An open letter to The Observer…

motherhood

newborn

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

Dear Observer,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading.

Best Regards,

Siobhan Miller

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

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Top Blog Dogs

motherhood

I LOVE reading blogs. I have my own and obviously enjoy writing it but my all-time favourite thing to do is read all the amazing blogs out there. To sit down with a cup of tea and some time to myself and read… pure bliss. I used to love reading books, but to get through a full-on novel is too ambitious now; I’d have forgotten how it started by the time I got to the end. Blogs are bite-sized perfect though.

When I’m particularly busy the lists of posts that I desperately want to read grows and then I have to set aside designated blog-reading time to get through them (I keep a list in iPhone notes so I don’t forget!). So that’s what I did this morning and I was not disappointed. I thought I’d share these fab five so you can check them out too if you’re not already an avid follower/subscriber…

 

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This blog, written by the wonderful Cat Sims aka @notsosmugnow, promises ‘no bullshit baby tales’ and is truly brilliant. No attempt made by my tired brain to explain why would be adequately descriptive. You just need to read it, but make sure you schedule a good hour because every single post is an all-out winner.

The latest post tackles the subject of depression and is beautifully written, raw and honest, as is everything else on the blog. If you’re a Mum, unless you have somehow found this whole mothering / being-totally-responsible-for-another-human-being-24/7 thing a complete breeze (anyone??), then you’re going to relate and nod knowingly and enthusiastically as you read your way through the back catalogue of this blog.

Visit the blog here.

 

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This blog written by Clemmie Telford aka @peckham_mamma is equally brilliant but also completely different. The format of choice is always a list and so the posts are super quick to read, which is just perfect when you’re reading on your phone whilst simultaneously spooning weetabix into your baby’s mouth, throwing tea down your own throat and scanning the contents of your other son’s bag to make sure he has everything he needs for school, swimming and tag rugby (yes he does all 3 activities on the same day).

The latest post is a guest post and I warn you it’s so emotive that I had to stop reading half way through to take a break before I broke down. Disclaimer: I am 30 weeks pregnant so an over-emotional hormonal wreck of a human at present. Clemmie does a great job of mixing it up though and most of the posts will have you crying with laughter as opposed to heartbreak.

Visit the blog here.

 

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I cannot believe that I have only just started vlogs! I don’t know, am I behind the times???! Tell me I’m not. Please…!

Anyway I just have spent a great proportion of the morning watching these vlogs from the gorgeous Emma (and that’s not a throwaway adjective – take a look yourself). Emma aka @mamalinauk vlogs about all things motherhood but her YouTube channel is super organised and you can choose to watch anything from ‘How To’ videos to product reviews. She has posted a series of vlogs with each one offering 10 tips on a specific aspect of mothering. You can also watch vlogs that chart her pregnancy journey and her extensive travels (she’s off backpacking to Costa Rica this week with toddler and baby bump in tow! Yes, proper amazing mental). They are all just a few minutes long so suit my limited attention span / time-poor self down to the ground. I am now addicted. And also googling far-flung destinations…

Visit her YouTube channel here.

 

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Hollie aka @theyesmummum the powerhouse behind London Hypnobirthing and the woman responsible for introducing Hypnobirthing to the masses (myself included) AND the brains behind Yes Mum cards has started blogging again (must be because she has so much spare time on her hands). Anyway I for one am very happy that she has because she is an actual fountain of knowledge. She has tips for better sleep, info on independent midwives and a brilliant must-read post about birth by c-section.

Her latest post lists loads of great gift ideas for new mums and thanks to her heads-up, I have just treated myself to not just 1 but 3 Neom candles all to aid relaxation – and all half price in the sale! I’m saving money right there you see, it definitely doesn’t count as spending 😉

Visit her blog here.

 

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Anna Whitehouse aka @mother_pukka. Is this woman not everything?? She ‘jokes’ (least I hope she’s joking) that she doesn’t adult well (because if she’s not joking then I have totally and utterly failed as an adult) but in reality she is totally owning parenthood. Basically I JUST WANNA BE HER!!! And I’m pretty sure everyone else does too!

Her blog is hilarious and awesome (she’s a pro copywriter so think mag quality), her ‘The Great British Fake Off’ videos are pure comedy gold, she’s on an Avon ad, a Citroen ad (she’s a bona fide celeb these days), she’s just bought a house, started a new job (did I mention she works full time on top of the whole blogging / mothering thing?).  She has a cool accessible wardrobe (obvs her wardrobe isn’t open to the general public but you can buy most stuff in regular high street stores) and access to an even cooler wall (check out her IG feed to make sense of that one). Best of all Mr Mother Pukka is now onboard and he’s just as funny.

Too many posts to mention but check out her website here and YouTube channel here.

 

And that’s all my blog loving for now folks! Obviously there’s a bazillion other brilliant blogs that I’ve not mentioned but this is just what I’ve been reading this morning.

TIP: If you’re a new Mum and you find yourself up in the night a lot feeding, that’s a great time to read blogs. You can read on your phone so you don’t need to switch a light on as you would with a book, it keeps you awake (I used to always worry I’d fall asleep and suffocate my baby with my boob) and reading the experiences of others will help you feel less alone in this whole mothering malarky (which can happen when it’s 3am and it’s dark and you feel like you’re the only one awake in the world).  So check some of the above out tonight when you’re up feeding, you might even begin to less begrudge being awoken, maybe. No guarantees on that latter point.

Thoughts on BIRTH

motherhood

thoughts on birth

I’m pregnant and I am massively looking forward to giving birth. In fact I’d go as far as saying what I’m looking forward to most about this whole being pregnant and having a baby thing is the fact that I get to give birth again. How lucky I am to get to experience this incredible, mind-blowingly amazing, freaking miracle of an ‘activity’ that I KNOW is going to leave me feeling like super-fucking-woman. I’m going to feel intensely loved, powerful and euphoric and these feelings can last weeks. I get to do the best day of my life all over again.

Now that might strike you as strange, but why is that? You must agree giving birth to another human being is quite an awesome thing, even if you’re a man or you don’t have any kids, just the very concept of producing another human is mind-blowing. That’s a given, right? And by extension you must think women who give birth are pretty amazing too. So why is it we don’t look forward to, or at least don’t talk about looking forward to the experience of giving birth?

I’ll tell you what I think… I think it’s because we live in a culture that celebrates and actively promotes fear around birth. You only have to visit a few websites, and I’m talking big major websites, such as babycentre.co.uk to see the kind of language around birth that pregnant women encounter. We are expected to feel frightened, nervous and fearful. We are culturally conditioned to feel these things and it is reinforced ALL THE TIME. In conversations with friends, with family, with colleagues, in books and on websites. We are not expected to look forward to or feel excited about giving birth and certainly not expected to enjoy it. Excited about taking the baby home, sure, but when it comes to the actual labour and birth the assumption is we should all be terrified. As a result people share negative birth stories because this is the ‘norm’ and those who have positive birth stories feel it’s inappropriate to share because their experience must be a one-off or nobody would believe them or they’d come across as smug or boastful because everyone knows birth is totally horrific so they must have just got lucky. BUT THIS IS NOT THE CASE.

Birth is normal and natural. Like going for a poo. We have been birthing and pooing for the same amount of time. We are not terrified of going to the toilet. We might not enjoy going for a poo under bright lights in front of a load of strangers, equally we aren’t going to enjoy giving birth like that. But in the right circumstances, going to the toilet is no biggie and nor should birth be. There is a difference, of course, between going for a poo and giving birth and that difference is how amazing the second one is and how good it can make us feel. Because giving birth leads to a baby and becoming a mother, not just the excretion of waste products. So that is why we should definitely look forward to giving birth because, in the right circumstances, giving birth is a natural, normal thing that leads to an incredible outcome. There is nothing to fear. There is only the opportunity to feel the best you have ever felt; euphoric, proud, overjoyed, invincible, empowered. And you get a baby. And don’t even let me get started on how awesome babies are.

So I want to encourage everyone out there to be mindful of the way you talk about birth and if you’ve had a positive experience SPEAK UP! Ask your pregnant friends if they are excited or looking forward to birth, not if they’re nervous or frightened because that suggests they should be and introduces fear where they should be none.

And please don’t think I’m talking exclusively about vaginal births because I’m not. I’m talking about all births. However that baby comes out, you can (and should) feel proud and empowered. Also a note on the ‘right circumstances’ – do everything you can to make your chosen birth place a calm, safe and protected space. It’s more important than you probably think. Discuss it in advance with your birth partner and write down what you want for the big day. This is why birth partners are vital because they have such an important role play to play: they are in charge of ensuring the birthing environment is optimum! At home you obviously have a lot more control but if you’re headed to hospital, take a pillow from home and sprinkle it with lavender essential oil, take some battery operated tea light candles to light the room and your own music and a speaker etc. Do what you can to make that birth space your space.

For those still unconvinced let me just tell you this:

  • Giving birth is your time to SHINE.
  • The people in the room are all there to support YOU (how often does that happen in life?)
  • Everyone in the room will think you are AMAZING.
  • The room will be FULL OF LOVE.
  • Your birth partner will be in AWE of you.
  • You will BIRTH AN ACTUAL HUMAN BEING!!!
  • You will feel like you can do anything.
  • It will be the most SPECIAL day of your entire life and nothing will top it.
  • You will feel EMPOWERED and like an all-out SUPERWOMAN.
  • You will feel more PROUD of yourself than ever before.
  • And everyone else will be so PROUD of you too!
  • And then, whether immediately or after a little while, you will FALL IN LOVE harder than you have fallen before.
  • And you will be in the BEST CLUB EVER. Forever. Membership on Motherhood does never expires.

Giving birth is kind of like running a marathon but imagine that all the crowds on the sidelines are cheering just for you. You know that goosebump feeling of goodness you get? When your body is flooded with feel good hormones like endorphins? And there’s people cheering (probs not for you but they’re cheering anyways) and you have happy music playing and you feel good about life? Giving birth is kind of like that. But unlike a regular marathon, this one you WIN. And best of all; before you even start out, you know you’re going to win.

So imagine, if by some magical intervention, you knew for sure you could win a marathon and you knew you’d feel freaking amazing, wouldn’t you look forward to it??

Feeling prepared obviously helps. The best thing you can do to prepare yourself for birth is to book yourself onto a hypnobirthing course. If there’s not one in your area or it’s not possible for you and your birth partner to attend for whatever reason, then check out The Calm Birth School. It’s an online video course and it’s brilliant.

Also please pack a kick-ass birth bag! I actually looked forward to labour beginning so I could finally unzip my bag and get my hands on all the goodies I’d packed for myself! I was kind of a bit gutted when my labour was so quick that I didn’t get to use all the good stuff I’d waited so many weeks to use. I packed new super soft fluffy bed socks, I bought a fleecy dressing gown and a new fluffy towel. I had bath bombs and massage oil packed. A diptyque candle. A bottle of champagne. Honestly, it was like Christmas but better because I didn’t have to fake-happy face a single thing because I’d chosen it all myself. It was like opening a massive bag full of amazing presents, that were all for me, without feeling even a twinge of guilt. Kind of like how a child feels at Christmas I guess. And what kid doesn’t look forward to Christmas?

So if you do that, what’s not to look forward to when the big birth-day rolls round?!

So come on, let’s change this negative attitude and embrace birth! It’s amazing, we’re all superwomen and it’s going to be BRILLIANT.

And just so you know I’m not talking total rubbish, here’s a photo of me taken a few seconds after I gave birth in December 2014… I don’t look like I’ve been through the wars do I?! In fact I think I look pretty goddamn happy… (and if i can do it, anyone can).

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Final thing: If you’ve had a positive birth experience and want to share it with other pregnant women, I’d LOVE to feature your birth story on my blog so please drop me an email: thedoublemama@gmail.com

ROBYN’S IN THE (MOTHER) HOOD

In the (mother) hood

This week we have first-time Mama Robyn Wilder sharing her experience of motherhood so far. She juggles pen-wielding with baby-rearing on a daily basis writing for Buzzfeed, The Pool and her own blog The Parent Crap. She’s married to the man behind the hugely popular Man with a pram column. You NEED to read it ALL, but for now, here’s what Robyn has to say on pregnancy, birth and baby loving…

Name: Robyn Wilder

Location: Ashford, Kent

Number of Kids: One

Names and ages: Herbie Heritage, 8 months old

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Was motherhood planned, a lovely surprise or somewhere in the middle?

A planned surprise. Got engaged, came off contraception because I’m a little bit elderly in babymaking terms, so thought I needed to air out my uterus or whatever. But I fell pregnant immediately! Luckily Tiffany Rose make some gorgeous maternity wedding dresses.

Initial feelings on finding out you were pregnant?

Just a rush of adrenaline. I ran around the flat like a deranged spaniel for about half an hour, shouting “oh my god, oh my god”.

How did you tell your partner?

My husband was out, and I was all set to play it cool and surprise him when he got back with a coy smile and a cake. Then I snapped and barked the news down the phone to him while he was getting fitted for his morning suit. Which was interesting for him.

His reaction?

“WELL THAT’S NICE WE WILL DISCUSS THIS LATER.” Later, obviously, we just stroked my belly while occasionally emitting high-pitched laughs at each other, until the news sank in.

Did you glow your way through pregnancy or was it a complete bitch?

I glowed for precisely 2.5 weeks after finding out, then I was hit with hyperemesis gravidarum and a “highly likely” result for a serious genetic disorder (Herbie is fine, as far as we can tell). Next I developed gestational diabetes and anaemia, and later even broke a rib. Pregnancy wasn’t fun at all – I was constantly nauseated, in pain, or dizzy, and had to take a lot of time off work. Although I did enjoy the feeling of this little life growing inside of me, I definitely didn’t enjoy suddenly not liking coffee, or not being able to rely on my body anymore.

Tell me about your birth experience?

I was induced at 38 weeks due to gestational diabetes, and whereas inductions normally take a few days to get labour going, I was fully dilated within 20 minutes of starting the procedure. However, then the epidural slowed things down again, and 14 hours later I still hadn’t progressed, and ended up going into sepsis with the baby in distress. Eventually I was wheeled away for a C-section. That was actually the least stressful part – three minutes from incision to delivery. When they placed the baby on me, though, I passed out through blood loss. Labour was nothing like I had hoped for – I have quite a severe anxiety disorder and found it difficult to cope with the pain, anticipation, and how medical and impersonal everything was – like a really long, really intense dental operation. I think my mental health could have been accommodated better, and will be talking to my hospital about it. I have PTSD from the birth, and I think Herbie is affected, too. C-sections all the way from hereon in.

Incidentally, my husband wrote a fuller account of the birth for The Guardian.

Describe motherhood in a few words:

Joy and poo. And fatigue. And forgetfulness. Hey, did I mention joy and poo?

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Can you share any highlights?

We got really excited when Herbie seemed to say his own name. He was babbling on the changing mat and shouted “Her!” Then he shouted, ”BEE!” and we were overjoyed. THEN he said what sounded very much like the N word, so all bets are off, basically.

Can you share any low points?

The other day a wasp flew at me and I found myself running away from it – and my pram, which continued to roll down the road. The baby was fine, and more recently I ran away from another wasp with my pram, but I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive myself.

What do you do when the baby sleeps?

Herbie’s not very good at sleeping alone, so I try to put him down away from me as much as possible, and get on with writing. He is very cuddly, though, so often I sack off and either curl around him and doze off myself, or let him sleep sprawled on top of me while I sink into a box set and just let the oxytocin flow.

Have you got a blog?

I’m in awe of those Pinteresty parent blogs where willowy first-time mothers float around their airy upcycled homes with perfect skin and messy side-braids and show you five steps to making your own organic hemp soy almond fair trade chia seed babycinos. Mine’s not one of those blogs. It’s about how I really don’t know what I’m doing, but am muddling through parenting anyway (mostly?) successfully.

What’s the link?

theparentcrap.com

Do you have another job (besides being a Mama)?

I work at BuzzFeed as a staff writer, but I’m freelancing during my year’s maternity leave. Experience has taught me to change how I work because I don’t have the luxury of spending hours at the computer anymore. Now I try to make notes and edits on my phone while the baby sleeps on me, then do the actual writing while he naps, or his father has him. So far it’s doable…ish. I don’t know how it’ll all work when I return to the office – I’m basically ignoring the prospect for now.

What’s the best bits of being a Mama?

Just that I have the requisite biology to CONJURE NEW HUMAN FRIENDS INTO EXISTENCE. Isn’t that amazing? I could go mad with power. Also, I know it’s a cliché, but I have never felt love like this. It’s almost painful.

What are the worst bits?

Being trapped under a breastfeeding baby during a growth spurt when you’re recovering from a C section and you have postnatal depression is a special sort of misery. But then you’ll wake up to a tiny perfect hand stroking your face, and it all seems worth it somehow.

If you didn’t have your kids for a week what would you do?

I’m still breastfeeding and I’m dairy-free because Herbie has a milk protein intolerance, so probably eat loads of cheese, leak breastmilk everywhere, and cry myself to sleep because I’d miss him so much.

Have you got any advice for mamas-to-be/new mamas?

Okay, you know when you see really lazy products in the supermarket, like pre-diced onions and pre-grated cheese, and you wonder who that’s from? IT’S FOR YOU. For at least the first three months after your baby’s born you’ll be doing stuff onehanded, so maybe go onehanded for a day while you’re pregnant so you can figure out what you’ll need.

Is there anything you wish you had known?

I wish I’d known that birth trauma was a) a possibility, b) something I could get help with, c) something that passed, because when no one tells you that it’s a thing and suddenly you find yourself hallucinating and terrified when you should be happy and picture-perfect, it’s very hard to process. Birthtraumaassociation.org.uk can help.

Anything else you’d like to tell me about/share….

I write about parenting for The Pool and my husband writes a parenting column in The Guardian.

robyn wilder

Huge thank you to Robyn for finding the time to share her refreshingly honest experience of motherhood. Be sure to check out her brilliant blog and her husband’s column in The Guardian.

If you would like to feature on the blog as part of the ‘In the (mother) hood’ series, please email thedoublemama@gmail.com.