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The Birth of Alfie

The Birth of Alfie

Dear Louise,

I did it!!!!!!!!!! Alfie Thomas was born on Monday 29th May 2017 at 3:56am. I can’t believe he’s here and I made it through labour!!!!!!!!

I wanted to share my story with you as I feel you (and your voice!) played a huge part in getting me through!

I surprisingly hadn’t been nervous for labour, maybe I was naive but I just felt there was nothing I could do but remain positive and see what happened.

I had been practising the tracks each afternoon since our day with you at 36weeks and even though my body felt totally relaxed I had to work hard to calm my mind. Without being skeptical I was unsure if I could really remember all this and do it when the time came. I had made a little cotton bag with lavender in – which actually stayed with me from first contraction to the birth!!!! I had no idea how much that would do for me!!!

Contractions started on Sunday afternoon at 2.40pm (was due to be induced on Monday first thing as overdue but Alfie got the hint and started things off!)

Contractions were 1 min in length from the beginning and started at 8 mins apart. From the first contraction I closed my eyes and blew the dial and even though they were mild the focus was exactly what I needed.

Contractions got closer together fast, each hour or so it was closing by a min, we tried to walk but didn’t get far, so came back and over the next few hours I had a few baths, lay on side, rolled around over a ball….. all done calmly and with your tracks playing on repeat. (I found myself listening to preparation for c section a few times as we just let it play in the background to keep us all chilled). I’m not convinced it was what was said specifically on the day I was listening too but the music, your voice, and the calmness is what got me through.

……so I continued…..I amazed myself how calm I was, I felt the pain but Ryland was incredible just reminding me to focus on the breathing and keeping me calm. At about 9.30pm contractions 2 mins apart and 1 min in length we called ahead and went in.

The worst part for me was being strapped down in the car for the journey, it made it much harder and can totally now see why being active in labour is the way to go!!

We arrived in triage…. and I was begging for pain relief by now but still breathing through each painful contraction…….the midwife examined me…. at 10.45pm….. 2 cm….. to which I responded by projectile vomiting 6 times! (On reflection this could have been transition?!?!) hahaha This is where my self doubt started creep in, I couldn’t understand how I was 2cms with such intense contractions and no option for pain relief until at least 4cm!!! (also remembering I had had a sweep on Friday which I was 1.5cm …. so in 3 days I had gone 0.5cm…. !!) she sent us for a 1 hour walk round hospital and then back home…..she told Ryland to stop for food and drink on way home…. more time strapped down in the car!!! By this point I was loosing my calm a little and by the time we got home 30 mins later I had jumped back in the bath and had Ryland feeding me salad and lucozadde…but I had the most insane urge to push….uh oh!! I did however convince myself I was constipated…. I had just been told 1 hour ago I was 2 cm…..so I was in and out of bath pushing pushing in agony thinking oh great constipation is all I need right now! Luckily after about 45 mins Ryland called midiwfe back who heard me and told him to get me back asap and if I gave birth in the car to call them!!!!!

So off we went in the most insane thunder and lightening storm back to hospital, I have vivid memories of opening my eyes and seeing the most incredible lightening while Ryland rocketed down the country lanes, he kept saying put your hand there and see if there’s a head!!! We ditched car in front and got up to triage where they got me on bed told me I was full dilated and whisked me off to the birthing unit…lavender bag still in hand!!

They got me in the pool with candles and dim lights and gave me gas and air which calmed me down a little. I had Ryland in front to focus on 3 incredible midwives encouraging me and understanding my wishes….this is where I was able to regain some breathing, sniffing the lavender and breathing every time I had the urge. After 1 hour I wasn’t making huge progress in the pool.

They got me out the pool and on the floor and took the gas and air away from me and after some serious pushing out came my gorgeous baby boy!!!!!!!

Now…. (not then!) I feel so incredibly amazed and proud I did it all without pain relief (except my 1 hour on gas and air before they took it away to push!) and slightly confused as to how I went from 2cms at 10.45pm to fully dilated by about 12 midnight but my body just decided to speed things up I guess!!!!

The lavender was a habit by the end and one that made the world of difference… one midwife said that during a contraction I was breathing in the lavender and when I breathed out she could smell it on my breath…..hehe!

At one point …. not the most appropriate moment… Ryland asked if I wanted him to shake my apples!!! Haha he remembered but we had missed that boat by then!!!

Anyway, after birth we had gorgeous skin to skin and family time for 2 hours. It was perfect! The midwife suggested next time I have a home birth due to dilating extremely quickly….2cm-10cm in about 2hours. Which we would definitely consider

Thank you so much for teaching us, I remember saying to Ryland in labour…. how do people do this without a focus!!! I was blowing that dial like there was no tomorrow!!! I’m so pleased I did it for my first baby, so I know I can do it and that it works.

I asked Ryland if he thought I actually hypnobirthed as I have memories of being a bit wild towards the end and his reaction was surprising, he said I absolutely did it and couldn’t believe how well I did!! I think it surprised him also how focused I was, I don’t think he truly believed until he saw me in action that it was going to make a huge difference. He works away in the week so hadn’t seen me practise either so for him to see I think it was quite amazing.

I’m so interested to see if Alfie will recognise your voice, from all the pregnancy practise and being on repeat for 9 out of 14 hours of labour!!! Will play him the tracks and see what he does! And would love to introduce you to him soon!

Thanks again, sorry for the garbled message but without wanting to sound like I didn’t believe everything you said, I just can’t believe that my body and mind remembered and I managed to keep it up for so long. So I wanted to tell you, I did it, it worked and I’m forever thankful to you for your help in birthing my beautiful baby boy.

Love Rosie xxxx

Ps – oh and please tell your brother in law that music was well used!! 9 hours non stop at least!!!!!! Haha

 

Looking good? Happy? Healthy? … loving every bloody maternal moment????

Looking good? Happy? Healthy? … loving every bloody maternal moment????

As mums you’ll all be aware that sometimes …. actually, realistically A LOT of the time we’re judged about the choices we make. To be fair, I doubt that there’s anyone who could, hand on heart, say that they themselves have never judged (even a teeny, tiny bit?) other mums for the choices they make, right?

And this judging and being judged (as a mother) begins when we are pregnant. Suddenly it’s as if everyone …. your friends, family, work colleagues, strangers on the street have a god-given right to question and give their opinion on what you’re eating, drinking, if and how you exercise, will you take all the scans offered? Will you pay for extra ones? 3D ones? Will you find out the sex of your baby before it’s born? Where you’re planning on having your baby, what you wear whilst pregnant, whether you’re still having regular sex … whether or not that’s ok, if you’ll go back to work immediately, after a year, not at all, whether or not your partner will take shared parental leave, what you’ll call your baby, how you’ll feed it, will you use a dummy? …. Co sleep? Attachment parenting, or Gina Ford?

Not all of the people asking you questions, making suggestions etc. are doing so in a judgy or ill-informed way, many of them will be doing so because they care about you and your baby either because they are your loved ones or it’s their job to do so – midwives for example.

So, first of all, worth separating out the people you do really need to engage with to get information and those like, maybe, Aunty Sue who last had a baby 30-odd years ago but knows EVERYTHING about pregnancy, birth and babies because she’s “ Errr, given birth to and raised three kids and they’re all ok” …. Whatever Aunty Sue’s or your best mate’s experience was, it’s not yours. Whatever you hear about their birth experience, it’s just a snap shot, you’re rarely privy to the whole picture. When we hear other people’s experiences we can hear facts that may be taken out of context and we also tend to take on that experience as our own …. ‘that could happen to me …. Imagine if that happened to me’.

When a woman becomes pregnant there’s an element of her immediately being treated as high risk until proven otherwise… she’s signed up for scans, tests, check-up appointments to make sure that everything’s ok, to check for things going wrong. And whilst I’m not suggesting for one moment that women forgo any of these what I always urge them to do is to be aware, appreciate that with each midwife appointment and every scan comes an element of anxiety … the woman is going along to check that everything’s ok. When she’s told that it is, a sigh of relief, important reassurance.

And so with all of this bombardment of opinions, appointments, choices to be made, comes an underlying fear and anxiety for most mums … even the ones for whom conceiving was a breeze and being pregnant’s going smoothly are going to feel this on some level.

If we add to that the wallpaper of fear that seems to surround birth from the stories women hear, the portrayal in the media, One Born Every bloody Minute (don’t watch it, just don’t! … if you want to know why, do ask me) then it’s not surprising that many women are scared witless about the prospect of pushing a baby out.

Women are scared about birth and they’re scared about becoming a mother, and so are their partners. I see it all the time and with some I get the opportunity to overthrow that prominent prevailing narrative at my free Positive Birth Movement groups and in NCT antenatal classes.

Then there’s Hypnobirthing …. ‘it works’ said Clemmie Hooper at the recent, sell-out Mums The Word event. Not only does it ‘work’ but it’s a bloody game-changer not just for birth but also for that transition to parenthood for mums and dads. Hypnobirthing parents are informed, confident and supported – three really important ingredients for any parent.

I say over and over again to couples – Hypnobirthing isn’t the equivalent of waving a magic wand or fairy dust over the labouring woman. But it IS the best birth preparation for any birth whether that’s at home, a birth centre, in a hospital or by planned caesarean.

Many of the women who come to my Hypnobirthing Workshops do go on to have straightforward births and credit Hypnobirthing with that, which is lovely for me, but, of course, there are many other factors that come into play. When parents find their birth taking a different direction, what they come back to me over and over again and say is that at no point was it overwhelming. Any birth can be calm and peaceful and learning to navigate unforeseen or difficult situations confidently and calmly is not only a fabulous tool for parents during labour but a great life lesson too.

Addressing fears and re-framing them, learning how and why to trust your instincts along with all the other Hypnobirthing tools and techniques are vital for your life as a parent as well as for your pregnancy and the day you birth your baby. Changing the way you think about or view a situation will change your experience of it.

Recognising the messages you’re bombarded with daily is important …. messages suggesting that unless you’re holding it all together, looking good, being happy, being healthy, pleasing everyone …. basically loving EVERY bloody maternal moment, you are, to a certain degree, inadequate or weak.

I’ve been cajoled onto Instagram because it’s where my ‘target audience’ are. I love it. But I have to admit to struggling to post a pretty picture on a regular basis … I’m middle-aged and tubby for a start and I don’t have a brood of angelic looking babies and toddlers anymore to pepper my feed with! Much as I enjoy Instagram and the like, I do know that it feeds these messages I’ve just mentioned … the rise of the ‘Instamum’, the ‘MumBoss’ etc. sucks us all in, even old crones like me, to this perfect vision of parenthood and life in general. Of course, there’s a big backlash to this, with fantastic, honest, funny mums sharing stories of how they actually AREN’T quite ‘nailing it’ …. but even most of them don’t tend to look truly dog-rough, do they? And, anyway they’re so FUNNY (add that to the above list – wittiness is also essential).

Whether you’re pregnant, a mum with small children or actually just any old human being, you will benefit from taking time out of your day to actively relax (as opposed to lying on the sofa watching telly), to breathe properly, calm your mind and reframe unhelpful thoughts – if that means setting your alarm 5 minutes earlier in the morning or going to bed earlier at night DO IT!

If Birth Doesn’t Go To ‘Plan’

If Birth Doesn’t Go To ‘Plan’

As soon as I received this email from Sophie I knew I needed to share it for a couple of reasons:

“Hey Louise,

So our little man has finally made his arrival with much protest and reluctance!! Haha!! 
After a 50 hour labour, and dilation of only 2cm, he was finally born by c-section on Wednesday.

I could be experiencing total shock at the delivery as it was very scary at times and the complete antithesis of all I had preferences for but thanks to you (so much) for all the positive birth chats and hypnobirthing techniques I feel really positively about the whole experience. 

… just wanted to say a huuuuge thank you!! You’ve been my biggest support (as well as Will of course) throughout pregnancy and I’m so happy our paths crossed. 

Much love,

Soph xxx”

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First of all to reiterate what I say over and over again on workshops – my overriding aim is that you have the tools, techniques, knowledge and confidence to have a calm, peaceful, empowering birth whatever path it takes.

When I hear about births that didn’t go as ‘planned’ but where parents were able to apply the Hypnobirthing techniques they’d learnt with me, I know it makes a MASSIVE difference.

Secondly, as Sophie expresses here the, ongoing support that all my Hypnobirthing parents receive, unreservedly, from me is invaluable … being able to really express their fears as many times as they like with someone knowledgeable, that they know and trust really is gold-standard care and support.

So, whilst you could just read a Hypnobirthing book and listen to some tracks, having personal support on the phone, by email and in person is always going to outshine that option.

Sometimes people say to me ‘you must be inundated with mums & dads wanting to talk stuff through with you, it must be so time-consuming’ – you would think so, but 3 things occur to me here: Firstly, and most importantly, this is something I love and I’m passionate about – supporting mums and dads whatever their choices in the best way I can. I honestly never get bored of it! …. I learn from it myself, constantly, because no two people are the same.

Secondly, chatting to someone on the phone for 10-15 minutes isn’t actually that time-consuming – I can do it while I’m cooking, while I’m walking the dog and if it’s really not convenient I’ll just call them back when it is. I probably spend about 15 mins each day in total talking on the phone to someone or answering an email with a list of questions – it’s no biggy for me but can have an ENORMOUS effect on the person I’m supporting.

And, finally … I’m very conscious in everything I put out (website, social media stuff etc.) that I actually only want to attract my ideal client. I don’t try to sound clever, I don’t try to appeal to all, because, quite frankly, I don’t want to work with someone who’s not going to ‘get’ my sense of humour, or someone who’s just ticking a box ‘Yep, been to Hypnobirthing. Job done’ who isn’t willing to then put in the commitment afterwards, I don’t want to work with someone who’s going to take offence at the language I use or the fact that I’m quite blunt. Consequently, I tend to attract clients who’ve already decided I’m their kind of person, who I’m going to get on with, like and really enjoy supporting.

Some parents leave the workshop genuinely needing no further support and just get in touch once they’ve had their baby, some parents make lots of contact in the run-up to their birth … it all evens itself out time-wise.

Sophie is one of those clients I’ve mentioned above – I really like her and enjoyed our interesting discussions and I’m truly delighted by this email. Her birth didn’t go the way she’d expected but she’s been empowered by a positive birth experience anyway, because she prepared well …. and can I just say, RESPECT! ….  50 bloody hours of labour?! … this is one strong mum.

 

Bertie’s Birth

Bertie’s Birth

Ok, so you may not particularly want to have an unplanned home birth, but …..

I met Kate and Pete when they were pregnant with their second child. Their first birth experience had been traumatic and this meant that both of them were anxious, but also realised that there were things that they could do to prepare for this one without spending the entire pregnancy feeling fearful. They weren’t just going to wing-it and hope for something better. They wanted to get more informed and learn skills that they knew would have an impact on labour and birth. Kate said afterwards that it had been Pete’s understanding of the Emotional Map of Labour that meant he was able to hazard a confident guess at how far along Kate was, even when she thought she was waaaay off actually birthing her baby!

Here’s their story:

Kate and BertieI wholeheartedly recommend a course of hypnobirthing to all parents. I am sure it made my experience of my second birth the hugely empowering and positive experience that it was.

I decided to take the course as I had such a terrible experience with my firstborn and was hugely apprehensive about giving birth again. I ended up haemorrhaging and losing consciousness after an emergency forceps delivery, and had to spend 3 days on the HDU (high dependency unit). It was such an awful experience which definitely contributed to suffering from postnatal depression. Luckily my son was fine, so small mercies.

I was overdue again with my second son, but trying not to get stressed about it, staying nice and calm and chilled out to encourage him to come along! I had gone out with my friend and her son with my toddler that morning. I was feeling tightenings every so often but put it down to Braxton Hicks as they weren’t particularly uncomfortable. At home I noticed I had the show, but still thought labour could be days away. I remember texting my husband but telling him not to worry as I was sure baby wasn’t coming anytime soon! The tightenings did continue but they still weren’t painful and were really sporadic, so I just carried on with life as normal.

That evening the tightenings became stronger, though I still wasn’t convinced as they were so far apart. I told my husband I was going to go to bed, but realised I must be in labour as I couldn’t get to sleep as the tightenings had definitely become pretty uncomfortable. My husband texted his parents who live 2.5 hours away as they were due to babysit our son when I went into hospital.

Things progressed extremely rapidly after that. The contractions began to quicken and last longer. We called the hospital but they told me to stay at home. I’m sure they said this as I was so calm on the phone, and I don’t think I realised how far along I was either! I had based myself in our living room lying on my side, with a blanket, lavender pillow, eyemask and my hypnobirthing music and was just concentrating on each wave and counting through it.

It was only when I screamed that I couldn’t do this and needed an epidural that my husband realised I was going into the second stage. I guess I was just thinking of my experience with my first son, which had taken around 16 hours to get to the second stage. This has taken less than two hours. I was just thinking ‘oh no, the hypnobirthing is not working anymore, and I can’t cope with this’ and thinking I still had hours to go, when in fact I was just in the transition stage and having the normal negative feelings.

My husband called the hospital back who said to call 999 and get paramedics out asap, which he did. He also had to call my friend (from the morning!) at midnight to ask her to come over as his parents were not going to make it to our house in time.

I remember feeling relief during the pushing stage. The feelings were incredibly intense and yes I did make animalistic noises, but I felt completely in control, not panicked at all, and just so completely focused in the moment. The paramedics arrived about 5 minutes before my son arrived. They asked me if I could get to the ambulance, and I even said yes I would try, then had another contraction, and the paramedic said ‘oh no I can see the head. Stay there!’ I didn’t push my son out. I breathed him out. I vividly remember doing this and feeling so privileged that I didn’t feel so out of it that I couldn’t remember (like I did with my first son) or blocked it out as it was too traumatic.

So my son was born at home, with no pain relief (other than five minutes of gas and air when the paramedics arrived – oh yes I took that!) in 2.5 hours. I had to go to the hospital anyway to get myself and baby checked over and have some stitches but otherwise everything was fine.

There were a few things that I took away from hypnobirthing that I found extremely helpful. First was how to quickly get yourself into a relaxed state – the self hypnosis. Second, were the practical breathing techniques. Third, was how to encourage yourself to feel positive and empowered in your body’s ability to do what it needs to do and to cope with whatever happens, and lastly, it helped me feel really prepared as I was encouraged to go through all the scenarios that I may be worried about and think about what I would do if it happened. I would definitely do a refresher course if I have another baby. It was one of the most empowering experiences of my life.”

The Birth of Amelie

The Birth of Amelie

Amelie is Gill and Dan’s second baby and they were keen to explore different ways of preparing for, approaching and coping with labour and birth this time around. Gill was totally committed to listening to her tracks and understood how and why hypnobirthing works. By the time she went into labour she had trust in her body’s ability to birth her baby and was feeling confident and informed…. leading to a very different birth experience this time around.

Thank you Gill for sharing your story!

“I had a sweep in the afternoon so I knew things were potentially going to get going. I started to have fairly mild contractions about 6pm which I just sort of ignored to be honest as they weren’t too bad

At about 9ish I put the Pregnancy Relaxation track on I think and got really comfy and zoned out listening to that.

Then about 11.30 we went to the birthing centre as the contractions had really stepped up in intensity. When we got there they examined me and found I was only 2cm

If I’m honest I went a bit despondent at that point, it felt like my body was playing tricks on me and that this baby was staying put forever!

I had a sleep and woke up at about 2.30 and the pains were getting quite difficult to bear, Dan was asleep and I had a moment of real panic! When I had Louie I had quite a lot of intervention and pain relief in the end so this was a really new experience in terms of how labour was progressing! Then I remembered to put on the  Releasing Fears and Anxiety track and started my breathing, I was focusing on 4 secs in and 8 secs out

I jumped in the bath at this point which really helped with the beach visualisation which I found so relaxing.

Next thing I knew it was about 4.30/5am and although my contractions were getting stronger and closer together I was still only 5cm with waters intact

Cue another examination during which my my waters went spontaneously and mortiyingly all over the midwife

After that I had a pretty quick active labour and I had all of your tracks playing on a loop, including (bizarrely) the caesarean one which I’d downloaded just in case we had to go down that route and which I listened to about 4 times until the midwife asked if she was hearing things!

During this I went through transition as I started pushing and had a real ‘no I can’t do this, you’ll have to bring me some pethidine and I think this gas and air has run out’ moment (it hadn’t).

The midwife very calmly talked me down and encouraged me to pick my breathing back up and zone back in on the tracks playing. They definitely helped and when I came to the last stage of pushing I was totally focused on breathing the baby down and rather than panicking every time I felt her progress down, I took it as a positive thing that she was moving along naturally without any intervention

I’ll be honest, I couldn’t tell you which track I was on by then, they all blurred into one but because I’d practiced during pregnancy, the familiarity of your voice allowed me to slip back into my own relaxation that I’d been practicing and that in turn made for a much easier less complicated birth

No stitches or even grazing, we established feeding immediately and we were home 6 hours later! It couldn’t really have gone any better … and I felt rather empowered afterwards, I feel like it’s (hypnobirthing) aided recovery and feeding as well really

I was just so happy that we had a much more controlled birth that we were able to navigate through choices we made! I can’t thank you enough for your help.”

The Birth of Evelyn

The Birth of Evelyn

image1Introducing Baby Evelyn!

Evelyn’s parents Helen and Matt attended my Couples’ Workshop and Evelyn is their second baby.

Helen’s first birth had been traumatic which had knocked both their confidence. Helen had felt panicked and out of control first time around and it was really important to both of them to learn techniques to remain calm and relaxed and to have a positive birth experience this time around.

And, they did! Thank you Helen for sharing your story:

“ Baby Evelyn has finally arrived … she was born three weeks ago on Mother’s Day … best Mother’s Day surprise ever!

 I have to admit I think I even shocked myself at how calm I managed to be! I would definitely recommend hypnobirthing to anyone. Just wish I’d known about it the first time around!

 She was 9 days late and, as you know, I was getting anxious about being overdue due to the size of my son and how traumatic his birth had been. I went to see Katie a few times (thank you so much for the recommendation as she was absolutely brilliant!) and had a total of 6 sweeps! But I’m definitely now a firm believer in that babies will choose to come when they are good and ready!!!

 My final sweep was on the Sunday morning and I started to get pains straight afterwards. A few hours later they were mild contractions and I carried on with plans to go to my brothers for lunch. By half 4 I had to excuse myself as could no longer hide them and wanted to go home to relax. They came thick and fast for the next 3 hours and I used the tracks you gave us and found the affirmations and the music really helped me to relax and almost enjoy the time at home. At 8pm we went to the hospital and were told I was 8cm dilated and rushed straight to delivery as her heartbeat was dropping with each contraction (found out later that this was due to the chord being wrapped around her shoulder). Just over an hour later she was born. It was a bit more stressful than I’d imagined due to all the extra doctors and panic over her heart rate, but I had the natural birth I had so wanted and definitely felt a sense of achievement about it all, and of course a huge relief that she was finally here.

 Anyway, I just really wanted to say thank you for your input and let you know that I found the tracks and hypnosis so useful, not just in labour, but in the run up to it all as well.

 On the day they kept me calm and positive throughout the day and gave me the confidence to listen to my intuition and arrive at the hospital at exactly the right time.

 Hypnosis is definitely something I’m now interested in moving forward as well.”

 

Crowborough Birth Centre

Crowborough Birth Centre

… yeah, I know neverit’s not swanky! But here’s why it should be a major player in your consideration of where to have your baby:

After my (extremely well received, thank you!) blog about Maidstone Birth Centre I was invited to Crowborough Birth Centre to have a look around and a chat with the Manager Karen.

My blog about Maidstone BC was based on their report and had lots of stats. Crowborough’s stats will be collated at the end of April so I’ll update then. Here, I’m going to talk about other really, really important stuff for you to consider when choosing where to have your baby.

First up – know this: The Birth Place Study in England (see my previous post here) found that, for low risk women, birth is as safe for babies in a birth centre as it is in hospital, with the added benefit of reduced intervention for mums – lower rates of caesarean birth, lower rates of assisted birth with forceps/ventouse and lower rates of episiotomy.

The Trust’s own data mirrors these findings – 89% of women starting labour at the Birth Centre had a normal birth .

Writing this has reminded me that I really should do a blog about the role of hormones in labour & birth and how the environment the birthing woman is in and the support around her has a massive impact on those hormones and on how labour progresses, because everything about Crowborough Birth Centre is going to encourage oxytocin and keep adrenaline at bay.

Crowborough BC is pretty much on our doorstep, it took me about 15 mins door to door, INCLUDING PARKING!…. I live in central TW and I can get to the Hospital in about 10 mins on a very good day, during rush hour, (err, that’s almost every hour in TW) I’d allow 30 mins.

But, the parking – let’s go back to the parking BECAUSE this is a cause of much anxiety in partners on my courses …. We know the affect of adrenaline on the labouring woman and we know that it’s catching. So, ideally, I’d like all partners to be able to calmly drive into the car park, take their pick of parking slots, glide into one right next to the building and then serenely escort the labouring woman into the building with zero stress … that ain’t happening at Pembury Hospital unless you’re extremely fortunate. But, is IS at Crowborough Birth Centre and parking’s free.

So, you’ve parked up, and walked the few steps to the Birth Centre, through the doors and you’re inside where all is peaceful … that’s right hushed and tranquil. Again, I can’t help but compare, because this stuff MATTERS … Pembury Hospital Main Reception – like a chimpanzee’s tea party in the middle of Piccadilly Circus, am I right?

I’m absolutely not criticising, it’s a massive hospital, it can be no other way. But we all know of women who’ve been labouring at home, arrived at hospital only to find that their contractions have petered out…leaving your warm, safe, private home, getting in the car, getting stuck in traffic, struggling to find a parking spot, and then making your way through a huge, brightly lit, buzzing reception area, pausing for each contraction (so you’re unlikely to be able to just nip through swiftly!) whilst on display to god knows how many people …. all that IS going to have an impact on how you feel, how your partner feels and therefore on labour.

Anyway, back to Crowborough Birth Centre (and breathe). It’s quiet and peaceful and welcoming. So, so welcoming …. every single person I met smiled, introduced themselves and offered me a cup of tea while I waited. Every. Single. Person. I think I was offered about 5 cups of tea! They were busy, but clearly the ethos is one of taking time and being attentive and kind. And this is something I hear over and over again from women who have been cared for at Crowborough Birth Centre either antenatally, during birth or postnatally. Here are some of the comments I received via social media from mums:

“I just had my little girl here and it was fantastic. Can’t praise it highly enough.” Harriet

“I had my daughter there in September- it was the best decision I made!!! Dark lighting, ready made bath, experienced midwife- just her…our needs the biggest priority and then a big double bed for my other half to stay over with me. Perfect!!” Dot

“All the staff at crowborough are amazing, I’m under their care ATM. friends who have had babies here praise it highly. I unfortunately can’t have this baby there but would recommend ladies with no medical problems to have a look, It is a home from home treatment” Vicki

Women and their partners love it there. I have never, ever heard a criticism of it. Not one.

The care feels more personal. Of course it does – it’s not a huge obstetric unit. There are 2 birthing rooms both with birth pool (plus an extra room that can be used) and a small team of really dedicated midwives and maternity support workers, so the chances are at any point in your care you’re more likely to supported by a midwife you’re familiar with.

All the staff there are experienced, dedicated and believe in women’s ability to give birth and they seem truly invested in working together and with you for a safe and happy birth experience, again I guess that’s a direct result of working in a small team and caring for women they see regularly and get to know.

The whole ethos of the place is welcoming, relaxed and supportive from the moment you walk through the door so that you and your partner feel safe and confident.

‘What about if I need to transfer to hospital?’ is a question I’m frequently asked and I know the thought of this is what can put a woman off – she just wants to be where she’s going to be to birth her baby from the outset, right? But, here’s the thing: (actually a few things) It’s not that big a deal, honestly. Women don’t tend to find it traumatic, they’re always glad they started at the Birth Centre and happy to be transferred if needs be (remember, in almost all cases, this is a decision that will be made way before it’s a medical emergency).  It’s a 14 minute journey to Pembury Hospital in an ambulance, her partner has the choice of coming with her or following in the car and the midwife from the Birth Centre who’s caring for her will go with her too. She can come back to the Birth Centre for postnatal care if she started there (she gets priority of those who didn’t). Also, a significant number of women transferred will go on to have a straightforward labour anyway – the fact that they chose to and did start their labour in a birth centre has an impact.

The Birth Centre offers the following pain relief options: TENS hire, birthing pool, sterile water injections, gas & air and pethidine. You can have your antenatal care there, booking is from 34 weeks, they are open 24hrs and have a 24hr helpline, 24hr breastfeeding support and postnatal support.

There’s criteria for having your baby here, but even if a woman doesn’t fit the criteria her specific situation can be discussed on an individual basis by a multi professional team – so always ask if there’s any confusion. It’s rarely just a flat ‘no’. The staff at Crowborough do everything they can to facilitate choice for women.

Hypnobirthing courses are available at £200 and these alternate monthly between Crowborough and Maidstone Birth Centres. There are also plans to train midwives there in hypnobirthing. Yay!

You can have a tour of Crowborough BC. They run every Saturday 3-4pm and 4-5pm – just give them a call to book a place.

Also there’s a breastfeeding drop-in on Thursday mornings 10am-midday.

I have to mention the postnatal rooms with double beds so your partner can stay with you and your baby overnight afterwards. That’s right, during those first few precious, bonding, magical, emotive, sometimes overwhelming days of your new life as a family your partner DOESN’T have to squash into a chair or curl up on the floor like a dog to sleep and they won’t be banished & sent home at any point. At Crowborough Birth Centre all three of you will be NURTURED postnatally, which is exactly as it should be.

They have a ‘free’ Visitors Policy – who you want, when you want, as many as you want, with the only restrictions being on non-sibling children. Of course, brothers and sisters of the new baby are welcome.

Now, I have to mention the fact that Crowborough Birth Centre’s been around for a while and some of it looks a little tired and dated. Women often mention the fact that the hospital is all lovely and new and has TVs in every room. If you haven’t had a baby before, I can see why this might might affect your judgement, and you might, having toured the Birth Centre think ‘hmmm, that’s all well and good, but it’s not very SWANKY is it? Bit shabby & old fashioned’. I’m going to stick my neck out here and tell you categorically that interior design and what’s on the telly are two things that you absolutely won’t give a shit about in labour or just after you’ve had your baby.

All the stuff I’ve mentioned above is the stuff you’ll care about and you’ll care about it very, very much, trust me. You’ll want to feel safe, private, peaceful, supported and nurtured and you’ll get all of that in spade-loads at Crowborough Birth Centre.

Crowborough are having an Open Day on the 24th March 10am-2pm to celebrate a year with the Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust and also 90 years of maternity services at Crowborough so do go and support them

 

Maidstone Birth Centre

Maidstone Birth Centre

Got my hands on the Maidstone Birth Centre Five Year Report 2011-2016 yesterday and it makes for impressive reading! It’ll soon be on the Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust’s Website, but here’s a summary.

These stats are very pertinent for local women as they understand and make choices about where to have their babies.

Maidstone Birth Centre opened five years ago and there have been more than 2,000 births there since. This equates to around 8% per year of all babies born within the Trust, which is significantly above the national average for births outside the main hospital environment.

First up – know this: The Birth Place Study in England (see my previous post here) found that, for low risk women, birth is as safe for babies in a birth centre as it is in hospital, with the added benefit of reduced intervention for mums – lower rates of caesarean birth, lower rates of assisted birth with forceps/ventouse and lower rates of episiotomy.

To be clear on episiotomies (because this is one of the issues that most mums on my courses are really concerned about): The Birth Place Study reported that ‘low risk’ women would expect to have a rate of episiotomy at 28% for first time mothers and 7.4% for subsequent births ….. not at Maidstone Birth Centre they don’t! The Birth Centre reports a really low episiotomy rate of 4% for first time mothers and 0.6% for subsequent births.

Maidstone mode of birth

77% of first time mothers starting labour at the Birth Centre had a normal delivery (compared with only 65.7% expected from the Birth Place Study) 7% required a caesarean birth (compared with 13%) and 15% an instrumental birth (compared with 21.3%)

Maidstone Birth Centre’s showing way better stats than the national expected average.

Outcomes are also excellent for women having their second or subsequent birth – 98% had a straightforward birth.

To put these stats into context, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) indicate that similar women giving birth in a hospital setting are 4 times more like to have a caesarean and 3 times more likely to have birth with either forceps or ventouse.

Research has shown that a non-clinical birth environment can enormously effect a woman’s birth experience by helping reduce fear and anxiety.

If a problem occurs during labour, it may be necessary for a woman to be transferred to hospital by ambulance along with her midwife. Overall transfer rates for women are 20%, women report this process as being straightforward and many choose to return to the Birth Centre for their postnatal care. That figure may seem quite high, but 2 things to bear in mind – midwives aren’t stupid and they don’t take risks and also a significant number of women transferred will go on to have a straightforward labour anyway – the fact that they chose to and did start their labour in a birth centre has an impact.

The Centre also provides breastfeeding support, a 24 hour help line and drop-in facility, and complementary therapies for labour – aromatherapy, reflexology, hypnobirthing, acupuncture.

You also have the choice of Crowborough Birth Centre. The support there is amazing also and women love it. It’s become part of Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, so the two Birth Centre teams are working together. I don’t have actual figures for there, but I’ll endeavor to get them and report back. But, from the findings of the Birth Place Study, it’s safe to say that birthing there will also profoundly improve your birth experience.

Worth being aware also, that if you don’t clearly fit into a ‘low risk’ or ‘high risk’ category your specific situation can be discussed on an individual basis by a multi professional team – so always ask if there’s any confusion.

We’re fortunate to have two wonderful Birth Centres with teams providing high standards of evidence based care, ensuring that women have a real choice about where to give birth.

There’s lots more info. & stats in the actual report, keep an eye here to read it.

But, in the meantime do go along and visit the both Birth Centres, look around, talk to the midwives there … so that when you choose where to have your baby you really understand your choices and are making an informed decision

I’ve just focused here on the things that I hear from the parents on my courses and at Positive Birth Movement gatherings are worrying them – they want straightforward births, without episiotomies on the whole and yet most of them choose to give birth at the hospital, with the reason stated as being ‘because it’s nearest’. I’m sure that there are other reasons why they’re choosing to birth there, but I urge them and you to give it a lot of thought.

You’ve read the evidence and the stats – if you’re married, think about how much time you spent researching and visiting wedding venues, meeting caterers, florists, how much time you spent debating what you’d where etc. Or, think about a big holiday you’ve planned ….. where you birth your baby deserves as much (or, dare I say, more) consideration folks!

Plus – Maidstone Birth Centre is bloody LUSH! It’s like a boutique hotel! Double beds in postnatal rooms so partners can stay comfortably! You won’t wanna leave!

As always I’d love your comments and if you’ve got any questions or want more info, just email me – if I don’t know the answer, I certainly know someone who does, and I’m really happy to source info/support just for you!

Dear Doctor,

Dear Doctor,

I’ve become quite adept at taking a deep breath and smiling politely at doctors in my social circle, those who attend my courses & those I meet professionally when discussing birth. With friends who are doctors it’s easier to have a reasoned debate – there’s a mutual respect and friendship there already. In the other areas it’s tricky – it’s often not appropriate to get into a heated debate, and, depending on who I’m engaging with, it’s sometimes clear that that is how it will go, if the individual concerned takes offence at being questioned or, heaven forbid, corrected! So, here’s my open letter …..

Dear Doctor,

First of all I’d like to acknowledge how fortunate we are to have such highly qualified professionals available to care for women when needed. Lives are saved and women have relatively safe options around pain-relief during labour which can be a positive choice for them. On the whole you are kind and respectful to women in your care.

What do you think about people like me? Honestly?

I’d like you to understand that just because I’m a Hypnobirthing Practitioner & NCT Teacher, that doesn’t mean I’m encouraging parents to march into the delivery suite waving a laminated birth plan bellowing “I’ve been on a Course, I know my rights!” whilst disregarding out of hand your opinions/suggestions. I’m not in the business of telling people what they should do or think, of bringing about misguided feelings of guilt, or of bandying about unfounded information. I’m also not solely focused on natural/normal birth without intervention. I provide evidence-based information for parents & encourage them to ask questions so that they are able to make their own INFORMED choices about what’s right for them and their baby (without information no ‘choice’ is being made) so that they don’t come away from birth saying “what the hell happened there?!”

My aim is to support parents to have a positive, confident pregnancy and birth experience, because I KNOW that with the right preparation and knowledge they absolutely CAN whether they’re planning a caesarean birth, home birth or anything in between. It’s important to me to point these things out, because honestly, about 90% of doctors I meet immediately make the assumption that I’m some hippy, natural-birth militant.

I totally ‘get’ that you and I may have completely different experiences of birth. I’m guessing that although you may have experienced more women in labour than I have, these will have been in an obstetric environment. As a doula, I have experienced birth in different settings – home, hospital, birth centre. I know that the environment a woman births in and the support she has will make a difference on the management of her labour as well as her own perceptions of pain and coping. I know that what’s going on in her head WILL influence the way labour progresses and her experience of it.

A doctor on one of my courses once said to me “my view of birth is completely skewed – I never see normal birth”. At a conference I attended this sentiment was echoed in a talk given by Amali Lokugamage Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and author. She explained that obstetricians are continually immersed in crisis medicine rather than physiology: a large part of their workload involves complicated cases, and medical students have little education or experience of truly undisturbed birth. I recognize that these influences may affect doctors’ subconscious minds – the emotional baggage that’s not visible to us but may, over time, promote an ethos of body-frailty which will can influence how they guide women as to the best management of their pregnancy and birth: a primal response to avoid litigation. Quite frankly, physiological birth may not be at the forefront of their minds.

There are risks and benefits associated with any type of birth and these need to be weighed up according to the individual woman, baby and situation – not just hospital protocols.

I know that you will encounter many parents who feel scared and vulnerable and WANT to be told what to do, who will unquestioningly do whatever’s suggested by healthcare professionals. However, there are plenty of parents who do have questions, who are really informed about the benefits and risks of a straightforward/normal/natural birth and also those associated with some interventions.

Medical professionals need to be very careful in their reactions and the way they express their opinions because people listen to them, they believe them. I have so many examples of doctors and even occasionally midwives NOT taking care in this area but here are 2 examples that spring to mind, because with each of these there was definitely an element of attempting to put ME ‘in my place’, albeit indirectly:

Another doctor on one of my NCT courses years ago made it very clear that he had no belief in women’s bodies to birth their babies. He would challenge everything that didn’t fit with his very limited viewpoint. He scoffed at the thought that any parent would question his opinion, he was, in fact, thoroughly unpleasant ….BUT he was a DOCTOR! … consequently there were some in the group who took every one of his non-evidence-based opinions as gospel, even when he announced to the group of expectant parents the completely untrue statement that he had “literally seen vaginas exploding” …. How dare he? It’s that kind of shit that women hear all around them in the horror stories they’re bombarded with – they shouldn’t be hearing it from a doctor. It’s that kind of shit that’s creating the fear and anxiety in parents that’s not helpful, not healthy and has the potential to impact negatively on how they approach and experience pregnancy, labour and birth.

Last month I was at a meeting with healthcare professionals when one of the doctors – looking straight at me as if I personally was responsible, said “ what do we do about women coming up with ridiculous questions just because they’ve been on stupid natural birth websites? I haven’t got time for this nonsense and it’s happening more and more!” …. Erm, I’m sorry? Are you suggesting that women don’t do their research, seek information and respectfully question suggestions you make? … again, a doctor shouldn’t be spouting that kind of shit. It’s totally unacceptable.

Worth pointing out that my immediate response to both of these docs was fairly scathing, leaving them red-faced and cross, but, hey ho. The way I see it is, if someone’s happy to take the risk of projecting in that way, they’ll have to just suck-up any reaction they receive.

Recently I’ve had quite pleasant discussions with 2 doctors who were genuinely gob-smacked at the non-biased, evidence-based information given to their NCT group from their teacher. It wasn’t what they were expecting – one of them said “before the course I thought I was going to need to be continually correcting the NCT teacher”. Now, putting aside the fact that this enforces my opinion that some doctors have a fairly inflated opinion of themselves, my overriding question is “why?” …. Why would a doctor assume that a qualified birth educator would just be spouting rubbish?

And, I guess I’ve come full circle and that’s the point of me writing this open letter.

Maybe nobody will read this, it doesn’t matter. The idea that I’m some airy-fairy, lentil muncher, promising women orgasmic births is one that most doctors I come across have to varying degrees. It bugs me and I’m bored of it, quite frankly. It’s done me good to get it off my chest and down in writing.

If you have managed to wade through this to the end, I’d enjoy hearing your comments.

Anyone feeling a bit scared?

Anyone feeling a bit scared?

Please don’t lie awake at night worrying – do something about it! At the end of this blog is my short film interviewing some absolute legends in the birthing world – do yourself a favour and WATCH IT!

To be perfectly honest, in our culture, you’d probably be slightly strange if you didn’t have an element of anxiety regarding labour and birth, particularly as a first time parent. What experience have you had? What do your friends and family tell you about their experiences? What have you seen on TV? Are you scouring internet forums?

Our expectations arise from social conditioning, education (horrifying school vid at the end of primary school, anyone?), influence of medical staff, stories from friends and relatives and media representations (One Born Every Minute, anyone?) and all of these influences affect the deep-seated, instinctive force of our subconscious mind which studies show has a far greater influence than that of our conscious mind.

Not many of us are exposed to labour and birth as part of growing-up anymore as most births take place away from the home. We don’t have that awareness to draw upon. Almost everyone around us views birth as a medical event.

A doctor on one of my courses once said to me – “my view of birth is completely skewed – I never see normal birth”, and this was echoed in a talk given by Amali Lokugamage at a conference I attended. Amali is a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and author. She explained that obstetricians are continually immersed in crisis medicine rather than physiology: a large part of their workload involves complicated cases, and medical students have little education or experience of truly undisturbed birth.

It’s worth considering these influences that may affect health professionals’ subconscious minds – the emotional baggage that’s not visible to us but may, over time, promote an believe that womens’ bodies are flawed, incapable, not up-for-the-job-in-hand, which will surely influence how they guide women as to the best management of their pregnancy and birth: a primal response to avoid litigation. Quite frankly, straightforward birth may not be at the forefront of their minds.

The stories women hear from other women about their birth experiences are often negative. On forums it seems that when a woman asks a question, other women can’t wait to leap in with dramatic, frightening accounts. The possible reasons behind this would involve a whole new post, maybe one I’ll return to.

And then, of course, there’s mainstream media. In TV dramas women in labour are usually shown to be panicking and screaming and documentaries, in a bid to provide compelling watching, also tend to focus on labours and births in a histrionic way. I suppose it would make for fairly dull viewing otherwise – their objective is high ratings, after all.

Essentially we’re mammals, highly intelligent ones, granted, but mammals all the same. And if we look at how other mammals give birth – your dog or cat for example…. although we know that they’re capable of feeling pain and being scared, in labour they tend to be fairly stress free. Why is it so different for humans? FEAR. That’s why … due to all the stuff I’ve listed above. Your dog or cat doesn’t have all that crap floating around their heads – they haven’t watched One Born Every Minute, they haven’t had their mates telling them about how hard they found labour & birth and they don’t have access to internet forums!

But don’t just take my word for it – have a look at the video I made for The Positive Birth Movement where I was so privileged to interview, via Skype, Denis Walsh (Associate Professor in Midwifery, Faculty of Medicine & Health Services at The University of Nottingham), Mark Harris (Midwife, Author and Founder of Birthing For Blokes) and Sheena Byrom OBE (Midwife Consultant) here. These are ACTUAL EXPERTS who really know their onions! It’s 10 mins long, but I urge you to take the time to watch it if all this is ringing true with you. Make yourself a cup of tea, sit back, start thinking and start preparing for a calm, confident, positive birth!