Part 5: The birth plan and... FAMILY DRAMA!
There's been some family drama on the pregnancy front! I'll come back to that later in the blog, cause it did amuse me... In the meantime, the good news is that my wife Daisy's sickness and nausea - which she suffered from pretty badly in the first trimester - is now fading. She'll be 16 weeks soon, so hopefully she'll get to enjoy the second trimester a bit more than she did the first.
She's really starting to 'show' now and has a beautiful bump appearing... She's also excitedly bought her first proper maternity outfits from sellers on the 'Vinted' app (tip: there are some real maternity clothing bargains on there!)
She looks amazing and I couldn't be prouder of her. Best of all, she thinks she felt 'Sprout' (the nickname we've given our baby) move for the first time the other day. I wished I could have felt Sprout too - my turn will have to wait until he or she is just a bit bigger.
So - fingers crossed - all is looking pretty good on the pregnancy front right now. Let's hope it stays that way!
Choosing a birth plan: home or hospital?
The last few days have seen Daisy and I watching Yorkshire Midwives On Call together.
For those of you that haven't seen it, you really should! It's an outstanding reality TV series on BBC2 that shadows Bradford's inspirational home-birth midwifery team on a day-to-day basis as they carry out their jobs; their goal simply to support mothers through pregnancies that culminate with a home delivery if viable.
I must admit, when discussing our birth plan with Daisy, we quickly ruled out a home birth.
The prospect of it scared me shitless. Not because our next-door neighbours would likely peer through the window just as Sprout pops out of Daisy's vagina (which I'll bet they would). Or because our cottage is small and the only available space Daisy could deliver in would be in front of our herd of (likely startled) guinea pigs.
More because Daisy is about to turn 37 and - as this is her first baby - we felt it would probably be safer for Sprout to be born in the 'Brats and Twats' unit at a local hospital than at home (yep, we've also been watching Ben Whishaw star as Dr Kay in the fabulously entertaining but frighteningly realistic 'This Is Going To Hurt'!)
We were thus given a choice of two maternity units by our community midwife: at either Peterborough or Hinchingbrooke Hospitals.
We did some careful research before making a decision.
Hinchingbrooke was an easier (but slightly longer) journey straight down the A1. There is ample parking there. And you don't have to drive through a city, or even through Huntingdon town centre, to reach it.
I thought to myself, if Daisy has a quick labour, the ease of access and the simplicity of the drive to Hinch more than compensated for the more complex though shorter journey from our house to the middle of Peterborough.
Getting feedback from other mums
We also thought to get feedback from other mums who'd given birth at those hospitals.
Now, Daisy is a bit of a social media queen, so she joined a number of pregnancy / baby groups on Facebook and asked if anyone had experiences in either hospital they could pass on that would help us choose. I also asked a few colleagues who've had kids locally what they thought.
Generally, both hospitals got excellent feedback in terms of the birthing units. There was little doubt that top-class midwives and doctors work at both, if perhaps Peterborough was slightly more resource-stretched.
However, one or two not-so-positive stories emerged about immediate post-natal care at Peterborough from mums who'd had c-sections. While this could possibly be due to staff resource issues related to Covid, in contrast nobody had a bad word to say about Hinchingbrooke. In fact, most of the feedback about the maternity unit there was glowing: 'lovely midwives', 'great doctors', 'terrific team', 'very supportive and friendly', a 'family hospital'.
So it was that we opted for Hinch and booked in our 12-week scan and consultation with the team there (which actually happened on 13 weeks and one day!)
First visit to our birth hospital & 12-week scan
Our first visit to Hinch was nothing short of wonderful. We were superbly looked after. The receptionists were friendly and welcoming. Sharon - a midwife turned sonographer who conducted the scan - was reassuring, kind and ultra-professional. She explained things superbly well.
The scan - and I have to say, I find these scans anxiety inducing - was fine. Sprout's appendages were where they should be and we could see what I thought were the frontal lobes of the brain forming, as well as the heart beating away, all four chambers clearly visible.
Importantly, Sprout was also the right size related to age.
After the scan, we went through into a consultation area to talk to a couple of the other midwives on the team. They checked Daisy's blood pressure (it's very low!) and took some blood to run routine tests.
There was no rushing about. No drama. The waiting room had loads of space in it. There was no stress. Everybody had smiles on their faces and were calm... plus, we were encouraged to ask as many questions as we liked, without being hurried out of the door to accommodate the next person.
It was the NHS at its best - empathetic staff with real expertise, which was especially important to us in the light of the maternity scandal to hit the NHS in recent weeks.
We paid to have some images from the scan printed out, were presented with a folder full of support details, then headed home, stopping at a Starbucks on the way back to talk things through. We both agreed that, even though we'd not been to the Peterborough mat unit, we'd made the right call for us.
And the right call for Sprout.
We also agreed that we would book a private 16-week scan to check the health of baby again and also - dare I say it - confirm its gender.
When we told our families this, it created what might be best described as a 'minor rumpus' among one or two of them, who we suddenly found out were strongly of the belief that no parent should find out what gender their baby is before it's born! And that they wanted it to be a surprise following birth, not via a confetti canon firing either pink or blue bits of paper all over a room!
Anyway, to cut a long story short, while I am not averse at all to listening to advice offered by anyone who's already been through pregnancy and birth (in fact I am very grateful for it) I'm also firmly of the decision that a call like this is that of the parents and the parents alone.
So to that end, in order for the family member concerned to hopefully retain her ignorance of Sprout's gender until the actual day of birth, both Daisy and I had to 'unfriend' her on Facebook!
We all laugh about it now and everything is cool, but I have little doubt that as the pregnancy progresses, we'll encounter more well-meaning advice and opinion from friends and family.
I suppose that comes with the territory!
All being well, next week we will have moved past the 16-week stage and will know whether we're having a boy or a girl. We'll also have met our community midwife for the first time. So I'll report back on that and also talk about how fellow dads have started winding me up by passing on horror stories about things like 'poonamis', 'norovirus' 'projectile vomit' and various other fun things Daisy and I have to look forward to in those early weeks and months of pregnancy after Sprout arrives.
I can't wait to write about it!