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Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Hypnobirth and M.E

As my pregnancy progresses I have had to refocus,  prioritise and look more inside myself to conserve all the energy and strength I have for the people who need it the most: myself, and my little family. I have enjoyed this pregnancy very much,  but it has taken its toll on my body. I have SPD and anaemia as well as the usual M.E symptoms, so moving is a bigger challenge than usual.   

These could be worrying times, with two little boys to look after and a new baby coming, however I haven't felt worried or disheartened or frustrated at all. I can only put this down to fantastic support from my husband, parents and family and Hypnobirthing.  Daily practise of profound relaxation, positive thinking and deep breathing has been huge in enabling me to step back from the stresses and concerns and see them in a more positive light.  What I thought would help me prepare for childbirth only has helped me cope with pregnancy and other stresses in life these past few months. With this in mind I want to share what I have learned in the hopes it might benefit others.  

 I've been unable to attend any classes,  but I bought Katherine Graves 'The Hypnobirthing Book' on Kindle, and downloaded a hypnobirthing track on Spotify. The main things to prepare for birth are: practising up breathing; J breathing; listening to the tracks and allowing yourself complete relaxation; and repeating positive birth affirmations. 

  Up breathing -  is the breathing to do in the first stage of labour. It should require minimum muscular effort as the purpose is to relax your body to allow the uterine muscles to work to the best of their ability. It's slow, deep breathing, usually in through the nose and out through the mouth. However,  I'm a natural mouth breather,  so I find it better to breathe in and out though my mouth. The trick is finding the length of breath that suits you and enables you to be relaxed and comfortable, whilst filling your lungs. During this breathing you should be visualising 'up'  images. For example, these could be the sun rising,  bubbles floating, or the waves lapping. 

  J Breath or down breathing-   this is for when the cervix is opened and your baby is ready to move down. It is a quick breath in through the nose and a slow breath out through the nose focusing your attention downwards. This is best to practise on the loo, and believe me,  it works! The visualisations for these could be flowers opening,  or waterfalls. 

  I want to include some affirmations that I particularly like,  it's good to have them close to hand to look at them daily.  These ones are specifically for birth,  but I can see how powerful it can be in life to repeat positive affirmations to ourselves daily. These are just a few of the statements in the Katherine Graves book I've been reading: 

"I move gently forward through my pregnancy and labour with confidence and trust." 

"Birthing is a natural process of my body, my mind and my spirit,  working in unison  with my baby. "

 " My mind leads where my body follows. As my mind is so relaxed, confident and calm, so my body is comfortable, relaxed,  soft and open, as my baby passes gently, healthily and swiftly into the world. "

 " With each breath out,  I breathe out tension and stress. " 

"With each breath in,   I breathe in relaxation and comfort,  peace and trust."

 "Each surge of my body reminds me that I will soon be holding my baby in my arms. " 

  My next task is to write these affirmations and others and place them where I can see them in the house.  Im 35 weeks now,  and the end is in sight. I shall keep you posted on how labour and birth go,  and if all my practise has been successful.  Motherhood and M.E is not an easy journey,  and I'm sure people must think I'm crazy,  but kids do give a purpose to life I thought was lost. We're all very excited for this new member of our family, to get to know her little personality and how she'll fit in or change the dynamics of our family.

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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Birth, Labour and M.E

Original post on my site 

The inevitable labour is on my mind a lot, and has been throughout this pregnancy. Determined to learn from my mistakes of previous birth, labour and M.E I have been looking for ways to make it a more positive experience, one in which I feel more in control.

M.E has played a pivotal role in my last two labours. Looking back I wonder if it played a more prominent part than was necessary. Although M.E is a physical illness and places very real limitations and restrictions on my body, I allowed myself to panic and the stress impacted on my body more than it should.

With my first I was more in control and was able to handle the contractions for longer till I felt that I needed to rest to be able to push the baby once the time came. At this point I was allowed an epidural, which gave me a few hours rest before the birth. Luckily, my son arrived in three easy pushes, so the recovery time was relatively quick.

Throughout my second pregnancy I had dreaded the thought of labour, remembering all too clearly the pain and effort required. I knew I wanted an epidural, but I worried if this next labour would be quick and not allow enough time for an epidural to be administered. When the contractions became serious I dived right into panic mode. My body shook uncontrollably after each contraction, which caused it to lose strength quite quickly. The hospital did not want to give me an epidural so soon, but once my husband had convinced them that my contractions were moving things along hastily they checked me and gave me the desired epidural! The rest this allowed me was pure bliss, but unfortunately it slowed labour right down, which meant that the baby was not moving and they were considering a c-section. After an hour or so things, fortunately, started to move again, but unlike my first birth he required some serious pushing. I was terribly sick after and it required an injection to try and calm it down. The consultant was worried about me with some test results not being as they should be. I knew my body had handled too much and needed significant recovery time. I want to avoid this same scenario happening again this time.

There is lots of information available about how to prepare for labour and birth. I'm unable to attend any classes, so I've been submersing myself in Google searches and Hypnobirthing stands out as a way in which I can be more relaxed in labour to allow myself to retain the strength I need for birth. My wonderful Perrin practitioner just told me yesterday of a lady she sees with heart problems and M.E and because of hypnobirthing she was able to deliver her baby naturally.

Hypnobirthing uses self hypnosis and breathing techniques to help you have the most natural birth possible. The idea is to encourage a natural pain free birth and lose the fear that surrounds birth, seeing it as a wonderful experience instead.

Information on the techniques are hard to find online as they want you to buy the books and go to classes. However, I keep searching and have found some things, mainly on YouTube, that have been useful.

Here's one example of a breathing technique from when I searched for "hypnobirthing techniques" on YouTube.

I'd like to hear from you, what have been your experiences of childbirth? What did you find helped the most? Are you pregnant and wondering what your best options are? Leave a comment, I'd love to hear your experiences :)

Monday, 28 July 2014

M.E and pregnancy : the journey continues

 I've hit the halfway mark in my pregnancy! It's been no mean feat,  so I'm celebrating by writing a blog post. My brain is even more frazzled than before and cannot be trusted (I leave items in the randomest places having thought I've put them away and  my husband doesn't ask for my help at all much anymore as I've lost all the little common sense I had!) but I shall try my best to relay my experiences so far, for anyone interested. 

My constant companions, Sickness and Extreme Exhaustion,  are finally taking the hint they're not wanted and leaving me at times. Extreme Exhaustion seems very reluctant to leave,  I think he feels at home amongst the M.E symptoms.  Together they've made the first half of pregnancy a lot tougher than my previous ones. I didn't have as much extra exhaustion with the first two as I have with this one.

 I was getting new symptoms crop up before pregnancy,  but even more so in pregnancy. Symptoms like leg cramps,  burning sensations in one leg, increased headaches,  increased dizzy spells, increased breathlessness,  pelvic pain,  pulling muscles,  thirst,  and more.  All symptoms of both M.E and pregnancy and it's hard to tell what's what.  My usual M.E symptoms are still always there and have become more prevalent.  

 I got my hopes up the other week,  when I was given an appointment with a consultant,  that M.E might be taken into consideration when dealing with my pregnancy,  particularly during labour and birth. Alas, a debilitating trip to the hospital resulted in nothing more than a quick chat to say there's nothing that can be done and they don't need to see me again.  It never gets easier being told there's nothing that can be done.  One midwife has taken it seriously though,  so it gives me hope that another may. It's more prominent in my notes now thanks to her.

 It's not all doom and gloom though. Motherhood is the toughest job I've had to do,  but the rewards far outweigh the negatives. I was devastated when illness made me lose my job and my social life.  The prognosis of M.E  was a hard pill to swallow.  At 26 I thought my life was resigned to nothingness. But thanks to the support of my husband,  family and friends I'm able to be a mother and life has gained more meaning and fulfillment than I could have hoped for. I am the world to these little people. I may not be the most active,  entertaining mum,  but I am always there for my kids, I'm always available for cuddles and they know they are loved.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

M.E and pregnancy

I have a little bit of news ....  I'm expecting a baby!

I've been undecided about sharing my news for a few reasons but one of them has been worry about people's reactions.  This will be my third experience of M.E and pregnancy. Even though this pregnancy wasn't necessarily planned,  we are thrilled and I worried people would think it was foolish.  Luckily the majority of people have expressed excitement and congratulations.  A few have shown genuine concern without judgement,  but there have been a couple (one being a midwife) who have said "you have M.E and you are pregnant??" When I tried to justify myself by saying it wasn't planned she responded with "good!“

The reason why I have chosen to share this news on here is because there may be someone else in the same position or trying to make the difficult decision of whether to have children or not, like I was before my first child. Hopefully,  sharing this journey will be of help.

I'm at the end of my first trimester now,  we had our first scan last week.  It was a magical experience,  seeing the baby so clear on the screen.  Despite the awful few weeks leading up to the scan,  seeing an actual baby in there made it all seem worthwhile.
The first trimester has been awful. I can't sugar coat it,  but I did try to think positively about it! I am fortunate that I have a very good support network,  and a very understanding,  hard working husband.  My kids have been wonderful too.  I suppose that's one benefit of being ill,  nobody expects me to do anything! It was only me that things changed for,  I felt so much sicker and so much more exhausted and tired than before.  It's all encompassing and I couldn't think or concentrate on anything else.  I found little respite from it and all the little things I did before I could no longer do.  I slept as much as I could.

I write like things have changed.  Things have improved slightly, the sickness is waning, but the exhaustion is still there and makes life harder than it was before.  With my first two I felt an improvement after about 16-17 weeks, until then it's a matter of surviving till it passes.  Sleeping as much as I can,  reducing all types of activity,  and eating anything that I can stomach that doesn't make me sick!

If I have any tips to offer to others at this stage of  M.E and pregnancy it would be to take information of ME/CFS to your health care providers.  None of the tests they do bring up any problems with me,  so the midwives think I'm a perfect candidate with nothing to worry about.  I've seen one midwife in all three pregnancies that has shown any inclination that ME is something to be considered.  It was a relief to see her and I hope it's not the last time I see her either.  From my experience,  I may be clear in the tests they're most concerned with,  but pregnancy and especially labour and birth take their toll on my body more than normal.  In my second birth I found that nobody listened to me when I said my body wasn't coping with the contractions.  We had to be really forceful and demanding.  If there was greater knowledge of ME/CFS,  then more understanding and better care would have been shown.
And finally,  if you haven't already got one yet get a VERY good support network around you.  You'll need it throughout pregnancy and especially after.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Finding Hope

Finding hope

I saw sunshine tonight, it was 5pm and there was sunshine outside. It was a surprise for two reasons: Sunshine has not been seen very often in the North West of England for some time now; and it means the nights are getting lighter!

The beginning of 2014 has been very hard on my health and each day is a journey up a mountain carrying an elephant on my back. I’ve been keeping my head down and trudging on up that mountain, occasionally looking up to admire my surroundings, like the sunshine at 5pm today.

It made me think of the hope that summer brings and it reminded me not to give up hope. Just because things have been the same for so long, does not mean they will always be. The day follows night, summer follows winter, the weekend follows the week (or vice versa). There is always hope. The dips in our lives mean we will be able to see and appreciate the peaks more fully.

Alexandre Dumas explained it well

“He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.
” Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope.’”

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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Loving oneself for 2014

The new year is almost upon us and for me this time is always significant.  The words of a hymn we sang recently at church are similar to the feelings I have of the passing of the old year “Ring out the old; ring in the new. Ring happy bells across the snow.  The year is going,  let him go.  Ring out the false,  ring in the true. The year is going,  let him go.”
We should always be trying to be the best we can be,  but there’s something about a new year that really does feel like a fresh start. We literally say goodbye to the old year,  never to be seen again and we are given more time.  Our circumstances stay the same but inwardly we can make a change.
Last year my focus was to accept what came my way and try my best to love it. It was the best decision I made.  Although hard to do at times I felt much happier and harboured no bitterness.
For 2014 I want to put 100% into improving my health. The wheels have been in motion for a while,  but my lackadaisical attitude towards it has meant that I’ve experienced little benefits.  It’s time to start the full throttle. I want to tackle my health from all angles as I believe good health is achieved holistically.  Here’s what I’ll be doing this year,  in hopes that my health will go from strength to strength:
The Perrin Technique – every two to three weeks I see a wonderful practitioner who’s therapeutic massage drains my lymph nodes of the toxins that have built up.  She often does extra work to realign my posture and she is very knowledgeable on the right nutrition. It is the treatment at home that I will improve on.
Dairy,  wheat and sugar free diet – for the past 6 years since I have had ME I have tried both normal and free from diets and I have felt much better when restricting wheat, dairy and sugar.
Emotional Freedom Technique – I started this in October.  It’s a process of tapping acupressure points and speaking affirmations.  I have done this at least once every day since starting as I’ve found it really works to help me gain control of anxiety,  ease stress and work through any emotional problems.
Restricting social media – I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. It has allowed me to not feel so isolated despite spending SO much time at home,  unable to socialise.  Yet it isn’t real life,  it’s not genuine concern and interest into the lives of friends.  It is the highlights (or lowlights for some) that they want you to see and you see a lot more that you don’t need or want to.  It feels more like boasting and stalking than sharing experiences with friends.

2014 is for loving oneself as Charlie Chaplin says “As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself.  At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism.  Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”. The new year is the time for doing,  or stopping,  anything that will help my body be at the best health it can be.

What are your goals/resolutions?

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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Help! Need it - hate it!

Over the years some things have become easier.  I’ve learned to live within my boundaries (most days),  I’m used to the way I feel and have learned to cope with it,  and I’ve adjusted to life in the ‘slower than slow’  lane.
One thing that never gets easier no matter how hard I try,  is asking for help.  Oh how I hate it. It comes down to two reasons –  I hate imposing on people and I hate feeling useless and not able to give help back.  My husband despairs with me when he sees me struggling to do something. He can’t grasp why I haven’t asked for his help when he’s able and willing.  I just can’t bear to ask him.  I see a busy man working full time,  studying,  caring for me and our boys and I don’t want to add to that.
Asking other people for help is so much harder. I go through each persons name in my head,  then rule each one out thinking of all the demands on their time already and how I can’t possibly ask them. The thing is,  a lot of the time I ask people for help they jump at the chance.  They have known I struggle and yet not known how to help.  My asking them gives them an opportunity.
If people offer help without me asking it feels like the hardest thing in the world to accept.  I naturally want to say ‘no no,  I’m ok thanks’  and most often I do,  I then think of how hard it’s going to be to do it myself. It’s my pride that stops me. I want to be fit,  able and self sufficient.  I want to be the one offering help,  not receiving it.
Asking for and accepting help are big struggles for me,  but I believe learning how to do these things are important life lessons.  Before I became ill I valued confidence and self sufficiency.  I still do place high value on these traits,  but I see that needing help and humbling myself to accept it strengthens my relationships with the people who help me.  I see the sacrifices they willingly make for me and feel of their love and kindness.  My own self worth increases as I see people willing to help me.  I read this quote from Carlos H. Amado encouraging people to help one another and I think the benefits he talks of work for both the helper and the ‘helpee’. He said “Kindness,  love,  patience,  understanding and unity will increase as we serve,  while intolerance,  jealousy,  envy,  greed and selfishness will decrease or disappear.  The more we give of ourselves,  the more our capacity to serve,  understand,  and love will grow.”
So it’s going to be worth my while to work hard at being comfortable receiving help.  Who knows,  maybe one day I’ll be the one in the giving end once more… Only this time I’ll have much more empathy!

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