Birth Story of The Week- Gosia and Janek

So here it is, the first birth story on the blog. Every Monday I will be publishing your stories so keep them coming, I think this will become a lovely weekly feature. And what better way to cheer up those Monday blues. So where ever you are reading this enjoy.

This week’s story comes from Gosia, a letter to her son Janek who was born a month ago. Get the tissues ready, it’s a beautiful story.

Blog: My name is Gosia

Twitter: thegonow

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Dear Janek,

You will be one month old tomorrow. One month. When did that happen? You’re asleep on my chest now. When I breathe, the air from my mouth moves your hair. Very fine, very blonde and very smooth hair. We were supposed to go for the opening of your uncle’s exhibition but you decided you want to eat and eat and cry and eat some more. You’ve waited until I took off my shoes and my skirt and my tights and then you stopped crying. I guess you just wanted to stay in.

I made myself a cup of tea and I lay down next to you and we took a couple of pictures and you were posing and copying my expressions and you were the sweetest. Then you pooped and farted. I changed your nappy, your clothes and I washed your face (you complained).
And here you are. Sleeping and smelling of this instant happiness. One month old tomorrow.

I’ve wanted to write your birth story since it happened. It got deleted three times now and three times I cried because I’ve put all the details there, for you maybe and for me to remember. I felt like the greatest person in the world, and maybe I was for a moment- when Zoe put you on my chest and your daddy cried out of the biggest and purest happiness. This is what I remember today, a month later:

  • how when it started I made myself think it’s not the real thing yet and continued to make Tiramisu;
  • when I called your father to come home quickly because I just didn’t wanted to be alone;
  • how I was taking a bath when he arrived; how we laughed; how I burned all the candles, how he kept on boiling more water in a kettle to pour in the tub;
  • how all of the sudden I needed to get out and was bouncing on the ball and your father was cleaning the tub of the wax; he needed his hands full, he needed a task;
  • how we went to the hospital for the first time and they checked your heartbeat and my contractions and how they send us back home; the corridors were empty and I vomited; I remember the taxi back home;
  • how I spent big part of the night in legs of the bed, on the floor, leaning and going through it all;
  • when I took another bath and was falling asleep there for thirty seconds at a time and I burned the rest of the candles; how multi-coloured wax was covering the whole bathroom;
  • how the only thing I ate back then was two dried apricots and how I kept on drinking water from big plastic jug with a red straw;
  • how on a way back to hospital they told me to scream and I didn’t want to scream because I knew I need strength not noise;
  • how they checked us again and told us to go for a walk and come back;
  • how we came back and it rained, we had to stop every couple of steps;
  • how they checked us again and told us we can stay; how happy we were, how relieved, how weak was I but kept on smiling, how they told me I’m dehydrated and I need to eat and drink, how they moved us to room 7
  • how I ate and drank and out of sudden I felt great, I had power and we met our midwife, her name was Zoe and how she was the most amazing person we could wish for, how great we understood each other straight away and how we laughed at the same jokes at the same time;
  • how I took a shower and shaved my legs and put conditioner on. I was in active labour, after 38 hours of contractions;
  • how I kept on sitting, how I wanted to dance and put the make up on, how I really felt the greatest power;
  • how all of a sudden I got fever and had to be transferred to the delivery floor, how I was upset about it but knew  I just have to get in with it, with whatever my birth brings to me, just accept it and move on;
  • how Zoe told me nothing will change, how I trusted her, how she said that her women have things the way they want to have them, how I trusted her, how we smuggled a tub of fruit Mentos inside;
  • how we got upstairs – and I was on the wheelchair and refused to think bad about it- and nothing changed like Zoe promised- there was number 7 on the door;
  • how your father was there and he was getting more tired but was  still giving me water and illegally he was feeding me with fruit Mentos, how he found my lip balm, how he tried a bit of gas and air, how brave was he even if on the second plan, as a supporting act;
  • how they kept giving me things and how I kept on declining others;
  • how I still tried to joke, how many times Zoe told me she loved me and how I trusted her about it;
  • how when things got very strong your father held my hand and I looked on Zoe, on her ear, on her purple guitar earring, how it kept me going;
  • how suddenly they both got excited cause you were coming any time and I was thinking that great at least someone has fun;
  • how your heartbeat was so strong and happy and healthy all the time and how thankful I am because god knows what they would do to us if it wasn’t;
  • how I was pushing for hour and a half and I asked your daddy to take a photo and I felt your head going out of my body and how surreal it all felt;
  • how I had no power and I kept saying “I can’t do this” and they’ve been saying “you’re doing this” and how I thought “what can I do if I tell myself I can?”
  • how I pushed without contractions because I was tired and scared and I wanted you to be here already;
  • how you arrived; how surreal; how slippery; how heavy; how beautiful; how;  how smelling of a lake; how you knew me; how you didn’t cry; how your father cried; how did that happen;
  • how the rest was a blur: someone sewing my ladies bits, me laughing, you pooping on your daddy’s hand, Zoe bringing us toast with butter and jam and tea and leaving( can you imagine being such an important part of somebody’s life and then just walking away quietly?);
  • how they wheeled me downstairs to the ward and how proud I was with you in my hands;
  • how I spent first evening with you crying because “you will never be one day old again”;
  • how the first night with you was the happiest night of my life when I slept, holding you close, against the regulations but according to my heart.

Just like now. So you’re one month old. We survived. You are healthy and happy. I didn’t hurt you. I didn’t break your arm or your leg. You cried maybe 6 hours in total. I learned so much about you and I still do every day. I learned so much about myself and I need to grow myself for you every day. I need to take care of your father. We are family now. He works so hard for us. There’s so much words, so many feelings, it’s so hard and so beautiful and crazy. You’re one month old and you are greater than the universe.

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Wow. It never ceases to amaze me how the tiny things us midwives do are so improtant to women. I have a clear image of Gosia’s midwife Zoe with her guitar ear ring now. What an inspirational story. Thank you Gosia for sharing. If you too would like to feature on the blog please email me gasandairblog@gmail.com

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

Back To Sleep

I don’t know about you, but when my children were born, I felt over whelmed with the advice available to me as a new Mum about how to do everything right.  It made no difference that I was a midwife; I had sailed through the pregnancies and births but now was presented with a newborn baby.

Sleep was a key theme in those first few weeks (or the lack of) and I was never sure whether my babies slept too much or too little or in my case, I definitely was NOT getting enough of the stuff.  But there was one area of the sleep subject I knew was really important, vital in fact for peace of mind.  How to make sure my baby was asleep safely by reducing the risk of Cot Death.  A horrible subject for any new Mum to have to think about but 300 babies a year are still dying unexpectedly and I wanted to find out why?  Judith Howard who works for the Foundation for the Study of Infant Death (FSID) tells me more about Cot Death and what advice pregnant women and new parents need to know about how to reduce the risks.

1.What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? (SIDS)

SIDS or cot death is the sudden and unexpected death of a healthy baby for no obvious reasons. Numbers (which stood at 2000 a year ) have dropped by 65% since the successful back to sleep campaign in 1991. It is now extremely rare compared with live births but still claims 300 deaths every year which is shocking when we at FSID know that those numbers could be reduced by at least 100 if mothers did not smoke and even more so if all parents and full time carers followed the Reduce the Risk advice.

2.What us your role at FSID?

My role at FSID is actually 2 fold. I am a Helpline advisor one day a week, based at Head Office in London, speaking to both bereaved families and professionals as well as answering calls from anyone who wants advice on how to reduce the risks of SIDs. I also train professionals in the whole of the SE of the UK on the latest research backed advice. A vast region covering Kent, Sussex, Surrey. Berkshire, Hampshire and the Channel Islands!

3.What is the advice to pregnant Mums or new parents about reducing the risk?

The current reduce the risk advice is the following:

  • Cut out smoking in pregnancy
  • Place the baby back to sleep feet to foot of crib (with bedding tucked in firmly)
  • Don’t let the baby get too hot or allow their head to be covered ( also no hats to be worn indoors )
  • NEVER sleep with a baby at any time on a sofa or in an armchair
  • Breastfeed your baby
  • The safest place for a baby to sleep is in the same ROOM as the the parent for the first 6 months
  • Using a dummy at all sleep times in 24 hours reduces the risk of SIDS
4.What is the current advice about using dummies?

Published research papers around the world all show that a baby who is offered a dummy (once breast feeding is established) at all points of sleep in 24 hours more than halves the risk of SIDS.  Do not replace a dummy in a sleeping baby’s mouth if it has been spat out. Remove the dummy completely from 6 months and by 12 months.

5.What risks are associated with bed sharing?

The risks of SIDS are particularly increased if either parent:

  • Smokes ( wherever that may be even outdoors)
  • Has recently drunk alcohol
  • Taken prescribed or recreational drugs
  • If the baby was born pre 35 weeks and or weighs less than 2.5kg
  • If the parent is very tired ( particularly the mother! )
Top 3 tips for safe sleeping
  1. Sleep a baby on it’s back feet to foot
  2. Do not smoke anywhere if you have a baby
  3. Share a room but not a bed with your baby for the first 6 month
Where can people get more information and advice?
At our website www.fsid.org.uk or call our helpline on 0808 802 6868 or alternatively email us at helpline@fsid.org.uk 
Click here to see Judith demonstrating putting baby Bruno back to sleep.

Contented and happy

The definition of contented is;

  1. Happy and at ease
  2. Expressing happiness and satisfaction

This is a photo of me feeling all of the above; it was July last year on a Greek Island. It’s hard not to see why I didn’t feel contented it was so beautiful my children were playing happily in the shore, we had just eaten fresh squid and to be honest everything felt pretty much perfect. Ok hate me for all this self-proclaimed happiness on a grey Friday afternoon but I think anything that makes you feel contented is surely a good thing right? Maybe not.

This week controversial parenting guru Gina Ford released her newest book The Contented Mother’s Guide; online forums went crazy with the opportunity to slate any advice this childless expert had to say. When I had my first baby, I had already been warned of her first book The Contented Little Baby so carried on with my new born by listening to my instincts, friends and mother’s advice. By 8 months she still didn’t sleep for more than 2 hour periods, my partner and I had pretty much given up on any happiness there was to be had with a baby, I was completely and utterly exhausted. I remember meeting a new Mum friend in the park one morning (at a very specific time of 09:40) to see her lovely little baby smiling happily in her buggy having slept the entire night. She told me she was following Gina Ford’s 8 month old routine and had been for several months, and their lives were transformed. I borrowed a copy of the book and read it like crazy for the next few days; I couldn’t believe how wrong I had got it. Not that my initial mothering instincts had failed me but I could now see why nothing we had been doing was working. Now don’t get me wrong, there were parts in her book which quite frankly I could not master or be arsed with (‘Now drink your orange juice at 07:50 to ensure excellent Vitamin C intake’) um I think I’ll drink my orange juice when I want thanks. But I think really we should cut this woman some slack, she has looked after over 300 babies and found a method that worked, so what’s to criticise?

We all need routine in our lives, humans are creatures of habit and so are babies. When you become a mother for the first time you have no idea what to expect even if you’ve read all the books and done every course available to you, it is still a BIG shock. By the time you have your second baby you feel a little more confident that the baby’s head won’t fall off if you don’t hold its neck properly and giving it a chocolate biscuit isn’t going to turn it into a junk food addict.

But it’s her advice on sexual intimacy in her new book that really caught my attention (ha!) and she’s got a good point. ‘Arm yourself with post-birth essentials such as lubricant and massage oil and take things slowly,’ Ford counsels. No one tells you how dry you will feel down there especially if you’re breastfeeding and actually having sex for the first time after having a baby really isn’t that bad. Ok the thought of taking your clothes off to expose your new post baby body sounds horrific but low lighting, flickering candles and a few glasses of wine can help. Put the Moses basket as far away from the bedroom as possible (in our case it was the bathroom) and remember to remove your breast pads beforehand, not such a turn on. Just try not to ask too many times during the moment ‘does it feel the same as before?’ your partner may find it a little off-putting. He loves you no matter what and once you get going you may actually enjoy it, after all it’s how we all got here in the first place.

Sleepless in South London

Labour ward never ever closes. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year we are always there providing care to women and their babies, so it’s not unusual to pick up the phone in the middle of your night shift and receive calls like the one I had last week.

‘Hello labour ward, midwife speaking how can I help?’ (maybe less excited more I need another NHS coffee it’s 4am actually make that a vodka and Red Bull)

‘Oh god I hope you can help we’re at our wits end here’ (this wakes me up). My wife gave birth 2 weeks ago and our baby won’t settle, I mean she sleeps all day and cries all evening we just don’t know what to do’.

This is good, I feel very qualified to give all sorts of advice on sleep or lack of issue. I’ve got two small children both who were very different babies when it came down to sleep my brain is almost bursting with knowledge on routines, feeding swaddling blankets and beyond. I search around the office, fellows colleagues scamper off to various delivery rooms like timid mice and shut the doors behind them not wanting to take this what could be very lengthy call. I’m ready all ears listening ‘go on’ I say.

‘She just won’t settle especially between the hours of 7 and midnight my sister calls it witching hour whatever that means my wife is exhausted she’s breastfeeding and every time the baby cries she offers her the breast but it’s like she’s fussing, not really wanting it.’

I really felt for this guy, he was obviously completely sleep deprived and my god anyone who has had a baby knows exactly how hideous this is.

When I had my first baby I had only been a midwife for a year and my now husband and I moved to South London where I knew no one (I was the over enthusiastic new mother queuing at the post office smiling like a loon and making small talk to any poor sod who happened to catch my eye ‘hello yes me again more jiffy bags please’.) Any way an amazing health visitor at my local doctor’s surgery once gave me the best advice on settling my new-born daughter through the infamous ‘witching hour’, the three S’s, suck, swaddle and sling. As a midwife I kind of thought I knew what I was doing when it came to babies, well yes in theory for the first few days but a 2 week old fractious baby, I was bloody clueless and to be honest a little afraid to ask. So I googled something like ‘help me my baby won’t stop crying I need an amazing sling’ and bought this I also bit the bullet and bought a dummy which is a bit of a no go area as a midwife as there a lot of research to suggest that introducing a dummy can interfere with breastfeeding. But to be honest I was so knackered I was beyond caring, I then bought a pack of these and my screaming, unsettled, fractious new-born turned into a (very tightly) swaddled settled baby! Really those 3 magic S’s changed my life and not only did I reinforce this rule of thumb when I went onto to have my second baby, I spread the word like it is the gospel to anyone who would listen when I hear of unsettled and disrupted evenings.

So this poor bloke at the end of the phone got to hear of my ramblings (I could hear him scribbling down the name of the sling and swaddling blanket) and I put down the receiver feeling happy and hopeful that his evening will be transformed. What I did forget to mention to the new father was a book which my Aunt gave me for Christmas one year, profane, affectionate and refreshingly honest, it captures the familiar and unspoken tribulations of getting your baby to sleep, but I think I would forget the golden rule of this book stated on the back ‘You should probably not read this to your children’.

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