The Kate generation: A snapshot of British pregnancy... 'I'll be having an epidural. I'm not an earth mother'
The Duchess of Cambridge is far from alone in being about to give birth. Three women whose babies are due around the same time tell Charlotte Philby their stories
Charlotte Philby is a writer at The Independent with a weekly column on motherhood in The Independent Magazine. She was shortlisted for the 2013 Cudlipp award for excellence in popular journalism for her undercover investigative work, and writes for various cultural magazines.
Sunday 23 June 2013
Trish Branston, 42, Kent. Personal assistant: ‘My age means I’m high-risk. But it’s gone ok so far'
This will be my first child. I wasn’t always driven to have kids but I always liked children. I got married quite late and this has fitted in really well.
I work full-time as a PA. I feel more comfortable having a baby now than I would have done even in my late 30s. I enjoyed life, did lots of travelling and had lots of fun. For me this is the right time. It feels more settled; career-wise I’m more established and financially I’m not worrying about where money’s going to come from.
I’m planning to have an epidural. I’m not an “earth mother” – I’m happy to take the hardcore drugs and have a pain-free delivery. I did the NCT classes with girls who were obviously a lot younger, so I expected them to breeze through their births, but a few of them had to have emergency caesareans.
So far my pregnancy has been without complication. They’ve looked at me as high-risk because of my age but I’ve been low-risk all the way through. I’m being monitored now because, being an older mother, there are risks regarding the oxygen supply to the baby. But I think I would know if something was wrong. You can feel what’s going on with your baby.
I have an obstetrician who sees me every six weeks and a midwife appointment once a month. I know lots of people can’t get appointments but I’ve had no problems at all.
So far, we’ve spent about £2,000 on baby stuff. The most expensive part was the pram, which was £800. I thought about buying things second-hand but decided to buy everything new.
I’ve been reading the NHS website. A weekly email comes in and tells you what week you’re at and how your baby is progressing, and I’ve got Gina Ford’s Contented Baby book which has got a lot of good things in.
The current official advice is to have your baby in your room for six months. I say six weeks, and Gina Ford says not at all. I like the idea that it can relate to the fact that its room is its room and that that’s where it sleeps.
I’ve already got some ideas about the baby’s education. The state schools in Kent are particularly good but I’m also going to look at private schools. I’m looking for an all-round type of education.
Childcare is expensive but it’s something I will look into. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll go back to work full or part-time. I’m quite keen to be around more than not, to be the main carer, but it depends how I feel. I also assume I’ll go back to work but things might change once I’ve had the baby.
My parents had to work when I was little so I had my grandparents to look after me, whereas I have an elderly mother and my in-laws live in Leicestershire, so unless I can leave the baby there for weeks at a time that’s not an option.
Whatever happens I still like shopping for myself and having a bit of my own life. I’m definitely going to be keeping me as me, not becoming just a mum.
Sophie Cregan, 27, Bournemouth. Artist: 'The great orb in front of my tummy was the big shock'
This will be my first child. I’m the first of my university friends to get pregnant, but my husband is a few years older so his group has already started and I’m joining the wave.
I’m planning to go to the midwife-led unit at the hospital but really I’m at the mercy of what needs to be done.
If I can have a water birth that’s great, but I’m open to things changing.
The biggest surprise has been the change in my physical appearance. I always thought about having a baby, and we had this one planned, but I didn’t ever consider the pregnancy and the physical change that would take place in my body.
The giant orb growing on the front of my tummy was the big shock.
I’ve got a massive craving for ice: my mouth starts watering just thinking about it. My husband has just had to go to McDonald’s for me to get a cup full. It was tomato juice in the early stages and I once went through about three jars of pickled onions in 24 hours. But I’ve escaped the sickness.
So far the pregnancy has been great, though the middle stages were quite painful as the baby was in a funny position. I felt tired in the first few weeks, and queasy occasionally, but never ill.
My nanny’s quite excited that if I give birth on the same day as Kate Middleton we’ll get a royal mug, as if they’ll be handing them out at hospital. I’ve just found out that we have the same pram as Kate, a Bugaboo Cameleon – though hers is clearly brand-spanking new and ours is second-hand off eBay. We’ve had lots of hand-me-downs from friends and family.
We don’t know what we’re having. There aren’t many big surprises left in life and not knowing means you have less expectation of what it’s going to be like. We’ve got girls’ and boys’ names sorted but we’ve kept it a secret because of the pressure of the family response. At the beginning we made the mistake of making a few suggestions out loud and the reactions were predictably bad – we should have known better.
I haven’t done any pregnancy reading or joined any antenatal classes but I’ve been going to pregnancy yoga, which has been brilliant in terms of breathing exercises for labour and preparing yourself mentally. My midwives have been absolute angels and from having so many friends and family who’ve gone through it I’ve been given so much advice.
I want lots of kids. My husband’s quite scared; he’d be happy with two but I would like at least four.
Growing up with siblings is so much fun so I’d like to have that for our children.
I’m a freelance illustrator so looking after the kids will fit in quite nicely. If you can avoid childcare it seems crazy not to give it a good go as it’s so expensive.
From the sounds of it we’re lucky to have a really good primary school around us and nurseries so we’ll be spoilt for choice.
We don’t have lots of money at all but we seem to get by. In the first six months with me breastfeeding I don’t think there will be masses of costs involved.
After that we’ll just figure it out as we go. When we run out of money we tend to panic and then start over again.
Julia Runner, 39, north London. Runs a jewellery business: ‘I’m weighing up birthing centre vs labour ward’
I’m from Ohio in the States, which is where I had my first two girls – now aged two and three – so this pregnancy is an entirely new experience for me. In the States you’re seen by your obstetrician through the whole of your pregnancy, whereas here it’s mainly midwives. At home I would be considered high-risk because of my age, whereas here I’m considered a veteran.
In the US the whole birthing process is different. There aren’t really birthing centres. You don’t do gas and air, you do epidurals, and there are constant scans. When you’re a month off, as I am now, you’re seen every week whereas here it’s every two weeks. I’d never have dreamed of going eight weeks between appointments, as is standard in Britain, and as a result I feel far less in touch with my pregnancy.
At home I felt much more involved rather than like “I’m just carrying this kiddo around”, but having so many appointments and scans can throw into light potential problems that can make you worry more.
In healthcare [costs] alone, having my first two girls left us around $10,000 [£6,500] out of pocket. In hindsight, I might have considered going private in the UK but by the time I finally saw a midwife I was 12 weeks gone, so we thought we’d just go with the flow.
Weighing up the birthing centre versus labour ward has been my biggest consideration, especially as I was told I couldn’t have a tour of the hospital. I was concerned about what I was getting into. Finally I got hold of a high-up member of staff who gave me whole tour of the hospital.
My other children were both “normal” births with epidural. This time I’m going to go through a birthing centre process with just gas and air. The possibility of being discharged after six hours blows my mind.
It’s the whole unknown that’s strange. I’m used to getting to the hospital, getting on the bed, sticking my legs in the stirrups. This time around I have a picture in my mind of a midwife following me around as I go between the birthing ball and pool, trying to catch my baby.
I don’t really know anyone in the area I live in so I signed up to classes with the National Childbirth Trust (NCT). Socially, I really wanted to meet people in the same situation and as far as the classes go, because the system here is so different I needed extra reassurance.
The book What to Expect When You’re Expecting has been a bible for me all the way up to toddler years. I also really love babycentre.co.uk and also the NCT emails. It’s just really nice to give each other reassurance and hear people say positive things about the hospital we’ll be using.
I’ve loved knowing the sex of my baby for each of my pregnancies. Though knowing we’re having our third girl, it’s been hard to come up with a name this time around. Some of the names that we like sound so lovely when said by someone English but when said by someone American, not so much.
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