BEING WITH THIS WOMAN

Birth Stories, motherhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank goodness for birth centres ☺

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

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

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

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FAMILY LIFE PHOTOGRAPHY

motherhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Perks of a having a Pre-pre-teen

motherhood

 

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You survive the early years; the no sleep; the fear; the colic; the reflux; the tears; the weaning; the tantrums; the potty training; the sick in the hair; the wee on the carpet; the food being thrown all over the damn place; the korma poo from tip to toe; the frustration; the crawling; the toddling; the accidents; the trips to A&E and then you emerge wiping yourself down with a pre-pre-teen. And by God, it’s GOOD.

I know that the teenage years will come around too soon and then he’s likely to turn into an angsty horror with doors being slammed, swear words being thrown, sneaking out at night, me driving around trying to track him down, fearing for his safety, and of course the whole not loving/liking me– that’s going to hurt. But right now, this transitional period, where he’s more of a help than a hindrance, is pretty sweet.

Here’s why…

This list has been a collaborative effort by myself and midwife/mama extraordinaire Clemmie of Gas&Air fame – both of us Mothers to 8-year-old pre-pre-teens.

1. He’s an early riser so he makes me a cup of tea, almost every day.

2. Sometimes he makes me breakfast too!

3. She makes breakfast for her little sister

4. He can make a sandwich for himself (and me)– a good one.

5. He looks after his little brother so I can cook dinner, take a shower, have a rest

6. She takes her little sister downstairs leaving M&D to have a lie-in

7. He fetches me things

8. He fetches his own things

9. She does jobs for me

10. She can use the sky remote without my help

11. He remembers stuff that I forget – like what day it is or where my keys are

12. He tells me interesting things he’s learnt at school that I don’t know

13. He doesn’t need me to wipe his bum or dress him

14. She ties her little sister’s shoelaces

15. She does her little sister’s seatbelt up

16. He doesn’t need me to keep a constant eye on him

17. He reads to himself (phonics can be pretty frustrating)

18. She reads bedtime stories to her little sister

19. He writes me sweet messages and leaves little notes for me

20. He promises me he will never leave home or get a girlfriend or want to go travelling without me

21. He makes me promise I will always live with him

22. He gives proper hugs

23. He gives compliments, fashion advice, life advice.

24. He tells me I look like a teenager (!!)

25. I can read his writing and make sense of his school work

26. We can hang out and it not totally exhausting

27. We can go watch feature-length films together and we don’t have to leave the cinema half-way through

28. We can go out for dinner and it’s actually enjoyable

29. He can read and order from the menu, making his own decisions without coaxing or force

30. He’s funny, like real funny with an actual sense of humour

31. We have shared interests – such as listening to Hozier and singing along (he knows all the words) etc.

32. He can make his bed and tidy his room

33. He puts the washing away

34. He hoovers

35. He can ride his bike for miles

36. He can ski as fast as me