Week 36: Birth Centre and Party (not together)

Week 36 (the week of 27th of February) was busy busy.

Most of the week I was focused on work stuff; I still can’t believe that in a few weeks, I just won’t be going to work anymore. I can’t imagine how much my daily routine will change. Work and being productive has always been a big part of my life, and I can’t imagine what it will be like to completely shift gears. I’m afraid of getting cabin fever and being a bit lonely in the house all day, and feeling kind of disconnected from the world. As soon as we are ready, I want to take the baby out for walks and get together with my several mum friends and the other mums from the NTC antental class. I know it’s nothing to worry about now, and that maternity leave will be over in a snap. I just can’t imagine how much things will change.

A nice big highlight at the end of the week was my 36-week midwife appointment. I met with the Italian male midwife I had seen once before, and he is definitely my favourite. We heard the heartbeat and he said the baby is head down and has “dropped”. I even got to feel the baby’s head (from the outside!). That was amazing and so exciting. I’m so glad the baby is not breech since that would make me much more likely to need a c-section.

We went over my birth plan, and I was really happy to hear that the standard practices of UCLH (University College London Hospital) birth centre are just in line with what we want. I’d like to avoid medications and use active labour positions (I’m bringing my yoga mat, and they provide yoga/birth balls), and the midwife assured me they encourage all of that. He said they are quite nimble and they can deliver babies in all kinds of positions!

I also got to tour the birth centre! I hadn’t seen it before and I really wanted to see what it was like. All of my appointments have been at UCLH which I am glad about since I’m already familiar with the hospital from being there so much. To clarify, UCLH has a birth centre on the third floor, run by midwives, and this is where I will give birth if everything is healthy and uncomplicated.

The setting was quite nice and I was happy to get a preview: there are large private rooms to labour in, and two of the rooms have labour pools (large bath tubs). I’m not sure if I would want to actually give birth in the pool (I’ll see how it’s going in the moment), but I would like to labour in the pool. The nurse who toured me around was lovely and I really appreciate that their approach is so progressive. I’m going to try to get through labour without any meds, relying on breathing and hypnobirthing, yoga and massage, the birth pool, the TENS machine (something I had never heard of before, but seems common in the UK and Australia) and gas and air. If I have complications and things are too hard, I’ll be open-minded, and if there is any risk to the baby then of course we’ll do whatever is needed to move birth along.

If a c-section is needed or if I want an epidural or opiates (!), I would need to transfer to the labour ward for a delivery under obgyns. Once you go to the labour ward, the likelihood of further medical interventions rises, so I want to stick with the birth centre and midwife approach if possible. However, I am really happy the birth centre is co-located in the hospital with the labour ward, so if any complications do arise, I can quickly get medical care. UCLH has a really good reputation in London and the UK so I know I am in good hands there.

Once the baby arrives, it is also important to me that we have skin-to-skin contact right away, that we delay cord clamping and that we breastfeed, and it sounds like that is all very standard protocol in the birth centre. I’m so glad to hear that because I might be wrong, but the impression I’ve gotten is that in the US, you really need to advocate if you want the hospital to “let” you do these things (depending on the hospital). This whole experience has made me think a lot about medical institutions and differences between health care in the US and UK. I’ve always thought of doctors and hospitals as authorities who can tell you what to do, but I’ve come to understand a lot more about patients’ rights and our options to choose what we want as long as things are healthy. I’m glad to hear that UCLH seems to support that. The NTC classes we took support this line of thinking as well.

For recovery, if I stay in the birth centre we would get a private room, and depending on what time of day it is, could be discharged within six hours! More likely, we’d stay one night and then go home. However, if there are any complications or if the baby needs extra support, we would need to move to the labour ward for recovery in a shared ward with four mothers to a room (separated by curtains). Obviously hoping for no complications, but at the end of the day, a healthy baby is the most important thing.

The other fun news this week was we had a small party at our house on Saturday. This was a really fun opportunity to get together with friends and family before the baby arrives, and it was our first time entertaining in our flat. We were nervous since our flat isn’t very large and we’ve not really hosted people much in the past, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and it was really lovely to see our friends and chat all night. I made non-alcoholic elderflower cocktails, brownies and salty oat cookies, and Andy made these goat cheese leek crostinis that went down a treat, along with wine, beer, negronis, cheese, hummus, crudités, charcuterie, etc. My brother John and Tina and Ciara and Jack even came in from Oxfordshire and it was so much fun to see them and catch up; we’re so lucky to both have siblings living in the UK.

We didn’t take any photos during the party, but snapped a few before the guests arrived.

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And, the weather is finally turning to spring! So excited to be having a spring bébé and looking forward to lots of walks in Clissold Park with the baby.

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Week 36 Summary

Baby Size

Crenshaw melon, whatever that is.

Symptoms

  • Definitely more Braxton-Hicks contractions.
  • Definitely more tired.

Workouts

One cardio/strength video; one pregnancy yoga class; several long walks plus squats and yoga/stretching on my own. My hips have been super tight and I feel weird and lethargic from sitting at a desk all day and not working out nearly as much as I used to, but I know it’s only temporary.

Weight Gain

I saw varying numbers on the scale this week, but one day I was up 19 pounds! Not worried about weight gain anymore. I read most women gain the most in the second trimester, but for me it has been really inconsistent.

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