rejected. They can’t change their policies or make exceptions. A part of me was pleased that, even with the threat of us moving to another hospital, they were not so driven by money that they would change their policies at the drop of a hat, but of course the other part of me was devastated. This is not the birth I had envisioned.

My husband called our midwives at Just Link and they immediately got onto the case and called their contacts. They spoke directly to Dr Shantala at Ambani hospital in Andheri and explained our predicament. Dr Shantala said she could help out and asked for me to call her. I called on the Wednesday evening, made an appointment for the Thursday morning, we were booked in for the c-sect for Saturday. What a roller coaster.

My experience with Dr Shantala was excellent. She took a long time to get to know me, my husband, our reason for being in India etc. She explained the procedure in detail, talking about which medical staff would be present, where my husband would stand, what stage he would be brought into the OR etc. Everything was so calm and clear. The complete opposite to Hiranandani. Every request we made was met with a smile and a nod.

We checked into the hospital on Friday night, and once again I shed a little tear, but I think this was more nervousness about the actual baby arriving. Was I ready? Did I really know what I was letting myself in to? How would I cope? How would Matt cope?

As soon as i was in the room I was racked up to a number of monitors, this continued through the night, nurses coming and going, housekeeping coming and going, room service coming and going… a good night’s sleep was not had! Oh well! Start as we mean to go on!

In the morning, I was fetched at 7.30am and taken to the operating room, the midwife arrived and my Mum and Dad were there too. My husband stayed overnight with me in the hospital which was great. Dr Shantala arrived, introduced me to a number of doctors and nurses that would all be present during the procedure and then wheeled me into theatre. I was draped, given the spinal block (i choose this over an epidural) and then catheterised and given an oxygen mask. As soon as I was in the theatre I practised some relaxing breathing techniques to keep me calm. I heard them bring my husband in, I think he was a little shocked to see me all draped and prepared, he was asked to sit during the operation, just in case!! I had a doctor by my head the whole time, speaking to me, keeping me updated on what was going on and who was doing what. Meanwhile I just remained focused on breathing. I kept my eyes closed.

Finally, with my husband playing Mumford and Sons – I will wait – Dr Shantala announced that she would start. It must have only been a few minutes, 10 maybe, before she said “ok, this is it, do we know what gender we are expecting”, my husband replied no but that we thought it was a boy. She said “ok, well I can tell you… it’s a girl”. “A girl!” we cried together. I shed a tear. They showed her to me over the top of the drapes, but I was still a little tranced and so don’t really remember. After a short while a nurse brought her round the drapes, wrapped in a blue blanket and said “you requested skin on skin”, I nodded. She opened my pyjamas, unwrapped our baby a little and then put her to my skin. I said hello to her alert big eyes.

After skin to skin, our baby girl and my husband went out to the recovery room to weigh, measure and check her. My husband said he was so excited about telling my mum and dad, who were waiting outside, that it was a girl, but that the anaesthetist stole his thunder, calling it out before hubby had a chance. This girl is my parents first grand daughter. They have 6 grand sons!

Meanwhile I was still inside being stitched up! Since hubby had taken away the music the doctor asked if they could play some Bollywood stuff. Of course I replied and listened to them all singing along to Kolaveri Di! A surreal moment if ever there was one!

After about 10 minutes our baby was brought back to me and the nurse announced “you wanted to feed her”, she opened up my pyjamas again and thrust the baby onto my boob. She immediately started suckling. A moment I’ll never forget. Whilst I couldn’t believe I was a mother I was managing to feed another human being. Incredible.

My husband was back with me and he said “so are you happy with our girls name?” The doctor asked what we had agreed on and we told her “Annabelle Agnes”. Annabelle because we liked the name and Agnes after Hubby’s Indian grandmother.

Annabelle was born at 8.46am on April 20th and weighed 3.97kg.

Skin to Skin

Skin to Skin

Baby Annabelle and Me

Baby Annabelle and Me

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The legs explain the Breech position….

Trying to Turn a Breech Baby

When we found out at 34 weeks that baby was breech I started in ernest to try all remedies to ‘turn’ him or her. I can safely say that I feel I tried everything. I have been going to yoga since the early days and my intentions now were to spend the full hour in postures that are known to help turn breech babies. These include balancing postures, (to help balance the pelvis incase this unbalance is what is making baby sit upright), postures where your hips are higher than you chest, either on your back or on your front; the idea being that these encourage gravity to take it’s course and babies head (being the heaviest part) will be pushed into your ribs and this will course it to ‘flip’. Some people say they can actually feel the baby turn when they practise these postures (breech tilt, tree posture, inversion). Try the Spinning Babies website.

In addition to yoga, I tried ‘talking to baby’, asking him or her to turn, connecting with him and explaining why I wanted him to turn head down. I would sit every morning, for about 20 minutes, play music that’s meant to be good for turning babies (see link here) and ask baby to turn. Yes, it felt weird talking out loud to my unborn child. But it was at this time I started to get a feeling for the gender of our child. Whilst visualising the baby turning and talking to him or her, I could only picture a girl. I didn’t know if this was because a girl is what I secretly wanted. Furthermore studies have shown that when talking to your baby, your emotions release different flavours into your amniotic fluid and baby can taste and react to this. Interestingly too, whenever I played that music baby movements increased significantly, so there is definitely something in it that baby reacts to!

My next attempt was moxibustion and cranial sacral therapy. Whilst I believe both of these have excellent success rates, I think I had left it too late. I was already starting to feel discomfort in my pelvis and thought this may have been because baby was engaged. I went to Barefoot Acupuncturists for the moxibustion, an NGO set up to provide free/cheap alternative health care to some of the poorest people in Mumbai. It’s run by a lovely Frenchman called Walter. Moxibustion is an ancient Chinese remedy that involves lighting a herbal ‘candle’ (stick made of herbs, that smells distinctly like weed!) and placing it very close to your skin on the outside edge of your foot. The ‘candle’ burns at over 400 degrees centigrade and the pressure point on the outside of the little toe is related to the tummy/womb. The theory is that the intense heat increases blood flow to that area and therefore encourages baby to move head down. Once again, the action of moxibustion did create movement in my tummy, so I know that baby was reacting to something. I carried on doing moxi at home every day for about 4 days.

Final stop was an ECV (external cephalic version). This is a procedure conducted by a doctor, or in the UK a specially trained midwife, whereby they manually manipulate the baby from the breech position to the head down position. We went in on the Monday evening, and with a team including our doctor, a sonographer and a couple of nurses, they set to work manipulating my tummy. The first question people ask me is ‘was it painful’, no, not painful, just very uncomfortable. A little like a giant chinese burn! The doctor tried three times to turn our baby. She could get the head to move to the transverse position but the buttocks were not coming out of my pelvis. This confirmed that baby was indeed engaged. ECV unsuccessful. Next stop cesearean section. Queue the tears.

Moxibustion

Moxibustion

34 Weeks – Breech Presentation

After 2 weeks in Dubai, the doc wanted to see us again to check on my Amniotic Fluid levels, everything at the appointment was very positive, my weight gain was according to plan, baby’s heart rate was clear and strong, my blood pressure was normal and from palpating my tummy the doctor suggested that baby was now head down and doing well. Ahh, relief.

Doctor had asked us to get another scan done so that a colour doppler test could be done. Colour Doppler tests allow you to see how much blood is flowing to and from certain parts of the body. It’s a good indication that everything is working properly internally and can advise of any clots or issues that need to be addressed. I was asked to have one of these because of my low amniotic fluid; the doctor wanted to make sure there was no constriction around the cord affecting blood flow to the baby.

The good news is that all blood flow is normal, strong and regular. Phew. I am still on the low side where amniotic fluid is concerned. This time the sonographer did an AFI reading (Amniotic Fluid Index – measuring 4 pockets of amniotic fluid depth in 4 quarters of the womb). Our reading was 7cm, which is within range. Slightly on the low side, but still within the 5cm-25cm range.

The bad news is that baby is breech. I got so angry with the sonographer who, within 5 seconds of putting his transducer on my tummy, nonchalantly said “baby is breech”. We had just come from the doctor who had confirmed it was head down, so this was a shock. Mr Maternal asked him to check again and explained what the doctor had said, his quick response “nope, definitely breech”. Offering no more information or advise. I was beginning to get upset, both with being breech but also with the sonographers bedside manner, or lack thereof. Mr Maternal, seeing my anger rising, asked him “so what can be done?” His rash response “nothing now, probably have to have a C-section”. Does he not realise he’s dealing with emotional, hormonal women? He can’t just band about statements like that without wondering how it might impact his patient. Especially when I know it’s not true. My sister had her breech baby successfully turned by External Cephalic Version at 36 weeks. In addition, many breech babies can turn on their own right up until the 40th week. Still, at the time, I was shocked and upset and tears started to flow down my cheeks. The sonographer, apparently unaware of my emotional state continued on his crusade and said “oh, baby is small”. Again, Mr Materanl had to encourage more information from him…”too small, or just on the small side?”. “Well, the growth rate is fine, the baby is just a bit smaller than average”. Again, being ‘a bit smaller than average’ is not the end of the world or anything to worry to about so why is he saying such dramatic statements like “baby is small”. Ugh. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing.

Finally the scan ended, me red faced and in tears, Mr Maternal desperately concerned and the sonographer? Oh, he just handed me tissues (for the gel on my tummy, not the tears) and walked out. Great bedside manner. Thanks for seeing to my needs and asking me what I was upset about!!

Anyway, rant over. I am now getting myself in the Breech Tilt every day! I haven’t tried the cold peas but we do play music to the bottom of my uterus every night… enticing baby to turn head down! Who knows.

Watch this space…

30 Week Scan

In India the doctor will send you for another scan at 30 weeks. I’m not exactly sure what they are looking for or checking on but it’s something they like to do. In the UK a pregnant lady would not be sent for a scan after their 20 week one, unless something was amiss or needed checking.

We had a different sonographer to usual, a man this time. He seemed friendly enough. That was until he said “mmm, you have slightly low amniotic fluid”. OK, so what does this mean, I asked. “Ask your doctor” was the response. I asked if it had anything to do with high sugar levels since I had had my glucose test recently. He said no and that I should just eat more protein.

When we left the hospital we called our midwife to mention it to her. Relaxed as ever she said that amniotic fluid fluctuates throughout pregnancy and unless it was desperately low there was nothing to worry about. She agreed that I should eat more protein and take rest, but so long as I could feel the baby moving as regularly as s/he had been there was no cause for concern.

Two weeks later we went to the doctor and she checked over our results from the scan. He eyes widened and she said “why didn’t you come to me earlier with this? Your amniotic fluid is REALLY low”. Of course I panicked. To give you some background, in the UK/US/Europe they mostly determine amniotic fluid levels by measuring the pockets of fluid in four areas around the baby, they add together these measurements, in cm and this gives an AFI (amniotic fluid index) which should be somewhere between 5cm-25cm. Mine was reading 2.8cm.

Low amniotic fluid can be a cause for concern for a few reasons; it can indicate there might be a problem with baby’s kidney function, it can lead to physical deformities like club foot as baby doesn’t have enough room to manoeuvre and it can cause complications during labour as the cord can become compressed depriving baby of much needed blood and oxygen.

The doctor questioned how I was feeling and weather or not baby had changed their moving pattern. On both counts I had positive responses. She prescribed me with amino acids to take in the form or a capsule twice a day and a sachet 3 times day. Advised that I lay out every 2 hours to ensure maximum blood flow to the baby and said I need to eat a high protein diet with lots and lots of fluids. I left the hospital feeling a little worried!

Once again we called the midwife and she was also pretty shocked by how low our AFI was, this of course worried us further! Luckily she was coming over the next day for ante-natal classes so we were able to chat in more detail. Lina measured my fundal heigh (the distance from pubic bone to the top of my uterus when lying on my back) and informed me that I was not too small for my gestation (as I had been told) but that I was on the small side. She also palpated my tummy and said that baby felt fine with plenty of room. Finally she sent my report to her colleague to see if there was something we were missing on the reading of 2.8cm. It turns out that many places in India measure a single pocket of fluid and if this is their means then the reading should be between 2cm and 5cm. Our report actually stated “Single Pocket Measuring 2.8cm”! Ahhh, we finally cracked it. Yes, I was mildly on the low side, but nothing so drastic as we had thought. Phew.

I’m happy to report that 3 weeks on baby is still squirming and worming frequently and I am sure he/she is coming along fine.

To read more about Low Amniotic Fluid or Oligohydramnious – Click here for Baby Centre’s take on the matter.

25 Weeks – Glucose Test

The results from my first blood test had shown that I had slightly high sugar levels, so at 25 weeks our doctor decided to send me for the “Glucose Test”. This consisted of me arriving at the hospital at 9am on a Monday morning, having fasted for 12 hours previously (I managed to sneak that Sunday night pizza in just in time!). I had a blood test and had to give a urine sample on arrival, after which I was asked to drink a very sweet and syrupy concoction which did not taste great. I was sent away for an hour and upon my return had to give blood and do another urine sample. I repeated this process again another hour later. Pretty boring morning as far as I’m concerned.

My results were ready by 6pm as usual and I was able to download them from the L.H. Hiranandani website which is very useful. Turns out my sugar levels after fasting were a touch high (still within ‘safe’ parameters, but still a touch high), however after the syrupy drink my levels were normal. This, the doctor told me, meant that when I don’t get little amounts of food often enough my body’s sugar levels rise, but that my insulin levels are sufficient to combat any sugar I do consume.

The most important news was that I did not have pregnancy diabetes and was therefore not going to be put on a strict pregnancy diet. I am to watch my sugar intake and ensure that I eat little amounts regularly.

Watch this space.