Sleeping Tips For You and Your Baby

If there’s one true fact about having a newborn baby in your life, it’s that your sleep patterns are about to become massively altered! Those carefree nights of eight hours sleep will be a long distant memory, as your new arrival will keep you busy with worries of whether they are getting enough, or too much sleep.

Unfortunately for many of us, there is no tried and tested method for getting you and your baby into a well-established sleeping pattern. As all babies are unique, they will all have their own little quirks when it comes to nodding off!

What to expect

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The main thing that you’ll notice will be that your baby will not know the difference between day and night. And they will certainly not know that we’re meant to sleep for eight hours without interruption!So it’s a good idea to try and train your baby early in understanding the concepts of day and night.

Ways to do this in the daytime include making sure you keep the curtains open and don’t worry too much about making noise – many babies will even find it soothing to hear your activity. And at night make sure that you keep the lights down low and try not to over-stimulate your baby with visitors or distractions.

Although it may be hard, it’s also a good idea if you can try and adapt your sleeping patterns to your child’s too. Whilst this may be easier said than done, it’s important during the early months to keep your baby in the same room as you. So make sure that you have a good, comfortable mattress that will aid you getting whatever fragments of sleep you can!

Setting a routine

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It’s also important to try and establish a daily routine, so that you baby will gradually become accustomed to when the right time to sleep is. So from the time when they are about three months old, try and introduce a nightly bedtime routine through some gradually calming activities such as having a bath, dimming the lights and of course having a bedtime story and a cuddle!

How much sleep is enough?

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Whilst there are no fixed rules for how much sleep your child should get, there are a few guidelines to let you know what to expect.

Newborns will definitely sleep more than they are awake, with many sleeping as much as eighteen hours per day, with frequent interruptions for feeding of course. And this will gradually decrease so that by the age of two years, most children will only need around twelve hours of sleep per day. Leaving you to figure out how to achieve your mythical eight hours per night!

Pregnancy Diary – 40 weeks!

Preparing to meet our water baby

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

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

Monday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday

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

Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I go home to bed, feeling grumpy.

Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birth Story Of The Week – Sarah and Quinn

OK, pregnancy number two. Baby number two. Birth number two. And I’m determined. Determined that second time around I will achieve the natural, drug-free water birth I so longed for.

My first son was breech, he got tangled up in his long long legs and just couldn’t flip himself around.  I tried an ECV turn procedure and every old wives tale in the book to try and turn him, but it was no good and he was born via “elective” c-section, a big baby at 9lbs.

I really didn’t want another c-section. I had found my experience to be quite cold, impersonal and clinical. Second time around I was incredibly lucky to have the wonderful Clemmie as my midwife. Together, at each stage of the pregnancy, we discussed how I would like my second birth to be and she helped me to fight for it. It turns out you need to fight quite hard to be allowed a waterbirth as a VBAC. The hospital wanted me to be continuously monitored in case of scar rupture, but I really wanted to use water as my pain relief, I know how much it relaxes me – even a bath at the end of a long day! But, everything was going smoothly with my pregnancy (after a cheeky low-lying placenta managed to move itself well out of the way of the exit!) so after a couple of different consultant appointments, and with huge support from my midwifery team, I was allowed to proceed with my wishes and aim for a natural water birth.

At my hospital, all women are given a third scan at 36 weeks. So, feeling heavy and hot I arrived with my husband with what should have been the final scan of the pregnancy, the last time we would see our baby on the inside before we finally got to meet them.

Everything seemed fine and the baby seemed healthy, but the sonographers started muttering to each other in that way that they do which makes your ears prick up and try to strain in to their conversation, was everything ok?! They asked a consultant sonographer to come and rescan me. They were concerned about baby’s size. Given my first son was 9lbs and both my husband and I are quite tall, we were never expecting a small baby, but at 36.5 weeks, this babe was already measuring at 8.5lbs. They told me I needed to return the next week for a follow up. Bad news. The next week’s scan showed even more dramatic growth and they expected a birth weight of over 10lbs. Now that’s a big baby. Too big unfortunately. Too big to deliver naturally when I had had a previous c-section. They were seriously worried about my scar rupturing and it didn’t help that I’d started getting shooting pains in the scar area. I was so disappointed as they signed me up for another c-section. I didn’t want that experience again. Firstly they suggested to book it in at 38 weeks but I was determined not to miss my best friend’s getting married which was happening that week, so I convinced them to book me in at 39 weeks. Obviously that meant I had a greater chance of going into labour naturally too which I was secretly glad about!

In the days that followed I spoke at length with Clemmie about how I might be able to improve my surgical experience this time around. We made a plan. My husband was tasked with making a playlist for surgery. First time around I had generic radio playing some awful songs and it was actually distracting. Rob compiled a CD for us of music that was both soothing and special to us. Clemmie was tasked with making sure I had proper skin-to-skin contact immediately post-birth, which I didn’t get first time and Rob wanted to cut the cord. She also put me in touch with Hollie from The Calm Birth School who bent over backwards to send me hypnobirthing books and MP3 affirmations. It had never even occurred to me that I could use these techniques to keep me calm, relaxed and focused even in a surgical environment.

So, I made it to 39 weeks, even raving it up on the dancefloor of our friend’s wedding until midnight 2 days before the c-section! I was feeling good and prepared, thanks to Clemmie and Hollie’s advice, to meet my baby at last!

I entered the hospital that day feeling calm and happy. We went through the motions of prepping for surgery and my midwife team and my husband did an amazing job of distracting me from any nerves.

The feeling of the surgery first time around had freaked me out, I’d expected to feel nothing, but although I was pain free, I could feel every detail of what was happening and I was scared. This time around, I used the hypnobirthing techniques to help me focus and keep calm. I knew I was doing the best thing for me and my baby and the most important thing was that he would arrive safely. Entering the theatre I was greeted by friendly, familiar faces and my music was playing. The first song was Cinematic Orchestra’s “Build a Home” which is our most special song. The clinical tools and machines in the room which had scared me first time around, just faded out as I just concentrated on my husband, the music and the excitement that we were about to meet our second child. I honestly forgot there was anyone else in the room.

Quinn was born moments later. He weighed in at 11lbs. Now THAT’s a big baby!

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The consultant had to wrestle him out of my pelvis as he had got well and truly wedged in. She immediately reassured me that I had made the right decision to have the c-section as he wouldn’t have delivered naturally. That was exactly the right thing to say to me. I felt relief and acceptance of the experience. Quinn was quickly taken away and Rob helped Clemmie cut the cord. He was bundled up and brought straight back to me for my first cuddle. The next 45 mins, the remainder of the operation, was spent in an intimate moment, just me, my husband and our boy. The room was still full of people, but Clemmie had helped to create an environment where we could just be together, happy tears, our music and skin-to-skin.

Sarah owns and runs Archie’s Boutique an online kids design and concept store. If you have little ones check it out but be warned you won’t leave with an empty basket.

Birth Story Of The Week – Ali and Estelle

We planned a home water birth for the birth of our first baby.  We had bought a pool which we blew up at the weekend I turned 40 weeks pregnant (10 August 2014) and felt ready for labour to commence. However a few issues presented themselves at the latter stages of my pregnancy which potentially jepoardised this which I will explain below.

The first issue was a low platelet count (140 ish) which had been noted in one of my blood tests in June (although not picked up until July).  As a result, I was being monitored by the community midwives with regular blood tests. My count was slowly decreasing as the weeks crept on towards my due date of 10 August, despite my best efforts to increase the level by eating lots of red blood cell enriching foods like cherries, beetroot, sesame oil and green vegetable ‘pond’ juices. While the community midwives supported a home birth, so long as the platelet count did not decrease below 100, there was a strong desire from certain medical staff for me to give birth in the hospital/birthing suite. I had resisted this. My platelet count was on the lower end of the range at my 12 week scan so I was confident that the lower level in pregnancy was relative to that and, therefore, would not give rise to issues during labour.

The community midwives also said that I would not be advised to have a home birth if I went 10+ days overdue. To that end, they suggested I should consider membrane sweeps to encourage labour to commence.  I decided not to consider a sweep until I was 41+ weeks to allow time for labour to commence naturally, without intervention. In light of the next issue, I was very pleased I had opted not to have for any form of induction.

The platelet issue paled into insignificance once the next issue presented itself during a routine ante natal check carried out at our home when I was 40 weeks + 1 day on 18 August 2014. A midwife, whom I had not seen previously, carried out palpation on my bump and suspected our baby may be breech. I could not believe it. All previous ante natal checks had identified my baby as head-down and, by this stage, 4/5 engaged. A second midwife, also in attendance that day, was also uncertain as to whether our baby was breech. I was shocked to hear this at this late stage in my pregnancy.

The midwife was fairly confident that our baby was head-down. Such was her conviction, she sent me for a scan at the hospital the following day, rather than an emergency scan on the same day.  Upon arriving at the hospital, the midwife carried out palpation and she also thought the baby was head down. However, upon carrying out the ultrasound scan, one of our biggest fears was realised when our baby was confirmed as being breech. I was devastated as I believed our home birth was an impossibility and I was naturally concerned as to any consequences of the breech presentation in relation to our baby’s health/delivery.

I had to wait in the hospital from 11am on Tuesday 12 August 2014, when the breech was diagnosed, until 7.30pm, before an ECV (a procedure carried out by a consultant doctor to try and manually turn our baby) was performed.  I was told this was because I needed to be nil by mouth in the event I needed to go into theatre for an emergency C section.  This was far from ideal at 40+ weeks pregnant on a hot summer’s day on a hospital ward. After the ECV failed to turn our baby, I was told by the NHS that the only option was a C section.

Before the ECV was carried out, the obstetrician asked if we had packed our overnight bags, suggesting she fully anticipated us having a C section that evening and therefore, by implication, that the ECV was not likely to be successful. Of course we had not packed our bags; we went to the hospital fully expecting to receive confirmation that our baby was head down, as the midwife had indicated.

While I waited for the ECV procedure to be performed, I started to research breech birth and came across three midwives who were experienced in the field, namely Shawn Walker, Mary Cronk and Jane Evans. Shawn Walker very kindly spoke to me once I left the hospital and discussed matters with me at length. Separately, in the days that followed, I was also in email communication with Mary Cronk and spoke to Jane Evans who was very helpful. It was interesting to note that Jane’s daughter had given birth to a breech baby.

From my research, it seemed that breech presentation was not abnormal, it was, in fact, a variation of normal. This was something I held at the forefront of my mind in the coming days.

As I was 40 weeks + 2 days, the hospital wanted me to sign a consent form to have a C section on Friday 15 August 2014. I spent that evening/into the early hours of the next day frantically researching breech presentation and the possibility of vaginal breech delivery. The possibility of a breech vaginal delivery was not discussed at the hospital.

I had been practising Natal Hypnotherapy for the majority of my pregnancy and attended a 2 day workshop in Wimbledon. This, I believe, gave me the confidence to trust my body’s ability to give birth naturally and to trust my instincts, both of which led to our birth story I describe below. I would highly recommend the birth preparation CDs and the workshops to anyone preparing for labour. I had our mind map on the wall of our bedroom, together with a series of positive affirmations.

On the evening of 12 August, after I was discharged from hospital, I searched Google for “natal hypnotherapy” and “vaginal breech” and found Ruth Atkinson’s birth story. I emailed Ruth at an ungodly hour desperately hoping she would reply to my email. Time really was of the essence given the late stage of my pregnancy. I was truly grateful when I saw Ruth’s reply in my inbox at around 11pm at night. One of the things she said which gave me an element of hope was “All is not lost. It is still possible to have the birth you want…”

Ruth kindly spoke to me the following day and shared her birth story which was, strangely, not too dissimilar to mine in respect of the breech diagnosis late in her pregnancy and her desire to have a vaginal breech delivery. Ruth told me about the wonderful Maya Midwives who had supported the safe arrival of her breech daughter, vaginally, at home. I therefore wasted no time and contacted Andy at Maya Midwives on Wednesday 13 August. Andy discussed my circumstances on the phone and then sent me various information by email to read on breech presentation, including Jane Evans’ AIMS guide ‘breech birth what are my options’. Interestingly, Andy was also a breech baby herself.

Andy and Viv of Maya Midwives then came to our house the following day to discuss matters in person. My husband and I digested all of the information and decided we would engage the services of Maya Midwives and opted to continue with our home birth. I was so happy to have the support of Andy and Viv, both of whom shared similar views to my husband and I as to natural birth.

For various reasons, the NHS was still involved in our birth plan for a short while after this. Various senior midwives were in contact with us at that time and were concerned that we were opting for a home birth.  They therefore sought to highlight their views (on several occassions) in relation to the risks of a breech birth at home; their preference was for us to attend the hospital for the birth. However, I felt that the hospital didn’t really go into such detail as to the level of risk in relation to a C-section.  This was at odds with our informed decision to have a home birth (which we had already told the hospital on many occassions) and only served to add to what was an already stressful time.

This sentiments of this quote rang true during this time: “The more Wisdom you attain and the more Conscious you become, the crazier you will appear to others

We also hired another midwife, Kathryn Weymouth, to assist. Kathryn lives 60 miles away. Kathryn had experience of vaginal breech birth and was happy to attend the birth, together with the support of Liz Nightingale. I think our baby (given the moniker: Beatty) knew not to come until we had our team in place.  By this time, we had an excellent, supportive team together (including my wonderful husband). It was  therefore a matter of waiting for labour to commence.

By 41 weeks, Beatty had still not arrived. However, the midwives recommended that I ought not to do anything to try and induce labour, whether that be reflexology, acupuncture and/or a membrane sweep as it was important for a breech baby to come when it was ready, or opt for C section. So, it was a matter of (patiently) waiting.

Maya Midwives therefore embarked on ‘Project Relaxation’ as it seemed apparent that my body/mind were in a state of flux given the issues of the preceding week. I believed that I would not go into spontaneous labour until I switched of my ‘thinking brain’ and allowed my primal bran to engage, something I learnt in Natal Hypnotherapy. Project Relaxation was a lot of fun and involved making a belly cast of my bump, decorating candle holders (blue peter style), acupuncture and lots of candle lit baths.

All the while, I was getting many messages from friends/family wondering if we had had our baby. As each day went by, I was getting more anxious as I knew post 42 weeks would bring further issues to bear. We had even booked a fetal well being scan on Harley Street (as we were keen to avoid attending the hospital, where possible, to avoid further pressure from the hospital as to an elective C section) to check Beatty’s heart beat, amniotic fluid and blood flow to the placenta. I was not overly concerned as there is perhaps unnecessary significance placed on the ‘guess date’; many people had said to me that babies come when they are ready. In France, for instance, full term is considered to be 41 weeks, so there are different interpretations of ‘full term’. Beatty continued to be very active with lots of kicks which Andy said was a good indicator of Beatty’s wellbeing.

I wrote a letter to Beatty and read it aloud to her and also talked to Beatty several times a day to try and encourage her to start her journey into the world. I knew we could do it together and I truly believed that. At 41 + 6 days, my contractions started at 3.45pm on 23 August 2014, while eating strawberries and cream in the garden on a lovely warm day. They were irregular and not very strong. I had had the same sensation a couple of days before, while watching a DVD, when I had to get out of bed to ease the sensation, however on this occasion it passed after an hour or so.  We were therefore convinced that this was another false start.  Nevertheless, we walked to the park to try and encourage more contractions. While I had a few sensations, they continued to be irregular and did not increase in intensity.  We did, however, practice filling the pool but promptly emptied it, again not anticipating labour to commence imminently.

We received a message from one of our NCT group at around 2.30pm that day to confirm they had welcomed their little boy into the world, 2 days’ early. I was delighted for them but it served to emphasise the fact we were still waiting for our little one.

After a little break from the contractions, we retired to bed. However, by 8.30pm the contractions were coming more frequently and with increased intensity. We called Andy and Kathryn; Kathryn was watching an open air screening of Grease Lightning!  As both Andy and Kathryn were over an hour away from us, they both decided to come over to our house. This was much to the relief of my husband.

My surges were concentrated in my back so my husband massaged my back with increasing force to counteract the sensations. My contractions continued but did not seem to progress sufficiently therefore Andy and Kathryn, together with a student midwife, Suyai, retired to bed. I continued to have infrequent contractions throughout the night. I recall shouting at my husband (who was asleep) to massage my back throughout the night. We all woke up around 7am and, as my surges continued in a similar manner, the midwives decided they would give my husband and I privacy to seek to encourage labour to progress. They all went into the local town for breakfast. My husband made me breakfast of yoghurt and fresh fruit but I promptly threw this back up again.  I was in the kitchen on my exercise ball and could feel myself drifting away from my husband and the environment around me and retreating into my own body. Once the midwives arrived back at 8.30am, I was in established labour. The midwives did not carry out any internal vaginal examinations, rather they read my behaviour to assess progress.

I had never really considered where I would labour in the house but I remained in the bedroom. I recall it was a lovely sunny day outside but we kept the curtains closed to create a more ‘safe’ enclosed environment. The Natal Hypnotherapy relaxation music was playing in the background for the duration of the labour and we had lavender essential oil in a diffuser. The midwives were very respectful of our own space and left my husband and I alone for much of the time.  I do recall Kathryn the midwife giving me an amazing massage (she is a trained masseuse) on my lower back. It really did relieve the sensations I was feeling. I also had an essential oil mix on a piece of cotton wool to smell during labour to ease my slight nausea; I have a very vivid memory of this.

My waters broke in our bathroom during one of my contractions at around midday. I realised I was getting ever closer to meeting our baby! My husband and I were prepared for the transition stage from labour to pushing. However, I do not recall this period in the labour, nor does my husband; although, in retrospect, it may have occurred when I asked Kathryn if I could use gas and air. I think this was a moment of slight panic in my mind when I knew I was entering the final stage and thought I may need assistance. Kathryn gently discouraged this and I was happy to proceed without gas and air. I did have 2 paracetamol at some stage but not sure they would have had any effect whatsoever!! I did, however, use my TENS machine throughout labour and found this really helpful for easing the effects of the surges and it also served as a distraction, together with the tools I learnt with Natal Hypnotherapy.  I also made loud chanting sounds of AHHHHH and OOOOOM to get through the surges which I learnt from JuJu Sindin’s Birth Skills book – I would highly recommend this.

At around 3pm ish we were all preparing for the birth of our daughter. The midwives prepared the bedroom with the dust sheets and old bedding. I assumed a side lying position on my left side. This was an odd position in the sense that I had never considered this position in any of my birth preparation classes.  I recall the bedroom was very hot as we had to use a heater to ensure the room was sufficiently warm to receive our baby.  During the pushing stage, my husband pated my forehead with a cold flannel which was replaced regularly by the midwives to ensure it was cool. I also had lots of coconut water throughout the labour, together with ice cubes, made of honey/lemon and himalayan sea salt, raspberry leaf infused water and black molasses in hot water to maintain my energy levels.

Our baby was slowly descending but I could sense that the midwives were keen for me to change positions, although they very much allowed this to be led by me.  As a matter of common sense, it would have been more logical for me to be in a vertical position/all fours. I had pulled a muscle/ligament on my left side at some stage during labour so I was not desperate to change positions, as I knew it would hurt.  However, something urged me to jump onto an all fours position. Once I changed position, our baby seemed to descend much quicker. The midwives have since commented on the extent of my movements during this stage – I was almost kneeling at one point, then swaying my hips left to right and then leaning forwards in a prayer position. All of this behaviour was instinctive, rather than conscious, and the midwives believed this assisted our daughter’s birth. It felt like Beatty and I were doing a little dance with one another.  I was comforted that our daughter was almost dancing with her little legs hanging out of me and she was a lovely colour, whereas some of the videos I had seen of vaginal breech deliveries involved a baby looking a little limp and blue.

I recall the sensation of our daughter’s bum coming out and then her legs. I could sense when Beatty’s body had flopped out. I recall looking through my legs and seeing Beatty hanging there, with her head inside of me. We had kept the sex of our baby a surprise so I was constantly asking the midwives if they could discern the sex. As our baby passed urine, they could tell it was a girl. My husband and I were so surprised as 95% of people had said they thought it was a boy. While we had no firm view either way, we had become convinced that it was a boy; it was a lovely surprise to hear it was a girl.

I did not have another contraction to push out Beatty’s head for around 5 minutes. It felt like a long time. The midwives were not too concerned as our daughter’s lips were peeping out of me and her lips were opening and closing to take in air.  The only time the midwives intervened was to lightly move the cord to allow our daughter to breathe.  As no contraction came, I pushed without a contraction and my daughter was born at 4:17pm, exactly 14 days after her due date. It was the best feeling. My husband, who had been attending to me the whole labour, gave me a big kiss and then the midwives put our daughter in front of me on the floor. I couldn’t believe she was ours. I didn’t pick her up straight away while I took it all in. I then held her close to my chest – skin to skin – and we had our first cuddle as a family.

Our daughter was 8 lbs 9 ounces (the midwives did comment on how big she appeared as she was being born – I always had a strong suspicion that she was going to be a big baby!) and 52 cm long – although she appeared much longer; most people have passed comment on this since her birth. Our daughter scored 9/10 on her APGAR score.

Given established labour started around 8.30am that morning, labour was fairly quick. I also only suffered a minor tear which did not require any stitches. When I spoke to Jane Evans she told me that breech births are generally fairly quick and that generally women don’t tear – so breech birth does have its advantages!

We then all moved to our bed with our daughter in my arms while the midwives tidied up around us. One big bonus was that the student midwife, Suyai, used to be a chef so she made an amazing breakfast for us of eggs, bacon, spinach and tomatoes – beats hospital food any day! Andy also made me a lovely placenta smoothie and I ate some of the placenta immediately after the birth, when resting in bed. I cannot be certain, but I attribute the fact that I did not suffer any baby blues to the placenta which I consumed. I believe this regulated my hormones and replenished vital nutrients lost during labour.

I will treasure forever the memory of the three of us snuggling in bed that evening. If we had given birth in the hospital, my husband may have been asked to leave us that evening which would have been awful.  This was another (of many) advantages to a home birth.

Our daughter was slow to latch on but after a couple of days of practice, she was guzzling away – her new found hobby.

If the hospital had had its way, our daughter would have been born on 15 August 2014; that was not her time. In fact, the midwives noted that our daughter did not show any signs of being particularly over her due date. We were delighted she came naturally on her true birthday and not a date fixed by a hospital.

We did not name our daughter until a couple of days after the birth; such was our belief that our baby was a boy, we had not properly considered girls’ names. On Tuesday 26 August, we named our little breechling Estelle Augusta Barker – inspired by the main character in Charles Dickens’ novel, Bleak House, Estella. A strong, formidable character which we hope Estelle will be, too.

20140824_161904_edited-1 (1) IMG_20140824_164453_Lucas DSC_0867 copy 20140824_163826_edited-1 20140824_163737_edited-1 (1)A big thank you to the midwife team for all of their incredible efforts/support in the safe arrival of Estelle, to Ruth Atkinson for her inspirational birth story which gave me the strength to follow my instincts and a final thank you to my wonderful husband who supported me throughout the pregnancy, labour and beyond.

10 ways to savour your last days of pregnancy

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Hollie de Cruz, co-founder of The Calm Birth School shares her tips for relishing the run up to your baby’s birth.

So you’re nearing full term. You’ve finished work; you’ve bought the pram and assembled the nursery furniture. You’ve folded and re-folded 200 bright white muslins and now all you need is your baby. The last days of pregnancy can be a funny old time. Your friends and family are harassing you via every form of contact available to see if you’ve had the baby yet (oh, let me just check my vagina…NO!), strangers in the street tell you you’re massive, and of course you’re excited to meet this sweet little human who you’ve been growing and nurturing for so many months.

We all know that due dates should be taken with a pinch of salt. Full term is considered anything from 37 to 42 weeks, which makes it quite tricky to hone in on when exactly that magical day will arrive. When caregivers and well-meaning friends start talking about you being “overdue” at a day past your 40 week guess date, it’s no surprise that many women start feeling anxious and fed-up, or even bored of playing the waiting game. I want to let you in on a little secret though. When you stop worrying about times and dates, this period can be one of the most precious times of your entire life and – embraced openly – can even help prepare you for a better birth experience.

How’s that you say? Well when we feel relaxed and happy we naturally release endorphins. Endorphins are the feel-good hormone of love, and they go hand-in-hand with oxytocin – a key hormone that’s required for labour to begin. If we are anxious and stressed we produce adrenalin, which not only inhibits labour from starting, but makes things much less comfortable and efficient when they do. The good news is that you can’t produce endorphins and adrenalin at the same time, so if we focus on maintaining a state of calm and happiness, we are more likely to enjoy this period AND have a better birth. So over at The Calm Birth School we’ve put together our top tips for what to do whilst you’re waiting for your little one. And remember, the only one who’s privy to this due date is your baby. Trust them.

1.     Write up your favourite affirmations: That’s right, we recommend picking five to ten affirmations that really resonate with you, and not only affirming them to yourself now, but writing them down so that you can look at them when it’s time to birth your baby. Get your birth partner involved with this too. If they know what your favourite affirmations are, they can whisper them to you during labour and that feels AMAZING. If you’re looking for affirmation ideas, go and check out @calmbirthschool and @lovelybirths on Twitter, or @londonhypnobirthing on Instagram.

2.     Write a letter to your baby: Okay so it sounds a bit daft, but we believe in the power of prenatal bonding over at The Calm Birth School. Use this time to connect with your baby – tell them you can’t wait to meet them, and that their birth is going to be gentle and joyful. Writing this in a letter means they’ll have a lovely keepsake to look back on when they’re older, and will help you identify that innate bond you’ll call upon on your baby’s birthing day.

3.     Pamper yourself: You probably haven’t been too close to your toes in a while, so take the opportunity to go and get a relaxing pedicure or manicure. Sit back and relax with a good book or a magazine and enjoy this precious quiet time to yourself. Or why not get your hair done? It may be a while before you’re back to your blowdrys, so make the most of it now and feel as fabulous as you truly are.

4.     Make time for you and your partner: This is a really important one. Sometimes we’re so busy rushing around to get things ready for the imminent arrival, that it’s easy to forget that this is the last time it’s going to be just the two of you. Indulge in it. If you have the funds, splash out on a little babymoon, but even a day by the sea, a lovely walk in the forest or a romantic meal for two can be a lovely way to connect and appreciate each other before your life expands. And bonus points for getting physical! Intimacy promotes the production of those wonderful endorphins I mentioned earlier, and might even get things going if the time is right.

5.     Read about breastfeeding and go and buy your nursing bras: Many mums are so focused on the birth that they forget to think about what life will be like with a new baby. If you’re planning to breastfeed, read lots about it and equip yourselves with the knowledge and tools you need – just like you’re doing for your birth. I also suggest buying your nursing bras now – choose something super comfortable and pretty, so that you feel well supported and of course every bit the beautiful goddess that you are!

6.     Cook some food: That’s right. When your baby arrives you are going to be occupied with staring at their amazingness for about 90% of your time, but you don’t want to live on Wotsits, so start filling your freezer now. Make big batches of things that can be easily heated up and don’t require too much prep (or washing up).

7.     Ditch your alarm clock: You will probably never need an alarm clock again, so just bin it now and enjoy some last minute lie-ins. Have breakfast in bed, read a great book and just enjoy some extra well-deserved Zzzs.

8.     See your friends: If you’re on maternity leave, arrange a lunch date with some of your girlfriends or meet them after work for a nice dinner. The chances are you’ll want to stay close to home for a while after your baby is born, so use this opportunity to go into town, see an exhibition, and let your lovely friends nurture and support you. If you don’t feel like going out, organise a girl’s night in.

9.     Go to the cinema, on your own, in the day! This was one of my favourite things to do when I was on maternity leave. It felt like such a treat to go and see a film during the day, and you practically have the whole cinema to yourself. Combine it with a gentle walk home or lunch with friends and you have yourself an excellent day!

10. Relax: It sounds simple, but it can sometimes be the one thing that’s overlooked. If you feel tired, go to sleep. If you feel stressed, relax. This is a great time to just look after number one. So listen to a deep relaxation MP3, have a warm bath with some essential oils, and practice your breathing techniques so that they become second nature when labour begins.

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The Calm Birth School is the world’s first online hypnobirthing course. Videos and MP3s are delivered to your inbox once a week for four weeks, so that you can create a calm and positive birth experience from the comfort of your home. Enroll now atwww.thecalmbirthschool.com/course or email hollie@thecalmbirthschool.com for more information.