INTRODUCING: THE POSITIVE BIRTH RETREAT

motherhood, Preparing for Birth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

 

An open letter to the Daily Mail…

motherhood

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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 – Hypnobirthing

Preparing for Birth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOOD LUCK!
X

Top Blog Dogs

motherhood

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

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

 

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

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

Visit the blog here.

 

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

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

Visit the blog here.

 

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

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

Visit her YouTube channel here.

 

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

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

Visit her blog here.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

CLEMMIE’S IN THE (MOTHER) HOOD

In the (mother) hood

I am incredibly honoured to be featuring the AMAZING Clemmie Hooper on the blog today! She’s the country’s favourite midwife, facilitator of homebirths, empowerer of women, writes a hugely popular kick-ass blog, rocks a covetable wardrobe, somehow manages to have an enviably tidy home and is about to become a double mama TWICE OVER! Oh, and did I mention she’s writing a book?!

This woman is truly a force to be reckoned with and it’s been a privilege to have known her since we both began our Motherhood journey, almost 9 years ago…

Clemmie and daughters

Name: Clemmie

Age: 30

Location: Crystal Palace, South East London

Number of Kids: 2 + 2 on the way

Names and ages of aforementioned: Anya – 8 & Marnie – 4

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

Absolutely not, I’d just left uni, my boyfriend and I were having way too much fun at various festivals, let’s call it the Summer of Love. We were pretty shocked when we found out.

Initial feelings on finding out you were pregnant?

Terrified, angry and scared of what the future might hold.

How did you tell your partner?

I showed him the test I was crying so he kind of knew what it meant.

His reaction?

He was pretty silent for a while, said some swear words and went very pale.

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

I was only 23 so I guess being young and fit helped, I suffered from a really bad back and felt massive (as you do with every pregnancy) towards the end.

Tell me about your birth experience?

I was 5 days past my EDD and went into labour on a Saturday morning, stayed at home for as long as possible then went to a birthing centre accompanied by my boyfriend. I used the pool for a bit but got too hot and bothered and birthed Anya on all fours completely stark naked. I had my 2 amazing midwives with me (one came back from Glastonbury to be with me). It was a lot more intense than I ever expected, the sensation of your body pushing out your baby is something I’ll never forget. I felt like a bloody warrior woman for doing all of that with a whiff of gas and air.

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Describe motherhood in a few words:

Exhausting, messy, rewarding.

Can you share any highlights?

When our second daughter was 4 days old our elder daughter asked us through floods of tears when we were going to return her to the train station. The realisation that she was no longer an only child suddenly dawned on her.

Can you share any low points?

Any time you have to look after your children with a horrendous hang over is pretty awful, dropping the f bomb and then your daughters repeating it to Daddy when he gets home isn’t a great feeling. And anytime I have to leave them to go to work and they’re crying for Mama, I hate missing bed and bath time if I’m at a birth.

What do you do when the baby sleeps?

The first time around I was on this sort of high and never did that sleeping in the day when the baby slept. Second time around I slept whenever she did but my elder daughter only went to nursery 3 days a week so I ended up at hideous soft plays and in the playground as you do. I wish I’d slept more the first time around.

Have you got a blog?

Yes I started Gas&Air almost 4 years ago. It’s all about my life as a midwife and mum, I share all the wisdom I’ve learnt over the last 10 years that I hope and think women really need to know. From what to pack in your hospital bag, to how to prevent tearing and how to write your birth plan and I’ve got a book being published by Random House in Spring 2017 ‘How to grow a baby and push it out’.

What’s the best bits of being a Mama?

The spontaneous ‘I love you Mummy’ and the huge cuddles in bed even at the crack of dawn. When your child tells you a really funny joke and it makes sense!

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

Sleep, shop, go to the cinema, finish that book on my bedside table, have morning sex with my husband, go for drinks straight after work, basically everything you don’t do as often once you’re a mum of 2.

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

Go easy on yourself especially 1st time around, you’re not doing a shit job you’re doing great. And it doesn’t necessarily get easier you just get better at it.

Is there anything you wish you had known?

Those expensive baby classes when your baby is 6 weeks old are a waste of money, find like-minded mums and go for coffee and cake.

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

Really useful things like a bottle of spray water for your face, a flannel, some lavender oil, comfy socks, a TENS machine, music on your phone, headphones and hypnobirthing scripts.

What’s been your best baby product?

Best baby product has to be super large swaddling blankets – mops up milk, spilt tea, tears (both yours and baby’s) can be draped over the pram on a sunny day…

What’s your ultimate mum product?

Anything by Weleda – their baby products are great for a new mums’ tired skin. I love their almond products – perfect when your skin’s a bit dry!

Hooper family

Massive thanks to Clemmie for finding the time to complete this Q&A! Remember to check out her blog and keep your eyes peeled for her book!!! You can keep up with her pregnancy progress (and amazing maternity wardrobe) by following her on IG – @midwifeyhooper

If any Mama reading this would like to feature as part of my ‘In the (mother) hood’ series, please email: thedoublemama@gmail.com

What I’d do differently in birth

Birth Stories, motherhood


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I had a pretty spectacular 2nd birth. I kind of want to tell everyone and shout it from the roof tops because I believe everybody can and should have a wonderful birth experience (whether that’s a homebirth, a hospital birth or an elective c-section). No doubt every woman deserves it. (You can read my birth story here). However I also don’t want to come across as an insensitive, smug dick because I know so many women have had less than ideal labours.

Therefore I always like to explain how I had a traumatic first birth and then went on to have a wonderful one. Basically I know what both ends of the birth experience spectrum look like. Now I just want every woman who is scared of giving birth to know that in actual fact it can be the best day of your life! For those women who did not have the birth of dreams first time round (I was one!), know that all hope is not lost and if you go on to have another bubba then a brilliant and healing birth experience is most definitely possible.

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Anyhow, that all said, there are still a few things I’d definitely do differently, so here they are:

1. I wouldn’t spend the entire afternoon after my waters had gone writing Christmas cards whilst having/ignoring ‘twinges’, then sending my partner out to post them just a few hours before I gave birth.

Next time I will use that time to deeply relax. Maybe have a bath with the lovely Lush bath bomb I’d been saving in my birth bag, have a rest, have a cuddle, have my partner do a relaxation reading like we’d rehearsed, listen to some positive affirmations, have a massage with the lovely Neil’s Yard ‘Mother’ oil I’d been given as a gift, inhale some lavender spritz that I’d prepared etc. etc. Because all those lovely things I had planned… Guess what??? Never did them. Why?! Because in the end there wasn’t time! I wasted the lovely early stages of labour doing life admin.

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2. First sign of labour I’d get my partner to start inflating and filling the birth pool. Oh the pool of dreams! What happened in my labour was we thought of inflating the pool too late. My partner spent most of my 2 hour labour attending to the pool which I then didn’t use because by the time it was ready for me to get in, it was time to push! So yeah, I’d get him on that case a lot quicker.

birth pool in a box

3. I forgot to drink in my labour. And my partner, like I mentioned, was busy attending to the birth pool, not me. When the midwife gave me a cup of cold black sugary tea, just before I delivered, I swear it was the best thing I’d ever tasted.

So yeah next time I’m going to have some cool fresh lemonade prepared or something similarly refreshing to sip. Oh and champers in the fridge! We forgot that too (I’d only just finished work – I wasn’t expecting to go into labour ‘on time’).

homemade lemonade

4. I’m going to remember that just like everyone says – when the baby is coming out it genuinely feels like a poo. I went to the toilet naked like a mad woman, insistent that I needed a number 2. I had my midwife outside the door telling me not to push too hard as I didn’t want to deliver on the toilet. She was right. Of course. It was baby’s head.

Luckily I made it to the sofa.

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5. Finally and most importantly, the thing I would definitely do differently (if there’s a next time) is get a birth photographer!! You are so in the zone when in labour that it’s a bit of a blur. I wasn’t aware of what was going on around me and that was a good thing. But I wish I had a load of photos that I could look back on to remember that miraculous day.

For me giving birth is more life changing than getting married and if I wouldn’t think twice about hiring a wedding photographer to capture the day, why not splash the cash and book a birth photographer ! There are so many gorgeous birth photos out there and beautiful videos to watch. I really regret not having someone to record my special day.

Sure I have the shaky, slightly-blurry, happy after-birth pic that my partner took (see up top) and the I’m-dead-to-the-world first birth photo (below) but I want more! I’m not talking blood and guts, I’m talking beautiful sensual photos that truly capture the magic.

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Oh, and 6. I’d remember to blow the candle out before going to hospital.

I transferred to hospital after giving birth as I needed some stitches and had lost a bit of blood. We left without remembering the lovely Diptyque candle we had burning throughout my labour, which then remained going all night…

Diptyque candle

House did smell nice though when I got home 😉

What I wish I’d known before I became a parent

motherhood

Mother

 

The lovely Clemmie Telford aka @peckham_mamma is the official Queen of Lists and writes one of my favourite blogs on the worldwide web – Mother of All Lists.

Today she has kindly allowed me to feature by way of a GUEST LIST!

So here’s 12 things I wish I’d known before I became a parent… -> MY LIST

My Birth Story – v2.0

Birth Stories

The one where I met Arlo Bear…

Thursday

So my waters had gone, I’d managed to convinced myself it wasn’t wee, based on the fact I’d gone to the toilet mere moments before fridge-gate (so low was my trust in the stability of my bladder), and I’d just sat down to write my Christmas cards… You can read about that here.

It is about 1pm when I finish writing all my cards, and messaging friends and family for their addresses. This year (since I’m transitioning from young-mum-of-one to woman-with-two-kids), I have done the unprecedented and invested in an actual, physical, address book, so decide now is the perfect time to copy all the addresses I have into it. This leaves me feeling very organised and happy with myself (does this last-minute life admin count as nesting?!).

Because I’m not having any contractions and time is of the essence, I get to work on my nipple stimulation with an electric breast pump in an attempt to bring some on (upping the ante on the simple nipple twiddling of the day before). I am now listening to my Hypnobirthing affirmations, having decided the BBC’s ‘The Missing’, albeit totally gripping, is just a tad too tense and possibly having a detrimental effect on my uterus.

At about 2pm I call my midwife as I have not felt the baby move all day and she had said to keep an eye on baby’s movements. I tell her that I don’t need her to come out because I’m not having regular contractions but says she will pop by anyway to have a listen to baby… (Reflecting now, I clearly remember making this call. I would never in a million years have believed I would be holding my baby in a matter of hours!!).

Whilst waiting for my midwife to arrive I am having some contractions but not take-your-breath-away ones. They are however coming of their own accord since I have stopped pumping. I’m not convinced it’s the real deal though and feel I need a professional (i.e. my midwife) to tell me whether this is it or not.

We do crack open the birth bag at this point though, figuring we might as well make use of our nice things because whether or not this is it right now, since my waters have gone, I am going to be in labour in the next 24 hours or so. We light our lovely Diptyque Pomander scented candle that we chose for our birth (recommend doing this by the way!), pull down the blackout blinds in our bedroom and I start bouncing on my birth ball, whilst applying some make-up (obvs want to look good just in case it is happening!).

At this point I’m welcoming each contraction and when there’s a bit of a gap between one ending and the next one starting, I actually worry that it’s all died off and this isn’t it at all. So each time one comes I’m like YAY, GO BODY! I am doing my up breathing through each one but they aren’t in any way painful.

My midwife arrives at 2.30pm and has a listen to baby. All seems well. Around 3pm she says she’s going to make a move but to call her back when I need her. She tells me she thinks it will be soon. I ask how soon??!! She says she thinks that it will be tonight. I realise baby might actually arrive ON his/her due day (which is tomorrow) – how amazing would that be!

Just after 3pm James says it’s time for him to go and do the school pick-up. My midwife kindly offers to wait with me until he returns. At this point I’m thinking my son will come home, we will have dinner together later on and he will go to bed at his normal time.  Then hopefully (fingers crossed) my labour will kick off in the night. My midwife advises me to have a bath to ease the discomfort once she has left and to try and get some sleep to conserve my energy for later.

By the time James is back at 3.30pm, less than half an hour later, EVERYTHING has changed. I’m not having a bath or a sleep – it’s time to inflate the birth pool – and quick! My midwife has decided she is staying now and it’s not long until she is calling the second midwife.

At one point the contractions were irregular and pain-free, then very quickly they increased in frequency and then very suddenly they increased in intensity and I was not welcoming them any more.

I say hello to my little (soon to be big) boy when he gets back from school but am not able to say much else. I quickly feel like I need him out of the house because I need to focus all my energy and attention on each surge* so my friend is called to collect him.

*I will call them surges from now on because they are powerful and not just little contractions/tightenings.

At 4pm I ask my midwife to examine me. She warns me that it will not tell me how long my labour is going to be, but I need to know something is happening. The surges are intense. My midwife has a poke around and tells me I am approximately 5cm dilated. I am slightly disappointed to hear I am only half-way, especially since I was already 2cm on Monday. I this this means I have a loooong way to go (little do I know).

At 4.10pm my friend arrives and I say goodbye to my son. James is busy inflating and filling the pool and over the next half an hour or so I do feel quite alone as I deal with each surge standing at the dining room, gripping on to the edge. I just want the pool to be ready so I can get in, believing it will feel amazing. The surges are really intense and between each one I give myself an internal pep talk, reminding myself that I want a natural homebirth, that I can do this, that I am in control etc. Then the surge hits and I’m screaming silently in my own head very negative things like I can’t cope, I need pain relief. This internal battle goes back and forth like this for a while whilst I stand bent over the table, rocking backwards and forwards, channeling all my energy into my breathing. I’m not really aware of what is going on around me and am not making conversation with anyone. At this point I really have gone within myself. I do notice that a resuscitation area has been set up on the dining room table but try to put it out of my mind.

After a while I move into the living room, kneel on the sofa and hold James’ hand and tell him I need him to stay close to me now. I don’t care about the pool anymore, I just want him to help me. He crouches down next to me, holds my hand, applies pressure to my back, as I rock backward and forwards over the arm of the sofa, breathing in and out with all the strength I can muster. The surges now are relentless and totally consuming me with their power and I am just fighting to stay on top of them.

A visualization I was taught in pregnancy yoga really helped me at this point: I rocked forward on all fours as I breathed in through my nose and then rocked back onto my heels as I exhaled through my mouth, visualizing a long golden thread extending into the distance. To keep myself breathing out for a long time and not hyperventilating/losing control, I imagined that each long out breath was pushing this golden thread further and further.

At 5pm the pool is finally ready for action. (I only know this from reading my notes because by this point I was not aware of time). The long-awaited, much-anticipated, pool of dreams. I step in and in my memory step straight out, but apparently I was in there for a few minutes. I don’t like it and in any case I feel I need to go to the loo for a number two.

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My lovely midwife tries to convince me it is my baby but I am having none of it.  How could it be the baby, I think, when I still have so many hours to go?!

I hate the idea of poo’ing in the pool and think I know when I need the toilet. Turns out I don’t. As I sit on the toilet with nothing happening, James and my midwife stand outside the bathroom door telling me not to push too hard because I don’t want to give birth on the loo!

I am aware I have only been in labour for a very short while so cannot believe baby is almost ready to make his/her entrance. I ask my midwife to check that it really is the baby but at this point I can’t lie down on my back or even sit down(!). She kindly obliges and examines me standing up. She tells me I am fully dilated and the baby’s head is just centimeters from its exit! I have gone from 5cm to fully dilated in under 1 hour!!! This might go some way to explaining why it is so intense.

Only after being examined and being told me I am good to go, do I believe and give into the urge to push. And boy did I need to push.

At 5.15pm I start pushing, on all fours, on the sofa, completely naked (and not caring in the slightest), in front of the Christmas tree. This baby is not going to be a water baby after all! As I push I bite down hard on a pillow and roar. At one point I scream, “It’s not going to fit” but am reassured that it will. And, “It can’t stay there” when the baby’s head crowns just as the contraction ends, leaving me momentarily at full stretch (probably the most painful moment).

But after just four minutes of what feels like a surprisingly hard, brick-like object, descending down a tunnel that is far too small to accommodate it, at 5.19pm, my gorgeous, perfectly formed, beautiful, baby boy flies (literally flies) into this world and is caught (just) by Natalie, our midwife. James who has been crouched by my head, whispering encouraging and lovely things into my ear, calls “It’s a boy!”, tears flowing, as our baby flies out, little arms up by his head and legs open like a froglet, revealing what we’ve waited 40 weeks to know. He is then passed immediately through my legs and I bring him up to my chest, bloody and beautiful. James captures the moment on camera and it is without a doubt my favourite photo.

I am so happy. There are no words. I birthed our beautiful baby just as I dreamt (albeit not in the pool), at home, in front of the Christmas tree, with no pain relief necessary. This couldn’t have been more different to my previous experience.

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With my first I was almost two weeks overdue, my labour was induced and it lasted 2 long days. I was attached to a drip, pumped full of artificial hormones, strapped to a monitor and endured a number of invasive procedures. I couldn’t sleep and wasn’t allowed to eat. It was a very stressful experience. I ended up having an epidural so felt nothing and my poor son was finally born by forceps delivery in theatre, narrowly avoiding a c-section, under bright lights, surrounded by people I had never met. Arlo James, on the other hand, arrived the day before he was ‘due’, into a completely calm environment, in the comfort of our family home and my labour lasted just 2 hours and 19 minutes.

It was however the most intense 2 hours and 19 minutes of my life. The surges came on hard and fast and good God were they hard. I breathed for my life and could do little else but focus on that. The pushing was the most acutely painful part yet, ironically, the part for which I am most grateful I felt. To feel his head descend was so real and unlike anything else and I am so glad I got to fully feel and experience the miracle of giving birth. I have never felt more in the present in my whole life. It wasn’t calm or sensual, there wasn’t any incense or oms, (it progressed far too quickly for that!), there was no water baby but it was incredible and intense, powerful and primal (and quite bloody painful). My birth experience was, put quite simply, amazing.

Something I learnt in labour was that Hypnobirthing and all our practice didn’t make labour pain-free, but it helped me to feel in control and awesomely powerful and it gave James a real purpose. Also, I talk about ‘pain’ but at no point did I ask for pain relief, not even a paracetamol. And I would do it all again in a heartbeat, in fact, I wish I could(!).

Doing Hypnobirthing meant we were prepared and ready, excited even, for labour to begin! At no point was I truly scared or afraid: I knew I was capable and I trusted my body and baby completely. When it came to pushing I made these loud, primal, roaring/grunting noises. Although I had imagined quietly breathing my baby down as I’d seen in hypnobirthing videos, my body just took over and I could do nothing else but push. It was instinctive. It was powerful. And I went with it.

Had I not done Hypnobirthing I don’t think I would have gone with it. I would have been nervous of the pain. I would have doubted my ability to do it. I would have been worried about the baby. Instead I embraced it, I pushed, I roared like a lion, and then my baby arrived and immediately all the pain just stopped and pure elation flowed.

I had just experienced the most incredible moment of my life.

Things didn’t go quite so well afterwards. I lost 1.5 litres of blood and was transferred to hospital by ambulance. I had 3 tears unfortunately, which needed to be sutured and just when I thought we could go home, I had a huge allergic reaction to something in hospital and went into anaphylactic shock!

But why dwell on the negative?! I know what part I want to remember.

Friday

After a lot of waiting around in a very small and very hot and stuffy hospital room (shouldn’t complain, we did get a private room and James was able to stay with me overnight), we were finally allowed to go home.

And then I’m not sure what happened later that day, or the next, or the next. They all just sort of ran into one another.

We existed in this beautiful bubble for the next week or so and it was just gorgeous. It was like we had just opted out of real life with all its routine and demands. We slept when we wanted, we ate when we felt hungry (even if it was 4am) and we just allowed our home to fill with all of this love.

I miss it already. Those precious early days. I tried so hard to cherish every single moment, knowing it all goes far too fast. I will treasure my memories of that special time for the rest for the life. As James says, it is worth having another baby for (and we have had a LOT of sleepless nights!).

That, I think, says it all.

Pregnancy Diary – Week 40

pregnancy diary

Preparing to meet our water baby

Firstly apologies this is so delayed. As you can probably guess I had my baby! The last five weeks I have mainly spent breastfeeding, watching him sleep, falling in love and trying to squeeze in the occasional shower.

But let me rewind to my 40th week of pregnancy…

Monday

Today is my first day of maternity leave – whoop! It is also the week I am due to give birth. Everybody thinks I’m crazy to have worked so late into my pregnancy but I’m pretty sure I will be 2 weeks overdue like I was with my first… and 2 weeks is quite long enough to be at home waiting, especially since I am so impatient.

I am hoping to spend the week watching Netflix in bed (between school drop offs and pick ups) and possibly squeezing in a mani-pedi and the obligatory wax so that I am fully ready to meet our water baby.

Things don’t go quite as planned as my mother has decided to come and stay and so I find myself doing jobs around the house, having to plan what to do for lunch/dinner and generally being more social than I had hoped.

But this afternoon I have my appointment with the consultant at West Middlesex hospital. I have this because my bump has measured small throughout the pregnancy (just as with my first) and a few weeks ago I was referred for a growth scan, so this is just a routine follow up. I am hoping he might be able to give me an examination and see if my cervix is doing something because I have had lots of cramping over the weekend and episodes where my tummy goes tight and hard (not contractions but enough to keep me from sleeping and enough to get me excited… and then disappointed).

As I lay on the bed in the consultants room with my legs spread (oh the indignity!), I say to him; “I’m just hoping you’ll tell me I’m 2cm dilated already” being very overly optimistic. Realistically I’d be happy just knowing my cervix is no longer posterior. A second or so later he says to his student “and the lady’s right, she’s 2cm dilated”. I LOL for real.

But he’s being sincere – My cervix is fully effaced and 2cm dilated. I’m filled with joy. I could hug him. Jeez, I could kiss him! How happy I am! I clearly recall being 41+ weeks pregnant with my first and the midwife telling me that my cervix was like that of a non-pregnant person and that labour was quite a way off. I was preparing myself for the same news but this is beyond all my hopes. All the uncomfortable cramping of the last few days has been totally worthwhile – what a journey my cervix has undertaken already!

The consultant gives me a sweep and tells me I will likely be having a baby this week. He assures me that even if I needed inducing today, he would probably only need to break my waters, that I wouldn’t need to be put on the drip like last time. I skip out of the surgery, call my partner and tell him I’m 2cm dilated and that we are having a baby imminently!! He asks if he needs to leave work (I have the sense to say no, luckily). I am way overexcited.

I Google how long it takes for labour to start after a sweep, the results are very mixed. I have no pain or contractions, not even cramping. But I am still hopeful things will be kicking off soon…

Tuesday

Nothing happened last night, nothing happens today, nothing happens tonight. I got over excited and now I am feeling disappointed. My mother is still here and I have not yet been able to begin my Netflix marathon. I consider going out to beautify myself in order to be looking my best to meet the new arrival (if that’s even possible in my swollen whale state) but can’t be bothered. I have got a bad case of negativity after yesterday’s high.

Wednesday

My mother leaves today and I go to the day assessment unit at the hospital to have the baby monitored as the consultant advised on Monday. I feel this is unnecessary but since the baby has been quieter than usual yesterday and today I go along thinking the reassurance will be good. It also gives me something to do.

The midwife who sees me tells me that in her experience babies are often quiet before you go into labour. I don’t allow myself to get excited. I sit strapped to the machine for a while and everything seems fine with baby’s heartbeat. I tell the midwife I have been having cramping and tightenings and that I had a sweep on Monday. She tells me the best thing I can do is go home and do some nipple stimulation and have intercourse to get things going. I was thinking I might cook a curry but looks like the menu might have changed…

I go home and start twiddling my nipples (yes, really) whilst watching ‘The Missing’ which is pretty gripping…

And BOOM! There are contractions! Definite ‘waves’, (as everyone describes), increasing in squeezing intensity, before relief. After a while I decide to start using my app to time them (yes, there’s an app for that).

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For 3 solid hours I twiddle my nipples, watch multiple episodes of ‘The Missing’ and time my contractions. I notice that if I stop with the nipple stimulation they die off but if I keep that up, then they just keep coming. I am having one every 3 or so minutes and they’re lasting about 45 seconds. I am thinking THIS MUST BE IT!!!

My partner gets home from work and after a bit we decide to go out for a walk. My son is at a sleepover so we are relatively free to do as we please. I am initially reluctant preferring just to stay put as I am worried about doing anything that will make the contractions stop/lose regularity but then I remind myself that if this is true labour, a walk won’t stop it. And if it’s not true labour then it will stop eventually anyway. Either way a walk won’t do any harm and there’s possibly a Winter Pimms in it for me if I go, so… we head off!

As I feared it all dies off on the walk, but at least I get to go the pub and it feels a bit like a date night… of course I’m also feeling disappointed, frustrated and impatient!! I post on The Calm Birth School’s Facebook page asking for advice and am told by a lot of lovely people to be patient – baby comes when baby is ready.

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I go home to bed, feeling grumpy.

Thursday

Today is a mega day. A mega, magical day. So mammoth that I cannot fit everything that happens into this diary entry, so I’m not going to try! I am going to have to save all the in-depth details of my labour for my birth story post, which I promise to write very soon!

But to begin, the morning started disappointingly like any other. Me still pregnant. My partner off to work. However minutes after saying his goodbyes and leaving to catch the bus, he returns having decided it might be best to work from home. (Did the skeptic that he is experience some sort of premonition?!).

I wasn’t overly happy with this decision because I was certain nothing was going to happen and I didn’t want him distracting me from season two of Orange is the New Black, which I intended to work my way through uninterrupted.

However by 11am I was thinking perhaps he was right to stay because I found myself standing at the fridge with water running down my legs. At first I was unsure whether my waters had gone or if I had actually just wet myself! I put a pad in and waited.

Once I was convinced my waters had gone, I felt excited that there was now a deadline – I knew for sure I would either go into labour naturally or be induced within the next 48 hours (due to risk of infection). But I also felt the pressure of this deadline and worried that our happy homebirth might not happen…

At this point I decided the best thing I could do would be to write my Christmas cards, so that’s what I did.

And that’s where I’m going to leave things…! Call it a cliff-hanger

NB: I promise to follow up very soon with my full, no holds barred, birth story!