Remembering Baby Eliza

This is a really hard post for me to write. It’s a part of my job which I wish I didn’t have to do but it’s life and with that comes death. Some babies sadly never make it to full term, some babies die whilst still inside their Mother’s tummy, some babies are born too soon and are too small to survive. We don’t always know why this happens.

Last year on my birthday I was working on labour ward. I’ll never know why I chose to work on my birthday but in a way I’m glad I did because I wouldn’t have got to meet Hannah and her little Eliza. Hannah has very kindly agreed for me to share her story on my blog.

When Hannah was around 28 weeks pregnant her baby stopped moving and she went for a scan but was told the devastating news that her baby had died. In this situation the labour has to be induced to deliver the baby so Hannah and her husband made to difficult journey to the labour ward to begin this process. I was assigned to care for her and spent the whole day with her supporting her through what must have been the most terrifying painful labour. Baby Eliza was born asleep in her bag of membranes at the end of my shift. The only noise in the delivery room where those of sobs from all of us, it was so so sad. Eliza’s birth will never leave me, and I feel so honoured to have been part of it and meet Hannah and her wonderful family. This year I didn’t work on my birthday but I thought of little Eliza and was overwhelmed to receive a birthday card from Hannah. We will always share those special memories from that day. My words don’t really tell this story, but Hannah made this beautiful animation about Eliza, narrated by her 6 year old daughter.

SANDS the stillbirth and neonatal death charity are a wonderful support for anyone who has been affected by the death of a baby. But like many charities they rely heavily on the generosity of donations and fundraising from the public. I know Christmas is only just around the corner and money can be tight, but if you feel you could donate just a few pounds it would really support people like Hannah and her family through such difficult times.

Calling All Mamas!

Inspired my Jenny @ MothersMeeting and Mummy Running I’ve decided to start a running club for like minded Mums in South East London.  If you’re anything like me, your running trainers you bought in the Spring to get you into that that bikini have barely touched the path in the park and your stomach, well it could do with some attention.

So come and run with me and other fellow Mamas every Saturday morning at 10am in Brockwell Park.  Seriously I am by NO means an expert, but I’m sure with Christmas coming we could all do with some exercise.  It’s absolutely FREE, all abilities welcome we’ll probably only manage once around the park in the first few weeks but every little helps!

Email me if you’re keen, bring a mate for moral support and I suppose as a midwife I should make you do some pelvic floor exercises too!

See you on the 1st of December!

A Breast Feeding Doll? What ever next?

How come this is ok?

And what about this?

This is my 2 year old feeding her toys in ways she has seen other babies being fed, both breast and bottle.  She’s benefiting from the social-emotional skills, role-playing and learning how to nurture which all part of her natural development.  No biggie here.

So when a US toy company brought out the Breast Milk Baby Doll last week, people claimed it was ‘creepy’ and ‘forcing children to grow up too quickly’.  I’m not here to go on about breastfeeding or bottle feeding.  How a woman chooses to feed her baby in entirely her decision, you don’t need to attend a NCT class to know which has more benefits.  But this doll did make me question the actual need for it in the toy market.  Why not just put a doll to the chest area and the child can pretend to breastfeed that way?  And priced at around £60, I’m far too tight to pay that price.

What do you think?  Will The Breast Milk Baby Doll be making onto your child’s Christmas list this year?

Creepy or ground breaking?





To Section or not to Section?

That really is the question.  And a very difficult question that a lot of women who have had a c-section with their first baby will face when having a subsequent baby.  I had a ‘normal’ delivery with my first baby so this was never an area I had to contemplate but a lot of my friends had emergency caesareans and found themselves debating what to do next time.  I know 2 people who have both been faced with this question, one opted for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean, the other chose to have an elective section).  Here are their stories.

The birth of baby Clemmie.

Baby Clemmie moments after she was born

I was adamant from the start that I wanted to experience as natural and positive birth as I was able to with my second daughter. My first, Florence, had been born by emergency caesarean section once it was discovered that she was breech. All in all, my first birth was a stressful, disempowering experience which left me with severe baby blues and many regrets. As my husband and I only planned to have 2 children, this was my last chance as I saw it to experience what birth was all about.  I had booked back into my nearest hospital, Lewisham, for the birth and stayed with them up until my appointment (at around 25 weeks) with a consultant midwife with regards to my birth plans. I said that I wanted a VBAC and although she said that Lewisham supported these, she also just gave me a huge list of things I couldn’t do/ ways in which they would monitor/ induce and generally interfere with me as I was now an official ‘high risk’ birth.  I came out of the hospital feeling exactly as I did when I left a year and a half before after the birth of my first child. The meeting had been so negative and I realised that if I stayed with Lewisham then there was no chance of me having a positive birth – how could I if the care givers didn’t even believe in my abilities as a birthing mother, or support a non intrusive approach?  I looked into going to Kings College Hospital and was immediately heartened by their literature on VBAC on their website. In a few different places they said that they recommended certain procedures, however they did make it clear that it was a mother’s right to choose what she wanted to do.  When I went for my VBAC appointment with the consultant midwife there, things couldn’t be more different. I explained to her that I did not want to be continuously monitored during labour (as I had found that the knock on effect of this is for your midwife to concentrate on the machine and its readings as opposed to you when they come into the room – you become invisible!) and that I wanted a water birth. She was very supportive and I felt that my decision to change to Kings had been vindicated.  As my due date approached, I tried to stay active and positive. Having a small toddler certainly helped to keep me on my feet! I am a strong, physically capable woman and wanted to capitalise on that in the lead up to labour and the birth itself. I started to have quite strong twinges and Braxton Hicks from around 38 weeks and had an inkling that I might go into labour early.

On a Tuesday evening in July, the twinges finally settled down into regular and fairly strong contractions, around 3 every ten minutes. They were very bearable and I just concentrated on keeping as mobile and upright as I could throughout the night (unfortunately they were strong enough to keep me from sleeping that night!). I didn’t call the hospital as I instinctively knew that I was far from established labour but I did call my mother who on Wednesday started the journey down from Yorkshire so that she could look after my daughter. A friend arrived on Wednesday morning to take Florence for the day so I could concentrate on what was happening. As it turned out, my contractions slowed down to around 1 an hour that day, giving my husband and I the chance for last minute nesting/ cleaning/ bag packing etc! (Thank you mother nature!)

My mother arrived that evening once Florence was in bed, and once my subconscious knew that my daughter was in safe hands, my body started up labour again. Contractions became regular and painful fairly quickly, and by around midnight I decided to call the hospital. They asked me to come in just to check how everything was going (standard for a VBAC) and of course this slowed everything right down. We found out that had effaced but not dilated at all. I sometimes wonder at the relevance and usefulness of knowing about dilation as it can be quite dispiriting to find you are not as far as you thought!  We returned home and I decided not to go in again until I really felt ready. By this time I was using a TENS machine, and I set up a pacing routine in our living room. The pattern became contraction (where I would hold onto my husband) and then pacing up and down, up and down until the next one. This went on all night until I called the hospital again at about 7am on the Thursday morning, and they said I should come in. My subconscious perceived another change and slowed the contractions right down again immediately! (Really shows how feeling safe and secure is imperative for an uninterrupted labour and birth.) So we waited around another couple of hours until I felt like I was beginning to find the pain too intense to remain at home.

We arrived at hospital at around half 8 and found out I was 4cm dilated. By around 9 I was in my own lovely birthing pool room and I quickly started using gas and air which just took the edge of the contractions. I was still in the contracting/ pacing routing which really started things moving along fast. I had discussed my birth wishes with the midwife who had examined me on arrival and now had the go ahead for a water birth with no monitoring. The knowledge that this was happening as I had wished, along with being safely in our lovely room with our midwife who was very supportive, meant that my body decided to get on with things so to speak.  I was in the pool at around half 10 (I think – although my sense of time got rather hazy around this time!) and from that time until I gave birth to our little Clemmie at 12.22pm, things happened very quickly. The contractions became very intense, regular and close together and I was in survival mode really. I loved being in the water and with no clothes on and having taken off my glasses, I went very inward – I couldn’t really see anything and I don’t remember talking really either. I would cope with each contraction as it came and catch my breath in between. I was vaguely aware of my husband and my midwife talking sometimes in between but apart from that I was in my own birthing world. What was wonderful is that I wasn’t once examined or taken out of the pool, so I really was able to just be in my own world.  By around 12 my body started behaving strangely – and I felt the urge to be kneeling almost upright, bracing my body against the side of the bath and then – PUSH! What a strange feeling that was! I was aware of making quite a lot of noise, but there was nothing I could do about it, it just seemed the most natural thing to do. I knew I was suppose to stop pushing and ‘breathe’ my daughter out, but this didn’t exactly happen either as again, I just couldn’t stop my body pushing my baby out – I have never before felt the power of what my body is capable of and it still amazes me now to think about it.

And then, before I knew it, our little Clemmie was born.  What a feeling of relief although I was at first concerned about not dropping her into the water as by this time my poor legs had almost given out due to my contorted birth position.  It was a perfect birth and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

Click here to read a fantastically written blog by a midwife, explaining all about VBAC.

Click here for more information in the UK about VBACs, your choices and all you need to know.


Labour Bag Essentials

We’re off to a celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday this weekend, him and his wife have hired a beautiful house in North Somerset for 35 of their friends and 17 children! It will be loads of fun but I’m already panicking about what to pack. I’m a terrible packer, mainly because I always over pack and my husband then makes me re pack ‘You don’t need 2 sets of pyjamas for one night away’ and ‘why the need for 3 jumpers when we’re going to Greece’ are common sentences heard. I just HATE not having the right things, or thinking dam I wish I had thought to bring that! The reality is I end up getting it right for the children; wellies, coats, hats, gloves, bike, scooter, buggy, travel cot, beaker, bunny, spare bunny (you get the gist) that I always rush packing my own bag and get it so wrong.

When it came to my own labour bag I knew I had to get it right. I felt I had a head start on what you really need, and quite frankly what you really don’t. People always over pack, especially the food bag as most of the time once in the throws of labour you can’t bear to think about eating those Jelly Babies the NCT seem to promote so much.

I love babies, but I couldn’t eat a whole one

I have seen so many fathers to-be desperately trying to find a hair band that his partner needs ‘NOW’ in the bottom of the bag, whilst flinging out baby blankets, maternity pads and extra large M&S black cotton knickers. You see, women generally pack their labour bag during the last weeks of maternity leave. The time to meet girlfriends for lunch, have a pedicures and afternoon naps. Most women enjoy packing their bag, it’s all part of the nesting period. But the men, well they are at work trying to finish those big deadlines and hoping the baby won’t be late so they won’t lose any of their paternity leave. So when the contractions start they are so set on supporting their partner, timing the contractions and remembering where the hospital car park is, that they have no idea where that hair band is.

I think it’s easy to forget what you actually need as the woman. Whether you’re planning on having a water birth or epidural there are some things that everyone should have in their labour bag, and they don’t take up much space. So here is my Top 10 Essentials for your labour bag.

My Top 10 essentials

  1. A pillow, and not your best White Company pillow case on it. Just a cheapo one from Primark will do.
  2. A mirror, I really wanted to see the baby’s head crowing when I was in the pool, but for the rest if you who aren’t so mental it’s always good to check your reflection before the in laws arrive to meet the new baby.
  3. A wide head band, this was great for getting my fringe off my face when I felt hot in labour.
  4. ipod. Most delivery room have Cd players but I really liked having the headphones on my ears during labour and blocking out the sounds around me. (See Push Music Post for my birth playlist)
  5. Dark chocolate, I ate the entire bar just after my daughter was born, it was like little squares of heaven and it’s full of iron so a fantastic way to increase your iron levels without feeling guilty!
  6. Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour cream perfect for dry lips after too much gas and air- the average length of labour for a woman having her first child is estimated between 12 to 18 hours, so this cream only needs to be applied 2 and a half times, perfect!
  7. Ear plugs to block out the sound of your annoying partner, only joking! The postnatal ward is notoriously noisy at night with other babies crying so these might help you catch a few seconds sleep.
  8. Lavender oil. This is an all rounder essential oil, for massage during labour, putting on your maternity pad to help perineal healing and onto your pillow to help with relaxation and sleep.
  9. Facial mositure spray. This can be in the form of a ready bought product or as simple as water in a spray bottle. Either way I felt really hot in various stages of my birth and my husband used this on my face and neck to cool me down.
  10. Warm socks or slippers. Weirdly feeling cold is also very normal in labour and putting these on whilst I was still mobilising around the room before getting into the pool made me feel cosy.

And remember, make sure you show your other half where all these things are in your bag. There’s nothing more annoying whilst your contracting having to show him what you mean by ‘side pocket, zip up section purple wash bag’.

What labour bag essentials do you swear by?

Mothers Meeting- Meet the Midwife

Meeting a midwife at London’s coolest hang outs Shoreditch House with other pregnant Mama’s to-be, for an exclusive antenatal class sounds like something I would have LOVE to have done when I was pregnant.  Hang on a minute I did go, except this time I was the midwife speaking to 18 pregnant eager to know ladies!  I haven’t done antenatal classes since my 3rd year of midwifery training, when I very badly demonstrated how a baby is born using a polar neck jumper and doll to a group of 8 women and their partners in a cold, musky smelling church hall.  It was pretty dreadful, cheap tea and coffee and the worst choice of budget biscuits were awkwardly eaten in silence.

When Jenny Scott founder of Mothers Meeting and uber cool mama of one, asked me if there was a better alternative to antenatal classes, we put our heads together to try and incorporate stylish and informative where no question is a stupid one.  The result, an amazing workshop last Saturday in the cosy Snug room at Shoreditch House, fresh coffee, tea, pastries to die for and not a budget Bourbon in site.  Perfect.  The morning was such a success we’re looking forward to hosting many more!

Check out other amazing events for Mamas and how to attend future Meet the Midwife sessions at

Alternatively contact me or leave a comment below.

Star Gazing Babies

Star gazing, face to pubes, back to back, or more technically Occiput Posterior (OP).  What ever you want to call it it never seems to be associated with positive stories.  I have delivered only a handful babies in the OP position all of which totally shocked me as I wasn’t expecting a little face to be peering up at me!  However I still feel I don’t know enough about why some babies are in this position as opposed to the occiput anterior position (OA).

Throughout your pregnancy, your baby will wriggle into all sorts of positions as your uterus grows.  By around 35 weeks your baby will begin to sink into the pelvis ready for birth.  Sometimes women say to me that this is around the time they notice a change in their babies movements.  It it usually associated with the lack of space the baby has as the head is nicely slotted into the pelvis; those little kicks and punches you use to get change to twists and turns.  The ‘occiput anterior’ position is ideal for birth – it means that the baby is lined up so as to fit through your pelvis as easily as possible. The baby is head down, facing your back, with his back on one side of the front of your tummy. In this position, the baby’s head is easily ‘flexed’, ie his chin tucked onto his chest, so that the smallest part of his head will be applied to the cervix first.  The ‘occiput posterior’ (OP) position is not so good. This means the baby is still head down, but facing your tummy. Mothers of babies in the ‘posterior’ position are more likely to have long and painful labours as the baby usually has to turn all the way round to facing the back in order to be born.

So, what can you do to prevent an OP baby?  Well, avoiding positions which encourage your baby to face your tummy. The main culprits are lying back in armchairs, sitting in car seats where you are leaning back, or anything where your knees are higher than your pelvis.  The best way to do this is to spend lots of time kneeling upright, or sitting upright, or on hands and knees.  When you sit on a chair, make sure your knees are lower than your pelvis, and your trunk should be tilted slightly forwards.

  • Watch TV while kneeling on the floor, over a beanbag or cushions, or sit on a dining chair.  Try sitting on a dining chair facing (leaning on) the back as well.
  • Use yoga positions while resting, reading or watching TV – for example, tailor pose (sitting with your back upright and soles of the feet together, knees out to the sides).
  • Sit on a wedge cushion in the car, so that your pelvis is tilted forwards. Keep the seat back upright.
  • Don’t cross your legs!  This reduces the space at the front of the pelvis, and opens it up at the back.  For good positioning, the baby needs to have lots of space at the front.
  • Don’t put your feet up! Lying back with your feet up encourages posterior presentation.
  • Sleep on your side (preferably your left) and never on your back.
  • Swimming with your belly downwards is said to be very good for positioning babies – not backstroke, but lots of breaststroke and front crawl.  Breaststroke in particular is thought to help with good positioning, because all those leg movements help open your pelvis and settle the baby downwards.
  • A Birth Ball can encourage good positioning, both before and during labour.

I felt it was important to hear some positive birth stories where the baby was in the OP position.  Ironically two of my best friends both had OP births (one at home and one in hospital) and agreed to share their story with you.  Over to you Lucy.

For my second child I was keen to have a home birth.  Having swapped sides of the bed for 8 months or so in order to lie on my left every night, in order to get the baby into the supposed optimal position (head down, back to my left hand side) for the quickest and easiest labour, things did not turn out quite like I had hoped.  In the days leading up to labour I had a show, lots of Braxton Hicks and my waters broke on the Monday eve.  As I was keen not to go much over my due date, the midwives had given me 3 sweeps on 3 consecutive days and said things would happen soon (was 2-3 cm dilated on last sweep).  I went for a massive walk on Tuesday in order to get things moving (as time was running out and would have to go shortly into hospital to have the labour stimulated as it was almost over 24 since my waters broke).  I then spoke to my lovely knowledgeable friend, and midwife Clemmie who suggested trashy TV and nipple stimulation to get the contractions started.  My older daughter had gone to stay at my friend Emma’s the night before as we thought it would all kick off after the waters breaking and we knew that she would come back probably later that day if I did not go into labour.  Anyway with the thought in mind that I did not want my older daughter running round while I was trying to get into the labour mindset,  45 mins into Made in Chelsea and it kicked off!  Contractions thick and fast immediately, midwife came within 20 minutes, tens on, hardcore rave tunes on the ipod, lots of gas and air and I got into the pool 2 hours later as I knew the pushing was starting.  In my head I only wanted to get into the pool once I was reading to push and things were going according to plan.  I expected 5 or 10 minutes of pushing and was really chuffed with myself for being on the home straits.  How wrong I was.  After 2 hours of pushing the second midwife suggested I get out of the pool.  I knew the baby was just struggling to come out and was finding it impossible to get into a comfortable position to push.  The water was not helping which I found very surprising.  Anyway as I staggered up our 3 steps, heading to our loo upstairs, pushing on the way, aware the contractions were slowing down and much shorter in time length and I was told that they were calling an ambulance to get me to hospital as the pushing was going on for too long.  I threw everything into a few last contractions and the ambulance arrived simultaneously with the baby, on the loo!

It turns out the baby was OP, or “head to pubes” as they seem keen on calling it!  So despite my 8 months of hating lying on my left, all in the name of having an easier birth, Astrid Audrey was determined to make things difficult and remain in the awkward OP position and therefore came out with a terrible cone head.  No-one knew until she arrived that she was back to back and she had broken blood vessels along her cheeks from the endless pushing.  In hindsight if I had known I probably would not have been at home but I am chuffed all the same I managed to get my home birth.  Why was she in that position? Possibly due to the extensive lying down I did every evening on the sofa and the hours in the car for work during my pregnancy but I will never know!

Baby Astrid shortly after her arrival

Emma chose to have a home birth with her first baby, Isis.  Here she tells her story of how Isis had other ideas.

I definitely took my first pregnancy much more seriously than my second. I laid off the booze, kept active and consumed a couple of box sets a week . I didn’t go as far as shunning Stilton or letting my roots show but I do remember wanting to get the birth ‘right’.  Doing it at home seemed like a no-brainer, as did reading everything Sheila Kitzinger had ever written.  I went to weekly yoga sessions, had reflexology and employed the help of my sister’s Doula friend.  Hell, I even went to a Janet Balaskas workshop.  “Mark my words, you’re going to fire this baby out” my mother beamed as I gyrated on a birthing ball.  She couldn’t have been more wrong.  To cut a very long birth story short, nothing went as planned.  Contractions were all over the place, my waters didn’t break and rather than breathing baby out in a candle-lit living room, I spent most of my time straddling the toilet.  When I was finally coaxed into the birth pool, everything ground to an almighty halt.  So, 8 cms dilated, I transferred to hospital where I pushed for 4 long hours.  Eventually a doctor strode in, gave me an episiotomy and my daughter flew out.  “Ah” said my midwife, as if it all made sense, “she’s a star gazer, that’s REALLY lucky.”  But having sustained a black eye from throwing myself around in labour so forcefully – not to mention having had my foof unceremoniously sliced – the experience felt far from fortuitous.  After the birth I spent a long time researching back to back labours and berating my midwives for not knowing my daughter had turned the wrong way.  Turns out it’s pretty hard to diagnose. Five years on and the emotional and physical scars have faded nicely, I even went on to have another baby.  Back to back labours are no fun but I know it could’ve been a hell of a lot worse.

Isis, the little star gazing baby