An open letter to The Observer…

motherhood

newborn

Safe delivery is not the ONLY thing that matters when giving birth.

Dear Observer,

I would have preferred to have been able to address this letter to somebody more personally but alas the article to which I’m responding was published anonymously. It’s not surprising given the offensive and archaic nature of the statements made, reminiscent of a time before women had autonomy, but I would have preferred the author to have had the balls to put their name to their words. Perhaps the author did have balls? Maybe that explains the anonymity. A man telling a woman that her thoughts and feelings about her birth, her body and her baby are irrelevant and unimportant might break the Internet.

Now to start, I don’t know what I’m more surprised about; the fact a supposedly left-wing and liberal-minded paper has so explicitly dismissed the importance of women’s feelings, thoughts and experiences when it comes to childbirth, ironically a uniquely female experience or the fact you published an article with the incorrect use of ‘to’ (it should have been ‘too’). Either way, your quality control is obviously on annual leave this summer.

Being serious though, my first issue is the discussion around the normal birth campaign and the decision by the RCM to change the word ‘normal’ to ‘physiological’ when describing natural vaginal birth without intervention.

The RCM acknowledges that the word ‘normal’ might make those that do not have natural births feel not normal and like they failed somehow. Being not normal is rarely perceived as a good thing and suggests something is wrong. This is the reasoning behind the decision to change the word to ‘physiological’ – a word which creates a less negative dichotomy.

I wholly support this decision because as a hypnobirthing teacher and psychology graduate I understand the impact language can have on wellbeing and therefore how important it is to be mindful of the language we use around birth.

I applaud the RCM for recognising the negative connotations around the word ‘normal’ and for taking appropriate action and substituting the word with ‘physiological’. They have done so because they value women and care about the way they feel. They recognise the importance of mental health and how women feel about their birth experience in the postnatal period. They care about more than just safety. They care about feelings, mental and psychological wellbeing and language. This change in wording is representative of their whole ethos; to provide women-centred care.

Now here’s the important bit: nothing about this change in word means there is going to be a change in approach, attitude or belief regarding natural birth. The RCM will continue as they have always done to promote natural childbirth. They might call it ‘physiological’ rather than ‘normal’ but essentially the work they do will remain the same.

I don’t think it’s too tricky a concept to grasp yet you seem to have somehow misinterpreted this simple change of word as some sort of acknowledgement by the RCM that they have been dangerously campaigning and pressuring women to have natural births even when it’s not been in the women’s best interest to do so. This is grossly incorrect and at complete odds with what Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, has stated on the matter. I notice you didn’t use any direct quotes.

The RCM promotes natural childbirth for low risk women because it offers the best outcomes for Mum and Baby. This is not based on dogma, personal experience or ideology. This is based on evidence and stats. This is based on scientific fact.

The birthplace study evaluated the outcomes for 64,000 women and their babies across the UK. in various birth places and found, for example, that for second time low risk women giving birth at home or in a midwife-led birth centre offered best outcomes for both Mum and Baby with fewer interventions.

There is nothing therefore dangerous or irresponsible about midwifes promoting natural birth to women for whom natural birth is statistically safest. The only thing dangerous that’s happening here is sloppy journalism misinforming the public.

Finally what happened at Morecambe Bay is more than unfortunate, it’s tragic. My heart goes out to the parents who lost their beautiful babies in circumstances that could have been avoided. I sincerely hope those responsible are brought to justice. There is no doubt that pursuing natural birth above all else is dangerous and irresponsible but it’s important to recognise that what happened at Morecambe Bay is not indicative of the culture in maternity services across the UK.

Yes midwives promote natural childbirth but midwives also work alongside obstetricians and support women through more medicalised births every single day. They recommend and even encourage interventions when that is best, following the evidence-based guidelines that exist. They ensure women are informed and treated with dignity and care.

They also recognise women as intelligent autonomous individuals and most importantly acknowledge their right to make decisions regarding their bodies and babies and support their wishes whilst ensuring they are fully informed.

As a woman, a mother and a human who believes in equality I will be forever grateful that we have midwives who work tirelessly to support women in birth. If midwives held the same opinion as The Observer we would be in serious trouble. Women’s voices in birth would be completely sidelined and their birth experience deemed irrelevant in a birth model where the only thing that matters is the safe delivery of a baby, at all costs. Where the safe delivery of a baby is the measurement of a successful birth. That’s what would be really dangerous, not to mention scary! I can’t help but draw comparisons to the dystopic future as seen in A Handmaid’s Tale where the handmaids’ wellbeing is considered a small price to pay for the delivery of a live child.

Birth experience matters. It’s very possible to have a safe birth and a positive and empowering experience. Birth doesn’t have to be intervention-free to be positive and for some women it will be necessary for their birth to be more medicalised, but what’s important is that women are fully informed and able to make decisions that are right for them and their babies and are supported in their choices.

That should be what we all campaign for. On that note, please see the RCM’s Better Births initiative.

Thank you for reading.

Best Regards,

Siobhan Miller

If you want to find out more about how hypnobirthing can help you navigate your birth calmly and confidently and ensure you have the best birth for you and your baby, however that birth may be, please visit The Positive Birth Company. I teach classes monthly in London, Devon and Birmingham and run the Positive Birth Retreat® – a 3 night luxury mini break for expectant couples; a babymoon combined with the fully comprehensive hypnobirthing antenatal course.

Camping with Kids: The Ultimate Kit List

motherhood

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With just one day to go until we hit the road for the summer the inevitable packing-induced panic is upon is! Packing is my absolute nemesis and when you’re a family of 5 going on a 2 week+ camping trip we are talking next level stress.

The first stop on our big annual road trip is CAMP BESTIVAL! A family-friendly festival at Lulworth Castle in Dorset where we will be camping in a tent. From there we are heading to… ITALIA!!! We plan to drive all the way in our camper, with a few pit stops on the way, and live out of our van for a fortnight whilst feasting on pizza, pasta and gelato and drinking prosecco and aperol spritz (a glass of which actually costs less than a can of coke!). When in Rome… quite literally!

If you find yourself in the same boat / tent / campervan I hope the kit list below will help…

TENT

So we have a VW T5 campervan which we will be sleeping in when driving across Europe but for Camp Bestival we are pitching up in a tent. I have over the past week or so got well into tent research. I’m aware of how lame that sounds but bear with me… I had no idea there were so many options out there and once I started researching I just couldn’t stop. I discovered this guy called “Alpine Dan” on the Millets Website who is just awesome and basically shows you how to put tents up and take them down and gives you tours of the tents. A bit like MTV cribs but with Alpine Dan and the Berghaus Air 6 rather than some American baseball star and their pimped-out pad.

So my biggest tent-related discovery was there there are now tents WITHOUT poles. Let that sink in for a moment… Instead of poles, there are tubes that inflate and then the whole tent just rises from the ground all as one and is UP. It takes mere minutes. I feel like I’ve stumbled across a tent revolution! I mean maybe everybody already knew about this??? But I certainly didn’t. The last time I erected a tent, I had to battle with an inner layer, a ground sheet and a separate outer layer. Let’s not even get started on the poles which are always a huge struggle. The thought of trying to erect a large family-sized tent, in the dark, at a busy festival, with 3 kids on the loose, fills me with fear so this inflatable option has totally won me over.

We went for the Berghaus Air 6 and I’m genuinely like ASOS-delivery level of excited for it to arrive.

BEDS

So we have 5 people, ranging in age from 1 through to 34 (!) who need to bed down for the night and we need a solution that works both in the tent and in the campervan. Since we are spending so long on the road this summer and not booking any accommodation, I really wanted to up our sleeping set-up. It’s alright roughing it for a night or two but I don’t fancy a fortnight of it.

For the baby…

We have gone for a sleepyhead grand. The sleepyhead original was one of the best purchases I made when Fox was born. I begrudgingly spent the money but oh was I glad I did!! He slept in it every night at home in the snuzpod (another awesome buy) and then every night when we were camping in our van. Not only did he feel safe and snuggly it in but I also felt more comfortable (and therefore slept better!) knowing I couldn’t just roll on top of him when we co-slept. Before he could crawl out, it kept him contained and it’s so easy to transport. Wherever we went we took the sleepyhead with us. So I’m super excited about using the sleepyhead grand when camping. It’s going to make for one very warm and cosy sleeping set up!

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Above: Fox sleeping in his sleepyhead on a camping trip at 8 weeks old

If it’s cool at night Fox will sleep in a grobag as he does at home and if it’s warm then he will just wear his PJs. I might put the sleepyhead in the travel cot if I need to keep him contained – we will just have to see if he stays put or not!!

The travel cot we have is the Phil & Teds Traveller and it’s the most lightweight travel cot I’ve ever seen/used. We have taken it on countless flights and trips away in our van. It folds down super small and is incredibly lightweight but amazingly it’s still full-sized when up.

For the toddler and the ten year old…

We have gone for bundle beds! These are such an awesome concept; a whole bed rolled up in one including pillow and duvet! A bit like a sleeping bag they are compact and easy to transport to festivals and campsites and friend’s houses. But once unrolled they are so much more! A self-inflating mattress with a comfy foam layer, a duvet and a pillow – the whole shebang! We plan to use these in the tent and in the van for the kids and they are so much easier than lugging air beds (that then need inflating) plus sleeping bags or duvets and sheets and pillows.

They’re not cheap but will be used for years to come and we are frequent campers. They can also be used at home when we have guests and are suitable for adults as well as kids! Thinking about it, I’m pretty sure the sleeping bag I have at the moment dates back to my 2002 trip to Peru! So if they last half as long I will be one happy lady! Also anything that helps the kids sleep better is worth its weight in gold I think. If the kids don’t sleep, the adults don’t sleep and then the whole happy campers dream turns into a living bloody nightmare for every soul.

For the adults…

Last but least there is James and I. Funny how we think of ourselves last, hey?? So we have gone for a simple self-inflating mat which we got on Amazon (which was recommended on the VW T5 forums that I frequent! I really am a camping geek!!) and then a memory foam mattress topper from the wonderfully-named ‘Happy Beds‘. If we were just going to the festival for a couple nights we’d probably be fine on just the self-inflating mat but given we will be sleeping in our van for over 2 weeks we thought we might want a *little* more luxury. We might not be heading to a hotel or apartment this summer but we don’t want to totally slum it! We plan to use the mattress topper on our rock and roll bed to make it a little more comfortable and us that bit happier.

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The boys chilling out in their onesies in the van on our last camping trip

GETTING OUT AND ABOUT

So once we have pitched up at the festival, inflated our tent (A-MAZING) and set up our luxe beds we’re going to want to go off and explore. We are 2 adults to 3 children in ratio so it’s like a one-man down situation from the offset. Lots of people use wheelbarrows or trolleys at festivals to push/pull their kids around and I think when children are too big for buggies but still get tired from walking, they are a great solution. I think children aged 3 or 4+ probably love kicking back in a wheelbarrow but it’s not going to work with a 1 and 2 year old. In particular my 1 year old would just throw himself over the edge at the very first opportunity and if I parked up and took my eyes off them (to watch a band or chat to someone) I know full well by the time I turned around they would both be GONE. So I need a more secure solution.

MOUTAIN BUGGY….

Which is why we will bringing our amazing double buggy – the Mountain Buggy Duet. This buggy is AWESOME. I bought our first one before Fox was born after conducting extensive research online. We are now on our second one because someone STOLE our Mountain Buggy from outside our house!!! They are that desirable folks that people with no conscience will steal them. Be warned!!

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The boys down at the beach in their new Mountain Buggy Duet

Tales of daylight robbery aside, I have used the Mountain Buggy Duet every day since Fox was born, both on the tube in London and on country walks in Devon. It has been down to the beach and up to the snowy alps! I’m a BIG fan and promise to post a proper review soon!

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The boys up the mountains at Alpe D’Huez in their MB duet

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Out and about in Camden in Central London

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A super small baby Fox in the carrycot attachment

But when it comes to festivals with two young kids I’ve decided it’s pretty much the perfect pram. It’s built for rough terrain so should be able to handle a bit of mud and when the kids want to nap, I can simply recline the seats and they can sleep on.. whilst strapped in tightly so I don’t lose anyone!! When they are awake they are side by side so can both see all the sights there are to see – there is no ‘inferior’ back seat! And even though it’s a side by side it’s no wider than a regular single Mountain Buggy so you won’t annoy people *too* much as you steer through the crowds. I’m not suggesting you buy a duet just for a festival but if you’re looking to upgrade to a double, I seriously recommend it!

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BOBO BUDDIES…

Now of course the little ones aren’t going to be happy with being strapped in the whole time and that doesn’t fit entirely with my ethos of ‘let them be free’ so they will be let out to roam. The only way I know of keeping kids safe in this type of situation where there are crowds of people and the said kids are toddlers on a mission, is to put them on reins. Like a dog.

I have used reins since Osh was a toddler, 10 years ago. In fact when I took him to Glastonbury in 2014 when he was 7 years old I still used reins then!! I find it just stops them getting swept along with the crowds and separated from you! I might let Osh off the reins this year since he is 10 (haha) but the little two are 100% going to be reined up!!

I recently discovered BoBo Buddies and I’m a big fan. A buddy is a soft cuddly toy with a little zipped compartment so it doubles as a mini rucksack and comes with detachable straps so triples up (is that a word?!) as a pair of reins. Foxy loves his Monkey and Mama loves keeping Fox on a leash. Happy Days. The Buddies are coming to Bestival!

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SLINGS…

I will also be packing our slings so we have the option of carrying the kids. I have two slings – the Mountain Buggy Juno and the ErgoBaby Adapt. They are actually quite similar in style and can be used on your front or back or hip. They both have a wide strap that goes around your waist so the weight is distributed a bit like a big hiking rucksack which stops you getting pain as with some carriers that pull from your shoulders. Reassuringly, both have been approved by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute as being  ‘hip-healthy’ products.

I found the Mountain Buggy Juno was particularly good when Arlo and Fox were small as the newborn insert is really nice. So nice in fact that I used to take it out and Fox used to sleep in it! So soft and plush. You can also carry your baby on your front facing outwards with the Juno whereas you can’t with the ErgoBaby Adapt.

Now they are a bit bigger I like the ErgoBaby Adapt as it’s cooler (as in less hot not more trendy) and carrying a toddler makes me sweaty. It’s a slightly different shape and there seems to be less fabric and more ventilation. You can also get the Adapt in loads of different colours and prints including collaborations they’ve done with other brands.

But to be honest both are great and I’m sure you and your baby would be happy with either.

A sling at a festival is a good idea because if the ground is really wet and pushing a buggy becomes impossible, you can still get out and about without having to lug a kid under each arm.

 

ENTERTAINMENT

For the kids..

I’m pretty sure that there will be plenty to keep the kids entertained at Camp Bestival. We have been before and to lots of other festivals with the kids and there is always so much going on that you don’t even get to see it all. You certainly don’t run out of stuff to do. However from Camp Bestival we are heading straight to Italy in our van and that is going to mean a LOT of hours on the road…

An iPad goes some way to helping but the battery does not last indefinitely and also it has been known to cause arguments. So the kids will each be bringing a few toys/games to keep them happy. I love these zipped toy bags from husband and wife team Occasionally Six. The bags have the kids’ names on them so there can be no confusion – even Arlo (who is 2.5yo) can identify the names and has learnt to recognise the letters in his own name by tracing the bright neon letters printed on his toy bag. Apart from reducing arguments by each child having their own toys in their own bag, it’s also a good way to keep things tidy and ordered. By counting the toys out and counting them back in you can ensure no superhero is left behind.

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For the parents…

As with the kids, at Camp Bestival I reckon there will be enough to keep us entertained but when it comes to the big road trip and the 2 weeks of camping, I am going to want my phone to have some battery. I plan to limit my phone use on holiday and steer clear of my work inbox but I’m also going to want to share some photos on my Instagram and document our holiday, because it’s those photos that I love to look back on most which remind me of the fun summers and all our adventures. We also like to listen to podcasts on our road trips. Current faves for laughs are Letters to my Fanny, Scummy Mummies and Dirty Mother Pukka and then of course there’s the super addictive Serial and S Town, which are just brilliant. We binged listened to S Town all the way to the Alps earlier this year when the kids were asleep in the back and it definitely made the 12hour drive easier.

So that’s why a battery pack is a MUST HAVE. You do need to remember to charge it up initially but then it will charge your phone multiple times over. They’re small and not too expensive and with roaming charges pretty much gone using your phone abroad has never been easier/cheaper.

Old school as it is, I will also be packing some card games for camping. My fave NSFK (not suitable for kids) is Cards Against Humanity. James actually bought me the expansion pack for Valentines Day last year. Admittedly not the most romantic gift but it was a pretty good gift for me. Does that make me a really horrible person?! 😉

I tend to use my phone to take photos but you might want to pack a camera too and then there are other festival essentials like tissues and wet wipes and antibacterial hand gel. Maybe some first aid items and of course cash money for the stalls!

The best way of carrying these items and ensuring they are easily accessible is a bum bag and I’m so pleased they are actually IN FASHION. You can buy them anywhere from ASOS to Tiba+Marl. If you’re wanting one for a festival then make sure you check out the MiPac range. They have a really cool selection of metallic and palm prints ones and they are about £16.

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Talking of Tiba+Marl you are going to need a change bag for the festival/camping trip if you have kids in nappies and a rucksack is without a doubt your best bet. Anything that frees up your hands for all-important activities like drink-holding and kid-catching is a sure fire winner. Honestly, once you’ve gone rucksack you are not going back!!

The Tiba+Marl rucksacks are changing bags but not like any you’ve seen before. They’re not at all ‘mumsy’. They won’t make you look like a seasoned hiker or a kid that’s off to school. They are seriously stylish and there are now loads of cool prints and options available. They are stocked by Harrods, Selfridges and Mamas & Papas and have been designed and created by two amazing Mums. I particularly love the pink and metallic silver Elwood and reckon they’d be perfect for a festival.

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EATING

A few summers ago we invested in a weber gas BBQ and now do mostly all our cooking on this when camping. We chose not to have a kitchen fitted in our camper as we wanted more space for the bed (we are a family of 5 after all) and also because I wasn’t keen on the idea of cooking in a small space with 3 kids on the loose. I do love a bacon sarnie in the morning but wouldn’t want my much-loved camper stinking of pig for the rest of the day and splattered in oil. So the weber BBQ has been our saviour. It heats up super fast and is easy (ish) to transport / lug about.

We also have a portable gas stove and use this for boiling water for tea/coffee and for cooking stuff like pasta. The gas stoves are really cheap to buy and probably one of the best camping purchases you can make. They are super portable and usually come in a lightweight plastic carry case. They are perfect for festivals!

In terms of actual food to eat, there are loads of great food stalls at Camp Bestival but a very easy and healthy option for little kids are the new classics from Little Dish. They include stuff like macaroni cheese, spaghetti hoops and tomato soup and cost approx £1 from most supermarkets. They can be heated up on the little stove and have no hidden nasties but lots of hidden veggies!

At Camp Bestival I plan to feed my two little ones early, get them ready for bed and then tuck them up in their buggy with some blankets and their milk and then head out to see the headliners. The rest of us can then pick up some food later on from one of the many food stalls.

When camping for longer periods of time we tend to do a big supermarket shop and most campsites have fridges you can hire to keep stuff chilled. European campsites in particular are so good for families and have everything you need. We then just cook on the stove and BBQ.

TOP TIPS FOR FESTIVALS

  • I think wellies are a great footwear option for the whole family at festivals. They are easy on and easy off and you are sorted come rain or shine.
  • Ear Defenders for little kids are a must have! I just bought these ones on Amazon. Thank God for Prime.
  • Take some some solar-powered or battery operated fairy lights to string up around your tent so it’s easier to identify yours in a sea of similar looking ones.
  • Make sure you’ve written your name and number on your child so if you do get separated someone will be able to contact you. Take a sharpie. If they are old enough make sure you agree on an easy-to-find meeting place just in case.
  • I’m also a fan of high vis vests… for the whole family. Festivals are notoriously busy places and it can be hard keeping an eye on everyone in the dark. The easier your brood are to spot, the better. The same goes for you! Your kids will find it reassuring if they can easily see you in the dark.
  • A bit like the inflating tent, I’ve recently discovered and been blown away by these Munchkin Miracle 360 cups. I think I’m a bit late to the party but seriously, THEY DO NOT SPILL! It really is a miracle. I’ve got a few of them now and they are especially great in the car. No more crying over spilt milk!! Also I’ve managed to wean my boys off their bottles (with teats) using these cups. Another miracle.

 

I hope you have found this kit list and top tips useful! In the interest of transparency, some of the above I have bought and some of the above I have managed to blag (perks of blogging) but all the items I’ve included are absolutely brilliant and I have mentioned them because I rate them highly, not because I was under any obligation to do so.

Finally, remember you can slowly acquire stuff over time and don’t need all or any of the above to have an awesome camping trip! Many years ago I took my eldest to the lsle of Wight festival and it was a complete wash out. The mud was over knee-deep! We only had a bog standard cheapo tent from Argos, a couple sleeping bags and one of those portable stoves I mentioned above, but we had the BEST time.

Over the years we have moved from calling ourselves ‘amateur campers’ to ‘semi-pro’ and now because we camp so much and take all our holidays in our campervan, we have a lot of really nice kit. So if camping is going to be something you do a lot, I’d recommend investing in some decent beds if you can. If you’re going to a festival as a one-off don’t stress and just have a wicked time!

You can keep up with how we get on at Camp Bestival and on our big road trip by following me on Instagram where I will post lots of pics and stories over the coming weeks!

Thanks for reading

Siobhan x

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF JO LOVE – FOUNDER OF LOBELLA LOVES

DAY IN THE LIFE, motherhood

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Lobella Loves is a newly launched online shop full of beautiful treasures for your little one. Behind the digital shop front there is more! Founder Jo Love has built a business designed to make a difference and donates a percentage from every single sale to Cocoon Family Support, a charity supporting families suffering from pre and postnatal mental health issues.

Jo has also launched an amazing campaign called ‘Notes of Hope’ where she donates handpicked gifts to mothers receiving support via Cocoon, accompanied by a handwritten letter of hope from a mother who has been through a similar experience.

The response to the campaign has been overwhelming with supporters and postnatal depression survivors submitting letters sharing their personal experience with the condition and a positive message for those currently suffering. I can only imagine how comforting it must be to receive a lovely gift and a heartfelt letter of hope from someone who has been through it.

I love businesses that seek to help and support others and especially love the story and concept behind Lobella Loves, so when Jo invited me to choose a gift I jumped at the chance to be involved…

…Choosing which gift from all the options on the site was the hard part but eventually I settled on an amazing bright and fun neon cactus light! Jo kindly sent me one as well as sending one to a Mum currently receiving treatment for a perinatal mental health issue (either in hospital or on an intensive treatment programme). I only hope that when the Mum receiving it switched it on it brought a smile to her a face, as it did mine.

I think you’ll all agree the Notes of Hope campaign sounds pretty special. I certainly did! And I wanted to know more about the woman behind it all, partly because I’m nosy and partly because she sounds bloody amazing!! So what does a day in the life of a Mum running an online business and charity campaign look like?!

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This is the first post in my new ‘A Day in the Life‘ series where we get a sneak peak behind-the-scenes into the real lives of interesting and inspiring entrepreneurial women. Here Jo Love shares what life is like for her as she juggles her young family with running Lobella Loves….

I WAKE UP …very unnaturally anywhere between 5:30am and 7am depending on when my human alarm clock (otherwise known as my two-year-old daughter Bella) wakes up and starts singing the ‘Wheels on the bus’ on repeat at the top of her lungs!

MY TYPICAL DAY…starts as soon as the toddler whirlwind opens her eyes! The morning routine is a pretty chaotic dance between me and my husband trying to get everyone up, clean, fed and out of the door with minimal tears and spilled porridge. I have been known to come out of an important work meeting to find rouge Weetabix smears across my front. Luckily most of the people I’m meeting these days are parents themselves.

After childcare drop-offs I’ll usually settle into answering any emails I haven’t gotten to the previous day. I love the variety of entrepreneurial-life as no two days are the same. One day I can be in town socialising and networking with the Insta-mums or working from Google Campus’ co-working space in the City the next! This is very different to my previous, much more routine, life as a lawyer.

Until launching Lobella Loves I worked as a corporate lawyer for the best part of a decade, and although it was an incredible career, my new world feels far more suited to lifestyle and my entrepreneurial spirit.

Every day, whatever else I may be doing, I am on Instagram. I am an addict. It’s somewhere I find my beautiful products and wonderful sellers, but also an incredible support network. Many connections that started in the virtual world have now crossed the dividing line and have become my real life friends. If you’d said to me 5 years ago some of my closest gals pals would be people I’d met on the internet I would have called you crazy!

AFTER WORK…when you run your own business it’s hard to know exactly when work is done for the day. There is always something to do. However recently I’ve tried to get much better at switching off the laptop and having some time out. Self-care was for a long time a completely alien concept for me, now I actively try and switch off and have some me-time. Lately I’ve started using the Headspace meditation app which has really helped me get the most from those precious moments of chill.

THE WORST PART OF MY JOB…Is realising I only have a certain amount of time and therefore I really have to prioritise what needs to get done and when. In a similar way, I’m learning to get better at delegating and knowing when and what to give to someone else.

THE BEST PART OF MY JOB… Is being able to help other Mums struggling with mental health issues. We donate money from every single sale to Cocoon Family Support, a charity helping support Mums with perinatal mental health illnesses. I suffered badly with postnatal depression after the birth of my daughter, so when setting up the company I had a really strong urge to help others and it was a great tonic for me and helped my recovery. Giving back helping to fight the stigma and helping other mums have become part of the DNA of the company. My mantra is IT’S COOL TO BE KIND!

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And what an awesome mantra that it?? I think we could all do with a IT’S COOL TO BE KIND slogan tee!

Big thanks to Jo for being the first Mama to take part in my new A DAY IN THE LIFE series! I hoped you liked reading about Jo’s day as much as I did! I’m sure many of you will relate to the juggle/struggle and the difficulty with taking time out when you run your own biz. I certainly struggle with allowing myself time for self-care and knowing when to delegate to others.

If you want to find out more about the amazing work Jo does through Lobella Loves and how you can get involved and support (or just to browse and shop) make sure you visit Lobella Loves.

BEING WITH THIS WOMAN

Birth Stories, motherhood

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Today is International Day of the Midwife and I couldn’t allow the day to pass without acknowledging a woman who has had such a huge impact on my life. This woman who I now consider to be a dear friend, is my wonderful midwife Natalie, who has supported me through my last two pregnancies, births and postnatal periods. When I state that having Natalie as my midwife changed my life, I don’t say that lightly. The birth experiences I have had with Natalie’s support have changed me profoundly as a woman, as a mother, have inspired my career and shaped the path my life is taking.

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Natalie was with me for the birth of my second baby, who was born at home under the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree (you can read my home birth story here). Unfortunately I ended up transferring into hospital due to losing too much blood. The decision therefore about where to give birth third time round was complicated. I loved my home birth experience but the advice and medical recommendation was for me to be on labour ward due to being at ‘high risk’ of having another bleed. I did not want to be on labour ward and so Natalie created what is known as an ‘out of guidelines care plan’ to accommodate me in the birth centre.

I went on to have the most incredible and peaceful water birth with Natalie by my side, feeling safe and supported in my choices (you can read that birth story here). In the end I lost so little blood, far less even than what is considered normal blood loss after birth. Which just goes to show that what has happened before, doesn’t necessarily happen again! However I don’t ever regret not giving birth at home third time around. The birth centre was like a spa and I loved my beautiful water birth. Mostly I’m happy knowing I listened to my intuition and I chose a birth place that felt right for me. I am forever grateful that I was given a choice and supported in my decision. I have no doubt that I would not have had the same experience had I followed recommendation and been on the labour ward under continuous monitoring.

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In the period where I was making the decision about where to give birth, I don’t think I ever considered how Natalie was feeling about things in her role as midwife, which is shameful to admit. I suppose I was naive and a bit ignorant, thinking that what I was processing and going through would not be having an effect on her. I was wrong and it turns out Natalie was feeling just as torn as me. In this wonderful piece, written by Natalie herself, it becomes clear just how heavy the weight of responsibility weighs on the shoulders of midwives. Not just their responsibility to follow guidelines and ensure a safe delivery of baby (which is big enough!) but to also consider the value of the birth experience itself for the mother, to respect and support her wishes even when they go against medical advice and to recognise the importance of mental wellbeing as well as physical, and how achieving that enormous balance can sometimes be extremely challenging, leaving midwives questioning themselves.

The world is lucky to have such wonderful midwives like Natalie in it, so on this day, International Day of the Midwife, I’m sharing these insights, in Natalie’s own words…

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To be a midwife, to be ‘with woman’, is to support her, inform her, hear her, nurture her and sometimes challenge her. There is an art to this delicate balance of support. We want women and their babies to be safe and healthy, in mind, body and spirit. None of us should ever underestimate the power that the birthing experience itself has on a woman and her state of ‘health’. What happens then, when recommendations for safe care are in conflict with a woman’s dreams?

This woman, Siobhan, will tell her story. I am the voice of her midwife and we have been through two pregnancies and births together. Siobhan had a very empowering and healing homebirth with her second son, an experience which I believe will fill her with joy for the rest of her days. But she also had her second haemorrhage at this birth and required a transfer to hospital for ongoing care. As we began her journey into her third pregnancy I knew that birth planning would be harder this time around, I knew I was going to ‘pop’ her bubble.

It is a great responsibility to be a midwife; even the language and singular words I choose to use can have a life lasting effect, good and bad. How do I begin to say, I don’t believe it’s safe for you to have your baby at home again? When I know she’s living and dreaming the experience already! Do you approach it sooner rather than later, to allow time for consideration and thought, or does that stress take away a part of their pregnancy? There is of course no easy answer to this and knowing the woman helps immensely.

I spoke of it early, around 28 weeks, I knew she would need time. My hospital guidelines strongly recommended labour ward care after two haemorrhages. I would of course support her in any birth environment and it was entirely her choice to make, but in the event of another haemorrhage, which seemed more likely than the last time, was home the right place for birth? I needed her to consider all her options, do all the necessary research and then feel safe in the place she chose. I think this challenge devastated her, the home birth vision slipping away amid fears of a catastrophic bleed. I am responsible for that, rightly so I think, but it doesn’t feel good, nor does the worry that you’ve used the wrong language, biased or pressured them?

Thank goodness for birth centres ☺

It’s not home I know, it never will be, but it’s a great middle ground. A protected space to make your own, a home from home with the philosophy of care to match but with medical assistance for that higher risk woman just around the corner, should you need it. Turns out, Siobhan didn’t need it, not this time. The birth of her third son was beautiful, she was beautiful and I was honoured all over again to be her midwife. It was calm and peaceful and this woman showed once again the immense strength that she has. But it wasn’t at home, and she didn’t bleed. Was I wrong, does she wish she’d made a different choice? Only she knows……

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(All photos by Susie Fisher: http://susiefisherphotography.com/)

Another factor that played a huge role in my experiences of giving birth was my hypnobirthing practice. Hypnobirthing is a bit like the psychology of birth and nothing to do with hypnosis or hippies! You learn how birth works on a physiological level so you are informed about your body. You learn how to let go of fears you are holding on to that are detrimental to the progression of natural labour. You learn techniques you can use to make your labour more comfortable. I guarantee by the time you finish a course with me, that you will be feeling excited and looking forward to giving birth! Because it can be amazing. You can find out more about hypnobirthing and the classes I run on my website The Positive Birth Company. I teach monthly in London, Devon and Birmingham.

Positive Induction Birth Story – Charlotte & Jacob

Birth Stories, motherhood

I was recently contacted by Charlotte, after posting my own birth story to celebrate Fox turning one. She told me that she recalled seeing my Instagram post about the birth of Fox last year and feeling a little frustrated at the time, as she too had planned a water birth and was practising hypnobirthing but was 12 days past her due date and desperate to meet her baby. In the end Charlotte chose to accept a little help in getting labour started but still used everything she had learnt and gave birth to her baby boy in the birth pool just as she had hoped. Her experience was a very positive one and she credits hypnobirthing for helping her achieve the calm and empowering birth she wanted. She also said that hearing about my birth inspired her to keep calm when she was in labour. Therefore she has kindly agreed to share her birth story in the hope that it will similarly help and inspire others who might find themselves in a similar position.

So here we have the beautiful birth of Jacob, in Charlotte’s own words…

I discovered hypnobirthing when I was around 5 months pregnant and prior to this I had no idea that birth could be anything other than the noisy, dramatic ordeal that is usually found in TV and films! I became obsessed with reading any positive experiences I could find, even when things hadn’t gone to ‘plan’ women felt empowered and in control and hypnobirthing was a common theme. It was a lightbulb moment for me and from then on I knew I wanted a calm and positive birth experience.

We did a hypnobirthing course in Sheffield in January 2016 and from that point I told everyone who would listen that I was excited about giving birth. Most people thought I was bonkers and were quick to tell me how unbearably painful labour is. This only made me more determined and I practiced my affirmations and visualisations every night in the run up to our due date (18th March 2016). This date came and went and I became increasingly impatient for labour to start.

At 40+4 weeks pregnant my community midwife gave me my first sweep and told me I was already 2cm dilated – whoopee! I thought, and waddled off home expecting contractions to start imminently. But nothing happened. The following week (41+4 weeks) I had a second sweep and was still 2cm and apparently “very stretchy” (lovely!) – I had had a couple of ‘shows’ in the days running up to this but still nothing changed. 

By this point friends and family were calling and messaging me daily and I was growing more and more frustrated. We were going for long walks every day, I was frantically bouncing on my birthing ball at every opportunity, I had a course of induction acupuncture (and continued to practice acupressure at home) – we tried everything, but this baby was not shifting! I knew how important it was to be calm and positive for things to progress naturally but I was finding it increasingly difficult. I had not prepared myself for how negative this would make me feel, I felt my body was completely letting me down.

We were booked in for an induction on Wednesday 30th March when I would be 41+5 weeks. I was incredibly anxious about this as my research (no thanks to google) told me inductions usually meant one thing – intervention – which I desperately didn’t want. We arrived at Chesterfield birth centre early in the morning and after a couple of hours of monitoring and another sweep were told as I was low risk they would send us home. They were busy with emergencies and thought we would be better off at home relaxing, this was of course the best place for us but I was about ready to demand they broke my waters and put me on the drip (thankfully my partner, Mike, talked me out of this option!!)

A good nights rest was the best thing and even though nothing changed overnight I felt much more positive. On the morning of Thursday 31st March I was given another examination (still 2cm and the midwife said she was surprised I wasn’t contracting on my own – me too!!) and we decided our best option was a slow-release hormone propess (a bit like a tampon which is placed close to the cervix and left in for a number of hours to start contractions artificially). This was put in at 11am and over the next number of hours they monitored the baby’s movements and if there were any ‘tightenings’ (their word for contractions). In that time Mike and I played card games and went for walks around the hospital grounds but I still didn’t feel like I was going into labour…

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At 6pm we asked if we could go for another walk and the midwife told me to find some stairs and go up and down them as many times as possible. This clearly resonated with Mike as he found the hospital’s outdoor gym and had me on the stairmaster!! It was either this or the fit of giggles that ensued but on the walk back to the ward I began to notice the elusive tightenings, finally I started to believe I might actually be going into labour!

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These tightenings continued for the next few hours but were in no way painful, they also weren’t very consistent so I still wasn’t holding out much hope that I would have a straightforward labour. I was inhaling clary sage and lavender oils and listening to my favourite hypnobirthing mp3s and was allowed to sit (but not bounce) on the birth ball whilst on the monitor. I tried not to obsess over the tightenings the monitor was showing but I knew things were progressing and at 10pm (just as Mike decided to leave me to make a phone call to his business partner) I was hit with my first proper contraction. It was intense but I was elated! I was finally in labour! 

An examination at 10.30pm put me at 3-4cm dilated, up to this point we had been on the ante & postnatal ward and when we had asked the midwives when we should go to the birthing centre downstairs, their response was always “when you feel like you need more pain relief” which I didn’t feel like I needed at all! The pressure had been building in my back but Mike had filled my hot water bottle which I had pushed to my back while I leaned over the bed walking my legs and concentrating on my breathing techniques which was helping me keep control. I had mentioned intermittently to the midwives that I hoped to try the water in a birthing pool but since this was off limits if you are induced and need continual monitoring I wasn’t pinning all my hopes on it. By some miracle though the one room at Chesterfield Birth Centre (Room 5) with a mobile and waterproof monitor was available for me to use – I was overjoyed and so relieved! My contractions were now coming very close together (probably because of the hormone propess which was still in) so we had to move quickly – Mike grabbed all of our possessions (it was at this point I realised we’d brought far too much stuff with us!) and I somehow managed to waddle down the stairs breathing through the contractions. We arrived in room 5 and I honestly felt like we’d just got to a 5* spa hotel!!

The next hour passed in a bit of a blur, the midwife who had shown us to the room had started to fill the pool but very politely left us to it and told us our labour midwife would be with us shortly. I think she showed Mike how to refill the water (with a hand sensor on the wall – very hi-tec!) and said I could get in when I wanted. I had in my mind that I should wait till I was 5cm before getting in the pool so I decided to continue leaning over the bed and breathing with my hypnobirthing MP3s in my earphones. My contractions were coming one after another by this point but I was honestly enjoying every single one. It might have been because of the two weeks I went overdue willing labour to start but I felt stronger with each surge. All the pressure was in my lower back but somehow Mike knew exactly where I needed my back rubbing which helped immensley. He was also trying to help me into my bikini but by this point I think my body was struggling to catch up with how fast things were progressing and my legs were shaking and I was sick. 

Thankfully our lovely labour midwife, Liz, arrived around this time and encouraged me to get into the water. It was now 12.01am on the 1st April which meant our baby would most definitely be born on April Fool’s Day!! The water felt absolutely amazing, such a comfort – like a warm blanket wrapped all around me. Liz told me I would need to keep my bump immersed in the water which was quite a challenge because even though I am an avid yoga fan and practised religiously throughout pregnancy my legs ached so much crouching in the water – I actually found this more uncomfortable than the actual contractions! Nevertheless I needed all my focus to get a deep breath before each surge began to manage the intensity of them. I had learnt about ‘humming’ instead of pushing but I started humming my out breath sooner than I had planned and much noisier than I ever thought I would be but for whatever reason it worked for me (and thankfully all the labour rooms were sound-proofed!!). The lights were dimmed and an MP3 player was found to connect my iPod to put my favourite tracks on repeat and I rested my head against the side of the pool, fully in my birth zone. 

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At around 2.30am I was managing the contractions fine but was keen to know if I was progressing and since it was 4 hours since my last examination Liz suggested I get out of the water for this. Lying on the bed was extremely uncomfortable and I remember thinking how glad I was that I didn’t have to labour like this the whole time. My legs were shaking again but I was extremely pleased to hear I was 6-7cm dilated! I was quietly confident that I was close to meeting my baby but knew it could still be a while yet. 

I still had the mobile monitor on so our baby’s heartbeat was also providing a soundtrack to my labour so as much as an inconvenience it was to have this on it was also of great comfort hearing a strong and sound heartbeat in the room with us. 

I was ridiculously thirsty but thankfully had packed a bendy straw so Mike could hold a cup of water for me to sip from – much easier than the effort of actually lifting a cup to my mouth! I was also aware that I needed to keep going to the toilet as I had remembered reading that a full bladder can stop things progressing. So as much as I didn’t want to leave the water I got out a few times to use the toilet. 

Soon after the 2.30am examination something changed and it was clear that my body was beginning to push without me even being conscious of it happening. It’s hard to describe but I could feel my baby moving further down with each push. Having watched countless episodes of ‘one born every minute’ though I knew this stage could take quite a long time. I continued using my humming and didn’t do any forced pushing, I had written in my birth plan that I didn’t want to be guided in how to push but after a while I stopped feeling the full intensity of the contractions and was getting nervous of things slowing or even stopping so I asked my midwife for some assistance at this point. Since we still weren’t sure if I was fully dilated or if my waters had broken she suggested she break my waters and examine again to check if baby was really ready to be born. I didn’t have to get out of the water for this as there was a corner of the pool where I could step up. Apparently there was very little water when they were broken but Liz confirmed I was fully dilated and this process must have made a difference because things definitely changed again from them. 

I was still crouched in a squat position leaning against the side of the pool and remember asking if the room could be any colder as I was so hot (apparently the air con was as cold as it could go though). I was drifting in and out of my “relaxing place” but heard bits of quiet conversations Mike and Liz were having. And I think Mike was slightly over-relaxed by the calm environment we had created as I remember hearing Liz offering him a coffee a few times so I think he was dropping off – unbeknownst to me!!

Liz had a mirror to check how things were progressing but she suggested I change positions and try laying on my back in the water holding my knees to see if this would help baby move down that last bit. I remember seeing her put an apron on and a second midwife arriving which were all signs that we were nearing the end. At this point I remember needing to push with all my might but I still had no clear indication of when the contractions were coming and the midwives told me I was the best judge of when and how long to push! Somehow though they finally said they could see baby’s hair and when I noticed them looking at the clock I pushed so hard, knowing they were getting concerned. The crown of his head was born and while I rested between the final two contractions the midwives and Mike laughed out loud because his head started slowly turning side to side – I was clueless as to what was going on though but glad that they had no cause for concern! Waiting for the last contraction felt like an age but it finally came and with that I felt my baby’s whole body emerge from me and my midwife said “you can catch your baby if you want” – something I originally hadn’t thought I’d be able to do – and I’m so glad I did and was the one to bring him out of the water to be the first person to touch him and see his face. It was the most incredible moment and I just remember saying “oh my god” over and over. 

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It was 5.21am on Friday 1st April 2016. I feel like my whole labour was around 7 hours as I had first felt a proper contraction at 10.30pm the previous evening. I remember feeling like I could have gone on for a few more hours but was obviously overjoyed to get to the end and meet our baby. As intended we waited a few minutes soaking him in before we checked if we had a boy or a girl and were so happy when we saw he was a boy. After probably about 10minutes, which felt like 10 seconds, Liz told us the cord had stopped pulsating and could be cut. Mike didn’t want to do this so the midwife did but instructed me in cutting it a bit shorter which felt very strange but I’m glad I did it! The water was drained from the pool and I passed baby to Mike to keep him warm while I waited to deliver the placenta. I was going to stay in the pool for this (I thought this would mean less mess for the midwives – ha!) but without any water it was really uncomfortable for me and there were no signs of it so the midwife suggested I get out and move to the bed. I asked if she thought I should have the injection at this point to speed things along but since I hadn’t had any other drugs before this she suggested I try and do it naturally. Lo and behold a few moments later I felt some period-pain-like sensations and after a few pushes my placenta was delivered. I was so intrigued to see it and asked the midwife to explain all the different parts of it to me which was fascinating.

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Whilst the midwife checked me for tears (all hail perineum massage as I had one small graze which I hardly noticed post-birth) Mike was able to have some skin to skin time before they weighed him (8lb 2oz – even more miraculous that I didn’t tear!) and put a nappy on him. He was then handed to me for skin to skin and first feed which was just the most amazing feeling. We were brought tea and white bread toast (the best I’ve ever had!) and after this Mike looked at me and said “I’m just so tired Charlotte, do you mind if I have a nap?!” He then slept on a big bean bag in the corner of the room and I was alone with my baby boy who we decided to name Jacob Peter. Our hypnobirthing mp3s were still reverberating around the room and I remember feeling like I was still in a dream as it all felt too good to be true.

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I know luck was on my side with certain factors that led to Jacob’s birth being so straightforward but I also know that without putting in a lot of time and effort to learning the techniques of hypnobirthing I would not have had such a positive experience. I am so thankful for that and I’m sure it helped my first days, weeks and months of motherhood to also be the best of my life. I will forever be an advocate of hypnobirthing and will try and tell any pregnant lady willing to listen to me to give it a try!!

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Many thanks to Charlotte for sharing her beautiful birth story and wishing baby Jacob a very happy first birthday.

Sharing positive birth stories is so important as reading them helps women feel more confident in pregnancy and as they approach their own births. The more relaxed women are, the better when it comes to birth and positive birth stories really help with this. Hypnobirthing also really helps by equipping you with practical skills you can use in labour. If you’d like to do a course with me please visit The Positive Birth Company to find details of courses I have running including dates and availability.

If you have a positive birth story you’d like to share please send it to me at thedoublemama@gmail.com. 

BIRTH STORY: The beautiful birth of Ailbe Fox

Birth Stories, motherhood, Preparing for Birth

My little Foxy turns one tomorrow and on the eve of his first birthday I have sat down to write his birth story. I cannot believe that a year has passed already and I know us Mums always say that but this past year has honestly flown by quicker than any before.

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I always tell women that they should write their birth story down as soon as possible whilst all the memories are still clear. I think it’s great to capture the way it felt to give birth when all the feelings are so fresh and then you have it down on paper / the internet to look back on whenever you want to remind yourself of that time.

I’m gutted I didn’t take my own advice.

Life has been so busy since the birth of Fox in March last year, what with three children (two of them under 18 months), a relocation from London to Devon in September, a school appeal followed by another school move in January for my eldest, renovating a house (ongoing) and running a growing business and becoming the family breadwinner, there hasn’t been much time to come up for air. Let alone write a birth story giving it the time and attention it deserved.

So for 12 solid months I’ve had this on my mental to do list but because Foxy’s birth felt like such a big thing, such a special thing, I wanted to have the time to write it properly, not rush it and do it for the sake of getting it done in a 5 minute window I managed to find. But that time never came and even now – it’s almost midnight, which is far from ideal but pretty much reflects how mental busy my life is at the moment.

But I am determined to have it done for his first birthday and I’m going to do my upmost to honour it as best I can. So here it is in full, the beautiful, calm, peaceful birth of Ailbe Fox…

Monday 28th March 2016 (Easter Monday)

Approx 10PM – I was sitting on the sofa watching something on the telly with James when I first felt a gentle surge. I’d love to say ‘and then I just *knew* it was happening’ but I didn’t. Even though this was baby no3 I still thought it was just my body warming up. Fox was due on the 1st April – my April Fool’s baby! James’ birthday is on the 7th April and every single year something major seems to happen on his birthday. For example, on his 30th I was running the Paris Marathon, another year it was a best friend’s wedding, another year it was a big deadline for me at Uni. It seems his birthday is never about him so he was convinced Foxy would arrive on the 7th and that would seal the deal forever.

I had finished work on Thursday 24th for the Easter weekend and the start of the Easter holidays, and was looking forward to doing some nice things with the boys. I had tickets to see The Witches at the theatre with Oisin for the next day so labour was not on the cards for me.

We went to bed however I did not sleep well as the gentle surges continued through the night. Not strong enough to warrant me waking James and telling him this was *it* but enough to prevent me from drifting off into deep sleep. I reckon I must have been drifting in and out of sleep throughout the night but I remember telling James in the morning that I had not slept at all!!

Tuesday 29th March 2016

In the morning James wanted to know whether he should go to work or stay home and we had the same dilemma as we did before Arlo was born. You’d think I’d know by no3 whether or not this was *it*. I wasn’t 100% sure though and also didn’t want the pressure of James taking the day off and then *it* not happening. So I told him exactly that. I said I didn’t want him waiting around waiting for me to go into labour as that would make me feel stressed out. He said he would stay home as he thought it might be happening but would work downstairs and tell his work he’d be working from home so I didn’t have to worry about him taking time off for nothing. I decided to stay in bed and try and get some sleep…

The kids were both at home as it was the Easter holidays so I could hear them watching TV downstairs so I didn’t get any sleep but I felt tired so just rested upstairs in bed. James came up to check on me every now and again and suggested calling his brother over to mind the children incase this was *it*.  My last labour was very quick so I think James was anxious that if things really picked it up it might all happen very fast so he wanted to have things in place like childcare organised. I on the other hand felt like I was not in labour and didn’t want to waste people’s time. I worried that if his brother came over and I didn’t go into labour then we would have wasted his day and potentially ruined plans he might have had.

James called his brother and then informed me that his brother and girlfriend were both free all day so would come over anyway as they’d like to see the children. He assured me it didn’t matter if labour didn’t properly get going because I wouldn’t be wasting anyone’s time.

I continued resting bed and experiencing gentle irregular surges. I used an app timer and sometimes they were very spaced apart and sometimes I would get 3 in 10 minutes and the app would alarm and tell me I needed to go to hospital! It was all very gentle though so I didn’t feel like I needed to go anywhere. I stopped using the timer.

11AM – My waters broke! Unlike last time when they caught me by complete surprise as I opened the fridge door (!), this time I felt them pop! In the middle of surge it felt like something hard grinded against something else (baby’s head and pubic bone?!) and then I swear I heard an actual noise as they released! The water didn’t gush but somehow I just knew they had broken. I stood up and slowly made my way downstairs whilst trying to quietly call for James without alerting everyone to what was happening!! He joined me on my way to the bathroom (ours was downstairs – very inconvenient when pregnant!) and I told him I thought my waters had broken. As soon as I got to the bathroom and pulled down my pants they started to trickle. It looked like I was just standing in the bathroom involuntarily wetting myself. It went on and on and on, leaving a big puddle of clear water on the floor. I realised at this point it probably really was *it*.

I spoke to midwife Natalie who was at the birth centre. Natalie was my midwife through my pregnancy with Arlo, after I signed up with the Home Birth team and she was there to catch him when he was born. I was really lucky to have been able to see her for all my antenatal appointments with Fox too. I was desperate for her to be with me for this birth. She made me feel calm and safe and I trusted her absolutely. She was keen for me to come in, knowing that last time had been so quick but I was still feeling really calm as the surges, although growing in intensity, were still really spaced out.

I decided to take a shower and get ready to go. I wanted to feel clean and fresh and ready to meet my baby. I had a shower and got dressed in my comfy clothes. My birth bag was packed and I think I put on some make up. James called an uber and I said my goodbyes to the boys. Ben, James’ brother, kindly agreed to take Osh to the theatre. I’ll admit I was a bit gutted to be missing it!!

The uber came and we loaded up the boot with our bags and baby carseat. When I waddled out of the house and confirmed we wanted to be taken straight to the maternity wing at West Middlesex Hospital, I’m pretty sure the uber driver had a small heart attack. He was so anxious to get us there, he drove as though I was about to give birth – including up a one-way street!! He then took a back route to avoid the traffic but it involved speed bump after speed bump. I was quite honestly the calmest person in the car. I only had one surge all the way there and I was pretty sure that once assessed, I would be sent home. I didn’t feel like I was in active labour, just early labour. I listened to my relaxation tracks and felt very chilled out with James sat beside me holding my hand.

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I have never had to travel to hospital before in labour. With my first I was induced for dates (oh what I know now!!) so I was not even close to being in labour when I went in for my induction. With my second I had a home birth so didn’t need to worry about the journey in. When I had thought about travelling in to the birth centre I had always imagined I would be in established labour with surges coming thick and fast, potentially on all fours in the back of the uber! It was so different. I was so calm and didn’t even feel / believe I was in labour.

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1PM – We arrived at West Middlesex Hospital in the drizzly rain. As I got out of the uber another surge came. I stood by the wall, eyes closed, breathing in and out. James called and beckoned for me to come in but I just waved him away. The surge required all my focus. So instead of going inside, James stood beside me holding my hospital notes over my head as some sort of make-shift umbrella!!

As we went in we were greeted by Claire who was waiting for me. She took us straight to the birth centre which was a relief. I was dreading having to wait in triage! We walked down lots of corridors before reaching the peace and quiet of the birth centre. I was to be in the Daisy room. As soon as Claire opened the door I knew we had made the right decision about where to give birth. The place looked like a spa! The blind was down, the lights were dimmed, the pool was full. In fact the only light in the room was coming from the lighting in the pool, which made the water glow blue. It was magical and a calm haven in comparison to the noise and chaos back home.

Claire offered me an examination and I took it to see where we were at. I was approximately 3cm dilated but instead of being sent home, Claire said they would leave me have this room for a while to settle in and to see what would happen. She said she would return in 4 hours to assess if there had been progress but that if we needed her before she would be right outside. Not long after Natalie popped in to see me and I was so happy to know she would be there with me.

I wasn’t disappointed about being 3cm at all because I didn’t feel like I was in active labour. I was happy we had the place to ourselves to just relax and were able to make it our own space. James strung up our fairy lights, put our spa music on and took the tealights out (battery operated ones – I really recommend these!). Then I put on my tens machine and we just spent some time doing our relaxation exercises. This was a pretty blissful time. With Arlo there was no time for any of this so I was grateful for this. James did a reading for me, I had some light touch massage. It was really lovely.  I remember needing to go to the loo quite a bit so I was in and out of the bathroom. There were beanbags on the floor so I tried using them to rest on but didn’t find that so comfortable. I found I preferred walking about and standing up. Previously I have loved using the tens machine but this time I found it really annoying. I have no idea why but I soon removed it.

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Last time I relied heavily on my visualisations when doing my breathing especially the golden thread when exhaling, but this time I came to rely on James counting for me. I don’t know why that was… Perhaps last time I had to use my visualisations as James wasn’t by my side throughout as he was busy attending to the birth pool, inflating it, filling it etc. This time because everything was done for us and we weren’t ‘hosting’, James was able to be with me throughout. This is one of the reasons he says he preferred Foxy’s birth at the birth centre to Arlo’s birth at home! (I think I still preferred my home birth!!).

So eventually the surges got stronger to the point that they were no longer completely comfortable and they became more frequent and regular. They didn’t become 3 in 10 though, they stayed at 2 in 10 but each one lasting quite a long time. I was keen to get in the pool now although remember thinking it was too soon as I should wait for things to be more established. Natalie told me to listen to my body and reminded me I could always get out if things slowed down.

Claire and Natalie had been in to check on me but until this point we had mostly been left alone which had been lovely. Both had reminded us that they were just outside should we need them but they had respected the fact we wanted to be by ourselves. Once in the pool though, they both stayed with me.

2.50PM – I got in the pool and my god, it was glorious. Complete relief. Utterly weightless. I had wanted a water birth with Arlo but ended up birthing him on the sofa, looking at my birth pool. I had dreamt of this feeling and now it was finally happening. I adopted the all fours position which I found so comfortable, and was able to rock back and forth in the water.

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The surges were strong but didn’t build in frequency. I got what I called the ‘little brother’ often though. I would have a big surge and then very soon after another mini one that wasn’t as intense and didn’t last as long. I was silent for the most part although I took to saying “that was the little brother” or “here comes the big brother”. No idea where I got that from. I kept my eyes closed and occasionally had a sip of my coconut water. The room was pretty silent apart from the spa music playing away in the background. It was incredibly calm and peaceful.

At some point the surges changed and instead of feeling the muscles lifting up, I felt them pushing down and I began to feel Foxy’s head descend. I wish I could remember the exact timings of when this stage of labour began but sadly I don’t. It felt like the whole ‘pushing’ stage only lasted a few minutes though (last time it was 4 minutes! This time was a little longer as I just breathed and breathed).

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I was now face to face with James and wholly focusing on breathing, in and out, in and out. I resisted the urge to push, which was tricky. When your body is pushing involuntarily and you feel something moving downwards (the baby), the urge to just try and expel what is coming out is immense. I resisted because last time I suffered tears and a big bleed and part of the reason for that I believe was the fast delivery. I was desperate to keep everything calm and controlled and slow, so I just breathed and breathed and breathed. I didn’t actively push once!

The room was silent throughout this time (unlike last time when I made loud primal noises for all neighbours to hear!). The only time the silence was broken (which apparently everyone found very funny) was when I broke out of my zone for a split second and uttered “fuck me”. James tells me he and Natalie looked at each other and raised their eyebrows but stifled any laughs. It was so out of character as I was the picture of zen and totally in the birthing zone at the time and then I finally broke my silence but what came out was so unexpected and so un-zen. I think it’s a hilarious story. I wasn’t even aware at the time that I’d said anything. I immediately returned to breathing silently, without having even opened my eyes, leaving everyone wondering if it hadn’t even happened.

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3.36PM – Foxy Bingo is born!! Calmly and gently he is born into the water and I am able to catch him myself and bring him up to my chest! The most incredible feeling. I feel very lucky to have a photo of the exact moment so I will never forget it. His cord was wrapped around his neck a few times so we had to unravel him. He was silent and a little floppy like he was still asleep. I think his birth had been so calm and into the water, that he didn’t even realise he had been born for some time!! Oisin was dragged out screaming, Arlo came flying out screaming. I was a little shocked that Foxy appeared to be sleeping. I remember asking a few times if he was ok and was reassured that he was. I held him to me and it was bliss. I had finally got my water birth. Third time lucky!

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My labour was recorded as 51 minutes which is probably about right. I felt established labour began just before I got in the pool. A PB compared to my previous births but also completely different. If you count from the first surge, my labour had been going since 10pm the previous night. There was a lot longer of a build up but as a result the whole labour felt less fast and furious and more gentle and peaceful.

The birth of Foxy was so straightforward and easy that it was almost uneventful. That’s how it felt! I know that giving birth is pretty much the most eventful thing one can do; you’re bringing a whole new human into the world via your vagina FFS  (!!) but the whole thing from start to finish was so uncomplicated that it felt uneventful. I simply made my way to the birth centre, not even in established labour and then 2.5 hours later he was born and then a couple hours later I was home. Easy.

After Fox was born I stayed in the pool for a little while. I was conscious of doing what I could to stimulate the production of Oxytocin in order to make my uterus contract and to reduce the risk of bleeding like last time. We kept the environment after birth the same as beforehand; low lights, spa music, hushed voices, calm manner etc. I put Foxy to my breast as that is one way to get the oxytocin flowing and waited for him to get all of his blood from the placenta. Once the cord was empty, James was able to cut it. I then got out of the pool.

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This was the first time I got to have a completely natural, physiological third stage.  With my first, he was born in theatre and I think the cord was cut pretty quickly and I know I was given the injection to make the placenta come out. I don’t remember having a choice in the matter. With my second I wanted a physiological third stage but I was losing too much blood so Arlo only got a few minutes of delayed cord clamping before I had to have the injection. With Fox it seemed to be a case of third time lucky again – or the prep finally paid off! There was such little blood loss. I think bleeding was the thing I was fearful of the most. I had a post partum haemorrhage with both Oisin and Arlo so I knew the stats were not in my favour; I was high risk for another bleed. It didn’t help that I knew women died from blood loss and only 2 weeks beforehand one of my best friends had lost so much blood in childbirth she required multiple transfusions! As a consequence some part of me was expecting some degree of blood loss and for the water in the pool to turn red. However it remained totally clear.

Once the cord had been cut and I had been helped out of the pool, I sat on the birthing stool. This is a bit like a toilet seat but without a toilet bowl underneath. The placenta came away within a few moments. I felt it coming and the urge to push once more and it passed easily. James cut a little bit off for me to place against my gum should I need it (would help reduce blood loss) but I didn’t need to use it. My placenta was then packed away and put in the fridge ready for collection (I was having it encapsulated).

I had a full hour of cuddles with Foxy before he was weighed and had his first nappy put on and before I was inspected for tears. Just as I had wished.

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Once the golden hour was over, James got some skin to skin time whilst I was examined. Having torn relatively badly last time, this time there was only a very small tear that required just one or two stitches. I didn’t want any drugs introduced to my body so I declined the local anaesthetic and just had the stitches done right there on the floor of the birth centre.

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The reason I didn’t want any pain relief was that I had gotten this far without any drugs being introduced to my system so I didn’t want to start messing with anything now. This was massively influenced by the fact that after Arlo was born I developed a crazy serious allergy to paracetamol!!! I now have to carry an epi pen as I have anaphylaxis. I have had two anaphylactic reactions and they are the scariest thing. Not being able to breathe is horrific and makes me feel like I’m going to die. I know that nobody is allergic to paracetamol (or so say many people), but I am. I never was before, I took paracetamol in pregnancy even! Nobody knows how or why this has developed but after Arlo was born I was given paracetamol and BOOM! That was it. So I was super cautious and still am, about taking anything.

The sensation of having the stitches done was unpleasant but not dissimilar to having your ear pieced. The needle piercing the skin is over very quick, it’s feeling the thread pull through that really gets me. What’s amazing about this though, is that on any regular day the thought of having stitches through my perineum without any pain relief at all would make me scream. Doesn’t even have to be an area as delicate as the perineum. Take my arm! The thought of having stitches through my arm without pain relief? NO WAY! Yet somehow, after giving birth, you’re so full of oxytocin and endorphins that you can handle it! It’s incredible. It’s like you get real super-human strength.

After the stitches were done I was wrapped up in my fluffy dressing gown and had a little snuggle in the bed with my beautiful boy. James popped open the champagne but I decided to down a coke instead – haha! I’m nothing but classy.

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The time passed quite quickly and my memory is hazy. I remember Natalie coming to say her goodbyes and then texting me to remind me to take my placenta! I remember Claire telling me it was an honour to be at my birth because it was such a lovely experience. I remember another midwife bringing me cups of tea and even giving me her own teabags after telling me the NHS ones were weak and tasteless! Everybody was so kind and lovely. After wanting a home birth for so long, the irony was that in the end I didn’t even want to rush home! We were so well looked after at the birth centre and were loving being in our little bubble with our newborn baby. I knew once we got home it would be straight back to business with the boys so I wanted to enjoy this special time for as long as I could.

We did finally go home though after a few hours of relaxing! James walked through the door first and Oisin rushed to ask him if the baby had been born. James said not yet, and then I walked through the door casually swinging the car seat by my side with a little Ailbe Fox tucked up inside. Oisin was over the moon! We then lay little Foxy next to Arlo in his cot who immediately transformed from a baby himself into a fully grown child!

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It was quite surreal returning home, having only been gone a few hours. Everything was simultaneously exactly the same yet completely and utterly different. We were all wearing the same clothes, everything was in the same place, just as when we had left earlier but this monumental thing had happened since. We were now a family of five! I was a Mum of THREE boys!! Life as we knew it had changed forever.

Reflecting on my birth, I feel incredibly lucky to have experienced a perfect, textbook natural birth. It has taken me three times but I finally did it, exactly as I had hoped, from start to finish. There are so many variables in birth and so many things that can go off plan. Ailbe Fox’s birth was truly perfect throughout. There is nothing I wish I had done differently. I finally got my water birth, I felt calm and relaxed throughout, not just externally in my demeanour but internally in my mind also. I was in a completely relaxed state of mind and there was no internal noise or mental struggle about whether or not I could do this; I needed no convincing, I believed in myself entirely for the first time. I also got my physiological third stage and Foxy got all of his blood. Most amazing of all and the least expected, was that I had such minimal blood loss. The midwives estimated I lost 125mls in total, far below the average which is 500-1000mls.  So many people told me I was likely to have another haemorrhage but I remember saying to James a number of times throughout the pregnancy that I just didn’t feel  like I would this time. Nothing tangible at all to go on, just a feeling but it was profound and reminds me that a woman’s instinct is a powerful force.

The ‘downside’ of Foxy’s birth was that I didn’t get that huge rush of overwhelming love or the amazing high I experienced after giving birth to Arlo. This bothered me for some time. Why did I not get the amazing feeling this time when everything on paper had gone so much better than Arlo’s birth at home, where I had to transfer to hospital afterwards due to losing too much blood?? I wonder if being at home contributed to the oxytocin? I wonder if the fact I was so consciously aware of the need to remain calm after birth, to reduce the risk of bleeding, meant I didn’t allow myself to experience the rush and the high? I wonder if the fact that I didn’t know if I could do it with Arlo, meant that when he arrived I was couldn’t believe I had done it and so was full of feelings that overwhelmed me including pride and amazement. Perhaps this time because I knew I could do it, and believed in myself, that I was less amazed when I then did it?!

That aside, I will forever remember Foxy’s birth as being the most profoundly peaceful and calm experience of my life. It was like time stopped and I was suspended in this little bubble in the birth pool. In contrast, Arlo’s birth felt intense and fast and despite appearing calm on the outside, inside there was a storm going on! I had to remind myself that I could do it through each surge and had to consciously pull my mind back to positive thinking each time it wandered. My experience with Foxy’s birth was so different. I didn’t think of needing pain relief once. I didn’t experience pain severe enough. My internal mind was calm and still and peaceful (which it never normally is!).  My body was relaxed and I trusted in it completely and knew what I was doing (most importantly how to help and not hinder progress).

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Hypnobirthing really has given me the most amazing experiences of my life and I feel privileged that teaching other women at such an important time in their lives, is now my job. It’s the most rewarding job and I love it! If you would like to do a course with me then please have a look at my website for details of dates, locations and availability. I also run the Positive Birth Retreat which is a luxury babymoon mini break for expectant couples combined with the full hypnobirthing antenatal course. Details of the next retreat can be found here.

Finally I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Natalie Carter my midwife for going above and beyond, for creating an out of guidelines care plan and accommodating me in the birth centre and supporting me throughout two of my pregnancies and births. You are quite simply the best midwife I have ever met. Thank you also to Claire who supported me in the birth of Ailbe Fox and especially for taking the time to read my (very long) birth plan!! Thank you to James for being the best birth partner a mum-to-be could wish for an even more amazing Dad to our three boys. Thank you to the whole midwifery team at West Middlesex Hospital Natural Birth Centre who offer outstanding world class care. Thank you to Susie Fisher for being my birth photographer and capturing moments I will now be able to treasure forever, the most precious of memories preserved, thank you. Finally thank you to my little Foxy! Thank you for choosing me to be your Mama. It’s the biggest honour. (And thank you also for looking like me. I was beginning to think I’d never have a child that looked like me).

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To all the pregnant women out there reading this, KNOW THAT YOU CAN DO THIS TOO! Sign up for hypnobirthing classes! Get informed! Practice your relaxation exercises so they become second nature! And consider booking a birth photographer. You’ll never regret the photos you had taken of this most special day but you may well regret not having any.

FAMILY LIFE PHOTOGRAPHY

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We take photos ALL THE TIME, right? We take a million snaps of every moment to get a good one and our iPhones are almost always out of memory. We share tons of photos online every single day but how often do we ever get a photo printed and frame it or store it in a photo album? I’m going to guess never, or at best, very rarely.

When my first son was born, 10 years ago, phones didn’t have cameras or if they did, they were super basic. So instead of an iPhone I used my SLR. Sure I didn’t take as many photos but the ones I did were decent quality. Facebook was in its infancy at the time and Instagram didn’t exist, so occasionally I might upload an album to Facebook (remember that??) of a holiday or a birthday but most of the time if I liked the photo I would get it printed and frame it. As a result I have so many gorgeous high-quality photos of my first born.  When I say ‘high-quality’, I mean that they are at least in focus and high resolution.

By contrast I have so few decent photos of my younger two, despite the fact that technology has improved dramatically since 2007. I have a million times more photos of the pair of them but the vast majority are blurry ones taken on my phone – certainly not good enough for printing. I always think it’s ironic that the photos from 2007 look so much better than the photos taken in 2017. Surely the quality is supposed to get better with time?! I compare photos of newborn baby Oisin and newborn baby Fox (born 9 years apart) and I get confused because the photo of Fox looks like an older photo.

The other thing that makes me sad is that I have so many framed photos of Oisin when he was little, up to about the age of 3 and only one of Arlo and none of Fox. You wouldn’t know I had 3 kids if you walked into my house. Actually maybe you would judging by the mess by that’s not my point.

So recently I decided to address this issue and actually get some proper family photos taken. Also, how rare is it to get a photo with the WHOLE family in? I really wanted to get some photos of all five of us just hanging out and doing our every day thing.  I’m not a fan of studio shots, mainly because I feel super awkward/uncomfortable posing and also it would be impossible to get all 3 kids looking at the camera and smiling at the same time. I much prefer family life photography and candid informal shots. And it’s the every day moments I want to remember – be that a day out or day at home, changing a nappy or working on my phone whilst bouncing a baby on my knee. When I’m older and reflecting on their childhood I want a photo to remind me of what it felt like,  I want the photo to capture a moment in time. I don’t necessarily want to remember the (probably stressful) day we visited a studio and tried (and probably failed) to make the kids smile.

With that in mind I spoke to the lovely Phil of FAWN + BEAR and we got a date in the diary for a family shoot to take place at Hope Cove beach, near where we live in Devon.

The shoot was easy and took about an hour if that – we just hung out at the beach like normal and *almost* forgot that Phil was there in the background taking photos of us!

I was super excited to see the photos and Phil turned them round in record quick time! Within a couple days I was sent all the edited photos from the shoot. I was blown away. It’s shameful to admit but if I ever see a photo that I’m in, even if there are other people in it too, I straight away scrutinise myself and more often than not in a highly critical way. I’m sure others do the same… right?? I hate myself in most photos. I think I look too fat, my cheeks are too round or my arm looks too big or my ear is sticking out or my eyes are too squinty… the list goes on. But in the photos Phil sent me, I actually thought I looked nice. Which happens never!! It was emotional.

So now I have a whole bunch of lovely photos of the family to print and frame. I’m so happy that we did the shoot and I’m now 100% committed to having one done once a year going forward to capture the family as we all grow up. As you know babies change so quickly and we can’t keep them small for long. Having photos is one of the best ways to preserve those memories and for me the photos I now have are priceless. I absolutely love them.

I’m sharing a selection here so you can see Phil’s style and if you’re interested in booking a family life shoot then get in touch with her on email info@fawnandbear.co.uk or find FAWN + BEAR on Facebook. Phil covers both London and Devon and most places in between. She is currently offering readers of the blog a cool 15% off your total order – just mention THE DOUBLE MAMA when booking.

 

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INTRODUCING: POSITIVE BIRTH RETREATS

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Where do I even start?! If The Positive Birth Company is my baby (and let’s be honest, it is) then the Positive Birth Retreat is the much longed-for younger sibling that I can’t wait to introduce to the world.

Firstly let me tell you what a Positive Birth Retreat actually is! It’s a 3-night, fully catered, luxury babymoon mini break combined with the ultimate, fully comprehensive, hypnobirthing antenatal course.

Babymoons, if you’re not familiar with the term, are much like honeymoons but instead of being post-wedding, they are pre-baby! A chance for Mum and Dad to get away and enjoy a bit of RnR before the mayhem of parenting begins (or parenting round 2 / round 3). A babymoon is something you should do whether you’re a first time or fourth time parent, because every baby is special and important just as every birth is, whether or not you’ve done it before. A babymoon mini break offers couples the opportunity to reconnect with each other (so important at this special time) and a chance to re-charge. Positive Birth Retreats encourage and enable couples to take a break from their busy lives to really slow down and properly relax, to take time out to prepare, together, mentally and emotionally, for the inevitable changes that come with bringing a new baby into the world.

Having had a couple of babymoons myself, I think I know what makes a good one! In fact if you’ve read Clemmie Hooper’s book ‘How to Grow a Baby and Push it Out‘ you will have found me in there chatting about this very topic. I believe there are three things every pregnant woman craves and those are a decent meal, a decent night’s sleep and some much-needed TLC! We have put real thought into how we can best deliver these things on the retreat and I’m happy to say we have incorporated them all.

When it came to choosing a venue we searched high and low (i.e. the entire internet) for the perfect place. It was important to us that the environment was super relaxing so we visited a number of hotels and houses before finally deciding on the beautiful Spring Cottage in East Budleigh, Devon. This beautiful house is easy accessible from Exeter but is situated in a rural setting, nestled in the stunning countryside surrounded by large gardens and woodland. The spacious bedrooms are gorgeous and are all en-suite, it’s truly a place where, once you’ve arrived, you can take a deep breath, slow down and relax.

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We have found an excellent chef who is going to cater for our lovely couples and the menu has been specially designed with pregnant women in mind. Think fresh, locally-sourced iron-rich veg and show-stopping puds!  Then we have our resident yoga teacher who will be running yoga sessions each morning to kickstart the day and our lovely massage therapist who will be offering full body massage treatments to the expectant Mums and Dads. In the evenings there will be opportunity to curl up on the comfy sofas and have a read in front of the open fire, drink a craft beer (or beverage of your choice) out on the terrace whilst watching the sun go down or even go for a gentle stroll in the surrounding woodland if you fancy it!  Each night there will be a lovely guided relaxation taking place in one of the communal spaces, open to whoever wants to join, so that everyone can go to bed feeling really relaxed and enjoy, what I hope will be, the most restful and comfortable night’s sleep.

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Then of course there is the hypnobirthing course! Hypnobirthing is truly amazing and not half as hippy as it sounds! It’s actually an entirely logical approach to childbirth and by doing a course you will learn so much about your body that you probably never knew and most importantly, exactly how it works in labour on a physiological and hormonal level. You will also learn how to best enable your body to do the job it has been so perfectly designed to do. You’ll be taught various relaxation exercises that you can use in pregnancy, birth and life in general and also come to understand the impact of the environment on a birthing mum, so that you can go on to create the best and most conducive environment for you. We will cover absolutely everything you need to know including interventions, induction, delayed cord-clamping, delivery of the placenta etc. You will leave feeling fully informed and excited for your labour to begin.

The course will help Mums to let go of any fears and learn to trust their amazing bodies and Dads will leave feeling confident, with a metaphorical toolbox, full of ways they can support their partner during birth. Giving birth is a team effort and hypnobirthing really helps birth partners understand how important their role is whilst equipping them with all the tools and knowledge they need to do be able to do their job.

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When I was pregnant with my second son, I took two Sundays out to do a hypnobirthing course and also took another weekend to go on a babymoon. I had to organise childcare for my eldest son so that I could do these things. I loved my babymoons (I’ve had two!) but both times I had to do the research and book the various bits and pieces (the hotel, the restaurants, the massage) which took time and some degree of planning. I thought back then how amazing it would be to be able to do it all in one go. To find someone / some place offering the whole package. A couple of years has passed since then and to the best of my knowledge there are still no hypnobirthing retreats out there. With hypnobirthing growing in popularity and more and more women empowering themselves and recognising the importance of a positive birth experience and more and more people looking for retreats as a way to escape the madness and the sense of being constantly on, thanks to social media and our mobiles, now seems to be the perfect time to launch the Positive Birth Retreat.

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I have talked about this for SO long that I am SO excited that it’s finally happening!! In fact last August I remember chatting to a couple with a young baby (who I met at the Eurotunnel terminal in Calais!) about the idea. I was on my way from our family summer holiday and was raring to go. They were so enthusiastic which only fuelled my desire to make this happen. I can’t believe almost a year has passed since then but I guess using my original analogy, August 2016 was when the idea / baby was firmly conceived and it takes time to grow a baby, as we all know… 9 months in fact. Which coincidentally is exactly how long it will have been by the time May rolls around and we run our first retreat! What are the chances! We have quite literally spent 9 months growing this baby.

There are so many reasons why I love the idea of a hypnobirthing retreat! Apart from my own personal experience of struggling to find the time to do a course and then go on a babymoon and having to organise it all, I have also taught so many couples who are looking for this exact experience. I teach groups monthly in London and Devon and so many couples coming on my course actually book accommodation nearby to make a weekend of it. There seems to be such a demand already there for these kind of retreats so I’m hoping people will love what we are offering.

Another reason why I think a hypnobirthing retreat is a great idea is that so often I meet expectant couples on my course and see them enjoy learning in a lovely calm environment, see them visibly relax throughout the day until they are super chilled out after our final relaxation exercise, but then they dive straight back into their busy lives. Whether that’s straight back to replying to work emails on their phone or straight home to their children, time and time again it happens that the magic that is created during the day immediately evaporates as soon as couples go home and back to the demands of their day to day life. I know that people love the course and I know that people go on to have incredible births all the time but what I’d love for the couples I teach is to give them the chance to really enjoy the relaxation that is created on the course. To have the time to reflect on what they have learnt that day. The time to discuss between themselves what they have taken from the course and time to really think about and visualise how they want their birth to be. I want to create a little bubble in time where couples can really enjoy learning and thinking about the birth of their baby together. It’s such an important time, a life-changing moment, that having this space to mentally prepare is so beneficial.

There is always so much love in the room when I teach couples and I am desperate to foster an environment where that feeling can flourish beyond the course itself. That’s why we have created these retreats, to do just that. They are the space, they are the time, they are the place, where couples can relax, learn, reflect and prepare. They are all about promoting comfort and wellbeing.

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It’s always nerve-wracking putting a new idea out there and wondering whether it will be well-received or just sink completely and break your heart. I feel super anxious about the retreats because I have spent so long working on it and thinking about it and it feels like something really, really special. I know that the course itself works and the feedback I receive is always so lovely (which is amazing), but this feels a little different as it’s a bigger package and more to think about. Will it be as well received? Will people go for it?? I currently have the anxious, excited, nervous feeling that you get when you’re about to do something big!

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Whenever you support a small business by buying a product or using their service you know you supporting the person behind it and that they’ve put their heart and love into whatever it is that you’re purchasing. With the Positive Birth Retreat you know that I (and James who is onboard too) will try our very best to make sure every single minute of your time with us is wonderful. We want to give everyone coming the very very best experience. Everything we are offering on the retreat is stuff that we would really want ourselves, whether it’s the Bloom & Wild flowers on the dining table, or the scented Diptyque candles in the living room or the mini bar full of local craft beers or the selection of Teapigs tea in the bedrooms, we have handpicked everything based on what we would like and what we reckon is the best out there. So I want couples to know they will be so well looked after and supported if they choose to join a Positive Birth retreat.

Our next retreat is taking place Friday 13th – Monday 16th October in Devon. The venue is not far from Exeter, just 15 minutes off the M5 and only a short taxi ride from Exeter St Davids station (2 1/4 hours by train from London Paddington). All the information is available on the website but essentially it is a 3 night break, fully catered (all meals, snacks, drinks included), with a luxury massage treatment for Mum and Dad, morning yoga sessions, evening relaxation sessions, the fully comprehensive hypnobirthing course and a whole host of goodies to take home afterwards. The cost is £1095 per couple. We can only accommodate 4 couples on our retreat so spaces are extremely limited! If you would like more info or to book then please email retreats@thepositivebirthcompany.co.uk.

Mini First Aid – the course every parent should take

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It’s the stuff of nightmares, the stuff you don’t want to think about but if the worst were to happen you’re going to want to know what to do, especially when it can make the difference between life or death. I’m talking about finding your baby or child unconscious or choking or suffering a severe burn. Would YOU know what to do?

Then of the course there is the more commonly-occurring, almost everyday stuff; bumps and bruises, cuts, temperatures, nosebleeds, rashes etc. Are you familiar with the up-to-date advice on how you should deal with these things? Did you know that cold flannels will make a child’s temperature worse? That butter should never be applied to burns? That ibuprofen should not be used if a child has chicken pox?

WebMini First Aid run 2 hour workshops for parents / grandparents / carers and cover everything you need to know. These workshops take place across the UK (there are 41 franchises) and cost just £20. I recently attended one in Devon run by the lovely Liz, a mum of three boys (like me!) and someone who has dealt firsthand with a number of a medical emergencies. Not only through being a parent of three boys but through 13 years spent working as cabin crew. She has dealt with everything from cardiac arrest to delivering a baby, all whilst 40,000 feet in the sky!

I cannot recommend doing the course highly enough, in fact I’d go as far as saying it’s probably the best £20 you can spend if you’re a parent, but for now, here’s some top tips:

FIRST AID KIT

  • Get one for your house
  • Make sure you replace items as you use them
  • Make sure everything is in date
  • Should include stuff like
    • Plasters, bandages, tweezers, safety pins, burn gel sachets, tough cut scissors, antiseptic wipes, calpol/nurofen, germolene, antihistamine, inhalers (if child has one).

EMERGENCY NUMBERS

  • 111 – out of hours service
  • 999 – emergency number in the UK
  • 112 – emergency number in the UK and across Europe

CPR – CARDIOPULMONARY RESUSCITATION

Remember DR ABC:

  • Danger – check the area and remove any danger
  • Response – check for response by calling out, pinching earlobe, tickling feet
  • Airway – tilt head back to open airway and check for obstruction
  • Breathing – put your cheek to child’s mouth and look for chest rising – give it 10 seconds
  • Circulation – no longer have to check for pulse, if child is not breathing, commence CPR

CPR always starts with 5 rescue breaths, followed by 30 chest compressions and 2 breaths. The 30 compressions and 2 breaths are then repeated continuously until the child starts to breath again.

Once breathing the child is put in recovery position – if you don’t know the recovery position just put the child on their side and hold them there.

If you’re alone, call 999 after you’ve given the first 5 rescue breaths and completed one minute of CPR as it’s so important to get breath into the child as soon as possible.

Babies and children are treated slightly differently. Babies are those under 1 year, children are those older than a year. It’s still 5 rescue breaths and then 30 compressions and 2 breaths on repeat but how you do these breaths and compressions differs slightly.

BURNS

Regarding sunburn and more importantly sunburn prevention, the advice is now to use a suncream with an SPF of 30 on children rather than 50. You may need to top up more often but it’s meant to be better for a child as it allows some sun through and children need the Vitamin D. When buying look for a cream with a high UVA rating.

Treating a burn

  • Run under COLD water for a minimum of TEN MINUTES. This is the single best thing you can do for your child. They may kick and scream but persevere.
  • If you have a burn gel, use it. Burn gel sachets are great to keep in your first aid kit and work as a painkiller and an antiseptic.
  • Loosely wrap the burn in clingfilm.
  • Seek medical advice if needed

NOSE BLEEDS

These are fairly common and in fact just after completing the course I was on the phone to a friend whose 1 year old had one. Luckily I knew what to do!

  • Face down, hold bridge of nose.
  • If bleeding continues after ½ hour seek advice.

KNOCKING A TOOTH OUT

If it’s a second tooth, put it straight back in and get the child to bite down on something to hold it in place! Then seek medical advice.

CHOKING

Every parent’s biggest fear when it comes to weaning is surely choking. Make sure you’d know what to do if it happened.

With grapes and cherry tomatoes, make sure you cut them in half or quarters. The texture of these makes them stick in the throat. Similarly marshmallows are sticky and can cause choking.

ALWAYS BE IN THE SAME ROOM AS KIDS WHEN THEY ARE EATING.

Choking is SILENT so you need to have your EYES ON YOUR CHILD.

Gagging is noisy, choking is silent. Gagging is ok and normal, choking is an emergency.

The gagging reflex in babies in particular is very far forward so they will gag quite a bit when learning to eat. There is no need to intervene if your child is gagging. This is their way of bringing up the food.

If your baby is choking…

  • Put your baby across your knees, face down and tilted forwards so gravity is on your side.
  • Give 5 hard slaps between the shoulder blades (hard enough to leave a mark). Use the base of your hand.
  • If this doesn’t work, turn your baby over and place two fingers on his/her chest and push in an inwards and upwards motion 5 times.
  • Repeat back slaps and chest thrusts until the object has been forced out. If they stop breathing commence CPR.

If you ever have to do chest thrusts, even if the baby seems fine afterwards, you need to get checked out by a medical professional.

If your child is choking…

  • 5 hard backslaps between shoulder blades
  • Wrap your arms around your child from behind, with your arms going under their armpits. Make a fist and then you need to do 5 thrusts inwards and upwards. Your fist should be above the bellybutton but under the ribs.
  • If the child falls unconscious commence CPR.

Again if you ever have to do the chest thrusts then get checked out at the hospital afterwards.

FEBRILE SEIZURE

1 in 20 babies will experience a seizure so it’s pretty common and therefore important that you know what to do. Febrile seizures are the baby’s way of cooling the body down.

  • Don’t pick your baby up if they are experiencing a seizure!
  • Once it has passed, put your baby in recovery position.
  • Take their clothes off.
  • Open the windows.
  • Use a fan if you have one.
  • Aim to cool baby down but NO COLD FLANNELS!

(People used to use cold flannels to try and reduce fevers but now we know this can raise the body’s core temperature so is NOT recommended).

PAIN RELIEF

For fevers you can alternate between ibuprofen and paracetamol (OBVIOUSLY CHECK THE LABELS AND NEVER GIVE ABOVE THE RECOMMENDED DOSE FOR YOUR BABY / CHILD).

However, what I learnt was that ibuprofen should be avoided with chicken pox and asthma. There is some research to suggest ibuprofen can make matters worse in these cases.

Mini First Aid Devon

I hope the above is useful but know that it cannot in any way replace actually doing a first aid course. On the mini first aid course I did we also covered breaks and fractures, immunisations, meningitis, head bumps, cuts and grazes, shock and of course how to actually perform life-saving CPR correctly.imgres

This is not an ad but simply genuine endorsement. I believe every parent should do a course so they know what to do in a medical emergency. A 2 hour course with Mini First Aid costs just £20 and could quite literally save your baby or child’s life.

There are classes across the UK so if you’d like to do a course then here’s the link to find one near you: minifirstaid.co.uk/regions/

COME ON AND SUPERCHARGE ME

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HELLO 2017!

It’s a new year and as always I’ve set myself a whole load of goals for the year ahead. I LOVE challenging myself and setting goals so the whole new year’s resolutions thing just gives me some extra momentum. Here’s what I wrote this time last year on the same topic. This year I want all the usual important stuff (healthy family, family etc) but on a personal level I’ve got three main focuses…

TO GET FIT!!!

I used to run a lot – I even ran a marathon in 2013! But since being pregnant with Arlo I haven’t run at all. 6 months after he was born I was pregnant again (!) with Foxy and he is now 9 months old. My last run was in fact the Bath Half in March 2014… almost 3 years ago!! Now that I’m not pregnant (not being pregnant this year is another goal FYI) and not breastfeeding so much anymore  I am keen to get back in the running game.  I have already been on 2 ‘runs’ this year so far. I say ‘runs’ but the reality is I dragged my sorry (flat) arse for a mile each time. I’m determined to get fit though so will be making exercise a regular thing. It helps that I got some snazzy new neon trainers for Christmas (thank you Santa). Oh and I’ve download this amazing app from the NHS called Squeezy and it prompts me do my pelvic floor exercises 3x a day (it also explains how to do them properly!!). I’m just mentioning this here because 3 kids, weak pelvic floor, running – you see where I’m going with this and it’s not somewhere I want to go. So squeeze and life, squeeze and lift, squeeze and lift.

TO GROW MY BUSINESS!!!

As you all probably know I am a hypnobirthing teacher and my little biz is called The Positive Birth Company. I feel so lucky to have found something that I genuinely love doing. I have to pinch myself that this is now my actual job. For so long I bounced around trying to find my *thing* and now I feel like everything I’ve done in my life sort of come together and led me to this point; my digital marketing career, my induction with lots of intervention first time round, my psychology masters, going on a hypnobirthing course with Hollie aka The Yes Mum then having my magical home birth then training to become a hypnobirthing teacher myself and finally experiencing my beautiful peaceful water birth with Foxy. I’m now putting everything I’ve learnt over the last decade into my little business and I’m loving it. I have monthly courses running in London and Devon and I’m hoping that these will be running fully booked by the end of the year! Plus I have lots of other exciting things in the pipeline including a positive birth app which is almost ready to be launched on the appstore, positive birth retreats (yes they’re coming soon!) and maybe even some positive birth merch for those pregnant mamas out there to remind them that they are amazing and GROWING ACTUAL LIFE. I like to dream big.

TO NURTURE MYSELF!!!

To counter-balance the above, I plan on *trying* to take some time for myself. I’m really bad at this. Being switched on seems to be my default mode and I find working 24/7 and pushing myself comes easy whereas finding the off switch or even the pause button or even just the ‘take a goddamn breath’ option much harder to locate. So in 2017 I’m going to be more mindful and invest a little time / money in my wellbeing, be that treating myself to the occasional massage or getting my nails done, or going to bed a little earlier than 2am so I can read a book (what a novelty!) or even just getting a nice shower gel and really enjoying those 5 minutes of me time. Whatever it is, however small it is, I plan on doing it mindfully and being that bit more present in the moment and actually *enjoying* the little things in life rather than doing them on auto-pilot whilst thinking ‘what next?!’.

ENTER SUPERCHARGED CLUB…

So to help kickstart the new year and get me going with my fitness, business and wellbeing goals I’ve enrolled on a 6 week mission with Supercharged Club. These ladies totally kick ass. The 6 week mission is about setting goals – “choosing your hard” – and sticking to them with support and motivation along the way. It’s like having your very own cheerleading squad. But it’s also more than that. For example you are given exercises you can do at home, recipe ideas, nutrition info. It’s an education. And you’re not expected to change overnight! It’s a 6 week mission so you just have to commit to changing one thing every week. The ladies behind Supercharged Club absolutely radiate positivity and I can’t think of anyone better to kick my arse into shape than them.

So here’s to 2017! I’m going to be blogging my progress on the mission over the next 6 weeks so will keep you all updated. I hope you all are starting the new year with fresh optimism and that the next 12 months are everything you hope for them to be – and more!

Siobhan x