The Pregnant Midwife – the second trimester

I am now well into my third trimester and so this blog is a little late in coming; time is going so fast at the moment. I was very glad to start feeling better by around 15 weeks pregnant, just in time for a 2 week holiday camping in the South of France (that’s me relaxing there above), which in hindsight would have been a nightmare if the nausea had continued! The only real symptom I still retained was needing to wee at all hours of the night, and so, worried about the middle-of-the-night walk to the toilet block I purchased a ‘she-wee‘. . . in the end I became good at timing my last drink of the day so it was barely used, but what a great invention for such a situation!!

The rest of the second trimester has zoomed by and, I am happy to say, been fairly uneventful. I took up pregnancy yoga when I returned from holiday, and met some new friends locally who I am sure will become great sources of support when we all have our babies in the next couple of months. As a midwife, I’ve seen how important support is in those first weeks and months with a new baby, which is not as easy to come by now that most people live some distance from their families. In the past couple of years we have cared for some Indian families who have very definite cultural traditions around supporting the new mother and family: many will be looked after for a period of 40 days, with all of their meals freshly prepared, cleaning and washing completed and little else to do but focus on recovery and feeding their new arrival. While I am not sure having my parents living in our two-bed flat for 40 days would be that agreeable to either party (love you mum and dad!), I have seen the effect that such a level of support can have on a woman’s recovery. There is so much focus now on ‘bouncing back’ after child birth; even if you (or I!) have a caesarean section (ie. major abdominal surgery) we will be encouraged to be on our feet and moving around within hours after the procedure. I have read a number of articles recently talking about how important it is that women get out of the house in the days following birth, but I do sometimes wonder whether this pressure to be back to normal so quickly has the opposite effect than is intended. No matter how we give birth, the body and mind take time to recover and adjust. We often offer a gentle warning to our clients planning a home birth to remember that this recovery process still needs to take place, and to take time to rest and re-cooperate in the days following birth, however ‘easy’ their birth may have been. Hopefully in a few weeks time this will be advice that I will remember for myself!

Something I have been asked a number of times during the second trimester and beyond has been whether I am nervous about giving birth, given all of things I will have seen both during my training and as a qualified midwife. In my role as an independent midwife, I am lucky that most of the births I support are calm and empowering experiences for the labouring woman and her family, and I am truly grateful that I became a midwife before embarking on pregnancy and motherhood myself. But even when things do not go exactly to plan, the difference between a traumatic experience and one which does not leave lasting effects on the mother and the bond with her new baby seems to be about choice and control. A woman who is still able to make choices about how she births her baby, even if she needs a level of intervention like an epidural or a caesarean section, can still have an empowering and positive experience. This could be as simple as wanting to mobilise near the bed once an epidural has been sited, or to be in all fours on the bed rather than on the back (most epidurals are ‘low-dose’ now, allowing for full range of movement), or requesting skin-to-skin contact with baby immediately following a caesarean section. In the case of any intervention being offered, there is usually always time (unless it is a serious emergency requiring a fast response) to ask for 5 minutes to discuss options with a partner, doula or other supporting person. There are many people out there (including some midwives) who believe that birth plans are pointless given the unpredictable nature of birth, but there will always be elements of our care which we can still have a say in, even in the most difficult births. For this reason my husband and I will absolutely be making a birth plan with our wonderful midwife Angela (had to get a mention in there somewhere..!), and I would encourage anyone else out there to do the same, even if it is just a short bulleted list of the things that are most important to you and your partner.

My apologies that this blog hasn’t been very second trimester-specific, but I am personally very glad not to have had to write about ways to alleviate all of the terrible symptoms I have been having – let’s see if I can keep it up for the next installment! :)

Tami x