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*

 

Count The Kicks

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The importance of your unborn baby’s well-being whilst your pregnant is paramount for any mum-to-be. So keeping a close eye on daily movements is essential to ensure you’re baby is well. But what if one day your baby hadn’t moved as much as usual. What if you were 38 weeks pregnant and a friend reassured you that it was probably because the baby didn’t have much room, or that it was a sign you could be going into labour. What would you do? Count The Kicks is a UK based charity that aims to educate mums on the importance of a baby’s movements and to help them work with healthcare professionals to bring home a healthy baby. Chief Executive Elizabeth Hutton explains why the charity was first set up and what should mums and midwives know about fetal movements in pregnancy.

Tell me about Count The Kicks charity and why it was started. 

Count the Kicks is trying to empower mums to be with knowledge and confidence during pregnancy by raising awareness of babys movements and their importance in a baby’s wellbeing. We were founded in 2009 by Sophia Mason following the tragic stillbirth of her daughter Chloe. Chloe’s movements had begun to slow down leading up to her due date but Sophia was led to believe this was normal, but what she’d read on the internet and in magazines. When she called her midwife, it was too late. Chloe was stillborn 3 days before her due date. Determined to ensure other mums did not experience the same heartache, Sophia set up Count the Kicks to raise awareness of how important fetal movements really are.

What is the aim of the charity and how can Mums-to-be access support and information? 

We want mums to feel confident enough to call their midwife if they notice any change in their baby’s regular pattern of movement. We produce leaflets, stickers and posters that we send to midwives so many mums will be able to access the information straight from their midwife. Our leaflets are also in the mum to be Bounty Packs that mums can collect at 20 weeks. Alternatively all our information is available online at countthekicks.org.uk or on our Facebook page facebook.com/ukcountthekicks

There still seems to be a lot of conflicting advice about what’s normal for baby’s movements eg ’10 kicks a day’ ‘baby slowing down before labour’ ‘movements less when there’s not much room’. How can we as midwives make sure women are receiving the correct advice about fetal movements?

The current guidelines say that a woman should report any change in her baby’s regular pattern of movement. There is no set number a woman needs to get to so counting to 10 is unhelpful. Movements vary from 4 – 100 every hour and fetal movement is completely dependent on what a mum perceives to be her baby’s movements. One woman may feel every little roll and movement, while another may only feel the big kicks, how can we be telling both these women they need to feel the same number? They need to know what they see as their baby’s regular pattern and then they can report if they notice any change in that. It is important for mums to also be aware that babies do not slow down as they reach the end of pregnancy.

As a midwife I always reassure women that they never waste my time by calling if they haven’t felt their baby move. What advice do you give women if they have any concerns. 

Much the same! We always advise women to report any change in movement to their midwife. We want them to be reassured that midwives would much rather see them a hundred times and have to keep telling them the baby is fine, than to see them once and have to deliver devastating news. So if you are ever worried about your baby you should contact your midwife. They are there to help you. 

If you had a pot of gold – how and where would you use the money to help families affected by losing a baby?

Our aim is to prevent stillbirth, we would love for no one to need bereavement support. If I had a pot of god I would love to continue to provide our leaflets but also be able to provide our wristbands free to all mums to be. This would cost approximately £1 million pounds a year so we would need a big pot! But we hope to one day make that a reality. 

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If my blog was my third child…..

it would be in therapy for emotional neglect. I briefly popped over here a few weeks back and it looked a bit sad and hadn’t been updated for ages and I thought ‘oh god I better do something about that’, and then life took over and another week went by and well here I am feeling guilty. Mothers guilt, bloggers guilt its all the same.

To be honest I’m still dreaming of the amazing holiday my husband and I went on to Rio for 10 WHOLE CHILD FREE DAYS. Sorry I just have to sometimes say it out loud to really believe it ever happened, My tan has faded and I’m back wearing jeans. The kids are being their usual selves, my husband and I are arguing about the bathroom tiles and babies continue to be born. Basically life goes on.

But the main reason I’ve been quiet is because I’m writing a book. So kind of quite a big deal except it’s all so surreal I can’t quite believe it’s ever going to happen. But it has to happen because I’ve said I’ll do it. Gulp. I have an agent and a publisher and I can now add writer to my list of credits – mother, wife, midwife, fish finger server, monthly nit checker oh the list could go on.

‘So how the hell is she going to do all those things AND write a book?’ I hear you cry. Well some things have to change but the main thing is I’m going to be writing less for this blog. But fear not lovers of birth stories because that weekly feature will still go on.

A while back I put a shout out on twitter for more birth stories as my file was running on low and you know that’s not good, and a whole load of you sent me your AMAZING stories. If I haven’t replied or thanked you it’s not because I haven’t received them or I’m being rude, it’s because I got sent so many (about 80!) and I’m still going through them all. I never edit or cut your beautiful stories but I love to read them all before publishing them. So thank you every single one of you. And if you still want to send in your story all you have to do is email it to gasandairblog@gmail.com with some photos too. It doesn’t have to be be of the actual birth just of your lovely selves and maybe with your baby. What ever you feel comfortable with.

Part of the book will contain some of the incredible birth stories from this blog, don’t ask me how I’m going to pick which ones as it’s going to be so difficult to chose. But they will vary as I want to cover all types of birth. So keep your eyes peeled for an email from me later on this year if your’s is the chosen one.

I’ll also keep updating my gas&air Facebook page which you can like here to see any articles or links which I think you might find interesting.

So for now I will be taking a sabbatical from gasandair and focus my writing skills in my book, see it still seems so weird to think I will have a published book out sometime in 2017.

Watch this space x

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10 ways to savour your last days of pregnancy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pregnancy Diary – 38 Weeks

Hot off today’s headlines! NICE have said that Women with low-risk pregnancies are to be encouraged to have non-hospital births under new NHS guidelines, which could see almost half of mothers-to-be planning to deliver their baby away from traditional labour wards. This is wonderful news for midwives, women and even doctors who are working in over stretched, busy labour wards. As a midwife who works in a case-loading team and is able to offer all our women the choice where to birth their baby, this new guideline could not be more welcomed. Today Siobhan gives us an update on her preparation for her home birth.
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Preparing to meet our water baby

Monday – Iron worries

I mentioned in my previous post how I was totally committed to my planned homebirth, however there is one potential problem that stands between me and my birth pool dream and that is my iron level. It was 10.5 at 28 weeks and I was told to take Spatone twice a day, which I did. However by 36 weeks it had fallen to 9.9. (I have been told that a minimum of 10 is required for homebirth or birthing centre and 11 is preferable). I have now been taking Ferrous Sulphate twice a day and folic acid with orange juice. We have gone from eating kale with every meal (which my partner hated) to steak on a regular basis (which he’s much more happy about). This is after reading the post about nutrition on this blog and learning that we absorb iron much more efficiently from red meat rather than vegetables. My bloods are being checked again this week, at 38 weeks. Fingers crossed it’s risen and all the black poo has been worth it! (YUK).

Tuesday – Baby, be ready soon… please!

‘Babies are born when babies are ready’ is a rather tricky affirmation for me to embrace wholeheartedly as I was induced at almost 42 weeks with my son and I really want to avoid that happening again.  What if baby isn’t ready until after 42 weeks?! I don’t want to battle consultants who want me induced and to start worrying about whether I should follow their advice or not. Of course I want baby to be come when baby is ready…it’s just I really want baby to be ready by 41 weeks!

To help avoid this situation I have started having acupuncture twice a week. I don’t believe acupuncture is going to induce my labour and I don’t believe it will make my body do something my body is not ready to do. But I do believe that acupuncture can remove the obstacles (like stress, tension and worry) that prevent labour from starting. Last week the points used were to improve my blood and for relaxation. I slept really well that night for the first time in ages. My second session was this week and the points used were for ripening the cervix. Since then I have felt a stretching and tenderness down there. Could all be psychosomatic of course (says the skeptic in me).

Wednesday – Wet runs and hot tub fun

Tonight we had our ‘wet run’ – which is like a dry run with the birth pool, only there’s lots of water involved.  My partner inflated and filled the pool (and timed it), and then, because I couldn’t bear to waste all the warm water, we decided to get in and enjoy it! I started off LOVING the pool – it felt like we were sat in our own private hot tub… in the living room!!! But then I started feeling some waves of panic…caused by the dawning realization that in the next few weeks I’m going to be giving birth in this pool!! A human being, is going to come out of my vagina, in this pool, in the next few weeks. It’s mind-blowing and over-whelming. I felt a bit sick so went to bed with my relaxation track.

Thursday – to be present or not to be present?

My son has gone from describing a textbook TV birth – Mum-to-be in bed, on her back, sweaty, red and screaming to imagining a happy, calm, water birth. He asks all kinds of intelligent questions, like how come it won’t drown when it comes out in the water? After I explained how it won’t take its first breath until it’s lifted out into the air, he said he wanted to be there for ‘when it takes its first breath in this life, in our family’. How cute is that?!

We still don’t have a plan in place for what we will do in terms of childcare when I’m in labour. The first issue is timing. If only we could know WHEN in the next 4 weeks the baby is going to come! If it’s the daytime then he could be at school, if it’s the nighttime he could be sleeping. If it’s the school holidays then we could be screwed! Both sets of grandparents live approximately 4 hours drive away, which isn’t ideal/an option. And the second issue is whether or not Oisin should be part of the birth?! He says he wants to be there for when the baby comes out but will I be relaxed if he is and what if things don’t go to plan? What if he finds it distressing and I can’t comfort him or reassure him because I’m in the throes of labour? I really don’t know what is best but I know some sort of decision needs to be made imminently…

The best news today was my iron results came back and homebirth is a GO! It’s gone from 9.9 to 11.3 after just 13 days of iron tablets. perhaps it was the acupuncture!! My midwife seemed a little surprised and I have been having points for improving blood done during my needle sessions! Ooooh, maybe it is possible to poke this baby out 😉

Friday – packing the birth bag

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Now I’m 38 weeks I’ve decided I really should pack my birth bag – we’ve decided to call it birth bag as I’m hoping to avoid going to hospital. I’ve been gathering bits for weeks but finally got around to packing it all and it’s like the best bag of goodies EVER. I’m genuinely looking forward to when the first surge hits just so I open it. I have a lush new Diptique candle packed, a mini bottle of champers (of course), a new super fluffy towel and dressing gown, new bed socks, jelly babies, galaxy bars, laminated affirmations, a head massager, my luxe silk PJs and a set of L’Occitane toiletries which I’ve saved for months. It’s going to be like Christmas has come early… unless I’m waaay overdue and then it will be like Christmas has come late… and I will probably be massively pissed off.

I’ve also packed the obvious essentials like loads of industrial-sized sanitary pads and a few packs of size 14 pants from Sainsburys, to accommodate the aforementioned nappy-like pads, which I will be more than happy to dispose of ASAP. And of course some men’s t-shirts in size XXL from Primark to wear when in labour. I just don’t like to focus on this darker side of my birthing bag.

Finally, I’ve also got to work on creating a playlist for birthing a baby on Spotify. So far I’ve got a bit of Alt-J, The XX, Hozier, George Ezra and Bastille. Unless it’s a very quick labour (unlikely) I’m going to need to add a few more… Would love some suggestions??

Pregnancy Diary – 37 weeks

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This series of pregnancy diary entries are written by Siobhan, mum of one and now almost ready to meet her second baby due in 3 weeks time! Siobhan’s first birth 7 years ago left her feeling like she would never be able to have a natural birth again, but with a bit of prep work she is now preparing for a home water birth. Here she explains how her views have changed about birth, and hopefully install some positivity into any of you who may be in a similar situation.

‘I remember attending a series of ante-natal classes before my son was born and one being called ‘complications in labour’. The midwife assured us that we were unlikely to experience any of these complications and if we were unlucky enough to, then it would just be the one. Nobody would experience all of the complications discussed. Well, my birth ran like a checklist of everything covered that day, bar the c-section, which I narrowly avoided (my son was delivered vaginally on the operating table in theatre, after I’d consented to an emergency secton).

Fast-forward 8 years and I’m feeling a little older, not so much wiser, but certainly less nervous and more confident in my (now surely looser?) cervix’s ability to dilate spontaneously. Also having educated myself through attending some amazing hypnobirthing classes (more on that later), I now believe a lot of what happened with my son’s birth was due to a domino effect of fear, tension, pain, fetal distress and intervention, a pattern which then just continued throughout my 2-day Syntocinon- induced labour.

So determined to make this birth experience memorable for all the right reasons, my partner and I signed up for hypnobirthing classes with Hollie of London Hypnobirthing, which we attended last month, and booked in with the homebirth team at West Middlesex hospital. Clemmie (founder of this blog) deserves a big shout out here as she encouraged me to sign up for a homebirth and I’ve not looked back since. The quality of care is superior times a million (!!) and most importantly it just feels right for me.

I used to journey to the hospital, wait 40+ minutes in the waiting room, often with my impatient child, finally see an unknown-to-me midwife for a quick 5-minute check-up and then leave fraught, having forgotten to ask most of the things I’d wanted to know (sound familiar?). I now have a lovely midwife called Natalie who comes round to my house, we have a cuppa, she spends at least an hour with me, responds to text messages with a kiss and generally feels like someone who is my friend and who genuinely cares about me and my birth. I cannot rate the service highly enough.

I will admit when I initially signed up for a homebirth I was thinking I’ve got nothing to lose as I can always change my mind closer to the time. However I am now so committed to my beautiful, romantic, waterbirth at home that I can no longer remember a single reason why I thought hospital might have been a better idea. How things have changed!

But however calm and tranquil I’m imagining the birth will be, the reality right now is quite different! Almost 37 weeks pregnant, still working full time, juggling hypnobirthing homework with birth pool research and with outstanding ‘to do’ lists everywhere, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. But as we prepare to meet our water baby, Clemmie has invited me to share with you what’s going through my head and my heart and what we’re doing to make our birth a positive one.’

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Next week Siobhan reveals how she preparing her body and mind with hypnobirthing techniques for birth and why it’s always worth doing a ‘dry run’ for the birthing pool!

Food Glorious Food – Book Give Away!

 

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As any new Mum out there knows, those first few weeks with a new born is emotional, exhausting, mind blowing and all consuming. You can’t believe when the midwife comes over at mid day you’re still not dressed let alone brushed your teeth. This little 50 inch long human really does take all your time and energy, how on earth will you ever leave the house again?!

When people often ask me what are the real survival tips for those first weeks I always talk about food. Food provides a new mother with all her energy she needs for her recovery after having a baby, especially if breastfeeding. Iron rich foods for boosting those energy levels (green leafy vegetables, liver, red meat, apricots, chickpeas and lentils) are vital not to mention the importance of fibre for helping that first poo to pass! Protein rich foods too are really important for tissue healing. So if you’ve has a vaginal tear or even a c-section make sure your eating food such as eggs, milk, yoghurt, pork, chicken and turkey. Your appetite often increases in those first few days, I recall eating an entire lasagne my Mother-in-law made much to my husband’s horror.

But the one thing about trying to eat all this food is there is literally no time to cook it, you will barely manage to put some toast in the toaster. In fact we reheated so many cups of teas in those first few weeks it was a jolly good thing we owned a microwave. Those few weeks you have once you’ve finished work and before your baby arrives is a great time to start cooking and freezing lots of delicious meals. And what better way to get some fab recipes from two Mums who know what to cook

Claire and Lucy from Crumbs Food have a great new cookbook out and we have a copy of it for one lucky reader to win! In this cookbook you’ll find delicious, nutritious meals for you and the whole family, some recipes take just 5 minutes to make!  From lentil soup, home made beans to tzatziki salmon pasta there is a meal idea for every hungry tired new parent.

All you have to do to enter is to tell me; what was the first thing you ate after giving birth. Whether it was a piece of white cardboard NHS toast with jam or an entire bar of Green and Blacks dark chocolate (guilty). Leave your answers in the comments box below and I’ll pick the best answer. Good luck!

Let’s Talk About Sex Baby!

Last weekend has been spent celebrating my gorgeous friend’s wedding with all my old school pals in the New Forest. She is the second one of us to tie the knot (after me) and looked just beautiful. The day was perfect in every way and as I type this I think the newly weds have already landed in Dubai for their ‘mini moon’, yup that’s a thing now – 1 honey moon just isn’t enough! As the weekend events has started coming back to me, it got me thinking about marriage, love, sex, babies and what the future means for newly married couples.

You see sex is such a funny old thing isn’t it. We’re still embarrassed about talking about it openly, so much so that when I talk to women postnatally about contraception I don’t know who is blushing more, me or the woman? Often the woman is looking at me like I’m mad and probably thinking ‘I have a new born baby, stitches that still haven’t healed and my breasts are so sore and swollen I feel like a Jersey cow but yes I can’t wait to have sex with my husband’. Am I right?

And it’s pretty silly really, as sex is the reason why you’re pregnant in the first place. I mean if it wasn’t for sex I would be out of a job and the world would be a very strange place.

SO why are we still so prudish about chatting about sex especially after you’ve had a baby? Us girls pretty much tell each other everything about our births but once that baby has left your body no one wants to be the first at the postnatal coffee group to say ‘we tried to have sex last night but I was so dry my partner couldn’t get it in.’ Women want to be seen to be handling it all, a new baby, her postnatal figure, sleep routines, the transition into motherhood so there’s no way anyone would want to confess that they haven’t had sex since their baby was born 8 months ago.

So when is the right time to have sex and what does it really feel like?

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The answer is; when you feel ready. That may be when your baby is 5 weeks old or when it’s 5 months old. Only you know your body and how you feel so don’t feel pressured by others or your partner for that matter. By the time you may be thinking about having sex you might have a vague idea when your baby might be asleep for more than 10 minutes preferably in the cot on not in the sling (awkward). Always pick a time when your baby has had a good feed especially if you’re breastfeeding (no one wants a leaky boob whilst their partner is on top) and has a clean nappy. Nothing like killing the moment to change an up-the-back-leaked-all-over-the-clean-babygrow-type-poo.

Unless you’re Tamara Ecclestone your post baby body isn’t going to look how it use to. I remember being horrified when looking down at my stomach whilst in a certain position during sex with my partner after my first baby thinking ‘will it always hang down like that???’  Obviously with a bit of time and work it did eventually look marginally more acceptable but it still wobbles and rolls in 3 places and I’d opt for the ‘spoons’ position rather than on top any day.

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For me and the majority of women out there, the first you have postnatal sex is a bit like ,well, the first time you ever had sex – awkward, embarrassing, nerve racking and uncomfortable. You hope it will be over fairly quickly (it often is) and you don’t really want to talk about it ever again.

As one of my friends recently shared with me after her first time,”I think sex after birth is an oxymoron in itself… It’s terrifyingly wonderful. I was petrified of wiping myself after having a wee, let alone having a willy go there!! However, it’s so lovely when you realise it all feels just as amazing and helps to reunite you as a couple.”

Try not to ask your partner if it feels wider, bigger, looser, softer or different during sex. It will put him off and kill the mood. You may feel different but you partner may not even notice. He will just be pleased to be able to have some intimacy with you after such a long break.

“The worst thing was the nerves. I was really tense – Would it hurt? Would he feel my stitches? What if I felt different or it wasn’t enjoyable for either of us? It was like it was my first time all over again! It wasn’t actually that bad or that uncomfortable, I think the fact that I was so tense was the biggest cause of discomfort. After lots of reassurance from my boyfriend and a few more go’s I’ve got my confidence back, have relaxed and am enjoying it much more again” another friend adds.

If you’ve had a c-section your vagina and perineum should feel and look the same as before you were pregnant (lucky you) but you may still feel sore around your scar and your stomach muscles can still feel pretty wounded. A position like ‘spoons’ is probably sensible as it doesn’t put any strain on your tummy.

If you’ve had a vaginal birth obviously make sure your tear is completely healed before embarking on a passionate night in the bedroom. (Usually at your 6 week postnatal check up with your GP you have the opportunity to raise any issues you may have about your perineum and vagina). You may want to even have a look with a mirror before hand and see how things are looking. Don’t be freaked out by this idea, you will be surprised how well the vaginal and perineal tissues heal. I had a small tear with no stitches and honestly I couldn’t see where the tear even was, let alone feel it.  And I have seen lots of women’s vaginas after they’ve had an episiotomy or a 2nd degree tear and again the tissues have healed really well. Getting to know what down there looks like is important for understanding how our bodies work and how well we heal after having babies. Go mother nature!

“I had trouble not only getting in the mood but also with lubricating naturally. My baby was breach and then ended up having to be an emergency c-section after sort of getting whipped out. With body confidence issues aside, I also found various angles of penetration extremely uncomfortable (probably due to the sweeps I had during labour and the fact that I almost managed to give birth naturally) After a few months, I finally got the confidence to do so and after a good long while I finally found a position that was completely comfortable with (on my side, him behind) this meant that I didn’t need to worry about my hideous tummy, but also the angle worked perfectly. It took over a year for things to return to normal but we took it very very slowly and eventually things returned to normal.”

It’s normal for the vagina to feel drier than usual after childbirth which is linked to lower levels of oestrogen in your body compared to when you were pregnant. If you are breastfeeding this may be even lower so using a lubrication such as a KY jelly may help ease this and make sex and oral sex with your partner more enjoyable.

So my top tips to round this awkward over sharing blog post off is:

  • Only have sex when YOU feel ready
  • Choose a time when the baby is fed, clean and asleep
  • If it hurts or feels uncomfortable it’s ok to stop and try again at another time
  • Choose positions which make you feel comfortable so you can enjoy it
  • If wearing a chemise, bra, corset, pair of Spanx in bed makes you feel more confident then go for it!
  • ALWAYS use contraception – even if you are breastfeeding
  • And remember the more pelvic floor exercises you do, the tighter your muscles will be and the less likely you are to wet yourself on a trampoline!

From Student To Midwife: The First Year

For the past 2 weeks I have had a great student midwife working along side me. Ailish has almost completed her first year into midwifery training and has offered to write a series of blog posts to help answer any questions you might have about starting your training. If you are thinking about becoming a midwife or you’ve already qualified and have forgotten what those 3 years really entailed, these guest posts should help you along on your journey or remind you of how challenging your training was.

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Next week is my last as a first year student midwife. It’s been a long journey getting to this point. The stress, excitement, fear, joy (or any other emotion you could think of) that I’ve experienced over the last year have merged in to a blur and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’m not saying that it’s been easy, and there have been times I have seriously thought “what am I doing?! Why I am I here?!” but whenever that happens I can step back, take a breath, and realise how lucky I am to be doing something I love.

I’m not one of those people who you encounter at interviews, who put their hands up and declare that they knew they wanted to be a midwife from the age of three. Firstly, because it seems unrealistic that a toddler has the ability to make a valid career choice, and secondly, because it’s not true. At twenty-one years of age I was studying Society and Culture at university, working part time and had possibly less of an idea of what I wanted to do with my life than I did when I was in nursery. Then I fell pregnant and everything changed. I quit university, upped my working hours to full time and desperately tried to get my head around the fact that I was slowly but surely growing a teeny person who would be entirely dependent on me. It was totally overwhelming. My long-term partner was supportive, and I was still living at home with my parents who were amazing throughout the whole pregnancy, but I still approached my due date feeling unprepared and (if I’m honest) completely terrified. I don’t remember a single midwife from my antenatal care – a lovely mentor I have since worked with as a student suggested this was because I hadn’t felt empowered by any of them, and sadly, I agree.

Then in labour I had support from a beautifully kind midwife who changed my perspective entirely. She encouraged without pressure, enabled my independence without deserting me, and created an environment which nurtured the concept that I could birth my baby without fear. Six hours later and 6lb 3oz lighter, I was holding my little boy; still pretty terrified, but more positive and confident than I had felt in the nine months preceding that moment.

Fast forward past nappy changes, sleepless nights, weaning issues and moving to a new flat; I was back at work part time but my heart wasn’t in it. Now don’t get me wrong, I’d been interested in the whole “your baby is the size of a grapefruit” emails as much as the next pregnant lady, but now a hobby which I’d cultivated over nine months became something I wanted to pursue further. I started researching midwifery as a career, using sites like StudentMidwife (www.studentmidwife.net/) and NHS Careers (www.nhscareers.nhs.uk) but they just told me the basics. I applied for work experience placements and got two separate week long assignments full of antenatal clinics, postnatal visits, natural birth and instrumental deliveries – I observed and absorbed it all.

More aware of what I was getting myself in to, and even more sure it was the path I wanted to take, I enrolled on an Access to Nursing course. Working two days a week, studying three days a week and being a mummy 24/7 wasn’t easy. Biology, psychology, health studies, exams, essays, presentations… I could not have got through it without a good support system, passion for what I was doing and huge (no, massive) amounts of gin. I also completed a three day training course as a Doula through Nurturing Birth (www.nurturingbirth.co.uk/) purely as a foundation for research and ideas in to natural childbirth. It was an awesome experience and I met some inspiring people, but it also cemented the fact that I wanted to take the extra step in to midwifery as an undergraduate.

I was accepted in to three out of four universities which I had applied for; choosing which to accept was a personal decision. As a mother, block placement and study (e.g. seven weeks academic block, followed by seven weeks clinical block) did not appeal in terms of childcare or family life. Integrated study (e.g. two days per week at university, 3 days on clinical placement) suited my lifestyle not only for my personal relationships, but for my learning preference. Learning a subject in lecture on a Monday, performing the skill in a clinical lab on a Tuesday, and then applying it all to real-life midwifery the next day works well for me. Choosing a university is difficult for anyone, but for a midwifery student, you have to be slightly more mature (who said boring?!) about your decision. Rather than meticulously working out which student union will meet your musical/drinking/love life requirements, try pondering which hospital you want to train in (busy inner city? Mellow suburban?), how you are going navigate public transport for an early shift at 6.45am or how you’re getting to that home birth when you’re on call at 3am.

I’m making it sound a bit rubbish, aren’t I? It’s brilliant, honestly. On every single interview day I went to for uni, the opening line was “you can still have a social life and be a student midwife!” and it is true, I promise. I have friends training as midwives in numerous other universities and the set up for first year seems pretty standard, so let’s break it down:

First term – going crazy at Fresher’s fortnight, am I right?! Ummmm, no, not really. The first five weeks are 9-5 with a mix of mandatory training, lectures and time in clinical labs learning skills such as abdominal palpations and taking a blood pressure. You can try doing this hungover (quite a few did), but by the third week most of us had settled in to a routine and accepted that this was just not going to be the carefree, waking up at midday, strolling to a one hour lecture existence that had been advertised. Anyway, as a mama to a toddler, it was mainly a case of organising childcare, then arranging back up childcare should your first let you down, and then arranging a back up for your back up JUST IN CASE. Social life wasn’t a priority – by the time we had started integrated study in week six I was happy to come home from a twelve hour shift, neck a stiff cup of green tea and fall asleep whilst reading a good book (Michel Odent or Ina May Gaskin, natch).

Second term – by this point, I was feeling a bit more in control of both my home and professional life. Lectures were interesting, skills labs were becoming more complex and placement was something I looked forward to (most) days. I’ve had shifts where I have met amazing, strong women and been given the chance to input positively in to their experience of pregnancy and childbirth. Mentors I worked with inspired me to be a better student and take advantage of every single learning opportunity. Saying that, I also had shifts where I had to go and have a little cry in the toilet because I felt so overwhelmed and incompetent, and I’ve worked with midwives where our ideals and ways of practice have clashed. It’s such a rollercoaster, and was so important for me to have a supportive partner and friends to sound off on particularly after the bad days, but also after the good ones.

Final term – did I say I felt more in control?! Exams, essays and a whole summer of full time placement rounds off first year. My little boy has both started and finished his first year at nursery and I can count on one hand the number of times I have been available to drop him off or pick him up. I am attempting to cram eight months of biology and medicines management for exams in to a frazzled brain whilst having two essays on the go. My student loan is going down, whilst my responsibility on placement is steadily going up. Friends the same age as me are getting married, travelling the world, buying houses, and are established in their careers. I however, am grunting at my boyfriend, travelling on the 8am train home from my third night shift in a row and establishing the rule that pot noodles are an acceptable dinner to eat from my rented flat.

This week is my last week as a first year student midwife and I can’t wait to start my second. As hard as it has been on me, it has been just as hard, if not harder on my family. I’ve kept going throughout for the one reason that I know, deep-down-in-the-gut-KNOW, that midwifery is what I should be doing with my life. Women’s bodies and minds are astounding – conceiving, growing and birthing new life is an incredible occurrence that I have the privilege of being part of on a daily basis. Training for me is not just about juggling workloads or meeting pass rates – I want to be the type of midwife who could also one day empower a scared new mum and stir up a passion in her to start this same journey. I’ll just remind her to stock up on the ginbeforehand.