Oh How You Forget

this too shall pass

You know those lovely little Facebook memories that crop up on your feed, the ones where it says ‘on this day 4 years ago’ and some photo or status of how you felt/looked/did gives you a pang of nostalgic realisation that life is going really fast? I saw one the other day as I trawled through Facebook during the 3am feed that made me feel a bit sad. It said ‘shitty nights, shitty teething, shitty half term weather, shitty nappies, shitty bank balance, shitty 3 year old tantrums’. I felt sad because I thought how lonely I must have felt to voice all of that so publicly on my wall for all to see but more significantly, that I had no recollection of even doing it. And why is that? Why do we forget the dark times as a mother? Is there some kindness Mother Nature installed in us like forgetting the pain of labour so we reproduce again? There are a millions things I’ve forgotten when it comes to having a newborn baby, despite feeling like I should be an old hat at this mothering role by now, here a some of them;

  • that babies don’t eat, sleep, poo, repeat on a 3 hourly Gina Ford esque schedule
  • that babies cry for absolutely no reason even when you’ve fed them, winded them and changed them
  • that for those first few weeks of life they don’t give you anything back in the form of love or recognition for all your god dam hard work of nourishing them with your breast milk, a simple smile would be hugely appreciated during those darks hours at night
  • and that you will without a doubt question your ability to breastfeed them and always ask yourself ‘how do I know they’re getting enough?’
  • that waking up freezing cold in a pool of your own sweat is possibly the most unpleasant side to breastfeeding
  • and breast pads will always end up rolled up in a sticky ball at the bottom of your bra
  • that tea is only ever drunk tepid
  • that breakfast is eaten at noon and lunch at 4pm
  • that the washing machine is on constantly
  • and the dishwasher for that matter
  • that you never finish a conversation, emails are sat in your draft folder and attempting to make that new recipe you’ve been lusting over in the Hemsley and Hemsley cook book will never happen
  • that mum guilt no matter in what from, raises it’s ugly head when you’re at your most tired and makes you question EVERYTHING
  • that Googling ‘when do babies sleep through the night’ is not going to give you the answer you were hoping for
  • that you’ll find yourself reading every parenting forum (usually during the 3am feed) on the topic but end up getting distracted by a thread on the breast vs bottle feeding debate and wished you hadn’t
  • that it’s incredible how a cup of tea and a chocolate brownie can make everything seem ok again
  • that everything is a phase (dispite HATING this term) and things will get better

Bravo for Bravado!

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In my last blog post I mentioned that I’ve given up on underwired bras, they would dig in under my expanding ribcage and lets face it comfort is key in pregnancy. Some days it would be so uncomfortable I would unhook my bra in the car on the way home and whip it off, much to my children’s horror. Sorry girls but one day you’ll understand if you have big boobs like Mama.

In my previous pregnancies I continued to wear my normal bras (albeit a few sizes bigger) and then went into nursing bras once I was breastfeeding. I never found nursing bras that comfortable and being a lady of a fuller bust anyway, I always thought I’d need under wiring to give me support and a decent shape.

Things have really moved in since then and Bravado have come up with some super duper bras which are perfect for pregnancy and breastfeeding. I don’t see the point in buying maternity bras and then nursing bras (the only difference is the clip down feature) plus you’ll save a heap of money if you invest wisely now.

Bravado have created the Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra which is cleverly designed to be worn during pregnancy and beyond. Win win! It combines faultless style with effortless comfort and it’s unique design moulds itself to every woman’s unique shape. Which is perfect if you’re like me and have big boobs. With cups that fully drop away and clips that lie flat under close-fitting clothing, easily opened and closed with one hand, the award winning bra is perfect for breastfeeding, offering babies full access for important skin-to-skin contact. This versatile maternity and nursing bra can also be cleverly transformed into a regular bra after feeding, making it a good investment and great value for money.

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WHY I LOVED IT :It’s comfortable, stylish, and functional. This bra is great because it has a wide comfortable band that doesn’t dig into my boobs/ribs as many others did, and it is cut low enough that it doesn’t stick out under vest tops or low-cut shirts. I love the removable foam pads that will prevent bulky nursing pads from showing through tighter fitting tops.

I’ve also started going to a local pregnancy yoga group which is doing wonders for my back ache and it’s really lovely to meet some other pregnant women in a non work environment. Bravado have come up trumps again with their Body Silk Seamless Yoga Bra, a maternity and nursing bra designed to offer the ultimate comfort and support for mums’ active lifestyle. The luxuriously soft Body Silk Seamless Yoga has been designed with patented Silverbreeze™ technology to support low impact activity such as yoga, pilates and walking as well as everyday activity, both during pregnancy and while adjusting to life as a new mum. The new Yoga bra is available in Charcoal or Bright Pink and features convertible criss-cross straps as well as an embroidered ‘B’ on the underband helping to give it both a stylish and sporty look.BSS-Yoga-HeatherPink-Ghost_5f2b09a4-9687-4722-93e6-ddeb9daedeb6

WHY I LOVED IT: The Yoga bra in pink was a great colour and it didn’t mater that it showed through my yoga top. Again the wide band was supportive around my rib cage and was so comfortable I wore it for the rest of the day. But the most important feature is it stood the ultimate test of time – during ‘cat pose’ in the class by boobs stayed firmly put and didn’t spill out!

Check out Bravado’s site, they’ve got a whole load of other bras all perfect for pregnancy and breastfeeding.

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

Guest Post- How I ended up as a Midwife’s Assistant

I often get asked by people ‘Why did you become a midwife’?  To be honest the answer has changed over the years but I knew I always wanted to work with children and I knew I loved babies. But now it’s much more about the women. For me, at just the tender age of 18 (gulp) there was no gap year to be had after finishing my A-Levels, it was straight to Uni in Bristol as I wanted to embark on this exciting course. As midwifery is a vocational degree I knew I would have a job at the end of it all and to be honest I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

It’s mad to think the whole of my working life to date has been midwifery based.  How can you really know at 18 what you want to do for the rest of your life?  For many midwives I’ve met along the way they didn’t know, and left all sorts of jobs to re train as a midwife. Louie is one of those people, she hasn’t started her midwifery course yet….. she has decided to embark on a career change as a Midwife Support Worker. Louie joined our case loading team in December to support us 6 midwives. Is she brave or just mad? Either way she’s amazing. Here’s her side of the story.

I was terrified of blood and it meant taking a pay cut – but it’s been worth it!

Louie and Florence

Louie and Florence

After uni, I wanted to rebel against my teacher parents and enter a ‘glamorous’ profession so I did a post-grad in journalism and got a job on Take a Break, the weekly magazine you might have read at the dentist. It wasn’t exactly Marie Claire, but as a Features Writer, I got invited to PR launches, bagged lots of freebies and even wangled a press trip to Spain. As for the work, I helped reunite long-lost relatives, chased a stolen child across Italy and tracked down a paedophile. The hours were regular, the pay was good and I spent most Friday afternoons down the pub. What more could a 25 year old want?

But the job had big downsides too. I was often asked to ring a recently bereaved relative to ask if they wanted to tell their story (ambulance chasing as it’s known in the business). A few – amazingly – said yes, but a lot told me where to go. When I did convince someone to speak, I felt uncomfortable asking them the lurid questions I needed answering in order to make the story as sensational as possible. After about five years, I knew I needed to change careers – but to what?

Then in 2008, I had my first child, Arthur, closely followed by Florence in 2009. During my pregnancies and labours, I met some amazing midwives but also some rude and unhelpful ones. It struck me how much power a midwife has to make your experience a magical or an upsetting one. To try and make sure more women got a magical experience, I started volunteering at my local hospital, sitting on a committee whose aim was improve maternity services there. I walked round the postnatal ward, asking women their opinions and fed them back to the staff . I loved hearing everyone’s birth stories and discussing important issues. It was all the things I had enjoyed about journalism – but without any of the downsides.

It was while doing this that an idea started forming in my mind: I wanted to be a midwife. There was just one problem – I was terrified of blood. Everyone in my family is a big wuss: I still remember my dad sitting with his head between his knees, trying not to throw up because my Mum had tripped over and broken her tooth. As for me, I’d had to lie down after blood tests during my pregnancies. Not exactly the stern stuff midwives have to be made of!

And yet, I couldn’t shake the idea. So when I heard about a role called a Maternity Support Worker (MSW), I decided to apply. It meant assisting midwives with everything from weighing babies to removing catheters and – eek! – taking blood. Would I faint or could I be the first person in my family to ever work in a hospital? There was only one way to find out!

On my first day in the job, I was absolutely petrified. I managed not to faint but I did have to leave the room when a midwife was describing a particularly nasty obstetric emergency. I persevered, though, and gradually got used to talking about – and seeing – lots of blood. They say the best way to overcome your fears is to confront them head on – and working on a postnatal ward was definitely that for me!

The first time I actually had to take blood from someone, I was convinced I would hit an artery and see blood go splashing everywhere. But somehow, I managed to stay calm and do the job – although my hands were slippery with sweat afterwards!

With that fear conquered, I felt optimistic I could do other stuff without fainting too. A few weeks in, I watched a caesarean section and found myself more fascinated than scared. The same was true when I watched a normal birth – I was just in awe, both of the woman giving birth but also of the brilliant midwives I saw helping her.

I worked in the hospital for four months and then was given a role helping a small team of community midwives who do a lot of homebirths. Now I spend my days driving around, giving breastfeeding advice to women and doing the heel prick test on newborns. The midwives I work with are some of the most inspiring women I’ve come across and I adore helping women in those precious early days following a baby’s birth.

The pay’s not amazing but even a bad day in my new job is better than the best day I ever had doing journalism. I really like the fact I’m helping people and it’s invigorating learning so many new things every day.

Will I train to be a midwife? Who knows. For now, I’m loving my role as an MSW and would recommend it to anyone. And at least if I do go the whole hog and retrain, I know I won’t faint at the first drop of blood!

For more information about training as a Midwife Support Worker go to nhscareers.nhs.uk

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.

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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.

A Breast Feeding Doll? What ever next?

How come this is ok?

And what about this?

This is my 2 year old feeding her toys in ways she has seen other babies being fed, both breast and bottle.  She’s benefiting from the social-emotional skills, role-playing and learning how to nurture which all part of her natural development.  No biggie here.

So when a US toy company brought out the Breast Milk Baby Doll last week, people claimed it was ‘creepy’ and ‘forcing children to grow up too quickly’.  I’m not here to go on about breastfeeding or bottle feeding.  How a woman chooses to feed her baby in entirely her decision, you don’t need to attend a NCT class to know which has more benefits.  But this doll did make me question the actual need for it in the toy market.  Why not just put a doll to the chest area and the child can pretend to breastfeed that way?  And priced at around £60, I’m far too tight to pay that price.

What do you think?  Will The Breast Milk Baby Doll be making onto your child’s Christmas list this year?

Creepy or ground breaking?

 

 

 

 

Support, and the lack of

My husband is away snowboarding in France this week (it’s his number one passion more than sex, probably) so I took this opportunity to take some annual leave and enjoy some me time but of course both my children have picked up some stomach bug from licking the ginger pigs at Hackney Farm (my 4 year olds diagnosis not mine.) Let’s just say that due to the nature of my job I can pretty much tolerate most bodily fluids, as I work in a hospital with wipe clean lino floors, plastic covered delivery beds and an endless supply of stiff, starch linen, I’m shit hot (no pun intended, honest) at cleaning up after whatever falls around me. However my little house has carpet, cream carpet in fact and only a certain amount of sheets and not a pair of sterile gloves in sight. This type of bodily fluid has defeated me, on the plus when my GP asked ‘is there any chance you could supply a sample in a small pot to send to the lab?’ as I was becoming more neurotic that my children had contracted E. coli, I smiled knowing that I could probably supply enough samples to sink the Titanic (when will it become PC to use the phrase Concordia? just asking)

So there I was today in the doctors waiting room clutching my two samples, flicking through a pregnancy/baby/parenting magazine (the choice was poor it was that or Saga) and I came across a page on breastfeeding. I breastfed both my babies, I absolutely believe in everything it stands for and not just because I’m a midwife but I was glad when it came to an end and my boobs belonged me to me again. So, this article on breastfeeding shpealed out the usual advice, recommendations and how to get it right from the start, nothing to fault there. Then at the end it went on the say about getting the right nursing bra, making sure it fits bla bla bla (just for the record I actually hate the term ‘nursing’ I’m just using it to be subjective in this instance.) Before I had babies my boobs were big, 34E I think, I actually hated them but my sister tells me I longed for big boobs from the age of 10 and use to sing whilst doing the arm movements ‘I must I must I must increase my bust’. I cried and screamed at my mother in the Marks and Spencer changing rooms when I couldn’t get decent bras to fit without looking like I was wearing some sort of contraption, ‘Don’t blame me, blame your Great Aunt Kate’ my mother would reply smugly with her B cup pert boobs staring at me, not a very useful comment as Great Aunt Kate had been dead at least 10 years.

Anyway when I had my first baby I went to Marks and Spencer (I’d obviously forgiven them for my previous traumatic experience 10 years earlier) and searched for the perfect nursing bra, ‘Sorry we don’t sell or recommended underwired nursing bras’ it was the same answer everywhere I went, ‘seriously you don’t understand I need underwire I have big boobs which need support, uplift and big wide straps, boulder holders whatever, don’t sell me this shit lady’ as I held up what can only be described as a flimsy piece of cloth that Kate Moss’s titties would fit into. I kind of went off in a hormonal tangent. One bra fitter (I do now feel a little bit bad about my behaviour) said to me in Mothercrap Mothercare ‘it’s not just our advice madam, I think you’ll find if you ask your midwife she will also give the same advice, no underwired feeding bra for your big breasts I’m afraid’ ‘I AM A BLOODY MIDWIFE!’ I made a swift exit before the manager was called, cringe.

By the time I had my second baby 3 and a half years later, things had moved on from this advice and companies saw a niche in the market for good quality feeding bras for the more ample lady. I invested in 2 at the time one black one white and it really did change the way my boobs looked and felt. No more 4 boobs with a cleavage up to my chin spilling out of tops, I felt comfortable, well supported and not embarrassed when I undid the clip and revealed a little bit of lace, yes they’re actually tastefully designed too! The other day my good friend who has just had her second baby and gets almost as excited as me when discussing feeding bras (or the new edition of Living Etc.) whipped out her boob to feed her 6 week old and revealed her new find, another amazing feeding bra! I was so jealous I almost wanted to get pregnant again just to be able to get one (joking of course) it looked so comfy, she said it was divine. So girls don’t be put off when your midwife/bra fitter/mother-in-law says you can’t wear underwired feeding bras because you CAN, I’m certainly going to change my advice when discussing it with pregnant women. Invest in your breasts.

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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