Pregnancy and birth – how we got here.
I’m guessing if you’re reading this pregnancy and birth are not new to you. I’ll spare you the long winded descriptions of your baby’s weekly development and I won’t bother comparing him or her to a fruit or vegetable, after all, there are thousands of books that will tell you when your baby has reached the milestone of being the size of an avocado.
This is for mums who are bathing toddlers with one hand while simultaneously throwing up in the toilet (ah the joys of pregnancy sickness) or those who are waddling to the park and wondering where the nearest toilet is for their 20th toilet trip of the morning. It is also for mums who don’t think they can do this, those that are pregnant with baby 3,4,5 or more and feel like they are failing (spoiler – you’re not) or alternatively those thinking about having more but struggling to make a choice. So here we go let’s delve into the world of large family pregnancy.
Conception and the all important pregnancy test.
When we were trying to conceive baby number one we were bright eyed and bushy tailed 21 and 22 year olds.
We both knew we wanted a family, we both knew we wanted multiple children and so in the interests of spacing it was logical to us to try for our first baby once uni was done and my husband was working. We had a little rented two bedroom flat and it was go time.
I carefully measured my temperature each day to pinpoint when I was ovulating and like most women I counted down the painfully slow days until I could do a pregnancy test, this was never (as I’m guessing you know ) when my period was late , oh no this took the form of obsessive daily testing from 7 days post ovulation onwards.
When I wasn’t pregnant in months one and two I just couldn’t believe it, I was naive enough to think that any quick fumble without contraception would mean almost instant pregnancy. Thank goodness by month three I was pregnant, if I hadn’t been we likely would have gone bankrupt before even starting as I hadn’t discovered cheap pregnancy tests and I was buying up a pharmacy worth of expensive tests each cycle.
Finding out you are pregnant with number one is nothing like finding out when you already have a pile of children.
For a start, with number one after a pre dawn pregnancy test I ran into the bedroom waving a test stick at my husband, we then spent time hugging and being amazed and excited. After work that day he came home with a baby teddy and card to show me how much he loved “us”.That weekend we went shopping and spent the morning browsing baby items in awe of how tiny they were.
With baby number six. I peed on my Poundland test strip then text my husband to tell him that we were expecting again I then headed off to the office and did a first response in the toilet at work (just to double check).
That evening when the kids were in bed we ordered a Chinese to celebrate and then got on with life – at least until morning sickness kicked in.
I’m here to tell you that’s ok. I have struggled , as most mums have with the “guilt” of feeling like later babies have it worse somehow because the news of their conception wasn’t greeted with the same amazement and fanfare that the first was. The big realisation is that they don’t care, they really don’t. No baby has ever hated it’s mother for not jumping with joy when they saw those two lines appear, no child ever joyfully asks for the story of how their father greeted the news of their mother’s pregnancy. So it’s ok to pee on a stick at the office then carry on as normal, it’s ok not to rush out and buy teddies and baby gros and immediately begin memory books. It’s also ok if you are uncertain, scared and surprised. Let yourself feel how you feel and don’t be your own critic whether it’s baby number one or baby number six finding out you are pregnant changes everything – it’s never a case of same old same old and every baby, every pregnancy will hold a special place in your heart .
Pregnancy when you can’t slow down
When you have your first and even second baby you tend to slow down, you don’t lift heavy bags, you lie down in the afternoon, you let things go a little.
When you have a couple of children and toddlers things are somewhat different.
Morning sickness, for most of us, is when the pregnancy will first start to impact our everyday lives. Some people are lucky and never get and sickness or nausea, I am not one of these people. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- I am a TERRIBLE pregnant person. I throw up for the first 20 weeks, I have never “bloomed” in my life, I get high blood pressure and anxiety . I could go on but you get the picture. For baby number one and two I pretty much allowed pregnancy to totally take over my life and that was ok, because I could. Even when my second child was born I only had a single toddler . We spent a pleasant summer around the house and garden (she was nearly 3 and we discovered CBeebies at that time).
When number three came I was still having to entertain by then a 4.5 year old and a toddler and those lazy days in front of the tv or in the garden were a distant memory.
By the time number six was making me queasy I was doing school runs, visiting secondary school open days for my oldest, cooking , doing housework and sewing on cub badges. There was no slowing down, life continued whether I was keeping food down or not.
Morning sickness tips and tricks
To clarify I never had “morning sickness” I had an all day everyday sickness that felt like I would never end. To this day there are foods I can’t eat because I threw them up so many times in pregnancy even looking at them still turns my stomach a little (canned fruit in looking at you).
Tip number one and most important eat, eat, eat.
Never let your stomach get empty – this is hard when you don’t feel like eating or when opening the fridge makes you immediately sick but it’s so important especially when you can’t slow down that much. Even if all you can eat is a banana or a chocolate bar every couple of hours do it – even if you end up throwing up half of what you eat you still need to eat.
Some of my worst days have been simply because I let myself get too hungry – there is nothing worse than throwing up acid or retching constantly on an empty stomach. I remember before I learned this lesson with my first pregnancy, sitting on the kitchen floor and crying because I couldn’t face eating when I felt so sick.
Thankfully my husband convinced me to eat a sandwich and although I still felt sick that awful gnawing acid sickness was eased.
Tip number two – keeps mints on hand
Another thing I have found that helps is to keep sucking on mints or sweets. From very early in pregnancy I get a really foul taste in my mouth, it tastes as though I have been sucking old socks and it just won’t go away. This gradually turns into the sickness, so from the very start i suck on mints and sweets to keep that taste away. Sucking a sweet or mint is also a good way to DELAY actual vomiting, it’s not always convenient to be sick as I’m sure you know! No one wants to throw up in a supermarket or a school playground and so I found that sucking a sweet can help delay being sick until I can get to an actual toilet or somewhere I can be sick in relative peace and quiet.
Tip number three – the emergency hide behind the pram bag sickness move.
This is a disgusting and yet for me needed move. When you have a few children to take care of already, there is no hiding near a toilet, there is no cancelling events because you feel sick. For the most part you have to get on and this means being prepared for sickness wherever you are. Most of the time you will make it to a toilet when something kicks off that sickness but sometimes you just can’t. I remember walking down the street and seeing a dog poo – enough to set me off, there are no toilets , no discreet corners and I’m pretty much going to be sick no matter what and this is where the hide behind the pram bag move comes in.
When pregnancy sickness start put a few sick bags inside your pram bag and line the pram bag with a waterproof bag. In times like the above when you’re literally about the throw up in the street you duck down as though looking in the pram bag for something whip out a sick bag, fill it, then carefully conceal the bag in the pram bag until you get to the nearest safe place to dispose of it.
Is this totally disgusting? – yes – is it better than throwing up in the street, in a ballet class, in a bus? Also yes.
Final tip give yourself grace to be a sick, pregnant mess.
If the above sounds like I gracefully floated through pregnancy sickness then it shouldn’t . I didn’t gleefully throw up in a bag then go home and spend time thinking about how wonderful the miracle of life is. In fact I threw up in a bag , went home and sobbed into a bar of chocolate, then cried again because I felt sick after that bar of chocolate. Pregnancy is hard, beautiful, messy, wonderful and scary all at once whether it’s your first,second, or fifth baby.
When pregnancy isn’t straightforward
Not every pregnancy runs smoothly from positive pregnancy test to birth. This is a fact of life and one that the more children you have the more likely you are to face. Miscarriage brings with it heartache and disappointment. As soon as you find out about your little one they become part of your identity and no matter how brief their existence don’t let anyone make you feel it doesn’t matter because you have other children. No child can be replaced.
Complications that happen later in pregnancy can be particularly hard on mothers who already have a number of children at home as “rest” tends not to be in our vocabulary much past baby number two or three.
High blood pressure and preeclampsia was my late pregnancy curse, it got three times. I was lucky, preeclampsia is no joke but thankfully I came through with healthy babies who were born before term but big enough and fit enough to come home with me after a few days. My earliest baby was my second who was induced at 35 weeks and at pretty respectable 5 pounds 8. I still sat in the hospital holding this tiny hairy slightly odd looking baby and feeling more terrified than i have ever been and so i cannot even begin to imagine what mothers of babies even smaller and earlier than him go through. I take my hat off to you.
If you are told to rest in late pregnancy then it’s a good idea to actually try and i say this as someone who has ignored this advice the first time and ended up in hospital being induced within 3 days and also someone who has heeded the warnings and gone another two weeks before induction. Maybe it didn’t make a difference, maybe it did, who knows but on the off chance take my advice and force yourself to rest.
If you are told to take it easy there are a couple of things you can do to accomplish this even if you are in sole charge for part or most of the day. Firstly, seriously lower your screen time standards and entertain your little ones with My Little Pony, Youtube or whatever they are currently enjoying. A couple of weeks of extra screentime won’t hurt anyone and if it lets you cook their little brother or sister just a tiny bit longer it’s worth it in the long run. I am sure there are women who spend week 39 of pregnancy doing wholesome, educational activities with their current children but lets ignore them and get on with our own less Pintrest worthy lives.
Second Make the living room a giant bed. I don’t know why kids are so excited by a duvet being downstairs but they are. This is ideal for Winter pregnancies, bring your duvet down (it has to be yours kids duvets don’t work the same magic for some reason) get a pile of kids books and toys and make a game of lying on the couch – combined with idea number one this works wonders. The big thing don’t let anyone guilt you for lying around all day, if you are facing pregnancy complications then you HAVE to rest.
Finally and most difficult of all ask for help. If you have friends and family around don’t wait for them to offer – just ask. Chances are they will be happy to help even if it’s only taking one child to lessen the load (a wriggly toddler going out for a few hours feels like a holiday when you are a mum of many!).
Next Time – Part Two – Birth Past Number Three!