Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The Best Laid Plans in Pregnancy...

Pregnancy is a great time of change - physical, emotional, practical - and a certain degree of planning  is generally required in order to help prepare for the life-altering arrival of a little one. Making lists and ticking tasks off as you complete them can help you feel more in control of what is largely an unknown situation, and putting practicalities in place certainly helps to settle the soul ahead of the anticipated major life event.

Some people are extremely detailed with their planning, leaving little or nothing to chance, whilst others prefer to plot out the main points but leave the finer elements flexible. I am in the latter camp; whilst I like to have the fundamental factors clear in my mind and on paper, I don't want to get bogged down in the minutiae as I think many of the smaller details are subject to change beyond our control anyway.

And, as is often the case in life, even the best laid plans can go completely to pot in a split second. Sometimes, if you have invested effort and consideration into putting a painstaking plan in place, you can end up more disappointed or traumatised when it goes tits-up all of a sudden than if you had allowed for some flexibility.

That said, even with a 'go-with-the-flow' attitude, we all imagine the way we expect events will unfold in our heads and any disruption to or deviation from that can be a source of distress.

This is the boat in which I currently find myself, on several counts.

Firstly, my husband and I specifically decided to come to London for the final 2 months of my pregnancy to escape the oppressive desert heat of Dubai, so that I would be comfortable in more temperate weather and able to take nice long walks in the park and by the river every day, staying active right up until labour. As it happens, we find ourselves in the midst of the hottest June the UK has experienced on record for the past 25+ years, with London and the South East bearing the brunt of the heatwave. At 34 weeks and 4 days pregnant, this 30 Celsius (feels like 40) London heat is melting me. I can't go anywhere comfortably. I can't even sit in my own home comfortably. My hands and feet are throbbing, and I'm frequently found sitting with my feet in a bucket of ice cold water. Thank goodness my husband is a fussy sleeper and can't nod off without air conditioning - whatever the weather - so we had already purchased a portable unit for the bedroom on our first day. Otherwise there is no way I would've been getting any sleep during this hot spot either.

So that's the first well-intentioned plan which has gone well and truly out of the window.

Next up is the matter of our private health insurance, which conveniently expired at the end of May. We knew this would happen, of course, and had planned to renew it immediately - which shouldn't have been an issue at all - but it has become one. The insurance is issued as part of a 'corporate package' to all employees (and their families) of the company my husband is employed by. This is standard; in fact it is a legal requirement for private companies in the UAE to provide private healthcare to their employees. It's a wonderful benefit and I'm not complaining at all, but unfortunately the company has been slow to activate the renewal of the corporate package, thus leaving us all without valid health insurance cover until now. We're not entirely sure what the hold-up is from the company's side, and even though my husband has attempted to renew my insurance as an individual off his own back, apparently it is not possible.

Cue the private Maternity wing at which I am due to deliver next month, suddenly demanding payment in full for the care package THIS WEEK! Great. Luckily we are fortunate enough to be in a position whereby we CAN self-pay the full amount if necessary and then later claim it back from the insurance company once our policy is renewed, but many others wouldn't necessarily have that option to fall back on. Either way, it is an expense we hadn't planned to pay out of our own pockets at this precise moment. But needs must.

Nothing, however, could have prepared us for the complete capitulation of the best laid plans, as an entirely unexpected piece of news came through at the start of this week. A curveball hurled from so far left-field that it has knocked me out of the park.

On Sunday, my husband received an official call-up to the 1-year national military service, due to report for duty on 1st August. My due date is 29th July. He immediately had to fly back to Dubai on getting the call-up, in order to enlist and go through all the medical assessments and psychological evaluations prior to the start of service date. This is the first time they have initiated military service call-ups for August; usually new recruits are taken on in January.

It will mean an initial 45-day cold turkey period with absolutely NO communication whatsoever. No phones, no emails, not even pigeon post. Nothing. The prospect of facing 45 days without talking to my beloved husband - my best friend, my soulmate, my world - either when I have just delivered our first baby, or even when I am delivering our first baby, if he arrives late, fills me with absolute dread and horror. Following the 45-day radio silence, there will be a further 4 months of being locked up at the military camp and sometimes being allowed out at weekends. Then a further 8 months of daily commutes to the military base.

My emotions and hormones had been so wonderfully stable since we came to London; every day was a happy day and a tear couldn't have been further away from my eyes, but since getting this news on Sunday I've been an oversensitive bag of weeping. As I mentioned in a previous post, we knew my husband would be in a training camp somewhere in Central Europe from mid-July for just under a month, but that he would be allowed to leave and come straight to me in London once I went into labour. Now that is not the case. There are no exceptions made to the 45-day lockdown. There are no delays to the start of service date.

What should be the most exciting and love-filled time of our lives has now been turned upside down into one of the most unsettling. I can't really get my head around what is to come and how I will handle it at the moment; it's still such a fresh shake-up to our 'best laid plans' and my husband having to hop on a plane and fly away last night was not something I had ever anticipated, let alone the rest of it. I know he has to respond to the call of duty and I'm very proud of him and what he will be doing, but for our fledgeling little family, the timing literally could not be any worse.

So, as is the theme of this (long, rambling, sometimes ranty and overemotional - my apologies!) blog post; you can plan for what you THINK is every eventuality, you can prepare for multiple scenarios, but in the end there is always a possibility that something could flash like a bolt from the blue and your only option is to react on the spot and deal with it as it happens. I suppose it will at least serve as good training for the unpredictability of life with a new baby.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

A 7-hour flight with a 30-week bump

We leave as two, and will return as three...!

I've been MIA from posting lately as I've been busy getting settled into London life for the final stretch of my pregnancy... But despite the delay, I thought it would be worth writing about my experience of travelling whilst heavily pregnant, as it may be helpful or interesting for some of you.

So, we flew from Dubai to London exactly 10 days ago, when I was 30+1. In the days leading up to our departure I had my final appointment at Medcare Women & Children's Hospital with my OB-GYN, during which I passed the dreaded GTT (glucose tolerance) test with flying colours, and the doctor issued me with a 'Fit to Fly' certificate to present when asked by the airline during my impending travels. It's generally required by all airlines from 26 weeks of pregnancy onwards, but you may even be asked to show it earlier than that depending on how pregnant you actually look.

My doctor also prescribed me an Innohep injection to be taken just before flying; it's used as a 24hr blood thinner to prevent the risk of DVT (deep vein thrombosis) and is recommended before  any flight of over 4hrs in the later stages of pregnancy. Mine was administered at the hospital by a nurse into my thigh at 11pm, before a 5am flight the next morning. I didn't feel any effects of it and it's apparently a very normal injection with minimal risk of any side effects, so I was more than comfortable to take it.

The prospect of a 7hr flight from Dubai to London rarely fills anyone with joy, but factor in being really quite pregnant and also having booked a connecting flight via Doha rather than travelling direct, and it is safe to say I was rather looking forward to the whole transit part being over. I made sure to wear my most comfortable Topshop maternity leggings, a big baggy sweater, and my absolute favourite shoes to wear during pregnancy: Yeezys. I know they're overhyped and overpriced but there is really nothing more heavenly for those swollen pregnant feet.

Checking in at the Qatar Airways desk in Dubai International Airport was a breeze - even with our total of 100kg luggage between my husband and I - and nobody even seemed to notice I was preganant. The flight to Doha was a short and sweet 1 hour in First Class, but once we arrived in Doha the fun and games began. A shepherd from the airport was waiting for us as soon as we stepped off the plane, and proceeded to hurry us to the other side of the terminal - without a buggy - as he said our connecting flight was waiting for us. He also didn't notice I was pregnant and was rushing ahead whilst I struggled to keep up. We finally reached the boarding gate with much huffing and puffing on my part, and the shepherd informed us that there may not be time to transfer our baggage from the first plane to the second as the transit time was so short. Great.

We raced through the gate, believing that we were the only two holding up the entire flight, only to find that takeoff was to be delayed by at least an hour for a totally unrelated reason. So we rushed for nothing, and I sacrificed a bathroom trip for nothing. We sat in the holding pen at the gate with all other passengers for over an hour, with no access to any bathrooms - the worst prospect to face when you have a 1.5kg baby nestling against your bladder!

Eventually we boarded and yet again nobody from the airline appeared to even notice I was pregnant - so my Fit to Fly certificate went totally unused. As soon as we reached cruising altitude I reclined my seat to the flat position and proceeded to sleep for 5 of the 7 hours in the sky. I also made sure to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water throughout the flight, plus I requested ice cold towels a few times to soothe my feet, which are tending to overheat at any altitude these days.

Upon landing at Heathrow things were nice and smooth - both of us breezed through border control and our baggage - which thankfully had had enough time to be loaded onto the plane during the delay - was the first to roll off the carousel. Excited to be home in London and to see my mother, my energy levels were good for the remainder of the day, but when it came to bedtime I was absolutely exhausted from the exertions of the trip and spent much of the night and the next morning virtually comatose.

Overall it wasn't a bad experience at all taking a long haul flight at 30 weeks pregnant, although a direct flight would've been more convenient in general. I didn't suffer any aches or pains or new symptoms as a result of flying, but of course I was fortunate enough to be flying First and Business class so I had plenty of space to get comfortable, and I think an Economy seat would be far more difficult to deal with during pregnancy. So if, like me, you must fly in your third trimester, it's definitely worth it to book as high a class as your budget can stretch to (or do some great hustling work to get an upgrade!) for the sake of your baby and your body. 

Monday, 15 May 2017

Why I'm going to 'eat' my placenta

No... Not fresh out of the womb with a knife and fork, or spread liberally over a few slices of toast... Don't panic, and get those common 'eww'-inducing misconceptions out of your mind! For placenta encapsulation is the way forward, and there's absolutely nothing gross about it at all.

You've probably seen sensationalised headlines in various newspapers and celebrity magazines recently about the likes of Rochelle Humes, Coleen Rooney, Tanya Bardsley, Alex Gerrard and Amy Childs 'eating their placenta' after giving birth, which at first glance you might think was a little bit weird. But these ladies, and many more, have in fact turned to the practice of placenta encapsulation by the Liverpool-based, female-owned and -run business called Placenta Plus.

Danielle Kinney started her business after experiencing the benefits of placenta encapsulation first-hand. Having suffered from crippling post-natal depression after her first baby, Danielle heard about the advantages of placenta encapsulation and tried it with her subsequent pregnancy. Her experience was so drastically different from the previous one, and so overwhelmingly positive, that she pursued a path to make placenta encapsulation accessible to many more women in the UK.

In case you hadn't gathered from the term 'placenta encapsulation', the process literally involves the placenta being steamed, dehydrated, ground, and placed into pills or capsules, which you can then take daily as you would any multivitamin or health supplement until your yield runs out. Danielle at Placenta Plus offers two methods of placenta encapsulation: Traditional Chinese method, which involves steaming before the dehydration process and is thought to have a more calming and rebalancing effect, or the Raw Dehydrated method, which skips the steaming stage and is recommended as the more energising of the two methods.

So why exactly have I decided to do it? Well...

The benefits of placenta encapsulation include:

  • Increased energy levels
  • Reduced post-birth bleeding
  • Faster reduction of uterus size post-birth
  • Reduced risk of post-natal depression and post-natal thyroiditis
  • Reduced likelihood of suffering from a post-natal 'hormonal crash' - hormones are rebalanced much quicker
  • Enriched and more plentiful supply of breastmilk
  • Reduced amount of time to return to pre-baby weight due to boosted metabolism
Your placenta is a tailor-made source of nutrients, hormones, naturally occurring chemicals, iron and protein, created specifically by your own body to nourish your growing baby during the gestation period. Therefore, consuming an encapsulated version of your placenta and all the nutrients it contains is like taking a multivitamin supplement which was designed exclusively for you. The majority of mammals (including herbivores) eat their placenta after giving birth, proving that this is a beneficial practice in nature throughout the animal kingdom. 

The placenta is rich in nutrients and hormones such as:

- THYROXINE: a major key for all thyroid patients like me, especially after suffering a sudden increase in TSH levels during pregnancy. Natural thyroxine from the placenta will assist with rebalancing TSH, improving thyroid function, boosting metabolism to assist with shifting the baby weight quickly, and staving off the risk of post-natal thyroiditis (which is often misdiagnosed as post-natal depression)

- ESTROGEN, PROGESTERONE & PROLACTIN: Female hormones which contribute to stabilising post-natal moods, boosting lactation, regulating post-natal uterine cramping, decreasing depression and normalising libido

- THYROID STIMULATING HORMONE (TSH): essential for regulating and restoring thyroid function, boosting energy levels and supporting recovery from stressful or traumatic events

- OXYTOCIN: known as the 'love hormone', this stimulates bonding between mother and baby, therefore reducing the likelihood of postnatal depression. It also counteracts the production of the stress hormone cortisol, and enhances the breastfeeding let-down reflex

- CORTICOTROPIN RELEASING HORMONE (CRH): increased levels of CRH are vital to fighting off the risk of suffering from post-natal depression

- CORTISONE: reduces inflammation and swelling, and promotes healing after childbirth

- INTERFERON: triggers the immune system to fight infections - remember, your immune system is massively subdued during pregnancy

- PROSTAGLANDINS: an anti-inflammatory which helps to regulate uterus contractions and shrink it back to pre-pregnancy size

- IRON: replenishes maternal iron supplies to combat the common onset of post-natal anaemia, whilst also increasing energy and reducing depression

- HAEMOGLOBIN: oxygen-carrying molecule essential to increasing energy levels

- CYTOKINES: trigger cell metabolism healing and replace damaged cells and tissues

- VITAMIN B6: aids in the production of antibodies

- VITAMIN E: rich in healing properties for damaged skin cells

- IMMUNOGLOBULIN G: antibodies to support the reinstatement of the immune system

- HUMAN PLACENTAL LACTOGEN (HPL): boosts lactation as well as regulating maternal glucose, protein and fat levels

So, for the privilege of receiving all the evident benefits above, I have booked in and paid for a £200 package from Placenta Plus to encapsulate my entire placenta, which can yield anything between 90-250 capsules depending on its size. That's almost a year's supply of custom-made multivitamins designed just for me. There are also packages available including pills and body cream, but for me I feel the pills will be of most benefit so I preferred to maximise the number of those I will receive.

The whole Placenta Plus procedure includes Danielle sending a licensed medical courier to collect the placenta from wherever you give birth in mainland UK, and delivering the beautifully-packaged pills along with a dried umbilical cord keepsake (sweetly twisted into the word 'love' - a bit better than the grotty old cord clip my mum has saved from my birth back in the 90s!) between 24-48hrs after you give birth. An exceptional service, and I can't wait to try it out. I will definitely be posting more about my experience once I've had the benefit of trying the pills myself.

For more information about Placenta Plus or to book in for your own placenta encapsulation (available in England, Wales & Scotland only), visit their website - www. placentaplus.co.uk 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The awkward moment when you enter your Third Trimester but haven't bought any baby things yet

Officially the first (and only) baby-related item we own... Oh, and baby!

So, I officially entered the third trimester of pregnancy this week, which means we are now on the home stretch! Part of me feels like I've already been pregnant forever and the days are passing really slowly, but another part is suddenly startled by how time appears to be speeding up as we hurtle towards one of the single most life-changing events we will ever experience.

I joined the 'Mumsnet July 2017 Births' group a little while ago, and have been following and contributing to the thread with great interest ever since; learning a lot and sharing experiences with a diverse group of fellow mamas-to-be. It has been particularly interesting for me to compare my experience of prenatal care in Dubai with the other group members' UK experiences, with some of the biggest differences including the fact that I appear to have a great deal more ultrasound scans than anyone is getting in England, as well as the fact that the whooping cough vaccine is not offered in the UAE whereas it is standard on the NHS, and here in Dubai the GTT (glucose tolerance test for gestational diabetes) is standard for all expectant mothers, but in England it seems to only be offered to those who are considered at a high risk.

I really enjoy my interactions with the other July-due mothers - a group which also includes my expectant cousin! - and we often reassure each other by comparing notes on mutually-endured pregnancy symptoms and indulging in general baby-on-the-way chit chat. However, over recent weeks, reading the thread has started to give me mild anxiety.

I think I am quite literally the most utterly unprepared pregnant woman in the entire group.

It started dawning on me when I realised I was able to contribute less and less to the more prevalent discussions on the thread. Clearly I was the black sheep; the odd-one-out. Everyone else has moved on to sharing photos of their fully-decorated, fully-equipped nursery rooms. Talking about which brand of non-bio detergent they've already used to pre-wash their entire 0-3 months AND 3-6 months collections of babygrows. Reviewing the different baby-carrying systems they've trialled and tested out at their local sling libraries. Suggesting clever storage solutions for the multipacks of nappies they've already purchased. Writing up their lists of what they've already packed in their hospital bags.

I honestly have NO common ground on which to join in with the discussion anymore. I CANNOT relate. At all!!

I don't even know where we will be living when we come back to Dubai at the end of August; let alone how baby's room will be furnished or decorated. I didn't even know you were supposed to pre-wash all baby clothes before they wear them, and, suffice to say, to date we have not purchased a single item of baby clothing. I didn't have a clue that such a thing as a 'sling library' even existed. Clearly I haven't started to stock up on nappies yet - disposable or reusable (and that's a whole other story...). And as for packing my hospital bag...? I DON'T EVEN HAVE A HOSPITAL BAG YET!

We physically do not own a single baby-related item. Not one single thing.

Trying to reassure myself that I wasn't way behind or being too lax in my approach, I convinced myself that all the mothers-to-be in the July group are just superhumanly organised, overly keen, overly cautious, overly prepared, and/or verging on OCD.

But then...not one, not two, but THREE babies were born to mothers in our July-due group. In the same week. In May!!! Thankfully they are all healthy and doing well, despite arriving so early, but it really hammered home to me that all the other women in the group who already have everything ready and set up are in fact not being overzealous with their preparations. They are simply being practical.

Ok, my circumstances are a little different, in that I'm currently in Dubai and will be travelling to London in less than two weeks, due to give birth there in July. So really it doesn't make sense to do any baby-related shopping until we get to London. Inspired by the massively organised mothers-to-be of Mumsnet, I have at least started curating shopping lists of items we'll need to get as soon as we arrive in the UK on the Mothercare and John Lewis apps. But I still can't help feeling a bit naive for the way I've just made the sweeping assumption that I'll carry baby to full term and therefore still have plenty of time between now and then to get everything sorted.

To be fair, I've taken care of the 'big stuff'; the hospital booking for the birth, the placenta encapsulation booking (more on that in a post soon), plus overseeing (from overseas) the renovations of a number of rooms at my mother's home in London, ready to accommodate us all over the summer. But in terms of physical, material, baby-specific items... Nothing whatsoever has been done in that department.

Yesterday, after having another 4D scan to see baby delightfully wiggling around, yawning, smiling and touching his face, the sonographer gifted us a tiny weeny pair of socks along with our CD of images from the scan. So, finally, we do actually own ONE thing for the baby, although we didn't purchase it ourselves! There's still a long way to go towards being ready, but at least it's one small, baby-sized footstep in the right direction...

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Despicable Trumpcare bill punishes thyroid patients & pregnancy

I'm not usually one to get on my political soapbox in public, particularly when I am neither a citizen nor a resident of the concerned country, but many of my readers are from the USA and most of my 'thyroid network' of friends and fellow thyca-fighters are Americans. So here I am, sharing my outrage on your behalf.

The first 100+ days of Trump in office have been a horror show to say the least, and from an overseas perspective we have watched the numerous scandals and sickening decision-making unfold with our jaws on the floor.

The latest in a series of disturbing events is the passing of the AHCA (American Health Care Act) - otherwise known as 'Trumpcare' - by the House two days ago, in an attempt to repeal the current ACA (Affordable Care Act) referred to as 'Obamacare'. I realise that I am commenting from the outside, as someone who has no experience of American healthcare whatsoever, and I realise that there were also valid criticisms of Obamacare and that it had its imperfections. But this Trumpcare bill is just so, so much worse.

It has been brought to my attention by reading the posts of several influential and inspirational American ladies I follow across various social media platforms - including Aisha Thalia and Shelah Marie - that the new Trumpcare bill appears to be a major attack on women. Stunned by what I was reading, I investigated further, and researched the list of all illnesses, conditions and circumstances which will now disqualify people from receiving healthcare coverage - either as subsidised packages through Medicaid, which provides reduced price healthcare and financial support for 74 million poor, disabled and elderly Americans - or even for citizens who are attempting to purchase health insurance at the full premium. The bill will enable health insurance companies to deny these people coverage, or significantly raise their premiums to an unfeasible level.

The vast majority of the newly-considered disqualifying 'pre-existing conditions' are suffered specifically (or almost exclusively) by women. Breast Cancer, Cervical Cancer, Hysterectomy, Osteoporosis, Sexual Assault, C-Section, Pregnancy, and Thyroid Issues are all considered reasons to disqualify patients from being able to obtain health insurance in the new bill. If that is not gender discrimination, I don't know what is.

As someone who is fortunate enough to be British and have grown up with the NHS (National Health Service), providing free healthcare for all under all circumstances, and now as someone who has fully comprehensive Gold Standard private health insurance in the UAE, for which we pay around 8000 AED (£1678 / $2178) annually to get a remarkable level and standard of coverage, my heart really hurts for the estimated 24 million Americans who will be disqualified for health insurance due to this bill. If I was in the USA and subjected to this legislation, my healthcare would be denied on several counts. If I wasn't able to avail of this private health insurance coverage in the UAE - or free NHS healthcare in the UK - my treatment bills for my thyroid surgery and subsequent issues, followed by my pregnancy, would have easily topped 200,000 AED (£42,000 / $55,000) over the past two years. That is simply not a fair or sustainable amount for the regular working class citizen to shell out for the human right of healthcare.

I sincerely hope and pray that this barbaric Trumpcare bill doesn't make it through the Senate and that enough sensible politicians will stand up for the rights of those who are suffering in order to oppose its passing. My thoughts are with all my friends and readers from the States, who are dealing with similar medical conditions to me, but could soon be dealing with vastly different healthcare privileges and financial issues. Nobody deserves to be punished for being a survivor, and women certainly don't deserve to be discriminated against for going through the physical struggles we are susceptible to due to what we were put on this earth to do.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Struggle is Real

I just realised that I haven't written a new post in 10 days. 10 whole days! When I started writing Butterfly Free in February, I was so energised, so full of ideas... pre-planning topics to write about weeks in advance... But in recent days that motivation suddenly trailed off.

I recognised this feeling. It had happened to me before, in the aftermath of my thyroid surgery. All my excitement and brainstorming and effort I would routinely throw into my work projects suddenly evaporated overnight. I became disillusioned, dejected, and utterly demotivated, and I had no idea why. I couldn't focus. If I had an idea or thought, it would quickly disappear, or my enthusiasm for it would wane in mere moments, or I just wouldn't have the energy to follow it up. My work duties began to feel like chores for the first time. My creativity was gone.

It was not until the discovery and treatment of my severe Vitamin D and Ferritin deficiencies that I started to get my sparkle back, and then I realised that my apathy towards my work had come as a direct result of those deficiencies and a debilitated thyroid function.

This time round, I have been able to identify that apathetic symptom far quicker. At my most recent checkup with the OB-GYN last week, I insisted that she run some more thyroid blood tests despite it being outside the scope of health insurance coverage. I knew something was out of balance; I knew there must be a physiological reason for my sudden lack of lustre. Sure enough, the hospital called the next day with my results - my TSH has jumped from 2.4 to 3.9 in one month. I immediately doubled my dosage of Euthyrox to try and quickly get it back down below the recommended range of 3 during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

Some days I haven't wanted to leave home at all. Other days, a simple trip to the supermarket has been a struggle. A dinner out at a lovely restaurant with my husband left me feeling utterly drained. I kept pushing myself to attend my prenatal Pilates classes, but I didn't feel enthusiastic in the slightest at the idea of doing something physically taxing.

My emotions have been all over the place, too. I know pregnancy hormones wreak havoc with a woman's emotional state, but I'm someone who has always been quite reserved with her emotions. I never suffered from PMS or any other sort of hormonal oversensitivity, but recently I've been out of control (by my standards). I've gone from someone who cried maybe once or twice a year maximum - my husband had only previously seen me shed a few happy tears when he asked me to marry him - to someone who starts welling up at the slightest little thing on a daily basis. I got tearful during the opening sequence of the new 'Boss Baby' movie at the cinema the other day, for goodness sake!

Some days I barely recognise myself for how outwardly sensitive and emotional I've become. My insecurities, worries and fears have all been royally shining through, too. I don't know how my poor husband has been able to handle his previously placid wife turn into a drama queen, but I'm grateful that he has been very understanding and reassuring throughout.

As my newly-upped dosage of synthetic thyroid hormone starts to take effect, I am feeling the grey cloud lift from over my head. My motivation is coming back, my focus is clearer, and I have more energy to go out, to work out, and to simply get out of bed before the afternoon. I can't promise that the tears will dry up anytime soon though - that seems to be a direct knock-on effect of pregnancy!

So, I have written this post because I finally felt enough drive to actually open my laptop and start tapping away at the keyboard again, and because I wanted to be honest with you. On social media we tend to see the highlights of people's lives; they only want to share the shiny, glossy side, which is understandable, but also leads us to set unrealistic expectations for ourselves. Sometimes it's ok not to be ok. It's normal to go through a down or demotivated spell. What's important is to seek the right help to pull yourself out of it. The struggle is real, but the struggle doesn't have to last forever.

Monday, 17 April 2017

The Delicate Matter of Deciding Where to Give Birth

Choosing where to bring your child into the world is a big decision at the best of times, but when you and your other half are from two different countries it becomes an entirely greater challenge. Not only do you have to consider hospital birth vs home birth - and then, if you go with hospital birth, which hospital - but also the rather major factor of which country to deliver your baby in.

I was born at a now-closed hospital in London, a mere stone's throw away from the home in which I lived with my mother for 21 years before making my move to Dubai. My mother still lives in the same house, and my grandparents live an hour and a half outside of London. My husband was born and has lived his entire 25+ years in the UAE, where his mother, two brothers and three sisters also live, as well as it being where we met, got married, and have set up home together.

Here are some of the main factors we considered when weighing up our options as to whether I should give birth in the UK or UAE:

Quite clearly my husband has a far bigger family than me, so in logical terms, it would appear more reasonable to fly my 3 immediate family members to the UAE for the birth rather than booking an entire jet to transport my in-laws to the UK (slight exaggeration for comedic purposes!). My family wouldn't need visas to fly to the UAE and could stay for up to a month visa-free, whereas my in-laws would be required to fill out the online visa waiver applications a minimum of 48 hours before departure to the UK, which would mean a last-minute flight booking if I suddenly went into labour early would be entirely out of the question.

In practical terms, though, it is not quite so straight forward. My grandparents are both of a fine vintage, but a long flight to Dubai in the peak of summer would certainly not be ideal conditions for them. And, it being my first baby, of course I am absolutely adamant that I have my mother with me not only for the birth, but also for as much time as possible afterwards to help me adapt to motherhood. She works and has responsibilities in the UK, so to ask her to drop everything and come to the UAE for a month or more just isn't fair or feasible.

Then there's the thought of offending one side of the family or another, depending on which country we settle on deciding to deliver in. However, as with all things relating to such a major life event, I don't believe one should agonise over offending others when the best interests of the mother and baby are the main priority in such a situation.

Naturally this is a huge consideration, as the welfare of baby and mother are paramount. Luckily enough for us, the standard of healthcare both in the UK and UAE are exceptional - which is great - but doesn't really help in making the decision any easier! I am also fortunate enough to have private medical insurance (an essential for all UAE-based expats) and my policy will fully cover the costs of private maternity care both in the UAE and overseas, including the UK. So I'm thankful that I don't need to factor cost of care into the equation either, but once again, it doesn't assist with narrowing down my options from two to one.

This is a more documentation-based consideration to keep in mind for couples of different nationalities who are expecting a baby together. In our case, again, it doesn't really make a big difference in helping us to hone in on a choice, though, because with a British mother, our baby will be entitled to British citizenship regardless of where he's born, and with an Emirati father, he is also entitled to Emirati citizenship regardless of where he's born (though, as per UAE/GCC rules, he will not be able to hold dual citizenship - more on that in a future blog post). 

It may seem strange to some of you that this is a major contributing factor in making our decision, but anyone who has lived through a hot Middle Eastern summer will understand. It's only mid-April and temperatures are already reaching the mid-30 Celsius range here in Dubai at the moment, and quite frankly I'm already overwhelmed by it in my current pregnant state. Yes, it's easy to avoid the heat here if you want to - everything is air conditioned to Arctic proportions and driving everywhere is the norm - but I actually want to be as active and outdoors-y as possible both in the late stages of my pregnancy and after giving birth. 

I love the idea of walking (or, more accurately, probably waddling before my due date) in the park and along the River Thames pathway next to my home in London every day... The moderate exercise and fresh air will do me the world of good leading up to going into labour, and will also be blissful to experience with my newborn baby in his pram as I try to start walking off the baby weight. I think I would lose my mind if I was trapped indoors with my baby due to scorching heat for months on end. So this is one big plus point for a UK birth.

This turned out to be the crucial, all-deciding factor for us. My husband's work is 'seasonal', and the summertime is the only period in which he gets a decent stint of time off. Since we've been static in the UAE for the best part of the year (ok, ok, I know we went to London for 3 days and The Maldives for 4...but those were quick trips and not during his 'major' holiday time), it is important particularly for my husband to have a change of scene during the off-season. He fell in love with London since visiting with me for the first time in his life last summer, and he's very excited about spending a month or so there this summer. It's also a great place to use as a base and then travel for quick getaways to nearby European destinations. 

My due date is, obviously, in summertime. Mr Butterfly's duties will take a break at the end of May, so it makes sense for us to travel to London then - escaping the heat, getting a change of scene, having my mother on-hand to assist as I get closer and closer to delivering - and we can even try to get some extra mini-babymoon trips in to nearby places like Paris. The sticking point is the fact that my husband will have to resume his duties in mid-July, and Baby Butterfly is not due until the end of the month. However, for probably the first month back on duty, my husband will be based somewhere in Europe with his colleagues, so it would be much faster for him to get a couple of days' leave and hop on a plane from a European destination to London at my first signs of labour than it would be for him to head all the way back to Dubai if I was giving birth there. Plus, since he won't be able to stay with me for long after the birth, it's better for me to be at home in London with baby and my mother.

So, whilst there were good arguments for both places, all in all, the factors were weighted in favour of me delivering our little bundle of joy in London, and we all unanimously agreed on that decision. I honestly couldn't be happier with our choice and am so excited to bring our baby into the world in the place where I was born and raised, and most importantly surrounded by love.