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?

The Marathon of Labour

As another day of endless rain descends on the UK during the height of Summer and I look desperately at my toddler hoping she won’t grow up and hate me for taking her to Sainsbury’s for the third time this week (look its indoors, it sells a great selection of flowers AND there’s a Starbucks), I have a small glimmer of hope that in 5 weeks we will be on holiday!!!! The blue skies and hot Mediterranean sun makes me happier than nothing else in this world (apologies if that’s sounds shallow) but my husband will agree. I’m a completely different person on holiday yes Vitamin D and me are the best of friends. But there is the small issue of bikinis, and with bikinis comes the 2babies/haven’t done exercise since last summer/always says yes to cake, tummy.

So I’ve started running.  Only once around my local park (it has a huge hill) and I hate it.  I really really hate it.  I know I could have joined the gym but I would have only sat in the sauna for 2 hours and to be honest I really dislike exercising in front of skinny people especially in confined spaces.  So the park seemed like the best option but when I reach that point (usually 10 minutes in) when I feel like I’m going to die, the stitch in my side is unbearable and that disgusting taste has developed in my mouth I think about labour.  Not just when I was in labour but when I’m with a woman helping her through the toughest points.  Let me tell you a little story of Zoe.

Zoe and Ben were having their first baby; she came into hospital at 39+5 weeks during one of my night shifts and was found to be 6cm dilated, membranes intact contracting strongly.  I suggested she should try the birthing pool and an available room was found.  As the pool was filling she started using gas and air and was finding the contractions really painful and difficult to cope with.  The pool was ready and she got in and immediately relaxed.  Her waters broke half an hour late and she started making involuntary pushing sounds with each contraction.  My student and I stood back and waited quietly as we observed this amazing stage of labour.  After about an hour of pushing, Zoe started getting really tired and fed up.  She couldn’t understand why her baby hadn’t been born yet and wanted to get out of the pool and have an epidural.  I reassured her that her baby would be here soon and she was doing such a fantastic job.  I suggested putting her finger inside her vagina to see if she could feel her baby’s head (I hadn’t examined her at this point) and she said she could and it didn’t feel that far away!  This gave her some encouragement that she really was close to meeting her baby.  But exhaustion had kicked in and the contractions had started to wear off.  I asked Ben what snacks they had in the bags and he produced some Flap Jacks and a bottle of Lucozade.  We fed this to Zoe and with a bit of nipple stimulation the contractions came back with a vengeance.  But Zoe still found it difficult to get through those last few pushes.  I asked Zoe if she had ever run a marathon which she said she had done a 10K a long time ago so I used this analogy to help her focus and visualise.

Labour is like running a marathon; it’s really hard, really physically painful and you will push your body in ways you never thought possible.  But you will do it, you can do it and there’s a finishing line, meeting your baby.  Zoe gave her absolute everything in those last few pushes and birthed a beautiful 8lb 5onz baby boy.

And that birth story isn’t the exception.  So many times I have heard (and also myself) women say ‘I can’t do it’ during labour.  Birth is probably the hardest thing your body has to go through but self-belief, a bit of preparation and support from your birth partner means you most definitely can do it.

What To Do If You’re Over Due

5 days over due

5 days over due

If the supposedly ‘official’ due date for the Royal baby was the 13th of July, then in medical terms Kate is late. Poor old ‘weighty Katie’ is now over due. The bun has well and truly cooked and the world will carry on waiting to hear the news that she is in labour. So in light of this here are my top 10 Tips of things to do if you go over due.

(I have this reoccurring thought that maybe she has in fact already given birth. That maybe she birthed calmly in her own home with 2 supportive pro normal birth midwives. In the pool using her hyponobirthing techniques and now she is blissfully enjoying her baby moon back at her parents house in Berkshire. Just a thought)

Your EDD.  The date which you have had etched in your mind since you first found out you were pregnant.  The date the sonographer changed at your 12 week scan and made you less pregnant than you originally thought, and then changed again at your 20 week scan. You gaze at your diary counting down the days until you finish work and maternity leave starts.  But as it is estimated that only as little as 5% of babies are born on their due date, and the majority of first time pregnancies going over due by a week, no wonder women get totally fed up when there is no sign of baby.

So I have decided to make a list of all the things you should do to keep you busy and stop your mind going crazy when you receive the 10th text of the day from yet another friend asking if you’ve had the baby yet??  (Um let me just check my vagina, nope still no baby yet).

  1. Don’t tell the whole world when your actual due date is. Or constantly update Facebook and Twitter with ’39+6 tomorrow we will get to meet our baby’.  Because as I’ve just said you probably won’t have your baby on it’s due date unless you fall in the 5%.  Just say ‘Oh some time next week’ and add a few days.
  2. Meet your work mates for lunch. And remind yourself how brilliant it is that you don’t have to worry about stressful deadlines and work related politics for at least 6 months, a year if you’re lucky.
  3. Read Birth Without Fear By Grantly Dick-Read. It’s peaceful and empowering especially if you’re feel a little freaked out as every person you meet in the street decides to tell you their horror birth story.  Yeah thanks, really helpful.
  4. Put all those ‘How to Put You’re Baby into a Military Routine’ and ‘How to Be the Perfect Mother’ books back on the shelf.  It’s not worth reading them yet, your baby certainly hasn’t read them.  Maternal instinct is an amazing thing and has guided women Motherhood since Eve had Cain and Able.
  5. Unpack your labour bag and get your partner to re pack it.  That way he will know where everything is and you won’t have to show him where your hair band is in the throws of labour.  See my post on Labour Bag Essentials.
  6. Go to the cinema with your partner/best mate/sister. You’ll probably won’t go again until your baby reaches it’s first birthday.  And anyway you’ll be so tired you’ll fall asleep half way through and miss the big reveal.  I’ve never seen the end of Atonement.
  7. The same goes for that book sitting on your bedside table, finish it now or you’ll never finish it.  I started reading again when my first was 18 months old, it was a big achievement not to be reading a 5 page ‘Lift the Flaps’ book.
  8. Have a pedicure. Mainly because it’s nice to look down at your toes after the baby has been born and not at your saggy tummy.  I went for OPI Big Apple Red, it was bold and daring and made me feel a bit glamorous when I really felt like I had been up for 3 days at a warehouse rave.
  9. Clean your kitchen floor, on all fours.  It will look shiny and clean but more importantly it will get your baby into the best position for birth.  See my post Star Gazing Babies.
  10. Have sex with your partner.  I know it’s the last thing either of you want to do but it’s nice to be intimate.  I think ‘Spoons’ is the only practical position to try when carrying a huge bump.  But more importantly oxytocin (the hormone that controls you contractions) is released during sex especially if you have an orgasm (bonus!) and semen contains prostaglandins which can help to ripen and soften the cervix.

What did you do to keep yourself busy when going over due?

Birth Story of the Week – Helen and Soren

This is Helen’s second appearance on the blog she also wrote her first birth story which is featured in my book ‘How To Grow A Baby And Push It Out’. Helen writes and publishes the magazine Lionheart, lives with her partner and 2 children in Bristol.

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I’m sitting here now with baby Soren right next to me, my rounded tummy still making for a good laptop perch, a yearning for chocolate digestives and a cup of Yorkshire tea. I’ll get up soon. I’m drinking in the various newborn faces and positions; milk drunk, yoga baby, pout squash cheeks, waving when asleep and dreaming arms.

There’s so much that’s the same as with my daughter, but he’s very much his own person with his own manner, energy and blossoming self. He frowns when he feeds, is utterly obsessed with the trees and the birds and is mesmerised by what’s happening around him – watching, learning. It’s amazing to see the difference in our home since he has arrived. Quite subtle I thought, but now I realise not at all. He has bought with him something that feels very centred, grounding and calming. A big wallop of spirit, that has floored me like his sister did before him. A boy of the earth and sweet like the kindness found in a homemade cherry pie (hungry), freshly delivered to tired newborn parents. He’s of that ilk – good folk.

This birth story was one that was highly anticipated. Giving birth once before did not make me feel more relaxed. The unknown had been a benefit to me in summer 2013. Lolling about in the park by my house with ice lollies, I said I didn’t have a plan, but of course, I did. And more importantly, so did my daughter. I very quickly realised that my labour and birth experience was more about remaining zen and the care of health professionals, who are all amazing, than having the right scented candles. Anyway, after having a tiny bit of a dramatic time, I found myself pacing the birth centre waiting room five days overdue with my second baby, palms clammy, feeling hot like a kettle left on a stove too long, whistling. And about to bubble over.

Having had a bit of a miserable first trimester, where I felt that I had no control and I couldn’t rationalise, or go without a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, I had a more jolly second and third trimester filled with yoga and contentedness. However, as the thought of induction put on its white jacket, I clammed up. And clamming up is probably not a good idea for birth, right? I felt reduced movements at 40+5. Nothing to worry about, nothing to worry about. “Go to the hospital,” said the midwife. Waiting for hours, enormous chocolate bar, hooked up and soon the baby was galloping about in there. That tug and pull of a baby having a party inside of you, so utterly not bizarre. But wild all the same.

The midwife had us in the following day and we had a scan that showed (the baby!!!) the baby’s stomach was a very tiny amount not as big as it perhaps should be. My partner questioned the graphs, the curve of the line, but this was no spreadsheet – this was our kid. I had a little anxiety creep up through me as I lay with jelly on my tummy, right from the tips of my toes, to the top of my head. Gahhhh. My heart beat hard, I could see it pounding under my top. The baby was snoozing. The news was induction. I had a wave of relief. The end was in sight.

Then that evening, in a complete turnaround filled with some unknown source of energy, I had an enormous surge of motivation and determination. NO! I wanted to try everything I could to flow (?) this baby right out. Stop clamming up, open up, think positive and calm thoughts, do some yoga, focus, eat some more chocolate. C’mon baby! I was like a wilde woman that night. And it felt great. I was given about 18 hours by the midwife that evening and I was going to do this. I WAS!

I have no idea if what I did caused the baby to start their great descent, or it was just time, OR the moon, but in the morning at around 9am, I had twinges. Then a show, then more twinges and more show. I called the induction ward who said they didn’t have any room for me anyway and were very happy for me that I was on the way to baby land. They were less happy about the show, which I thought may have some meconium in. So at 11am, we trotted off to the hospital. The twinges were much stronger, but nothing too crazy. I was dropped off at the hospital, while our daughter was delivered to friends. My partner found some parking he deemed acceptable, purchased a hefty amount of snacks and at length… he arrived.

By then my contractions were pretty regular and getting more intense. I was on the checking ward with the same midwife as I’d had the previous couple of days. Determined to create a spa (ahem) like zone for labour, I filled the curtained space with a large and very soft, deep blue blanket, excessively spritzed the air with Lush Breath of Fresh Air spray, breathed into a muslin with Bohobo aromatherapy oils soaked in (including clary sage) and opened a large bag – or two – of Maltesers. As I sat on the bed, the tightenings pushing harder and harder, I was in a mini trance. I was going places, ya know? Deeeep careeeervous plaaaaces. I was. I WAS. Please. However, I was still not quite moving anywhere fast enough according to the hospital, who told me I had until 2pm before I would have to really think about the drip.

“Can we go for a walk? To the hospital Costa?” I said.

“To Costa… well, OK. But you must NOT spend too long over there. Second babies do come quickly, you know. Hmmm. OK. Go now, then.”

Loved her.

My mantra, my mantra, my mantra: “I’m not having the drip, I’m not having the drip, I’m not having the drip.” Repeated continuously, all around the car park, in the Costa queue, looking at even more sandwiches for Charlie, chicken, chicken, not chicken, up the little hill. round the roundabout, in the little garden. I knew something was happening, it definitely was, but I wasn’t sure if this was it. Was it enough? Everything felt different to my daughter’s labour. The contractions were like surges, the pain more of a pull, the pressure felt like it was in a different place. Strange!

2pm. “Come on then! Ooh, I love that spray. What was that again? Lush, ooh I’ll have to get some.” We were on our way to the delivery suite. Noted to myself to get the midwife some spray. Loved her and how she got us a salad lunch when we’d been waiting ages the other day, and how she let us go to Costa and how she is excited for us, and – ahhhh, there it was again. Kind midwife: “Are you scared? Don’t be. It’s OK.” I wasn’t scared, but it was a really big contraction that stopped me. Head in the big blue blanket. OOOPH. We walked on and met our new midwife, while lovely midwife told us that her shift finished at 8pm, so hopefully she will get to meet our baby.

Our baby.

Lots of discussion over the drip. Pacing, wondering, powering, singing, humming. I asked the midwife to examine me, as I felt like I needed to know if I was moving at all. She is surprised and in a good way. YES! I was at 6cm. MASSIVE jubilation! But not too much. Breathe, breathe, breathe. She said they wouldn’t put me on the drip now anyway, as I was really contracting. Things were moving and though pretty catchy, my million repetitions of “not having the drip” were able to be replaced with something else now. Hooray!

The midwife left us to it and I took out YesMum Hollie De Cruz’s relaxation MP3. I had listened to this quite a few times in the last couple of months and it helped me to focus. I went into myself. I can still smell the clay sage and I think I heard: “Hello, my name is Hollie de Cruz,” about ten times. I kept hearing it again and again. My mind and body doing something together. I saw Charlie sitting on a chair, faffing around, eating a sandwich, reading the news. Eating another sandwich. Spinning, spinning, focus, focus – I was in this one place and it was cushioned and cosy and powerful. A central, nourishing and vibrant home, a heart beating and echoing out, my head in a pillow, my body some kind of buttttttttterflyyyyyyy.

“Toilet!” I went to the toilet aided by Charlie and then everything stepped up. It sped up, quicker and quicker. “Hello, my name is Hollie de Cruz,” breathe the air, iiiin and out. Gas. Gas. Gas. On all fours. Breathe. “The baby’s coming!” It was coming. How long had it been? A moment, a breath, the clock. An hour. An hour! An hour?

“Ahh, lovely,” she said. “I’ll get what we need, one minute!’

No time for minutes, or seconds, or “PRESS THE ALARRRRM!” I could feel the pressure really strongly, this baby was coming now, now, now! Suddenly she was there and with someone else and the pressure was so immense. I could feel the baby move down in a really big motion. And it was amazing – so low, so low, so lowwwww.

On the bed. I was. Gas. No more Hollie. Just me and – I remember shouting, “Make it stop!” Then some howls, the intensity of the WHOLE SITUATION.

A BABY WAS COMING OUT OF ME!

No more gas. Stop.

Breathe

My baby was coming.

I was instructed to push with all my might. I did this and then again, and again. Then I was asked to stop when I was told: “Keep going, keep going, keep going and stop, pause,” the midwife said slowly. The pause, the moment, the moment when birth and life become so intertwined, it’s at once incredible and humbling and for me, a point of utter clarity. Maybe that’s what it was, but. For that moment the room became bright white, clear and still. Time stopped and there was nothing but the brightest white, soft light and total and complete peace.

Then in an instant, one massive push and before I could even take a second breath he was on my chest screaming, red, plump and beautiful. I couldn’t believe it. So fast, so startling, so gentle, such an avalanche, a flurry of emotions, a numbness, a shock. I stared at him, I looked into his eyes, he fed, he screamed, he slept.

I think I had expected him to be exactly like my daughter. She was all I had known afterall, but of course he was him. Calm and wanted to be close, to be able to look into the eyes of another, to hear my voice. That night on the ward, I stared at him, picked him up, popped him down, fell in and out of sleep, watched him, fed him, fretted over his lack of needing to feed, changed him, cuddled him. Then just stopped. I lay with him beside me and slowly the feeling I had expected to immediately arrive as it had with Alba, trickled and then flooded over me. It breathed life into my weary body and doubled my heart. A bag of Maltesers lay melting underneath me.

He came on a full moon in spring and his smile is a balm, a pure joy. Soren is a rocketful of energy, calm and love and we are honoured to have him in our family.

The Birth Story of Ottilie and Delilah

It’s difficult to know how to start this birth story. I still can’t believe I only gave birth to the twins just over 2 weeks ago. If you’ve followed this blog you’ll know this was no easy pregnancy, there were so many uncertainties; the horrendous morning sickness, the scary bleeds in the first trimester,nthe reality of going from 2 children to 4, both babies being breech for what seemed like ages and the fear of Obstetric Cholestatis returning.  Well it did with a vengeance. In brief I had bloods taken at around 28 weeks into the pregnancy to have a look at what my bile acids and liver function tests were doing (I hadn’t started itching at this point) and they were already abnormal. After an initial wobble my amazing midwives and Consultant calmed me down and a plan was made to repeat the bloods in 2 weeks. By the time those 2 weeks came I was already itching on my hands and feet so I was started on lots of medication, creams to sooth my skin and Piriton to help the irritation. When people ask what it’s like to have OC, the only way I can describe it, is like ants biting under your hands and feet and no scratching will ever ease the itch. And the itching isn’t just on your hands and feet it’s everywhere. Legs, arms, bump, boobs. My skin was so damaged I was covered in bruises and scratch marks I looked like I’d been in a fight. It’s worse at night and some nights I wrapped cold wet flannels around my hands and feet to relive the burning sensation. The one thing that kept me sane was the amazing online support charity ICP which had a Facebook page where sufferers can post questions and receive help and advice. At 5am when I hadn’t slept this was a life saver.

By 34 weeks I was at breaking point, I was hardly sleeping and nothing was helping with the itching. I took myself off to see my Consultant full of tears and worry and begged her for an elective section. I could see no way of carrying on until 37 weeks feeling so tired, so I figured it was best to deliver the babies early to put me out of my misery, plus they were still breech and transverse so a vaginal birth was not recommended. Again my amazing Consultant calmed me down, talked me through the options but did a quick scan just to check their presentation. And guess what, they were both head down and twin 1 was engaged! I was shocked, I hadn’t even felt them turn. So it was decided to induce me at 36 weeks, have some steroid injections to help mature the babies lungs and she prescribed me some amazing sleeping tablets (which are safe in pregnancy) to ease the nights. I went away feeling calm, confident and for the first time excited to birth my babies.

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We had a date for the induction so over the next 2 weeks I listened to my Hypnobirth relaxation MP3  every night, stuck my YESMUM to be cards all over the house and had weekly massages from my wonderful doula. I could do this and everything was going to be fine. A few days before my induction date I had lots of early labour symptoms, a bloody show, loads of period pains, cramps and back ache but no babies. I felt confident that my body was getting ready for Friday and carried on practising my breathing techniques with my husband.

The day came to meet our little squirrels and we headed to the hospital at 7:30 am to meet my midwife and consultant. I was sneaked into a birthing room (I didn’t want all my colleagues to know or see I was on labour ward) and the plan was to have my waters broken and hopefully get things going. By 8:30 my waters were broken (I was already 4cm dilated) and I went off with my husband and doula to walk up and down 4 flights of stairs. My doula had my squatting, walking sideways you name it we did it. I felt like I’d done a Zumba class. My doula brought a wet flannel with her which had lavender and clary sage oil on it and I sniffed it like mad woman, I actually felt quite high. After 2 hours nothing was happening and we went back to the birthing room to talk through my options. My midwife head came into play and I knew the next stage was having the hormone drip. I wasn’t scared or worried about what this would mean but I knew time was ticking on and I wanted to get on with the labour, I even said ‘I want to feel these contractions now’. I was aware I was clock watching so my husband suggested taking the clock down from the wall.

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So we started the drip on a low dose which meant I had to be continuously monitored on the CTG machine. This wasn’t a problem as I sat on the ball leaning over the bed (still with my Hypnobirthing MP3 in my headphones) so I didn’t feel restricted or confined to the bed and could still be upright. I managed to totally switch off from everything around me, it felt like it was just me and my husband in the room and the calm voice in my ears from Hollie de Cruz.  After about half an hour the contractions were very mild and didn’t seem to be building into much so my midwife slowly increased the dose and I carried on rocking on the ball. I breathed through every contraction imagining a wave breaking gently on the shore ‘inhale peace, exhale tension’. *Just to say at this point, this was the first time I’d practised hypnobirthing techniques during my own labour so by no means was I an expert but I just kept the breathing techniques as simple as possible.*

After another half an hour the contractions had picked up and felt I needed to work harder to focus on my breath and not tense my shoulders or jaw, this is when the breathing really helped to keep everything soft. I took my husbands hand during every one of these contractions and held the wet flannel to my nose to inhale the lavender and clary sage, still keeping my eyes closed throughout. After a pretty intense contraction I walked to the bathroom to try and have a wee (my doula had been giving me sips of coconut water after every contraction which was just brilliant). I couldn’t manage a wee and stood up and had a really strong contraction which was horribly fierce and took me by surprise, I leaned onto my husband  trying to get back into my breathing and said ‘I can’t do another contraction standing up ‘. We walked back to the ball and it was clear the drip was definitely working as the contractions were really regular at this point, maybe every 2 minutes. I picked up the gas and air and rested the mouth piece in my mouth, not inhaling it just having it there as a comfort. The next contraction came and I instinctively knew I wanted to get on the bed (I’ve never birthed on the bed in my other labours) I turned onto my right side and felt a change in my body, a sensation I knew yet still couldn’t believe I was at that stage. Pressure. It was in my lower back right on my sacrum and there was no ignoring the different sounds I began to make.

My midwife head popped back on as I heard the paper of delivery packs being unwrapped and opened my eyes to see my midwife had changed out of her own clothes into scrubs and my consultant standing there smiling and looking pleased. ‘I’m not at that stage yet it’s way too soon’ I declared and they all reassured me that twin 1 was on her way. I suddenly felt scared and told my husband who calmed me down and told me l was going to be fine and brought me back in the zone ‘inhale peace exhale tension’. I still insisted on keeping one of the ear pieces from my headphones in one ear as I couldn’t bear not to have those sounds keeping me calm.

My body then took over and I began to feel twin 1 moving down in my pelvis at quite some speed because before I could even think ‘I can’t do this’ her head was crowning and my midwife asked me to slowly breathe. I don’t recall waiting for another contraction because a few seconds later she was on my chest skin to skin and screaming. I couldn’t really believe how quick it had been but was well aware there was another baby to birth.

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My midwives kept the hormone drip running so that my uterus continued to contract and within 5 minutes I felt the next wave of contractions building and asked for her cord to be cut and clamped and my doula took her for a cuddle so I could concentrate on the next bit. Another moment of me being a midwife crept in as I recall looking at my midwife as my consultant quickly scanned the second twin to make sure she was still head down. ‘I’m not having a forceps!’ I declared as I heard the sound of the metal instruments being tided away from a delivery pack. ‘No you’re not having a forceps you’re having a baby’ my consultant said to me. The contractions were strong very quickly again and my midwife broke the sac of water of twin 2 and I felt her begin to follow the same journey her sister had only made a few moments before. I was still on the bed but had rolled onto my back, one midwife encouraged me to rest my leg onto her to ‘make more room for baby’ a phrase us midwives say a lot! ‘God I hate it when midwives say that’ I announced to my midwives, they all laughed. And before I even had time to think about the ‘what ifs’ I felt that same sensation of her head emerging, followed by her body. I had done it.

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The placentas came out fused together one significantly bigger than the other but both looked healthy. My blood loss was minimal and I didn’t have any tears or grazes! (good old perineal massage). We spent the next hour munching on delicious goodies from the snack bag (thanks Jo) drinking tea and trying to master the skill of tandem feeding. After a quick shower (best feeling ever) and freshen up we were transferred to the postnatal ward where I was lucky enough to have a private room. My husband and I stared at our new baby daughters, both completely elated and exhausted at the same time.

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We named them Ottilie Pearl and Delilah Iris just in time for their big sisters to meet them the following day.

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28 Weeks – Warts and All

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*Warning, this blog post may contain a bit of TMI but it’s all true and sometimes you’ve just got to share this stuff because lets face it, sharing it caring (or so I try to teach my children when I want some of their chips).*

 

I often get asked how this pregnancy compares to my previous singleton pregnancies, so far it’s been kind of the same minus the extra scans and the same repetitive questions from people (are they identical, do you know the sex, are there twins in your family etc etc) but OH MY GOD something has seriously shifted in the Hooper uterus because in the past week I have noticed some seriously weird goings on in there!

  • Firstly the movements, they still feel like a bag of dancing squirrels but both babies are breech at the moment and the kicks down onto my cervix and vagina are UNREAL! I swear the other night if I had examined myself internally I would have discovered 2 sets of wriggling feet in there (I know logically this is impossible but still) #fanydaggers
  • And whilst we’re on the subject of ‘down there’ let’s a just say it’s a good thing I can’t actually see it any more because by the end of the day I feel like I’m smuggling plums in my pants. I did in fact get my poor husband to have a check to make sure nothing more sinister is going on, he reassured me there wasn’t but did ask if I was ever going to wax again……
  • Which leads me onto the ‘to wax/or not wax question’. I’m not sure I want to expose that area unnecessarily and lets face it I’m not getting my bikini on ANY TIME soon maybe I’ll leave it au naturale, I always tell my women anyway that midwives don’t bat an eyelid
  • The feeling of two hard heads under my ribs is so uncomfortable. I’m no longer able to wear underwired bras, I’m living in this one at the moment and in all honestly I’m most likely to be found braless by 6pm by my husband when he gets home from work
  • I’m moisturising  my bump like a crazy lady with Bio Oil but my skin this week feels like it’s really being stretched to its maximum capacity, if I get to the end of this pregnancy without one single stretch mark it will be nothing short of a miracle
  • My back is an absolute killer especially when driving. I’m spending lots of time in the deepest, hottest bath I can tolerate but I’m also seeing my Doula Beccy ‘magic’ Hands for regular massages. She’s seriously the best in the biz check her out here  and yes Hands is her actual surname, amazing
  • My boobs resemble a road map with the veins that have sprung up in the past few weeks and I’m already noticing a few drops of colostrum on my pyjama top when I wake up in the morning. All good stuff for the bubbas I guess
  • My husband made me laugh so hard the other night I wet myself. Yup. First I thought my waters had broken but luckily it was just a sign that my pelvic floor has given up entirely on it’s main function, Tenna Lady anyone?
  • Iron is not my friend or my bowels friend for that matter. I’m taking Pregnacare and extra iron (a recommendation for twin pregnancies) but I’m seriously bunged up. Flax seeds are being sprinkled on just about anything I eat but nothing is really helping. And anyone who has experienced constipation when pregnant knows how awful it is. There’s nothing worse, and straining on the loo ain’t pretty, nuff said
  • I did do the unthinkable at the weekend and weighed myself which surprisingly wasn’t as horrifying as I imagined –  just short of a stone heavier than my usual weight which I guess is ok considering there’s 2 of everything in there (but I doubt I’ll weigh myself again, not even for lolz)

BUT on a positive note to end with, we had our first Hypnobirthing session last week with the incredible Hollie de Cruz. She is literally something else. I know I’ve banged on about the amazing tools hypnobirthing teaches women but SERIOUSLY after one session we both felt so calm and connected and learnt all about breathing. Yes breathing, the simple thing we do totally subconsciously but it’s so important for labour and birth.  And my slightly sceptical husband has totally taken it on board, he’s put my positive affirmations around the house and has been doing the breathing exercises with me before I go to sleep. We are hooked!

Disclaimer: Whilst I am a registered midwife, I do not endorse or promote any specific brand or product in a professional capacity. My opinions are my own and are based on my personal experiences as a woman and a mother.

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Birth Story Of The Week – Charlotte and Xander

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In a new series on the blog of breaking the ‘taboo’ about elective c-sections, and embracing the positivity that can surround them, I was fascinated to hear from Charlotte Philby from Motherland on her experience of her 3rd but 1st ‘natural’ c-section earlier last month.

“You’re having a c-section with NO ANAESTHETIC?!” The response of my dear (clearly demented) friend Jess to news that I am to receive a ‘natural cesarean’ at one of London’s leading NHS hospitals is testimony to why consultant midwife Belinda Green, who is pioneering the procedure, has decided to take its other name – the ‘skin-to-skin cesarean’ – for the purpose of a new study which launches next year.

After all, the description is misleading. As Green explains, there is nothing natural about a c-section of any kind. But for some women cesarean it is the safest option; and the purpose of the trial for which I have been asked to be guinea pig – a trial which will launch at University College London Hospital (UCLH) next year with the film of my baby’s birth shown to women participating in the study to demonstrate what is involved – is to replicate as closely as possible the experience of vaginal birth for women for whom natural delivery is not a viable option.

Not currently offered on the NHS in Britain, Belinda Green and her team hope to prove through their forthcoming Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) the positive outcomes for both mother and baby this kind of ‘slowed-down section’ can offer. Outcomes including improved bonding between mother and child, more easily established breastfeeding, and calmer newborns.

When I was first approached by Green, who previously ran the birthing centre at UCLH and now works in antenatal with a clinical and research interest in Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC), if I’d like to be the model for the trial, I was immediately intrigued.

Having been born at this very hospital myself, some 32 years ago, and having had my first two children here by c-section – the first the result of a failed induction, the second as a result of not going into labour at 42-plus weeks, and showing no signs of – I had often wondered what it would be like to actually hold your baby before it is whisked off to be weighed. To experience more of my child’s birth than a quick glimpse over the paper partition that masks women from the somewhat severe clinical procedure being performed inches from their face during a standard section.

While I was eternally grateful for two healthy children who may well never have made it into this world without the grace of medical advances, I still wondered…

Dr Ruwan Wimalasundera, a Consultant Obstetrician and Fetal Medicine Specialist at UCLH, has been performing so-called natural cesareans to his private patients for the past 10 years. More common in the US, the procedure is much slower than a standard cesarean, he explains when we meet prior to my elective surgery.

Once the incision is made to the abdomen as per the standard method, he says, and the baby’s head emerges, rather than whisking the baby out as quickly as possible and taking it straight off to be cleaned and weighed under the lights – at which point both of my previous babies had screamed uncontrollably while I looked on helplessly, hoping for a glimpse and longing to soothe them myself – the newborn, I’m told, will be allowed to push and squeeze its way out into the world, as long as there are no obvious complications.

This will enable the baby to clear its own lungs, as it would during natural birth; and once it is free the surgeon will lift the baby out – with cord still attached, if it’s long enough – and pass it to the midwife who will hand it straight over to me, where it will rest for several minutes while I’m being stitched back together.

On the day, I arrive at surgery armed with a newborn hat (the greatest concern about immediate skin-to-skin is that baby will get cold in a theatre environment). Belinda Green is armed with a roll of tin foil, to lay over the towel that will rather glamorously enshrine me and the baby.

The atmosphere in theatre is one of eager anticipation, and despite the familiar array of catheters, scalpels et al (and needle to administer the spinal epidural) I find myself grinning with excitement. All goes according to plan, and watching my son’s body slowly emerge, once the screen between us has been lowered, is a moment I can still hardly believe was real. While my other children had screamed for minutes on end after first emerging, the moment my youngest son’s head is placed on my chest, still covered in mucus, he immediately calms.

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For the first time I’m able to marvel at the perfection of my bloodied, puffy-eyed newborn before anyone else. A sense of quiet elation enfolds us both as the buzz of the surgery melts away. All that remains is me, him, his father, a sense of total contentment, and the nagging joy of being one step closer to the sandwich in my hospital bag, after 16 hours nil by mouth…

A week or so later it’s impossible to say for certain quite what the impact of this delivery was, but I can honestly say that of all my three children (all equally delightful, of course) this baby has been by a long shot the most calm and content, latching onto the breast with ease and hardly ever grizzling or crying. And despite juggling three kids, and all the rest of it, I’ve never felt calmer as a new mother.

Of course this might have something to do with the reassurance of having done it all twice before, but I also believe that sense of ease is in no small way buoyed by the security provided by the memory of watching my child emerge, triumphantly, into the theatre like a small, warm and very hairy statue of liberty. Not to mention the sense of fulfilment at being the first one to welcome him, soothe and protect him from the throbbing noise and bright lights of the outside world.

Birth Story of The Week – Lizzie and William

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Since I was younger I’ve always loved babies and been fascinated by the wonder that is pregnancy and labour. If anyone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d always said a midwife and now i feel so so lucky to have experienced for myself such a wonderful pregnancy and to have our own beautiful baby boy.

William is a bit of a miracle baby.  I’ve never had regular periods (make that 2 in 2 years prior to getting pregnant) and had been diagnosed with Polycycstic Ovary Syndrome many years ago, so i was always apprehensive about how easy it would be to conceive naturally. Despite only just starting to “try”, I had conversations with the GP to explore options for help with natural conception, expecting it to take a while. However, Matt and I were so lucky to fall pregnant with William within about 3 months, and feel truly blessed!   Anyway, this isn’t a conception story but a birth, so ill get on with that….

My due date came and went without too much activity.  My Mum had me 3 weeks early, so in the back of my mind I was hoping that my final few weeks of back ache and what i then thought were sleepless nights of pregnancy (little did i know about real sleepless nights!!) would have been cut short.  However, my first twinges of real labour started when i was just over 41 weeks.  I’d had period type pains all week but then after my second sweep, where the midwife confirmed I was 2cm dilated, we had a little family drama which I think kick started my contractions. My sister was stuck without her car at the last minute, so called me to ask me if I could pick up her little girls from nursery. I was out at the time, so had to do my best attempt at running home (at 9+ months pregnant this is a challenge!) to pick up the car and then I drove like a racing car driver to the nursery, over what felt like endless roads of speed bumps! By the time i picked up my nieces and got home, surges were coming every 10 minutes.

This was on the Thursday.  I waited a couple of hours before believing that anything was really happened but then called my husband Matt to come home from work later that afternoon.  The surges continued and i paced the house with my hypnobirthing affirmations playing to help me keep as relaxed as possible. I tried my best to suppress the feelings on adrenalin that I knew would slow things down, but deep down I was so blooming excited that we were on the journey to meet our baby. I continued to pace up and down the length of the house, waiting for the surges to get more frequent and more painful, but it never happened.  I text my lovely midwife Mary before we went to bed that night and she was on standby ready to jump at my telephone call. We went to bed that night with everything ready, expecting that we’d be awoken in the night by me in established labour. Frustratingly, it just didn’t happen.

On Friday i already had a third sweep booked, so went ahead with that, hoping it would again kick everything into action. I knew I should be patient and let the baby arrive in its natural time, but was beginning to lose my patience. Mary confirmed i was 3 cm dilated and really helped to bring me back to reality and suggested Matt and i forget about the very erratic contractions and go out for lunch to take our minds off what was happening. This was the such good advice. In my head I’d been going a bit mad worrying I was faking the surges and getting frustrated by not knowing if they were the ‘real thing’ or not.  Matt and I walked to East Dulwich to get some lunch and the contractions started again, this time even stronger.  Still completely irregular though and by the time we got home  they had petered out completely.  So again, we went to bed on that Friday night expecting a middle of the night trip to Kings.   Again, it didn’t happen! Throughout Thursday and Friday I’d been listening to my hypnobirthing tracks which really helped to get me through the duration. Although I knew I should be patient and wait for my body and the baby to be ready for labour, after almost 48hrs of surges my body was tiring and I was getting impatient about meeting our baby.

By Saturday morning i was 41+3 and really ready to get some reassurance by delivering a healthy baby.  At this point in pregnancy, not only was I tired and frustrated at not knowing when or how labour would get started but also worrying that something could happen to the baby before I was able to deliver it safely. I’m sure it’s normal for all Mummy’s to be to have the same worries, but because I’d never really believed my body would be able to get pregnant naturally, I always had concerns in the back of my mind that it wouldn’t work out.

After talking to Mary on the Saturday morning, we agreed that I would go into King’s hospital to get my waters broken, in the hope of it getting the labour going. A big part of my decision making was that I knew my lovely midwife Mary was working that weekend, so if I waited any longer she’d potentially not be around to deliver my baby. Having had Mary visit throughout my pregnancy, Matt and I trusted her implicitly so we really wanted her there to support us through the main event.  On the way to King’s, Matt and I stopped at the supermarket and stocked up on a picnic we planned to have at the hospital whilst we waited for what we thought would be a long drawn out labour to begin.  Little did we know what was going to happen in the few hours ahead.

We were taken into a triage room in the Labour ward and an Agency midwife introduced herself and started some checks on me. The usual, blood pressure, pulse and the baby’s heart beat. Being an Agency midwife, the poor lady wasn’t used to the machines at King’s and she couldn’t find our baby’s heart beat, despite two attempts on different machines. Obviously this is the last thing you need as parents to be, however, thankfully she got it, third time lucky.

The doctor came to break my waters at 11:45 and suggested Matt and I go for a walk in the corridors and walk the stairs sideways, in an attempt to get labour moving. I began to get dressed, with Matt and I deliberating on my outfit of a nightie and big furry Ugg boots. We needn’t have worried. By midday, 15 minutes later, surges were coming every 3.5 minutes. And they were strong! Who knows if the ones at home were real, but these were very different and I knew that this was really it.

The midwife could see things were progressing quickly, so we put on the TENS machine and I was given gas and air to use whilst taking deep slow brwaths. We also made sure the hypnobirthing tracks were playing loud and clear. At this stage I wasn’t really listening to the words in the hypnobirthing, but having listened so intently throughout my pregnancy, the music was so recognisable as relaxing that I didn’t even need to hear what was being said, to experience the calming result.

After 2 hours in the labour ward I was getting nervous that Mary hadn’t arrived yet and that we hadn’t made it to the Midwifery led unit.  I know you’re always told in pregnancy to keep an open mind about your birth plan, and although I thought I had, but at this point I knew that the birthing pool was what i wanted, and I was adamant that it would be the best place for me and our baby to get through the afternoon.

Just after 2pm Mary arrived and I waddled around to the Midwifery led unit, panicking about whether I’d get there in time before the next contraction, and in time to get on the gas and air.   We made it to the Woodland suit, wallpapered with a lavender field, and the midwives immediately started filling the pool. I tried kneeling and using the beanbags during contractions, but couldn’t get comfortable. Finally, I was allowed in the pool and it immediately felt amazing to have the weight taken off me and have the support and comfort of the warm water.

In the water I had a good set up, with a flannel on the side to rest my head, hypnobirthing affirmations playing and Matt to hold my hand. I didn’t go through one contraction after that point without holding Matt’s hand and really needed that support through every one, knowing he was there for us both.

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Contractions didn’t really get painful as the afternoon progressed but occasionally my body convulsed and it automatically started pushing.  I had no idea that this would happen in labour. It was like a gagging reflex and completely took over my body (without causing pain) and I really enjoyed that feeling of my body being in control and working for me to get the baby on its way out. This felt like real progress! I could feel the pressure getting lower and lower and Mary examined me in the pool and I was 7-8cm. When Mary told me this I was proud of getting this far but knew the dreaded ‘transition’ was still to come. Luckily I don’t think I was effected by transition. I remember sobbing a little and thinking in my head ‘maybe I should have got an epidural’ but I didn’t ever say it out loud and knew deep down that what was happening was totally manageable and I could deliver the baby myself.

What felt like very soon after that examination the reflex pushing feelings got stronger and I said I could feel something much lower. Mary and Erica (the student midwife) used a mirror in the pool every time I had a contraction to check on progress and it was amazing when they started to see the baby crowning. At first Erica said she could see ‘something’ floating in the pool and it took her a while to realise this was our baby’s thick head of hair starting to appear! According to my notes, the second phase of labour was 36 minutes and this flew by. Although it’s a bit uncomfortable and I was nervous of any damage, I didn’t find this bit as painful as is expected. I’m sure the water helps but the fact that I knew it was productive pain and that the baby was so close, made it so much more manageable. I remember feeling the baby’s head deliver and Mary and Erica guiding me through little pushes to get its chin out. The head was now free and I just had one more push to meet our baby. At this point I couldn’t really feel contractions (that may have been the amount of gas and air I’d taken!!) but just pushed when I was ready to fully deliver our baby at 4:16pm.

I’d watched One born every minute repeatedly throughout pregnancy and cried at every scene when a Mummy was first given their baby to hold. Needless to say, I burst into tears as soon as I had our little baby in our arms. It might sound ridiculous given I’d had 9 months to get ready for it, but I was in shock that I’d actually created and delivered a healthy baby and completely overwhelmed. I kissed and cuddled the blue and slippery baby in the pool, whilst Matt reached over to stroke and kiss us both too. We were both in shock and in love! After over a minute Mary said ‘aren’t you going to check the sex?’.  It hadn’t even crossed my mind, despite months and months of guessing girl or boy throughout pregnancy. As soon as the baby was born all I cared about was that it was healthy. Unbelievably when I did check, we couldn’t believe it to find out it was a boy? Throughout my pregnancy, everyone had guessed my bump as a ‘girl bump’ and having 5 nieces we were pretty sure we were having a girl, so to have a boy in my arms doubled the surprise factor and was even more special.

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After 7 minutes of delayed cord clamping, Matt cut the cord and took our baby boy for skin on skin with him whilst I delivered the placenta. Luckily it came away easily and was a doddle to deliver, in comparison!

I was completely shaky  and overwhelmed at this point as was helped out of the bath and onto the bed, where Matt lay with our baby. We immediately lay him on my chest and let our baby naturally root for his first feed. The midwives were amazing at helping me to feed and checking me over and I was in a really good place thankfully. They suggested we could go home that evening and when they first said it, I was still in a state of shock and overwhelmed by the previous 4 hours, so asked to hold off making a decision at that point. On reflection however, I am so happy we did go home.  We’d already decided on our final baby boy and baby girl names, so didn’t need to deliberate when we named him William Matthew Hunter Hammond. We made some phone calls to our parents in the bed in hospital and the midwives and Matt tried to force me to eat something, having not eaten since breakfast. It was the last thing I wanted but I managed to stomach something as knew I wouldn’t be allowed home if I didn’t.

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By 7:30pm we were discharged from hospital and I was wheeled down to the exit with our baby boy in my arms. I felt like royalty, with everyone smiling and congratulating me in the corridors. We sat William in the car seat and I sat in the back of the car with him for our journey home. It was unbelievable that only 8hrs before, we’d been walking up to the entrance of the hospital with our picnic expecting a long afternoon ahead. And now we were driving away as a family of 3.

When we got home Matt and I looked at each other and at our baby in disbelief. How could something so amazing have been growing in my tummy? We were in love immediately and if it’s possible, are in even more love with him today. In the first few days at home Matt and I were so overwhelmed with how adorable William is and occasionally caught each other cuddling him and crying of happiness whilst we looked into little face. The feeling of love as a Mummy is so incredible. I didn’t realise how intense and immediate the feelings would be, but William is the most precious and amazing thing in my life and I really do have an overwhelming maternal instinct to look after him and keep him safe and loved forever and ever. I just hope I have the same feeling as he grows into his terrible twos and teenage years!

Lizzie is a Hypnobirthing teacher based in London, check out her website here 

You can read about Lizzie’s adventures with William over at Maternity Leave Life.

Birth Story Of The Week – Jo and Betsy

In light of the Guardian’s story on hypnobirthing and it’s ever increasing popularity, today’s birth story from Jo describes how learning the techniques taught on her hypnobirthing course helped her overcome her fears from her previous traumatic birth, Tissues at the ready!

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My first daughter’s birth in 2012 didn’t exactly go to plan. I read all the books, did NCT, talked to friends and wrote my birth plan. Not once did I prepare for not being in control or for an emergency caesarean. I was left pretty shell shocked and it took me a while to get my shit together. I felt a bit like I had failed at the most important thing in my life. But I focused on the fact my beautiful daughter was fine and healthy. And I vowed never to do it again. Birth that is.

When I discovered I was pregnant again in May 2014 all the fears I’d stuffed to the back of my mind came back to life. I felt terrified and hated the thought of going through it all again. I spoke to my friend and midwife Clemmie at length about my worries. She knew how traumatic it had been first time round but right from our first conversation about it she said it would be different this time. I trusted her – she’s a wonder woman birth warrior, and my friend after all.
 
I knew I wanted to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). I had felt like I’d failed first time round, even though I’d gone through a long and hard labour resulting in caesarean, it somehow didn’t count as giving birth. Just because I didn’t push the baby out the usual way, I hadn’t done it ‘properly’. What does that say about the pressure on women surrounding birth?!
 
Clemmie suggested hypnobirthing and put us in contact with the lovely Hollie at London Hypnobirthing. We booked on to a course in October (my EDD was early January). I thought we’d probably be experiencing a few ‘and you’re back in the room’ moments but I was willing to give anything a shot. I spent the time busying myself with my stressful job and looking after a 2 and a half year old. I also fretted furiously about how the baby would fit into our family, and our house, and would I love it as much as my daughter? Was that possible? And all the other hormonal things that go round a pregnant woman’s head.
 
So October came and we started a loft conversion (wtf were we thinking?) and our hypnobirthing course. Right from the first session I felt differently. We learnt relaxation techniques and did breathing activities. We discussed birth in a safe and calm environment. There were only four couples and it felt very relaxed and intimate. My husband Tom was sold straight away, he took to it immediately. There was no hippy dippy stuff, just normal people looking to learn ways to relax and welcome their babies in a calm way without fear. We watched videos of births that were so calm the babies were born asleep! We did some work on releasing fear which helped the two of us talk honestly about the things we were worried about to do with the birth. Turned out our fears were identical. One of the fundamental things I took from the course was the belief that I had every right for my voice to be heard and that I could birth this baby the way I wanted.
 
Over the next few weeks I began to feel really quite excited about the birth and looked forward to meeting our baby. Something I never thought I’d do. One thing I wasn’t excited about was the endless builders coming and going from our house. Don’t do a loft conversion while you’re pregnant!
 
I was determined that our little girl had Christmas without the new baby stealing the show, plus Clemmie was going away for a couple of days so I told the baby to stay put and went about enjoying Christmas. I got quite emotional towards the end of my pregnancy and every day with my daughter felt significant. Our last days as a three. I’m ridiculously sentimental at the best of times but this was off the scale! It got to the point where Tom banned me from looking at baby pictures and videos of my daughter because I kept making myself cry…
 
I’d bought a soft doll to leave for my daughter if she woke up one morning and I wasn’t there (as in gone to have the baby…). I left it until the Saturday on the last weekend of the school holidays to wrap it up and wrote her an extremely soppy card (for someone to read to her). Tom said gloomily, “looks like I’m going back to work on Monday then” and we went to bed. I knew I was ready so the baby could come when it wanted.
 
At 4am I woke with mild period pain. This time round I completely and utterly trusted my instincts, I knew this was it. I put my relaxation mp3 on and closed my eyes. I must have gone back to sleep because at 6 I woke and realised the surges (hypnobirthing speak for contractions) had started. I woke Tom and told him to call his parents to come and get our daughter. Considering they were on high alert and live ten minutes away it seemed like it took them forever to get to us! My daughter woke up and I got her dressed, gave her a million hugs, packed her a bag and ended up opening her present with her. My hormones got the better of me and I was holding back some serious tears. When she left the house at 8 the surges instantly got a whole lot stronger.

I had a bath and Tom texted Clemmie. I think she got to us about 10am and at that point the surges were quite strong but I was breathing through them and feeling fine. I could feel adrenaline running through me and I was trying to stay relaxed. During Hypnobirthing we learnt about how adrenaline can slow labour or stop it altogether. I really didn’t want that to happen. Our second midwife arrived and was instantly warm and supportive.

When Clemmie examined me at 11am she said I was fully dilated! I couldn’t believe that I’d got to 10 without any difficulty. It gave me a massive massive boost. Tom and both midwives started gathering towels and bin bags and began to prep our bedroom for a birth. There was a bin bag underneath me and Tom was getting ready to catch our baby! Obviously not in the bin bag… I couldn’t believe I might even have a home birth! This would have exceeded our wildest expectations. As the surges intensified I started to push. All the while we were eating a lot of jelly babies (a good birth bag addition).
 
After a little while of pushing time seemed to stop, as did the contractions. So I was off the bed and walking around the house. Some of the things you can try if contractions stop are, walking, nipple tweaking, relaxing, laughing but nothing would get them going. And the longer they stopped the more anxious I became. Not because this had happened during my first birth, it hadn’t, but because I could feel myself getting more and more tense and frightened that things might not go to plan.
 
Eventually Clemmie and our other midwife said that it might be a good idea to go into hospital to be assessed to see if we could get some help getting contractions going again. FYI if you have had a previous caesarean a doctor will want to assess you before giving you Syntocinon due to risk of scar rupture.
 
So off we went in an ambulance (that I didn’t even know was outside), no blue lights but I felt pretty disheartened. Tom and our second midwife were trying to keep my spirits up but I tried to concentrate on the relaxation mp3 on my phone and drown out all the distractions. We got to hospital about 1.30pm I think. The room was ready and Clemmie was there and she did everything she could to carry on the vibe from home. I had to have a scan so the doctors could assess whether the baby was in a good enough position for a realistic chance at VBAC. To my delight the baby was perfectly positioned and we were given the go ahead for the drip. So, with feet in stirrups, foetal monitor on and a mouth full of jelly babies we waited for the drip to kick in. Not the most dignified time of my life but I was buzzing with the thought I’d meet my baby soon and I think the scan really helped to reassure me that all was ok. 
 
I began to get pretty tired and hungry and I think adrenaline was pumping. I got the shakes but then the contractions started coming pretty quickly. For some reason which we still don’t know, I couldn’t feel a single one. I’d had no pain relief but I had to be told when a contraction was coming by Clemmie looking at the monitor and saying ‘right, go for it!’ and I would push my heart out. At one point she had a stern word with me and told me to use my voice and any swear words I could think of to help push the baby out.  I felt like we were an amazing team, working together to help and guide me and birth this baby.

Because it was taking a while the doctor (in consultation with the midwives) decided that it might be a good idea to use a kiwi (kind of suction cup) on the babies head to help it down the last bit. Attaching this was possibly the most painful part of the whole labour but was over in minutes.

With two big pushes the baby’s head finally came out and that is when I knew we’d done it. The little body followed soon after and Clemmie very quickly instructed the doctor to stand back and let Tom discover the sex and then tell me it was a little girl! Then Tom got to cut the cord. I couldn’t believe it. We’d actually done it!!!!! And it was a girl too! I remember not quite believing what had happened. 
 
Our second amazing midwife had to swap with another amazing midwife and while paperwork was done and handover completed there was a little period of time I’ll never forget. This little person had come from me, I felt instantly connected, instantly knowing of her. She was mine! That is what I’d missed with my first birth. I’d felt so separate from the final event and the baby and Tom were taken out the room straight after the caesarean. Tom was so relieved everything was fine. He couldn’t quite believe it either!

Some wise woman found me a lasagne. It was honest to god the best thing I have ever eaten. Hospital lasagne.


I couldn’t thank Clemmie enough for her support. She and her colleagues had helped me achieve something I never thought I would. She said she’d come to me the next day and kissed me and my girl goodbye. 
 
The wonderful women got me ready to go to the ward. I was cleaned up and put in to my pjs and helped to the loo for my first wee. I just couldn’t stop smiling. I spoke to my mum on the phone and told her the beautiful baby girl snoozing on me had come out my vagina. My dad arrived with my sister, I told them this beautiful girl had come out my vagina. As I was wheeled to the ward, I told all the people in the lift that I’d just pushed this baby out my amazing vagina!! There was a lot of vagina praising going on. And then it was just the three of us in a cubicle, knowing that this little baby had always had a place in our family. We couldn’t wait for her to meet her amazing big sister. So Betsy Clementine met her big sister the following morning, and it was love at first sight.
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Twinning is Winning

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At around 5 weeks pregnant I felt sick, really sick and really tired. We were in France at a friend’s wedding and I did my best impression of someone trying to pretend to be drunk. Which by the way is very difficult. (Oh and a drunk sweaty husband when you’re stone cold sober is soooo unattractive, you’d rather he slept on the sofa)

And there was so much gooey soft smelly cheese going around and an oyster bar at the wedding and endless champagne. But nausea and a hangover have very similar characteristics so I fooled the friends we were with for 4 days.

“It’s probably twins” a colleague said to me while I gagged at the smell of the coffee she was drinking. “Ha ha very funny” I thought, but somehow I couldn’t shake off this feeling that maybe it was. Maybe.

A few weeks later I had some heavy bleeding so went to the Early Pregnancy Unit for a quick reassurance scan. I had already convinced myself that I was probably having a miscarriage so prepared myself for missing my brothers 40th birthday the next day and felt remarkably calm about the whole thing.

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“You have two in there, and both have healthy strong heartbeats”. I was beyond shocked. I was naked from the waist down with my legs in those stirrup things and a long probe with a condom on it up my foof. Not the most dignified of positions to be in. There was swear words, and utter disbelief and then the tears came. I left clutching the scan photo dreading how I was going to tell my husband.

But now 5 weeks later and a lovely normal reassuring Nuchal scan yesterday, we are in a much better place. Me, both physically and mentally and my husband, well he keeps weeping at the thought of selling the Audi and looking at 7 seater cars.

What nightmares are made of

What nightmares are made of

So now I’m almost 13 weeks pregnant and the all day constant nausea and all evening vomiting has *almost* gone. I have to say weeks 6-9 were unbearable and I began to question if I could really get through this pregnancy at all. (I was once sick 17 times in one day). I had some amazing people around me, supporting me and making me realise that everything was indeed going to be ok.

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Things that really helped when I could barely lift my head off the toilet seat

  • Tropicana (smooth) don’t ask but the combination of the sweet and sour taste meant I was getting some Vitamin C into my system
  • Peanut butter (again smooth) on a buttered bagel
  • Salt and Vinegar crisps BY THE TONNE
  • Nutrimum Bars – these were great in between meal times and  I just kept a stash in my car
  • Hypnobirthing – well technically relaxation MP3s. As you know I’m a massive fan of everything Hollie does and some evenings when my mind was racing with worry and fear I’d pop on her track and within minutes I’d find myself drifting off into a calm sleep
  • Acupuncture – I popped my cherry around week 6 and MY GOD it really did make the most difference to my nausea. Maisie Hill is like some kind of magical mystical Goddess who really understood my body and what was going on. I hardly had to say anything (mainly because I felt so rough) and she just popped needles into certain points on my body. I left feeling floaty and vomit free. She’s also a Doula and an amazing one at that. Check out her website for a wealth of information on all things fertility, pregnancy and birth
  • I treated myself around week 10 to a pregnancy massage as my lower back and pelvis was really beginning to ache. And there’s only woman who I’ll happily strip down to my oldest granny pants for…. Beccy Hands (yes her real name) is also a kick ass Doula and specialises in pregnancy and labour massage. She’s so good she can tell me which shoulder I carry my heavy rucksack on and how I stand/lean when attending births
  • And finally SLEEP. Like mega naps, any time any place. During my lunch break I’d find myself having a quick doze before starting a clinic, around kids tea time (there was a lot of eating in front of the tv whilst I snoozed) and then heading off to bed as soon as my husband was home and sleeping all night. Sleep really did help with the nausea.

So there you have it, the secret is out (I even managed to fool my white witch of a mother at my brother’s 40th by pouring my wine into my sisters glass). I’m already embracing the maternity clothes (Topshop dungarees are amazing) and our house is buzzing with who can come up with the most ridiculous baby names. As if I didn’t have enough to do with writing my book, I’ll be blogging about this pregnancy at regular intervals, so please join me on this exciting journey.

xx