Amy’s Story

Welcome to another instalment of Feeding Friday, this week we have Amy sharing her experience with tongue tie and using nipple shields  showing once again the tenacity of a mother seeking the support she needs.

After a traumatic birth (ventouse, third degree tear, haemorrhage and blood transfusion) I could see immediately that my son had tongue tie. We’d had the session at NCT about it, seen the pictures, and heard about the problems it caused. But not a single medical professional in his first 24 hours diagnosed it, recognised it or gave any sympathy to the fact that he wasn’t latching at all, and I wasn’t producing any colostrum. Along with every other emotion a new Mum feels, I didn’t expect frustration to be on the list. Eventually, a wonderful midwife whose own child had tongue tie made me feel like I wasn’t crazy and when we finally went home, she sent me off with a piece of paper with a name and number of somebody at the hospital who ran a tongue tie clinic and could help.

In the meantime, my son needed feeding and my boobs were as empty as my uterus, so we were happy to give him formula. At first from a syringe(!), and then, of course from a bottle. In the back of my mind was the NCT mantra: “he’ll get nipple confusion”, but instinct took over and he needed milk, in whatever form. I kept trying to breastfeed, and had a lot of skin to skin contact, but still no milk and still no latch. The first night back at home, our NCT course leader came round to help with the latch and we tried all sorts of positions. It sometimes worked, but 95% of the time didn’t, and the pain was incredible. Someone had suggested nipple shields, and as soon as the shield hit the roof of his mouth he latched instantly. Amazing! I felt complete relief. My milk eventually came in around day 6; where we’d been giving him formula, I’d been pumping round the clock, every 3 hrs, and I think it worked wonders for my supply (along with porridge for breakfast and drinking gallons of water during the day). I’d spoken on the phone to the most incredible woman from the breastfeeding support team who gave me so much helpful advice at a time that was hugely emotional and needed all the help I could get. I was so vulnerable but so determined; I didn’t know how much I wanted to breastfeed until it came down to it.

It was a long two weeks of bottle feeds of expressed milk, and feeds using nipple shields; multiple phone calls and sessions at the local breastfeeding cafe, but finally we had an appointment to get the tie cut. All went well: he screamed, they did it, he latched and off we went, and I thought “great, I can bin the shields”. But in those two weeks, as annoying as they were, I’d got used to them, and he’d got used to them. It was working, he was feeding well, and putting on weight. I was enjoying it and he was too. When he was about four weeks old I gave it one last shot at the breastfeeding cafe for help with the latch – what had happened at the hospital immediately after the tongue was cut was a fluke and didn’t happen at home. I’d been reading about how the nipple shields can hinder supply, so really wanted to nail the latch. I might have just been looking for the ‘easy’ way out, but the breastfeeding consultant looked at me using the shields and said “if you need to use them the whole time, use them. You’re not the first and you won’t be the last”. And that was it. I just needed that bit of reassurance. It wasn’t an easy journey – they’re faffy, need washing and look weird when on the nip – but he thrived, and I ended up exclusively breastfeeding for 9 months. And my supply never faltered. In the early days I sometimes felt awkward when I whipped a boob out and put a shield on it, but it became second nature and I loved every second. You have to do what works for you and your baby, and although I’d probably try to work on the latch when/if number two comes along, which, let’s face it, will be easier with already desensitised nipples, I wouldn’t change anything and I’d happily go through the exact same journey all over again (minus the tongue tie!)

 

If you would like to contribute to the Feeding Friday blog, I would be honoured to receive your story – simply get in touch at steph@doitlikeamother for more info.

If you are in need of breastfeeding support we have two groups running at the Do It Like A Mother HQ each week, head to the facebook page’s for more details:

Do It Like A Mother HQ

The Motherhood Movement

Cake Club

Feeding Friday – Holly & Rory

WOW – what a display of the power of a determined mother! This one may call for a box of tissues nearby… an absolute rollercoaster of an entry to motherhood and breastfeeding, thank you for sharing this inspirational journey with us Holly.

Our twin boys were born at 30 weeks, the pregnancy had been difficult as we knew one of our boys would heartbreakingly die shortly after birth from Edwards Syndrome and that I would surely go into premature labour. Whilst Rory was born tiny but healthy, his brother sadly passed away after birth. Rory was immediately admitted to NICU where we knew he would be for at least 6 weeks.

Since finding out I was pregnant it had always been our intention to breastfeed, my Mum was an NCT breastfeeding counsellor and me and my siblings were all breastfed, I knew that I wanted to try to do it for 6 months but wasn’t adverse to formula and have never held any judgement about formula fed babies in the slightest.

Rory being so tiny did present obvious complications but we also knew that especially for premature babies, breast milk was by far the best thing I could do for him in the early stages. As he was so little and underdeveloped and needed to spend 23 hours in his incubator in the early days, he had a nasal gastric (NG) tube for feeding. The nurses encouraged all the new mums of babies in the unit to hand express and then pump (even if you had no intention of breastfeeding for any length of time), and it immediately became a bit of an obsession for me. I felt enormous pressure from myself to ‘pump enough’ as really the expressing was the only thing I could do for my tiny baby. Skin to skin was encouraged but I didn’t get to hold Rory for two days, and once we did he was attached to so many wires and tubes that fear took over for me and I’m not sure how much I could really let the oxytocin do it’s thing. The advice from the nurses was to pump every 3 hours to keep my supply up, and pumping did not come easily to me. It would be a slow painstaking process and now with hindsight I never experienced a ‘let down’ when pumping. The sound of the monotonous pump would drive my husband mad, especially at night (though he was incredibly supportive of my choice to feed right from the get go!) and as the amount of milk Rory could take down the NG tube increased I found it hard to keep up with what he needed.

However I did persevere and at 34 weeks he started to display the rooting reflex and the nurses encouraged me to start to attempt to feed him myself. Their support during this time was monumental. I cannot explain how vital they were to me actually being able to transfer from pumping to breastfeeding. They made sure I ate and drank and reminded me to pump. They sat patiently with me behind a screen each time we tried to feed. My boobs were 5 times the size of my tiny baby’s head and I would get flustered and hot and upset that he just couldn’t seem to latch (or fit my seemingly giant nipples into his mouth). But their relaxed, encouraging and patient approach meant that at two weeks later (with a tongue tie also resolved) he was feeding well from me and we were ready for discharge. The pumping experience was so so different to feeding him. Yes, I had problems with discomfort, he clicked when he fed and needed constant repositioning due to being so small, but I finally felt the ‘let down’ and that my milk was actually coming in fully, which gave me a little confidence that we could make this work at home.

We’d had some upsets during his final weeks in special care, Rory had severe GERD which in its extremes caused him to struggle to breathe and on one occasion he’d needed oxygen revival. It also meant if he fed too enthusiastically he would turn blue and vomit and splutter. We were sent home with baby CPR training. In the early days at home I would start to dread to feed, for fear of the reflux and what this might mean post feed. I remember nights of tears from all three of us when I couldn’t get Rory to latch, my husband would be gently holding his flailing hands whilst I tried to get him on, sometimes for hours, for him for to feed for 6 minutes and then vomit the feed up again. It really felt like such an incredible challenge during those first weeks and even months. But we just persisted, talking to everyone we could for advice, being choice about the advice we took and largely staying in the house to focus on making the feeds relaxed and eventually we all got into a rhythm with it, albeit an awkward one. The reflux became the norm and manageable, and the feeds gradually became more relaxing for us all. I was able to go out and feel comfortable feeding in public, though honestly, I’d always prefer to feed in the car or out of sight just so I could fully relax.

I ended up exclusively feeding Rory until he was 18 months. With hindsight I feel incredibly proud of all of us for overcoming the hurdles we had at the start, but also so so incredibly lucky that I had access to the support from the NICU nurses, my mother and my husband. It was a team effort and there is no way I could have established feeding without this invaluable help.

Looking back, I found my own lack of confidence my biggest obstacle, during his stay in hospital Rory was weighed every day and I found it hard not to obsess over 10g gains or losses when we got him home. My husband eventually took away the baby scales
I bought. I was constantly fearful that feeding wasn’t going well and I think that without support I might have switched to formula in order to have more control over the oz or ml he was consuming. The only thing that built my confidence was to see him develop, his shining eyes and chubby rolls eventually convinced me we had cracked it.

As we started weaning I decided to gradually stop offering feeds one by one during the day and only feed if he asked for one. By 16/17 months we were down to one final feed before bed (as well as multiple at night) and for various reasons we decided to see if he was ready to stop at 18 months. We’d done Sing and Sign from an early age and Rory was also quite vocal so I gently communicated ‘all gone’ before bed, offered water and then cuddled and rocked to him to sleep and he stopped pretty easily. He’s now 2.9 years and doing great! His reflux resolved by a year old though he still needs cuddles to fall asleep – we don’t mind this, he’s making up for those he missed at the start.

My advice to any mums but especially those with premature or poorly babies is to first and foremost, be kind to yourself. I have always said that my relationship with breastfeeding was love / hate. I need to be honest and say that there were days (maybe weeks) when I absolutely hated it, resented the overwhelming sole responsibility of keeping this baby alive, and there were times where I felt totally touched out with it all. I also had days where I loved it, the clawing hands and little smiles between us were the truly special moments I’ll always remember. I’d tell any Mum that breastfeeding can be hard, it’s a team effort that’s not always an easy option and requires commitment and support from those around you just as much as your own desire. Seek help and support wherever you can. Look at the baby and not the charts and trust your instincts.

If you would like to contribute to the Feeding Friday blog, I would be honoured to receive your story – simply get in touch at steph@doitlikeamother for more info.

If you are in need of breastfeeding support we have two groups running at the Do It Like A Mother HQ each week, head to the facebook page’s for more details:

Do It Like A Mother HQ

The Motherhood Movement

Cake Club

It Won’t Just Land On Your Plate

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Seriously. You can’t just expect a good birth to come and land on your plate!

After my first baby was born I heard the phrase ‘you’re so lucky’ a lot. I would listen to other women – some who I had been friends with for years, some I’d never met until that conversation, and every variable in between – share their own experiences of birth, and I’d feel like I had to tone down the sheer joy, pride and elation I felt when speaking about my experience of birth for fear of rubbing salt in their wounds or appearing discompassionate.

I almost started to believe my own experience was purely down to luck!

But I also noticed a theme amongst many of these women (and I have to add here, that most of these women are generally not afraid of a challenge, they are strong, self-sure women who face the world with courage). But the theme was a lack of preparation.

Many felt there was no point in preparing. In attending any classes. Even writing a birth plan… why? Because they didn’t believe in their ability to birth. Their underlying deep rooted ‘truths’ about birth, included:

  • Having to hand over control to somebody ‘more knowledgable’.
  • That it is ALWAYS agonisingly painful.
  • That we have to suffer pain and indignity to get to the end prize; our babies.
  • That birth plans are a waste of time, as they just go out of the window on the day.
  • That someone else would tell them what to do and when, as they wouldn’t know what to do themselves.
  • That there wasn’t much their partner could do to help with the birthing process.
  • That some women just get lucky and birth goes smoothly.
  • That there is no way they could, or would want to, give birth without an epidural.

WRONG!

I accept that there is an element of luck involved. Some things are beyond our control, medical complications are something none of us would choose, but they are a fact of life and we are so very fortunate to have wonderful NHS staff to help care for us in those eventualities, and access to good quality information to enable us to make decisions about them. And there is so much you CAN control, in just about any given situation…. IF you prepare!!

And this is when I realised I wasn’t just lucky, and that actually the very phrase ‘you’re so lucky’ detracted from my absolute awesomeness, and from the fact that I (like many other birthing goddesses I’ve known and read about!) had put a tonne of effort in over a period of months, to prepare mentally and physically for labour, and with a dash of luck for good measure it paid off!

How can you possibly expect to know what to expect from labour, and how to facilitate it’s progress yourself, if you don’t ask about how it is when it’s undisturbed?

How can you effectively use powerful tools like breathing, light touch massage and affirmations if you don’t know about them?

How can your partner lower your pain levels, help you stay calm and make good decisions, and advocate for you and your baby if nobody has ever shown him how?

How can you ensure your preferences are adhered to wherever possible, even if things take a sudden unexpected turn, if you’ve not thought about them to know what is important to you?

How can you expect all of this to come together on the day without PRACTICE? Practice is key to all of the tools we give you on the course. You may find on the day that only one or two are needed, or you may want that whole damn toolbox and more, but if you’ve practiced you’ll know you used them to their greatest benefit, and that anything else you accept beyond that was an informed decision which is so important.

So don’t sit around just hoping it will land on your plate – take control and prepare for your birth. Head to the courses page to see the options we have available to help get you ready, we have something for every budget from £12 upwards. I am back from maternity leave now offering private courses from your very own sofa, as well as relaxation sessions Saturdays 11-12 at our Chalkwell HQ. If you have any questions just drop us an email and we would be happy to help.

Steph xx

I joined a Facebook group and I was utterly shocked…

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I’ve had an epiphany recently, after almost 6 years of being a midwife. It’s been quite an eye opener and it’s all thanks to a Facebook group… I mean, who knew it could be such a powerful influence in our lives?! 

The group is called BirthTube. It was set up with the idea of giving mums a private-ish space to livestream the birth of their babies. At first, I thought there’s no way anyone would want to but I was proven wrong. There’s thousands of members in the group. And this past week I’ve seen at least three mums meet their babies. It’s a-mazing. 

It’s given me a whole new perspective on birth. My experience so far, has been ‘in the moment’ as a midwife (and a mother) or watching edited videos online. The trouble is that, as a midwife, I feel immense pressure to be ‘doing’ or ‘thinking’. I’m rarely able to almost stand back and enjoy the moment. Not because that’s the way it should be but because that’s the way the maternity system has conditioned me to be over the years. 

Watching these unedited, real-life, raw women birthing their babies, this whole new perspective. That is what has given me this epiphany. Are you ready for it?

BIRTH IS BORING!

*gasp* *shock* *horror*

She said what now?!

Yup. That’s what I said and that’s what I meant. 

Now, let me explain why this is a bloody good thing…

We are conditioned over our lives to believe that birth is dramatic, scary, exciting, traumatising and shocking. 

Why??

Because that’s what makes good TV and that’s where the majority of us get our exposure to birth. It’s probably one of our first experiences of it, in most cases at least. 

We are taken through a 2 minute long scene, of a woman sweating, screaming and getting ever redder-faced, whilst her partner stands there like a pale lemon. It’s entertaining. 

So, when we come to birth our own babies we assume that this is birth. The trouble is, that *even* if that scene were to ring true with real life, it’s only accountable for about 0.03% of the time that woman has spent in labour. 

The scene that is so often shared is the ‘crowning’ and the birth itself. These are the very last moments of a labour that has probably lasted hours, if not days. But to show the moments leading up to the birth, that would be boring, so they are edited out. 

Even those lovely birth videos on YouTube of real women giving birth are often edited in a way that highlights the same part of the birthing process. 

And I get it. 

It makes sense, because, of course, it’s the most exciting part. It makes sense to highlight it for the viewing pleasure of your audience. 

However, watching the live births of BirthTube- the videos can be hours long. They often skip out the first part of the labour- of course because otherwise they could be days long but generally you get to see at least the few hours before the birth.

And seeing that is where I got this brand new perspective. I’m watching a mum go through her labour, she’s having a surge every 4 minutes perhaps, then resting for 3 minutes in between. That means the majority of the time is spent in rest and what’s ‘entertaining’ about that? Essentially, watching someone sleep?

It’s not entertaining and that’s why it’s always edited out but that is what is key here. 

When you give birth, do you want to be entertainment for people? 

Or do you want be birthing in the way that your body was meant to? Moving with your surges, resting in between? Quietly supported by your loving partner? 

I know which one I’d prefer and I know which one is optimal for us as a race. 

So, why not hop into the Facebook group? The videos are kept, so you can watch back a birth that has already happened or you might be lucky and catch one in action. Have a watch, see what you think. Will it turn your idea of birth on its head? 

I hope so. 

 

If you would like to join us and start your journey to our a better way of birthing, the way where you’re in control, your birth partner is involved and on board and you rock your birth, whichever way you’re baby is born… come and join us for a full hypnobirthing course! Just click over to the ‘Courses’ tab to see what’s on offer or send us an email and start the conversation.

Through Ami’s Eyes… what’s it like to work with us?

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We are thrilled and grateful when any family chooses to include us in their adventure- it’s a total privilege to enter people’s lives at such a pivotal moment.

I especially love working with parents who have had a difficult time of birth previously- the transformation as they go, a-ha! a-ha! A- HA!! It wasn’t my fault that… xyz. I actually WAS strong and courageous and I CAN be proud of myself. It’s so evident that our perspective defines our experience, and that the one we cultivate over a lifetime is wrecked by societal bullshit.

Watching those layers peeled off is magic. Seeing women step into their power. Seeing their partners realise all the things they can do to make an impact. The relief as they conclude that it can be different.

So appreciative of Ami’s review, which you can read by clicking here. Keep an eye on her blog as she shares the remainder of her pregnancy.

Midweek Midwife- Jade Boekestyn

Here’s another instalment of our Midweek Midwife. Each post is written in the hope of distilling any worries that your midwife won’t be on board with hypnobirthing and this week Jade is here to tell us her views… *spoiler alert* she’s a midwife AND she loves hypnobirthing!

 

“Hi, my name’s Jade! I’m a midwife, working both independently at The Village Midwives and within the NHS. I teach hypnobirthing, antenatal classes and I also specialise in placenta encapsulation.

What was it that drove you towards being a midwife?
It’s hard to pinpoint a time or an event really! Coming from a large family (my mum was one of six!), I was surrounded from a very young age by pregnant family members and their babies. I was always fascinated by their bumps, the whole process of pregnancy and birth, and I guess the curiosity behind it stemmed into a passion for midwifery! I think I knew this was my career from about 13yrs old.

What’s your favourite thing about being a midwife?
Definitely watching how women and their partners transform during this amazing experience. From that first meeting at the booking appointment where they’re a mixture of excitement and nerves, to watching their bumps and love for their babies grow throughout the pregnancy, to that primal amazing awe-inspiring event that is birth, and lastly watching them get to grips with this new wriggly human- even just writing that gives me total goosebumps! It’s such a rite of passage, and such a privilege to get to watch these transformations. I have a particular passion for caring for women in labour, supporting her and helping her to realise what an absolute badass she is, encouraging her through that pivotal moment, I’ll never not love that!

In general, what ways do you see hypnobirthing helping mums when you’re working as a midwife?
I absolutely adore hypnobirthing and will bang on about it to anyone who’ll listen! Teaching hypnobirthing is another way for me to help unlock a woman’s confidence and trust in her body. It is helpful from the moment a woman learns about it, right up well into the childhood years! I see it helping mums to feel more relaxed, more trusting, more in tune with their bodies, and more connected to their birth preferences. It saddens me sometimes to see that women still walk through our doors, completely unaware and unprepared for birth, and willing to hand over responsibility of their body to someone else. Hypnobirthing is the complete opposite- I teach women that this is YOUR birth, YOUR body, YOUR preferences, and nobody is allowed to tell you you’re not allowed to do something 🙂 You need to understand what is happening and be an active participant, otherwise that’s when the fear kicks in!

What’s the biggest misconception you hear when it comes to hypnobirthing?
The biggest misconception I think is that it’s bullshit haha! Well, to put it more eloquent, that it’s all hippy-dippy nonsense and birth is meant to be painful, that’s why we invented epidurals (gah!) Something I even sadly hear from a few colleagues! It’s absolutely not bullshit. Fair enough, there are some elements that are a bit ‘woo’ as Keri would say, but it’s grounded in actual physiology and science. Your hormones aren’t bullshit, your primal needs aren’t bullshit, your physiology isn’t bullshit. Hypnobirthing helps support you to trust your body and allow these natural processes and ultimately birth to happen without fear.

If a mum was asking you about whether or not to do a hypnobirthing class, what would you say to her?
I would say 100% absolutely. Even if she was having an elective caesarean, an induced birth, a ‘high risk’ birth- literally every parent to be will benefit from hypnobirthing. The daily breathing practice, the use of smell and sound anchors, will all promote relaxation and bonding during the pregnancy, it will help you feel in control  and fully able to make decisions during your birth (regardless of how that happens), and will help you to keep relaxed and confident during the postnatal period. I still benefit from my hypnobirthing techniques two years down the line!

Do you find your colleagues are supportive of hypnobirthing techniques?
Some more than others! I think the old-school midwives were raised on a culture of women ‘just getting on with it’, where birth was still viewed as a mostly normal event, women had no fear or negative connections to birth, you had a closer family network so the postnatal period was well supported. These days however, women aren’t as likely to still be close to their families, birth isn’t talked about as much, and when it is it’s mostly in a negative light, so these negative messages stick in women’s minds. That’s not to say they don’t support hypnobirthing as such, they just don’t hold much regard for it! However the vast majority of my colleagues recognise that shift in birth culture and think hypnobirthing should be done by every woman! Once you’ve seen a hypnobirth, you can never doubt how amazing it is!

Did you use any hypnobirthing techniques for your own births?
I did, with both my children! I trained with Mindful Mamma before I had my babies, and naturally started practicing and applying the techniques as soon as I could! Sophie’s amazing voice on the MP3s kept me calm and in control with both births, the first being a very fast induced birth and the second being a home waterbirth (of a boy who was 3lb heavier than his sister!!)

What’s your number one tip for a mum when it comes to giving birth? Do you have a tip for birth partners too?
My number one top tip for mums using hypnobirthing is to practice practice practice! The more you do, the easier you’ll find you can get into your zone on the day. My second top tip is to get a basic aromatherapy kit with lavendar, tea tree, bergamot, clary sage and frankincense in- you’ll get amazing benefits from all of these!
For dads, my top tip is to keep any negativity out! If mum says ‘I can’t do this’, tell her she’s doing amazingly, she’s so strong, she’s a badass who you couldn’t be more proud of- you get the idea! And take yourself a massive bag of snacks, a hungry dad is a grumpy and overwhelmed dad!

How can a mum get the best out of her midwife when she gives birth?
Tell your midwife on the phone when you call in labour that you’re using hypnobirthing. In a hospital setting, that will ensure they allocate you a midwife who is totally down with hypnobirthing, using the pool, and the other complementary things that go with hypnobirthing. In a home birth, they’ll then expect that the house will be dark, quiet etc so won’t come in like a cheerleading squad!

What’s your biggest frustration when it comes to working within the maternity ‘system’?
At the minute that’s a particularly hot topic as our unit is under threat of closure (but I won’t dwell on that as I’ll be writing an essay by the time I finished haha!). Working as a midwife in the NHS I find that I’m frequently frustrated at not being able to give one-to-one care where I’d like to. Focus is so much on documentation and paperwork in this new age of increased litigation that we’re often unable to focus our attention 100% on the women and their babies. And on a busy day where you don’t get breaks and are expected to jump from one birth to the next, it’s hard work and disheartening. I think most midwives these days would like to be doulas, as that’s the care and support we would love to be able to give!”

If you’d like to find out more about the lovely Jade, you can find her here:

Website: The Village Midwives

Facebook: The Village Midwives

Instagram: @thevillagemidwives

 

If Jade’s words have inspired you to think maybe hypnobirthing isn’t all ‘hippy-dippy nonsense’ and that actually it could be for you… why not look up your local course. If you happen to live in Essex- we’ve got you covered here! Just send us an email and we’ll tell you what we’ve got in store (Southend and surrounding areas- keri@doitlikeamother.co.uk or steph@doitlikeamother.co.uk and Upminster and surrounding areas- chloe@doitlikeamother.co.uk) or you can dive straight in and book onto a course here.

Birth of an Absolute Mother: From Begging for a C-section, to a Calm & Confident Vaginal Birth

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I am SO PROUD of this woman, and her husband too. I’m not sure I’ve ever worked with anyone who started off so afraid of birth. The transformation has been incredible to see, and there’s a subtle consideration here that needs to be put on the table. It’s my firm belief that even if Kat’s labour had resulted in an unplanned C-section, she would still be feeling in awe of herself, and utterly magnificent.

Our courses are not a magic ticket to a straightforward birth- they are designed to equip you mentally, and practically for various scenarios. But sometimes it goes like this, in Kat’s own words…

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🌟 From please give me a C section, to pass me the clary sage and hypnobirth me 🌟

So, for as long as I can remember I’ve been petrified of birth, from meeting my now husband he always knew if we were going to have kids “it wouldn’t come out of there”… Everything about the natural way scared me and actually seemed wrong to me. So when we got pregs I started to put my order in place for an elective c section. From there on I started my journey of having to speak to a MW weekly who would try and ‘convince’ me out of it. I had to talk to two different consultants about it before finally having a meeting with the Head Of Midwifery. She explained their hospital policy is to “do no harm” and to perform a c section on a low risk girl seemed harmful. I was in tears begging for one and it made me feel scared to be pregnant and in a position of not getting the op I badly wanted. I had worked with special needs children for years and would here negative/difficult births all the time. I started to learn this was normal in my eyes so I put together that if I had a c section the whole thing would be out of my hands if anything went wrong…

The hospital mentioned ‘HypnoBirthing’ and I said it sounded like my worst nightmare! However we looked into it and we found DILAMother, booked it, went along and even after the first day my mind was blown!!!!!

Suddenly it all made sense and after the course with Keri I never looked back. My birth was PERFECT – I would do it all again the very next day in a heartbeat (if I had the energy!!) we had fairy lights, candles, a diffuser with clary sage
and respectful midwives.

I enjoyed every surge with the breathing techniques and with KEris MP3’splaying on a loop as well as a bit of bob Marley and Third Eye Chakkra meditation music.
I got to 9cm like that then had gas and air for the last bit but ended up discarding it so I could feel more sensation and the urge to bear down.

I tried tonnes of positions so I basically did a full on work out! Took me a while to get baby out and as they checked her HR they were amazed how calm she was because I was! The whole thing was pure magic and I want to remember and cherish it all forever.

I was the talk of the hospital with my medical notes being so polar opposite from start to end!

I will shout hypnobirthing from the rooftops- I know if I can do it any woman can, you absolutely can love your birth!!!!!

For info on our upcoming courses, click here, and get in touch with any Qs. keri@doitlikeamother.co.uk, chloe@doitlikeamother.co.uk, steph@doitlikeamother.co.uk

 

The Story of High Risk, Low Risk and a Big Fat Lie

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By Chloe Mulholland

High risk and low risk- the two categories that women are lumped into when it comes to birth. If everything is straightforward (and I mean everything) then you’ll be lucky enough to be classed as low risk- great! This means you can freely choose where to have your baby and you can write a birth plan that suits you. However, if you find yourself with the slightest of complications- you’ll be labelled high risk and suddenly things get a whole lot more difficult.

At first it can seem exciting, or maybe a little scary and then as time goes by it can feel frustrating. You may start to find you hear the words “you can’t” a lot. For example- “you can’t have a water birth because you’re high risk”, “you can’t go overdue because you’re high risk”, “you can’t use the birthing unit because you’re high risk”. All your hopes of a certain type of birth may feel like they are flying out of the window and you are left feeling powerless, disheartened and disappointed.

I realise this all sounds like doom and gloom but there is a point to what I’m saying and it’s a good one. The point is that this whole high vs. low risk is a big fat lie. There’s no such thing. It doesn’t exist. Living our lives as we do puts us at risk- if I go for a walk I’m putting myself at risk, I might get hit by a car and break a leg, get stung by a bee and go into anaphylactic shock, who knows what could happen! It’s a risky life we lead. When we get pregnant there are risks involved there too. Of course they are, it’s part of life. So, why do we feel the need to label people as high and low risk? What does it even mean?

Well, generally speaking it simply boils down to whether or not you need an obstetrician involved in your care. It’s a handy way of midwives deciding if they need to refer you to see someone or not. This is not unhelpful and this makes sense. If you have a condition requiring a certain medication- obstetricians can prescribe it, if you require specific investigations in pregnancy- obstetricians can decide which ones are necessary and they can interpret the results, if you have a genuine need for surgery- obstetricians can schedule in the best time and then actually perform the surgery. They are amazing people, with an amazing skill set and if you need one involved in your care then be grateful that they are there for you.

The problem is that needing an obstetrician involved means that you then are classed as high risk. This is some the most unhelpful language we could have picked. Risk is a spectrum. Yes, some women are at higher risks of certain things but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are at a high risk. The only person who gets to decide if it is high or low- is YOU! You, the pregnant mum. If you deem something to be a high enough risk, then  you give consent for your caregiver to carry out whatever intervention is required. If you don’t deem it to be high risk- then you simply decline what is being offered.

You are the one in control, you are the one doing the allowing and you are the one that gets decide. Never forget that and don’t let being ‘high risk’ stand in the way of the birth that you want. Ask the questions that need to be asked, get the information you need to make those decisions and be brave! Stand up for what you believe, be the all-powerful woman you are and get the birth you AND your baby deserve (whatever path that may be).

 

If you’d like to give yourself a confidence boost and learn how to make the right decisions for the yourself and for your baby- then come and join us on a hypnobirthing course and we’ll show you exactly how- just click here to book. We’ve got group courses, private courses and relaxation groups across Leigh-on-Sea and Upminster and we would just LOVE to share our knowledge with you.

Why Does Prenatal Bonding Matter?

When I talk to people about bonding with their babies before they are born, I find I can get quite mixed reactions. To some it comes completely naturally to talk or sing to their bump, engage in ‘touch games’ when movement can be felt, or spend time simply focussing on their bump in an almost meditative way. For others the process can feel quite staged or unnatural, as though they are talking with nobody there to hear, or overthinking WHAT to say in the first place. If you fall into the latter camp, don’t worry – there are ways you can slowly start to incorporate time bonding with your baby with ease, but perhaps you’re wondering WHY it’s important to push through that initial discomfort when you could just mill through the pregnancy knowing you can bond once baby is in your arms?

Research shows us that time spent bonding with your unborn baby can improve your birth experience both emotionally and physically. Mothers who have spent time connecting with their bumps generally have lower stress levels, and are more able to engage with their baby during labour allowing the hormones needed to facilitate labour to flow more easily, resulting in a faster, easier and less painful birth. We also know that the hormones mothers and babies experience during pregnancy affect the development of the baby, the way his brain begins to wire. The great Michel Odent covers in great detail the ripple effect that early hormonal balance can have in his book Primal Health – why not give yourselves the most optimal start by using your 9(ish!) months of pregnancy to connect, relax and begin the transition to motherhood?

There are so many ways you could bond with your unborn baby, and you may already be doing it without even realising. They are sensitive to your touch, your voice, your emotions and your reactions to the outside world. If it doesn’t feel natural to make time to focus on your bump perhaps one or more of the following might be enjoyable to try… and like everything, it gets easier with time and practice – soon you won’t even think twice about it! Try choosing quiet times and places to start with where you feel less open to judgement, for example singing to baby in the car on your drive to work will probably feel more comfortable than doing it around other people initially.

Massage / touch responsive games – one of my favourite things to do when pregnant with Florence was to play ‘touch games’ – giving her a nudge and seeing if she responded, or returning a poke when she kicked me. Sometimes this game would seem really interactive with the amount of taps, or strength of movement varying we played. Massage is another brilliant way to use touch to bond. Gentle, loving, strokes around your belly, feeling your baby move within and both of you enjoying an oxytocin boost.

Read / sing / talk to your baby – they really don’t care about what you’re saying, but some people struggle to just chat to their bumps. If you find that’s the case you could try reading your favourite novel, todays paper, or a childhood book you hope they’ll someday enjoy at bedtime -just the sound of your voice is enough to benefit them as they begin to learn about the world they’ll be born in to… studies have shown that babies begin to pick up the foundations for their native language long before they are born, and that babies can recognise familiar passages from books they were read in utero after they have been born! They are also not fussy with music – stick your favourites on and sing and dance, they have their whole lives ahead of them to find their own tastes!

Yoga / meditation – taking time to focus on your body, your breathing and your baby is such a positive thing to do during pregnancy. Slowing your mind and allowing yourself to focus on your bump can rapidly increase the bond you feel, and allow you to learn about your baby – perhaps noticing their favourite position to lay in, or their natural rhythm of movements throughout the day. A class can be a great starting point as you’ll be guided through a safe routine, and be able to enjoy some relaxation time before leaving.

Writing in a pregnancy diary – I confess, I did this religiously the first time, and didn’t even buy a book for my poor secondborn!! However jotting down a few things each week or day about how I was feeling, any antenatal appointments we had been to, baby’s movements etc was a great way to make time to notice and appreciate those things, connecting us further. With Lenny I found myself reflecting back on the book occasionally again giving me time to notice, compare and enjoy the different aspects of growing a baby.

Affirmations – naturally! We know the power of affirmations is huge, and choosing ones which embody the connection between you and your baby will have a wonderful impact on connecting you to one another. ‘My body and my baby are growing together’. ‘Every breath is a chance to relax and connect’. ‘I am already a mother’….

Rest together – naps can be a great opportunity to wind down, get some energy and notice your baby. Paired with our brilliant MP3’s you’re onto a total winner in terms of bonding with your baby, and prepping for a positive birth!

Try some things out and see what works for you, enjoy your bump as all too soon the are gone, and that special intimate part of your mothering journey makes way for the next stage.

Steph x

Do It Like A Mother provide hypnobirthing courses and pregnancy relaxation groups in Southend and Upminster. I am back offering private courses in the Southend area as of May, at the special rate of £275 whilst Lenny joins us. We also run an online Motherhood Mindset mentoring programme.

You can join our community group here. And check out some of our free resources here. #doitlikeamother

 

Welcoming Lennox

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After about a week of on off mild surges keeping me guessing, on Thursday 22nd March I was woken around 5am by 2 fairly close surges in much the same way my labour with Florence started. I felt excited, sure that today was the day! I got up and though nothing really seemed to be happening bar the occasional very mild surge,  the instinctive feeling was still there. I dropped Florence off to preschool letting her know that if things ramped up we would make sure someone collected her to be there, sent Matt off to work knowing he wasn’t far away, then took our dog for a walk around the local park where I was having mild surges every 5-6minutes. We walked in the sun before heading home to wait for the midwife to pop in – I’d been due to see mine at her clinic but didn’t feel up to the half hour drive, so she said someone from the community team would pop by. A midwife I hadn’t met before called Sam came by and she was lovely, I asked if she would check my cervix to see if the build up showed any changes. I think I knew deep down that it wasn’t needed, but was starting to want some kind of light at the end of the tunnel as the on/off surges were becoming quite emotionally draining.

She listened in with her pinnard (a first for me!) before examining me, I was 1cm. I’d been hoping for a little more, but thankfully wasn’t too disheartened, knowing that cervical changes aren’t linear. After she left things continued as before, mild surges every 5mins or so, slowly getting closer together. I asked Matt to come home early afternoon for some company and we walked a similar route to when I was in labour with Florence, surges growing slightly stronger and closer together.

He collected Flossie at 3.30 as I didn’t want to venture out in the car. When Matt told her we thought the baby was coming she asked to stop off to buy me some of her favourite flowers – daffodils! When she got home, as lovely as she was being, the surges started to tail off, something inside told me this was still ‘it’ though, despite nothing massively different happening to previous days. Once she was tucked up in bed, they ramped back up in frequency, but still not intensity and by about 8.30pm they were around 3 mins apart, so on Matts request I called the hospital to say we hoped we would need someone during the night due to the frequency, but that we were coping fine at home alone for now. I was listening to calm music, utilising the birth ball, walking, light touch massage and sniffing clary sage on a tissue to help encourage surges and comfort.

By about 10pm the surges were coming every 2-2.5mins, so we called back as after our last labour Matt was worried staffing issues may affect someone reaching us. My midwife Lisa happened to be on call, so she came out to see us. Despite being a familiar face I still felt the observation change my mood slightly, and that combined with tiredness seemed to be easing things off again. I kept finding myself upstairs alone in our dark bathroom using the warm towel rail to lean on and gently breathe through surges which were much more frequent when up there. By around 12.30 Lisa could see things were not progressing fast, and suggested that I try and get some sleep. I was reluctant to in case it meant another complete stop to the surges like previous nights – by this point Matt had started to fill the pool knowing we would need to let the water reheat to get it full enough for me to get in, and I really didn’t want to waste the water! I decided to opt for a vaginal exam and told myself ‘4cm and under: go and rest, any more: push on’.

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Unfortunately found the exam painful and I asked Lisa to stop, it definitely spiked my adrenaline and my surges came to a stop. I found the experience and change in sensations difficult, but having been told I was 3cm I headed to bed to try and rest. I was sure I wouldn’t be able to, given the sharp pains now in my cervix and the mixed emotions that I’d asked for an exam which (despite helping me answer the ‘sleep or not?’ question) had left me feeling in pain, upset and annoyed at myself for not trusting myself more and making a decision without it! Lisa also went home to rest letting us know she would be back if things ramped up before 8am.

I did actually fall asleep some time after 1am listening to our fear release audio, before waking with a start around 3.15am. I wasn’t having surges, or in any pain, but I leapt out of bed desperate to bring this pregnancy to an end and meet my baby, so I hoped things would start up again if I got moving. I found Matt dozing on the sofa, but he hadn’t been there long as he had been emptying water from the pool with a bucket to ensure there was space for enough hot for when we needed it. He said he was heading to bed as I wasn’t having surges and he was exhausted, but to let him know if I needed him.. I think the previous stop / starts had him thinking this wouldn’t come to much either!

I stated to pace the living/dining room with just the dim light of my salt lamp, reading the affirmations my friends wrote on my bunting, smelling clary sage on a tissue and moving on my birth ball. My surges quickly came back, now with a sharp pain in my cervix which hadn’t been there previously, so as the intensity quickly increased I presumed it was more the earlier VE causing me to feel things more intensely, rather than me progressing quickly.

Almost hour after I came down I realised I was really having to focus and breathe through each surge whilst leaning over the ball, and that I was starting to feel pressure during them… I was still in denial that I could be getting close, but called up to Matt and asked him to come down as I felt I wasn’t coping given just hours ago I was ‘only’ 3cm dilated – he really wasn’t expecting to see me so ‘in labour’ and immediately snapped out of his dozey state and asked if I wanted to get in the pool, which I did. He started to top it back up with hot water whilst I continued leaning over my ball during each surge, breathing and vocalising slightly more each time. I didn’t realise it at the time but he also began to try and contact the hospital again around now (4.30am ish).

As soon as the pool was warm enough after a few pans & kettles as well hot coming through the hose, Matt helped me climb in between surges, which were by now incredibly frequent. The warm water was such a relief… for a few seconds, before I felt the next surge take things up a notch. Deep down I knew this was the start of transition, but I was trying to stay in total denial! I told Matt I needed to wee (just like in transition last time) he started to help me out, but I had to sink back into the water as 2 or three strong surges one after another took over (just like transition last time!), then I insisted I HAD to get out, so with help I got out and headed up the stairs. By then I was starting to shiver, but did a wee trying to tell myself I was just chilly, even when I started to really shake head to toe (surely not transition, despite this being JUST LIKE TRANSITION LAST TIME!). I actually find denial a really helpful coping tool but looking back it’s amusing to think how hard I tried to tell myself I was still hours off meeting our baby.

We went back downstairs and I got back into the pool and almost immediately my surges started to slowly move baby down.

Getting on for 5am Matt finally admitted to me that he had been trying to get a midwife out to us, but there was no answer from any  of the contact numbers for the hospital, by then he was worried baby would come before we had any support, and we decided to contact our doula Lynsey so we had some emotional support and a second pair of hands to let me feel comfortable waking Florence up to join us.

Matt got through to the hospital just after speaking to Lynsey. They said someone would call us back to arrange coming out, but Lynsey arrived quietly and unobtrusively before we heard anything. We decided it was time to get Florence up as by now the foetal ejection reflex was causing me to bear down and growl increasingly loudly! Matt woke her and told her baby was close, they waited upstairs for another surge to let her get used to the sounds I was making, and ensure she was happy to come down. The surge they listened through was the one where my waters went and I felt baby drop down lower, which I announced to Lynsey – it was the first thing I had said to her I think! She calmly reassured me they were clear, and at some point she also raised with me the question of if I wanted the paramedics called if the midwives didn’t arrive soon as it was looking close. I decided yes, but they could wait outside until if they were needed, so as not to change the atmosphere in the room.

Matt and Florence came into the room, it was a little surreal to see my not even three year old daughter sleepily coming towards me with a look on her face like nothing I’ve seen before: excitement, love, anticipation, joy, and a little bewilderment, before she reached out for me and we had the biggest cuddle over the pool edge. We held each other tight and she told me the baby would be here soon. It’s a bit of a blur, but she was lovely – at some point was stroking me gently, she offered me drinks of my Capri-sun, told me I was doing great and she came for another cuddle at some point just as a surge began. I pulled her in close, before realising I was starting to hold her a little tight and guiding her to Matt not wanting to worry her with the intensity I was feeling / giving off! She then sat on a chair in front of me watching with a look of awe on her face (whilst eating an Elsa cake bar!)

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At some point during this there had been a knock and the two midwives had arrived without the call back to let us know (which would have saved Matt a lot of stress!), as they came in I demanded the gas and air! I don’t really know why, I think I was shocked by how fast things had progressed and still trying to convince myself I had  way to go despite the intensity and feeling of fullness / pushing! They set it up for me and I took 2 or 3 breaths, before realising it was doing nothing at all for me… other than irritating & distracting me from my breathing and focus, so I dropped the mouthpiece at Matt returning to my zone.

As baby started to crown I naturally reached down to support the head emerging, feeling my body stretch slowly to accommodate what I could feel was a larger baby than Florence had been. I was so conscious to go as slow as I could, despite also wanting to just get the head out! Once the head had been born Matt had a look, and Lynsey lifted Florence over to the pool so she could see too. The excitement in her voice as she announced the baby’s head was out spurred me on so much! I reached back down and supported baby’s head, feeling the cord around his neck and him wriggle as he helped on his journey out. It was completely surreal! On the next surge, just after 6am on Friday 23rd March, I was able to lift baby through my legs and to the surface, cord was still around his neck and with help I unlooped it. I was staring at his face when someone asked about the gender, I don’t know if she had seen by then or was just feeling hopeful, but Florence shouted with glee ‘it’s a bruddah!!’ And as I lifted him to check I could see she was right. We had a baby boy, I was strangely unsurprised by the news. One daughter, one son, so perfect. She immediately asked to cuddle and kiss him

I moved closer to the edge of the pool where her and Matt were able to lean in and touch/hold us both. We stayed in the pool a while and our son soon began to search for the breast. I was feeling the smaller surges helping bring the placenta out, and when he latched on they intensified. After 30+ mins I decided to get out to birth the placenta, and after trying a few positions did so. I then spent another hour laid on the sofa with my baby boy connected to his former life source, the placenta.

Around 2 hours after his birth (and a shift change for the midwives) we decided to cut the cord. Matt tied the avocado cord tie I had made tightly, and Florence proudly helped cut the cord with him. We had a look at the placenta before letting the midwife weigh our baby. I had said for weeks before he was born ‘this is an 8lb baby’ but after he was born I looked and thought he could be no more than 7.5lbs… I was right the first time – he was 7lb 15oz of pure perfection. We drank tea, ate the birthday cake Florence helped me bake on the Wednesday evening, and enjoyed watching Florence fall as in love with her brother as we were.

I then showered whilst Matt snuggled our newborn skin to skin, before Lynsey helped me settle into bed and brought our baby up, helped put his first (tiny cloth!) nappy on and cuddle up for skin to skin and feeding. Matt then continued his hard work clearning up, emptying the pool and getting Florence fed. The day continued to be a blur of cuddles, breastfeeds, runs of Frozen and a few short visits from grandparents!

There is so much more I could say, but I would be here all day, so I’ll wrap it up! A fortnight on it’s like he was never not here. He’s slotted in perfectly, and I feel like I’ve recovered well already in such a short space of time.

I’m so proud of Florence for the support, love and maturity she showed throughout, and of Matt for being the strong presence I needed during the whole experience despite having his own worries at points (and I’m eternally grateful for him leading operation cleanup… homebirth dads deserve a medal of their own!!). I’m also hugely proud of myself for what I achieved; that despite a few hiccups along the way I felt mostly calm, confident, positive and excited about meeting my baby during the labour, that I was able to utilise all the tools I know from before help hugely during labour, and also for trusting that things would work out well at home despite hospital policy advising I should be in a much more medical environment after my previous minor PPH. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect birth for us to have experienced as a family. I ran on an absolute high for days and would absolutely do it all again tomorrow if I could, the experience felt so beautiful and powerful.

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I’m also grateful for Lynsey’s support – she seemed to ensure the perfect environment was maintained with minimal effort, that both Florence and I received the full amount of support we needed throughout, and for the breastfeeding support which has helped us get off to a much better start than last time (I’m sure a feeding post will follow at some point soon!). If you would like to hear more about how she could support you drop her an email at lynsey@motheringmatters.co.uk

You can read my previous birth story here too if you would like.

My breastfeeding story from Florence here,

And if you would like to experience a birth you feel this incredible about check out our courses. I will be back offering private sessions in the comfort of your own home soon – sooner if you are happy for a tiny boy to join us with a discounted rate to compensate for it!