Dressing for the final trimester

Final trimester

So now we’re into autumn and winter, By now, I need more maternity clothes but at least I’m only buying for one season. I invested in some maternity jeans. I did find the younger brands…Topshop, H&M just a bit too skinny for my older body. I tried on jeans from Mamas and Papas and Next but it was M&S that worked for me. Straight leg & a mid blue. Super comfy over my growing bump. And the overbump style added an extra layer of warmth. I found H&M were great for long sleeved vests and jumpers. I also already owned a couple of long sleeved tops that were cut loose enough to fit. My Ugg Chelsea boots had a lovely cushioned sole so helped me carry the extra weight.

Seven months pregnant:

7 months

Eight months pregnant:

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At almost full term friends had an informal Christmas gathering:

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And finally, heading into hospital for my section in a standard Phase Eight top in a loosely gathered style and my Barbour jacket with a scarf to help cover the gap for my bump. Luckily, we had a mild winter & I didn’t get too big so no need for a maternity coat.

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Dressing for the second Trimester – maternity wear for older Mums

Second Trimester

It was around this stage I bought some bump bands. Just a couple of cheap ones from Debenhams and they got loads of use. If you don’t know what they are, they are stretchy bits of material that you put round your waist that cover any gaps if your tops ride up and also allow you to unbutton your trousers. Brilliant for getting more use out of your normal clothes. I also bought some of those popular printed trousers from Monsoon which handily had a stretchy waist band. I’m still wearing them. I also borrowed a pair of Mike’s jeans for a while – just rolled up the legs. And jackets and long cardi’s were great for cooler days.

Four months pregnant (yay for stretchy vests)

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Five months pregnant

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By now I’ve invested in some H&M maternity vests and t-shirts which were great value. I also bought some black maternity leggings from M&S when they had 20% off. Think they cost around £7 & they got worn loads.

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5 months

Maternity wear – first trimester

I didn’t know where to start when dressing my growing bump. I was really conscious of being around 20 years older than the average pregnant Mum so I was hardly the average customer for maternity clothes. I also didn’t want to spend a fortune on clothes that wouldn’t have a long lifespan. I considered buying from Ebay but decided against in the end. I figured most women would buy as few clothes as possible and wear them to death. So here’s how I managed in the end.

Early Days – first trimester

I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my pregnancy in the early days so didn’t really want to shout from the rooftops and we told very few people. My early weeks were in the summer so I decided to just buy some loose tops and trousers that I would be able to wear the following summer as well. I also found some of my existing vest tops were very stretchy. So no maternity wear at this stage.

Two months pregnant:

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Three months pregnant:

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Loose jackets and long cardi’s were also very useful and I wore flats throughout.

 

And we’re having a…..

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Image from Pretty Felt Things – Etsy

One of the advantages of having an NIPT is that you have the option of finding out the gender of your baby. We considered keeping the gender a surprise but, on reflection, decided that knowing what you are having helps with the planning but also, in the euphoria of giving birth, would finding out the gender of your baby on the day really add anything extra? For me, I didn’t think so. And I’m an impatient person. So we ticked the box on the form & asked the company who did our test to phone with the results of the genetic tests but to email us the full report so we could find out the gender while sat together.

I was convinced we were having a boy. I also went for some acupuncture in the early stages of pregnancy and my acupuncturist asked if I wanted to try out the ancient Chinese way of predicting gender, just for a bit of fun. She took my pulse in both wrists to feel which was stronger. It was stronger on my right which apparently meant I was having a boy. I, of course,  went home and Googled Chinese gender predictions and it said that a stronger pulse on my right hand meant a girl. Confused.com.

I was quite happy with the prospect of a boy and, with a donor egg, I figured it could mean more genes from Mike. But on the day the test results were due I woke up with an overwhelming urge for a girl. I calmed myself with the words of a friend who said she had also been desperate for a girl but finding out she was having a boy gave her the rest of her pregnancy to adjust to the idea and, of course, she adores her boy.

So Mike and I sat next to each other on the settee in the conservatory. IPad in hand and I pulled up the email and opened the attachment and we slowly scrolled down until we came to the bit that said:

Fetal sex: FEMALE

And I burst  into tears.

 

NIPT – Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing

Reading through the various forums, I heard about tests called Harmony, NIFTY and Serenity that some women were using as a more accurate way of finding out if their baby has Down’s Syndrome. I had never heard of these types of tests before so decided to do some research, which turned into a lot of research!

It seems these are all brand names for blood tests that are grouped under the umbrella term NIPT/Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing. They all work in a similar way ie. taking a sample of the mother’s blood, isolate from it the baby’s DNA which can then be analysed for Down’s Syndrome, Edwards’ Syndrome and Patau’s syndrome. The accuracy levels are really high, over 99% in most cases, which is much higher than the nuchal fold measurement/blood markers that the NHS currently use to assess risk. And unlike an amniocentesis or a CVS, which remain the only way to be 100% certain, there is no risk of miscarriage.

The downside of these tests is cost – they are between £320 – £500 and are currently only available privately (although watch this space as the NHS is considering offering a similar test to all pregnant women).

Mike and I had lots of discussions about what to do which inevitably ended up with long discussions about what we would do if the test showed our baby had Down’s Syndrome. And should we even be having the test in the first place? Would it be so bad if we did have a baby with Down’s Syndrome? Don’t people with Down’s Syndrome and other disabilities also have a contribution to make to the world? Would we really terminate our much longed for pregnancy? It’s all very well wanting to have a baby at 50yrs but how would we cope if that baby had Down’s Syndrome? Too many difficult and searching questions that we bounced around with for a good few days.

In the end we decided to go ahead which then led to even more research as there are so many tests on the market! The tests apparently do vary in the way they work but I couldn’t find a huge amount of information on this, and, even if I could, I probably wouldn’t be able to understand it. So I did a comparison based on cost, how easy it was to get the test done, accuracy levels, what they tested for and where the results are analysed. The most popular tests are analysed overseas but, when I phoned one of the providers, they suggested I consider Serenity, a test that was analysed in the UK so you get the results quicker and it was cheaper. They also offered an option where they sent me a kit in the post and I had the blood sample taken locally (thankfully my GP surgery were as helpful as ever) and posted it back to them.

Then came yet another nervous wait for a week or so before finally the results came back……completely clear of any abnormalities.

Another hurdle passed.

 

Early scans – 12 week scan

12 weeks

This feels like a real milestone of a scan. Pass this one and the risk of miscarriage drops to 1% and I felt I would finally be able to breathe again and possibly even start to believe in this pregnancy.

The sonographer, as ever, was brilliant. Friendly, informative and said immediately when she had found a heartbeat. I could have cried. At this point I was still having no symptoms, it’s still too early to feel movements so I was hanging on to every scan appointment and just hoping that nothing had gone wrong. But there was our baby, sleeping peacefully with a little heartbeat going ten to the dozen. What a wonderful sound.

We had agreed to the NHS test for Downs Syndrome and reassuringly, the sonographer mentioned there was no nuchal thickening which was a relief at the time. I looked at our notes later though and saw she had measured the nuchal fold as 2.2mm and I’d have preferred less than 2mm but we figured with a young donor, our risk should still be low. We’d just have to wait and see.

After completing the measurements she needed the sonographer had me turn on my side for a minute or so and then back and it did the trick. The baby was awake and did a little dance for us, such a beautiful sight, made us laugh and gave us images to remember. From then onwards s/he has been the “dancing baby”.

Following the scan, we saw a midwife who took a blood sample to complete the testing for Downs Syndrome and then we were on our way again, smiling and with images of our beautiful dancing baby in our minds. A great day.

 

Exercise classes: aqua natal vs yoga

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Prior to being pregnant, I was taking a weekly yoga class which I loved. I kept going for the first 6 weeks of pregnancy but then did some research and realised I should stop. Most yoga teachers advise no yoga for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and thereafter no lying on your stomach, flat on your back or strong twists. My existing class would need too many adaptations so I began looking for a local pregnancy yoga class. I did loads of online research and made a few phone calls but couldn’t find any classes at all locally for pregnant women. Big disappointment.

In the original maternity information pack there was a scrappy photocopied leaflet advertising the local council’s aqua natal class which you could join after your 12 week scan. I wasn’t sure aqua natal was for me.  I did yet more research on ANY exercise classes for pregnant women and discovered that the one hour aqua natal class on a Wednesday evening was the sum total of the local offer. So much for encouraging pregnant women to keep active!

I don’t know how you feel about aqua natal but I was very unsure, it just felt a bit dated and only offers the benefits of exercise.  Given that lots of people don’t enjoy swimming and lots of women, pregnant or otherwise, feel self-conscious in swimming costumes, then it feels even more inappropriate as the one and only activity offered by my local authority and NHS. Pregnancy yoga on the other hand includes breathing, exercise and relaxation. It teaches positions to help with pregnancy side effects such as bad backs and swollen joints, it helps get the baby in the right position for labour and you learn breathing techniques to assist with both relaxation and during labour. I started by doing quite a few YouTube pregnancy yoga tutorials but ended up buying this Tara Lee dvd which I love doing and, as an added bonus, also includes a section on hypnobirthing. Much as though I really wanted to meet other pregnant women, I felt that practising yoga by myself was the only viable option. Such a shame when there is so much emphasis on keeping fit and healthy and, for us over 50’s, that feels even more important.

On the plus side, I’m really enjoying an active pregnancy and the yoga dvd, along with some walking, gardening and housework has definitely helped me maintain a level of fitness that I’m happy with and, so far (touch wood!), I’ve had a complications-free pregnancy.

 

 

 

 

 

Booking appointment

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Following on from that first midwife appointment, I’d been sent a huge pack of information in the post, including my maternity notes and two appointments (booking appointment & the 12 week scan).

The booking appointment turned out to be a longer introductory appointment which took at least an hour. I have no idea why they call it the booking appointment and I really had no idea what to expect.

We basically went through the green “pregnancy notes” booklet filling in the sections covering contact details, who my named midwife is, if I smoke or take drugs, my employment status, my medical history, my mental health, my estimated due date and my family history. I had “primip” written across the page on previous births which I had to Google to find out means this is my first pregnancy.

The midwife, Michelle, then took blood samples testing for iron, blood group, antibodies, sickle cell, thalassaemia, rubella, hepatitis B, syphilis and HIV. Some of these I’d already had as part of the GP check up or as part of my fertility treatment so I was pretty confident there would be no nasty surprises.

I also gave my permission for the standard scans and the screening for Down’s Syndrome which would happen at 12 weeks. We went through the reasons for having the flu and whooping cough vaccinations and if I would be happy for me and the baby to receive blood if required.

Michelle talked me through some symptoms that, should they occur, I should contact the maternity unit immediately and also did a “antenatal venous thromboembolism” assessment. Thankfully age was my only risk factor noted so I came out at low risk.

We discussed diet and the importance of exercise and that I would be consultant led.

Overall it was a long but positive experience and I felt I wasn’t treated any differently at all because of my age. Although this was only my second midwife appointment, I was beginning to feel as though I would just be classed as an older Mum and essentially lumped in with all the other over 35yr olds. Such a relief!

Early scans – 9 week scan

So two weeks later, we were back at EPAU for another scan, Mike as calm as ever, me as nervous as ever and praying we would still have a heartbeat. And we did, just the one. Although the second sac was still there, it hadn’t grown, so we were confirmed as a single pregnancy with a lovely strong heartbeat and growing as expected. Such a relief.

We also found out our baby was now measuring 8 weeks and 6 days (we thought we were 9 weeks, 1 day so near enough) and is 21.3mm long, amazing that in 2 weeks s/he had grown 15mm!

We didn’t get a picture this time, though, apparently they are not really supposed to in the EPAU so we got lucky last time.

So we were on track now for the normal NHS process ie. a booking appointment and a 12 week scan. I just could not wait to get to that 12 week scan.

Early Scans – 7 weeks

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Oh my goodness, how nerve wracking are those first scans?! The early days are just so difficult as there is no way of knowing if you’re still pregnant, you just have to hope for the best. Yes, you can keep repeating pregnancy tests but the hormone HCG can remain in your body even if the pregnancy has failed so they’re only reassuring up to a point. All IVF ladies will have read stories of people turning up at those first scans only to find no heartbeat, even in cases when there was a heartbeat previously, so those early scans are both lifesavers and something to be feared.

My first scan was at around 7 weeks so the sonographer should be able to find a heartbeat. It was a real make or break appointment although something inside kept telling me all would be well. The EPAU (Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit) staff could not have been more helpful and, after a quick chat with a midwife, Mike and I were called through for the scan, another internal scan at this early stage.

The relief when the sonographer said I’ve found a heartbeat was immense and we could see it pulsating on the screen. Just the most incredible sight and the first sign that this pregnancy really was happening. I was just a little shocked by her next words, though. It seems that the embryo had split and there were two gestational sacs! The second one appeared to be empty but she wanted us back in a couple of weeks to double check we weren’t expecting twins. Now that was a shock. Although we knew it was possible a single embryo could split, we had hoped that, by having a single embryo transfer, we had minimised the chances of twins.

We had a chat on the way home and both thought the chances of the second sac developing were probably slim and, even if it did start to develop, I knew that most twin pregnancies were a singleton by the time the 12 weeks scan came around. But if it was to be twins then, so be it, we would just have to find a way to make it work.

In the meantime we would just celebrate the fact that we had a heartbeat – so far, so good.