For the purposes of this mini-piece, I have tried to imagine that I am a bearded, 5’9”, slightly-introverted, new father. I will be channelling my husband and trying to see the last 11 weeks of our baby feeding experience from his perspective. There are lots of blogs out there on the impact of breastfeeding on mums and mammaries … I wonder if any of this rings true for the dads out there?
Firstly, we made the decision together that we wanted breastfeeding to be the aim for the baby I was growing. We made sure that the right bras and pads were bought and invested in a pump for those times when it may be needed. What else was there to do? Wait for the baby to be born and then start the milk-to-baby process. How hard could that be? It’s been happening that way since the primordial soup and it’s what my breasts were designed to do. Of the endless decisions we had to make, this one seemed like a slam-dunk! Hi-la-ri-ous! We definitely encountered some unexpected snags along the way.
The gadgets suck – every time we hit up a Mothercare or went to a baby event, I could see his eyes light up a little when we passed the Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep machine. Here was the wonder-gadget for the modern parent. A way to make feeding your baby a shed load easier with buttons and lights and beeps and science and EXACT QUANTITIES, and this poor soul had to march past it EVERY TIME! There just isn’t quite the same appeal in discussing milk pouch systems – he doesn’t get to play with those!
The boobs are off limits – so no, he couldn’t have an array of fancy bottles and machines to play with, but the original fun bags he did have access to had taken on a life of their own since about about week 7 of the pregnancy. They had swollen and plumped and filled and after birth, they ballooned and bulged and here was my husband watching as before his very eyes, the sensible Ford Focus he had invested in, morphed into a Mustang. Itching to take it for a spin, the answer was a repetitive and monotonous ‘no’. No touching, EVEN accidental. No interfering. No cuddling too tightly. No sleeping in the same way. No pressure. No contact. There are few passion killers quite as effective as ‘mind my boobs’.
A baby’s hangry cries may as well sound like Mummeeeeeeeeeeeee – when you have useless man nipples. No matter how much you may want to help, a hungry baby gets passed to its mother to be fixed! Your job then consists of: repeatedly getting up from your comfy seat on the other side of the room and … topping up the water flask required to refill the boobs, passing pieces of cake that are JUST out of reach, cutting food into fork-sized pieces, reorganising the support cushions (wrong normally), passing the remote control, plugging the mobile in to charge (but making sure it’s within reach) and, once the farmyard noises have finished, burping and changing afterwards. I, on the other hand get to just sit there and plug in the baby and then pass it back as if I were a glorified charger. It doesn’t seem like a fair division of the work. Emphasis on ‘seem’.
Helplessness in the face of the pain. Fierce animal instincts kick in at a variety of points throughout the process of new human production and one of those, especially for fathers is an intensely protective one. His aim is to prevent harm to me and his offspring. The speed at which that man moved when I squealed after a particularly nasty toe-stubbing incident in week 14 of the pregnancy proved that his instincts were sharply honed from the beginning. Watching me in the first weeks crying with pain over our inability to nail the ‘latch’ with or without a shield made him leave the room several times. Watching me sob as I couldn’t feed the baby enough in the first weeks and we were put on a feeding plan left him devastated. Watching me wipe my blood off the baby’s face because a mistimed cough had resulted in a very unfortunate nipple clamp, made his toes curl. Watching tears stream down my face as the now ‘fixed’ latch occurred on a nipple cracked and broken by the efforts made him angry and frustrated, especially when it was my Mummy that I cried to about it. The problem is that in all things related to the pregnancy and birth, we’d been a team but for this he was helpless, on the outside, just watching the two people he loved most in the world struggle and suffer and it truly sucked.
Bed space usurpation. The purchase of a pregnancy pillow in the second month of the pregnancy marked the beginning of this process. Bed was not for us as a couple any more. At least 60% of the surface area was taken up with pillows and support. Then my ever-expanding form was wedged into the carefully padded nest and finally he got to cling onto the edge of the mattress alternating between having the entire duvet because I was an oven and having none because I was freezing. The arrival of the baby made that arrangement look palatial! Her own sleeping space in the form of a snüzpod was firmly clamped to the side of our bed. This increase in the surface area SHOULD have made things easier. It didn’t. There were ‘the feedings’. Elbows and knees and pillows and iPads and snacks and muslins and water bottles and changing mats and wipes and shields and nipple creams and accessible tops … these all took priority over him. Who cared that he had work in the morning, the baby must be fed and that process inevitably involved me putting my most pointy joints wherever he was busy being comfortable. There have been a number of nights when we reached dawn ‘topping and tailing’: each of us in a prime position to feed or rock or change or sooth the teeny tiny human who now took up an entire king size space in our lives.
Imprisonment: the fact that the baby’s food supply is firmly clamped to my torso means that any days out, or in fact any excursions longer than 3 hours require my presence. In the early days before we introduced a bottle for expressed milk, this meant that even a trip to the supermarket was either a solo affair or a full-blown outing. It’s a lonely process for both partners. Things you used to do together with ease take on a whole new significance when you have a baby in tow. A simple ‘let’s pop to the shop and see what we fancy for dinner’ now involves a trolley and a pram and timing around feeds and the detour via Home as the muslin wasn’t picked up (despite ‘someone’ being reminded twice). The result is that one of you goes. Alone. This also means that any chance of me getting a break for more than 3 hours is not possible. A little soup of joint resentment builds up when all he wants to do is take the baby out and give me a break and some space AND all I want is for him to take the baby out and give me a break and some space and yet we can’t. So he either feels trapped in with the baby and a mildly resentful wife OR the hassle of getting everyone loaded up for a trivial task is not worth it OR he ends up flying totally solo. Not great choices!
Feeling shunned. No matter how hard breastfeeding is, there is a moment when these little hungry eyes lock with yours and stay fixed on almost like a targeting system. It’s incredible. In fact, babies seem to do that with anyone who feeds them – possibly part of their secret plan to make sure they’re always too cute not to feed? Lots of our new parent friends shared pictures of this awesome moment with partners and new babies and bottles. Dads looked besottedly into the eyes of these wrinkly little humans whilst they fed. He didn’t get that moment. As previously ‘touched’ on, boob holding was a no-no so that wasn’t going to happen. It was six long weeks before he gave our daughter her first expressed bottle. She gazed at him in total adoration (she does that a LOT) and he melted. But a month and a half of waiting for that was still hard. It still depends now on supply and expressing and sterilising not only bottles but all the pumping malarkey that goes with it. It means that he gets those moments only when the stars align and we time everything JUST right! That said, I doubt I’ll get much of a look-in at tea-time when we’re weaning!
So what do I take from the process? This wonderful partner, man and father felt incredibly left out by the joint decision we’d made. We weren’t expecting that at all. We made the best decision for the three of us and yet it bit us on the bum in ways we weren’t prepared for. So we introduced and engineered bonding experiences for the two of them. Bedtime stories are predominantly a Daddy zone – we don’t care that she doesn’t understand them yet (or that they evolve into Dr Who re-runs sometimes!). Bath times often don’t involve Mummy taking the lead, there isn’t a soother like her Daddy if the baby is over tired or fractious; the way he can breeze in and laugh at her whingeing for food an hour after her last feed is enviable. He can also distract her wonderfully and remind her that she is full and dry and loved and wouldn’t she rather spend time making silly faces with him or playing aeroplanes or hearing him narrate a mission on the X-Box while she’s transfixed by the colours and sounds than crying. And then I sit there, feeling useless, wondering why I couldn’t get her to smile at me first and why I can’t settle her to sleep like that and why I am so inadequate. Or I spend some time on me – staring blankly into a phone or dozing in a bath or re-stocking my bedside snacks basket. And then eventually, she does need feeding again and I’m back in the picture. It’s actually worked out pretty well – it turns out that we absolutely need one another to parent our daughter. He cannot cope with an interrupted night’s sleep like I can. I cannot convince her to settle when I smell like an ‘all you can eat buffet’.
So did we make the best decision? There have been top-up formula feeds, expressed feeds, easy feeds and painful feeds. There have been days in bed and whole days out. There have been emergency feeds at the side of the road and planned feeds in relaxing family rooms. But the baby is fed and that is what is best!
My Scarlett squidge is five weeks old and we’ve navigated our first month as mummy and daughter together. The changes she’s gone through already are just awe inspiring and we’ve really been getting to know each other and how the both of us are going to work. Essentially that’s what motherhood is, for so long this little bundle has been nurtured within me and now I have the honour of learning what every little twitch, flail and grumble actually mean, as she desperately tries to help mummy get her shizzle togehter! So here are my top ten tips for surviving one of the hardest but most precious months of my life, and the only month this little miracle has ever known.
No matter how well meaning people can be, there is inevitably going to be someone who says the wrong thing at the wrong time and the wrong place when you are literally at your lowest ebb, sore and aching after birth, despairing at lack of sleep with throbbing nipples that feel like they’re going to drop off, and a baby who you love so much but are struggling to understand. My advice…. you can either smile and nod, whilst your inner monologue is hurling expletives left right and centre, or instead be strong and do yourself a favour and remove yourself even if only temporarily, from these voices for you and your newborns sake … if they are worth it these people will totally understand, if they are not then they you don’t need them anyway.
There will be days when for absobobbinglutely no reason your gorgeous angel will turn into psycho demon and there is literally nothing you can do. It is ok to not be ok. It is ok to walk away for ten minutes shut the door and cry. Cry because you feel like a failure, cry because you can’t bear that you don’t know what to do, cry because life has suddenly turned upside down and it’s scary. Then wipe those tears and get back to being a mummy, because even though you’re crying you wouldn’t change a thing.
If you are breastfeeder you will experience a new novelty, the older generation of man … most likely in his eighties, balding, incontinent with rotting teeth, will be irrevocably drawn to your alluring nipple as you sweaty faced, sick in hair try to feed your writhing child. If the older man is your thing then this could be your moment, if not stare them out, keep feeding but use the death stare … and as a sleep deprived mummy this one should be pretty powerful right now.
Don’t even bother to put your little one in your favourite baby grow at the start of the day… like seriously… they know. It’s like newborns are programmed to soil, sick or snot on your beloved faves, so if there is a special occasion that you want your bonny babe looking stunning for, it is literally a whip it on two seconds before said occasion job.
Buy snacks and have them stashed like a squirrel with it’s nuts around the house. You will be ravenous from feeding but will also have a little one hanging on to you like a baby monkey so you need to be prepped. Think easy tear packaging… I’m learning how to use my teeth to tear those packets open or unscrew bottle tops!
Master that sway, that rock, or that swirl… this is your signature dance move for the rest of your life. You will find yourself doing it ALL the time even if little one is fast asleep on daddy in another room. I was in a queue doing the crazy Mumma rock when I was asked if I was trying to get past… just had to explain, that no, I was just in fact one of those mummy deranged creatures.
If someone tells you they’retired, and they don’t have children… Calmly pick up your MUSLIN filled with sick, remove your feeding bib, put your screaming baby in the pram as they fart and you realise they have done an explosive poo and walk away. It is not worth it!
People will now think that they have the ability to touch your baby or comment on the way they are behaving. What have I learnt… they don’t. Be polite if you can, snarl if you can’t.
Your baby is always crying for a reason, you just need to figure it out and remember cuddles are always the best. I have never had so many cuddles in my life and every single one of them are so, so precious and special.
Your mummy friends are your lifeline, they are the 3am whatsappers, the spare nappy lender, the shoulders to cry on… I’ve literally never felt so supported and it’s just fab. Then there’s your own mother … she can be your guardian angel, she’s been there before, she loves you and wants you to be ok, she will help you through those long nights, those screaming fits (yours and babba) and will never ever judge you for what you say when you’re tired and stressed. It is at this point you will realise that a mother’s love for her child is unconditional and this you one day will do exactly the same for this little one you sway, rock and bob in your arms right now.
And there you have it, the first month and it’s nailed.
Lottie Keble- Wyatt a.k.a Just The Girl Fitness is bringing a new exercise class called BABIES AT THE BARRE to Cheltenham. She will be hosting a Barre exercise class for all mamas who have young babies. Cheltenham and Gloucester Sling library will also be there to provide you and support you with choosing a sling that suits you and your baby. The launch of these new classes is on 25th June at the Wholefood Market Cheltenham. For more info or to get your tickets visit here.
In response to your ‘Ask A Midwife’ Qs we have put together a few of our favourite ‘Yes That Exists’ myth busters…
Baby brain.. You’re swearing at your husband for drinking all the milk (see below ‘hate your husband’) he swears blindly he hasn’t drank it all. Then you find it in the cupboard where you left it after making yourself a bedtime brew. My baby is now over one and I still find myself asking silly questions and saying daft things like, “Does Ireland have beaches?” Your mind is so full of important things like keeping a human alive that Geography, kitchen orientation and other unimportant information just falls straight out.
Night sweats… Around night 2 after having baby, I woke up thinking I’d peed the bed my mattress was so wet. However the smell of BO was unquestionable. Change in hormones around day 3 are responsible for this (and many other things nb… see ‘hate your husband’)
After pains… These are the feelings you get after baby is born and your uterus is contracting down to its pre-pregnancy size. can get painful the more children you have but they are normal. Just stock up on your Paracetamol and Ibuporfen, especially while breastfeeding as this can trigger them.
Under rib pain… During my pregnancy, especially during my third trimester I would always get this same pain underneath my rib. I also hear lots of other expectant mamas talking about it too. It gets worse in the evening and the only way to relieve it is by stretching out on the floor. It’s annoying but not serious.
Breastfeeding can hurt… Breastfeeding isn’t suppose to hurt? Who else calls B@*$@*??? Your nipples are a very sensitive area and unless you are use to something attaching onto your nipples at least 8 times a day then of course you are going to have some level of discomfort. Pain can sometimes be a sign of poor attachment (and other complications) so always ask a midwife or feeding consultant to watch your feed. Otherwise time and plenty of Lansinoh will be your healer. It does get easier!
You may hate your husband.. Showers on his own, toilets on his own, gets a hot cup of coffee to drink on his lunch break (whats that again?) at work. Although your hormones may be telling you to throw the towel (or kettle) in/at him, guys also need encouragement and support in their new roles after having a baby as it’s a major life change. Although they may show their struggles in different ways, it can be apparent nonetheless. Make time for yourself as a couple, even if it is something as small as eating dinner together or popping out for a coffee or walk together whilst baby sleeps in the pushchair. And just like breastfeeding, time and plenty of lansinoh will be your healer. It does get easier!
If you have a question that you want answering or a childbirth rumour you want to know if true or not then you can ask us here… Ask a Midwife. All posts will be anonymous and we will answer your questions in a similar format as above so follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep an eye out for your answer.
I have always loved reading – being able to escape life to my own imagination for a few hours. Lets face it, nothing beats curling up with a cup of tea and a good book, especially in this wintery weather or as a child embarking on any adventure you could imagine through the black shapes on a white page. Preferably with plenty of blankets and an open fire, if possible.
It didn’t take me long to realise that this love was something I felt was important to pass on to my son, Llewellyn. Here are 5 ways you can ignite a love of reading in your child.
As soon as I knew I was pregnant, I started creating an area in Llewellyn’s nursery where we could easily ‘cwtch’ up with a story before bed. For me it was probably the most important part of his nursery. I wanted to make a reading nook that was book themed to make it slightly set apart from the rest of the nursery and hopefully make the whole reading and stories tradition more fun and interesting for my son. And cosy, cosy, cosy.
Read bedtime stories to your children.
I started to read to Llewellyn from pretty well the moment he was born. To begin with, it wasn’t a set routine, but either during a feed or at whatever part of the night I felt was ‘bedtime’. I realised we were going to need a lot more books when I could mostly recite The Gruffalo by the time Llewellyn was 6 weeks old. Now I start reading a book at bedtime while I am getting him into his pyjamas as it tends to keep him, more or less in one place.
Make the stories fun and interactive for young children.
Stories are fun especially when you’re a child, they’re full of make believe and impossibilities to the adult mind, therefore reading shouldn’t be a chore or a struggle. I try to make the stories as fun as possible for Llewellyn. I’m not particularly good at making books interactive, all my voices get mixed up and pointing stuff out makes me feel patronising (it isn’t of course) so I struggle. Flap books I can do. I generally let Llewellyn choose the book but, if he is playing about at bedtime then, I will pick one out and face it towards him so that he can look at the pictures as well when he wants. If he is sat on my knee and turning the pages, I read whatever page we are on, it must sound very odd to anyone listening but Llewellyn is happy with it and I don’t want tired tears over a page.
Have books easily accessible to your child.
We have books everywhere, in baskets on the floor in Llewellyn’s room, in his going out rucksack, in another basket in the living room, on the dining room table, bath books. Llewellyn is definitely growing up with books and whether they are his own that he picks up and lifts the flaps or ours that he pulls out of the bookshelves, he spends a good deal of his day playing with books.
In December, we went to the Nutcracker on Ice at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland and Llewellyn loved it for about 40 minutes and was interested in everything that was going on in front of him, jumping about, clapping with the audience and laughing. But then he got bored, (as all children are prone to do) so, I had a rummage in his rucksack and brought out a drink, a snack as it was nearly lunch time and some toys…. this kept him amused for all of 5 minutes. I then produced 2 tiny Fisher Price board books that are about colours, shapes, sounds or numbers. They’re very colourful and I can definitely recommend sticking them in any changing bag for distraction. He was glued to them for the rest of the show, opening them up flipping the pages, turning them upside down… maybe he just likes cardboard and it has nothing to do with it being a book.
There have been a few nights when Llewellyn has woken up and wanted to play, I’m not really up for this, I like my sleep and like most mothers it has become rather sacred. However, I will read a book with him, preferably a flap book so he mostly does it himself and is exhausted within 20 minutes if not sooner. Books are definitely my go to parenting ‘tool’ for most occasions. Perhaps because we began reading him stories from the beginning they work for us. We also don’t have a lot of TV in our home.
Find books that interest your child.
I believe there are books everyone can enjoy. I know plenty of ‘non-booky’ people who barely ever pick up a book but they do if they watch the first Harry Potter, Hunger Games or Lord of the Rings and want to know what happens next (back in the day a bit, I know). The books we ‘learn to read’ through are never particularly interesting in my experience and I think it is important to find books that are interesting to your child, whether it’s flaps and different textures, books with more pictures so that pages of words are not so daunting, books about sport, animals, history, playing outdoors and adventures, how to build ‘X’, how ‘Y’ works or films (behind the scenes or the next in the series).
It’s a matter of finding the right book and style of writing for your child.
Alice – 20 something mum to Llewellyn, military wife to Tom, dog-mum to Zoubi and homemaker.
She has recently launched her business Storytale Decor. The idea was born during the creation of Llewellyn’s nursery when she couldn’t find exactly what she wanted and set about making it for herself.
Avid reader (of course), lover of pilates and the great outdoors.
I returned home from work and the flat was in chaos. After spending the previous night in hospital following a false start to labour, my wife Rosie’s nesting instincts had well and truly kicked in.
Stressing about how underprepared we were for our impending arrival, she’d left piles of personal items in every room that needed washing, ironing or putting away. Despite being told by the midwife that it would almost certainly be another 10 days or so before our contractions would start in earnest, Rosie wasn’t convinced.
To allay her fears (and leaving the boring jobs for later), we lay on our bed researching TENS machines online and downloaded a free contraction tracker App on my phone. It was 8pm.
While testing the App out for the first time, Rosie suddenly clutched her bump and let out a quiet moan. The pain intensified for around 30 seconds before subsiding.
“Don’t worry, I’m sure it’s just Braxton Hicks” I said confidently, given the midwife’s recent prediction.
But six minutes later, she had another cramping pain in her belly. Like clockwork, the pain grew progressively stronger for another 30 seconds before easing off.
“It can’t be real labour,” I said hopefully. “It’s way too early!”
But sure enough, six minutes later, it happened again. Nine minutes. Seven minutes. 10 minutes. Six minutes. Six minutes. Six minutes. Each separated by a consistent contraction of sixty seconds.
“Still think it’s Braxton Hicks?” Rosie asked…
At this point we called the Birth Centre, who confirmed that the baby was definitely on its way.
But then they gave us the bad news. Since we were only 36 weeks pregnant, we wouldn’t be allowed to have our baby in the midwife run Birth Centre as we’d planned. The baby was officially premature so we would have to give birth on the labour ward instead. Rosie was visibly upset but she didn’t have time to wallow as another, more intense contraction took hold.
“Once the contractions are three minutes apart and have been like that for an hour, then you should come in,” the midwife said calmly before signing off.
For the next two hours Rosie ensconced herself in our bedroom, with the windows open and the lights off, as the sun slowly retreated behind the horizon.
In complete darkness, she breathed her way through every contraction while (out loud) I counted down from 100 (a distraction technique our antenatal instructor had recommended) and massaged her lower back.
In between contractions I sprinted back and forth from the kitchen, preparing some fish cakes and boiled courgettes for supper. If we really were in labour, she would need some sustenance to keep her energy levels up.
I even managed to slowly but surely finish all the jobs she’d left for me to do, while dutifully rushing back to the bedroom at the start of every contraction to start the timer App, count down from 100 and massage her aching back.
At midnight, we called the midwife again. The contractions were more powerful than ever and had been consistently three minutes apart for about forty minutes. Kneeling on the bed with her head buried in a stack of eight pillows, Rosie could hardly speak when the midwife asked to talk to her.
“It’s time to come in…right away,” we were told.
This was it. Action stations…
I ran to the nursery to pick up our hospital bags and car seat, before hurriedly loading them into the car. As I rushed back in, I found Rosie at the kitchen sink washing up the dishes from our supper. I couldn’t help but laugh…even in the midst of labour, she refused to let her domestic standards slip. She grabbed the kitchen worktop and breathed her way through another intense contraction.
After what seemed like an eternity, we finally made it to the labour ward. Between contractions, the midwife did a quick examination and confirmed that Rosie was already 5cm dilated, before adding that the baby would be with us by the morning. This baby wasn’t hanging around…
So Rosie was quickly wheeled off to a surprisingly large and dimly lit room, with a new midwife ready and waiting to take us over the finishing line. It was 1am at this point and we were told that the next cervix examination would be scheduled for 5am…a lifetime away.
Because we were around five days short of the pivotal 37-week mark, two monitors were strapped onto Rosie’s bump, and the room immediately filled with the sound of our baby’s heartbeat. The atmosphere was intense and the room was baking.
With every contraction I continued our ritual of counting down out loud, while massaging her back. I could see on the monitor an erratic graph, which tracked the progress of every contraction. So I used this to let her know when each surge had reached its peak. All the while, she breathed heavily on the gas and air (her new best friend) as I rushed back and forth to the water fountain to keep her fluids topped up.
Given how little sleep she’d had over the past two days, I soon started to stress about her energy levels. So, I encouraged her to try and eat some of the snack bars and sweets that we’d brought in our hospital bag. But all she could manage were two Jelly Babies…
Luckily we’d also bought some energy gel sachets (popular with long distance runners), which she did manage to suck on between contractions. I just hoped for her sake that this birth wasn’t going to turn into a marathon itself.
At 3am, during a particularly powerful surge, I felt a gush of liquid against my leg as Rosie’s waters finally broke. We convinced the midwife to examine her again and helped Rosie onto the bed, at which point she whispered…
“I think I’m gonna be sick.”
We managed to grab a cardboard sick bowl just in time as she projectile vomited twice, filling the entire container. Unfortunately, we weren’t quick enough at finding a second bowl though, as she threw up again, this time on the edge of the bed, the floor and my shoes. By this point of labour, and already covered in various fluids, I was beyond caring. I covered the wet patch on the bed with a hospital incontinence sheet and wiped her chin with my handkerchief.
The midwife donned her surgical gloves to investigate the state of Rosie’s cervix. 6cm dilated.
I could see the disappointment on Rosie’s face but we reassured her that an extra centimetre of dilation and the breaking of her waters were two massive positive developments in the space of just two hours. So, she stood back up, leaned against the bed and resumed the cycle of contractions.
Before long, I started to notice a subtle change in her behaviour. She began hopping from one foot to the other to manage the pain. Meanwhile, she began making long guttural mooing sounds during each surge; a sign (I’d read) that we were nearing the pivotal transition period of labour.
It was at this stage that she started doubting herself. Repeatedly she asked for an epidural. We thought this might happen. So, as we’d agreed before the birth, it was my job to remind her of all the reasons why she didn’t want one.
You see, an epidural can massively slow down labour. Plus, it increases the chances that you will need either forceps, a ventouse or even a Caesarian to get the baby out – all things I knew for certain she wanted to avoid.
I reassured her that she was doing an incredible job. That she was being so brave. That she had already progressed so far. And that, with her waters broken and her contractions getting closer together, everything seemed to be speeding up.
I knew should could do it naturally. And she knew it too.
Sure enough, at 4am, within an hour of her last cervical examination she began to feel the overwhelming need to push. The midwife couldn’t believe it and questioned whether the baby might have rotated into the wrong position.
Again, we convinced her to check how dilated Rosie was. So the midwife donned a clean pair of gloves and disappeared down below.
When she re-emerged, the look on her face was a picture. “10 centimetres,” she said. “This baby’s ready to be born.”
She couldn’t believe it. We couldn’t believe it. It was all happening so fast. Rosie had gone into labour only eight hours earlier and now we were about to come face to face with our new son or daughter. Incredible, and with just two paracetamol and gas & air to get her through.
With each contraction, our midwife coached her through the process and gradually the baby edged closer and closer towards its escape hatch.
I’d sworn to myself that I would stay up at Rosie’s shoulder throughout the birth and never look down at ‘the business end’ of proceedings. But like a moth to a flame, I couldn’t help myself. I was transfixed as I saw a mat of black hair start to emerge as the baby crowned. It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen.
“You’re amazing! Keep going! You can do it! You are incredible!” I repeated, in a state of total awe for my wife and the wonder of childbirth.
After the head was born, the midwife instructed Rosie to pant, with short, sharp breaths. She followed her advice to the letter and in no time at all, our little one shot out and we were presented with our new baby boy.
Covered in a waxy white substance, his head slightly cone shaped after squeezing so quickly through the birth canal, we couldn’t believe it. He was utterly perfect; a healthy, happy seven pounds.
I wrote my birth story down for my own blog ‘Oatcake Adventures’ a few weeks after our little Oatcake arrived, with my ‘mama hat’ on. When Beth asked me to put together a little something for The Bump to Baby Chapter, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit some of my pregnancy and birth with the ‘midwife hat’ on! Though to be honest, only 2 months after giving birth to the little man, it’s likely to be impossible to separate myself from something so innately personal, but I’ll give it a go..
Despite having helped many women to birth their babies, hypnobirthing remained somewhat of a mystery to me until I fell pregnant myself. I had supported just one mother who had used it, and if I’m honest, her MP3s filling the room about her vagina opening like a rose bud in bloom, made me chuckle a little inside.. but hey, a first time mama- birthed her baby like an ABSOLUTE boss, with no drugs, so there’s got to be something right about it! So, when a friend of mine, who teaches hypnobirthing, approached me about teaching us when I fell pregnant, I was initially pretty skeptical. I definitely knew I wanted as few interventions as possible, and was pretty set on having a home birth and I knew that a lot of research pointed towards hypnobirthing as a way to help achieve this. So we decided we would give it a go!
There are so many misconceptions about hypnobirthing, and I was party to pretty much all of them- which is pretty awful for a midwife I know, but I’m on a mission to spread the word so watch this birthing space! You can hypnobirth and have all the pain relief options in the world if you want! You can hypnobirth through a planned or emergency c section. Just as you can hypnobirth your way through a water birth in your living room. You can hypnobirth and be CEO of a global corporation, you can hypnobirth and be a vegan who only wears handwoven clothes. It doesn’t discriminate about who you are or how your little one makes his way into the world, but it totally alters the way you perceive it. FYI I totally hypnobirth my way through life now, so you probably don’t even need to be pregnant.. just saying.
For weeks we had old sheets on the bed, waterproof mattress protector at the ready, we had collected piles and piles of old towels from family and friends and had lavender scented candles dotted around the house, all in preparation for my dream Hypno-Homebirth. But after three days of reduced movements, we opted for an induction, in hospital, on the consultant led ward- almost as far away from the original ‘plan’ as we could get. Now this was probably part my midwifery training and part my hypnobirthing mind- meant that we felt confident to make decisions at a time and in a way that was right for us. Baby’s movements are a really important indicator that they are safe and well, so its super important to notice if things change. Oatcake had had a few episodes of going pretty quiet in my pregnancy already, so on the Tuesday night we were offered an induction. We did some research, asked lots of questions and weighed up the benefits, risks, alternatives, listened to our instincts and decided to turn down the option of induction at this stage, i.e. Do nothing. In hypnobirthing this is called using your BRAIN. A method I now use when making every decision in my life now, from picking baby wipes in Waitrose (it’s my local supermarket, I’m not a supermarket snob I swear.. but they do sell fresh sushi so…) to putting an offer in on our new house (!!), so ultimately it’s an investment in your mind not just your birth!! Another 36 hours passed, we had a scan and some monitoring, and the induction was offered again. This time, after the same process of decision making, we opted for the induction.
We took some time, headed home for a few hours to sort out the house, and our heads (!), read as much research as we could on inductions for reduced movement and returned that evening confident we’d made the right choice to be induced. After further monitoring that night, I was induced at 11am the following morning.. and it all kicked off.
The TENS machine was an absolute delight, I might just put it on again now for a laugh I liked it so much, I would totally recommend getting your hands on one if your preparing to pop out a small human any time soon. Probably even if your not. Gas and air, also went down a treat, though temporarily made Leon’s reading hypnobirthing scripts the most hilarious thing in the world.. I just remember thinking- ‘does he know how much of a nob he sounds?’ and crying with laughter in my head, but hey! However you get your oxytocin hits is fine by baby! Needless to say, after another hour, the scripts were much welcomed once again! Incidentally I should point out here, I studied KG hypnobirthing and there was categorically no mention of the aforementioned blooming rosebud vagina. Strictly relaxing and chat about trees and butterflies. Which was great. Because I still just find the thought of the Rose thing hilarious.
10 hours later, 40 minutes of pushing (which by the way is way easier than just contracting), baby Oatcake arrived in my arms. Circumstantially, (being induced, in hospital, strapped to a monitor and laying on a bed) the birth was absolutely nothing that I had hoped for, but as an experience, for my mind, my body and my now my memory, it was all I ever wanted and more. I felt in control, I felt supported, I made my own decisions and totally rocked it! I’m convinced the sheer determination to make it great, made it so. It’s completely changed me as a mother, a midwife and a human. And now I’m on a mission to get people talking positively about birth, and get women to look forward to birthing their babies- pregnancy and birth has shown me strength within myself that I could never even fathom existed. Birth isn’t something to be afraid of, with preparation, support and a strong will, we are capable of amazing things! However your baby comes into the world Ladies, you are all rock stars and I salute you!
Oh and ps. We didn’t actually name our poor child Oatcake. His name is Otis. The cake part is just an affectionate nickname.
Megan is a midwife in training and mother of a little Oatcake, Otis. You can visit her blog here and her journey through motherhood in pictures here.
Congratulations on your new little bundle of joy. Although your tiny baby can be so demanding it is so important to think of your own recovery. Your body has grown a baby for 9 months, it will take some time to adjust to now not growing a baby. You will need to be in full working order to care for your baby so it’s important to remember yourself … You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Eat well. Have a diet iron rich to replenish any blood lost through childbirth and the weeks after. Being low in iron can make you feel pants as well as making you more susceptible to infections. Also, eat high fibre and drink plenty of water. It will help with the dreaded first poo. Foods to eat: almonds, apricots, prunes, wholemeals, red meat, spinach, seafood, beans, dark leafy veg.
It’s OK to not be OK. The baby blues can happen at about day 3. It is caused from hormones, sleep deprivation and feeling overwhelmed. You may cry if the toaster burns your toast and your partner forgets to put a sugar in your tea. If these feelings last it could be something more such as post natal depression or anxiety. Now we are lucky to be part of a culture where these issues are spoke about. Speak to a mum friend and more often then not they may be experiencing similar feelings. If they aren’t then speak to someone else about it. You will find someone who will say. Yes I know what you are going through. It will immediately elevate any mum guilt or rubbsihy feelings just to know someone is feeling the same. It is also important to tell your GP, health visitor or midwife how you are feeling. They will not frown upon you or judge you in anyway, they will understand and are there to help you. It is Ok to not be Ok.
You can use tea tree or lavender in your bath to help with healing your stitches. Just a couple of drops. It is also very relaxing. Arnica tablets can be used to help with bruising. The British Homeopathic Association says you can take a a high potency powder/crushed tablet of arnica at the start of labour, one in labour and then for 3 days after. It helps with reducing swelling and bruising from childbirth.
Stock your cupboards with sanitary towels. The ones that resemble adult size nappies or super thick mattresses are the best for your new Bridget Jones style pants. You will be grateful for the padding when you sit down. Bleeding after childbirth can last for up to 6 weeks. Although it does reduce in the first couple of weeks. You may find that if you go for a walk or have a busier day then your blood loss may be more than a day when you stayed at home.
After pains exist. You will have your baby and then your uterus, that has accommodated a baby in, will need to reduce back to its pre pregnancy size so will continue to contract after your baby has been born. Some mothers don’t notice them, where as some mothers (more commonly when it is baby number 2 or more) will feel as though baby number 2 is on its way. Have some paracetamol to hand as it may last a couple of days, especially while breastfeeding as this is when it happens most. It is a good sign though as it means your uterus is going back to its pre pregnancy size but it is not something that many mums are aware of. Baby brain also exists so a take a note on timings for pain meds and also baby feeds.
Look after yourself and make sure your cup is at least half full.
They say that many moons ago you would put your baby to sleep in what ever you had available, be that a drawer, an empty cardborad box. Maybe a flower pot..? Maybe not! Now we have recommendations that have been shown to help reduce the risks of cot death in newborns.
1. Keep baby in a cot or moses basket in your bedroom for the first six months
The safest place for baby is in your bedroom for the first six months. You may have spent time and money on decorating a nursery, but there will be plenty of time to use it. Any way, you need somewhere to store all of baby’s new clothes and toys! It’s not unusual for babies not to settle in their cots, so don’t panic if it takes time to settle them. They’ve just spent nine months being rocked and soothed in your womb. See our previous blog on how to sooth a crying baby.
2. Put your baby on their back
When putting your baby down for a daytime nap or at bedtime, its safest to put them with feet at the bottom of the cot, on their back. Once they are rolling over, you won’t need to keep rolling them back. Well wishing grandparents may tell you otherwise as old recommendations were to put baby on their front, or side. This can actually restrict baby’s ability to move their head around freely from side to side, hence why baby’s back on the bed is best.
3. Make sure baby doesn’t over-heat.
It’s tempting to wrap baby up in loads of blankets, particularly as in hospital they keep them well wrapped with a hat on. However, it’s really important to make sure they are not too hot. Never have a hat on when inside, and adjust layers to suit the weather and temperature of the house. A rule of thumb is one more layer than you. The ideal temperature for baby to sleep in is approx 18 degrees.
4. Don’t let people smoke around baby.
We know it sounds obvious, but its always best to remind friends and relatives to refrain from smoking around baby. And ask that they wash their hands before picking baby up to avoid nasty smells and toxins transferring onto baby.
5. Avoid using cot bumpers and pillows.
Every store you go into has beautiful cots and baskets adorned with lovely bumpers, however, its best to avoid using these in order to keep baby safe. Nothing else should be in your baby’s cot other than her blankets and these should we tucked in well either as a swaddle, under the baby or around the mattress of the cot so there is no loose ends.
Baby led feeding. Scrap any type of feeding routine, you can not over feed your baby in these early days. A lot of baby’s will lose up to 10% of their birth weight. This is normal. Anything over this your midwife will advise you accordingly.
Keep your baby warm. As a rule of thumb your baby should have one extra layer of than you. Baby’s also lose a lot of heat through their heads so make sure baby has a hat on when you leave the house, especially in the Winter months.
Night number 2 is typically a restless night. Use our previous Top 5 tips to soothe your baby. Just think where they were and they are now. A womb is dark, muffled and warm, they are now in a bright, noise world so it may take them a couple of days/weeks to adjust.
Dry skin. A lot of baby’s skin is dry, more so if your baby was over due. The best thing to do is absolutely nothing. Not even olive oil or baby moisturiser. A baby’s skin has a certain ph, putting cream/oil on it can disrupt this balance.
Give your baby cuddles. This point is my favourite and also quite an important one. You can’t spoil or over cuddle your newborn, no matter what your relatives might say! A baby doesn’t have ‘wants’ only ‘needs’. Even if that need is a cuddle, your baby is wanting to feel secure in this big scary world and wants to give you as their mum the privilege of doing that with a cuddle. Make your baby feel loved with contact, talking to your baby and lots of snuggles. This will help your baby feel secure now and also later on in life.
The first few days mum…
Accept help and support. The transition to parenthood is not always smooth, so take all the help and support on offer! Stay the extra night in hospital if you feel you need some extra help with feeding or just that extra night to recover. If friends and relatives offer to cook a meal, walk the dog or just to hold the baby while you have a bath – say ‘yes please’.
Utilise a mummy support network. If you have attended antenatal classes (or pregnancy yoga, swimming, Pilates etc), make use of your new friends who are probably going through a very similar experience as you. Create a whatsapp, Facebook, text group and get nattering through those night feeds! Book dates in the diary to get you out of the house for a cuppa or buggy walk.
Learn about what happens after the birth. Most of us are so focused on the birth that we forget to ask what happens post birth. Educate yourself on what happens to your body after giving birth, so there’s no surprises.
Speak up. Be honest with yourself and your partner! The postnatal period can be a very emotional time and we all manage very differently. If you are feeling low or need some extra help, speak with your partner or a friend and make use of your midwife and health visitor, they are there to help.
Take it easy. Most importantly, try not to put pressure on yourself to achieve anything other than spending time with your baby and looking after yourself. It doesn’t matter if you stay in your PJ’s all day.
Winner of 🌟The Best Pregnancy Support Service in Gloucestershire 2017🌟, The Bump to Baby Chapter has something for everyone.
🌟For expectant couple wanting to know all you need to know about labour, baby and those early days we have midwife led antenatal courses.
🌟For a second or third time mother wanting to birth without fear after a negative birth experience. There’s hypnobirthing one day classes for the busy Mum.
🌟Free blogs with tips on birth and baby for all
🌟Buggy walks in Cheltenham for new mothers to bring the sisterhood in motherhood.
So whatever stage of pregnancy and whatever number baby have a look at the page, website and get involved 🌟
Jonny Wilkinson - Renowned for visualising the perfect kick, from the line that the ball will follow to the feel of a great kick on his boot. The match before that perfect drop kick in the World Cup wouldn’t have been the first time he’d been in that situation. Having visualised that kick or others similar many a times that week before. This is positive visualisation. In Wilkinson’s words, “If you have realistically imagined situations, you feel better prepared and less fearful of the unexpected.” He’s basically HypnoSporting- hypnobirthing but for sportsmen! I’ve wrote a blog about it...