Exercise during pregnancy
Like most mothers-to-be, I was amazed when I first saw Ewan’s tiny little body doing summersaults on the screen at the dating scan, when I felt him kick for the first time. He refused to stay still or in the right position long enough for the sonographer to measure him to determine his gestational age! Perhaps this is not surprising given his parent’s energy and love of exercise.
As an active person I carried on running until the end of the first trimester when it became too much. I then took up swimming, which I found a great form of exercise when pregnant, due to the buoyancy of the water. I stopped climbing as I deemed this too risky, but carried on mountain walking until days before giving birth, albeit at a slower pace over shorter distances! I enjoyed snow shoeing in the Swiss and German Alps when I was 15 weeks pregnant, feeling out of breath on ascents and struggling to fit into my salopettes! I found it invigorating to be in the beautiful snowy mountains, sharing all this with my growing little bump. I also attended weekly pregnancy yoga classes up until my due date, which I found really beneficial in preparing for labour both mentally and physically.
We went on holiday to the Orkney Islands when I was thirty weeks pregnant. Staying in an isolated cottage on the most northerly island in Orkney, Westray, with the high winds, hardy sheep, wild bays and waves crashing against the rocky shore, I practised yoga and meditation daily. Ewan constantly reminded us of his presence by kicking vigorously whenever I rested, as we prepared emotionally for this massive, but very welcome, change in our lives.
One week before my due date, we went on our last weekend trip away to north Wales, where I managed to walk short distances from the cottage before getting out of breath. Back at home I waited patiently for Ewan to arrive, knowing he would come when he was ready.
Ewan’s birth story
Now that I’ve shared with you a few of my thoughts about parenting today and parenting in stone age times, I’d like to share with you a personal story, of how my son came into the world. Pregnancy and birth sowed the seeds for this blog, as it is where the amazing, life-changing journey of parenthood began. It is Ewan who continually reminds me to follow my instincts, who helps me to parent more naturally.
My pregnancy and early labour were natural and gentle, with few medical interventions. Sadly, Ewan was eventually delivered by emergency caesarean section. As traumatic as this was, we were also relieved he was born a healthy little boy and that I was able to breastfeed him problem free. On reflection I began to piece together the possible reasons for what became a very medicalised birth.
This experience has taught me to be far more questioning of the medical profession and proactive when dealing with them. What do these ‘experts’ do to our bodies in the name of ‘reducing the risks’? I am now far more open to alternative methods of birthing. In the hopeful event of another pregnancy, I plan to be more in control and able to manage my labour, knowing when to ask for assistance and from whom.
Part Four: Return to work and conclusion
We feel economic and social pressure to return to work. We juggle work and home life. Work and breastfeeding is deemed incompatible in most cases. We have lost knowledge of the benefits of sustained breastfeeding. Often living at a distance from our own parents, we search for quality childcare providers, finding a growing market of day nurseries. Many of the staff are young and poorly trained; the quality of a country’s childcare and education reveals the extent to which the government values the next generation. What does ours say about us? We shower our children with toys, games and spend ‘quality’ time with them. This time is limited due to work and societal pressures. The UK is still hung-up on the ‘children should be seen and not heard’ Victorian adage. Children are therefore unwelcome in many places. Childfree weddings and ‘no children allowed’ signs are common.
We are faced with pressures to wean our children early from the breast and from ourselves. We strive to make our children independent and self-sufficient in a competitive, material world. Our lives are increasingly sedentary and removed from nature. Obesity, asthma and mental illnesses are on the increase. Our children are ferried from group to group, held captive, wrapped in cotton wool; they cannot play out alone or wander to the local woods because the media fuels us with fear about stranger danger, knife crime and paedophilia. Ironically, our children have access to a whole, potentially dangerous and damaging world online. At school our children are tested to the limit, are stressed and emotionally damaged. We believe buying material goods will gratify us, so we attempt to cover up the loss. Alcohol or substance abuse, violence and abuse, separated families, poverty, all are common and much discussed in the media.
So, where have we gone wrong? And how can we begin to put it right?