‘Mummy, Where Do Babies Come From?’

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‘How do bees make babies Mummy?’

Picture the scene. It’s Friday, I’ve just got home from work and my 7 year old daughter is telling me about a boy she knows who’s Mummy has 9 children and is pregnant again. I am shocked. Not by the number of children this woman has but my daughter’s comment. ‘It’s not her fault Mummy she has so many babies it’s not like she decides to have another one every year they just keep growing inside her’.

What I found so tricky about this conversation is that maybe I should have left it at that and changed the subject, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t let my intelligent 7 year old think that’s how women get pregnant. She knows a lot about pregnancy and birth, being the daughter of a midwife and often hears me giving early labour advice on the phone or speaking to my colleagues ‘She’s how many centimetres dilated? Ok tell her to start filling the pool I’ll be there in half an hour’.

So I poured myself a glass of wine for Dutch courage and told her how a woman gets pregnant. I explained why men have willies that go hard, why fannies aren’t actually where we we wee from (diagrams helped with this bit) and I think she was pretty amazed. She liked the fact that she came from the mixing of an egg and sperm and was impressed at how clever the creation of life is. All was going well, I was giving myself a pat on the back for my diagrams and explanations. Brownie points for me. My motto is always be honest with my children and answer anything they ask me honestly.

Later that evening when I was tucking her into bed she brought up the subject again.

‘Mummy, you know that thing adults do to make a baby?’

‘Sex you mean Anya, remember it’s called sex’ I replied

‘Yeah sex, well have you and Daddy just done it twice you know to make me and Marnie?’

‘Of course sweetie, just those two times.’

Has anyone else had this conversation with their children yet? And at what age did you or them bring up the conversation?

How To Support a Family When Their Baby Dies

Following on from last week’s post ‘Thomas’s Story’ I was emailed by a couple who wanted to share how they were supported when they lost their baby in 2012. They experienced the unthinkable when just only one hour after their son was born, he tragically died. They have written this post as a guide to help and support friends and family in these circumstances.

holding hands

“Not all pregnancies have a happy ending.  I’m sure most people know this, we certainly did.  But it´s one thing knowing something in principle and something else entirely to live through it.  We read the leaflets and had the hypothetical conversations that I’m sure lots of couples have when they approach the end of a pregnancy: “what will we do if…?”.  But nothing could have prepared us for the death of our first son, an hour after his birth at 41 weeks.  No warning, very little explanation and absolutely nothing we could do about it other than start the long and painful process of grieving for our beautiful, perfect boy.

But, unlikely as it may seem, we look back on that time with gut-wrenching sadness, but also a lot of joy thanks to the amazing kindness of many, many people.  We now know that every single day in the UK, 17 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth. Most of these are completely unexpected and often go unexplained.  Sadly, with statistics like that, the chances are that most of you who read this blog will be touched by the death of a baby at some point, either directly or indirectly.  We have chosen to write about some of the ways in which people helped us in the hope that, if faced with a friend or relative who has lost a baby, others may be able to offer help and solace during what may be that person’s darkest days.
Be there. These are likely to be the worst times your loved ones will ever go through so the most important thing is to be there, in whatever way you can.  Visit, call, send a message, whatever you can manage and whatever you feel is appropriate.  Nothing is worse than saying nothing, ignoring what´s happened and waiting until ‘things get better’. Don´t be afraid to cry, it’s a sign that it has affected you too and that what’s happened has sent ripples far beyond the immediate family. One of the most horrendous feelings is the sense that whilst their world has completely collapsed, the rest of the world has carried on as normal.  People get married, have children, go to work, get on the bus, take holidays. All of this ´normality´ is really hard to watch and even harder to be a part of.  Anything you can do to reach out a hand of support could help.
Listen.  Nothing makes sense to parents who have lost a baby and every minute of every day seems like an eternity as they cycle through the feelings of anger, confusion, denial, depression, total isolation, questioning…  Everyone worries about not knowing what to say or, worse, saying the wrong thing.  The truth is, there’s no right thing to say.  The best thing to do is listen.  People want to tell their stories and bereaved parents often want to talk about their baby.  It helps to make it real and tangible: that baby is a person, he or she had a life – however short – and talking about what happened can help enormously. Having said that, everyone is different and it’s important to be sensitive and try to respond to the signals coming your way.  If they don’t want to talk, don´t force it, though don’t read this as a sign that they may never want to talk about it.  One day they may talk non-stop, the next they may not want it mentioned at all.  Grief is not neat, linear or organised, you just have to do your best in the circumstances and try to read the situation on a minute-to-minute basis.  And whatever you do, avoid cliches like “time is a healer”, “it was meant to be” – these are most definitely not helpful.  The death of anyone shouldn’t be bundled up into glib soundbites, least of all a baby.  Yes, time passes and over time the rawness eases, but in the early days the depth and darkness of the hole parents find themselves in is absolute.  And in no world is it ´meant to be´ that a baby dies unexpectedly.
Bring food. Don’t stay too long. Just like any new parents (and yes, your loved ones are parents, even if their baby is not with them), the day-to-day responsibilities of life can become impossible to keep up with.  Buttering a piece of toast can seem like an insurmountable challenge, never mind cooking a meal.  If you can bring food, it will be so welcome but don’t expect to be invited in.  Your friends will be grateful but, when grief takes over, there’s little room for pleasantries or thank yous.  Those will come later.  If you are invited in, don’t stay too long.  Again, try to read the situation and remember that it’s about THEM, not about YOU.
Be proactive.  The utter shock of losing a child is all-consuming and can leave parents with little or no motivation.  This includes the motivation to do things they would normally enjoy and, more importantly, the motivation to ask for help.  Even that is too much effort. So, where possible, take the lead and take care of any practicalities you can: washing, loading/unloading the dishwasher, running errands etc.  If they have older children, perhaps offer to look after them for a few hours.  Also, taking on unwanted admin such as cancelling baby-related plans (NCT memberships, deliveries for the nursery etc.) or offering to call other people who the parents don’t have the strength to relate their story to in the immediate days and weeks.  Another brilliant thing is to offer to accompany your friends to appointments.  These can be scary and often have to take place in the very hospital where their baby died.  A friendly face can really help.  Again, offer but don’t expect a yes.  It’s a question of offering helpful options rather than imposing yourself on the situation.
Inform yourself. There are charitable and professional organisations that support parents who have lost a baby. SANDS offers emotional support to bereaved parents but also has information for family and friends that can help to explain how the parents may be feeling.  The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be.  Cruse Bliss and Winston´s Wish also offer support and information.
Go the distance. Grief doesn’t go away, it doesn’t even get much easier.  Bereaved parents will forever remember the child(ren) they’ve lost and that space can never be filled. Every birthday, anniversary, Christmas, Mothers’/Fathers’ Day will bring back very painful feelings.  During the early weeks and months the support pours in, but as time goes on, that wave of support recedes and the parents are left feeling as if they´re alone in a world that now feels very alien, needing to ´move on and get back to normal´.  This can be the hardest time for parents and for friends too.  Again, no-one wants to say the wrong thing and avoid upsetting the parents all over again.  In reality, nothing is more upsetting than the feeling that people have forgotten.  Do your best, in a sensitive way, to show your friends that you haven’t forgotten their baby and he/she will always have a place in your lives.  Tread carefully because everyone will have their own way of dealing with their feelings but you could think about acknowledging anniversaries, raising money for a relevant cause, or simply continuing to talk/ask about the baby if it feels appropriate.
We miss our son every single day.  We should have a noisy, boisterous toddler tearing around our house, instead we have the photos we proudly display on our mantlepiece, the stretch marks I have on my tummy, the tile with his tiny footprints imprinted on it, the little hat he wore during his very short life, and of course the heaviness that we carry with us every day.  But he is also with us in the box brimming with cards and messages that we received following his death, he is in the new friendships we’ve forged with people who truly went above and beyond in their support for us and mainly in the firmly held belief we now have that, although there are inexplicably awful things that happen in the world, there’s a tremendous amount of goodness too and we’re so proud that our precious boy has given us that gift.”

The Truth About Maternity Leave

The other day I discharged one of my women on day 23. This may sound quite late to still be visiting women after they’ve had a baby but personally I feel that day 14 is too soon. Most women’s partners are back at work after 2 weeks and that first week flying solo is really tough. You feel like you are constantly breastfeeding and the thought of even getting dressed and leaving the house is too much to cope with. So you stay in your pj’s watching day time tv and eating chocolate biscuits, checking Facebook, taking selfies of you and your new baby and using those amazing Instagram filters to hide your bags.

I gave my usual schpeel about seeing your GP at 6 weeks, contraception, pelvic floor exercises, baby clinic and asked what her support network like. She rolled off all the classes her and her pals she’d met at NTC are going to do. Baby massage, baby sensory, baby yoga, swimming, power pramming, baby cinema. I was exhausted just thinking about all of that. I can barely fit in the 3 runs a week I am trying to do as part of my get fit routine this year. But I smiled a knowing smile and walked away thinking she will be just fine. It’s all a big learning curve.

Because all that stuff you throw yourself into during maternity leave is really to keep you sane and get you out of the house. And you don’t want to feel like you’re missing out or that you’re a bad mother for depriving your baby of any of those classes which are scientifically proven to increase their IQ (ahem).

So as a mother of 2 having gone through maternity leave twice and hated some days so much I wanted to scream and run back to work, I want to share with you the truth with some tips thrown in too, for your own sanity.

Not even Instagram's filter could hide how tired I felt

Not even Instagram’s filter could hide how tired I felt

Maternity leave is expensive. Once your mat pay starts to dwindle, all those coffees and lunches out start eating a hole in your purse. But where’s the pleasure in sitting at home drinking a Nescafe? Think wisely to saying yes to meeting friends for lunch. If you’re meeting work pals in town during their lunch break they should really offer to pay as they’re on a full time salary. If some of your new ‘mum mates’ live locally, take it in turns to host coffee mornings at each other’s houses. Offer to make a cake or if you’re living in the real world and have been up all night with your baby take a packet of chocolate Hobnobs. Chocolate always makes things better.

Baby classes are great but again so expensive. I paid for 10 mother and baby yoga classes at a local private gym. Total waste of money. My baby screamed during every position the teacher got us to do, even bouncing her on an exercise ball whilst singing ‘Row Row Row Your Boat’ didn’t end her screams. I ended up sitting on the side breastfeeding her for the rest of the class and lying when the teacher asked me if I was doing my pelvic floor exercises. And you know what I learnt? I learnt that my baby was highly strung and hated the echo and noise of that place and at that time of the morning she wanted to be fed and then sleep in her sling. Lessons learnt.

Maternity leave is a competitive game. It’s a constant battle of who’s losing their baby weight quicker, whose baby is playing with what toy, who’s getting more sleep, whose baby is reaching the next milestone. With my first baby I joined a postnatal already established group of 7 Mums. You know the saying ‘too many cooks?’ Well it was a bit like that. To this day 2 of them are still my really close friends but I found the big group meet ups stressful and one girl far too controlling and bitchy. It was like being back at school. With my second baby I already had friends with babies so I saw them separately and it was perfect. Everyone was a little more chilled and more into meeting up and swapping gossip rather than weaning tips.

Sleep deprivation pushes you to the lowest of lows. And once the night is over the day comes and babies don’t sleep for long in the day unless they’re being constantly pushed in their pram. This is tough. There were days were I wanted to be at home, getting house holds chores done, maybe do some cooking but my daughter like all babies wanted to be held, CONSTANTLY. Because that’s what babies do. They don’t really like those bouncer chairs for more than 2 minutes 24 seconds and no one can shower and wash their hair that quickly, never mind shave their legs. So my advice is get a sling if you have shit to do, or leave the washing and watch box sets whilst breastfeeding on the sofa. Stock up on loads of them now if you’re pregnant and reading this. Ask for them if your friends want to buy you presents for your baby shower. Breaking Bad and Mad Men are my top recommendations.

Self help books made me feel like an idiot. ‘How to get your baby to sleep through the night’ books and ‘How to get your baby into a routine’ are more challenging that the task itself. Don’t get me wrong, I know and have heard of many babies who have been trained to do this but not without a lot of stress and tears. A vivid memory of this was when my first baby was 6 weeks old and I was reading a certain book to try and established a routine to our misery. I was holding her in one arm as she screamed and scanning the pages of the book in the other trying to find the bit that said what I should be doing at mid day with her. The book clearly states that she can’t be hungry as I had fed her only an hour ago and she needs some ‘tummy time’ on her play gym. It was mid day, she was screaming and screaming on her tummy under her horrible garish play gym. I looked at this hideously stressful situation I was putting her and myself in. So what did I do? I listened to my maternal instincts, picked her up cuddled her and fed her. And I promised her that I would throw that stupid book away and never do that to her again. We made it through the rest of the day just fine.

You will feel like a failure and that you can’t do it. You know in labour when you said ‘I can’t do this is’ and your partner and midwife said ‘You can and you are doing this’, well remember that. Because all over the country and the world other mothers are thinking the same thing. You’re not depressed, you are just climbing the huge mountain of motherhood. And no one said it was easy, and maternity leave is on some days boring, and lonely and unfulfilling. And you crave your old life, and the job you left behind because you used your intelligent brain and felt stimulated and had proper lunch breaks and went for a wee without having a baby attached to your nipple. But you are doing just fine. Who cares if your baby is wearing a stained baby grow and you haven’t done the baby massage your were taught in those stupidly expensive classes today. All your baby knows and needs is you. And that can feel overwhelming in itself. And the sleep does get better, and adjusting to motherhood takes time, plenty of time. Mine are 6 and 3 and I’m still adjusting. Share your fears and anxieties with your mum mates because we need to be sisterly in all of this and be honest with one another.

And just when you’ve got into the swing of it all and your baby is eating solids, and sleeping better and holding toys and actually enjoying going to play groups, your maternity leave is almost up. And you can’t believe how fast the past 11 months has gone and you’ll be riddled with guilt and questioning everything. ‘Why did I complain that it was so awful, I’m going to miss my baby so much. Will my baby be happy at nursery/the childminder? Did I do enough? The answer is yes you will miss that small human you have spent every second of the day with for the past year and yes your child will be happy with the new routine of nursery/the childminder. And yes you did enough you survived, you will get a piece of your life back. And you will be a stronger human for it.

Preparing For Antenatal Classes

Things have moved on a bit since the 1940's

Things have moved on a bit since the 1940’s

Like most first time pregnant women, you’re probably feeling slightly clueless about what you are embarking on in preparation for the labour and birth. Friends, family members, colleagues and the lady in the supermarket will all be telling you their horror birth stories just to get you feeling really relaxed and stressed free about the pain. And by the time you’re showing, every hand will be touching your bump telling you what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Not so helpful.

Antenatal classes are aimed at any pregnant woman and her partner from around 34 weeks. This is the optimum time in pregnancy as it gives you enough time to focus and remember the keys bits, but not too far away for you to forget everything the minute you feel your first contraction. There are a rang of classes you can sign up to, both free on the NHS and private. Some are broken up in 4-6 sessions and some are held over a weekend. The most popular are the NCT classes which you attend in your local area usually at the teachers home or near by church hall. On average between 4 and 8 couples attend the classes and they are held in the evenings to allow couples to fit it in their work schedules.

There are however, many other private antenatal classes so it’s worth finding out about all your options in your area. Speak to friends who have had babies and get an idea of what to expect and how they found them useful. Your midwife will be able to tell you about the free classes your local hospital offer which are usually held in the hospital setting. These are sometimes bigger than the the private classes and less intimate but you will still receive the same up to date information.

Here are my top tips for preparing for your classes.

  • Try to remember that these classes are aimed at parents-to-be to find out about labour and birth. You can’t possibly learn everything in 6 sessions so doing some evening reading will go a long way
  • Don’t be nervous or shy about asking a question in the group. For all you know the girl sitting next to you may also have no idea what ‘cervical dilation’ means but is too embarrassed to ask. Your teacher will be approachable and be able to answer all your questions
  • Find out all your options and just don’t just accept that what a doctor recommends you do may be the best option for you and your baby
  • Get your birth partner on board. Make him or her swot up too. When you’re in labour you need them to be your advocate, contractions don’t allow for clear thinking and being expected to answer lots of questions.
  • Remember it doesn’t all stop when the labour is over. Life with a new-born is pretty full on and getting those ‘survival’ tips are essential to feeling prepared
  • Being pregnant and having a baby isn’t a test. Everyone will approach things differently, do things their way and you shouldn’t feel judged by what decisions you and your partner make. This is your experience so enjoy 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?

The Midwives Royal Sweep!

Fancy a sweep?

Fancy a sweep?

Hello universe. Are you aware that the Royal baby is due to be evicted from the Royal womb any day now? Are you checking Sky News, Daily Mail and Twitter the moment you wake in desperation for the news that it has been born? Nope? Just me? I feel like I’m on call for lovely Kate and William, anxiously waiting for her to page me saying she’s had a ‘show’. Or possible regular contractions. Or water breaking. Or any news!!!!!

I can barely sleep at night. And I’m not the only one going Royal baby gaga for any news. The press are camped outside St Mary’s hospital in Paddington, like hysterical One Direction fans waiting to catch a glimpse of Harry Styles in his undies at the hotel window.

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Here at Gas and Air, I’ve decided to a do little competition to see if any of you clever readers can guess the Royal baby name and second name. And what’s even better, is that I’ve got some of my all time essential products for bumps and babies to give away as a prize! Trust me, you’re all going to want to get your paws on this little beauty!

All you have to do is think of yourself as a Prince or Princess, and name that baby! Something traditional? George? Alexander? Jemima? Or more trendy Mungo? India? Coco? You can guess up to 2 names. But don’t hang around she is due any day now…………

Click on the link below and follow the instructions. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Bumpology

You know when you’re pregnant and you suddenly have that overwhelming urge to understand all the changes that are happening to your body?  You Google ‘how big is my baby at 18 weeks’ and ‘can I eat sushi’.  Well Linda Geddes realised that that wasn’t enough for her, so pregnant with her second baby she decided to research more of these questions and the results were fascinating   So much so that she decided to write a book all about it Bumpology, AND manage to finish it in between feeding new born Max!  Impressive stuff, well that’s Linda for you.

Linda, with Tilly and Max

Linda, with Tilly and Max

1. So Linda could my baby really taste the chicken madras I ate to get myself into labour when I went 5 days over due?

Yes, or certainly some elements of it, like the garlic.  Flavours can get into the amniotic fluid, just as they can get into breast milk, and developing babies are constantly gulping and breathing in this fluid meaning it passes smell and taste receptors in the nose and mouth.  There’s even some evidence that the flavours babies experience in the womb may shape their preferences once they’re born: babies whose mums drank lots of carrot juice during pregnancy or while breastfeeding seemed particularly partial to carrots once solid foods were introduced into their diet.

2. And what is the best way to kick start labour if your due date comes and goes?

You may have heard rumours that sex, pineapple or curry can trigger labour, but there’s little evidence to back this up. However, castor oil, which irritates the bowels, can help kick-start labour, and it’s possible that a spicy curry could have a similar effect.  Do you really want to be experiencing diarrhoea when you’re in labour though?  Probably not.  Nipple tweaking on the other hand, can be quite effective at getting those contractions going, although you may have to persist for several hours.

3. We have 2 daughters and my husband would love a boy, is it likely we’d have another girl?  Should he kiss bye bye to his mini rugby player?

Is your husband a high-earner, or does he have a traditionally masculine career?  If so, his odds of having a boy are slightly increased.  However, if you are an attractive couple; if you (the woman) have a high stress job; or if you are an older woman, then you are ever-so-slightly more likely to have girls.  None of these factors is a guarantee though – they just tweak the odds by a few percent.  Maybe your husband should start teaching the girls to do rugby tackles!

4. As a midwife. women ask me all the time ‘Can I drink alcohol in pregnancy’ I have to admit I find all the new Government research rather conflicting and my advice is no more clear. 

It is confusing. The honest answer is that scientists simply don’t know if there is a “safe” amount of alcohol that women can get away with drinking, hence the advice to drink nothing at all. Certainly lots or even moderate amounts of alcohol are harmful. For example, a glass of wine a day increases your baby’s risk of being born underweight, which opens them up to additional health risks as they get older. But there is a grey zone between one and probably eight units of alcohol per week, where any evidence for harm is contradicted by other studies finding no harm. If you do decide to follow the advice of one or two units once or twice a week, make sure you know what a unit is, and try to space your drinks out.

bumpology

5. Bumpology was written because you wanted more scientific answers to a lot of the waffle midwives, doctors and NCT teachers told you.  What would be the most overwhelming evidence you found from writing the book that you would like to share?

I do think that some of the risks associated with medical interventions during labour are over-hyped.  The problem is that women are often told that, say, an epidural will increase their risk of having an instrumental delivery, but they’re not told what that actually means.  In this case, twenty women would need an epidural for there to be one extra instrumental delivery – and this could be because if you’re anaesthetised, doctors are more willing to get the forceps out rather than give you additional time to push.  At the same time, women are told that, say, a water birth will decrease their risk of tearing.  But actually, when it comes to the really serious tears that can cause long-term problems, there is no difference between water births and those on dry land.  I think that better explaining risk could have a big influence on women’s choices during labour, and make them less afraid of doctors getting involved.

6. If you were running your own ‘Bumpology pregnancy classes’ what 3 top tips would you give other clueless pregnant women to help then make the right informed decisions?

  • You have no idea what your labour will be like, so try to keep an open mind about your options for pain relief and the type of birth you will end up having.  The most important thing is that you and the baby are safe and healthy. We have to dispel this myth of the perfect birth.
  • Tearing is very common during a vaginal birth, but it’s not as bad as it sounds.  The most important thing is to keep the wound clean, and watch for any signs of infection.  If you suspect a problem, insist on being examined by a doctor.  Also, constipation can be a serious problem after birth, so drink lots and lots of water.
  • Although it is the most natural thing in the world, breastfeeding (for the first few weeks at least) is tough.  Your nipples will crack, your breasts will swell up like painful boulders, and both you and your baby may take a while to get to grips with it.  Accept all offers of help and support, and know that it does get easier.  Nipple shields can provide some respite from cracked nipples and help women to carry on breastfeeding when they may otherwise give up.

Linda Geddes is not afraid to ask anyone about anything! From the stream of contradictory advice to pregnant women and new parents to those little moments of wonder, Geddes digs into all of them, looking for the evidence and exploring the science. In this book she shares what she’s found, with the straightforward answers and easy-going humour that is so welcome in early parenthood. Don’t get pregnant without it! (Tracey Brown, Sense About Science )

So ladies if that little taster isn’t enough for you, Bumpology is available to buy here from Amazon and read Linda’s brilliant blog here.

Baby Wearing

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was determined to try and use a sling as much as possible.  We lived in a small flat and the cumbersome 3in1 buggy we had been bought was so huge it had to be stored in the boot of the car.  I tired many different slings, but never quite got the hang of them.  Either my back or shoulders began to ache or my baby would just wriggle so much it became a bit of a hassle.  I even went to a local sling group where I met other new Mum’s and tried out different slings but the same issues kept happening so I just settled on using the pram.  When I was pregnant with my second daughter I decided to give slings another try.  I was disappointed that in 3 and a half the sling market hadn’t really improved and the one sling everyone seemed to still recommend was the Baby Bjorn.  I used my Close Sling which did seem to help soothe my fractious baby in the early evenings but I never managed to breastfeed her in, and only carried her until she was 12 weeks old.

A good friend of mine and colleague Kate Thorman was one step ahead of the game, and was also really disappointed with what was available on the market so started making her own slings when her daughter was born. And just like that  Oysterbaby was born.  Here’s Kate’s story.

Kate and baby Indi

Kate and baby Indi

1.  Why did you decide to start Oysterbaby?

As a practising midwife I am well-educated in the benefits of kangaroo care and baby wearing. When I had my daughter I wanted her to benefit from being carried in a sling, as well as the practical benefits for me. I tried so many but I couldn’t get on with them, they were either uncomfortable for me, or unsupported for her.  I also found them bulky, hot and ugly. Determined to enjoy carrying her I decided to make my own!  I imported Bamboo fabric as I knew the natural characteristics it had would be perfect for a sling, and I got sewing and Oysterbaby grew from that…. people started stopping me everywhere giving me wonderful compliments on my beautiful sling and asking me where I bought it from!  I started making them for friends who all loved them and then I started selling them! The feedback is just brilliant, for both comfort and style everyone loves them

I hope Oysterbaby will encourage all Mums to wear their babies, to feel gorgeous, and enjoy their calmer, happier babies.

2.  And why the name Oysterbaby?

I live in Brighton and spend a lot of my time walking along the beach, so a seaside theme was an obvious choice. An oyster makes me think of a beautiful peal which is safely protected by its shell and to me this is just like a baby in a sling! So Oysterbaby seemed like a perfect name.

3.  How has your interest in travelling in Africa inspires this?

I worked in East and West Africa as a midwife and observed very vulnerable babies born into very tough living environments. These babies were strapped to their mothers in a sling and survived against all odds! This made me research into the benefits of kangaroo care and baby wearing… Being close to their mothers they were able to thrive and grow into healthy independent children. I was inspired to develop a sling that could be adapted to the western culture but which promote the same health and emotional benefits.

4.  What are the benefits of baby wearing?

Keeping your baby close to you regulates your baby’s heart rate, breathing, and temperature. It promotes breastfeeding and weight gain. Evidence shows improvement in reflux, colic and other discomfort caused by digestive problems such as wind. Oysterbaby allows you to be completely hands free with the reassurance that your baby is safe and secure next to you.  Studies show babies cry less, sleep more and show faster cognitive development when compared to babies who are not carried in a sling.

5.  How did it help you when you became a mother to Indi?

I carried her in my Oysterbaby from a tiny new-born, she is 15 months now and I still carry her everyday, she loves it. It has given me so much freedom, We travelled to Africa when she was 4 months old, and we are about to travel to Sri Lanka, we could not dream of having these adventures without an Oysterbaby!

When she was tiny and it was hard to get her to sleep, and hard to get anything done, my Oysterbaby was a life savour! she would always sleep so well in the sling and because the fabric is so lightweight and breathable I could wear it around the house to do all the boring chores knowing that she was cosy and safe next to me.

I love being hands free as well, it gives me so much freedom! and I don’t have to battle with a bulky buggy when I go shopping and I can still go for my walks along the beach.

She is so content and calm when she is in the Oysterbaby and what’s more breastfeeding discreetly was easy in the sling!

I could go on and on…….

6.  There are so many other slings out there, how is Oysterbaby different?

Although other wrap carriers are similar in design, the main difference is the material. Most wrap carriers are made of cotton, either with or without elastane.  Oysterbaby is made from 100% bamboo fabric, which is much more breathable, and softer than regular cotton wrap carriers, making it more comfortable for you and for baby. Other advantages of bamboo are that
- it is naturally antibacterial, whereas bacteria readily grow in cotton
- it is hypo-allergenic – it has a natural UV filter. It is also one of the most sustainable fabrics available.

Unlike other slings, Oysterbaby is chiropractic endorsed ensuring spinal health for both you and your baby Oysterbaby carries your baby ergonomically – which helps promote correct hip development and doesn’t put pressure on your baby’s spine or pelvis.

The sling distributes your baby’s weight evenly over both shoulders and entire torso, making your baby feel feather light and does not cause any shoulder or back discomfort. In contrast to other baby carriers that have thin straps that dig into the shoulders.

Just a few of the many ways to carry your baby

Just a few of the many ways to carry your baby

Unlike other slings, It is also possible to comfortably and discretely breastfeed your newborn baby in an Oysterbaby!

7.  What inspires the designs?

I make all the slings with a reversible design so parents can wear it to match their wardrobe and mood!  I design the slings with the weather in mind so the colours and patterns change with the new seasons!  I would say nature is my biggest influence on my designs!

8.  How safe are the slings? And are they hard to tie?

Oysterbaby is completely safe to use, all slings are provided with a clear illustrated manual showing you how to safely carry your baby. Your baby is carried securely next you, with no danger of any buckles or straps breaking!

It’s really easy to tie as well, if its your first time using it, it may take a couple of practices but it soon becomes second nature to tie it. It’s a bit like learning to tie a shoe lace!

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We have a gorgeous Oysterbaby sling to give away to one lucky reader! All you have to do to enter is ‘like’ and ‘share’ the Oysterbaby Facebook Page with someone you think would like it, post it on the wall and we will pick from random a winner!  And it’s as easy as that, good luck!

www.facebook.com/oysterbabyuk

www.twitter.com/oysterbabyuk

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?

Mum’s the word

Me with my lovely Mum, for whom I am thankful for *not* telling me that my feet will get a whole shoe size bigger and other weird pregnancy related disorders.

It’s becoming a bit of a tradition in this family that Mother’s Day is always ruined one way or another. Last year my husband went out the night before and got so drunk he vomited all over the bathroom floor waking me up in the process. My one request of a lie in was obviously not met and to add insult to injury he took me to Nandos for lunch. I have never felt more humiliated in my entire life. Yesterday my 4 and 3 quarter year old (she’s so pleased she can now say that) came out from school with a bunch of daffs and a home-made card. ‘Open it Mummy read it NOW’ she protested, so I did the obligatory ‘Wow yes its beautiful darling thank you so much’ then I read the inside.

It’s not exactly ‘Thank you for being the best Mummy in the world’ but at least she is aware that the laundry fairy doesn’t do all the washing and ironing, unlike her father.

This year he is in the Philippines on a 9 day business trip, so I’m invading my poor Mother who lives by the sea, for some home comforts and the small chance of a lie-in. There are so many things that she has taught me, especially about being a mother, which I am thankful for. But there are certain things that just aren’t spoken about, because if they were, no one would give birth and the human race would die out, probably.

As a midwife when I was looking after women in labour, I would nod sympathetically as their contractions took hold of them, reassuring them of the pain they were experiencing ‘you can do this, this is normal labour’. But really I had no idea what that pain felt like, I hadn’t had babies then, in fact I had never experienced pain like it. But once the little two lines appeared on the stick and confirmed my first pregnancy, all these weird and wonderful things started happening to me both mentally and physically; which I really didn’t remember learning about during my midwifery lectures. To be honest if I knew half of these things were going to happen to me I probably wouldn’t have ever become a mother. (Sorry to those who haven’t given birth yet, it’s not that bad really). *pours another glass of wine*

  • In the first 3 months of pregnancy you are so constipated, that small bump is mainly full of poo. And no amount of prunes, apricots and Bran flakes will shift it. Things normally start ‘moving’ on by week 14.
  • Don’t attempt to look at your nether regions as your due date lingers. In fact best to lock the bathroom door when you shower, your partner has enough shocks to cope with in the weeks to come. Let’s just say your labia swells to something unrecognizable but don’t worry it does return to its normal state post birth.
  • You think when you’re pregnant and writing your birth plan that your dignity matters. It really doesn’t and to be honest you really don’t care who sees you starkers with your bum in the air mooing like a cow. I had both my babies in the hospital where I work, and I can still look the Consultant in the eye who broke my waters.
  • Night sweats, not just any sort of sweat. I’m talking about needing to sleep on a towel, changing your pyjamas, using a rag to mop and dry yourself during those first few weeks after your baby is born. It’s unbelievable how hormones can be responsible for pretty much everything.
  • Nappy brain actually exists. I once introduced my daughter as my little boy to the Health Visitor at the baby clinic – the baby was naked on the weighing scales at the time.
  • Hair loss. Oh my God this was so annoying (which resulted in me having a fringe). I felt smug with my thick luscious hair which grew during pregnancy but by the time my baby was 10 weeks old it all started to fall out. Mainly around the front of my hair-line but there was hair everywhere, even in my daughter’s nappy.
  • Nothing fills you with more joy then putting on your trackie bums, tucking into a box of chocolates and feeling sorry for anyone having to go out on a Friday night. That is unless, it’s your husband’s first night out since the baby was born and he stumbles in at 2 am and vomits all over the bathroom floor.