Happy Mothers Day to you Mothers and Mothers-to-be…


Today is a day where I always reflect on my own childhood and my own Mum. I was really lucky that my Mum was always around, always at home, always there to pick me up from school. This is something that she continues to do for me as a Mother myself. If I’m having a tiring day with my 3 she’s always there with a box full of toys and a hot brew and some cake for me. She’s reliable, always present and always there.

Before I had children I use to think of how I would be with my family, although my life now is not exactly how I had imagined being a Mum. I work long days in the hospital so can be away from my children from 7 am in the morning till 8pm at night, often missing them wake up and go to bed all in one day.  I’m also not half as glamorous as I’d always imagined when picturing myself with my brood! A far cry from the kind of Mother that I had whilst growing up. I think one thing that all mothers have in common is that GUILT (something that you don’t prepare for from antenatal class!) That awful feeling that creeps up from your stomach when you feel torn between breast and bottle, a night out with friends, leaving for work. That feeling of not quite being enough or giving enough to your family.

What I find most interesting from looking back on my own childhood is how oblivious I was to my mother feeling like this. Never once did I think.. I wish my Mummy spent more time with me… I wish my Mummy had more more money or worked more or gave me more organic vegetables! etc. Yet, I know for sure now that my Mum, like the rest of us had that guilt feeling creeping into her days. I look back to my Mum with the upmost respect and admiration that she gave, and continues to, give so much of her life to her children. The point I am trying to make is that the way we see our days with our babies, toddlers and children is so different to the way they see it. When I am at work, my children spend time with their grandparents, something that I know they love. They are accepting of the fact that I work and have never questioned my working hours, something that I fail to remember when I check on them in the morning, tucked up in bed before I walk out the door.

Today of all days, us mothers and mums-to-be need to remember that we are enough and most importantly to the world we are Mothers, but to our family we are the world.

Happy Mothers Day 🙂

Love Beth


The big Q… How do I get my baby to sleep?


Top 5 Tips for guiding baby into good sleep habits:

• 1: My first tip would be swaddling! Sometimes, we try swaddling and baby gets cross and we think “My baby hates to be swaddled!”- For a few, this will be true. Actually it’s what you do after you swaddle, that all add up to help baby feel comforted. I’m a fan of Dr. Harvey Karp’s Five S’s:
1. Swaddle (safely)
2. Side (Hold baby in you arms so they are on their sides)
3. Shush (Shushing Noises)
4. Swing (I kind of do this controlled jiggly motion, key here is motion!)
5. Suck (If baby has a dummy)

((Nb. Never put your baby down to sleep on his/her side. Baby always led on back to comply with safe sleep guidelines)

I find following these helps get that swaddle hater, loving it! It only takes a few minutes following these steps (you may need to play around with how you find your personal approach) before you can lay them down and the security of the swaddle stops that startle reflex from waking them up and getting themselves all upset!

• 2: I love white noise. Ewan can be great but has a timed limit of around 20 minutes which no doubt turns itself off at the crucial moment! You can get some fairly cheap little gadgets on Amazon, they are portable and great from encouraging a ‘positive sleep association’ helping baby nap on the go.

• 3: Schedules. I know this seems a CRAZY notion when you are in the thick of the early days- and that’s okay. We absolutely do not need to be instilling strict schedules and getting panicked when things inevitably veer off track. Practicing little bits of routine as early as possible will help you feel a little more in control of the craziness, and be great practise for when baby is getting a little older and you are ready to start following a more firm schedule. Keeping an eye on how naps and feeds are going will help you identify if there’s anything at play later down the line. When I talk about schedules, we must remember to be flexible and relaxed with the idea… we are talking babies after all!

• 4: Remember that your baby is NOT a bad sleeper. They are a baby- and they are sleeping like one! Don’t get caught up with the implications that your baby should be sleeping through the night by week 8 or some such nonsense- Some babes are just naturally awesome sleepers who will do, and that’s okay so long as its baby led. And that’s the true key here, being baby led. We can tweak and guide but getting good sleep is not about withholding feeds from a hungry baby, ignoring them when they are communicating with you, or comparing them to your friend’s children etc. Each baby is so different and will reach that milestone in their own time. They all end up in the same place- sleeping through eventually! They just all get there on slightly different paths… and sometimes that path is super wiggly and exhausting, but is temporary and it will pass! Surround yourself with a good support network so you aren’t facing this tough bit of parenting alone.

• 5: Dream feeds. I wanted to use no.5 to talk about the importance of enjoying your tiny baby and how you being relaxed and connected with them will be conducive to helping them feel safe and secure to sleep well, but I think you guys will know this and so I’ll quickly touch on dream feeds. It has long been ‘standard practise’ to introduce dream feeds in the earlier half of the night, but we know that babies sleep best during this time and whilst offering milk might seem like a logical way to have them sleeping longer overnight actually we are interrupting their natural sleep cycle by doing so and setting of their digestive system (same goes for the myth of ‘feeding them up’ before bed- sleeping on a stretched fully tummy won’t give you a good night’s sleep) You may also find it is hard getting any milk into them at this dream feed, that they keep falling asleep or they are then irritable afterwards and hard to put down. Letting them wake naturally- I stop waking newborns and allow them to self-regulate night feedings once they have regained their birth weight and maintained (or gained) for two weeks after.

These top tips were written my Mother, Fern who is also a Maternity Night Nanny at Smooth Start Nanny Services. She provides care and support to tired parents across Gloucestershire.

Gemma’s Birth Story

Birth StoriesThe Great British Birth Off

You finally get the positive test and after the initial anxiety of getting to that 12 week scan has passed, thoughts turn to labour, or at least they do for most people. Me? I figured there was no point worrying about it – I would deal with it when I had to!

As time progressed, people started to ask me if i was nervous or scared, and of course lots of people started divulging their horror birth stories to me, whether I’d asked to hear it or not! At that point I decided it was time to get my butt in gear and start finding out what I was going to do about this labour thing. So I got us booked into the Bump to Baby antenatal classes, bought some positive hypnobirthing books and started to make a plan of action. I quickly decided I was going to be one of these boss mums who serenely breathed their baby out while in pool with plinky plunky music on in the background. Obviously. So when my consultant told me they would admit me to hospital and induce me bang on 40 weeks (due to my blood clotting disorder) I was absolutely devastated. I felt utterly out of control and all the lovely natural birth plans I had disappeared.

After a few days of holding a spectacular pity party, I decided it was time to pull my (seriously enormous) big girl pants up, and take all the great info we’d learned at the antenatal classes and make up a new birth preference. We’d learned all about boosting the all important oxytocin while in an unfamiliar environment and also not to be afraid to ask questions so I spoke to the consultant and asked that we delay the induction by just a few days to give my baby one last chance to make his or her own way. He agreed, and although I only had 3 extra days, it really gave me back a sense of control.

Sadly, despite endless frantic hours bouncing on the birthing ball like a mad woman, my baby was in no rush so on the morning of the 28th September we dutifully trundled into GRH, all ready for the inevitable 3 day long induction process I’d heard so much about.

I was examined and, at 2cm already (how secretly thrilled was I?) my first pessary was inserted at 1pm. After we were allowed to get up, hubby and I went on a 2.5 hour long waddle around the hospital grounds in the hope it would help speed things up. I needn’t have bothered really as within an hour I was feeling some discomfort and by the time we returned to the labor ward I was contracting regularly. By 10pm I was contracting every 2-3 minutes for 40-60 seconds and I was scared. Surely this was too much too quickly? Inductions were meant take days weren’t they? I was still 2cm (smug feeling from earlier now gone) and I was beginning to think I’d massively over estimated my pain tolerance. How on earth was I going to manage another 8+ hours of this? To add to my ever growing panic, the midwives were also telling me Alex would have to go home as men aren’t allowed on the ward overnight. How would I cope without my rock? Oxytocin had left the building and I was struggling.

Thankfully we managed to keep Alex there for another couple of hours and as I gladly accepted the offer of pethidine, I was told at now 3cm dilated, we could go down to the delivery suite. Hooray!!! Once wheeled down and settled in, Alex quickly got to work putting my affirmation bunting up and getting out our battery operated candles. I had my waters broken and then the fun really started! Within half an hour I was seriously contemplating an epidural – something I swore I’d never have but I was really doubting I could cope with much more. The midwife suggested gas and air which despite being quite nervous about trying, I found to be brilliant. With Alex and the midwife cheering me on, I soon found myself wanting to push at the end of each contraction. It wasn’t until the midwife brought it up that I even realised I was doing it and at that point I completely panicked – why was I trying to push at 3cm?? I’m sure I was told to trust my body during labour but at this point my body didn’t seem to know what it was doing, or so I thought. The midwife didn’t seem overly concerned but after an hour of increasingly more urges to push, she decided to examine me and I heard the words every desperate labouring woman wants to hear: “You’re at 9cm!”. Hallelujah! The midwife admittedly seemed as shocked as me and all of a sudden the room sprung into action. Other midwives appeared, the tray came out and the gas and air went away so I could really start to put all my energy into pushing. After a good half an hour of pushing and despite all my visualisations of my vagina opening up like a lotus flower (ha ha!!), nothing was happening and the team were starting to get worried about my baby’s heart rate which was distinctly elevated. A clip was put on baby’s head to monitor the heart better and the decision was made to call in a doctor.

The next few minutes passed in a blur, and before I knew it, the midwife was explaining that as my baby’s heart rate was elevated they wanted baby out double quick so they were preparing to give me an episiotomy. Prior to going into labour this would have been a horrifying thought, but I just wanted my baby here safely. I calmly consented to the episiotomy and the doctor acted quickly. Once the cut had been made I was urged on by the midwives and my husband – a few more pushes and we’d finally find out whether we’d got a girl or a boy!

That last stage of pushing was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I literally had nothing else to give and at one point I thought my head would explode before this baby came out! I remember Alex saying he could see the head and the midwife getting me to feel it. That meant my baby was so nearly here! I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and re-grouped. I’d doubted myself all the way through this but I knew now could do it, the end was in sight. A few more pushes and the infamous ring of fire sensation hit. I know it’s meant to be really unpleasant but for me it was a reassuring sensation, it meant the head was right there! At 3:40am we welcomed our baby girl, Eloise, to the world. She was here and I’d survived!! We managed to have a little skin to skin but unfortunately her breathing wasn’t great and after a few checks it was decided she needed to go to the NICU for further treatment. It turned out she had fluid on her lungs and an infection but responded really well to treatment and the following day she was out of the NICU and back with me on the ward, where we stayed for another 4 days.

My labour story was like nothing I ever imagined and I don’t think I did any of the things on my birth plan! To top it off I don’t think I ever considered how physically demanding it would be! Sounds ludicrous to say that out loud but at the end I really felt like I’d run two marathons back to back. In flip flops. On sand. I wasn’t prepared for the level of exhaustion that inevitably followed. I learned that I should trust more in my body (it really does know what it’s doing!) and trust less in other people’s stories. I’m so glad I attended the antenatal classes because despite being scared at times, I understood everything that needed to happen and felt comfortable with the decisions we made. The only thing I would do next time that I didn’t do this time is attend an actual hypnobirthing course, to really cement my belief. Oh, and maybe work out more so that I’m fitter for the marathon that is labour!!

I am incredibly proud of myself and my husband, we were a total team and he really showed how much he’d taken on board from attending the antenatal classes, which was so reassuring for me. We’ve stayed in touch with all the couples we met at the antenatal group and they have become firm friends and a source of comfort and support during those sleepless nights! Labour was an epic ride and I can honestly say I can’t wait to do it again!

Snowed in in labour


I’m sitting here looking outside to the blizzard that surrounds my house. With the trouble that many of the midwives are having getting into hospital to work it makes you think what about the ladies in labour?? Being snowed in in labour is something we failed to cover in antenatal class!

The question on any full term mothers lips right now is….

What happens if I go into labour in the snow???

Here’s a basic run down…

Ask around now for friends or family who own a 4×4 if they will be on stand by to take you in. And ask them to be prepared for a night call.

If you think it’s safe to drive, park your car at the bottom of the drive or on the main road where it will be easier to get out.

If you think your going into labour then call your place of birth/triage or in Gloucester the maternity advice line.

Pack extra towels and blankets in the car, have a full tank of petrol for the heater, and keep both phones charged. If baby is going to be born in the car then pull over and call for help. When baby is born, dry baby put baby against your skin with a baby hat on and cover you both with towels and blankets until the paramedics arrive.

But ultimately…

If it’s not deemed safe to drive due to the weather then phone an ambulance to come to you at home. It would be safer to have a baby at home than stuck in the snow in the car on a country road somewhere.

Who would have thought this would be on the agenda for Spring babies!

Stay safe and keep warm!


What I HATE about Hypnobirthing


One thing I HATE about Hypnobirthing


“My body is made to give birth, naturally”
“My body is built to give birth”
“I trust my body and its ability to give birth.”
“My body is designed to grow a baby”
“My baby will arrive when the time is right”
All sounds pretty ideal, right? But what happens when this is not the case?
If you, or your baby for whatever reason needs to be born through cesarean. I wouldn’t call that natural. Normal, yes but not natural.
What happens to the many women who have had recurrent miscarriages? Are these women going to be able to “trust” their bodies.
If you have been advised an induction, are all your other useful birth affirmations about strength in labour going to go out the window?
These quotes alongside many others are what I find myself reading in my teachers guide to hypnobirthing and it grates on me big time. That I, as a midwife and hypnobirthing teacher are inadvertently setting these “goals” for mothers knowing that…
25% of women in the UK have a cesarean and 12% have an instrumental delivery. What if that 1 woman in 4 who has a cesarean has done hypnobirthing and told herself for the past 9 months  (or at least the 3-4 months prior) that “her body was built to give birth”. Not quite aligned with the affirmations that have been rehearsed.
28% of births in the UK start from induction. Thats nearly a third of all woman who have been advised an induction have been telling themselves, ‘my baby will arrive when the time is right.’  Does that mean now that this woman doesn’t feel like she’s hypnobirthing because her affirmations aren’t aligning with what is? We are setting women up for feelings of guilt or failings and their motherhood journey is only just beginning.
So why is it that in pregnancy and birth – a time or journey where we can not always plan exactly how it is going to go- we use affirmations that attempt to predict a result?
This right here is WRONG WRONG WRONG!!!!!
There are many areas of life where affirmations can be really useful, such as smoking and weight loss. Only in these situations it is perfecly possible to make ‘perfect scenario’ affirmations, as you, as an individual are 100% accountable for the result. Whereas this isn’t the case in pregnancy. Perhaps, the reason why such unrealistic affirmations as ‘my body was born to do this’ exist is because it has evolved from the same concept of affirmations used for controllable things like weight loss and smoking. To use this in childbirth??? It just ain’t the same. I feel a good old brush and polish up of the birth affirmations are in order to embrace the unique and wonderful challenges childbirth involves.
If you read any good business book, have been to any inspirational speakers or had a go at mindfulness you may have noticed something they all have in common is MINDSET.. Instead of preaching how to get the results you want, they inspire how to be the best version of yourself. Wake up. Get up. Show up. Imagine the person you want to be and tell yourself you are that person every freaking day of you life.
So if we apply this to birth affirmations instead, look at the POWER that we can give to women. Imagine giving birth, regardless of birth and feeling like an absolute boss because your mindset was set to birth positive. Wake up everyday and say to yourself that YOU CAN DO THIS. Your birth journey- you can bloody do it and enjoy it and feel awesome about it. Whether baby comes from your vagina or cesarean YOU were calm through the process, you felt positive, made choices, in control.
Set your mindset to feel positive about birth as how you FEEL is totally and will always be in your reach and control…
I will birth without fear
I make informed decisions
I feel in control
I feel positive when birthing my baby
I do what is right for myself and my baby
I am strong
I feel confident about birthing my baby.
Switch your mindset to feel the best about birth and then throw any affirmation that resembles a result in the bin. If you feel like this, you are more likely to have a birth without intervention anyway. And if you do need intervention, you’re going to be feeling so confident and calm that you are going to OWN that CHOICE anyway.
You can write your own birth affirmations or you can find some great birth mantras here.

Breastfeeding – it’s a suckers’ game!

New mumNewborn

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!


Daddy’s First Feed
Feeding on the Plane
Feeding in the car in the Regent Arcade

Nipple Shields

Choose what to hold on to and what to let go of- Ellie’s Hypnobirthing Cesarean

Birth StoriesThe Great British Birth Off

Two and a bit years ago I was bouncing on my birthing ball watching Bake Off, feeling a bit peeved that it was my due date and nothing seemed to be stirring. I’m a very punctual person and spend a significant portion of my life (pre-children anyway) waiting around for people/transportation/appointments. So although I knew statistically things were unlikely to kick off at exactly 40 weeks, it still irked. And then – splosh – my waters came gushing out just as Mel or Sue announced star baker. Talk about a soggy bottom.

We were living in Cornwall and it was a quick 10 minute journey to the hospital for a check. I was excitedly waiting for the first contractions and felt unnerved when the two options were to have an immediate induction or wait 24 hours to see if things started naturally. Another deadline for my poor pedantic brain. Anyway, despite some epic hoovering, nothing occurred and we trundled back in the following evening.

From that moment everything becomes a bit tumbled and jumbled in my memory – like an amazing night out but with fewer shots and more vaginal pessaries. My ideas about an active labour, ideally in the birthing pool, were usurped because I needed to lie on my back and be monitored. As the intensity of the contractions increased I moved from gas and air to Diamorphine to an epidural in a blur. After a day of this and less than 2cm dilation, a wonderful surgeon examined the baby’s heart rate and said it was time to get her out.

The caesarean was smooth and quick, our daughter burst onto the scene in perfect health and two days later we were home.

In the beautiful chaos of life with a newborn it took a while to address the fact I wasn’t ok with how the birth had gone. Countless well-meaning people said nice things like ‘well you’re both fine and that’s the main thing’. And it truly is, but I still struggled to talk about it truthfully. The strongest feeling was a lack of control; it was like something that happened to me, rather than by me or even with me. I read lots of helpful things about not letting yourself feel like a failure… made less easy when the phrase ‘FAILURE TO PROGRESS’ is written all over your medical notes.

When I fell pregnant last year I was very keen to have a different experience. The doctors said there was no reason not to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) and I tried to walk the line between hoping I could labour and deliver ‘naturally’ and bearing in mind that it might not happen. Pregnancy yoga was a great help (big up Ann at Lotus Bud Yoga in Cheltenham) and then the opportunity came up to attend the hypnobirthing essentials day.

Aside from meeting some lovely expectant mums in a beautiful setting with regular tea and shortbread breaks, it’s no exaggeration to say it transformed how I was feeling about the birth. I had expected to learn about breathing and visualisations – and did – but it was also the practical toolkit of methods and information which enabled me to feel more prepared, calm and positive. The entire day and the book we trotted off home with made me confident that although I might still encounter the same circumstances and language and influences, I’d be in a whole new position to question them and deal with the upshot. Beth gave us each a set of the excellent Yesmum cards and the one I held uppermost in my mind from then onwards was: ‘I make informed decisions that feel right for me and my baby.’

In this new mindset I felt comfortable making contingency plans in the days running up to my highly inconvenient Boxing Day due date. As induction wasn’t a good option the consultant, midwife, my husband and I had a discussion about what to do if I was overdue. They were keen for an elective caesarean earlier rather than later but as I wanted to give the baby as much time as possible to make an appearance we compromised at eight days. As it was, on the evening of day four I had a show and on New Year’s Eve I started having contractions. I felt warm and calm and excited that things were progressing. In the car on the way in I used the time between contractions to make a new playlist of songs which suddenly seemed the most obvious tunes I would want to give birth to in the world.

I would love to tell you we rocked up, whipped out our LED candles and hopped into the birthing pool for a quick delivery with no pain meds in time to watch Jools Holland. In fact, I pretty much saw in the new year with a lovely midwife’s hand up my lady parts discovering my waters had broken discreetly some days ago (that cheeky little trickle I’d thought was an excitement wee perhaps). Knowing the risk of infection and with the knowledge there was nothing doing on the dilation front, I allowed myself to feel a moment’s disappointment that I wasn’t going to get my preference (again) and have a crack at pushing this one out, and then we moved on. That was one huge difference hypnobirthing made – months of resentment and feelings of failure reduced to about a minute of slight grumpiness. Then we got excited that we were about to meet our new daughter and made sure we could bring our playlist into theatre.

Everything we had learned and practiced on the essentials day came back out to bat for me during the operation. I breathed through the contractions in order to stay still during the initial spinal injection. I stayed calm when my heartrate dropped and everything swam and flickered about. When they needed to use forceps to pull out our stubborn baby and the weight and pressure felt untenable, I made myself imagine I was paddling out towards a set of waves on my surfboard, feeling the swell picking me up and then carving through the water towards the beach. It was one of the most powerful sensations I’ve ever known.

Ultimately, we have to choose what to hold on to and what to let go of. Things didn’t happen as I would have wished but, thanks to the steps and help I had taken this time, I was present and focused for the whole shebang. I wasn’t a passenger and that counts for a lot. And I got to whip out my tarpaulin-sized c-section knickers for a second outing. Every cloud…

Shani’s Birth Story

Birth StoriesThe Great British Birth Off

I suppose my birth story starts about 3 weeks before when I attended The Bump To Baby Chapter Hypnobirthing class. I remember saying to Beth, “I’ve only got 3 weeks left and I haven’t practiced at all yet!” but she was confident I would be ok. So after a lovely day, practicing breathing techniques, visualisations and having some yummy lunch I was sent off with the Hypnobirthing book, YesMum cards and MP3’s of the visualisation tracks to practice.

I would say I would probably manage to practice visualisations once a day and tried to do breathing beforehand and also with my husband before bed. This was so that he knew what rate I was counting at so he could be there to get me back on track when I lost focus. Turns out it was more help to him just to manage his stress levels when seeing me ‘in pain’!

Although I use that word loosely as I specifically said that I didn’t want the word pain used at all whilst in labour.

Contractions started just before I went to bed, however being a 1st timer I wasn’t quite sure if they were contractions or not so I just went to sleep as normal, waking about twice in the night with the same feelings… Again, not quite sure if it was anything other then Braxton Hicks/stomach ache, at 5.30am my husband got up for work, I told him about the tightenings and he quite helpfully told me I should maybe call the triage number….to which I replied, “I think you should just stay home from work instead!” 🙂

We spent the day burning Clary Sage, listening to ‘spa’ music and watching a comedy to keep the oxytocin flowing. I’m not going to lie when I think back it was quite a long day waiting but I didn’t mind. When the contractions started to get stronger and last longer, whilst breathing I started reciting the affirmations in my head, ‘Each surge brings you closer to holding your baby in your arms’, ‘The surges can’t be stronger then you because they are you.’

We finally got on our way to the maternity unit at around 7 in the evening. I was aware that sometimes things can slow down once you change your environment so we got settled into the room, put the ‘spa’ music back on and made a brew in true Yorkshire style. The contractions came thick and fast so I got in the pool at around 9pm. I wish I could say I had a water birth as that was the plan but, it wasn’t to be as after quite a few hours, I was made to get out to go to the toilet. Not what you want to hear when your contractions are barely a minute apart… how was I going to make it down the little steps and onto the toilet without having a contraction! The fear started to kick in at this point because I had to deal with something that wasn’t going to be at all comfortable, but thankfully, I managed to stay focused with the breathing and made it to the dreaded toilet. Needless to say, I couldn’t go for a wee (the midwife had thought my bladder was too full, therefore hindering baby coming out) but the toilet was my new favourite place! So much so that at one point the midwife had to pad it out just incase I gave birth on the toilet!! What a joyous way to enter the world that would’ve been! 🙂

After much coaxing I got off the toilet and tried the birthing stool. I would say to anyone when you go on the tour around the birthing units or wards, try out the apparatus just so you know what it feels like. The birthing stool was another unknown to me that throws you off your flow. I moved to the bed/kidney shaped foam thing, with my husband behind me to hold me as I perched on the edge…I was giving all I’d got by this point but my contractions weren’t lasting long enough so the midwife brought in some Jasmine as it’s supposed to help prolong contractions. I would say about 10minutes later my lovely little girl was born. I felt immense relief, joy, love and exhaustion. Amabell weighed 6lb 12oz and I managed the birth with no pain killers or gas and air, all down to the focus Hypnobirthing had provided me with, the mind is one powerful tool!

Oh and then my little bundle of joy wee’d on us…lovely end to the story! 🙂

What did Hypnobirthing ever do for us?

Birth StoriesThe Great British Birth Off

Channelling the sentiment of Monty Python, I am left thinking about exactly what we did gain from our Hypnobirthing course. I’ve read lots of blogs and testimonials about the benefits of hypnobirthing for labour and delivery and breathing and calmness. Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel it sells it a little short. I decided to write this as a ‘you’ll get a shed load more from this than you realise’ piece, but it actually turned into a celebration of what we as a couple got from the process we went through with Beth. If you’re unsold on the benefits of hypnobirthing, please consider the fact that the side-effects may be more wondrous and far-reaching than you could ever imagine.

What did Hypnobirthing ever do for us?

1. It helped us with team ‘US’ – oh my gosh did we build a team together…

My husband and I were together a year when we got married and have just celebrated our first wedding anniversary with a 9 week old. It’s been a wonderful whirlwind and I wouldn’t change a thing. What we didn’t have though was a decade of trials and tribulations to build up our joint resolve. We didn’t have that solidarity that comes from supporting each other through the good and bad times or a childhood of shared experiences and reference points. The one thing we were told by every other parenting team we knew was how important it was to develop that solid base. Beth helped us slow right down and look at the building blocks of what we had. We breathed together. We stopped and we held hands. We looked at one another and just gazed – it was nothing to do with the chaos of our lives and everything to do with the simplicity of living. When our daughter was born, that’s what we did too. We breathed together. We held hands. We looked at each other and we were a team.

2. It helped us carve out a shared approach to parenting …

We had dreamed about being parents for years (decades even) before we met each other. We had significant conversations about conceiving our daughter but the ideology, logistics and financials that made this the right time to start our family, didn’t touch on the minutia of day-to-day life. We hadn’t had chance to have the myriad of conversations about our thoughts on everything from breastfeeding to soothers and baby-wearing to cloth nappies that seem to crop up organically in most relationships. By working through the process of birth, we had those chats. During our sessions, we discussed what we expected from the first minutes, hours and days of our baby’s life and then we built from there. We used our conversations to dig deeper into the way we ticked. Why did I have the concrete views I did? Why was he so convinced about that approach? What were our non-negotiables and why? What hadn’t we thought of? This in turn lead us to explore our own very different childhoods and marvel at just how much we had in common and how many opinions we held jointly. It meant that no matter what was thrown at us, and how many plans went out of the window, we both knew what the end goal was and we could keep that in sight.

3. It helped us tackle and overcome our wider fears

Hospitals as buildings are somehow magically impregnated by the full range of human emotions. They are places that we go when something is wrong in order to be fixed and sometimes, it just doesn’t happen like that. My husband hated hospitals. They were places of pain and death and heartache for him. Hospitals provided the backdrop for some of his most difficult times and now we needed to find a way to walk into one without that emotional baggage weighing him down. I am somewhat of a control freak. I cannot stand the idea of not having a clear command of the outcome of a situation. I hate not knowing everything to know about a project and I didn’t have time to train as a midwife. Between us, we needed to do some serious work on balancing out our adrenaline with oxytocin. We were guided with a combination of understanding and humour through some of the rawest parts of our private lives. My husband learned to focus his efforts on the positives of a birth surrounded by the best medical professionals around. I learned to look for the wins that mattered and to let go of what didn’t. Together, we built our ‘joy bubble’. A selection of smells, sights, sounds and textures that made us feel safe and at home. We practised feeling safe and happy and loved and we spent ‘date nights’ building our oxytocin reserves. We ended up meeting our daughter in a space that felt like ours. It smelled of home (lavender oil and coffee). Examinations were punctuated by the familiar sounds of Family Guy, South Park and American Dad that signal our ‘down-time’ (Mozart is also an option if that’s where you find your calm!). A favourite picture of us was blu-tacked up like a little Polaris on the wall of our room. In short, we found out what made us feel safe and we took it with us. Since then, we’ve found ourselves reaching for our ‘joy bubble’ after long days or long nights. Currently we’re living on a building site with layers of carnage and chaos around us, BUT we have our smells and sounds and focus and so we’re safe and we’re ‘home’.

4. It helped us define our shared goals

We joked many times that if I had my way, I would give birth in a yurt in the middle of nowhere and if my husband had his, we would be in a sterile and controlled environment where nothing could go wrong. As my pregnancy progressed, we went from discussing the merits of a water homebirth to being closely monitored and consultant-lead with induction as a ‘best case scenario’ and a caesarean section as a distinct possibility. It felt as if everything I had ever dreamed of was taken away one test result and appointment at a time. Beth helped us drill down into what it was that we wanted and why. She then showed us how they could work in any situation. For example – we were insistent that my husband should cut the baby’s umbilical cord. Beth helped us to see why – having properly stamped my foot about not finding out the gender of our baby, I wanted my husband to tell me. I wanted him to know first. I wanted him to introduce me to our child and the thought of someone I’d never met doing that made me feel somehow desperately sad. So we made it happen. It was in our birth ‘preferences’ document and no matter how our child was delivered, he would be the one to introduce us. There were many other ‘strong’ feelings that we had and we managed to find a solution for all of them. If I was not able to do skin-to-skin, he would. If we were in theatre, we could hook up the ipod. If I had a cannula and therefore not be allowed in the birthing pool, I could still have a bath. The list went on. The process though, wasn’t about allowing a diva to have things her way, it was about understanding why they mattered. My husband and I were able to drill down into those core aspects, understand their significance and make them work.

5. It helped us stay in control

I did mention that I was a control freak? Like most people I know, I work in a setting where I am fully accountable for the results of my team and I work hard putting strategies into action, evaluating results and then amending the process. I was really frightened that I would lose all control of my labour. I was afraid that birth would be done ‘to me’ and not ‘by me’. So we worked through that. We learned about our options. We learned about processes. We went into hospital feeling as if we had done our homework and that we’d had the inside scoop from someone ‘in the know’. Three days before my waters broke and filled with the confidence from our sessions, I successfully convinced the consultant to push back our planned induction. The fact that he listened and we talked through options together made me feel so much more positive. In fact, our little lady decided to kick start things on the very day I had fought NOT to be induced, but she did things her way. I said ‘no’. I said it to a midwife who wanted to induce me after my waters had broken, but before the 24 hour limit. It was medically safe for us to wait and we wanted to see if my body would kick in by itself. It did. We said ‘no’ to the doctor who wanted to intervene with either a ventouse or an episiotomy when I was getting tired. We wanted another half an hour of pushing to see if we could do it. She said that wouldn’t make a difference. So we took that half an hour and managed to avoid either intervention. We were in control because we had the confidence to ask the questions and ask for the alternatives. Our hypnobirthing and antenatal courses gave us that confidence. We were in control. When I had to go to theatre for a retained placenta, we still felt in control because we understood everything. We weren’t afraid. We explored the options and made the best decision for us. The bonus was that our baby got extra skin-to-skin time with her daddy and their bond is so incredibly strong. It was our birth and we were imbued with the confidence required to make sure that it remained so. We owned it. We nailed it!

So in short … I’m not sure how to describe what our hypnobirthing experience gave us: whether it was counselling, philosophy, meditation, science, ideology, or just a chance to sit and put the world to rights with a kick-arse midwife. What I do know though is: it was EXACTLY what we needed. We have so much in our lives as a result: the investment was in far more than ‘just’ the awesome birthing experience we had!

Jamie’s Hypnobirth “I managed to reach 10cm dilation with just co-codamol.”

Birth StoriesThe Great British Birth Off

Like most Mums to be, the thought of giving birth made me feel anxious. However, in equal parts, I felt strongly that my body would know what to do. I felt it was important to focus on the positive feelings I had and so, I decided to enrol on a Hypnobirthing course. The Bump to Baby Chapter caught my eye because they offered a midwife-run women only Saturday course in a beautiful venue – what’s not to love?

Beth and Kate were wonderful, welcoming and instantly made me feel at home. The other ladies were absolutely lovely too and we spent the day giggling, relaxing and working through our hopes for the day our babies would enter the world.

The most important thing I learnt on the course was how to breathe. It sounds simple right? We do it all day, every day. However, I am 100% sure that the breathing techniques I learnt on the course enabled me to have the positive birth experience I enjoyed.

When I was pregnant I had a feeling that I would deliver early rather than going overdue. I knew to trust my instincts.

The day I went into labour I had slept in, listened to my KG Hypnobirthing MP3 tracks, had a pregnancy massage and bounced on my birthing ball. I was 39 weeks pregnant and I had a light show in the evening followed by my waters breaking an hour later. By 11:30pm we were in triage where I was checked for the presence of meconium and then transferred to delivery suite. I was unable to have the water birth I had dreamt of but I didn’t mind!

Most importantly, during the hypnobirthing course, Beth and Kate had prepared us to feel empowered if the unexpected were to happen. This proved priceless. We had spoken at length about how to remain calm and in control despite obstacles and to remember your BRA – what are the benefits? What are the risks? What are the alternatives?

As my contractions were not yet regular, we made the informed decision to introduce a Syntocin drip to encourage my labour to continue and minimise the possibility of baby becoming distressed.

I knew that this could mean that my labour would be faster and more intense than usual but I felt happy with the decision.

Unfortunately, gas and air made me sick during my first examination. I’ve always hated being sick so I did have a panicky moment at that point before a saline drip was given and I began to feel much calmer. Even though I didn’t want to listen to my hypnobirthing tracks whilst in labour, everything they had taught me whilst pregnant was replayed in my mind during those precious moments between pregnancy and motherhood.

From here on in I was able to breathe through each contraction, hugging the head of the bed, on my knees to allow gravity to assist. While I had packed a myriad of items in my hospital bag, I found the cheapest item – a 29p flannel – the most useful in the May heat. My husband massaged my back as hard as he could with the heel of his hand and I managed to reach 10cm dilation with just co-codamol. In fact, when it came to the midwives changing shifts, they thought I had been given an epidural because I looked so relaxed (I didn’t feel it!).

Bizarrely, I had envisaged the pain getting worse up until the point of pushing but, for me, I found the initial stages of dilation the most uncomfortable. Once I was pushing, the pain felt productive and I still felt in control using just my breathing and the encouragement of my fantastic midwife.

After two hours of pushing it became clear that baby wasn’t moving any further forward and that intervention might be needed.

When you’re pregnant, you write your birth preferences even though you have no idea what might happen in labour. I had thought that I wouldn’t like my legs in stirrups (did it!), that I wouldn’t want to lie on a bed (tried it!) and, finally, that I wouldn’t want to go to theatre (tick!).

In actual fact, going to theatre wasn’t the scary situation I had seen on one born every minute or holby city – it was calm, quiet and the staff couldn’t have been nicer to me! I remember laughing with the doctors and the radio was even on! Although, my husband and I are still wracking our brains to remember which song played as our baby was born with the first try of forceps…

Nothing can prepare you for the first time you see your newborn baby and the magical moment in which you become parents. It is the most wonderful, natural thing in the world. Simply indescribable.

Similarly, you gain a newfound respect for your body and what it is capable of despite the hang ups you may have had before. You have given life and that is the greatest gift there is.

I was a first time Mum who gave birth a week before my due date, had a quick labour and left hospital the next day. I am in no doubt that the hypnobirthing techniques I learnt with The Bump to Baby Chapter empowered me to have such a positive birth experience despite the obstacles faced. As everyone will tell you, every birth and each person’s experience is different but the important thing is to trust your instinct and know your body.


Gloucestershire born and bred Jamie lives in a leafy Cotswold village with her husband and five month old daughter. When she’s not looking after her family, working as a primary school teacher or searching the charity shops, you can usually find her on the beach. For more hints, tips, bargains and finds follow Jamie on

Instagram @thriftymummathriftybubba,

Twitter @Thrifty_Mumma_ or

subscribe to her dedicated blog Thriftymummathriftybubba.blogspot.co.uk

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