Positive Induction Birth Story – Charlotte & Jacob

Birth Stories, motherhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANNA AND LESLEY ARE IN THE (MOTHER) HOOD

In the (mother) hood

Today we have a super special double whammy ‘in the motherhood’ featuring not one, but TWO amazing Mamas! It doesn’t get much more exciting than that around here folks. Lesley and Anna are mamas first and foremost but also the founders of Lara & Ollie, a teething jewellery brand. Their colourful baby-friendly beads and bangles are great for teething babes to gnaw on and are fast becoming the accessory of choice for stylish mamas.

I have had the pleasure of meeting this lovely mum duo now in real offline life and more recently I had the honour of ‘modelling’ for them, evidence of which can be found on the Lara & Ollie website (don’t laugh)! Their candid interview which you can read below brought actual tears to my eyes; it is so refreshing and eye opening and made me want to squeeze each of my children tight and thank my lucky stars.

Here they share what is it like to struggle to conceive and how it feels to become a parent at long last to the child of your dreams…

**Readers of the blog are being treated to 20% off with the code THEDOUBLEMAMA**

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Name: Anna Wicks & Lesley Newsholme

Age: 37 & 41

Location: Lee, South East London

Number of Kids: 1 each (at the moment)

Names and ages of aforementioned: Lara & Ollie, both aged 2

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

Anna: Very much planned. 3 years, lots of tests (no identified problems), lots ‘not pregnant’ peeing on sticks so we chose to brave the IVF route. 3 rounds of IVF later we were blessed with pregnancy and an awesome little girl called Lara. And we’re braving it all again at the moment… big eek.

Lesley: Planned… 4 years in the making! 4 failed pregnancies, followed by a diagnosis of an early menopause, followed by a failed first round of IVF. Ollie was the result of our second round of IVF using an egg donor.

Initial feelings on finding out you were pregnant?

Anna: Massive massive relief after the hideous ‘2 week wait’. We’d also agreed we’d stop at 3 IVF rounds so it was kind of our last chance. But also petrified – we were only 3 weeks pregnant and has such a long journey ahead.

Lesley: Elation, relief, tears and huge anxiety that it would not result in an actual baby again.

How did you tell your partner?

Anna: I made him go and read the test so he knew before I did!

Lesley: He was there when I peed on the stick!

His reaction?

Anna: Speechless – and happy. He’s such a level headed person he didn’t get too excited and kept me calm

Lesley: Same as mine

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

Anna: Luckily I glowed – no sickness, no tiredness, no water retention, I didn’t become a hormonal bitch (although I’m sure some people might disagree!)

Lesley: Glow – All my back pain (which I’ve suffered from for years) just took a hike for 9 months it was bloody marvellous!

Tell me about your birth experience? 

Anna: Lara was born in the labour ward at Lewisham hospital. My labour was pretty good really. I laboured quickly so no time for drugs or faffing around as I was fully dilated when I got to hospital. But she got stuck so I had to have an epidural, forceps etc. But we didn’t care, we just wanted her out safely. It was just my husband and I, then as soon as we were in the ward our families all rocked up together liked an emotional bunch of excited teenagers – it was really special. All straightforward, home the next day. Then discovered they had left a swab inside me which was pretty gross so rushed back in for another night – that wasn’t so fun. Long and boring story but resulted a full maternity department investigation, interviews and the works. And processes have been changed at the hospital because of it. We didn’t take it any further. The care we got was amazing and we were all fine.

Lesley: Unfortunately for us there won’t be a next time for us and I kinda feel sad that I won’t get to experience an amazingly calm and relaxing birth… It was fairly awful. My waters broke a week before he was born, but was told they hadn’t when I went to the birthing centre so was sent home! That resulted in an infection and a bubba with a high heart rate so I got whisked out of the birthing pool after only an hour and taken to the labour ward. After pushing for what felt like a lifetime with baby not even fully engaged, exhaustion kicked in and I had an epidural and a forceps delivery. When he was plonked on top of me the relief and joy we felt was immeasurable, and the pain of not only the previous 48 hours, but the pain of the almost 5 year struggle just vanished. It also made us not really care that much that we were burgled while I was giving birth… The fact I had to spend the next five nights in prisoner cell block 5 (AKA the Maternity Ward) was more annoying than our stuff getting nicked!

Describe motherhood in a few words:

Anna: Awesome, miraculous, exhausting and a massive rollercoaster from one day, minute and second to the next.

Lesley: Hands down the best job in the world!

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Can you share any highlights?

Anna & Lesley: Literally every day is filled with funny little moments – but probably only funny to us! We see each other most days and some of the things Lara and Ollie say and do cracks us up!!

Can you share any low points?

Anna: In Sainos a few weeks ago; after negotiating over pulling the wheelie trolly, nearly taking out old people with said wheelie trolly, running off at speed down the booze isle and trying to take everything in the naughty aisles I let her mess around in the buggy while I had 20 secs of peace to pay. Obvs she fell out backwards and hit her head hard. Cue a lot of screaming and a huge egg on her head. Then about 2 hrs later she was helping me cook standing on her stool and burnt her arm on the hot saucepan. Wasn’t a great day and felt very guilty about being such a rubbish mum. Until my mum reassured me by relaying a few similar stories!

Lesley: Ollie is the kamikaze king! So there have been a few bumps and scrapes for which I feel totally awful about. The worst one being when he face planted into a blunt chunk of metal in a play area and two of his teeth went through his bottom lip- right through to the other side, even leaving marks on his chin… Blood everywhere, a trip to A&E and a referral to a Maxillofacial (the fancy word for facial reconstruction) Consultant. He’s still got a lump of scar tissue, and every time I look at it I think ‘yep, my fault’.

What do you do when the baby sleeps?

Anna: Work, work, work. Oh and eat, of course. And try to have a quick conversation with my husband before he works too. Because we have no daytime childcare during the week it’s quite difficult to get anything done in the day for our teething jewellery business so nights and nap times are our only chance. Masses of admin – emails, DMs, customer stuff, organising ourselves for events, trade fairs bla bla, not to mention making and packaging products in an attempt to keep up with demand.

Lesley: werk werk werk on our little biz – ditto to everything Anna says!

Tell me about your business…

Anna/Lesley: We set up a silicone teething jewellery business called Lara & Ollie when the kids were a year old. When we became mums we put all our costume jewellery away and when we found teething jewellery we thought it was a brilliant idea, but couldn’t find anything we liked. So we sourced some beads, made our own and the rest is history…! Our aim is to help mamas feel stylish again and dress up an every day outfit with something fun – that also happens to be safe for a baby to chew and fiddle with.

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How to juggle it all?

Anna/Lesley: It’s a tough one trying to build a business with toddlers as they never sit still. Ever. But as we live close to each other we throw the kids in the garden with all their toys and talk shop as we supervise/break up arguments. We get together almost every day so talk shop whilst we’re Sainsbury’s, en route to play groups and have a ridiculous amount of Whatsapp chat as we think of ideas, remember things we need to do etc. It’s a massive juggle because we also try not to let it take over our primary jobs as mamas. However we’re super ambitious and excited about what we’re creating so sometimes it’s hard to just put it to one side and concentrate on being mamas.

What’s the best bits of being a Mama?

Anna: Unconditional love from someone who doesn’t judge. Then there’s the laughter and silliness and the incredible sponge that a 2 year old is. She remembers everything and is so inquisitive and interested in the world – it’s amazing. Seeing her unconditionally love her daddy and having so much fun with him too that’s pretty special. And being a family unit – love it when the 3 of us hang out.

Lesley: So many best bits I don’t know where to begin… The unconditional love, the kisses, the cuddles – Ollie gives the best cuddles ever. And after the journey we’ve been on just being a family – the 3 of us together – I’m grateful for that every day.

What are the worst bits?

Anna: At the moment the constant negotiation to do anything – from getting dressed, leaving the house, getting in the bath. Then there’s the eating. How can someone be that fussy about food that is so yummy. Oh and the terrible 2s tantrums – oh the drama!!

Lesley: yeah he still doesn’t sleep 2 years on! Small price to pay though.

What do you find hardest about being a Mum?

Anna: The worry – not all the time but worrying about their safety, injuries and the world she’s going to grow up into – the Internet in particular

Lesley: For me there is absolutely nothing harder than wanting to be a mum and not being able to fulfil that dream, so I find this really hard to answer. Yes there are tough moments, but they pass and are soon and easily forgotten.

What was the biggest surprise that you wish you’d be warned about/known before becoming a Mama?

Anna: that everything really is a phase and you worry like hell, then it passes and you’re onto the next phase/challenge and have forgotten all about the previous one.

Lesley: You can survive on very little sleep… for a very long time!

If someone agreed to mind your kid(s) for a week what would you do?

Anna: Go skiing with hubby – but in a 5 star luxury spa hotel so I could awesome food, amazing wine and a bit of pampering too.

Lesley: Worry about Ollie for a week!!

Is there anything you’d like to share with new mums / mums to be that you wish you’d known?

Anna: Breastfeeding is frikkin hard work and you’ve got to be dedicated, strong and determined – not easy when you’re sleep deprived and have no clue what to do with this small person! And everything is a stage. It passes, then there is another stage!

Lesley: Nothing is as straightforward as the books suggest… All babies are different and just because one does one thing at a certain age doesn’t mean yours will too. Take sleep for instance… Lara slept through from about 12 week, Ollie however only managed it at 14 months (and has since regressed!!!).

What do you reckon the most essential item mamas-to- be need to pack in their birth bag?

Anna: My bag was in the car until I was back in the ward so was chuff all use – I just drank a lot of water. Our NCT group had lengthy conversations about what we were going to wear to give birth in. Comedy!

Lesley: Ah those comedy conversations about what to wear in hospital!!.. You really don’t need to sweat it about maternity nightwear!

What’s been your best baby product?

Anna: Stokke Tripp Trapp (totally didn’t copy Cat on this one but massively agree with her). It’s amazing. A few family members said we were mad spending so much money but it’s worth every penny and more. And looks lovely!

Lesley: A sleepyhead baby pod – although it didn’t make him sleep through we certainly got more sleep after buying one. Then there’s the Kokoso coconut oil – it’s like a miracle cream for everything from nappy rash to cradle cap. Also a digital thermometer – boring but takes the ‘oooo did I do it right/for long enough etc etc’ out of temperature taking.

What was really useful in the early days?

Anna: Biscuits, cake, hubby and my mum – phoned her at least once a day to ask what the hell to do (still do ha ha!)

Lesley: Coffee and my other half (both still are!)

Did you make any baby-related /pregnancy hormone induced purchases that you regretted / were a total waste of money?

Lesley: That flipping sheep that claims it will help your baby sleep!

Anna: That frikkin sheep was ace – we loved it and Lara slept with it singing lullabies for months ha ha!!!!

What’s your ultimate mum product? 

Anna/Lesley: Our Lara & Ollie teething jewellery. Obvs!!!

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How many children do you dream of having?

Anna: Really hope we can have a sibling for Lara. And then that’s it. I don’t think I could cope with any more than 2 and frankly our bank balance couldn’t either!

Lesley: One was a dream come true

If you could go back to your pre-child life, where you weren’t so tired, for a short period of time, what would you do?

Anna: Travel

Lesley: Go travelling again

What do you miss about life before kids?

Anna: I genuinely don’t miss anything. Ok maybe not having our house overtaken by toys, but I even like that! I get really annoyed when people constantly moan about parenting and their kids. When you’ve been faced with the possible prospect of not being able to have a family you feel grateful every day. And I’m definitely not saying it’s easy, it’s bloody hard work – way harder than a high powered career but it’s also a lot more rewarding and you get so much more back. Parenting is a choice!

Lesley: Nada

What do you love most about being a Mum?

Anna: So much – I don’t know where to begin!

Lesley: Unconditional love and all the cuddles as a starter for 10. I could go on and on and on!

What do you wish you were better at when it comes to parenting?

Anna: I wish I had more patience. My fuse is so short and I wish I could be better at taking a deep breath and letting things go. Luckily my husband is very patient so he’s trying to coach me!

Lesley: Ha ha – more patience.

 

Thank you ladies for being so open, I’m sure your respective journeys to motherhood will resonate with a lot of women and give hope to those who are going through similar struggles. And for those of us out there who’ve not had this experience, thank you for reminding us how very lucky we are because on the hard days, I for one can sometimes forget.

Finally Anna and Lesley are kindly offering readers of the blog a cool 20% off any Lara & Ollie purchases using the code THEDOUBLEMAMA. Happy shopping peeps!

JENNY’S IN THE (MOTHER) HOOD

In the (mother) hood

It’s back!! Y’all be pleased to know the supposedly-weekly (but not at all weekly) ‘In the (mother) hood’ feature has returned! This is where we get the opportunity to virtually meet and get to know the Mamas we’ve been busy stalking a little better, learn what motivates them and be inspired etc.

This week all those boxes are being ticked because we have the wonderful Jenny from Top Five Baby on the blog sharing her story and experience of Motherhood thus far. Be warned it’s not all rose-tinted as Jenny and her husband sadly lost their beautiful little boy Elliott at just ten days old. Here Jenny talks about how those experiences have shaped her journey and how she’s managed to turn the loss of Elliott into something positive for Great Ormond Street Hospital in his memory…

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Name: Jenny Walker

Age: 32 (although my daughter tells everyone I’m STILL 21).

Location: North Derbyshire now, near Bakewell (was Stoke Newington until recently, all my babies were born in London)

Number of Kids: This is always a tricky question for me, if I give the most honest answer this confuses people and stuns many into silence, but I’m a mummy to three and always will be. My second baby, a little boy called Elliott, died at 10 days old and I have two girls now.

Names and ages of aforementioned: Nia age 4; Cora, 20 months (born a year and a day after her brother) and Elliott.

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

Very much wanted and planned for all three.

Initial feelings on finding out you were pregnant?

Pure delight.

How did you tell your partner?

I can’t remember exactly but I’m pretty sure I waved my wee stick in his face (probably every time!)

His reaction?

Very happy too (at least he seemed to be!) he was probably not too pleased about the wee stick in his face.

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

All three were nauseating for the first 14 weeks and then much better during the second trimester, followed by obstetric cholestasis (again all three pregnancies) at around 37/38 weeks. So not exactly dream pregnancies but as is always the case, I remember them being a lot easier than they were.

Tell me about your birth experience?

All three were hospital births at the Homerton in East London.

Nia: horrendous induction followed by epidural and forceps. Yikes.

Elliott: induction again but this time without pain relief (not on purpose) and a much calmer, happier experience. I gave birth standing up and he (sort of) fell onto a pillow. I did a lot more reading about being relaxed during birth (thank you Ina May Gaskin) and approached the whole process in a more accepting way (contractions = rushes/sensations etc).

Cora: another induction but I had my superstar midwife Cate (who had been my midwife with Elliott so knew my history) by my side. She knew what I wanted and was so gentle, kind and wonderful throughout the whole labour. I am grateful to her every day and am now very lucky to call her a friend. We pinched her name for Cora’s middle name. She’s Cora Cate.

Describe motherhood in a few words:

Awesome, happy, hard and the best thing I’ve ever done.

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Can you share any highlights?

Seeing my girls interact with each other and love each other so much. My four year old gets into bed in the morning with our 20 month old and (sort of) reads her stories. I watch and listen on the monitor and giggle in bed as it’s hilarious. Cora shouts for her big sister in the morning sometimes instead of us. Win!

Can you share any low points?

When my 4 year old tells me to “stop texting Mummy!” leading to the guilt. Why do Mummies have to have the guilt? I really don’t like the guilt!

What do you do when the baby sleeps?

At night I sleep! During the day I try and squeeze in some time to work on topfivebaby.com see below!

Have you got a business? 

I have spent much of the past year setting up a review site bringing together the best baby kit. It is called topfivebaby.com

I know there are other review sites out there but topfivebaby.com aims to make the research process super simple by doing all the leg work and narrowing it all down to five items in each of the categories covered.

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

Currently, trying to make topfivebaby.com a success! After everything we went through with Elliott I vowed never to return to an office. I’d been made redundant whilst pregnant with Elliott, and looking back it was the best thing that could have happened to me as it gave me an excuse to live in a much happier way.

After Elliott’s death I focussed most of my efforts on fundraising for Great Ormond Street Hospital where he had been treated. We have raised a lot of money and managed to put in place a special end of life care room at GOSH in Elliott’s memory for families in similar situations to ours (nothing like this existed when Elliott died).

I squeeze all of this in around the little people so I never really feel like I’ve finished a job, but I’m learning that this is actually ok.

What’s the best bits of being a Mama?

The cuddles and the kisses. I never want them to stop.

What are the worst bits?

Currently breath-holding. My youngest Cora, is punishing us with this. She breath-holds whenever she really hurts herself and it is terrifying for all of us to see because she passes out and goes blue. Given everything we’ve been through with Elliott we all panic every time it happens.

And losing a child. It really is an unearthly pain which very few people fully understand. We are extremely lucky to have had incredible help from Great Ormond Street after Elliott’s death. For anyone reading this who might be struggling, please do ask for help, it helps make something incomprehensible, eventually bearable.

What do you find hardest about being a Mum?

Trying to get on with “normal” life after Elliott died.

If someone agreed to mind your kids for a week what would you do?

Go to a beautiful spa hotel and relax. But I’d miss them if it was a whole week. A couple of nights would be enough (I think).

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

Go with your instincts, if you have just a tiny clue about what you’re doing then that should be enough. But if you’re still struggling, ask for help.

What’s do you reckon the most essential item mamas-to-be need to pack in their birth bag?

Lots of knickers, nursing bras, maternity and breast pads. Oh and all the stuff for the baby to wear plus nappies. I can’t think of just one thing, sorry!

What’s been your best baby product? 

I have to give you five 😉

1. The Medela Swing breast pump. It is really, really good.

2. The Stokke Tripp Trapp, so incredibly well designed and ergonomic. It allows your baby to be up at the table with the rest of the family right from the start (if you buy the newborn set).

3. Aden and Anais swaddles, they’re quite pricey but wonderful. We still use ours as bedding in the summer as they’re so lovely against the skin.

4. BabyBjorn soft bouncer. It is unobtrusive, easy to store, looks great and is a perfect, simple design.

5. I love my Ergobaby. Both our girls (still) go in them which means we can get to places we otherwise wouldn’t go with tired little legs.

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What was really useful in the early days?

My husband (he’s still useful though).

Did you make any baby-related /pregnancy hormone induced purchases that you regretted / were a total waste of money?

Yes, I bought our first buggy second hand thinking I was saving money. It was broken when I bought it (the brake didn’t work). I couldn’t do a thing about it as I had no receipt. I’ve spent more getting it fixed than if we’d bought new! So annoying!

What’s your ultimate mum product? 

Again another five!

1. Lovely smellies. I adore Neal’s Yard and recommend Seaweed and Arnica for post birth sore muscles. I also recommend their citrus hand wash and hand lotion. It is antibacterial and kind to hands that need washing every five minutes.

2. Concealer: I use Clinique’s All About Eyes. It’s really gentle, super easy to apply and seems to last forever.

3. Liz Earle hot wash cloth and cleanser. It makes cleaning my face super quick (including removing mascara!) with no need for anything else other than moisturiser and also lasts forever.

4. Bio Oil: not just for tums and thighs. I apply mine to my forehead and eye area at nighttime to discourage the wrinkles from getting any more obvious.

5. Eight hour cream. Massive “mum” cliche this one, but it seems to cure every little issue for all of us (Nia always seems to have an invisible scratch that needs attention) so I always have it on me.

Who inspires you?

My mum who managed four kids and a career and my sister who is doing the same.

Plus I’m constantly inspired all the time by friends just doing their best at this mothering malarkey, whether they go to work and do it, whether they’re running their own business and especially if they’re managing to get through full time without anything else but being a mummy superstar.

How many children do you dream of having?

Just one more.

If you could go back to your pre-child life,  for a short period of time, what would you do?

Cliche again, but I’d take a few more long haul flights!

What do you miss about life before kids?

Not having to book a babysitter whenever you want to go out and drink wine.

What do you love most about being a Mum?

The fact that I’m their mum and that I know no one else (apart from their dad) loves them like I do.

What do you wish you were better at when it comes to parenting?

There is a constant pressure on us all at the moment to “be more present”. What does that even mean anyway? Putting pressure on yourself to enjoy all the moments can make those moments a lot more stressful.

 

A big thank you to Jenny for sharing her journey with us; she is one brave, strong and inspiring lady! If you’d like to make a donation and support the family’s fundraising efforts for GOSH, then just visit their page here.

Also do make sure you check out Top Five Baby before making any baby-related purchases! I for one think it’s a FAB idea. I’m sure I speak for most mums when I say we’re a time-poor collective so anything that makes the process of deciding which bit of baby paraphernalia to buy a little easier, is surely a winner. You’ll also be happy to know the site is very clean, simple and user-friendly. Check it out!

Finally, if you’d like to feature on the blog as part of the ‘In the (mother) hood’ series, just drop me an email: thedoublemama@gmail.com

 

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

An open letter to the Daily Mail…

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Dear Daily Mail,

I liked your headline “Why NO woman should have a home birth: Government drive to free up hospital beds will lead to rise in ‘dead or damaged babies’, doctor warns“. It was certainly attention grabbing, which is the measure of a great headline, right? It’s less important of course that the headline be accurate.

It was particularly eye opening for me because I have read a lot about the new proposals to support birth choice with a great deal of interest, as both an expectant Mum and antenatal teacher, but I never knew it was motivated by a desire to free up hospital beds. You must have insider knowledge. I was naive enough to think it was a positive step to empower women and improve outcomes for mothers and babies.

The ‘dead or damaged babies’ was a powerful bit of alliteration. Nobody wants a dead or indeed ‘damaged’ baby, which brings to mind images of babies with limbs twisted and broken like pen-marked, discarded dolls of old. To pop that next to ‘NO woman should have a home birth’ (caps included of course to reinforce the message) was particularly effective. It definitely made home birth seem like a seriously dangerous option with horrific, nightmarish outcomes.

And a ‘doctor warns’! Then it must be true! That’s the golden seal of approval. Bravo! ‘Says a lecturer from Hong Kong who has no experience of current maternity services having not worked in the UK for three decades’ wouldn’t have worked half as well, even though it would have been more accurate. Good copy editor you’ve got there.

The strange thing though about the whole ‘NO woman should have a home birth’ because we at the Daily Mail want to save all the babies from being born dead or damaged thing, is that the birth place study (from which the stats you use in the article are taken) says that for mums with straight forward pregnancies expecting their second or subsequent babies, home birth is as safe for babies as birth centres and labour wards but has significantly lower risks when it comes to medical intervention including assisted delivery and unplanned caesareans. In fact a mum expecting her second or subsequent baby, enjoying a uncomplicated pregnancy, is a full 8 times more likely to end up having an unplanned caesarean if she is on labour ward compared to having a home birth! So I’m sorry if I’ve missed something but why exactly should NO woman have a home birth?!

It seems pretty clear from the birth place study that home birth is a statistically better AND safer option for a lot of women. Which means by advocating that all women should go into hospital, even those for which being in hospital is totally unnecessary, you are actually significantly increasing their risk of having medical intervention and major abdominal surgery, with no improvement in outcome for baby! Why is it that you wish to endanger women in this way, under the guise that you are trying to protect their babies?! All the steps being taken by the NHS are to ensure women are informed, empowered and supported in their choices. Why is that you seek to misinform and mislead? Why is it you wish to put women with uncomplicated pregnancies at risk? It’s almost as if you want to manipulate women, using their strong maternal desire to protect their unborn babies from being ‘damaged’, into choosing to birth in a statistically more dangerous setting. It’s irresponsible of a national paper and to be totally honest it’s really pissed me off.

So here’s my response. I’m going to try and keep it based on facts, research and real-life relevant experience (as opposed to what you have done). I will try very hard to lock down my inner rage…

From your point of view it must be regrettable that you were unable to find an expert working in maternity services in the UK who actually practices medicine to share Dr Lord’s opinion. That would have added some weight to your claims. I’m sure you tried but of course no UK Doctor would say this.

However I still read what Dr Lord, a Hong-Kong based lecturer who has not worked in the UK for the last 27 years, had to say about our maternity services and the positive steps being taken by our NHS to empower women. I can’t say it was an enjoyable read but I was definitely hooked.

Whilst I whole heartedly agree with the closing paragraph that women in the UK who are fully informed and aware of the findings of the birth place study will not take unnecessary risks and choose to birth in dangerous places nor wish to put their baby in harm’s way, there are a number of points I think require some clarification/ correcting.

I should probably also mention my ‘qualifications’ because, although I’m not a doctor, I do believe I have quite a lot more experience of current maternity services in the UK than Dr Lord does. I am a mother of 2 with a third due in the next few weeks. I also work in the field of antenatal education as a hypnobirthing teacher. I had a labour ward birth with my first, a home birth with my second and am currently deciding between home or the birth centre for my third. Due to my circumstances I have regular contact with community midwife and also my obstetrician.

My wonderful midwife, Natalie Carter, contrary to Dr Lord’s ill-informed opinion of community midwives, is challenging me to consider the risks of having a home birth again after a previous bleed and has encouraged me to use the birth centre this time. A friend of mine, Clemmie Hooper, who is a case-loading midwife and an advocate of home birth (for the right women) is also doing the same. It may come as a surprise but midwives, even those who support and facilitate home births, do not wish to put women or babies in dangerous situations. In fact quite the opposite.

My obstetrician, Mr Fabian Imoh-ita, (whose name I DO know Dr Lord) is friendly and warm and I have nothing but respect for his opinion and vast experience. I am lucky to see the same midwife for all of my ante-natal visits as with my last baby and same goes with my obstetrician who I also saw in my last pregnancy. I do not live in rural England but in the busy city of London. I feel incredible grateful for the amazing maternity services we have on offer. I only wish Dr Lord was able to experience the same. She might learn a thing or two.

So here are the points that I’m not totally onboard with…

1. I don’t know if Dr Lord has ever spoken to a community midwife in the UK. From what she says I would hazard a guess that she has not. My community midwife, as mentioned above, certainly encourages me to make difficult decisions regarding everything from place of birth, to delayed cord clamping to active management of the third stage etc. Our chat is not all airy-fairy and idealistic as Dr Lord suggests, although of course we do discuss my wishes and preferences because guess what?! We are talking about my womb and my baby, so I do get a say in the matter (thank goodness!). My midwife ensures that I am fully informed about the risks as well as the benefits of everything so that I can make informed decisions and give informed consent, which is a necessary and legal part of medical practice in the uk. I’m not sure about the rules in Hong Kong but here in the UK if women don’t give informed consent to a procedure conducted on themselves, it’s considered common assault. In my individual case, I have to weigh up the benefits for baby of various things like delayed cord clamping versus the risk to myself as I have a history of post partum haemorrhage. These decisions aren’t easy but I am grateful for the advice I am given but that ultimately the choice is mine to make.

Also one note on delayed cord clamping, which Dr Lord lists alongside other things she considers part of a misguided idealised version of birth, is that delayed cord clamping as of 2014 is recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the UK. So it’s not something that irresponsible risk-taking mothers request but actually recommended best practice. I guess that Dr Lord missed the memo or is unaware because she hasn’t worked in the UK for almost 30 years and obviously doesn’t keep up with the research. That’s ok but if you’re going to comment in a national paper it would be kind of cool to check stuff like that out beforehand.

2. There are without a doubt numerous long term benefits of a positive birth experience, be that at home or in hospital. There are so many women suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome after giving birth and even more who haven’t been diagnosed but are left distraught, disappointed and disempowered. This effects everything from bonding to breastfeeding. The long term benefits of a positive birth and a woman feeing empowered and confident as she embarks on motherhood for the first time are immeasurable in value. You would have to be totally ignorant to overlook or diminish the importance of the birth experience. It is arguably the most defining moment of a woman’s life.

3. The risks. There are risks with everything. There are risks with home birth yes. There are also risks with hospital births. Yup, you read that right! There are many risks associated with choosing to have a hospital birth. These are less publicised and may come as a surprise because we are conditioned to believe hospitals are safe places. For example the risk of intervention is increased by just being in a hospital setting and this includes everything from epidurals to assisted delivery to major surgery in the form of a cesarean section. The risk of infection is also higher in hospital. Dr Lord doesn’t even give these risks a moment of airtime, which seems somewhat unfair/unbalanced given she is discussing birth place choices.

She quotes a from the birth place study published in 2011 and claims that 0.35% of babies born to first time mums have an adverse outcome in hospital compared to 0.95% of babies born at home to first time mums. It would probably help if she actually got the stats right. And Daily Mail, I’m surprised this slipped through your production editor’s net, although I suspect perhaps it was deliberate. The truth is 0.53% of babies born in hospital to first time mums experience adverse outcomes. In both settings the absolute risk is less than 1%.

For second time mums with uncomplicated pregnancies or those having subsequent babies, the study showed that home birth was the statistically safer option. Of course Dr Lord didn’t mention this finding. That would somewhat contradict the catchy headline!

That’s not to say second, third, fourth time mums should be berated for choosing a hospital birth or accused of being dangerous and taking risks. I’m not suggesting the Daily Mail run the headline ‘Why NO woman should have a hospital birth and risk episiotomies, paralysis, being sliced and diced and having a dead baby in a bid to cost tax payers more money’. The idea seems outrageous (although you’ve got to admit, it does sound like it could be a Daily Mail headline). But it is just as outrageous to suggest first time mums are taking unnecessary risks by choosing to have their babies at home.

Also what hasn’t been considered is the 99.07% of babies born at home to first time mums without adverse effects, how many of these births would have been negatively effected by being in hospital??

If we are weighing up risks to make an informed decision regarding birth place, we need to understand the risks of both settings. For example, the birth place study showed that low risk women expecting their second or subsequent baby are eight times more likely to have major surgery (cesarean section) just by stepping foot in an obstetric unit compared to being at home. They are also six times more likely to have an assisted delivery, over six times more likely to have labour sped up using drugs (augmented), five times more likely to have an epidural and five times more likely to have an episiotomy.  For first time Mums with uncomplicated pregnancies the risk of having an unplanned cesarean, assisted delivery, augmentation, epidural and/or episiotomy almost doubles just by being in hospital.

I am all for encouraging women to be informed about risks and made aware of the birth place study findings, but this goes both ways: women need to be informed about the risks of being in hospital, just as they need to be informed of the risks of being at home, so they can make informed choices and decisions. I cannot comprehend why anyone would be in disagreement with this proposal. Of course women should have choices and be able to make their own decisions. We may be pregnant but we are still mentally-competent adults.

Also necessary to making informed decisions is the need to understand the benefits of various settings. All Dr Lord has mentioned is the risk factor of home births for first time mums. But what of the benefits for baby and for mother of being at home? Less likely to have medical intervention, instrumental delivery or major surgery. Therefore quicker recovery times. Less likely to be left waiting in a busy triage waiting room. Less likely to be put on a drip to speed things up. Less likely to have an epidural. Less likely for baby to experience distress in utero. Able to birth in the comfort of your own home and control your environment. Able to eat your own food. Able to get into your own bed. Able to have your partner stay with you throughout. Able to ensure access to a birth pool. Feeling safe and relaxed enough to produce the necessary oxytocin to enable the body to work efficiently, therefore resulting in an easier, quicker and more comfortable birth for mother and baby. Having 1:1 care throughout your labour with the midwife present being in a position to focus solely on you and two midwives at the point of delivery. All of these benefits to being at home must be considered when making a decision.

In life if we only ever looked at risk we would never leave our homes and risk being run over or mugged. Certainly that’s less likely to happen and the risk reduced if we stay inside. But of course we go out because we believe the numerous benefits outweigh the slight increased risk of a rare but adverse outcome. Same goes when we get in a car, or board a plane. We take ‘risks’ with our lives every single day to enjoy the benefits of life. I feel for those who focus only on risk and ignore everything else, for they miss out on the greatest joys in life. Speaking from experience, my home birth was the single most amazing day of my life and I truly hope many, many, many more women get to experience that, if it is right for them.

So as a woman expecting a baby imminently I know there is no birth setting that promises me zero risk. What one has to do, myself included, is weigh up the benefits and risks of all the settings available and make an informed choice that is right for them and their individual circumstances.

Isn’t it truly amazing that our NHS supports and facilitate this and does not take a one-size-fits-all approach? I feel so lucky that we are treated as autonomous individuals and receive such a high level of woman-centred care. Why would anyone want it any other way?!

I can’t think of anyone apart from Dr Lord, who has a serious mis-understanding of community midwives, believes women to be incapable of making sensible informed decisions and who wants to continue working with scalpel in hand until the day she dies / retires. I feel very sorry for the pregnant and vulnerable victims that come into contact with her and her scalpel blade. We can only hope that one day they will be in a position to make informed choices too.

And Daily Mail, next time you want to slate home birth, how about you start by firstly getting someone who has some relevant experience to comment and secondly check your bloody facts.
 
Yours Sincerely,

Siobhan Miller

Mum of (soon to be) three and Founder of The Positive Birth Company.

Instagram: @the_double_mama@thepositivebirthcompany
Twitter: @thedoublemama@theposbirthco
Facebook: The Positive Birth Company.

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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SOPHIE’S IN THE (MOTHER) HOOD

In the (mother) hood

She’s young, hot (mega legs), creative, talented and Mama to little Luna. She’s the owner, maker, admin doer and everything else in between, behind the creative homegrown brand Sophie & Co. This week we’re privileged to have the gorgeous Sophie Cummings in the (mother) hood, telling us what mama life is like for her…

Name: Sophie Cummings

Age: 26

Location: Highbury, London…for now. Soon to be Hemel Hempstead…

Number of Kids: 1

Names & ages of aforementioned: Luna Mary Jean, 15 months

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

Somewhere in the middle of a lovely and a not so lovely surprise.

Initial feelings on finding out you were pregnant?

Oh, shit. Then, f***.

How did you tell your partner?

We were walking back from a romantic trip to our local Sainsbury’s when he pointed to a banged up people carrier for sale and jestingly suggested ‘we’ll be buying one of those next…’. Naturally, I made it all super awkward and let him know it may be sooner than he thinks.

His reaction?

Radio silence.

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

I spent the first few months unaware I was pregnant and drinking all the alcohol and eating all the seafood, soft cheeses & rare meat I could get my hands on, some of which was spent in Australia & Tasmania, so my body didn’t seem to react too badly to growing another human! I bloody loved being pregnant, I was very lucky it felt pretty natural.

Tell me about your birth experience?

I didn’t plan much for birth, the pregnancy seem to fly by and I really didn’t want to read too much in to it. Whatever happened, I had to squeeze another human out of my vagina and I didn’t really care where or how that was going to happen as long as I didn’t die. My two (loose) wishes were to have a water birth in the birthing centre and to be the first person to touch her, I wanted to pull her out. And that all happened after a 39.5 hours of contractions and half an hour of pushing, can’t complain…My only wishes for next time are to do all of that at home!

Describe motherhood in a few words:

Oh god where do I start; exhausting, hilarious and unpredictable. They’ll do!

Can you share any highlights?

This probably counts as a parent fail but I laugh every time I think of it; Monday afternoon having a smear test (go, me!), Luna’s safely strapped into her pram while I decide a packet of raisins would be the best snack to keep her distracted…except she can never get the sodding things out the packet so I spent the entire duration hanging over the bed drip feeding raisins to a toddler who perfectly timed working out how to get the lid off her sippy cup perfectly with a nurse inserting a plastic tube up my vagina. Water, raisins, everywhere. Dignity = zero. Once upon a time that may have been mortifying, I’m expecting worse.

Can you share any low points?

Oh probably the time I forgot I’d undone Luna’s straps to her pushchair, she fell face first onto a cold concrete floor. Never felt so guilty in all my life.

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What do you do when baby sleeps?

Complete orders & drink lots of caffeine.

Have you got a business?

Yes! Sophie & Co; I started it when Luna was around 6 months old, the thought of leaving Luna and returning to an incredibly underpaid job with a total lack of creativity made my heart hurt so I put my skills to use and started making infant and toddler clothing. Lots of exciting things to come and I can’t wait for the year ahead!

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What’s the best bits of being a Mama?

Aside from watching Luna learn new things, which seems to be daily at the moment, my absolute favourite part of being a Mother is watching her eat so well. Is that weird? I get so much joy out of her not being a picky eater. She wouldn’t survive in an Italian family if she was but I’m also very aware that she will have her moments so let’s not all burst my bubble just yet, OK?

What are the worst bits?

The game changing. Why oh why do they change the rules all the time? One minute she self soothes and has 2 regular naps in her cot, the next she refuses to nap anywhere but strapped to my chest. And…tantrums.

What was the biggest surprise that you wish you’d been warned about/known before becoming a Mama?

That bonding with your child can take a few weeks, sometimes it’s not instant and that’s ok. So many people want to warn you about Post Natal Depression but no one seemed to shed a light on those first few weeks…

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

Stand your ground, say no, and tell family members when they’re stepping over the line or downright rude. Looking back, I see now how important it is to have space and time to bond in those first few days…don’t let anyone jeopardise that. Also, go with the flow because it will all change next week.

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What’s do you reckon the most essential item mamas-to-be need to pack in their birth bag?

People get SO into this don’t they? I had some clothes for Luna, a pair of leggings, fresh pair of knickers and my camera. Snacks went untouched, a nightie? For god’s sake why did I buy a nightie I was naked bar my bra which came off the moment she was born. Bare essentials ladies, bare essentials.

What’s been you best baby product?

Ergobaby 360 Sling, sleepy dust I tell you!

What was really useful in the early days?

My mum!

Who inspires you?

Again, my Mum. She’s a hardworker. If there’s anything I want to pass on to Luna it’s to not be idle, do something, anything! Be innovative!

How many children do you dream of having?

Always wanted 4, now I have 1 I think I’ll be happy with….1. No I joke, 3? 2? Ask me in a few years!

If you could go back to your pre-child life, where you weren’t so tired, for a short period of time, what you do?

EVERYTHING. It’s amazing how much you manage to squeeze in to nap time, just get shit done. Stop procrastinating and do it. I’d also be really spontaneous. Childless people don’t realise how lucky they are to just…go out. Even the thought of taking Luna to a coffee shop these days sends me into a cold sweat.

What do you miss about life before kids?
Friday nights and sleep. Nothing new there, hey?

What do you wish you were better at when it comes to parenting?

Patience. I can be quite hot headed and struggle to keep calm when Luna’s being frustrating, I’m really crap at just ‘being’ with her and not constantly thinking of the other thousand things I need to do. I also don’t take her to enough groups and feel forever guilty about that. Basically, lots! Parenting is tough?!

TOO RIGHT IT IS!! Big thanks to Sophie for sharing her experiences of Motherhood, from taking time to bond with her new baby to going for a smear test with her toddler in tow! Hope you all enjoyed reading what she had to say as much as I did.

Make sure you check out her shop Sophie & Co where you will find some absolutely gorgeous pieces of clothing for babas and toddlers, all available in a variety of fabrics, and all handmade by the lovely lady herself.

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And if you’d like to take part in this ‘In the (mother) hood’ feature, please drop me an email – thedoublemama@gmail.com – I’d love to hear from you!

 

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.

CAT’S IN THE (MOTHER) HOOD

In the (mother) hood

OMG!! We’ve only got Cat Bloody Sims IN THE MOTHER FREAKING HOOD!! If you’re a fan of the blog Not So Smug Now (no bullshit baby tales) you’ll know who Cat is and if you’re yet to become acquainted (what the hell are you waiting for?!), let me tell you about Cat… She’s got great hair, proper platinum blonde, unlike my past attempts to go blonde. She’s married to a real life ROCK STAR. Her daughter has a wicked name (but then what child with rockstar parents doesn’t?!). She’s funny and candid and clever and massively supportive of the sisterhood. She’s a brilliant writer and it’s a total honour to be able to feature her here. So read on people and find out what makes this Mama tick…

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Name: Cat Sims

Age: 34

Location: Harrow, London (just)

Number of Kids: 1 so far…

Names and ages of aforementioned: Billie Scout Sims (2yrs)

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

Definitely planned but not the easy ride we thought it would be. Between a distinct lack of ovulating and a husband on tour…we were lucky to get any time to bump uglies, let alone manage to do it at the right time!

Initial feelings on finding out you were pregnant?

Elated, terrified, disbelieving. The usual…

How did you tell your partner?

I think I screamed it through the bathroom door while he was on the loo. Totes romantic.

His reaction?

Elated, terrified, disbelieving. The usual…

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

I spent the first twelve weeks writhing in nausea-induced agony and throwing up into McDonald’s cups as I drove up the M40 to work. After that I felt great but never benefitted from the ‘great hair, great nails, great skin’ thing. I did get some AMAZING varicose veins though, so that was nice.

Tell me about your birth experience…

It wasn’t ideal. I thought I was prepared but when the time came I was woefully unprepared, especially emotionally. I was frightened by the power of labour and definitely suffered from an overdose of adrenaline. Labour was laborious and progressed painfully slowly – because of my fear and panic, I felt I was fighting labour and birth rather than embracing it. Billie was back-to-back which made it longer, slower, more painful and my dream of a water birth in the birthing centre quickly evaporated when I lost my strength and will and decided to have an epidural. In the end, that was the best decision I could have made at the time but it meant that I felt powerless and out of control and scared. Next time, I’m hypnobirthing and home-birthing my way through it.

Describe motherhood in a few words:

What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. And ‘love’…lashings of love.

Can you share any highlights?

The moment my daughter turned around to me while I was being super snarky to her dad in the car and said, “Mama, don’t be a dick.” It’s a mantra in our house (amongst the grown ups!) and I remember being shocked and then thinking, “Well, if that’s the philosophy she leaves our house with I’m ok with that.” We possibly could have phrased it better, but in the end, if you live your life thinking, “Just don’t be a dick” then there are worse guiding principles. Plus, she was right, I was being a dick.

Can you share any low points?

Not catching Billie as she plumetted face first on the concrete and broke a front tooth. Trapping her fingers in the front door. Epic fails.

What do you do when the baby sleeps?

Clean the house. I can’t do anything else until the house is clean so I spend the first 30-45 mins straightening everything out. After that, I’ll work, or read Grazia, or look at my phone. Who am I kidding…I pretty much look at my phone.

Tell me about your blog…

I started Not So Smug Now: No Bullshit Baby Tales when Billie was about nine months. At first it was just therapy, you know? I couldn’t find any blogs that were reflecting my experience which was positive but hard, really hard. I wanted to create a space where people felt safe to say “those first few months were the hardest of my life” without being called a bad parent, or a depressed parent. I wanted to create a place where there was no judgement – I didn’t care whether you breastfed or bottle fed your baby, whether you used Pampers or cloth nappies hand spun from the pubic hair of mythical elves hiding deep in the Himalayas…I felt that, regardless of our parenting choices, we were all women and all in this together. Parenting for me is like cage-fighting – there are no rules, we do what we need to do to survive.

I wanted to sidestep the competition, the way we had been pitted against each other seemed unnatural and unhelpful. Thankfully, through the blog I discovered a host of likeminded women who inspire me daily. There’s definitely a change in the air – the sisterhood is growing daily. It’s pretty cool to be a (pretty small) part of.

Tell me about your biz…

Last year I launched a consultancy company called Hustle + Fox with my business partner and all-round awesome lady, Gayle Haddock (owner of Carnaby Street baby boutique Carry Me Home). We had really complimentary skills – she was an expert when it came to the business side of launching products, developing brands and building businesses. All my experience was within pr and marketing, writing and social media. We both had great networks through the blog and the shop and when we came together we were able to really help and support new companies trying to create their own empires.

I’m really proud of the fact that many of the companies we work with are started by mums and dads – it’s awesome to see them create amazing companies in the spaces between their ‘real’ jobs, family, naps, nappy changes. You know? That takes real hutzpah and we get to be surrounded by their creativity and enthusiasm every day. That’s pretty inspiring.

How you juggle the logistics of raising children with work?

It’s never easy. Inevitably you end up feeling like you’re not giving 100% to being a mum or running a business. I’m lucky in some ways because my husband is a musician which means that when he’s home, he’s home 100% meaning we can parent 50/50. The downside is that when he’s on tour, I’m a single-working parent living a hundred miles away from my nearest family member. That’s tough, but we make it work. You just do what you have to do.

What’s the best bits of being a Mama?

Having a buddy. Billie has a wicked sense of humour. I love seeing her personality develop and she makes me laugh everyday. It’s also opened up a whole new world to me of amazing mamas that have become friends. It’s also made me less selfish, more compassionate and way more chilled. I have perspective now.

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What are the worst bits?

The laundry. Hangovers. Sleep deprivation. A useless pelvic floor.

What do you find hardest about being a Mum?

Managing the guilt. Am I doing enough? Am I being enough? Am I giving enough? It’s an endless internal battle.

What was the biggest surprise that you wish you’d be warned about/known before becoming a Mama?

Ha! The million dollar question! That transition from ‘me’ to ‘mama’ was the hardest one I’ve ever made. I’m sure people tried to tell me but you can’t hear it, you just can’t comprehend what that will feel like until you hoof a baby out of your woo-woo and bring it home and look at it and think, “What the fuck now?” For me, it was overwhelming. I don’t know if that makes me different or just willing to be open about it, but I wish there was some way of preparing women fully for that.

If someone agreed to mind your kid(s) for a week what would you do?

I’d pack a bag for myself and my husband and go to a fabulous beach. I know it’s not very original, but I’d spend a week in a bikini, drinking cocktails from 11am, reading books, eating fresh seafood, taking long walks and sleeping. Oh and we’d have sex. Lots of it. I fantasise about that week daily.

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

Yes. Rest. Don’t feel like you have to entertain. Batten down the hatches for the first ten days and stay in bed, watch movies, snuggle with the family and bond. Don’t let anyone in that hasn’t brought food and don’t feel the need to get up for anyone. Just be…there’s so much time to race around and make meals and host guests and do it all on 3 hours sleep that those first few days are the only chance you get to be entirely selfish. Make the most of it.

What’s do you reckon the most essential item mamas-to-be need to pack in their birth bag?

Obviously, pack all those boring essentials that are on every list but make it something special too. Pack brand new, gorgeous jammies, a bag of special gorgeous products to wash with afterwards. That kind of stuff. You’ll need some pampering after labour and it’ll feel great to treat yourself. Oh and lip balm. My lips got so dry!

What’s been your best baby product? 

From the day she was born I used all the Naty products. Everything else either dried her out or was full of crap…but the Naty products were amazing everytime. Also, we bought the Stokke Trip-Trapp which at the time I was furious about – why didn’t we just get the IKEA one!? – but now that she’s still using it as an adjustable chair and will continue to use it I can’t recommend it enough. I’d buy another one for a second baby.

What was really useful in the early days?

My Connecta sling. Super easy to use, super comfortable, small enough to shove in a bag, not bulky. Best buy ever.

Did you make any baby-related /pregnancy hormone-induced purchases that you regretted / were a total waste of money?

Not really but only because we were renovating a house at the time so there was literally no spare money to splurge. My husband would probably disagree.

What’s your ultimate mum product? 

Anything at all that makes my face look acceptable. The Garnier BB cream works wonders for me. And trainers. Since becoming a mum I’m all about the trainers.

Who inspires you?

Oh…so many to mention. I’ve been so fortunate to meet so many amazing women – mostly through Mothers Meeting (thanks Jenny Scott!). I never thought motherhood could be so damn awesome. I was pretty much resigned to a life of soggy custard creams and manky soft-play but along came women like Anna from Mother Pukka, Steph from Don’t Buy Her Flowers, Zoe from Dress Like a Mum, Clemmie T from Mother of All Lists, Clemmie H from Gas and Air, Hollie from London Hypnobirthing and of course yourself. These women are almost singlehandedly changing the face of motherhood with compassion and sisterhood but with a shit load of humour too. And booze obvs.

How many children do you dream of having?

I’m going to be done with two. I know my limits!

If you could go back to your pre-child life, where you weren’t so tired, for a short period of time, what would you do?

Start a business. I wish I’d know how efficient I could be. It’s only since becoming a mother that I realise I can do what used to take me all week in a day. I’d literally be running the world by now if I’d known my own potential!

What do you miss about life before kids?

With a little bit of planning you can pretty much do everything you did before, it’s just harder to organise you know? I guess spontaneity. Just being able to do things because we feel like it.

What do you wish you were better at when it comes to parenting?

Playing. I’m pretty terrible at maintaining interest in building blocks or having make-believe tea-parties. I wish I was better at it but it’s really not my strength. I’m much better at planing adventures, getting out of the house, that kind of thing. Thankfully my husband is amazing at the play thing so he has that covered.

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MAHOUSIVE THANKS to Cat for not only taking part but answering ALL the questions! I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading her answers as much as I did… Make sure you check out her blog Not So Smug Now (if you haven’t already) and of course if you’ve got a small biz that you’re trying to grow then get in touch with Cat via Hustle + Fox and I’ve no doubt she’ll be able to work her magic.

If you’d like to take part and feature here, In The Mother Hood, I’d love to hear from you! Just email thedoublemama@gmail.com 🙂