Tag Archives: maternity

Body matters

10 May

I’m starting to get a bit fed up with people telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about.

To be fair – I don’t always. I briefly dated a sports presenter once who never introduced me to any of his sporting mates for fear I would spend the entire time asking them how the hell you score a game of cricket (40 million over 2 – what is that about? I still don’t get it).

Actually, with hindsight it could have been because he didn’t want me to find out that he was married, but that’s another story.

I’ve now locked horns with the medical profession after being told that despite having a flair up of a condition that I am already seeing a consultant for, I am not allowed to contact said consultant without first going via my GP.

“You can’t just make an appointment on your say-so”, said the apologetic nurse on the phone. It turns out that my local doctor, who has about 5000 patients in our small town, has more authority when it comes to my innards than I do. Pretty strange considering they have never even met. And the closest encounter me and my internal organs can get with him is a phone call next Tuesday morning.

It’s not the first time my body and I have ended up wearing matching dunce caps.

When I arrived at hospital in the latter stages of labour with my first child, contractions three minutes apart and beginning to feel like I was in fact a sausage factory, the midwife on duty told me to go home, take a sleeping tablet and come back in the morning. She even helpfully offered to show me a picture of “a woman who is really in labour” just in case I was missing the point of how pathetically unbelievable I was in my attempt at giving birth.

I refused both – and our son was born four hours later. My husband says I spent most of that time yelling “I told you it hurt” every time they told me to push.

The thing is, obviously i didn’t know from experience that the baby was about to stage his grand entrance. But instinctively, primevally, however you want to look at it, I had never been more sure of anything in my entire life. Every cell, every nerve ending was howling at me that this is exactly what it feels like when your cervix is the size of a carton of Dairylea (as it was delicately phrased in our antenatal classes). But nobody would listen.

I have since heard that unless you arrive at your maternity ward wailing like a banshee, you are unlikely to be taken seriously. So that is duly noted for next time. My friend Katie told me she ended up delivering her own baby for exactly this reason. Let’s hope she and I don’t ever end up in the same ward at the same time – everyone within a 50km radius of us would end up with tinnitis at the very least.

This lack of trust is not restricted to us annoying first time mums. When I mentioned the GP thing on Twitter last night my friend Olly tweeted to say he has lived with a heart condition for most of his life but still has to see the doctor to get a repeat prescription for the medication he has been on for the last 13 years.

What is going on here? Why are we – the people actually dealing whatever strange shit our bodies are trying on for size – considered to be the least able to judge what the hell is happening to us and decide what we want to do about it?

I realise the internet has a lot to answer for. You are only ever six symptoms away from a brain tumour*, no matter what you start out putting into Google (*not a fact, although it should be).

But it’s not like we are all running to A&E every time we sneeze. It would just be nice to know that, when you feel like something is happening, you’re not going to have to complete an obstacle course before you can talk to somebody who might be able to help.

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Maternity madness – aka the pregnancy post

8 Jun

From the moment I found out I was pregnant I was adamant that I wouldn’t write very much online about it. Largely because there’s far too much of this sort of thing splashing around on the net already.

But with just 2 weeks to go I’ve succumbed – I’m blaming my hormones, and/or having too much time on my hands now I’ve started maternity leave. So here are a few observations from the last 38 weeks. There may be a part 2 at some point. You have been warned.

Pregnant women on the web
Online and en masse, pregnant women are terrifying, even to me, and I am one. I have an app on my phone which charts pregnancy and includes chat forum for parents-to-be. Conversation threads include:

– my evil bastard partner didn’t buy me a mother’s day card from our unborn child
– my evil bastard friends/relatives haven’t bought what I asked them to buy me
– my evil bastard friend/relatives have/have not arranged a baby shower for me and I do/do not want one
– my evil bastard friend/relative has completely stolen my thunder by daring to fall pregnant within five years of me giving birth myself
– evil bastard people in general keep asking me when the baby is due, how dare they make conversation and talk to me about the one thing I am obsessed about myself

When they’re not attacking the world around them they turn on each other – woe betide anyone who asks a question that has already been asked in one of the 40,000 other ongoing conversations, and the woman who put a picture of her child actually in the process of being born (I have no idea why she thought this would be a good idea) has been torn limb from virtual limb for not prefacing the pic with the immortal phrase “TMI” in the title. She hasn’t been back since.

There’s also a “dads’ corner” which seems to consist almost entirely of men worrying about how they will manage to play on their Xbox 360s when the baby arrives and complaining about not getting enough sex. I kinda prefer hanging out there.

The rules change. A lot.
The last time I saw my midwife at my local health centre she took a urine sample, tested it and then gave it back to me, saying that she couldn’t dispose of it and so I had to take it home. This has never happened before (and she has done the same test each time I’ve seen her, in the same place, every 4 weeks for the last 8 months). I can only conclude that I am now weeing cryptonite and that this is somehow harmful to the people of Swanage.

There’s no school like the old-school
I’m convinced that ante-natal classes are designed by nursery school teachers, motivational speakers and Blue Peter presenters on acid. So far I’ve had a pink ping pong ball in a jam jar full of water thrust at me (apparently to represent the baby’s head in the pelvis), an empty round box of cheese triangles waved around to illustrate cervical dilation, knitted breasts (neither my partner nor I can remember them being used, they were just there on the table, like a mildly perverted centrepiece at a dinner party) and a wooden box with a paddle to demonstrate the baby’s path out of the womb. I’ve also been encouraged to “brainstorm” the membrane, the cervix and the first stage of labour with a group of other first time parents who were equally agog.

Oh, and half way through you get a glass of squash and a biscuit.

The quacks are out there
A couple of weeks ago the midwife decided the baby may be breech (ie feet down rather than head down). Her solution was to either put a bag of frozen peas where she believed the head to be, or to contact another midwife who was trained in moxibustion. This is a practice derived from acupuncture in which herbs are burned on a pregnant woman’s foot to encourage the baby to turn. The moxibustion midwife told me to “work on my priorities” when I was unable to meet her at her private clinic (her NHS appointments being, of course, fully booked). This from a woman who burns people’s feet for a living. A scan at the hospital revealed that happily the baby is in fact exactly where it should be. So I suppose my priorities are officially back in order.

Midwives vs hospital consultants
I have been under the care of both midwife and consultant because of a previous thyroid problem. From what I can see there is a mutual mistrust between the two. Probably not helped by the fact that the first time I saw the consultant, it turned out the midwife had not carried out the right blood tests for the thyroid condition. She blamed the hospital, the lab and even the courier before it could finally be admitted that she’d forgotten to do it, despite writing in my notes that she had.

When the midwife diagnosed breech, she told me the consultant would probably book me in for a caesarean on the spot and warned me to “be strong”, like having a c-section was a form of ritual humiliation rather than a medical alternative. The consultant cheerfully said nothing more than that she thought the midwife had confused baby’s head with baby’s bottom. In response the midwife now points out that the consultant still wrote “breech” with a question mark by it in my maternity notes every time I see her.

I think these relationship problems are all due to bad communication. These professionals only ever see each other in the few words they scribble in the maternity notes that the patient dutifully carries around absolutely everywhere (Seriously. You’d think in this day and age it could just be a memory stick. A rain forest has quite probably vanished thanks to my ever-expanding paper folder alone).

Of course they sound a bit abrupt, even aloof. “Breech?” doesn’t exactly give you much to go on, and being surrounded by pregnant women all the time must mean their own hormones are running riot. Perhaps it’s just not coming across in quite the way it was intended.