Part 15 - the Trials and Tribulations of Pregnancy

I absolutely loved being pregnant, it had felt like a long time in coming, and I was keen to enjoy every part of it. That’s not to say it was without its challenges, not at all, pregnancy is rife with them, at least that’s my experience, but it was all a novelty to me that first time. 

The first trimester was certainly tough going - the morning sickness, the inherent tiredness and the miscarriage scare.  So too the need to pee all the time. It was crazy how often I needed to go to the toilet during the night, sometimes as much as six times! I didn’t realise initially that this need to pee is often one of the first signs of pregnancy, no one had mentioned that to me, but then no one had mentioned much to me about pregnancy, beyond the morning sickness.

This excessive need to pee seemed to be an on/off theme throughout the pregnancy depending on the hormonal changes taking place at any one time and the positioning of the baby in the growing uterus, which at times pressed on the bladder. The peeing at night thing got so ridiculous that I even stopped drinking water in the early evening and tried to reduce my consumption of high-water content vegetables and salads, as I was convinced this was compounding the situation but it seemed to make little difference.

The peeing thing certainly was my main concern when it came to our festival camping that summer too.  It wasn’t so bad at the Sark Folk Festival as we were camped in a field and I could easily pee to the side of the field without disturbing anyone else. It’s actually rather pleasant peeing outside in the darkness of the night, with the stars above and the sound of the sea in the distance.

Womad was a bit trickier. The campsite was rammed with tents so I took along a bucket and used that in the tent during the night instead. There was no way I was traipsing all the way to the communal toilets and risking tripping over tent pegs and ropes in the process. It felt a tad awkward the next morning, going to empty my bucket, but we were up earlier than most as I certainly wasn’t partying late into the night!

There was a respite during the second trimester when the peeing was replaced with indigestion and heart burn. The indigestion is partly caused by hormonal changes, and in later pregnancy by the growing uterus pressing on the stomach. Heartburn on the other hand is caused by stomach acid passing from the stomach into the oesophagus and is really rather debilitating.

The heartburn certainly challenged me because it didn’t seem to matter how healthily I ate; I’d still end up with this horrible burning sensation in my throat. I finally figured out that apples, pitta bread and eating my lunch at my desk aggravated it so I avoided that. The only way I could ever seem to relieve it was by chewing gum or, if that didn’t work, taking Gaviscon.  Neither options were ideal but it got to the point where I didn’t care too much, and I was almost overdosing on Gaviscon at times, anything to feel some relief.

There were nights where I had to try and sleep virtually upright, supported by a whole heap of pillows to ease the burning sensation in my throat. I had to adjust my yoga practice too, and ensure I didn’t eat for a good while before getting onto my mat. E got sick of hearing me moaning about it, but it’s one of those things that unless you’ve experienced it you don’t realise how unbearable it can be, especially when it happens day in and day out and you feel powerless to change it. 

Then all of a sudden the heartburn disappeared and I became consumed by the discomfort of constipation instead. Like most, I loathe being constipated as it makes me feel so yucky and I have always tried to do what I can from a diet and lifestyle perspective to support my digestive system and ensure regular bowel movement. I drank lots of water, ate short grain brown rice, consumed soaked linseeds, took probiotics, and practiced yoga poses which are meant to ease constipation but none of these approaches seemed to make any difference.

The trouble is, during pregnancy you experience an increase in the hormone progesterone, which relaxes the smooth muscles throughout the body, including the digestive tract. This means that food passes through the intestines more slowly. This can be compounded later on in the the pregnancy by the pressure of the growing uterus on the rectum. Iron supplements, particularly in high doses can often make constipation worse, which was one reason I wanted to avoid them if I could.

But alas not.  My iron levels dipped during the pregnancy, probably a result of my vegetarian diet and also the fact the baby takes whatever minerals and vitamins it needs from the mother, often leaving her with diminished supplies.  I was prescribed iron tablets but these made me feel horrible so I stopped taking them and tried to do what I could through my diet to increase my iron levels instead.  I supplemented with iron water and Floradix liquid iron, but I was never sure these were effective.

It wasn’t all grey clouds though, there were lots of silver linings too. These conditions were all very annoying but were hugely overridden by the joy of being pregnant in the first place.  Here I was growing a real life human being inside of me, it was both magical and mysterious.  I’m astounded to this day that my body knew how to do this without me giving it any thought and without me having to truly get involved in the process – well beyond the conception and eating well.  That in itself is nothing short of a miracle!

Throughout my pregnancy I continued with my usual workload, teaching yoga, channelling Reiki and working in the office part-time.  In addition to trying to practice regular yoga nidra, I also tried to make an effort to rest during the day but resting has never come easily to me and I was grateful for the summer sun sun as it encouraged me to lie down and bathe in it.  I had to be careful though because skin becomes more sensitive to the sun during pregnancy due to rising hormone levels and is at greater risk of burning.

I found swimming invaluable while I was pregnant. During the summer I made the most of sea swimming, something which we do all year around anyway, but which became essential while pregnant, to cool down and take the weight off. It’s an exceptional leveller as you cannot help but feel more grounded, energised and uplifted after being in the sea, especially at my favourite South coast bays nestled by the stunning cliffs.

I swam in a swimming pool too to keep myself fit, and also to ease the strange sensation of the skin stretching to accommodate the growing baby. I have scar tissue from surgery many years ago now when my gallbladder was removed, and the expanding bump had to stretch through this.  At times it felt extremely uncomfortable like the skin itself would split (to the extent I thought maybe I should see a doctor) and swimming seemed to be the only thing to ease this.

While the discomfort of the stretching skin finally eased, I then experienced times where the skin over my tummy would feel really itchy and I’d find myself scratching incessantly. I massaged an organic Vitamin E oil onto my tummy each night, which I believe helped to keep the skin supple and prevented stretch marks forming during the pregnancy. It’s incredible that the skin can stretch as it does and contract back again afterwards.

As my stomach grew, I became increasingly aware of the baby’s movements. Its fairly remarkable that you get to feel the baby moving inside your tummy and it freaked E out. My Mum on the other hand loved putting her hand on my tummy and channelling Reiki and feeling her grandchild kick. It was an active baby and there was certainly lots of kicking at all times of day and night.

Sometimes it felt that I had a foot wedged up in my diaphragm so it made it difficult and uncomfortable to breathe, and other times it was back to the pressure in my bladder as the baby pressed down on it. I loved watching my tummy move, this was particularly obvious in the bath but often when I was sunbathing too.  S/he responded to Reiki almost immediately and it was a constant source of comfort to be able to feel the baby move so easily so that I knew it was literally alive and kicking.

What astounded me most was all the attention I received while pregnant, and the fact that the general public treat you so differently to how they treat you ordinarily.  Complete strangers would remark on the bump and ask after my health and wellbeing as well as enquiring into my due date and the sex of the baby – and often telling me what sex they thought the baby would be on account of the shape of my bump. It was quite extraordinary and rather entertaining at times too.

Consequently, I felt supported and cared for in a way that I have never felt previously.  Doors were held open, chairs were provided, people would offer to carry things for me - my students were great, someone would always meet me when I arrived at class to help carry things up the stairs, and in the the office the boys wouldn’t even let me empty the shredding bins – and generally people were rather lovely to me. It was marvellous and made me consider how wonderful the world would be if we were all treated with such courtesy and compassion every day!

I received lots of attention from the medical world too. Initially of course there was the IVF and the early pregnancy scans this brought with it, then the miscarriage scare and the additional scan for this, and then the placenta Previa. This meant yet more scans and appointments with the specialist to discuss the birth and what might happen if I began bleeding before then.  And of course there were the midwife appointments, which increased in frequency as the pregnancy progressed.

Since discovering the holistic approach to healing and wellbeing years earlier, I had become increasingly resistant to the allopathic world. I rarely needed to see the doctor, and tried to take the natural approach at every opportunity, embracing the concept of healing thyself.  I have always felt that there is an emotional/mental/spiritual perspective to any illness, and no amount of pharmaceutical drugs will resolve this without also making changes to our lifestyle and way of thinking etc.

So the fact I was now under the care of the allopathic world of specialists didn’t fill me with much joy and while I had little choice, I was resistant. I was still so angry about the placenta Previa, and while I appreciated that in the past, without scans and specialists, I would most certainly die at childbirth and probably the baby would die too, I couldn’t truly open my heart to the care being provided.

I was still very much caught in the ‘us/them’ world, which when I reflect back is laughable. There I was trying to be an open minded, non-judgemental yoga teacher and holistic practitioner, and yet I was being exactly the opposite – close minded and judgmental.  I could only see ‘my way’ and felt that any other way lacked the spirit of birth.

Unconsciously, I also felt I knew best and I was disapproving of anyone else’s perspective on it.  I was sick of people telling me it was all about the safety and wellbeing of the baby.  “What about me?”, I wanted to say to them, “don’t I get a say in this? What about my dreams, what about the spiritual homebirth and the orgasmic birthing and spiritual insights and awakenings that a vaginal birth can bring?”.

But the thing is, with placenta Previa you don’t get a say in anything as it’s a life threatening condition and that is what frustrated me.  I had no choice and I blamed anyone I could blame for this. I felt cheated of my dream and I loathed the fact that the allopathic world was telling me that the baby needed to be delivered early and that due to my condition there wouldn’t be the opportunity for delayed cord clamping. It was infuriating.

Admittedly, while it would’ve been easy to lose heart and get awfully infuriated with the Universe and the angels, this whole sorry situation encouraged me to drop deeper into my spiritual practice to maintain my grounding. There were moments of course when I did get thoroughly depressed and I felt that the Universe and the angels had it in for me, but actually this was a necessary part of the process, and a surrendering often accompanied this.

In practice what this meant is that I reached the end of my tether and broke down in tears, sobbing on my yoga mat until there were no more tears to sob and praying for help from the angels. I was done with trying to control things (which is an illusion any way) and was passing it on to the powers that be, and in so doing, there was often a form of awakening – it was like the old had to crumble to make way for the new.

I continued to channel Reiki to myself as much as I could and especially onto the growing baby. This was certainly going to be a Reiki baby and I was excited about what this might mean in terms of future behaviour and sensitivity to energy etc. Although I wasn’t sure how much of that would be due to the Reiki or to genetic and energetic disposition, let alone part-life experience and Akashic records.

I also received Reiki regularly from a fellow Reiki practitioner, especially as the birth date approached.  I felt that the Reiki helped to keep me on relatively even keel during this unsettling time and encouraged rest and healing too. I always felt so much better after a session, and truly believe that every pregnant lady should receive Reiki during their pregnancy.  It’s deeply relaxing, non-invasive, very gentle and benefits both mother and baby.

What also helped was spending time in nature. I walked regularly through the lanes near our cottage, and out on the stunning cliffs, often with E in tow.  I have fond memories of the time we spent together walking and often chatting about how our lives were about to change, and yet neither of us really having any idea of the extent of that change. I don’t know that you can ever appreciate the magnitude of the change for you until you’ve experienced it first hand.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with my Mum one day about how things might or might not change.  We were out walking and chatting excitedly about life with the baby and about how I was going to manage my workload. I distinctly remember hearing myself say “but it can’t be that difficult, all babies do is sleep, feed and poo, I’ll have plenty of time to work”.  She tried to manage my expectation but I was truly in denial.

By then I’d bought a lot of the stuff that friends had suggested I may need when the baby arrived. It certainly was a lot. E wasn’t involved in this process as I think it was all too much for him; life really was changing! We were fortunate that we bought most of our stuff second hand from a family friend, which helped keep our costs down. You can get really carried away with all this and I now know that actually you need very little for a baby.

We bought brand new flat pack furniture for the baby’s room as I felt the baby should have something new. I’ll never make that mistake again.  I thought I was being a wonderfully clever Mummy putting it all together one weekend all on my own, but the truth is, it wasn’t much of an investment as its never worked properly and I’ve no idea why I thought I needed furniture specifically for a baby, because we’ve actually got quite a lot of stuff to try and fit into it!

I initially made a mistake with pregnancy clothes too. Someone had told me to simply buy clothes in a bigger size, but in my opinion this was rubbish advice.  You can’t beat the comfort of proper maternity clothes and while it feels a waste of money to buy these for such a short period of time, it was well worth it from my experience. I was lucky as some clothes were donated to me and to be honest, I just got used to wearing the same things all the time, it was no big deal.

Pregnancy is funny because sometimes it seems to drag on – certainly when I was suffering morning sickness or waiting anxiously for a scan.  Then other times you just want it to last forever – I’m thinking of the second trimester and lolling around on yoga mats, sunbeds and at festivals. And then towards the end of the pregnancy, I got to a point where I was ready to get on with it and meet the new life growing inside of me.

Ordinarily, unless you have a planned Caesarean section you don’t know when this might be and there’s lots of excited anticipation around this, not only for the expectant mother but for family and friends too.  I didn’t get to experience this though as I knew in advance the day the baby would be arriving and I wasn’t altogether happy about this.

I did not want the baby being dragged out of its cosy home without any warning, without it being ready, without it being squeezed through the birth canal and gaining the benefits of this - not least in releasing the hormone epinephrine, which clears fluids from the lungs and reduces the likelihood of respiratory issues, but also in exposing the baby to beneficial bacteria to reduce the chances of the baby developing asthma, food allergies and lactose intolerance in later life.

I also didn’t want the cord cut early, nor the baby to miss out on immediate skin to skin and all the benefits that both these practises bring to the future health and wellbeing of the baby and indeed me. I also didn’t want to be in a position where I couldn’t breast feed the baby following the birth and therefore unintentionally create any bonding issues as a result of not being able to do this.

I also didn’t want to be in a hospital, I didn’t want surgery, I didn’t want to take drugs, especially antibiotics which would destroy all the good bacteria in my gut and potentially lead to all sorts of digestive issues let alone mental and emotional issues too. I also didn’t want to have to spend weeks recovering, not able to drive, not able to lift anything and not able to exercise or get on my mat. And nor did I want to feel like a failure because of all this.

So it was with a very heavy heart that I sat with E in the specialist’s office as a date was agreed for the planned Caesarean section.  It was another one of those moments that I’ll never forget. The specialist wanted to deliver the baby at approximately 38.5 weeks and with this awareness, he looked in his diary to figure out the date this would be and whether there was any theatre availability. He concluded that 12th November would work very nicely for him; how did we feel about this? 

Well it was a rhetorical question really and it struck me, that a medical professional could choose the date to bring your baby Earth side, depending on his work schedule and theatre availability, and with that affect its horoscope and its future life path depending upon the positioning of the planets on that day.

But there you go.  The date was set.  That was that. It would seem that rather than bringing a Sagittarius into the world, which would have been the case if the baby arrived on his/her due date, we would be bringing a Scorpio into the world instead. Now I just needed to make it until the date without any bleeding and without going into early labour.