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.

INTRODUCING: POSITIVE BIRTH RETREATS

motherhood, Preparing for Birth

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.

Preparing for Birth – The Birth Plan

Preparing for Birth

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Everyone needs a plan, right? For the big things, for the small things, for the day-to-day mundane things. I’m a big believer in a good plan. Usually my plans take the form of a list; stuff I need to get done. And yes, I’m one of those people who adds extra stuff to the list, purely for the satisfaction of ticking it off. Makes me feel productive.

So when it comes to GIVING BIRTH TO A FULL ON HUMAN BEING, of course I’m all about having a plan. Not only is a plan absolutely necessary in my mind when you’ve got two other kids and logistics to organise (like who will come mind them in the middle of the night?!) but I also believe writing a birth plan (or proposal or set of preferences) is an important and significant step in ensuring you are mentally prepared for birth.

This is because, by drawing up a plan, you are taking time out to really think hard about your birth in a focused way, for perhaps the first time in your pregnancy. It goes without saying that it’s really important to give some serious thought to your birth. Unlike day-to-day parenting, birth is not something you can wing; the more preparation you put in, the better the experience will be and the more you will get out of it. So by taking some time out to draw up your plan, you will be starting to visualise your birth and think about what you want in a really positive way. It’s not all airy-fairy either, you will have a number of things to consider and big decisions to make, from where you want to give birth and if you’d like to to use a birth pool to delayed cord clamping and whether you want a physiological third stage. You will need to research these things and understand the advantages and disadvantages of all your options so you can make informed choices. By drawing up your plan for birth, or at least outlining your preferences, you’re making important decisions for you and your baby, some of which will have a profound and long-lasting effect.

What I will say for those of you reading who like me love a plan, it’s important to realise that birth is unpredictable and doesn’t always go to plan. From when the baby will actually decide to make his/her appearance in that 5 week long period in which he/she is due (the concept of a single due day is such nonsense!) to how quickly you’ll dilate in labour, there are so many unknowns. That’s not to say your birth won’t be beautiful and amazing and empowering and positive, it’s just it might pan out differently to how you expected and you need to be prepared for this. This is why some people prefer to use the term ‘birth proposal‘ or ‘birth preferences‘.

I like the latter best and believe by drawing up my preferences I am making it clear what my first choice is, but also giving some thought to, and allowing there room for movement, if my birth takes a difference course. With this in mind I have a whole section in my birth preferences dedicated to having a caesarean section. Not because I’m planning for one or even thinking I will end up having one, but I’m taking into account it could happen and if it does, I have given thought to it and specified my wishes for how I would like it to be done. This feels empowering and means however my birth goes I will still have made my own choices and will be having the best birth for me on the day.

So to help those who are also nearing the end of their pregnancy (although it’s never too early to start thinking about your birth and researching!!) listed below are the things I believe you need to consider and include in your birth preferences. I have also posted my own birth preferences at the bottom to help you get started, which you’re welcome to use as a template…

THINGS TO CONSIDER/INCLUDE:

* Birth partner details – name, contact number etc.
* Environment – including where you plan to give birth and how you want the space to be
* Positions for labour and birth – as it says on the tin!
* Pain relief – what you think you might want / what you don’t want
* Birth pool – whether you plan on using one for labour and / or birth
* Monitoring – preferences for sonicaid or continuous
* Second stage – how you wish to birth your baby including thoughts on assisted delivery
* Third stage – how you wish to birth your placenta e.g. physiological third stage or active management and if you want delayed cord clamping
* Placenta – state if you plan on keeping your placenta for encapsulation or another reason
* Breastfeeding – whether you plan on breastfeeding and if you’d like support with this
* Special circumstances – your preferences if your birth goes off plan and you decide to transfer in to hospital from home
* Unexpected situations – include preferences for c-section if situation arises
* Vitamin K – confirm that you wish your baby to have this or state if you do not.
* Aftercare – your wishes for afterwards e.g. whether you’d like a private room if on a ward

It’s a really good idea to involve your birth partner in devising a birth plan. Not only so they are involved in the decision making but also because it is their job on the day to ensure your preferences are known, understood and adhered to. It’s a big (and vitally important) job but near-impossible if they are not totally sure what your preferences are! Also, please make sure you do your research before making decisions/writing out your preferences so you are making informed choices that are right for you and your baby. This is most important.

NOTE: I am planning to have a water birth at home and have been practicing hypnobirthing with my birth partner. We have a birth photographer attending and I am having my placenta encapsulated. I also have a history of postpartum haemorrhage and have anaphylaxis. Obviously this is not the case for everyone! You will need to adapt this plan to make it your own and most importantly add any medical information that is relevant for yourself.
 

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Birth Preferences

We wish to have a calm, quiet, water birth at home with no intervention. We are using Hypnobirthing for our birth and therefore the environment and language is very important to us. Please note that we would appreciate it if you could avoid using the words ‘pain’ or ‘contractions’, and instead talk about ‘comfort’ and ‘surges’. I may describe the power and intensity of a surge but I do not wish to think about or feel pain, as I do not believe birth needs to be painful.

Birth Partner

My partner (insert name and phone number) will be my birth companion and we would like to be left alone whenever possible.

Environment

I would like my own choice of music to be playing (including Hypnobirthing audio tracks), candles burning and a birthing ball and aromatherapy oils to use. We would like to take photos and videos throughout and have a birth photographer booked to attend. We will also be using a birthing pool when labour is established and I have a TENS machine to use in early labour.

It is very important to me that the lighting is dimmed throughout.

Positions for Labour and Birth

I would like an active hypnobirth and to use positions that mean I am upright, forward and open which facilitate an easier and quicker birth. I’d like to remain mobile throughout. If I need to rest, I would like to use my birthing ball and lean over the sofa/bed. In the birthing pool I wish to be upright and leaning forward over the side or on all fours.

I do not wish to be lying on my back.

Pain Relief

Please do not offer any pain relief to me.

I DO NOT WISH TO HAVE AN EPIDURAL. I do not want Pethidine/Diamorphine or any other drugs. I do not like Gas and Air because it makes me sick.

***I developed Anaphylaxis to Paracetamol after giving birth previously and carry an epi-pen***

I do not want any drugs introduced during my labour or afterwards.

I have a TENS machine I can use but please do not offer this to me.

Please remind me of the tools I do have which include: my breathing techniques, visualisations (of a balloon filling as I inhale and a golden thread as I exhale), light touch massage, heat pack, cold flannel, essential oils, relaxation scripts, relaxation audio tracks, positive affirmations, the birth pool etc. These will all increase my comfort level.

Please remind me of my desire to feel and experience this birth and of my previous positive birth experience if I have a wobble.

Birthing Pool

I would like to use the birthing pool during labour and would like to give birth in the pool.

Monitoring Baby’s Heart Rate

Sonicaid please. There is no need to ask when you want to listen in. I would prefer not to be asked questions in labour unless necessary.

I wish to be as mobile as possible / in the pool so only continuously monitored if absolutely necessary. If continuous monitoring is necessary and I am therefore in hospital, I would like to use the wireless monitoring if this is available so that I can continue to move about.

Second Stage

I would like to breathe my baby down so he is born gently and calmly. I would like to follow the lead of my body rather than be coached to push.

I would like to be able to bring my baby to my chest immediately after delivery. If it is not possible for me to hold the baby then I would like the baby to have skin to skin time with James.

It is vitally important to me that the calm and intimate environment is maintained after the baby has been born as I have a tendency to lose blood, so plan to do what I can to encourage the flow of oxytocin: baby to breast, a little placenta to place against my gum, calming touch, warmth and reassurance, low lighting, relaxation track playing.

Assisted Delivery

I would rather wait longer than try to rush the process unless the baby is in obvious distress and needs to be born. I will accept assistance if there is no other option.

Third Stage

It is my preference to have a physiological third stage. I would like to birth the placenta without any drugs being introduced to my body. I would like to wait until my baby has received all of his blood before the cord is clamped and cut.

When the cord has stopped pulsating, please assist James in cutting the cord.

I would also like to place a small bit of the placenta once it has been birthed, against my gum to aid the flow of natural oxytocin and encourage my uterus to contract, as it has a tendency to relax after birth.

I am having my placenta encapsulated so please be mindful of this. It will need to be stored in a sterile container which we will provide and placed in the fridge as soon as possible and certainly within half an hour.

In the event that I experience another PPH, I accept that I will need to have the injection. Hopefully this will be enough intervention. If I continue to lose blood then I accept that I will need to transfer to hospital in order to receive syntocinon via a drip.

It is really important that my epi-pen is with me at all time if transferring to hospital and that the hospital staff are aware I have anaphylaxis to paracetamol and am allergic to latex.

Feeding the Baby

I wish for the baby to be put to my breast immediately after delivery.

I feel confident with feeding my baby and do not need assistance with breastfeeding.

Special Circumstances

If I chose to birth my baby in hospital because of special circumstances, I would like to request a private room with a birthing pool. The environment is very important to us so we would like the room to be as similar as possible to our preferences outlined for home birth. Most importantly we would like the room to be dimly lit, quiet and with as few people as possible present. We would like people to knock before entering and to speak in hushed voices. All communication is to go through James please so that I can labour undisturbed.

I do not wish for students to be present, only those who absolutely need to be there.

I do not wish to be cannulated unless it is essential to do so.

Unexpected Situations

If absolutely necessary, I give my permission for an emergency C-section to be performed.

It would be my preference to be awake for this and to receive my baby to my chest immediately after delivery, certainly before weighing him or cleaning him.

Please ensure any electrodes are placed on my back to they are not in the way and do not inhibit skin to skin time.

I wish for only those who are absolutely necessary to be present in theatre. I would like to be able to see my baby be born so would appreciate if the curtain could be lowered at this stage. I would appreciate it if the lights could be dimmed at head end so when the baby is delivered and brought to my chest, he is not subjected to bright light. I would like my choice of music/relaxation track to be playing in theatre during the birth of my baby.

If there is time beforehand, I would like to be given a pack of sterile gauze strips so that I have the opportunity to seed my baby with bacteria and stimulate microbiome development, which would happen if he were born naturally.

I would still like my placenta to be encapsulated after birth, so please bear this in mind and ensure the theatre staff are aware of my wishes. My placenta will need to be stored in a sterile container and kept cool until collected.

If my baby has to be in the Special Care Unit, then I want to be able to care for him as much as possible and to ensure he receives my breast milk. I would like help with making sure this happens.

Vitamin K

I am happy for my baby to be given Vitamin K by injection.

Aftercare

If in hospital, I wish to request a private room if one is available.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read my birth preferences. I am looking forward to the birth of my baby and planning for a positive and empowering birth experience where my baby is born safely and calmly. I believe this is possible however my birth story pans out.

Thank you for supporting us at this very special time in our lives. We will be sure to appreciate all you do for us, now and for the rest of time.

Siobhan and James.

 

PREPARING FOR BIRTH – THE WET RUN

Preparing for Birth

So I’ve mentioned the birth pool before, in a previous post about stuff you might need to buy/borrow/hire/hopefully-not-steal, for birth. If you’re headed to a birth centre or hospital then you won’t need to get your own birth pool but if you’re planning a home birth then this might be something you want.

There are a few options on the market but I really rate the Birth Pool in a Box from The Good Birth Company. There are two size options – regular and mini. Both come with a liner. I used the mini last time and have gone for the same again. If you’ve not got a lot of space then the mini is perfect and plenty roomy (see photo below) but if you think you might want company in the pool then you’ll probably want to go for the regular.

Here I am enjoying the pool the other evening and feeling totally relaxed…

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Once you get your birth pool, it’s recommended you do at the very least a dry run! This is for two reasons: 1. to check the pool is intact and not damaged in any way. This is highly unlikely but it would suck massively to discover in labour that you were unable to inflate it! 2. to check you have everything you need and know what you’re doing! Again you don’t want to be having to figure this out in labour or popping off to B&Q for the right tap adaptor. When I say ‘you’, I obviously mean your birth partner! This is his/her job. You will be somewhat preoccupied.

Now if you’re going to the trouble of doing a dry run, in my mind you might as well make it a wet one! For one reason it’s good to get an idea of how long it will take to fill and secondly you get the chance to enjoy your pool before the big day! Oh and thirdly you can familiarise yourself with what it feels like to be in the pool so it’s not totally alien on the day and maybe even practice some of your breathing and visualisation techniques, imagining that you are experiencing surges. I think this kind of practice beforehand is really beneficial because sometimes it’s hard to visualise being in labour before it happens – even for a third-timer! Being in the pool with the lights down low and my playlist on really helps me get in the zone and feel excited and believe this is really happening… very soon!!.

I can’t speak for all the pools out there but setting up the Birth Pool in a Box is really straightforward and doesn’t take very long at all – approximately 20 mins from opening the box to being fully inflated and ready to fill. Filling it with warm water takes longer. On our recent wet run, it took 45 mins but this will vary from house to house.

Here’s a little time-lapse video (featuring my birth partner James) that we made the other day to show you just how easy it really is to inflate…

And here’s James’ top tips (in his own words) on getting set up:

  1. Make sure you have all the bits you need as you unpack the box.
  2. Check the tap adapters for the hose! Neither of the ones that came with the pool worked with our taps so I had to take a trip to Wicks. You don’t want to be doing that when your other half is in labour. It won’t be appreciated.
  3. Check the hose will reach from the tap to where you are planning to have the pool.
  4. I really recommend getting the electric inflation pump as one, it will take a fraction of the time to inflate and two, you don’t want to be exhausted after manually inflating it. The midwife should only really be concerned with the breathing of one person.
  5. Inflate the pool from the bottom up, so start with the bottom level and then inflate the floor and seat after this, then move on to the middle level and then last of all the top level.
  6. Don’t inflate the top level all the way at first. Inflate it to about 3/4 done then put the liner in. Once the liner is in place, inflate the top level fully otherwise you will struggle to get the liner over.
  7. Start filling! It’s takes about 45 mins with our taps so don’t expect it to fill up quickly, it’s a big pool with a lot of capacity.
  8. Keep checking the water temp as it fills and adjust accordingly. It takes quite a lot of water to cool it down/warm it up, so best to monitor as it fills instead of trying to correct the temp towards the end.

 

IMPORTANT: If you’re doing a dry run only, then you don’t need to use the liner (keep it in its protective packaging). If you’re doing a wet run it’s recommended that you use a liner, which means you will need a second one for labour as you can only use the liner once. You can buy a new liner here.

I did not use a liner this time but we cleaned the pool with anti-bacterial spray and dried it thoroughly before packing away. We will use our liner for labour. Also we made a milton solution and circulated this through the electric submersible water pump (that you use to empty the pool) and hose for half an hour to ensure it was all clean and ready for its next use.

The electric submersible water pump comes with the standard kit. There is also a basic kit option which includes tap adaptors, the hose and a thermometer, which is cheaper. If you go for this option you will have to empty your pool with a bucket. In my opinion/experience it’s worth getting the electric water pump as it makes emptying the pool so much easier and quicker. The water just gets pumped right out, back through the same hose you used to fill the pool, and then goes down your sink/drain. The standard kit also comes with a few other extras including mats and a sieve!

You can find some more info about the pools and accessories on offer here.

If you’ve got any questions just leave me a comment below and I will be sure to reply or contact the team at The Good Birth Company.

Most importantly if you’re planning a water birth at home, ENJOY! x

PREPARING FOR BIRTH – THE BABYMOON (Disneyland Paris Review)

Preparing for Birth, Reviews

THE ONE WHERE WE TOOK THE KIDS

(& loads of photos!)

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Admittedly it’s a bit of an oxymoron as traditionally a Babymoon is a chance to get away with your other half before the birth of your baby i.e. without the baby (or any other kids for that matter!), to remind yourself just one last time what life was like pre-kids when you were free to be spontaneous and wild. Although the whole being wild is somewhat mediated by the fact you’re heavily pregnant and therefore can’t actually be that wild…

When you’ve got kids already though things are slightly different. Not least because you can’t really remember what life was like before they came along so it’s more difficult to recreate those distant memories. But saying that it’s still nice to get away and spend some time together before you go from a family of 3 to 4 or 4 to 5 in our case.

 

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So I had a Babymoon last pregnancy and have one planned this time too (will be blogging about that very soon! Roll on Friday! Whoop Whoop!). If nothing else, it’s a good excuse to have a break from the kids and get some decent sleep when you’re at your most knackered, so why not take it?!

But it’s not just your relationship with your partner that is set to change with the arrival of a new baby, just as significantly is the change of dynamic that occurs for your existing children with the arrival of a new sibling! So I like to do a ‘Babymoon’ with them too! To spend some time together doing something special before everything changes for them.

 

 

Last time at 34 weeks pregnant I planned a whole weekend of fun with my eldest, just him and I. On the Friday night the fun began when we went to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. On Saturday we had brunch at our favourite spot in Brixton Village before visiting this old fashioned sweet shop just off Bond Street (down a little hidden cobbled street) that we had been meaning to find for a while. Then with bags stuffed with more sugar than we could consume without being sick, we headed off on a duck tour! A duck tour is basically a tour around London in a yellow tank-type vehicle that can be driven right into the Thames. It’s half road vehicle, half boat. It’s proper touristy but really fun! The next day we went to Legoland for the day. We were there from morning until park closing time, riding all the rides and taking in the mega firework display at the end! It was October half term so there were some extra special Halloween-related activities. It was so much fun, albeit totally exhausting, but we have so many memories of our weekend of fun before little Arlo Bear came into our lives.

 

This time with two kids to entertain we upped our Babymoon game and headed off on a proper Mini adventure to Paris! In an actual Mini! That’s right, a family of four with a weekend’s worth of luggage including a pram, drove to Paris in a Mini! It was surprisingly ok.

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We took the Mamas and Papas Armadillo Flip XT which was great for so many reasons:

  1.  It folds down super compact and fits in the Mini’s boot (even leaving room for 2x bags!).
  2. With the footmuff it’s the cosiest thing ever, which given we were going to Paris on a cold wet weekend in February was only a good thing.
  3. It’s built for naps! The seat reclines to flat, the liner is super plush and squidgy which makes it really comfy, there’s a foot plate bit (not the technical term) which extends and lifts up meaning baby’s legs aren’t left to dangle over the edge and the hood is absolutely enormous and can be pulled right over, transforming the buggy into a cosy dark little cave which fully protects baby from the elements.
  4. It has a seriously roomy basket underneath which was meant we didn’t have to lug our stuff about all day and on the rides!

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Since we planned to visit Disneyland and be there for the full 12 hours until 10pm at night (!) having somewhere for Arlo to sleep was really important. We had considered going without the buggy and just hiring one at the park in order to free up some space in the Mini but when we saw what was on offer at the park we were so glad we brought the Flip XT with us! The hire pushchairs at the park were really basic, no padding at all and not even a recline option. They looked just like the metal wheelchairs you find in hospital for transporting patients between floors! Arlo would have been unable to sleep and mega mega grumpy as a result! We would probably have had to leave early. So we were so glad we’d brought our own especially as the Flip XT is practically a bed on wheels! Arlo was obviously happy too because he spent many hours tucked up inside sleeping- making his tired mama very jealous!!

(If interested you can read my full review of the Mamas and Papas Armadillo Flip XT here).

Anyway enough with the pram chat! So I’m 34 weeks pregnant, just like last time, but this time round it’s not just Oisin and I, but also Arlo (as he’s due to become a big bro too) and James (aka Daddy). So the whole troupe.

 

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We set off from Folkestone on Friday morning catching an early-ish Eurotunnel crossing. Typically we arrived with not much time to spare before our crossing so were able to drive straight through and onto the train. The crossing itself is only about half an hour and the drive to Paris is less than 3 hours. So it really is very easy and very quick! We often drive to Devon and Manchester visiting family and that takes longer than driving to Paris!!

We booked to stay at a new hotel called B&B hotel Disneyland Paris. It’s not an official Disney hotel on the park site itself (those cost a bomb) but it’s somehow loosely affiliated with Disney and is listed on their website as a ‘Partner Hotel’. It’s about a mile away from the park and is in an area where there are a number of hotels all existing for the sole purpose of accommodating Disneyland guests.

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The hotel is basic but brand new so everything is really clean and most importantly working! It was a total bargain- £135 for the 2 nights for a family of 4 and that included breakfast for us all. There’s also a free bus shuttle to the park from the hotel which takes 5-10mins. Bearing in mind it’s February half term we thought that was a great deal.

The breakfast was great too- maybe not so much the scrambled egg which looked a little dubious but there were plenty of cereals, yoghurts, croissants, brioche, freshly squeezed juices etc. on offer. And it was all you can eat, so we ate loads, obvs.

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The bedroom had a kingsize bed and two singles all with actual duvets not the annoying sheet and blanket combo you often get. The shower was good (in strength and temp- nothing worse than a weak shower) and the towels were new and relatively fluffy. It was free to park at the hotel for the duration of our stay and the free shuttle to the park saved us quite a bit as I’m sure the parking at Disneyland doesn’t come cheap. Also I imagine the queues in and out wouldn’t have been much fun.

The only negatives of the hotel were that the mattresses were HARD and there were no toiletries or tea making facilities in the rooms. But other than that it was great and definitely did the job. I wouldn’t certainly recommend and look to stay there again next time we visit Disney!

I don’t really need to review Disneyland itself because you either love it or hate it. I firmly fall into the first category. I love the magic, the lights, the music, the rides, the colour, the nostalgia and the escapism. Twice round ‘it’s all a small world’ and there was a definite improvement in my mental state of wellbeing. And seeing my kids’ faces light up also brings me much joy. Oisin was giddy with excitement (and terror-induced adrenaline) after a go on ‘Space Mountain’ and even Arlo was flapping his little arms and squawking with happiness on ‘it’s a small world’ (hence we went round twice).

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The fact it was February meant the weather wasn’t great but that was offset by the fact that the queues were also greatly reduced in comparison to when I’ve been previously in August, smack bang in the middle of the school summer hols! Beautiful blue skies last time but also 90min queues for every single ride and sometimes even longer. February brought grey skies and drizzle but the queues were never more than 30 mins and most of the time less. Many rides only had 5-10 min queue times which was nothing.

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Also one (rather large) bonus of going when heavily pregnant was that we got an easy access pass, allowing the whole family to skip the queue for rides that were suitable for pregos. So that ruled out the rollercoasters. And we had to queue for Pirates of the Caribbean, which was deemed too dangerous for a pregnant person (although weirdly babies were allowed?!).

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So overall I’d say it was better going at this time of year, despite the weather; we got to go on a lot more rides and spent a lot less time standing in queues. Tickets for the park are also cheaper off peak. But saying that, if you can time your pregnancy with the summer break and get an easy access pass, then that might be the ultimate plan! Sunshine and queue jumping sounds good.

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One last tip for Disney: TAKE A PICNIC!! A friend text me before I went saying Disney was ‘full of horrible food and horrible people’. I thought this was harsh until I sampled the culinary disappointment. Then I understood where she was coming from. It wouldn’t be so bad if the food was gross but at least cheap or if it was expensive but tasty. But expensive and gross is the worst combo of the lot. And that’s exactly what’s on offer! Expect to pay 50 Euro for lunch for 3 people and get some pasta slop that tastes worse than a 90s school dinner served with a watered-down carbonated drink. I really really really wish we had taken our own picnic. For the same money we could have had a delicious spread with snacks and treats to last the whole day! We will definitely be doing this next time.

So there we have it – my review of our Mini adventure to Disneyland Paris at 34 weeks pregnant for a Babymoon, with the kids!

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I’m now sat in the car at Calais, writing this whilst waiting to board our train home, and despite the pain I was in last night after a whole day on my feet lugging the bump (and extra lbs) about, I definitely hope we come back soon! Not quite sure how we will manage with 2x babies and a double buggy but I’m sure we’ll give it a go! Although probably not in a Mini, hey…!

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Preparing for Birth – The Baby Shower / Mother’s Day / Gifts for New Mums

motherhood, Preparing for Birth

So as part of my ‘Preparing for Birth’ series I had planned a post around The Baby Shower, basically listing loads of cool stuff for Mamas, because jeez, don’t you know the baby gets enough?!! Then I realised Mother’s Day was just round the corner (as in next weekend folks, the countdown is officially ON) and I thought the stuff on my list would be great for the big M-day too! Basically this is the stuff on every Mama’s wish list, so if you’ve got a Mum or Mum-to-be to buy for, either this Mother’s Day or for an upcoming baby shower, or just because… they birthed a human and deserve a treat, then check this list out:

THE BOOKS

1. How to be a Hip Mama without Losing your Cool written by the hippest mama on the block; Jenny Scott, founder of Mothers Meetings. A guide to motherhood like no other. Fun, useful, the opposite of prescriptive and most importantly easy to dip in and out of (don’t underestimate how important this requirement is for a new mum: “Oh I just tore through that novel what with all the time I’ve got on my hands” said no new mum ever).

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2. The Mother Book – so freshly launched that I’ve not even got a copy yet, but I’m going to bet it’s brilliant! Curated by Molly Gunn, the superwoman behind Selfish Mother, this book is packed full of the most popular posts on parenting from the blogosphere, all written by regular fellow Mamas. Plus one of my posts has been included, so ya know…

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3. One Day Young by Jenny Lewis – I absolutely adore this collection of photos of new Mamas with their babes, all shot within 24 hours of having given birth. I often flick through the pictures and feel goosebumps with the anticipation of holding my own newborn baby, in just a matter of weeks… eek!

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THE MAMA MERCH

1. THE Mama chain from Cult of Youth. I still haven’t got one of these but Kelly, the wondrous woman behind the brand, promises they will be back in stock soon! Plus there’s a whole heap of awesome new designs landing (featuring all the things we love like pineapples and skulls) also coming very soon!

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2. The Mother Sweater. I absolutely love these (and the mother tees), all sold by Selfish Mother. Not only do they look awesome but they’re comfy as hell to wear and best of all they’re raising serious amounts of cash for some incredible charities. An all round win-win situation. You can now buy them from NOTHS and as of this week they’re even stocked in everyone’s favourite department store: John Lewis! Molly, the mama behind it all, is ON FIRE people!!!

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3. Mere Soeur Merch – be it the tote mag or the tee or the mega ‘One Good Mutha’ mug, any item here would make an awesome gift for Mother’s Day / a baby shower / a new Mama. The site is being relaunched on the 1st March so set your alarm peeps! This stuff sells out every time.

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4. YES MUM CARDS – they have literally taken THE WORLD by storm. Packs of positive affirmations for Motherhood. Simple yet so effective. These make an excellent gift for all Mamas out there, no matter how many years they’ve been in the mothering biz for. Who doesn’t enjoy a metaphorical friendly and encouraging pat on the back?!

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THE MISC

1. Tiba + Marl baby changing bags. Or just really cool bags, designed with baby changing in mind. Honestly these are so awesome, you could rock one without even having to rock a baby. From the quilted black Raf holdall, to the flowery backpack, to the mini-me leopard print versions, the amazing mamas behind the brand have got all your bag needs covered. You would be literally loved forever if you were to gift a new Mum or Mum-to-be one of these bad boys. Now also stocked in Harrods and Selfridges!

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2. Emily Gray Photography voucher – again, you would be loved big time FOREVER. Dads – buy this for your other half, girls – club together and get one for your BFF. Charlotte the mama who makes the magic happen, is THE photographer of choice for so many mamas out there. Her snaps are all over the internet, or at least instagram (just check out @mother_pukka’s IG feed). Get a booking in ASAP though because this lady is in high demand!

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3. We couldn’t list gifts for new Mums without mentioning DON’T BUY HER FLOWERS. Yeah, really don’t, because not only are they unoriginal but she’s got enough to worry about keeping alive. But definitely DO visit the Don’t Buy Her Flowers website and treat her to one of the amazing packages on offer. Boxes of sheer joy beautifully packed and full of goodies that Mamas really want/need/will appreciate. From COOK vouchers to G&Ts, glossy mags to hand creams, dry shampoo to truffles, these packages are perfect for all the mamas in your life. So if your friend has just given birth and you’ve no idea what to send, or you’re out of ideas for your own Mum this Mother’s Day, look no further: DBHF has the solution! (Also brilliant for any other occasion – I was sent one by a lovely friend for my b’day / just after our horror m25 crash and it was like a perfectly timed hug in a box).

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Preparing for Birth – The Shopping List

Preparing for Birth

We all know you need a shedload of equipment for the baby, God, where do I even begin?! Cots, Prams, Car seats, Changing tables… It’s amazing how such a small thing requires such a vast amount of space-stealing equipment! Then comes play mats and baby gyms and baby bouncers and let’s not even start on the Jumperoo! (WHERE DOES IT ALL GO???). But what most people don’t think about is the stuff they might need to buy (or hire) for birth. Luckily you don’t need a lot. In fact, there’s just four things you might want to consider getting and if you’re having a hospital birth, then there’s just three. So please don’t worry, this list is a short one (in numbers, not words).

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First up, a birth ball. I got mine from Birth-Ease and they come in two sizes depending on how tall you are. The 65cm one is for women up to 5’8’’ and the 75cm one is for women over 5’8’’ i.e. the supermodels amongst us! The Birth-Ease birth ball is great because it’s reinforced and designed specially to support the weight of a pregnant woman. And let’s face it, you’re going to be using this ball right up until the end and by then you’re going to feel pretty whale-like (even if you don’t actually look it).

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The birth ball can be used in labour and is one way of resting while remaining ‘active’ and upright. You can bounce on the birth ball or simply sit on it by the side of a bed and lean forward resting your upper chest and head on the mattress/a pillow.

It is important in labour to stay in an upright and forward position for as much as possible. This is because you have gravity on your side which will help the baby descend and be born, which is what we are aiming for after all! Also the weight of the baby’s head will encourage the cervix to open, therefore speeding up the whole process. If you do choose to lie down on the bed, try and avoid lying on your back, as it’s least optimum position. This is because not only do you not have gravity helping you but by lying on your back you prevent your coccyx moving out of the way, which is what it does to create more room in the pelvis for the baby to descend and be born. Clever design our bodies. It’s almost like everything has been thought of!

So using the birth ball is great because it keeps you in this optimum upright forward position without you having to stand the whole time. And there’s something quite therapeutic about bobbing up and down whilst breathing your way through labour.

I was once (9 years ago with my first) told to remember the acronym U.F.O. when in labour and it’s stuck with me. U for Upright, F for Forward and O for open. Any position where you are upright, forward and open is great. By open I mean your legs are apart and you are creating room in your pelvis rather than restricting the space. Upright you obviously have gravity and by leaning forward you’re encouraging baby into the most optimum position for birth, as the weight of the back of the baby’s head will be round to the front of you as opposed to resting against your back. This will all make life, or at least labour, easier for you.

The birth ball is also great in pregnancy for encouraging baby into the most optimum position for birth. If you think about our ancestors they would have always have been in a slightly tilted forward position; walking, cleaning, farming, tending to children etc. In our modern lives we spend more and more time being tilted backwards or reclined; we drive in a slightly reclined position or we slouch on a bus or train seat, we sit at desks and then we come home and flop on to sofas. This is having an effect on the position of our babies in the womb.

The most usual position for birth is a baby that is head down, looking towards mum’s back. So the spine of baby runs almost parallel with the front of mum’s tummy. You may have heard of a back to back baby? This is a baby who is head down but instead of facing mum’s back, they are facing mum’s tummy, meaning their spine is running parallel to mum’s back. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with this position, it’s simply less usual and means the mother is more likely to feel the pressure and sensations of labour more intensely in her back, as opposed to round the front of her uterus. There are also other positions babies can be in such as breech (bum/feet down rather than head) or transverse but we can’t discuss them all here as this blog post would never end!!

How the birth ball helps in regards to the above, is that by sitting on it, as opposed to slouching on a chair at a desk or flopping on a sofa, we are in a more forward position, just like our ancestors were. The heaviest part of the baby is the back of its head so if we spend time in this forward position, gravity will pull this weight down and round to the front, meaning baby is in the most optimum and usual position. If we spend all our time reclined, then gravity will pull the heavy weight that is the back of baby’s head round towards our backs meaning baby will be in the back to back position we have just spoken about.

So the best thing you can do in pregnancy to encourage baby into the optimum position for birth is buy a birth-ease birth ball and use it at work if you can, but certainly at home in the evenings. Again the more you use it and assume this forward position the more effective it will be at encouraging baby into optimum birth position.

Second item on the list is a TENS machine. I have used a TENS machine for both my labours and absolutely love them. Weirdly however when I have tested them (when not in labour), I find them quite irritating with their buzzing and almost too much to bear. But for some reason in labour, that buzzing sensation is comforting and really helpful and I’ve come to rely on it a lot.

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The TENS machine is essentially a form of pain relief but it doesn’t involve any pharmaceuticals, so has no effect on baby and also means the mother is able to be fully present and is not left feeling out of control in any way. It also doesn’t inhibit the mother from being active during labour. It works because the electrical pulses it produces stimulates the body to produce endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain relief and far stronger than morphine. If you use the TENS machine from early on in labour you’re essentially filling your body with endorphins, meaning you can enjoy a more comfortable labour, even when everything is established and surges are coming thick and fast.

The TENS machine also works because it is distracting. This doesn’t sound very scientific but it’s true. If you concentrate on the surge, you will be more aware of its intensity as you’re giving it all of your focus. If you’re using the TENS machine which has a boost button that you can press during a surge, then you are thinking of that and the change of sensation that you will be experiencing when you press the boost, as opposed to solely concentrating on the power of the surge. It’s like if you get a small cut on your finger, sometimes you won’t even notice that it has happened. But as soon you do and you start examining it, it starts hurting. Where you place your focus in labour really matters and has a big effect.

You can buy a TENS machine either new or second hand. I got mine on eBay this time but I’ve got one before at a nearly-new baby sale. They also sell them in places like John Lewis if you’d rather get one new. You can also hire them from the NCT, or sometimes from your local hospital. So ask your midwife or have a Google and give it a go. If you buy one second hand, you can always sell it on afterwards for much the same price, so there really is nothing to lose in giving it a try.

Third on the list: a Birth Pool in a Box. This is the one you won’t need if you’re having a hospital birth. You can pack all kinds of things in your hospital bag but I think the general consensus is that the birth pool and kitchen sink are off limits! Hopefully if you want a water birth, you’ll be able to use a pool at the hospital (just make sure you or your birth partner tell the midwives when you ring up, before going in, so they can get it ready as they do take a long while to fill!).

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However if you’re having a home birth, as I’m planning, then getting a birth pool of your own is definitely a good idea. I use Birth Pool in a Box and you can either buy a single use one new from The Good Birth Company or hire a professional one (just Google for companies that offer this). They come in two sizes – regular or mini. I’ve got a mini one again and it is definitely spacious enough for me. However if you’d like your birth partner to get in too, consider getting the bigger version.

WARNING: If you do get one second hand, you must make sure it is thoroughly cleaned and sterilised (you’ll need to inflate it to do this properly) and that you buy a brand new liner and hose kit. This is really important as you do not want any bad bacteria in the pool! You can buy a liner  and hose kit for The Birth Pool in a Box direct from The Good Birth Company.

Once you’ve got your birth pool, I’d definitely recommend doing a dry run (no need to use the liner for this!). I also like to do a wet run but if you do this it’s recommended that you use a liner which means you’ll need another for the birth. The upside is that if you do a wet run, you can enjoy a little relax in your pool once it’s full. This might be a good time to ‘pretend’ you’re in labour and practice the breathing techniques  and visualisations or the other relaxation tools you’ve got such as light touch massage, relaxation scripts, relaxation tracks etc. You could also try out a few birthing positions in the pool and see how they feel. Basically it’s nice to familiarise yourself with your pool and how it feels to be in water if that’s where you plan to labour and birth.

The other reasons for doing a practice run are that you’ll want to know how long it takes to inflate and fill. Usually inflating doesn’t take very long but the filling can take a couple hours! Another way of working out how long it will take to fill if you don’t fancy the wet run is to time how long it takes to fill your bath. The regular sized birth pool takes approx 4x bath fulls and the mini birth pool takes 2.5x bath fulls. This is actually the reason I didn’t get to have a water birth with my second – my labour was too fast and the pool was not full in time! So it’s good to know how long it will take so you can plan for that in labour. You’ll also want to check your house can produce enough hot water and most importantly that your birth partner knows EXACTLY what he/she is doing because they will be in charge of this on the big day. You’ll also want to know the hose connector for your tap is the right one because there would be nothing worse than discovering this when in labour!! And I’ve been told this happens, all the time.

I will be posting a video to my YouTube channel soon of my pool’s dry and wet run so you can see how to do it! Don’t worry, lots of parts will be sped up so it won’t be a feature length film! You can find my YouTube channel here.

The main benefits of having a birth pool are that women usually relax in warm water when having a bath so we are conditioned to associate warm water with relaxation so the birth pool helps women relax in labour and we know labour is more comfortable, easier and efficient when our bodies are relaxed. The warm water also softens the muscles and tissue making them more relaxed and flexible so the risk of having a tear is reduced when birthing in water. Finally from a psychological perspective, the birth pool is quite nest-like and makes a woman feel safe and protected which, because we are essentially primal mammals, is really important when giving birth. Our bodies won’t birth a baby if there is even the smallest sense of being endangered.

Final note on the birth pool, people often ask how you go about emptying the pool after the baby has been born. It’s really quite easy! You can get a hose kit with the birth pool in a box which has a pump and you just use the same hose you used to fill the pool and simply pump the water out again and it goes down the drain of your sink! It takes a LOT less time to empty than it does to fill.

Fourthly and finally on the birth shopping list: a Birth Photographer! Eyebrows immediately raise. Everyone is thinking the same: YOU WANT SOMEONE PHOTOGRAPHING YOUR VAGINA?!! And I don’t. Not at all. I do however want to document one of the biggest and most significant days of my (and my baby’s) life and have photos to look at it in the future so that I can remember this most special time.

Nobody ever thinks it strange that people getting married hire a photographer or videographer and yet that’s just a wedding. I know I’m cynical but couples can get divorced. But giving birth!! Becoming a mother!! BIRTHING A HUMAN BEING!!! That’s far bigger than any wedding no matter how much cash was splashed. And you can never un-mother yourself. Having a baby and becoming a parent really is for life.

But enough of doom, gloom and divorce rates! Birth photographers! Birth photography! It’s really common in Australia and America to book a birth photographer but less common here. Perhaps because we are all so British and inhibited or possibly because there just aren’t many birth photographers out there? I found it really hard to get one in my area, and I’m in London! But birth photography is beautiful, you only need to look at the winning entries of this recent Birth Photography competition to see that. The images are powerful, raw, magical and the women look incredible.

I want to be able to look back on my birth and remember the day I brought my baby into the world forever and ever, and I’m sure if you think about it and get over the whole vagina thing, you probably would like to be able to do that too. Also I’ve never felt as good as when I had just given birth; I felt invincible, like some kind of awesome superwoman. Now I know the flood of oxytocin helped (not even the best orgasm will produce anywhere near as much oxytocin as giving birth does) but also just the fact I had just produced another human. Birth is amazing and I just think, why would you not want to photograph and treasure that moment?!

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So I’ve met with my birth photographer, the lovely Susie Fisher. She knows my birth plan and how important it is for me to have a calm and quiet environment where I can birth uninterrupted and she is going to respect that and capture my birth story without being intrusive. It’s really important if you are booking a birth photographer to meet with them first so you know you’re a good fit and explain what you want from them and also to give them an idea of how you want your birth to go (because you definitely don’t want to be having to explain when in labour).

Birth photography doesn’t come cheap but it gives you something that will last a lifetime. And there’s not much in life you can buy that comes with that guarantee.

So there we have it; birth balls, birth pools, TENS machines and birth photographers. The four things I believe you need to get when preparing for birth.

Preparing for Birth – Hypnobirthing

Preparing for Birth

Today is a VERY exciting day on the blog because it is the launch of the brand new ‘Preparing for Birth‘ series!  I will be posting a new blog post every Monday in the lead up to the birth of my baby (and possibly beyond) covering all things from breathing techniques for labour to packing birth bags to booking babymoons! I’m super excited about this series, (and the fact that I will be having a another baby in a matter of weeks!!) and I really hope you enjoy reading the posts and find them useful as you also prepare for the births of your babies!

So today’s post to kick things off is all about Hypnobirthing and more specifically the breathing techniques you learn in Hypnobirthing which are so valuable in labour. Breathing, in my opinion, is the single most important thing you can do in labour to help yourself and your baby. It really is that good. So that’s why I have chosen to focus on it and why I’ve even made a tw*t out of myself on camera in an attempt to show you all how to do it! That’s right! My first ever vlog. It was painfully embarrassing to do so please make me feel better about the whole thing by watching it and at least pretending that it’s useful…

Finally, as most of you know, I’m a massive Hypnobirthing advocate having had an amazing hypnobirth myself,  after a relatively stressful induction first time round. I subsequently trained as a Hypnobirthing teacher and have recently founded The Positive Birth Company which is based in SW London. So if you would like to chat more about Hypnobirthing or book classes then please do get in touch!!

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Ok, sales pitch over. Here’s the blog…

If you’re in the latter stages of pregnancy, especially if this is your first pregnancy you’ll no doubt have shopping lists coming out of your ears. You’ll be needing stuff for the baby like clothes and blankets and nappies, stuff for the nursery like a moses basket and/or cot, stuff for feeding like bottles and a steriliser and maybe a breast pump, equipment like a car seat and buggy, stuff for your hospital/birth bag like granny pants, arnica and big fat pads and then there’s all the DIY stuff you want to get done before baby’s arrival… It’s overwhelming, not to mention wallet-wreckingly expensive. So it’s no wonder at all that preparing for the actual birth of the baby can be overlooked and even forgotten about.

So today  I’m going to be talking about what I think you should be doing in the lead up to birth to ensure you have a positive and empowering birth experience however and wherever you choose to birth your baby. There is no doubt that giving birth is a huge and important day for both mother and baby (and birth partner!). Becoming a parent is such an enormous life event and the actual act of giving birth, besides being mind-blowingly miraculous, can be quite a scary thought because we hear so many horror stories and because there are so many unknowns. In our lives where we have so much control over everything we do, it’s hard when it comes to birth because we do not know when the baby will come or how the baby will come and if you’re a first time Mum what it will even feel like. The best thing we can do is allow events to unfold naturally in their own time, trusting that our babies and bodies know best, whilst ensuring we are fully informed so that whatever happens we can navigate our births feeling empowered and positive.

The best way of doing this in my opinion is to attend Hypnobirthing classes where both the mother and birth partner learn about the physiology and psychology of birth (it really is quite scientific and not much to do with hypnosis at all!). Mother and birth partner, once they understand how the muscles and hormones work perfectly in labour, then learn how they can help the process so that labour is allowed to progress efficiently and comfortably. Hynobirthing equips mother and birth partner will a range of tools they can use in pregnancy and birth to remain calm and relaxed, which is so very important. There are many many reasons (and benefits for mother and baby) as to why it’s important to be relaxed in labour but one simple reason is that relaxed muscles will work and open far more easily than tense muscles. In Hypnobirthing classes you also learn about inductions, caesareans etc. Even if you’re planning for a natural birth it’s good to be informed because knowledge is power! And if these things come up, you’ll be in a position to make an informed decision as to whether you accept or decline the various interventions on offer. It’s always important to know the benefits and risks of doing and not doing.

I could talk (or write) for hours on the subject but in short, the best thing you can do if you’re pregnant to prepare for birth is to GO TO HYPNOBIRTHING CLASSES! You will not regret it. In fact I’d go as far as saying it will be the best money you will ever spend.

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A key tool you learn in Hypnobirthing is a breathing technique that you can use through surges (a nicer and more accurate word for contractions). We call this breathing ‘up breathing’ because it is used during the ‘up stage’ of labour. The up stage of labour is also the first stage of labour and it is where the muscles of the uterus are lifting up and the cervix is relaxing and opening to 10cm dilated. This stage is most commonly the longest stage of labour.

I have posted this little video on my YouTube channel where you can learn more about Up breathing and how to do it. When preparing for birth, it is so important that you practice this breath so it comes naturally to you in labour. Make time, even just 5 minutes, to practice it every day.

This breathing technique not only helps you remain calm and therefore allows your muscles to work more easily and comfortably because they are not tense and tight, but it also ensures that you are filling your body with oxygen which we know all muscles need to work effectively. If you hold your breath through your surges, then you are denying the muscles of your uterus this much needed oxygen which will only make it more difficult for them to work efficiently. Finally, if you’re filling your body with oxygen and sending it all to the uterus, guess who else is benefiting? Yes! Baby! Which means you’re a lot less likely to experience foetal distress which can happen if baby’s oxygen is reduced over a long period of time.


Then there is the down breathing which we use in the down stage of labour. The down stage of labour is the second stage of labour, where the baby moves down the birth canal and is born. So up breathing is for up stage where the uterus muscles lift up and the cervix opens and down breathing is for the down stage of labour where the baby moves down and is born. Makes sense, right?

The benefits of using this breathing technique to birth your baby rather than following the instructions of a midwife or doctor to push, are numerous. For one the baby will be born more gently rather than forcibly ejected. That’s why many hypno babies are born asleep or still in their sac, because their delivery has been so gentle and calm. Secondly rather than force and push the baby out of a cervix/vagina that is not ready, breathing the baby down will mean the baby’s head slowly kneads the cervix open until it can pass through. This means the mother is a lot less likely to suffer any trauma to the perineum or vagina and is a lot less likely to tear.

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Again it is important to practice beforehand! Best place to practice the down breathing is on the toilet when you need to go for a… you guessed it! Especially if you suffer with constipation in pregnancy, you might find this actually really helps! So I will be posting a little video on my YouTube channel soon (probably not whilst on the toilet) showing you how to do this so please have a watch and give it a go!

Now this is not intended to replace attending a Hypnobirthing course because you will learn a lot more than just breathing but this is just to give you an idea of the kind of tools you will learn to help you in labour. The most important thing to remember when preparing for birth is to practice. I can’t stress this enough. It’s very simple but very true: the more you put in, the more you will get out of it.

The thing I hate to hear most is when people say ‘oh I tried Hypnobirthing and it didn’t work for me’ or ‘I tried the breathing thing but it didn’t work so I had to have an epidural’… just before it transpires that they did little or no practice. If someone showed you how to play an instrument one time, or drive a car, you couldn’t then go and perform or drive like an expert. It’s exactly the same. Of course it will not work if you do not practice. That’s not to say it won’t or can’t work. The key thing is practice, practice, practice and it’s so worth it! Not only will mother benefit and have the most amazing, positive empowering birth experience but so will baby who will be born gently and calmly to a mother who is happy and fully present, ready to meet them.

Finally when I say practice, I mean literally just taking a few minutes in the morning and a few minutes at night to practice this breathing technique so it becomes second nature. I’m not saying you need to find hours every day. And the down breathing is something you can do on the loo! So that’s just a matter of multi-tasking and we all know women are experts at that 🙂

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I hope you’ve found this little bit of Hypnobirthing knowledge useful (and had a good LOL at my first video!). Please do get in contact if you have any questions and make sure you check out the video on my YouTube channel and then give it a go!

GOOD LUCK!
X

Baby paraphernalia – what you really need to have a baby

motherhood, Preparing for Birth

A few of my friends are (FINALLY) pregnant (yay!!) and because I’m prepping (in the loosest sense of the word) for numero 3, and have spent the best part of a decade rearing small people, they’ve asked me for advice on what they should buy in anticipation of their precious arrival. So I created a list for them and thought I’d share it here too…

In short, you really don’t need a lot. These newborn babies don’t want for much and they mostly just eat and sleep (and maybe cry). So you’ll need milk (but if you’re breastfeeding, that’s already on tap) and a place for them to sleep i.e. a moses basket, a stand, a couple crib sheets and a baby sleeping bag or two. Of course you’ll also need a shedload of nappies and some basic baby clothes like vests and sleepsuits. Maybe some baby-friendly washing detergent and softener. But that’s really about it, in terms of what you NEED.

Then of course you’ll probably want a pram or a sling so you can get out and about and a bouncy chair to put them in when you need a wee (because that’s the only time you’ll be putting them down. And no, you don’t eat, unless some kind person feeds you). Oh and you’ll also need a car seat if you’ve got a car and plan on using it (go for Maxi-Cosi EVERY time – I speak from crash-testing experience).

Muslins are useful. So are dummies (you might be anti them now but withhold judgement until you’ve experienced extreme sleep deprivation coupled with screamy baby at 4am at which point you’ll realise you will try anything. And dummies really aren’t that bad and in fact they are said to decrease the chance of SIDS. So get a few in, even if only for emergencies).

If you’re breastfeeding you might need lansinoh (magic stuff that protects nipples and is safe for babies), breast pads and a pump. If you’re bottle-feeding, you’ll need bottles (obviously), formula and a sterilising device.

You can see how things can quickly get out of control and how easy it is for a first-time pregnant mama to feel overwhelmed with all the paraphernalia on offer. Also decision making is tricky at the best of times but near on impossible when pregnant and really, how can a first-time pregnant mama really know what they actually will need?! Maybe I only speak for myself here, but I certainly couldn’t differentiate between what would come to be a literal lifesaver and what would become just another T.U.P (totally unnecessary purchase)!

So to help you avoid too many T.U.Ps, here’s my list! I’m no expert by any stretch of the imagination but I have got a couple kids and as consequence have tried and tested a lot of baby paraphernalia! So let me at least save you from the mistakes I made…

Baby clothes

You don’t need much. Firstly because you don’t really know how big (or small) your baby will be – they come in all sizes and scans aren’t reliable (I was told to expect a 4lb babe and I got an 8lb-er. I’m not alone). Secondly because you’ve got your whole maternity leave to go shopping and it’s kind of fun buying things for baby once they have actually arrived. So don’t deprive yourself by buying it all in advance! Thirdly you cannot over-estimate how much you will be given – either new gifts or secondhand stuff from friends, family, neighbours, colleagues etc.

So with that in mind, I suggest buying in newborn size (because although you will want stuff for them to grow into, you will also need some stuff that fits when they’re born and there is a surprisingly big difference between ‘newborn’ and ‘0-3months’!):

* six cotton sleepsuits (all-in-ones)

sleepsuit

* six cotton vests

bodysuit

* two cardigans (you do not want to be pulling jumpers over baby’s floppy head)

* two hats (they have a tendency to go missing)

* blanket to wrap baby in / lie baby on

blanket

* baby socks (can double as scratch mitts/be used to keep hands warm – they get so cold when baby is sleeping!!)

* sock-ons (an amazing invention that do exactly as they say)

sock-ons-0-6-months-white-50-p

* snowsuit for the winter babes

* ecover or similar gentle non-bio detergent to wash baby clothes (which should be done before baby arrives and wears them).

Baby bedtime

* Moses basket – a really simple one will do because they really don’t stay in them long – definitely buy new – this one from John Lewis is perfect:

moses basket

* Moses basket stand – useful, also easily foldable for transportation/storage. Can be bought secondhand for approx £5.

* 4 x fitted sheets to fit the crib/moses basket – you’ll find yourself changing them frequently – 4 times in one night is not unheard of.

* At least 2 or 3 grobags for aged 0-6 months – you need a few because newborns are prone to explosive poos that escape their clothes (sorry), and they can sick up quite a bit (they may be small but they are very, very, messy). Make sure you get the right tog for the season your baby is due.

* Swaddle wraps/blankets are good but they have such a short life so maybe get some second hand if you can or given as gifts.

swaddle

*Dummies – trust me on this one. If your baby takes it(and some don’t) and it offers them some level of comfort, then you’re going to want to have them.

* Gro-egg – useful for knowing the room temp and therefore what bedding and clothing layers you should be using. Can’t really put a value on something that reduces the anxiety new Mums experience. Also works as a nightlight.

gro egg

* You might be tempted (or rather your other half might be (forgive my gender stereotyping)) to buy an expensive, state-of-the-art, tech-lover’s dream of a baby monitor. In my experience when baby is really new you’re unlikely to be leaving them out of your sight for very long, so it’s definitely not necessary to have one at the start. And later on, a regular one will do just fine and you’ll be glad you didn’t purchase the one with a TV screen, light show, lullabies and two-way walkie talkie function.

Leaving the house (!!!)

* You might want to get a sling but again in my experience when baby is brand new, they are too tiny for most baby carriers and sort of sink down and crumple, leaving you worrying whether they can breathe! So wait until they are a little more robust and have some head control before strapping them to your front. There are loads of options when the time comes so try and test out a few and see what works for you. I can recommend the ergo baby carrier and I would say avoid the baby bjorn original because it’s a back killer!

* Pram-wise, I basically tried everything with my first son until I got a Bugaboo. Second-time round I knew to get one straightaway! Our Bugaboo Cameleon 3 has been our best purchase and I would recommend everyone get one if they can! Bugaboo are like the Rolls Royce of buggies but when you think how much you’re going to use it, it becomes worth every penny. It can be false economy buying cheaper prams because they break or are difficult to use. We got ours secondhand, which I would definitely recommend doing if you’re on a budget. Not only can you get a nearly-new one in immaculate condition for half the price, they also have a really good resale value, so even after a couple years of use, you can sell it on again for not much less than you paid for it originally! A Bugaboo is a sound investment, even if your other half cannot get over the RRP.

bugaboo

* Car seat – it’s a good idea to get a Maxi-Cosi car seat because they are compatible with so many prams including the Bugaboo. Also try and get an isofix base (or easybase if you don’t have isofix points in your car). Not only are the bases meant to make the seat safer as they ensure they are correctly fitted, but they also make your life tons easier as you can simply clip the seat in and out without having to faff around with the belt. Also having recently survived a pretty horrific crash, I can hand-on-heart vouch for the Maxi-Cosi Cabriofix as despite a 70mph motorway crash which involved flipping our car (!!!) after a lorry went into us, our baby (who was in a Maxi-Cosi Cabriofix) escaped without a mark on him or a single injury.

maxi cosi cabriofix

* Change bag – I’ll tell you a little secret: you don’t actually need a designated change bag. You can just use a regular bag! Who knew?! But if you want to use the baby’s arrival as an opportunity to buy yourself a new bag (and why not?!) go for a Tiba & Marl one. Tiba & Marl design the best change bags out there, without a cupcake in sight, and you’ll happily use it when nappy changes are a distant (bad) memory.

ELWOOD_LEOPARD_01+copy

* A small portable change mat with space for nappies/wipes is super useful for when not taking a big bag out. One like this does the job:

portable changing mat

* Other useful items for leaving the house include a dummy clip and a portable Milton mini steriliser like this:

milton

(otherwise dummy ends up being thrown overboard, resulting in you having to suck it clean and subsequently spend the day worrying if the residual germs will kill the baby…or you, leaving the baby orphaned. Save yourself the trauma and buy the dummy clip and steriliser pot).

Washing and changing baby

* Changing table – Get a basic one, better still a secondhand one, as again you don’t tend to use them for long and they take up valuable space.

* Changing mat – this wedge one from John Lewis is good and stops baby rolling over to a degree – NOT failsafe, I repeat NOT failsafe.

wedge mat

* Nappies – LOADS of them – buy in bulk for best value. We use Pampers because despite trying to be more eco-friendly and getting real nappies and biodegradable ones, we found Pampers to be the best in terms of absorbency (and therefore less bum soreness) and they also win hands down with the least amount of leakages.

nappies

* Cotton wool balls – you will use these with water at first until you tire of the faff

* Water Wipes – for when you tire of the hassle of cotton wool balls and water. Water Wipes are more expensive but they are also the best (causing no bum soreness). First time our baby got a sore bum was after we started using a different brand. Buy in bulk and look out for offers in Boots etc.

water wipes

* Nappy bags – SCENTED ones! Breastfed babies’ poo looks gross but the smelly is relatively inoffensive. However once you start weaning… *GAG ALERT* Scented nappy bags are a MUST.

* Nappy bin with cartridges – we don’t actually have one of these and just take the nappies straight to the main bin because we don’t want them sat in the house but you might feel differently and want one for ease.

* Baby bath – don’t buy one! They take up loads of space and are unnecessary.

* Baby bath support – Buy one! Takes up so much less space! Get this fabric covered one from John Lewis because plastic is hard, cold and uncomfortable.

bath support

* Natural sponge

* Organic baby wash products

* Baby towel x2 – could just use a hand towel to be honest and I would put money on you being giving a ton of these for presents once baby arrives!

Feeding Baby

No need to purchase a highchair or stock up on bibs yet!

* Medela swing electric breast pump – The best pump out there. Also gives you the opportunity to have a night off and let your other half do the feeding. Can’t put a price on that.

medela swing pump

* Medela bottles with a teat that works like a nipple (yes, really), looks like this. You’ll only need 1 teat but maybe 2 or 3 bottles.

* Lansinoh Lanolin nipple cream – as mentioned before, magic stuff, 100% natural. Saved my life first time round.

lansinoh lanolin cream

* Muslin clothes – really useful for just about everything.

* Steriliser machine – get one for the microwave (if you have a microwave) – you can throw bottles in, dummies, plastic baby toys.

* Nursing bras – don’t bothing buying non-nursing maternity bras, which are rendered useless as soon as baby arrives due to the lack of easy boob access, go straight for the nursing bra option when pregnant. You will get a lot more wear out of them. Also they don’t have to be ugly: Google ‘Elle Macpherson Intimates Nursing Bra’.

elle machpherson intimates nursing bra

* Nursing sleep bra (like a crop top but with easy access – offers support and holds breast pads in place at night – definitely recommend buying. They changed my night life).

* Washable breast pads – softer than disposable ones (less chaffing), cheaper (in the long run) and greener (got to try and offset the nappies)

* Nursing chair – waste of money! Do not buy! You will end up feeding in bed or on the sofa not on some ugly monstrosity that you’ve had installed in the baby nursery but looks like it belongs in a retirement home! If you really want to buy a new chair then get a lovely armchair that you actually like the look of and will want to keep beyond the nursing years.

nursing chair

* Nursing cushion – don’t even bother. Treat yourself to a lovely cushion that you actually like instead. Your elbow doesn’t need an odd banana-shaped cushion covered in stars to support it, anything will do.

Baby Health & Safety

* Digital ear thermometer – get an in-ear one rather than one of those forehead scanner types because they’re more reliable.

* Calpol – good idea to have in the house at all times. Solves almost every ailment.

calpol

* Baby snot sucker or nasal aspirator, as they’re more formally known, (yes these things exist and yes you will want one as the alternative option is much worse – sucking it out yourself!)

nasal aspirator

* Try and go on a pediatric first aid course, where you will learn what to do in an emergency and also how rare really serious emergencies actually are (which is kind of reassuring for an anxious new parent).

* All the other stuff like baby prisons, sorry baby pens, stairgates, plug socket covers etc. will be needed once baby is on the move, but not for a number of months, so just don’t worry yourself with that at the minute!

At home with baby

* Baby Bjorn bouncer – I don’t know about you but brightly coloured, noisy bouncers with flashing lights aren’t on my wish list. Nor a new baby’s. You can’t go wrong with the simple yet stylish Baby Bjorn bouncer which folds flat for storage/transport. The fabric seat is also really easy to remove and machine washable which is a BIG bonus as you’re going to need to wash it a LOT.

baby bjorn boucer

* Baby play gym – whereas the above is really useful, the play gym is less so. Once babies can move they don’t lie under them and beforehand, well, they would be just as happy on your lap, studying your face. This is once they can actually focus! So you could go without or get one secondhand.

* Rattles and soft toys – you will be given loads. They also aren’t needed straightaway so no need to buy as part of your pre-baby prep.

* Door bouncers – not needed for a while but great fun for baby, don’t take up lots of space and are relatively inexpensive. I mention this now in case somebody suggests you need a Fisher Price Jumperoo! Yes lots of babies love Jumperoos, but lots of adults like fair ground rides but that doesn’t mean we get one installed in our house. Jumperoos cost over £100 and proudly boast ‘lights, sounds and music’. Door bouncers are the way forward and if the baby wants music, pop the radio on and choose to stay sane instead.

jumperoo

This list may seem long but it’s intended to be fully comprehensive, all-inclusive. You can get a LOT of this stuff secondhand on eBay, gumtree or at NCT nearly-new sales which are brilliant! Find out where your nearest one is here. There is also freecycle and charity shops dedicated to children’s clothes, toys and equipment, such as Fara. You’ll also find people are happy to give you stuff when they’ve finished using it such as friends, family and neighbours. You should be able to get the above lot without breaking the bank.

The really great thing about buying baby stuff secondhand is because any given item is used for such a short period of time, it tends to all be in really condition and can be bought for a fraction of the price new. However there are a few things I would buy new and these include: car seat (unless you know where its come from), mattress, dummies and bottle teats. Everything else should be fine secondhand after having been given a wash.

If you think I’ve missed anything off the list, please email and let me know: thedoublemama@gmail.com xxx