Pregnancy Ramblings

It’s a funny thing getting past that ‘half way’ point in pregnancy, not that I’m wishing this pregnancy away (I’m well aware of how hard things are going to be come February). On the plus side the likelihood of getting to 40 weeks or beyond with twins (or so I’m told) is slim but my god does this pregnancy feel different to the other two.

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  • Firstly the movements. I’m not quite sure which one is moving but it feels so weird when they both do, I described it to my husband like a bag of squirrels burying their nuts inside me. Constant digging and scrabbling, I guess they’re competing for space in there and I have no idea was position they’re in despite being a midwife, it’s really hard to palpate yourself
  • The bump is most definitely out, there’s no more awkward stares from commuters on the tube I even got offered a seat this week but being asked how long to go is becoming annoying ‘a long time!’ is my usual response.
  • I actually look about 6 weeks more than I am, I dread to think what I’ll look like at 37 weeks
  • I’m slathering my bump in Biol Oil  in the vein hope of not getting any stretch marks, wishing thinking perhaps?
  • My pelvis really aches by 6pm and I struggle to do my laces up without making that noise that old people make when the bend down so most evenings I find myself fully emerged in the bath, the only problem is trying to get out!
  • My iron levels have dropped a lot since early pregnancy so I’m back on the iron as well as Spatone despite feeling a bit constipated
  • I’m also taking really good care of my diet and eating patterns, I’m not particularly more hungry this time but I find I can’t eat a big evening meal so have been having tea with the kids. I’m also putting flax seeds on everything to keep things soft and moving down there. I DO NOT WANT PILES!
  • I’ve really noticed how much I attention I need to pay to my pelvic floor, especially after jumping up and down watching Florence and The Machine 2 weeks ago, oops! I’m actually doing them now as I type
  • My 20 week scan took 3 hours! Twin 2 was less cooperative than twin 1 and wouldn’t play ball but the Consultant eventually got all the measurements and my husband even nodded off at one point (he blames the previous last night and darkened room) and the sex of the babies were confirmed
  • Even though we know the sex of the babies I’m still a little reluctant to buy anything just yet, 28 weeks is still my ‘safe point’ in my head even though my daughters are desperate to buy their siblings tiny baby grows and soft toys
  • Names! We have had some discussion my husband hates most of my choices (no surprises there) I’ve realised it’s best not to mention it too many times and bring up the subject maybe at a later date?
  • I’ve decided to finish work much earlier than with the other pregnancies mainly because I’m not useful waddling around at births but also it gives me time to enjoy Christmas with my family before the BIG arrival next year

So that’s all for now, I’ve got some great maternity bras which I’m living in so will pop a blog post up about those soon and tonight my Doula is coming over for a birth ‘pow wow’ with myself and husband. And I’ve finally found the perfect maternity clothes to get me through the Winter months so will get some photos up next week to share with you all, all from the high street so no fear of breaking the bank.

Why It Sometimes Can Suck Being a Pregnant Midwife

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There seems to be this common perception that when you’re a midwife and become pregnant that all will be fine because you know what you’re doing, you’re a midwife after all.  Well sometimes I want to scream I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING! And it doesn’t just come from friends and family, it comes from fellow midwives, GPS, obstetricians, the lot. They all believe because you’re a midwife you have some special powerful uterus and an extra special cervix and vagina. Well let me let you into a little secret….. my reproductive organs are exactly the same as yours and knowledge doesn’t always give you power.

  • I sometimes secretly wish I knew nothing about pregnancy and birth and erased any of the trauma and negativity that I’ve seen
  • I actually know very little about twin pregnancies (I still haven’t decided if that”s a good thing or not)
  • If I’m ever in the SCBU I glance very quickly at the tiniest of babies and squeeze my stinging eyes together trying not to think about the ‘what ifs’
  • But it might be ok if they’re born early because the care for premature babies nowadays is so amazing
  • Every tiny cramp or bleed (I’ve been having a few of those) my mind immediately reminds me of those women I’ve looked after who’s babies were too premature to make it
  • I can never forget the 16,17 or 18 weekers who I’ve wrapped in tiny hand knitted blankets no bigger than a handkerchief and carefully taken those precious hand and foot prints for their parents to keep and treasure
  • I keep focusing on getting to the next week and might feel reassured when I hit 28 weeks
  • I still spend hours at night in bed reading other twin mum forums for reassuring stories of great outcomes at full term
  • I have no idea which one is moving when I feel them move and wonder if I ever will be able to tell them apart
  • If one more person asks me what sort of birth I’m going to have I might scream because I don’t know, I’m not thinking about it yet I’m just focusing on getting through the weeks
  • And the same goes for feeding, I have no idea how I’ll feed them hopefully with milk whether it’s my own or formula but sanity will help me make that choice
  • I keeping having thoughts about the next scan and what if there’s something wrong with one of them, or both, what if I have to make an awful decision?
  • I silently curse when it feels like my cervix is going to drop out by the end of the day but have to think rationally that it won’t (hopefully)
  • Sometimes I just want to be treated like every other normal pregnant person and not be greeted with shock/gasps/laughter from others when they hear I’m having twins
  • I’m still answering the same 4 questions – when are you due? are they identical? are there twins in your family? do you know the sex?

*Just to say it isn’t all bad there are a million perks to being a pregnant midwife for example my lovely consultant scanned me today after another little bleed and told me what we’re having*

 

From Student To Midwife – The Second Year

 

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For most university students your Summer holidays probably started back at beginning of June, maybe you’ve been on a few holidays or you’re just lounging around  at your parents house enjoying the freedom Well spare a thought for student midwives who are still working super hard on full time placements and trying to revise for their end of year exams. Ailish is back and she’s almost finished her second year of training. Here she shares her thoughts on the past year and how she’s developing her knowledge and skills into midwifery practice.

“I am finally at the end of my second year as a student midwife! It’s been a tough one, I’m not gonna lie. I look back on my previous post about life as a first year and wonder what the hell I had to stress about. Who did I think I was?! I envy first year me. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t a walk in the park. The unknown was terrifying, the life juggling was challenging and the workload was demanding.

But then second year came and smacked me in the face.

It’s been full of ups and downs. My grandad died during the summer holidays and on my first day back on placement as a second year I was sobbing on my mentor and using my sleeve as a tissue. Deffo not the triumphant return I had envisaged!

I wasn’t going to mention it but then Clemmie (mentor, midwife, mum and blogger extraordinaire) posted this (http://motherofalllists.com/2015/07/28/anxiety-is-a-bitch/) on her Facebook and I thought why not. I’ve always been a tad anxious but this year it all went a bit haywire. I don’t know what it was – grief maybe. But suddenly it was all I could think of – I worried about getting off the bus, where I would sit in lecture, if my four year old’s temperature was really smallpox masquerading as a cold. Most of all, I suddenly felt the responsibility of being a midwife very keenly.  The fear and doubt was overwhelming and there were points where I seriously considered leaving the course. But I didn’t! I got support, dropkicked that anxiety in the balls and am now technically a third year. So let’s do a breakdown:

First term – I’m pretty sure everyone had learnt their lesson the year before and did not attempt to partake in any Fresher’s activities this time around. Second year theme was medical complexities and emergencies. Alongside midwifery placements we were also to spend time on theatre and gynae – a minimum of 90 hours on each is required to gain qualification. When you begin studying midwifery, there is a thing which becomes as precious as your first born. Much like with a baby, you will spend hours gazing at it. You will cradle it, ensuring it can’t come to any harm. It will overwhelm you, excite you, frustrate you – and some days you just will not have a clue. I am of course talking about the Midwifery Practice Document. The MPD. This document includes a record of every woman you’ve cared for, every baby you’ve delivered, and every hour you’ve worked. It also contains a hefty set of skills which you need to have signed off each year to continue on the course.

Hey man, no sweat – I did this before, I can do it again! But wait… remember how you have 180 hours less time to do it this year because of theatre and gynae? Oh. Oh yea. Shit.

Second term –. Lectures and lab time were interesting and alarming in equal measures. Continuity projects started – this is essentially where as a student you caseload your own women and write a reflective portfolio on the experience. It’s a really cool opportunity to connect with women and build confidence as an independent practitioner. Alongside this, medical complexities gave insight in to caring for high risk women, whilst emergencies allowed us to simulate crisis situations. As terrifying as it was, it helped massively in placement to put together why we do the things we do. As a first year, it felt more about knowing HOW to do things – how to take a blood pressure, how to document, how to palpate. Whereas in second year it was about merging the how with the WHY. Why do I need to know if a woman’s BP is steadily rising antenatally? Pre-eclampsia. Why does documentation need to be accurate and contemporaneous? Legality and continuity. Why is it important to palpate? To assess growth, lie, presentation and plan ahead for labour care.

Things started to merge and it felt like everything was clicking a bit more in to place. There were still shifts where I cried, but there were more where I actually felt like “I can do this! I could probably do this as a real, money paying job and not mess it up!”

Final term – No I couldn’t, no no no no. OSCE stress set in. OSCEs basically involve standing in front of two expressionless examiners and pretending you know how to handle a postpartum haemorrhage – they are SCARY. It is like a French oral exam with a tiny tears doll you could potentially kill. I have simulated neonatal resuscitation, vaginal breech birth and shoulder dystocia on my boyfriend, aunty and four year old. I have pretended my nanny has gestational diabetes and my mum has sepsis. Things got intense. BUT…whilst mentally flogging myself for not choosing an easier career I have simultaneously had the most amazing moments of my life. I have delivered babies. I have connected with women and families. I have helped dads change their son’s first nappy. I have supported mums to breastfeed their daughter for the first time. I have lived through four long shifts in a row!!!

I’ve survived second year. I’m on my summer holidays right now and I have spent the first 5 days of it playing in the park, watching Pixar movies, baking and building forts with my kid. I’ve worked 740 hours, signed off thirty skills, delivered twenty two babies, passed three exams, wrote two essays, and doubted myself countless times. I cannot wait to start my final year.”

Expecting The Unexpected

A few months ago Charlotte Philby from Motherland asked me if I’d like to write a reflective piece about making the most life changing decision of my young life, having a baby at 23. Here I openly discuss the highs and lows of what it really feels like to be caught somewhere in the middle of motherhood – too old for the teenage groups but too young for NCT.

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Photo by Philippa James

“September 2006: My boyfriend and I had been living in our rented flat in Bristol for just six weeks when it happened. Like all couples who had just moved in together, we found ourselves doing the obligatory trip to Ikea. We wondered around staring at all the mock kitchens and bathrooms, fantasising of what we would like our own ‘dream home’ to look like. We took the short cut through the kids’ department, heading for the checkout, when it suddenly dawned on me. I was late. Like, really late. Whether it was the Ikea nursery equipment that jogged my memory or the overwhelming smell of Ikea meatballs that made me heave, I just knew there and then I was pregnant.

We had left university three months previously. My boyfriend had a degree in Business Management and was working in recruitment; I was a newly qualified midwife about to start my first job. We were doing what most 22 and 24 year olds would be doing… going out, having fun, planning our future together. It was just the start of our lives.

Once I did a test later that evening, my suspicions were confirmed. Two bright red lines standing side by side staring at me on that plastic stick. I felt devastated, and really angry. Devastated because I knew from that moment on, my life with this man who I was madly in love with was going to change forever. And angry because I thought we were being careful. As a newly qualified midwife I should have known better. I had to tell him, he knew something was wrong the moment I came out of the bathroom. He turned a ghastly shade of white, sat down and said ‘what do you want to do?’

I didn’t want to be pregnant but I didn’t want to make the decision not to be pregnant. It was eating us alive, this huge secret neither of us seemed able to face.

I had no idea, I didn’t want to make either decision, I didn’t want to be pregnant but I didn’t want to make the decision not to be pregnant. We carried on for another week, not really talking about it, acting as if everything was fine. But it was eating us alive, this huge secret neither of us seemed able to face. Until one evening I said “I’m going to see the girls” and walked out. The ‘girls’ were in their final year at uni and lived around the corner from us. He knew I would tell them, I needed someone else to know, to share this heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

The girls were amazing, they hugged me which is exactly what I needed; I don’t think since I had found out I was pregnant my boyfriend and I had hugged once. They all reassured me that whatever decision I made they would support me and be there for me. I suddenly didn’t feel so alone and was able to talk about it openly and honestly.

I booked an appointment at the Marie Stopes clinic for the following week, just to have something to aim towards. Not really knowing if I would even go, I think my boyfriend was relieved that I had made the decision and not him. In all honestly I hadn’t made any decision.

Two days before the appointment I started bleeding, quite heavily. I called my boyfriend from work and we went to the early pregnancy unit, a place where I had spent many weeks during my midwifery training. And here I was on the other side. I felt really guilty, I kept thinking ‘maybe the baby knows it wasn’t meant to be here so that’s why my body was trying to get rid of it’. I was being punished. We asked for the monitor to be turned around so we couldn’t see. We both felt it would be better that way. I had already decided I was having a miscarriage, so when the sonographer said the baby was still alive, I couldn’t believe it. My boyfriend and I just looked at each other, we were both crying.

We drove home via his parent’s house to tell them. I’ve never seen my boyfriend look so scared. There were more tears, lots of hugs and his Dad opened a bottle of champagne. It finally felt like we could celebrate this pregnancy, it also felt so surreal. We were going to be parents.

It took longer for my family to accept what was happening, I think they were more protective of me – their youngest daughter of three – but the decision was made. I asked my Mum to tell the extended family before we planned to spend Christmas together. I was already beginning to show by then and I didn’t want to make anyone feel awkward. I’m sure deep down they thought it was a bad idea and probably thought my boyfriend and I wouldn’t last. Not because we weren’t right for each other, but more realistically that the odds were stacked against us.

I had a relatively easy pregnancy, maybe being young helped. I continued to work 12-hour shifts on the labour ward right up until 37 weeks. I actually found being a midwife somewhat reassuring whilst pregnant. It made me feel totally normal, as I was surrounded by other pregnant women of all ages and background. I think that’s what I yearned for throughout this whole period: normality. I was a woman and my boyfriend and I were having a baby together.

We had some help with buying things for the baby from family; it’s funny looking back on that time as we hardly had any money yet it didn’t seem to matter. I was so focused on meeting our baby and making everything be OK.

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I went into labour five days after my estimated due date and gave birth in a midwife-led suite where I had been working prior to finishing for maternity leave. I had a natural birth with the help of some gas and air and lots of help from two amazing midwives and, of course, my wonderful boyfriend.

We moved to London six weeks after our daughter was born and my husband took a new job which meant he travelled to Holland four days a week, leaving me holding the baby. All my friends were living their lives to the max, living together in London, starting new jobs and earning their first real income since graduating. I felt so out of the loop, joining baby groups trying to meet other mums, but everyone was in their late 30’s and I never really felt like I fitted in – too old for the teenage groups but too young for NCT groups.

I longed for the life I should have been having as I watched my girlfriends having what seemed to be the best time of their lives, but on the other hand I adored my baby daughter so much I never wanted to contemplate her not being here. I almost felt that because I had made this huge decision to have a baby in my early twenties, I had to do it right and I should never appear to not be coping or enjoying it.

Eventually, I met a few great mums, who to this day I still consider some of my best friends. And it really is thanks to meeting these mums which have got me through some of the best and worst times of being a mother. It’s made me realise it doesn’t matter what age you are when you become a mum or how much money you’ve got in the bank, because we’re all in this together. Broken sleep, teething, weaning, potty training and toddler demands, we all know how amazing it feels one minute and how shit the next.

That baby girl turned 8 two months ago, we now have another daughter who is four and have just found out we’re expecting twins early next year! And I’m now proud to call my wonderful boyfriend my wonderful husband. If someone had told me I would be a married mother-of-two at the age of 30, I would have laughed in their face. But sometimes laughing in the face of it all is the only way to get through the weekly Sainsbury’s shop with two kids, scraping dried porridge off the ridiculously expensive wooden high chair you fell for buying because it looks nice, and the lack of sleep, which never gets any easier.

I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved. We certainly had doubts about the choices we made along the way, but we made choices that felt right at the time and we made them work. People often say having a baby changes your life no matter what. But weirdly for us we didn’t really have that life, we only had a year and a half together before our daughter was born. Maybe that made it easier somehow.”

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Check out who Motherland who featured Gas&Air in their best parenting blogs online!

Birth Story Of The Week – Anna (aka Mother Pukka) and Mae

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Despite being a copywriter, I have never quite been able to put down in words our route to procreation. It wasn’t due to overwhelming emotions, simply a wish to do this incredible life process some kind of justice. So, I hope this doesn’t fall short of the mark.

We went through it all: miscarriages, early 28-week labour (which was luckily halted with lots of drugs) and the birth of my daughter Mae through non-elective C-section on 21 June 2013 at 8.37pm. Oh and this all happened in Amsterdam – where we lived for the past five years. We had the sex, we had the drugs (lots of them while giving birth) but the rock ‘n’ roll was fast replaced by the Cbeebies theme tune.

Here’s the good, the bad and the (not-so) ugly of what went down:

The good

After a number of miscarriages, ranging from early-on to 17-weeks, my husband and I mentally distanced ourselves from project procreation. As a close friend recommended, we ‘just started bonking with intent’ instead of ‘trying for a baby’.

It wasn’t about making a ‘bean’ or ‘peanut’, it was about being together as a family – even if it was just the two of us. So we just hung out and despite having a miscarriage only three weeks before, I somehow defied the odds and got pregnant with Mae on a holiday to Belves in the South of France. We considered calling Mae ‘Belves’ so delusionally happy we were.

And she hung in there – until 28 weeks.

The bad

I was throwing up in an IKEA disabled toilet with someone ramming on the door saying I wasn’t disabled and should get out of there. I had food poisoning from a hipster haunt in Amsterdam’s Red Light District and I was sobbing at the yellow and blue-hued nightmare I was in.

After a distressing journey home (still clutching that IKEA baby lamp that seemed so essential at the time), I started to get painful stomach cramps, which fast became contractions. I kept doing the maths – “she’s 28 weeks, she’s 28 weeks” running on loop through my mind – and Googled everything from ‘what are her chances of survival’ and ‘can food poisoning lead to early labour?’ to ‘what’s in a hospital bag?’.

The (not-so) ugly

After a tense 24 hours in hospital, being pumped full of drugs to slow the contractions, Mae luckily decided to stay-put for the rest of my pregnancy. I was house-bound and rested-up for the majority of it but that didn’t matter – every day she was inside was a bonus.

Because she was a breach baby, the midwife decided it was safest to deliver her by C-section. I remember coming in at 8am on the 21 of June to the OLVG (Onze Lieve Vrouwen Gaasthuis) hospital in the heart of Amsterdam and not knowing when we’d have our little girl – it was like booking in for a regular hospital/hair appointment. The nurses kept saying ‘someone will be with you shortly’. As in, someone will be with you to deliver your baby? Or someone will be with you to do a check-up? It was all rather surreal.

At about 7pm after no food or water for 11 hours, I remember saying to my husband, “I either want a sandwich or a baby” – I was literally on the edge and it looked like we were going to have to wait until the next day to have her – the suspense was killing me.

But at 8pm, as we were huddled up on a hospital bed watching Family Guy in a pre-parental daze, the nurse came in and said, “are you ready to have a baby?”  I really wasn’t, I had mentally switched off and couldn’t believe we’d have Mae with us in half an hour. But I was whisked off to theatre all the same, with the husband in hot pursuit, donning blue scrubs in a mad panic.

The C-section took literally three minutes and there was a genuine sense of calm in the room – it wasn’t the medical harsh environment I’d expected – they even turned the lights down when she came out. Mae emerged from behind the green curtain mewling like a cat, while my husband and I broke down with relief that our ‘bean’, our ‘peanut’ had finally come to fruition after so many painful false starts. The moment she latched on in the recovery room? There literally are no words. No words that would ever do it justice.

Check out what Mother Pukka thinks about parenting and all that jazz over at motherpukka.co.uk (it’s absolutely bloody hilarious) and follow her on twitter @mother_pukka

Birth Story Of The Week – Siobhan and Arlo

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So my waters had gone, I’d managed to convinced myself it wasn’t wee, based on the fact I’d gone to the toilet mere moments before fridge-gate (so low was my trust in the stability of my bladder), and I’d just sat down to write my Christmas cards… You can read about that here.

It is about 1pm when I finish writing all my cards, and messaging friends and family for their addresses. This year (since I’m transitioning from young-mum-of-one to woman-with-two-kids), I have done the unprecedented and invested in an actual, physical, address book, so decide now is the perfect time to copy all the addresses I have into it. This leaves me feeling very organised and happy with myself (does this last-minute life admin count as nesting?!).

Because I’m not having any contractions and time is of the essence, I get to work on my nipple stimulation with an electric breast pump in an attempt to bring some on (upping the ante on the simple nipple twiddling of the day before). I am now listening to my Hypnobirthing affirmations, having decided the BBC’s ‘The Missing’, albeit totally gripping, is just a tad too tense and possibly having a detrimental effect on my uterus.

At about 2pm I call my midwife as I have not felt the baby move all day and she had said to keep an eye on baby’s movements. I tell her that I don’t need her to come out because I’m not having regular contractions but says she will pop by anyway to have a listen to baby… (Reflecting now, I clearly remember making this call. I would never in a million years have believed I would be holding my baby in a matter of hours!!).

Whilst waiting for my midwife to arrive I am having some contractions but not take-your-breath-away ones. They are however coming of their own accord since I have stopped pumping. I’m not convinced it’s the real deal though and feel I need a professional (i.e. my midwife) to tell me whether this is it or not.

We do crack open the birth bag at this point though, figuring we might as well make use of our nice things because whether or not this is it right now, since my waters have gone, I am going to be in labour in the next 24 hours or so. We light our lovely Diptyque Pomander scented candle that we chose for our birth (recommend doing this by the way!), pull down the blackout blinds in our bedroom and I start bouncing on my birth ball, whilst applying some make-up (obvs want to look good just in case it is happening!).

At this point I’m welcoming each contraction and when there’s a bit of a gap between one ending and the next one starting, I actually worry that it’s all died off and this isn’t it at all. So each time one comes I’m like YAY, GO BODY! I am doing my up breathing through each one but they aren’t in any way painful.

My midwife arrives at 2.30pm and has a listen to baby. All seems well. Around 3pm she says she’s going to make a move but to call her back when I need her. She tells me she thinks it will be soon. I ask how soon??!! She says she thinks that it will be tonight. I realise baby might actually arrive ON his/her due day (which is tomorrow) – how amazing would that be!

Just after 3pm James says it’s time for him to go and do the school pick-up. My midwife kindly offers to wait with me until he returns. At this point I’m thinking my son will come home, we will have dinner together later on and he will go to bed at his normal time.  Then hopefully (fingers crossed) my labour will kick off in the night. My midwife advises me to have a bath to ease the discomfort once she has left and to try and get some sleep to conserve my energy for later.

By the time James is back at 3.30pm, less than half an hour later, EVERYTHING has changed. I’m not having a bath or a sleep – it’s time to inflate the birth pool – and quick! My midwife has decided she is staying now and it’s not long until she is calling the second midwife.

At one point the contractions were irregular and pain-free, then very quickly they increased in frequency and then very suddenly they increased in intensity and I was not welcoming them any more.

I say hello to my little (soon to be big) boy when he gets back from school but am not able to say much else. I quickly feel like I need him out of the house because I need to focus all my energy and attention on each surge* so my friend is called to collect him.

*I will call them surges from now on because they are powerful and not just little contractions/tightenings.

At 4pm I ask my midwife to examine me. She warns me that it will not tell me how long my labour is going to be, but I need to know something is happening. The surges are intense. My midwife has a poke around and tells me I am approximately 5cm dilated. I am slightly disappointed to hear I am only half-way, especially since I was already 2cm on Monday. I this this means I have a loooong way to go (little do I know).

At 4.10pm my friend arrives and I say goodbye to my son. James is busy inflating and filling the pool and over the next half an hour or so I do feel quite alone as I deal with each surge standing at the dining room, gripping on to the edge. I just want the pool to be ready so I can get in, believing it will feel amazing. The surges are really intense and between each one I give myself an internal pep talk, reminding myself that I want a natural homebirth, that I can do this, that I am in control etc. Then the surge hits and I’m screaming silently in my own head very negative things like I can’t cope, I need pain relief. This internal battle goes back and forth like this for a while whilst I stand bent over the table, rocking backwards and forwards, channeling all my energy into my breathing. I’m not really aware of what is going on around me and am not making conversation with anyone. At this point I really have gone within myself. I do notice that a resuscitation area has been set up on the dining room table but try to put it out of my mind.

After a while I move into the living room, kneel on the sofa and hold James’ hand and tell him I need him to stay close to me now. I don’t care about the pool anymore, I just want him to help me. He crouches down next to me, holds my hand, applies pressure to my back, as I rock backward and forwards over the arm of the sofa, breathing in and out with all the strength I can muster. The surges now are relentless and totally consuming me with their power and I am just fighting to stay on top of them.

A visualization I was taught in pregnancy yoga really helped me at this point: I rocked forward on all fours as I breathed in through my nose and then rocked back onto my heels as I exhaled through my mouth, visualizing a long golden thread extending into the distance. To keep myself breathing out for a long time and not hyperventilating/losing control, I imagined that each long out breath was pushing this golden thread further and further.

At 5pm the pool is finally ready for action. (I only know this from reading my notes because by this point I was not aware of time). The long-awaited, much-anticipated, pool of dreams. I step in and in my memory step straight out, but apparently I was in there for a few minutes. I don’t like it and in any case I feel I need to go to the loo for a number two.

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My lovely midwife tries to convince me it is my baby but I am having none of it.  How could it be the baby, I think, when I still have so many hours to go?!

I hate the idea of poo’ing in the pool and think I know when I need the toilet. Turns out I don’t. As I sit on the toilet with nothing happening, James and my midwife stand outside the bathroom door telling me not to push too hard because I don’t want to give birth on the loo!

I am aware I have only been in labour for a very short while so cannot believe baby is almost ready to make his/her entrance. I ask my midwife to check that it really is the baby but at this point I can’t lie down on my back or even sit down(!). She kindly obliges and examines me standing up. She tells me I am fully dilated and the baby’s head is just centimeters from its exit! I have gone from 5cm to fully dilated in under 1 hour!!! This might go some way to explaining why it is so intense.

Only after being examined and being told me I am good to go, do I believe and give into the urge to push. And boy did I need to push.

At 5.15pm I start pushing, on all fours, on the sofa, completely naked (and not caring in the slightest), in front of the Christmas tree. This baby is not going to be a water baby after all! As I push I bite down hard on a pillow and roar. At one point I scream, “It’s not going to fit” but am reassured that it will. And, “It can’t stay there” when the baby’s head crowns just as the contraction ends, leaving me momentarily at full stretch (probably the most painful moment).

But after just four minutes of what feels like a surprisingly hard, brick-like object, descending down a tunnel that is far too small to accommodate it, at 5.19pm, my gorgeous, perfectly formed, beautiful, baby boy flies (literally flies) into this world and is caught (just) by Natalie, our midwife. James who has been crouched by my head, whispering encouraging and lovely things into my ear, calls “It’s a boy!”, tears flowing, as our baby flies out, little arms up by his head and legs open like a froglet, revealing what we’ve waited 40 weeks to know. He is then passed immediately through my legs and I bring him up to my chest, bloody and beautiful. James captures the moment on camera and it is without a doubt my favourite photo.

I am so happy. There are no words. I birthed our beautiful baby just as I dreamt (albeit not in the pool), at home, in front of the Christmas tree, with no pain relief necessary. This couldn’t have been more different to my previous experience.

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With my first I was almost two weeks overdue, my labour was induced and it lasted 2 long days. I was attached to a drip, pumped full of artificial hormones, strapped to a monitor and endured a number of invasive procedures. I couldn’t sleep and wasn’t allowed to eat. It was a very stressful experience. I ended up having an epidural so felt nothing and my poor son was finally born by forceps delivery in theatre, narrowly avoiding a c-section, under bright lights, surrounded by people I had never met. Arlo James, on the other hand, arrived the day before he was ‘due’, into a completely calm environment, in the comfort of our family home and my labour lasted just 2 hours and 19 minutes.

It was however the most intense 2 hours and 19 minutes of my life. The surges came on hard and fast and good God were they hard. I breathed for my life and could do little else but focus on that. The pushing was the most acutely painful part yet, ironically, the part for which I am most grateful I felt. To feel his head descend was so real and unlike anything else and I am so glad I got to fully feel and experience the miracle of giving birth. I have never felt more in the present in my whole life. It wasn’t calm or sensual, there wasn’t any incense or oms, (it progressed far too quickly for that!), there was no water baby but it was incredible and intense, powerful and primal (and quite bloody painful). My birth experience was, put quite simply, amazing.

Something I learnt in labour was that Hypnobirthing and all our practice didn’t make labour pain-free, but it helped me to feel in control and awesomely powerful and it gave James a real purpose. Also, I talk about ‘pain’ but at no point did I ask for pain relief, not even a paracetamol. And I would do it all again in a heartbeat, in fact, I wish I could(!).

Doing Hypnobirthing meant we were prepared and ready, excited even, for labour to begin! At no point was I truly scared or afraid: I knew I was capable and I trusted my body and baby completely. When it came to pushing I made these loud, primal, roaring/grunting noises. Although I had imagined quietly breathing my baby down as I’d seen in hypnobirthing videos, my body just took over and I could do nothing else but push. It was instinctive. It was powerful. And I went with it.

Had I not done Hypnobirthing I don’t think I would have gone with it. I would have been nervous of the pain. I would have doubted my ability to do it. I would have been worried about the baby. Instead I embraced it, I pushed, I roared like a lion, and then my baby arrived and immediately all the pain just stopped and pure elation flowed.

I had just experienced the most incredible moment of my life.

Things didn’t go quite so well afterwards. I lost 1.5 litres of blood and was transferred to hospital by ambulance. I had 3 tears unfortunately, which needed to be sutured and just when I thought we could go home, I had a huge allergic reaction to something in hospital and went into anaphylactic shock!

But why dwell on the negative?! I know what part I want to remember.

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After a lot of waiting around in a very small and very hot and stuffy hospital room (shouldn’t complain, we did get a private room and James was able to stay with me overnight), we were finally allowed to go home.

And then I’m not sure what happened later that day, or the next, or the next. They all just sort of ran into one another.

We existed in this beautiful bubble for the next week or so and it was just gorgeous. It was like we had just opted out of real life with all its routine and demands. We slept when we wanted, we ate when we felt hungry (even if it was 4am) and we just allowed our home to fill with all of this love.

I miss it already. Those precious early days. I tried so hard to cherish every single moment, knowing it all goes far too fast. I will treasure my memories of that special time for the rest for the life. As James says, it is worth having another baby for (and we have had a LOT of sleepless nights!).

That, I think, says it all.

What is a doula and do I need one?

doula LouiseEver wondered what a doula really does? Ever thought if hiring one for your pregnancy and birth would be beneficial? Louise tells us all about what her role involves and how she makes it work into her family life!

I’m Louise, and I’m a Birth Doula.   I’m also an NCT Practitioner and I facilitate my local Positive Birth Movement group.

“What does a birth doula DO exactly? And, why should I hire one?”  I hear you cry!

A doula recognises birth as a key life experience and has undergone training to understand the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of women and their partners during this time.

She offers continuous, emotional and practical support to women, their partners and their families during pregnancy, birth and early parenthood and also provides an objective viewpoint and information to aid decision making.

Studies indicate that a natural by-product of this type of support is better outcomes for babies and their mothers: shorter, more comfortable labours, fewer interventions and greater maternal satisfaction. A doula does: support your choices, provide continuity of care, offer evidence-based research and information.

A doula doesn’t: push any particular birth method, make decisions for you or exclude your birth partner.

So, if it matters to you if you know the person who looks after you in labour, and if you want to have the support of someone knowledgeable who you know and trust, this might be an option for you.

There’s no such thing as a ‘typical woman’ or ‘typical baby’ or ‘typical labour & birth’ so I can’t really describe a ‘typical doula gig’ but I can give you an idea of what I do based on my experiences so far. Clients get in touch with me, and, if I’m available around their estimated due date (and it IS an estimated date parents! More about that later), then we arrange to meet up.  This initial meeting is free and there’s no obligation on either side.  Usually parents meet with 3 or 4 doulas before deciding on ‘The One’ – it’s really important that both parents meet me and that we all ‘click’.

Once I’ve agreed to be someone’s doula, I block out about 5 weeks in my diary when I will be available to them, exclusively, up until they have their baby.

I go on-call for parents 10 days before the estimated due date and I don’t book anyone else in until 3 and a bit weeks after that date.  This is because all of my babies came at 43 weeks so I like to allow for that plus a couple of days off-call before I go on-call for my next client.  That’s just me, very much shaped by my own experiences!  Most doulas’ on-call period is 2 weeks before the estimated due date until 2 weeks after.

Before that time though, I meet up with parents at least twice for antenatal sessions that usually last a couple of hours each.  These take place about a month before my on-call period begins.

Parents set the agenda and usual topics are:

  • De-briefing any previous births
  • Understanding the physiology of birth
  • The role of hormones and the effect of the birth environment on them
  • What will help the birth process, and what won’t
  • Physical skills for labour and birth – positions, breathing, relaxation & visualisation techniques.
  • Working through any concerns and understanding your aspirations for your birth
  • My role, partners role, how we’ll work together as a team
  • Transition to parenthood

I’ll often meet up with a mum just for a chats too in the months beforehand – she might come on a dog walk with me, or pop in for a cup of tea if she’s nearby or I’ll call on her.  This happens especially if I’ve been booked quite early on in her pregnancy, so that we really know each other well by the time we do the antenatal sessions.

I facilitate the Tunbridge Wells Positive Birth Group from my home, and usually doula clients come along to that once a month too.

It’s really, really common for mums hiring me to call me a lot to talk through things as they reach about 35 weeks – it seems to me to be a time when women naturally start wanting to sort through any anxieties they have that they may have been pushing to one side up until that point.  These seem to rise to the fore at a time which is, thankfully, a good while before labour is imminent, and that’s great: it means they have time to talk things through, reflect on our discussions, talk them through again, reflect a bit more, talk a bit more and hopefully that process means they’re in a good place mentally and able to relax and feel confident before their labour begins.  It also means that we continue to build our relationship and trust with each other.

When I first go on-call, I’m pretty relaxed. Yes, I have my bag packed ready, my phone fully charged & on ‘loud’ 24/7, my family know I could get called at a moment’s notice, I don’t drink any alcohol, but it’s not until around the 41 week stage that I start putting serious effort into going to bed early (I like to be asleep by 10pm, in case I get called at 3 am) and being militarily organised: every evening I run through the next day with my husband – where he’s going to be, how quickly he can get home, whether or not he’d be able to do the school pick-up with less than an hour’s notice (my youngest is 9) etc.  Any gaps have to be filled, usually by one of my teenagers, who aren’t always great at answering their phones – which does introduce an element of anxiety, or by one of my many school-mum friends.

It’s very usual for mums to call me after their 40 week check up with their midwife, as it seems to be at around this point that induction gets mentioned.  What mums usually say is “I went for my check-up and the midwife said that next week she’ll book me in for an induction at 42 weeks.”  I find it’s usually best to talk this through face to face with both parents: it’s vital that they understand that the induction is being offered and that they can decline it and take up the other options that should also be put forward.  They need to understand the procedure and the possible risks and benefits of induction, in order to make their own, informed decision on what’s right for them and to know that I’ll be there to support that decision 100%

Now, back to that Estimated Due Date (EDD) – we usually talk through the fact that it is exactly that: Estimated!  Term is anything from 38-42 weeks for a single baby.  So their baby is quite likely to want to make an appearance at some point during that 4 week period. Some babies, like mine (43, yes, 43 weeks! I was Climbing. The. Walls!), take a bit longer than that. I completely understand that it’s really hard not to get fixated on the EDD (I’ve been that person), especially as it’s likely that most of your friends and family will do too and may start ‘phoning/texting on a daily basis with queries like “anything happening?” and, without meaning to, they’re creating an added pressure to ‘get on with it’. Taking a leaf out of Kate & William’s book and just providing your nearest and dearest with a ‘due month’ might be an idea.

Induction, and other options suggested during pregnancy, labour and birth can be construed by parents as something they have to accept.  It’s not always clear if this is because of the way they have been presented by healthcare providers, or down to the way parents have interpreted what’s said to them – I suspect it’s a mixture of both.  Either way, it’s important to clear that up and for them to be aware of all options, and that’s part of my role too.

So, when a woman waits until she goes into spontaneous labour, she’ll usually give me a ring when she feels that ‘something’s happening’ – this gives me the heads-up to get all my personal arrangements sorted.  Often it’s late afternoon or evening time when I get that call – I don’t need to do anything at that point.  If women wake in the night feeling that things are starting, they tend to wait until the morning before calling to let me know, as long as they’re happy and unconcerned.

More often than not though, I’ll get a call in the evening and then THE Call some time in the night.  THE Call is the one where parents are asking me to come over.  At this point, mums are finding their contractions are taking up all their attention, getting stronger, longer and closer together and she may be feeling like she’s ready for some extra support.  Or, it may be that her partner feels that he/she is needing some support.  Either way, if I’m needed I go. (A doula will usually come to your home before you call the midwife for a home birth or before you set off to the Birth Centre or Hospital if that’s where you’re having your baby).

I’ll have had a shower before bed and have my clothes laid out (comfortable & layers) so that if I’m called in the night I just have to brush my teeth, get dressed, grab my bag and go.

Once I arrive with a mum or couple I’m usually with them until their baby’s born.  Sometimes though, I’ll go back home if we all decide it’s still a bit too early in labour.  I’m always happy to go backwards and forwards if that’s what’s needed, because I’m aware that there can be, for a labouring woman, an element of ‘needing to perform’ (for want of a better phrase) once I’m there!  Or, I might go into another room and read my book, watch TV or sleep so that mum doesn’t feel observed in any way, but knows I’m right there if she needs me.

Usually though, I’ve been called because mum really needs some extra support.  She needs reassurance that everything is ok. She needs reminding that her contractions are a muscle working really, really hard, over and over again and that they are a sign that her body is doing exactly what it needs to to birth her baby. She needs to feel safe. She may need encouragement.  She’ll probably appreciated the distraction of someone new arriving.  She might need help getting into a comfortable position – perhaps making a nest of pillows, quilts etc. She’ll need to be reminded to drink and try to eat a little and to go to the loo.  She might need a hug.  She might need to relax in a bath that’s kept at a comfortable temperature. She might find a wonderful lower back massage soothing. These are all particular ways I can support her.

I’m always very, very focussed on partners and their needs too.  Dads, for example, can feel quite anxious at this point. They visibly relax when I arrive and usually prefer me to stay once I’m there, even if I’m in another room.  Their supporting role is vital: they’re the person that Mum is closest to and trusts the most.  It’s my job to support them so that they can support her.  They need to feel safe, reassured and confident.

If parents are planning to have their baby at a Birth Centre or Hospital I provide the support so that they feel able to stay at home for as long as possible.  However, I always listen to the woman in labour – if she feels she wants to get going, that’s what we’ll do. When it’s time to leave I travel with them.

Wherever they are having their baby, there will be a midwife joining our little team at some point.  I consider it my responsibility to make sure that this union goes well.  Most midwives seem happy with the presence of a doula, but not all.  What I say to parents antenatally is that, if mum and dad are ok, I’ll spend half and hour ingratiating myself with the midwife.  By this I mean being friendly, considerate and respectful – chatting, helping, making sure I’m not in her way, listening etc. so that she feels comfortable with me there and hopefully realises that I’m not going to be a trouble-making-pain-in-the-butt.  Remember the last time you were in company where there was ‘a bit of an atmosphere’ between two people and how uncomfortable that feels?  So, you can see why I feel this is always time well spent.  It also means that we work together in a collaborative way in supporting my clients – we’re all part of the same team.

During the established first stage of labour, wherever she is, Mum might need much the same support provided during the latent phase earlier.

Her contractions will be closer together, stronger and longer.  Having got the room to her liking – usually dimmed lights, quiet, privacy & peace ensured – I watch out for signs of tension in her body: shoulders rising, jaw clenching, furrowed brow, clenched fists, scrunched-up toes etc.  I’ll quietly remind her to relax, maybe placing a hand gently on each shoulder.  What I’ve noticed is, the more time I’ve spent with a woman antenatally, the more she responds to my voice during labour and women often say afterwards things like “I just heard your voice and knew everything was alright” or “the sound of your voice made me feel relaxed”.  Trust me, this isn’t because I have a particularly mellow, honeyed voice or I’m doing anything clever: it’s because she knows me and she trusts me.  So, when I suggest that she relaxes or that she changes position or that she’s doing really, really well or I assure her that everything is fine etc. she can accept what I’m saying, she doesn’t have to consider it too greatly.  We know that women need to be able to switch-off the decision making part of their brain in labour.

Some women need to comforted with every contraction, some women need to be massaged for ages, some women need nothing other than to know that her partner and I are there.  Every woman is different, every labour is different.

She also knows that me and her partner are there for the duration.  There’ll be no change of shift for us, whatever happens, whoever comes and goes we will be constant.

Again, I’m keeping an eye on her partner all the time.  Making sure that he or she is relaxed and confident. A labouring woman may look and sound completely different to any way that her partner has ever seen or heard before and sometimes they need reassurance that certain behaviours are normal.  If partners are getting tired, I’ll suggest they lie down and have a sleep, or go and get some fresh air and something to eat if they are both happy with that.  Dads are often very chivalrous and offer for me to have a nap during a longer labour.  Usually I decline – after all, once their baby’s born, I get to go home and sleep for as long as I want – I won’t have a new baby to look after!

Sometimes labours progress steadily and sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes there’s a need for discussion and decision making.  My role then is to answer any questions parents may have and to make sure they get the information they need from caregivers and that they understand it, once again, in order to make sure that they can make any decisions in an informed way.  I then support any decision they make 100%.

After their baby is born, if everyone is ok, the midwife and I will leave the new family alone for a while to have that magical time together.  I go and sit outside, jot down my notes (I keep a birth record for every birth I attend), have something to eat  or if we’re at home, I’ll tidy-up, make tea and toast for everyone etc. and I’ll pop back after about 40 minutes.

Usually I leave about 2 hours after the baby is born – once everyone is settled and happy. I then visit at a time that suits the parents to support them in anyway needed and to talk through the birth.

I don’t do postnatal doulaing, but by the time I’ve been at someone’s birth, I have a relationship with and a vested interest in that family and will always pop ‘round, at the drop of a hat, without any charge, if they’re experiencing difficulties. I am available for them to get in touch with any queries or worries pretty much forever more after that.

I’m Expecting – A great new app for mums-to-be

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As soon as the baby is born, mums and dads spend every waking moment tirelessly documenting everything that happens to their bundle of joy. From the first word spoken to the first step taken, the first haircut, and even their favorite meals and TV shows, all of these go into a little baby book that parents can look through when they’re in the mood for some reminiscing. For parents who want to remember the whole pregnancy – morning sickness and all – it’s not quite as simple. There aren’t a lot of people who keep track of their pregnancy so meticulously, and they’ve often had to improvise to make their own pregnancy journals.

But there’s something comforting about being able to see all your symptoms and the memorable parts of your pregnancy, isn’t there? After all, there’s nothing that can help you deliver your baby more than being prepared does, and learning about your own body and the changes it undergoes throughout the pregnancy can be quite beneficial. This is why MedHelp, Inc. has created I’m Expecting a great new app on mobile phones that helps you keep track of your pregnancy and gives you tips on what to expect each week.

Many mums now rely on their phones for support, as reports have shown that pregnancy apps are more popular than fitness apps. Mums now also rely on the internet more than ever, and with Gaming Realms, the company that acquired Iceland Bingo in 2013, showing that growth in mobile internet is among the strongest trends in the internet landscape today, it’s not surprising that many mums use their phones to get information on their pregnancy and symptoms.

I’m Expecting eliminates the need to do Google searches for what to expect, and it takes the hassle out of creating your own pregnancy calendar. The app gives you the chance to say what your expected due date is and then calculates how many weeks into your pregnancy you are – perfect for mums who can never seem to keep track. A timeline for expected pregnancy symptoms is presented on a calendar, and you can actually say the actual dates once the symptoms kick in. Tips on what to expect from each trimester and week are also provided to mums, so they never have to worry about what’s happening to their babies. The app is presented in a beautiful, simple design so there’s no fuss, but the best part about it is that it gives mums easy access to the MedHelp Pregnancy Forums, where thousands of mums come together to help each other through their pregnancies.

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There are many other pregnancy tracking apps out there, but I’m Expecting stands out from the rest with its practical range of services, as well as its excellent support. If used with dedication, the app can not only help you through your first pregnancy, but help you keep track of everything so you’ll know what to expect for succeeding pregnancies as well. Why not give it a try. You can download here from Google Play.

Homebirth – a Dad’s perspective

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‘We should, though, get accustomed to homebirth being ever more the norm. To go forward, we should go back to my Grandmother’s world.’

The past is, famously, a foreign country, where they do things differently. When I learned, as a child, that my grandmother was born at home, this felt decidedly the practice of another country. It seemed something that used to feature but, like spam meat, ration books or outside toilets, had so long ceased to that it was the preserve of aliens, never mind foreigners.

When we were expecting our first child, Stanley, in 2011, a work colleague told me that his wife had had a homebirth. This seemed to me alien speak, as my views on homebirth had lain mentally dormant, un-scrutinised since my youth. My co-worker even insisted that homebirth was much superior to hospital birth. This was so otherworldly that I couldn’t compute. I could only explain it in terms of the eccentricities, invariably much in evidence, of the guy who was speaking to me. Crazy man, crazy talk, I concluded.

I thought no more of homebirth till my wife, Monica, suggested it for our second child, Brenna, born on 2 January this year. Monica is not someone whose views I can dismiss as quickly as the person I worked with. And she rapidly won me over. Others that we spoke to during Monica’s pregnancy were, however, befuddled.

“You are,” they’d stammer, “having the baby at home?” “Well, that’s the plan. But the midwife will take you into hospital if there is any need. Planning for a homebirth doesn’t mean you’ll definitely have one. It just gives you the option and you can always revert to the hospital, if that is necessary or what you come to prefer.”

Regurgitating these points, picked up from a ‘meet the midwifes’ session, often brought a close to this conversational line. Presumably, those who moved the conversation on were content to see homebirth as a vehicle for maximising your options. To those who showed more interest, I’d explain how it might help, particularly with the first stage of labour, where being as relaxed as possible assists. The hospital being an unfamiliar environment not tending toward relaxation, while the home, in contrast, is wholly familiar and thus, more relaxing.

This generally persuaded even the most doubtful. One chap, though, insisted that we have the birthing pool on the ground floor, otherwise we risked a ceiling collapsing. This had been heartily dismissed as a possibility at the ‘meet the midwifes’ event, so, I replied, “has that ever really happened?” “Oh, yes,” he maintained, ensuring I had a tiny twinge of concern for our ceiling when I inflated the birthing pool in our first floor bathroom. But, as I did so, fully two weeks before Brenna was born, I pushed aside this misgiving, reassuring myself that the midwifes must know what they are talking about.

‘Be prepared’ is the Scouts motto and, we thought, we were acting in that spirit by getting the pool inflated, and keeping it so, at an early stage. At this time, action stations always appeared on the horizon. I’d go to sleep thinking, “this is the night that our daughter will arrive”. Then wake up the next morning to find that she hadn’t. The action stations were so regularly mirages that I stopped believing in them. There was a part of me that believed Monica would always be pregnant and the birthing pool would forever dominate the bathroom, without ever being used.

A few year days before Brenna’s birth, rather tactlessly when speaking to a German friend, I compared our wait with the Blitz, in the sense that initially it felt like it must end soon. But our wait went on a few weeks, as the Blitz went on for years, after a while, it just seemed normal that Monica was on the verge of giving birth, as grim acceptance marked London’s fortitude in the face of the Blitz. There are no conditions to which a person cannot grow accustomed, as Tolstoy said.

He had, of course, never given birth. That appears to me not a condition to which we accustom. No matter how excellent our midwives are, or how relaxing our homes, it can only be endured. Brenna arrived at 4.45pm, little over an hour after the midwives did. Thankfully, my colleague was right: homebirth was a quicker and smoother experience than Monica experienced with Stanley. But still not, pace Tolstoy, an experience she could be said to have become accustomed to.

We should, though, get accustomed to homebirth being ever more the norm. To go forward, we should go back to my Grandmother’s world. As challenging as birth inevitably is, Brenna’s homebirth was preferable to Stanley’s hospital birth, incurring less cost for the taxpayer, as no hospital bed or treatments needed to be paid for. Homebirth can help families meet the challenge of birth and the NHS the cost of remaining affordable in an ageing society.

follow Jonathan on twitter @Jonathan_Todd

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!