So the bump is getting bigger, and you have found yourself a gynaecologist who, hopefully, you are getting along well with (see Having a baby in Luxembourg part 1). Time to start preparing yourself for childbirth.
There are plenty of good general books to read, my personal favourite being “The Rough Guide to Pregnancy and Birth” by Kaz Cooke; a book full of practical tips and good advice, but not one that takes itself too seriously. There are also books specifically about having a baby in Luxembourg; the originally titled “Having a baby in Luxembourg” by the Well Clinic, or the “Quoi de 9?” book “Being pregnant and giving birth in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg”. Both of these are full of tips about how things work here, what to expect and all sorts of other useful information such as what may or may not be covered by your health insurance.
Sharing and preparing
However, especially if this is your first baby, you may want to consider going to some antenatal classes. Not only is this a great way to learn all about childbirth, life with a new baby and how it might be for you in Luxembourg, but it is also a chance to make friends with other women in your situation. It is not uncommon for women to talk about the friends they made at their first antenatal classes, as some of their closest, lifelong friends. In fact, as I write this, I am waiting for a friend to call me back, who was in the same postnatal class as me for our oldest children, 9 years ago.
Your fellow class mates will probably be the only ones who really do want to hear in detail about how many feeds a day your baby is having, what his or her nappies look like and how much sleep you are getting. Of course there is a certain amount of luck involved in who shares your class, but you will be going through a life changing experience together, and what is more, your oldest children will always be the same age. It is a great opportunity to start building up your support network of friends, which is so vital when often family is so far away.
Ask your gynaecologist whether there are any classes offered at your hospital or contact the Well Baby Clinic, who runs classes in English.
Aside from more traditional antenatal classes, there are other options available here. You can join a pregnancy yoga class, or an aquafit class designed for pregnant women. As preparation for my second child, I did a “hypnobirthing” class. I found it hugely beneficial in teaching me to really relax and allow my body to do its thing. This is also available in Luxembourg and I would strongly recommend it to anyone wanting to go for a more natural birth.
Birth plan or not?
Many second time mothers may laugh heartily when I mention birth plans, having abandoned theirs at an early stage in their first labour. Although you may not be able to stick to it, either because you change your mind, or some sort of medical need takes over, this is a really helpful exercise for you to do with whoever is going to be with you at the birth, be it partner, husband or mother.
Your birth plan may say that you will go with the flow and see how it feels at the time, but you may have very clear ideas about wanting an epidural early, or not wanting one at all. You may want to give birth in water, or want certain music to be playing when your baby comes into the world. You may know that your baby is going to be born by caesarian but really want skin to skin contact with your baby at the earliest possible moment. If you write it down and everyone is clear, it is more likely (though certainly not guaranteed) to happen.
The practice run
The thing about childbirth however is that it is unpredictable. Sometimes intervention is needed. Occasionally split second decisions have to be taken, but there is usually enough time for a bit of discussion. You should be given adequate explanation as to why interventions are needed and a useful mnemonic to remember is BRAN (a good one for partners to jot down!): What are the Benefits and Risks of this intervention? What are the Alternatives, and what about doing Nothing (allowing a bit more time)? You can apply this reasoning to all sorts of decisions from whether you would like to be induced when you are 3 days overdue, to whether you will allow the midwives to give you an enema when you arrive on the labour ward!
Remember if you are giving birth for the first time, that your body has never done it before, and don’t be too hard on yourself if things do not go according to your hopes and expectations. I often think that first time through should be considered a practice run; second babies are nearly always the easiest births, so if you want a natural, calm, childbirth experience, aim for it second time around!
The nesting period
Maternity leave is not hugely generous in Luxembourg, but I am quite in favour of the fact that you have to stop work at 32 weeks. I was one of those daft first time mums who worked up until 37.5 weeks, then was very surprised when my waters broke at 38 weeks, and I had to make a detour to the shops to be fitted for maternity bras en route to the hospital.
I think that the nesting period before baby arrives is a really helpful and important time, to fill up your freezer with nice meals, bank some sleep (if you can), laze around putting your feet up and have the chance to get your head around the mind-blowing changes that are about to take place in your life.
Lots of Luxembourg mums are a bit older, have successful careers, and are used to being in charge of their lives. A bit of time to relax and loosen the tight reins of control before a small being arrives and takes over is no bad thing!
By Susie Tunstall-Pedoe, June 2013