Preparing For Antenatal Classes

Things have moved on a bit since the 1940's

Things have moved on a bit since the 1940’s

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

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

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

Here are my top tips for preparing for your classes.

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

Home Birth? – What About The Mess!

Another glorious week working as a midwife and another home birth. I’m sure you know by now that home births are something very special to me. Our home birth rate in our case loading team is between 30-40%. Way higher than the national average of a 2.26% (birthchoiceUK). Some of our women book with us knowing they want a home birth but some are also unsure so decide in labour. We have this great set up where women chose right up until they are in labour where they would like to give birth. For the majority of pregnant women, they want to birth where they feel comfortable and safe and often these feelings are only truly felt when labour starts. We offer a home assessment when labour has begun and that way women can make an informed decision.

I have noticed as I spread the home birth tales, a few odd faces pulled as I joyfully express my love for a home birth. I was never always like this, as I have in fact had 2 babies both in hospital . And I’m sure I’m not the only one receiving ‘unhelpful’ comments when discussing where to have your baby. A ton of you got in touch on Twitter telling me the hilarious and dam right ridiculous comments people said to you when you said you were planning a home birth. From ‘Wow you’re brave’ to ‘Really? Yuck’ and ‘What about the cat?’ and the most popular ‘What about all that mess!’ One woman said to me she would never have a home birth because she has cream carpets. Well one thing all us Mama’s know is that cream carpets get pretty ruined when having kids, so you might as well rip them up and reveal some lovely original wooden flooring. Problem solved!

A month back I attended a wonderful home birth where the woman decided to labour (and birth) in the upstairs newly built loft conversion. Us midwives tried several times to tempt her down stairs to her living room where her birthing pool awaited but nope she was staying up there. The room was so newly decorated that a tray of used paint brushes and a tin of Farrow and Balls ‘House White’ lay in the corner of the room. And did I mention the cream carpet and white en-suite? The birth was entirely ‘mess free’ not one single drop of ANYTHING touched the carpet, walls and bedding. My colleague and I were as proud of that as, we were of her amazing birthing achievements.

photo (27)And this was the only bag of ‘mess’ carried away by me at last nights home birth. 1 household size bin bag.

You see home birth is really not that messy. We as midwives respect your home, we are your guest and we do everything to to ensure nothing goes on your soft furnishings. We recommend that you get hold of some plastic sheeting such as some tarpaulin or a shower curtain to put over your bed or sofa if you end up birthing on there. However many women choose to have a birthing pool at home which is becoming a popular option with most home birthers. Any normal amount of bodily fluids that may be released are then all contained in one place! Simples.

Some of you lovely people have kindly shared their home birth photos, just to show how ‘un-messy’ it really is. And in case you need any more clarification, I wore a white t-shirt to a home birth and it remained as white as when I entered the house as when I left.

For more information about home birth visit homebirth.org and homebirthersandhopefuls.com

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Birth Story Of The Week – Judith and Simon

This birth story is really something special. I first met Judith during a meal back in 2005. She had prepared a Sunday roast dinner for her husband and 3 children and I was guest of honour. There was some element of pressure during this meal. I was on my best behaviour. Ensuring I used my cutlery correctly I tried to maintain my up most to impress her with my knowledge of the war in the Middle East whilst coming across as the sort of 20 year old young woman she may want to one day welcome into her family. The meal was a success, her cooking was delicious and I must have made an OK impression as I can now call her my Mother-in-law. She is an avid reader of my blog and very sweetly asked me if she could share her birth story when she had my husband 31 years ago this Friday! In honour of his birthday here is the story of how he made his entrance into the world. I like to think of this as a vintage birth story.

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Always the protective Mother

 

And the doting Granny

And the doting Granny

“I’d had a straightforward pregnancy – if you didn’t count the 16 weeks of non stop vomiting that is. You can really get fed up with mashed potato and fizzy water as sustenance, but otherwise, all was good. I’d been to a few NHS antenatal classes, after which all I could recall was the advice not to cross my ankles as they’d swell….

Right, bag’s packed, husband’s sandwiches are in the freezer – it’s September 18th 1982 – D day – so where’s the baby?

Being blissfully ignorant, we took as gospel the date we’d been given for our baby’s arrival. The day passed and I’d virtually given up hope of the baby arriving, and was sitting on the stairs watching my husband putting a new letterbox in our front door, when I became aware that I was sitting in a puddle – waters had broken!

No sign of contractions but after about half an hour, gentle waves started to break across my stomach and I became fascinated by looking like a beach ball being pumped up as each contraction hit. As per instructions from the hospital, we went in when the contractions were 5 minutes apart. As we drove into Cambridge, we were both nervous but excited. Blissful ignorance had kicked in again, but our rosy picture of peace and serenity was ruptured by a) the football sized crowd of other ‘parents in labour’, and b) the business-like ‘seen it all before’ attitude of the staff. Did they not know that we were having a baby??!!

We went into what looked and felt like a holding pen, where having been examined (3cm dilated), I refused to be shaved, but was badgered into having an enema – emerged feeling like c**p. Eventually, we were taken to the delivery room – to this day my husband and I think it was a stationery cupboard, not a delivery room (see photo), but hey ho…

The contractions were getting much stronger, and I was struggling to work with them. 2 cylinders of gas and air later, I was given pethidine and nodded off for an hour or so. Stuck on the bed with a monitor strapped round me, I felt like a beached whale, and very little was happening – except the baby was getting distressed – as was I as he had a foetal scalp monitor screwed into his head (or that’s what I imagined).

We’d arrived at the hospital at about 10pm, and it was now about 7am the following morning. Clive had been sitting with me, but we hadn’t brought any music (did anyone do that in those days?), no massage oils, no cushions, no anything really. A midwife had popped in from time to time to check on me – I didn’t have an assigned midwife, so it was whoever was passing, it seemed to me.

Another hour or so, and no further progress. I was in significant pain and started asking for an epidural (our birth plan had gone out of the window at the point I had pethidine). After a discussion between the midwives and the doctor who had turned up, it was agreed I should have an epidural and the anaesthetist arrived a few minutes later.

Blessed relief as the pain disappeared, but then the calm was broken by the doctor saying that the baby was passing meconium and needed to be born soon. Up to this point, we had been accompanied by a midwife, a trainee, and a doctor who called in from time to time. Suddenly the room filled up – and I do mean filled up. I counted 9 people in the room, some of whom looked as though they were on their way home from a party – a string of coloured beads round her neck in one case. I think they were hoping for something interesting (emergency C section?) to happen.

Clive moved to the head of the bed and gave me lots of encouragement, as at this point I felt I couldn’t go on any more. The anaesthetic was stopped (reduced? – can’t remember), and I was told to push after the next contraction. The baby wasn’t keen on emerging and I had an episiotomy – mention of forceps being made at this point! Eventually, after 14 hours of labour, and just about every chemical and medical intervention we could have had, Simon James arrived in the world at 10.10am on 19th September weighing 6lbs 13oz. The crowds melted away, and we were left to come to terms with our new world.

As I was stitched up, Clive and I sat with our new son, feeling shell shocked – the happiness would kick in later. All either of us wanted at that point was a cup of tea and a good sleep. When I was eventually wheeled to the ward, I was given Simon to hold, but for all the emotional attachment I felt at that moment, he could have been a bag of potatoes! Because of the epidural (?), he was very sleepy and didn’t really come round until much later in the day – when he did, he more than made up for it!

Final thoughts:  

Simon was the first baby I had had any involvement with – I’d looked after babies as a babysitter, but the youngest had been 4 months, so a newborn was really scary.

The antenatal classes I went to were pretty well useless in terms of giving me real practical advice – we went to NCT classes for number 2.

At this point, we were still in the era of mothers (patients) being told what to do, and ‘active’ birth was considered faddy.

I was in considerable discomfort after the birth and finding it difficult to breastfeed, but had no help from the ward staff, who just told me to keep trying. Two weeks later, I gave up breastfeeding and Simon went onto a bottle.

Would I consider my first experience of childbirth a ‘good’ experience – no. But on the positive side, by the time number 2 came along, I was more confident about what I wanted, and didn’t want, and it was altogether a better experience.

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Birth Story Of The Week – Katheryn and Louie

Today’s birth story comes from a fellow midwife who contacted me after discovering my blog. She is also a blogger and in the ridiculously small world we live in, we realised we know a few of the same midwives as she also trained and works in Bristol! Katheryn chose to practise Hypnobirthing for her home birth. Here she shares her experience, what it’s really like to give birth as a midwife.

Blog: The Vintage Midwife

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“I chose a home birth for my first baby, which I appreciate is not everybody’s cup of tea. But I knew that I would feel safer and more in control in my own home and I was inspired by my mum having my sisters at home. Her birth story is here  I had written my dissertation about home birth and had attended lots of home births as a midwife so I felt pretty well informed about the risks and what it involved.

I had prepared myself for the fact that I may need to be transferred in to the hospital if something didn’t go according to plan or most likely I needed more pain relief (I’m a right wimp).  I had packed my hospital bag full of lovely treats in case this happened, so it wouldn’t be quite so disappointing!

I had had a lot of worries about how I would cope with the pain in labour and what would happen; having too much knowledge of potential complications. Doing a HypnoBirthing course had made me feel a lot more relaxed and confident but I still had doubts if I could manage to have the home birth I wanted.

Labour started naturally at 4 days past my due date.

Looking back I was probably in early labour for longer than I realised. In the afternoon we’d walked to the shops and I had to keep stopping to hold onto my man’s arm. My tummy was going tight but it wasn’t painful or regular.

By the evening my tummy was going tight more regularly, about every 15 minutes; it still didn’t hurt. I put on my Hypno CD and when I ‘came to’ after it finished then the tightenings were one after the other, about every minute. This was about 7.30 pm, when I consider my labour really started.

I had a bath with lavender oil and was sick. I got out the bath and was kneeling by the bed and was sick again. My man was timing the surges (HypnoBirthing speak for contractions) by now and keen to call the midwives. I asked him why? “They’re every minute, lasting a minute” I didn’t believe him as they simply didn’t seem that regular to me and they still didn’t hurt.

About 9 pm, after I’d been to the loo there was loads of blood mixed in with mucus (a bloody show- really good sign that labour is moving on).This really shocked me and made me come out of my relaxed state. I got my ‘thinking’ midwife head on then- tightenings every minute, vomiting, bloody show- in theory I’m in full on labour, but I can’t be! It’s been far too quick plus it doesn’t hurt at all. What is going on?!

From this point on I came out of my relaxed state; I was in my ‘thinking’ head and didn’t know how to go back deeper. Like a switch being flicked, suddenly things became painful. This showed me just how effective using the HypnoBirthing techniques are. If I could change anything it would be that we had practised the deepening techniques so that I could have got back into my relaxed state.

I got my man to call the midwife at 10pm, we were told she would be an hour as she lived a long way away and had to stop at the hospital to pick up equipment.

At this point one hour felt like ages so I just decided not to look at the clock or think about the time. By now I’d found it really helpful to make noise when I was having a surge. I got in the birthing pool, which my man had set up. It felt fantastic in the warm water, helped me so much. Rescue Remedy helped too and visualising my cervix opening whilst I was having a surge.

At the peak of the surge, for a few seconds it got really intense but then it would ease off again. In between the surges it didn’t hurt at all and I enjoyed the break, reminding myself that I could do it. I tried to check myself (do an internal) to find out what was going on but I couldn’t really feel anything;  It is extremely difficult to do to yourself when you’ve got a massive bump, I don’t recommend it! I thought I was maybe 1 cm dilated and I started to think ” I can’t do this for hours, I might need to go in for an epidural.”

About 11 pm I opened my eyes and like a vision a lovely, lovely midwife had arrived. I was so pleased it was her; she was so calm and kind, very experienced and had had four babies herself. I know I was very lucky to know the midwives that were looking after me.

I wanted to be checked but it was so difficult to lie on the bed and the gap between the surges was so short and much worse lying down. She said I was 6-7 cm dilated (midwife talk for 8cm), so well over halfway. I thought she was joking as I was convinced I hadn’t been long enough in labour and for most of the time it hadn’t hurt at all.  As soon as I heard that I thought “I can do this. I’m going to do this” and kept telling myself that.

She called the second midwife. I got back in the pool. I asked for the gas and air (not for the pain so much as to stop the noise I was making which had got really loud at this point and was starting to annoy me, and probably our poor neighbours). Gas and air in the pool was heaven.

Shortly after this I felt I needed to push. Rather my body started pushing, a bit like retching, I just couldn’t stop it. I heard myself making pushing noises. The first couple of pushes I thought “this is great”, but then it got hard.  I felt really excited because I knew I would meet my baby soon.

I was pushing as hard as I could, but it felt like trying to shift a bowling ball or a melon; something hard and round that just wouldn’t fit through my bones. I started saying “I can’t do it”. I should have known this was normal for this stage of labour. They were telling me “you can!”

Apparently at this stage I was speaking in a different accent after each surge- Bristolian “Alright my love?”, Indian “Oh my goodness” and cockney “faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaacking ‘ell”. Must have been rather amusing for those with me. Guess it was the gas and air.  After a while I stopped using it.

My contractions started to ease off. I was asking them to break my waters, which hadn’t gone yet. They sensibly said no need yet- try and get out the pool and go and sit on the toilet. My bathroom is down a flight of stairs and I think they were hoping this would jiggle baby down.

I had to talk to myself out loud “Come on Katheryn, you can do it!”- like I’d talk to a woman I was looking after. I was helping myself through it like I’d helped hundreds of other women before. The midwives and my man were a massive support.

I sat on my toilet, gave a couple of pushes, it felt much easier to push on the loo, especially my loo. I felt the head coming.  I had my hand there, my waters went and the head just came out. In total I had pushed for 40 mins. They had put a towel under the toilet seat so babe wouldn’t fall down the loo. They said- stand up. I lost it, “I can’t!”. The second midwife got stern, “you have to!”- it was just what I needed.  I stood up and leant forward. It felt very surreal with the baby’s head out and the body still inside. My man saw our baby’s face at this point, the first person to see it. I gave another push and then woosh! I had my baby in my arms.

Me and my man were crying and laughing. We looked and it was a boy. Everybody had been convinced we were having a girl. He cried straight away. He smelt amazing and looked so clean. He looked just like my Dad, who died several years ago, and who I was very close to. We gave him his name (George) as a middle name.

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He was born at 1.45 am. The labour had been less than 7 hours and the midwives there less than 3 hours. Not bad for a first labour. Cheers HypnoBirthing!

I wanted to birth the placenta naturally, without the injection, so they didn’t cut the cord yet.  About 5 minutes later I gave a push and it all came out.  Felt a relief for it to come away.

My man held our boy for the first time and he opened his eyes and saw his Dad and held onto his beard. The midwives checked to see if I needed any sutures; few grazes but no stitches. All that perineal massage had paid off.

The midwives weighed him (8 lbs 6 oz, a good size!), checked him and gave him Vitamin K injection. I tried to breast feed him but he wasn’t interested yet so I had a bath and the midwives left.

I lay in the bath, looking at my soft, empty belly, thinking “I did it!” I was so pleased and thrilled, it felt like a huge achievement and I was so relieved our baby was safe and ok. I had a new respect for my body and what it could do.

Afterwards we cuddled in our bed together, drinking tea and eating cake and looking at our son. It was the best experience of our lives.  If we had been in the hospital my husband would have been sent home at this point, another bonus for having a home birth.

I know that I could not have had such a brilliant birth without HypnoBirthing and my experience inspired me to train as a HypnoBirthing Practitioner.  If it worked so well for me when I had so many fears and preconceived ideas about birth (and am a real wimp!) then I know that it can work for other women too.”

So Did Kate Do It Her Way?

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Unless you’ve been living under a large rock for the last 24 hours or have no access to the media, Twitter, Facebook or any human contact, then you will know that Kate delivered a baby boy yesterday afternoon. My (invisible) midwife hat has been firmly on my head since the news broke that she was in early labour. I could not help speculating what has going on inside The Lindo wing and neither could my colleagues either. Heading over to Twitter this evening proved I wasn’t the only one with my spies out and here’s why.

The wonderful Rebecca Schiller aka The Hackney Doula has written a fantastic piece on her thoughts (and mine) on what we hope and believe Kate achieved to birth her baby boy.

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‘I’ll admit this is entirely speculation. I have no idea what has been going on inside the Lindo Wing for the last 36 hours and it’s good that I don’t know. Very few people, with the exception of Romola Garai , want the world’s media to have knowledge of the state of their post-partum perineum.

However on careful viewing of the footage of Kate emerging 27 odd hours after birth, I’m putting myself on the record saying that I think she had a spontaneous vaginal birth without instruments and without an epidural. Why? Well, as @midwifeyhooper, @beverleyturner and I have been saying on twitter she is walking and carrying her baby with ease. There’s no hesitation or grimacing when going down steps or into the car; all of which would be pretty impossible so quickly after a caesarean.

The baby has no tell-tale lumps from a ventouse cup or forceps marks on his face. Kate herself has no bruises on the back of her hands or wrists suggesting no epidural or synthetic hormones.

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Of course, anything is possible, but her apparent lack of discomfort, her energy and her short stay in hospital and seemingly quite speedy timeline all point to a straightforward birth.

In many ways I feel guilty for speculating, for grubbily pouring over the photos searching for evidence. She’s just a woman adjusting to one of the most momentous changes in her life and I’m sure she doesn’t need us all wondering about ‘mode of delivery’ (hateful phrase). It’s her business and as long as she feels happy, well-supported and that it was a good and safe experience who cares if she had an elective caesarean or a water birth?

Yet, I can’t help feeling it does matter. If Kate was really keen to have a natural, vaginal birth and had really spent time practising antenatal yoga, Natal Hypnotherapy and the like I feel delighted for her that she had the birth she wanted and prepared for. In many ways the odds were stacked against her. Like over 90% of UK women she gave birth in a consultant-led unit (in her case with two dedicated consultants) when the evidence clearly shows that midwife-led care is the most appropriate, safest and cost-effective for low-risk women. She also gave birth at a private hospital with, reportedly, a 100% epidural rate, a high caesarean rate and no birth pool. (Though I wonder if an inflatable pool is being deflated as I type).

Sadly many UK women aren’t so lucky. Shunted in to consultant-led care through lack of available options they have a 45% chance of having an operative birth. Shocking when you think that the birth centre down the road would have dropped that chance by nearly 30%, while costing the NHS less and giving identical outcomes for the baby.

While medical intervention is life-saving, much-needed and also for some a positive choice there are too many women wanting to have Kate’s birth who end up feeling that the decisions have been snatched out of their hands.

So, perhaps I’m justifying my tabloid curiosity as I guiltily examine the backs of Kate’s hands, but the fact that the most high-profile birth of our time seems to have been a natural one, in a sea of rising interventions and rising dissatisfaction amongst women, seems important.

The headline “Woman has birth experience that she wanted and planned for” wouldn’t probably go down too well at The Sun’s news desk, but sadly it is becoming almost deserving of the front page.’

Follow Rebecca here @HackneyDoula

Birth Story Of The Week – Stacey and Elijah

Has she popped yet? Twitter has been going crazy with rumours that Kate Middleton is in labour. Helicopters were seen near her parents house and the press continue to wait out the entrance of Paddington’s St Mary’s Hospital where she is due to deliver. But Prince William’s appearance at a polo match yesterday was a pretty good sign that things were all quiet in the Royal womb.

Well here is a lovely birth story written by a fellow midwife who I trained with and lived with back in the day. Actually it wasn’t that long ago but it feels it since we’ve both become mothers and done a lot of growing up since then! Stacey is a midwife on a postnatal ward in Bristol and here she tells her birth story of Elijah. Even very fast births may not always be the best, so be careful what you wish for.

Stacey and Elijah

Stacey and Elijah

So, my thoughts on the pregnancy…Easy, thoroughly enjoyable, amazing. My thoughts on the pending labour…petrifying, fearful, adamant I wasn’t going to go through with it. 

As a midwife, I have seen pretty much every type of labour- quick and easy, long and tough. I was sure I was going to have a tough one and had scared myself stupid.
Well, at 39 weeks I had my friend pop up for a couple of days. The husband decided to be rushed to hospital with a dodgy ticker (all is fine now!) and we jokingly said how this was enough to get me into labour- the next morning, some mild period pains kicked in. Nothing a little wheat pack and paracetamol couldn’t sort out! I found out at 11am I was 5cm but not contracting- hallelujah!! As great as this sounds, I had no idea what to do. It wasn’t what all the books say, surely I should be screaming for an epidural by this point?! So, as all women who are 5cm dilated…the husband was off work on a sick day (due to the dodgy ticker!) and I made sure he went and got his haircut. Then off we popped to a friend’s house for lunch. 

5cm dilated!

5cm dilated!

So, sat contracting every 5minutes but nothing particularly exciting, eating my tuna sandwich! Surreal. 

By 5pm we went home and things had settled. Husband suggested he had a nap, so I had a bath. The contractions had come back by 6pm and they were every 2-3minutes by 7pm! We got to the hospital by 7:30 and had a lovely waterbirth by 8:45. For me, I was most comfortable when in the pool. I didn’t want pain relief- if I’m honest, I wasn’t actually in pain. Does a pain free labour really exist? Being with my friends, my husband, using water and using pregnancy yoga techniques- I had what I would say was an hour and a half labour. Wow! Baby Elijah arrived weighing 8lb 0oz.

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As many people would say I had the perfect labour, I wish it was slower, I wish I had time to register what was happening. I went home the next day and felt as though I’d stolen a baby from work- the whole process was too surreal and made bonding tough. He’s fantastic and we’re like best friends now…as for extending the family, that won’t be for a while, but I think it might have to include a waterbirth at home!!’

The Naughtiest Little Piglet

Once upon a time there was a little bean who lived in her Mummy’s tummy, she was called Piglet.

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Piglet liked to make her Mummy very very sick, so sick that her Mummy (who worked on a busy labour ward) had to dash into the bathroom in between coordinating the shift to be sick. Poor old Mummy. But then the Mummy started to feel better, her blue eyes sparkled again and she blossomed as her bump grew.

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Piglet was very wriggly and loved moving about in her new warm, dark, cosy bed. She wriggled and wriggled until she got into a comfortable position, her bottom firmly down and her little head bobbing up. But that position was not want her Mummy or her Mummy’s midwives really were hoping for. So one day a very clever doctor with his very clever hands turned Piglet the other way around, bottoms up! And there she stayed. But Piglet had still not finished being naughty. Oh no, she decided that growing wasn’t something she was too keen on and wanted to stay little.

Naughty little Piglet had everyone worried. Her Mummy and Daddy were very worried, the doctors with the big scanning machines were worried and even the midwives were worried. So D day came and the naughty little Piglet had to leave her warm, dark, cosy bed. Her Mummy went to the hospital and had some magic medicine to make little Piglet come out.

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Luckily for her Mummy and Daddy Piglet’s arrival was very quick, her midwives just only got there in time! And the naughty little Piglet was born on the 28th of May at 14:51 weighing a tiny 5lbs 4onz. They named her Charlotte Elizabeth and she was beautiful just her Mummy!

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And Charlotte and her Mummy and Daddy lived happily ever after.

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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

Birth Story of The Week – Sarah and Her Tigers

It’s been a pretty full on weekend here as my little girl turned 6! I can barely believe that 6 years ago I was giving birth to my tiny little dark haired baby girl. Not that she felt that small coming out, OUCH! Watching her with her friends yesterday, her long skinny bruised legs dancing to One Direction (cringe) made me realised how fast she is growing up. Those babies years seem a life time ago and I kind of wished I treasured them more, rather than wished them away through the sleepless nights, teething and juggling the working Mum malarkey.

This weeks birth story comes from Sarah a fellow midwife and Mama to little twin girls Emily and Edith.

Blog: Running Mama 2013

Twitter: newmidwife0904

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I spent what felt like an eternity to get pregnant, two years of trying, fights for fertility referrals, a year on the IVF waiting list…… But boy, when I finally got pregnant, I did it in style, not with one, but two babies. Seeing those two little lines had never made me happier, but in the throws of hyperemesis I wondered how I was actually going to cope with a twin pregnancy, and two babies.

Twin pregnancies, while a complete blessing, come with a list of risks as long as your arm. In a nutshell you are pretty much at high risks of all those pregnancy complications that worry you when you are pregnant with one baby, but the risk that bothered me most was miscarriage and premature birth.

My worries were not dampened when I bled at 25 weeks pregnant. I had what is called a post coital bleed (basically a bleed after having sex). And the stupid thing was that we had actually avoided sex for the entire pregnancy leading up to that point, and needless to say, for the rest of the pregnancy after. I was admitted for three days and subsequently signed off sick for the rest of my pregnancy, ending my role as a case loading midwife (very sad!).

Not sure what to actually do with all this spare time I took up knitting and sewing, and did more of my favourite hobby, baking (and eating) cake.

At 30 weeks I developed a urine infection which made me contract strongly and yet again I ended up in hospital, this time for four days. Successful treatment and rest allowed me to continue my pregnancy until term.

The second twin was in an awkward position under my ribcage, and so I started making plans for birth with my midwives and consultants. We agreed that as there was a 50% risk of needing a caesarean for the second twin, even with successful vaginal delivery of the first, I would have an elective Caesarean section at 38 weeks unless I went into spontaneous labour and things looked good. But at 36 weeks my midwife visited me at home, and when asked how things were going I explained that I was tired as I had been up all night with my feet in ice buckets because they were so itchy. Obstetric cholestasis (yes both myself and Clemmie got it, high incidence for such a rare condition!) didn’t even cross my mind. I felt so stupid! Any way, it was diagnosed and that weekend (after an emergancy wax!) I was stuck In hospital again for the weekend. But at least this time I would be meeting my babies.

After a weekend of intensive monitoring  just to get me to 37 weeks for a caesarean, I went to the pub at the end of the road from the hospital and had an enormous dinner of steak and chips. I guessed the iron content would compensate for any blood loss, and carbohydrate would get me through until morning as I would be nil by mouth from midnight. Hubby and I toasted our last night as a couple all on our own and headed back to the ward to contemplate what lay ahead for the rest of our lives. Things would certainly be different, that’s for sure.

I laid in bed, getting up and down to the loo, and not really sleeping a wink. I enjoyed every kick, every squirm, every hiccup, felt from within. I felt sad that I would never feel my babies move in that way again, and mourned that I would probably never be pregnant again. I wondered who was inside, boys or girls? One of each? Did they have hair? How big would they be (I felt enormous!)? Despite all the complications, I fell in love with being pregnant, I relished every day, and thanked the heavens each day for the blessing that had been bestowed upon me.

I must have fallen asleep as my alarm went off and woke me at half six. The summer solstice, 21st June 2010 had arrived and would be my babies birthday. I got up, had a shower, moisturised, plucked my eyebrows, brushed my teeth and waited. And waited and waited.

We eventually got taken to labour ward and into theatre at around 11am. A straightforward spinal later and I was lying comfortably in the table, worried I was going to fall off, and ready to go.

I could see my consultant pacing the corridor, I had luckily had the privilege of choosing my consultant, a colleague I trusted and respected, and one that had looked after me so well. He scrubbed up, along with my two (yes two!) hand picked midwives. Matt and I were chatting away to our anaesthetist and all of a sudden I heard the familiar sound of amniotic fluid being cleaned up. I hadn’t even realise they had begun! I hadn’t prepared myself and suddenly I was presented with the most perfect little being I had ever seen. Twin 1 – now known as Edith – had been born at 1129 , and flung straight onto my chest. Warm, wet, tiny, and mine. My chest felt heavy with emotion, we had done it, my eyes blurred with tears, I couldn’t quite believe I had a baby in my arms, a beautiful baby girl. But hang on. There was another baby to come! 1 minute later, at 1130, her sister Emily (who we were convinced was a boy!) was also born. Not being able to see through the tears I had to ask whether we had a boy or girl. Another girl and my dreams had come true (I never admitted in pregnancy that this is the outcome I really wanted). Emily went skin to skin with daddy and our family was complete. From two to four, in the blink of an eye.

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The rest of the day was a blur of breastfeeding, phone calls, congratulations from colleagues, and sleeping. I have never been so tired in all of my life as I have been these last three years, but I would never change it for all the money in the world (and I could use it!). Three years and many bad hair days on, even on those hideously tough days, I think back to the times of fearing I would never be a mother and remember just how lucky I am. My world, however messy and exhausting, is perfect.

An Open Letter To Kate Middleton

Dear Kate

Firstly, I would like to congratulate you on choosing some great maternity dresses throughout this pregnancy. Re cycling your Top Shop polka dot dress went down a storm, I bet Sir Phillip Green couldn’t believe his luck.

I hope you’re enjoying your ‘nesting period’ now that you’ve finished your last public engagement before the baby is born. I also hope William isn’t spending too much time whizzing around in helicopters rescuing stranded people while you are on your hands and knees scrubbing the Royal floor boards to encourage your baby to get into the right position for labour. Don’t worry, I know you may be tempted to sniff the bottle of Bathroom Bleach due to those uncontrollable urges, it’s just those crazy hormones. Your body does not really want you to eat soap.

photo (5)Really embrace this time to perfect your Hypno-birthing techniques with William, remember ‘Surges not contractions’ and print off your affirmations to post around the delivery room walls. Something along the lines of ‘Opening like a flower‘ or ‘ If in doubt, breathe out’.

Show him how to massage the sacrum of your back during those difficult times of your labour, you may want to consider using aromatherapy oils such as Lavender or Chamomile which are relaxing especially if your Mum or William are getting a little stressed! Drop a few drops onto a tissue and let them have a whiff, this should do the trick. Perhaps this would be a good time to consider trying some perineal massage.

Make sure William knows how to use the TENS machine and can stick the pads on your back without him electrocuting himself! Could be a bit embarrassing for him and you. Not one to tell the Queen. I’m sure you have already, but pack your labour bag, Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream, a wide headband and a pillow are just a few essentials you will definitely need. And not forgetting the all important food bag, especially for William. A strapping lad like him needs to be topped up regularly with high energy snacks; Pot Noddles, a few bananas perhaps and some Lucozade for you to sip to keep you going. (bendy straws, don’t forget the bendy straws!)

Music! We know how much you and William are partial to a little groove once in a while so make a great playlist. You may be inspired here from some of my and my readers suggestions. Number 8 and 11 were particularly good through those final pushes!

Last but not least, remember to take photos! If William is down the business end, get your Mum to take them. Obviously these won’t be the ones The Palace will want to release. But the first one of you with the baby skin to skin and looking like well like you’ve just given birth is very special. Perhaps Instagram it, a nice filter should do the trick.

Sending you lots of positive birthing vibes Kate, and I do hope you achieve the natural birth you so want. I have a feeling your Obstetrician may not be so up for a water birth or Hypno-birth but you never know. One last suggestion, maybe consider a midwife looking after you. One you know, have a good trusting relationship with, one that will support all your choices and treat you like a normal low risk pregnant woman. You could even have a home birth at your parents house, in the private environment you so deserve.  Just like the soon to be Great Grandmother did. If home birth is good enough for The Queen, it’s good enough for the heir to the throne.

Let me know if you change your mind, I may know a few great midwives that could help.

Best Wishes