Excellent news this week - Social Services have managed to put a care package in place for me as I transition to parenthood.
The remaining three weeks of pregnancy (plus the two weeks of Steve's paternity leave) there's not really any notable change from my existing care package. My understanding is that they are taking the view that if I've survived pregnancy for 36 weeks on my existing arrangement I will survive the rest.
I disagree with this. I have been horribly isolated and largely housebound during my pregnancy, because I've had to abandon my former activities as I've needed to use up so many of my hours on support for/transport to medical and social services appointments and trying to get the baby essentials in place. We've been extremely lucky in that I haven't had the sort of complications that lead to weekly appointments or all-day clinics. I've also been unable to participate in a number of the recommended activities that I had been hoping to engage with during pregnancy, such as swimming/aquanatal, antenatal exercise/social groups, shopping events that offer discounts on baby equipment, etc.
Plus of course, in this final month, my body is drastically changed and the baby is getting noticeably bigger week by week. We took 30 weeks to get to 3lbs, but only another 4 weeks to get from there to 4.5lbs, and by 39 weeks we should be between 6 and 8lbs. I'm huge! I can't lie on my front or my back any more! I don't dare lie down on the sofa while I'm alone in the house because I can't get back up! I need to wee all the time and I haven't got my stairlift yet! There's not enough room in my belly to eat a proper main meal, I'm supposed to be eating several smaller ones throughout the day but I don't have support to do that! If pregnancy is a marathon, the last bit of it is seriously uphill compared to the previous months!
The failure/refusal of social services to properly support my needs during pregnancy has caused a loss of freedom and has had a documented impact on my mental health (as well as, to a less dramatic extent, my physical health), and that baby and I have "survived" has had more to do with luck and favours than any idea that my support package has been adequate.
However, I have a choice. I can spend the next three weeks struggling to cope AND struggling to fight with social services for resources which, even if I technically win, won't possibly be in place before the birth. Alternatively, I can spend the next three weeks struggling to cope AND trying to focus on thinking the happiest thoughts I can, resting as much as possible, and trying to be ready for what happens once the baby arrives.
And this is the really good news. Once the baby is outside me and Steve has gone back to work, social services have granted me 40 hours per week of support.
It doesn't mean I'll have someone here all the time - Steve works more than 40 hours each week and there's commuting time as well. But if I structure it as two shifts totalling 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and if I'm careful about making sure that at the end of each PA shift baby and I are safely set up with everything we'll need in the next hour or so to hand, then it will work.
I can feel safe.
Of course it isn't indefinite. The plan is to review it every two weeks (I admit to wondering if this will be two calendar weeks, or a social services "two weeks") and to reduce the package as I recover from the surgery, baby gets the hang of feeding, the medical appointments peter out, a routine begins to develop.
But that's okay. I can go into surgery to have the baby knowing that, at least while the stitches are in, someone will be around to help me fulfil my role as a parent. The first month, which I anticipate as being the most difficult, I will be supported.
I had been so scared that they were going to wait until an actual crisis occurred, that either the baby or I would have to be hospitalised to "prove" that we needed help before any help would be forthcoming. Or, perhaps worse, that the baby and toddler years would be like the pregnancy - baby and I would be trapped at home struggling to do anything more than survive, but that with luck and favours and Steve turning himself inside out we'd scrape along *just* well enough that no red flags would be raised, leading to a situation that never improved and a child who started school with all sorts of disadvantages because I had never been supported to provide them with proper pre-school education, socialisation, nutrition, exercise...
Instead, I have a chance. I *will* be adequately supported for that first month and probably for the second month as well. If I can use that time to engage with the Health Visitors, if I can develop attendance at the breastfeeding groups and other baby activities, if I can demonstrate that I'm eating well, if I can line classes and activities up for 2016, then I will be in a strong position to argue that I need to continue with those things to fulfil my parenting role.