Unpopular opinion time

OK, unpopular opinion time…

I LOVE birth photos and birth videos. I really do. It is a wonderful thing to see and generous of the mum to share this moment.

BUT.

Hands. Oh my goodness the hands.

Birth photography always seems to capture hands – not mums’s or dad’s – gloved hands, belonging to a midwife or doctor, touching the mum and baby as baby emerges. It happens A LOT. Not every time, but maybe almost.

Is this necessary every time it’s depicted?  I am skeptical.

Does the mum even realise that this is only one of the ways that things could be? That (all being well) those hands need not be touching them?  Or that the parent/s can often welcome the baby if they choose to? I suspect not.

Here is the unpopular part: if there is nothing wrong, then this is being done for the midwife or doctor and not for the mum or baby.  It’s being done selfishly, and not to improve outcomes, or because the parents gave their express consent.  It is being done because it is how they are accustomed to practising, or maybe it’s a “perk of the job”.  After they have worked alongside the mother for however many hours, maybe they’ve sweated, maybe they covered their own anxiety, maybe they suppressed every horrible memory of the times it went drastically wrong for other people, and fought to keep their heart rate down and keep the parents calm while their own trauma went unrecognised by anyone….  After all that, perhaps they think it is their due.

I say it isn’t.

Go ahead and hit me with a rubber chicken.

Midwives should be paid better. They should have more respect, be better protected from bullying in the workplace, have fair working hours and be granted a degree of autonomy that allows them to work with each mum as an individual. They should have the best support and mentoring possible.  We need more of them.  They are owed a great deal for the important and valuable work that they do.  They are not owed this, the “catch”.  The great “hello”.

I know most are wonderful people.  I know they work hard.  I know their job is stressful.  I am able to imagine some of the ways s/he might be feeling at the point of birth.  None of that negates the fact that touching (where it is unwanted, or where the mother doesn’t know she is “allowed” to refuse) is happening without true consent, at a pivotal moment in life that can’t be done again.  If you did it to me, I would label it a violation.  That may be harsh, but as a service user – as a birthing woman – that is how I would feel.  I know I am not alone.

During birth, it’s not about the attendants, whoever they are. (Midwives, doctors, doulas, nurses.) Their (our) ego has no place in the room. The unique “hello” is something they don’t have a right to. This terrific moment is not fair compensation for stress, for witnessing trauma, for a job where, even when it’s going well, they hold at least one life in their hands and maybe two. They are owed a great deal for those things (see above), but not this.  This should not be on the list of perks.  This bit isn’t theirs; it’s mum’s.  Or mum and dads.  Or grandma’s.  You get the idea.

I’m massively unpopular with some for saying so, but I’m ok with that. I feel quite strongly about it.

We don’t have that many babies anymore, so this is a once or twice in a lifetime opportunity for most parents. And really, is that “hello” any less treasured if it’s your tenth baby, not your first?

This is without even starting on colonising the baby with the right bacteria – which means, mum touches first and everyone who is not a parent or sibling touches as little as possible, if at all!

I feel like a lone voice sometimes, on this one.

This should go without saying, but… Sometimes circumstances are difficult, and mum isn’t able to be as active or involved.  That is different, obviously.  We all know birth goes a little sideways sometimes and not everything is ideal.  So, needs must.  Sometimes the mum and dad would rather not do any catching and that is their choice.  We live in a sanitised world where plenty of people are a little bit squeamish about blood and poop and goop.  I might love it; not everyone is obliged to.  (OK, maybe not the poop.) Anyway, SOMEONE has to catch.  What an incredible honour and privelege to be that person!  I daydream about a world where we are much less divorced from our own bodies, much less grossed out by the rawness of our primitive functions, and wholly confident in our abilities from the very start.    For the parents who had no opportunty to catch, I feel that they have had something small and yet also sort of enormous taken from them.  Perhaps they have missed out on something magical.  If a woman was birthing in front of me this moment (assuming all being well) – I straight up wouldn’t feel worthy to touch her baby.  To touch her baby. To touch her baby!

Of course this is coloured by my own experiences, my own bias.  I freely admit that.  I caught my own baby.  I birthed her into my hands.  No one else touched her.  Only me.  Then her dad.  I have never felt anything more wondrous in all my life.  The sheer magic of those few moments when she hovered between-worlds cannot be put into words.  They are seared into my memory and I will treasure them forever.

TL;DR – It is a momentous thing, to lay hands on a brand new person, perhaps a brand new soul.  I think too many people take it too lightly.  They miss their own opportunity when it comes round, or they blithely take the opportunity from others without even a thought.  I would like to see that change.  I am often quite an irreverant person, but this, I think, is sacred.

10 things to help you breastfeed successfully

It is World Breastfeeding Week, and I know this because every newspaper is publishing articles about how terrible breastfeeding is, and how people who make their living or volunteer trying to help new mums with this endeavour are all terrible, terrible people.  I know some of them.  I can feel your pity from here.

So here is my little whisper into the abyss.

I don’t believe it is helpful to tell women to breastfeed.  Some want to, and will anyway whether you tell them or not.  And some don’t, and will just take offense. Quite rightly, in my opinion.

This is specifically targeted at a specific demographic, specifically.  This is for people who are pregnant (or expecting to have children in future) and (crucially) who want to breastfeed.

I’m not going to waste my key strokes telling you how different breastfeeding is from any other infant feeding, or how completely fabulous boobs are.  I’m going to tell you how to maximise your chances of success.

There are many indicators that suggest a person is more or less likely to succeed with breastfeeding.  If your mum breastfed, that is a big one, apparently.  If you were breastfed as a baby, if you remember seeing other relatives breastfeeding – these things all have an impact on you as a growing child.  If you live in a culture where breastfeeding is normal and encouraged, that is huge.  (Here is the UK that is not the case, sadly, and reflected in our absolutely diabolical breastfeeding rates.)  If you have a straightforward birth and can have a go at breastfeeding in the first hour or so, that helps a lot.  These things are mostly out of your control, but there are some concrete things you can do.

  1. Watch your language. Say, “I am going to breastfeed”. Say it out loud when people ask, say it to yourself in the privacy of your own head.  Say, “I am a breastfeeding mum”. People who say “Well, I am going to try but….” succeed MUCH LESS often. Say, “Breastfeeding is normal”.  “My body and baby are expecting to breastfeed”. “It might be tricky, but I know where to get help if I need it”.
  1. Learn about breastfeeding. The time to learn is not in the small hours when the baby is two days old and you’re both crying.  Learn ante natally. It’s a shame they don’t teach us this in primary school, given how basic it is, but there we are.  On the upside, there is a plethora of information available, and it is most likely in your pocket right now.  Use it.
  1. Learn about babies. While you are browsing, learn about normal infant behaviour in humans. Yes they wake a lot.  They cry a lot.  They like to be snuggled a lot.  (So do I and I can’t say I blame them.  Snuggles are the best.)  They feed little and often.  They feed more at certain times.  None of this is an indication that formula is needed.  Learn the hunger signs.  Hint: crying is the last one.
  1. Line up your support network ahead of time.  The time to do this is not when the baby is here and you are having problems.  Peg a breastfeeding support network **NOW**. Surround yourself with people who know breastfeeding is important and have confidence in your ability.  This should include: a local breastfeeding specialist (eg. lactation consultant, a midwife who specialises in breastfeeding), like-minded friends who understand the process, have knowledge to share and will encourage you, local breastfeeding groups, online groups and that ONE friend (or doula) who you can call AT ANY TIME, day or night if you are struggling. Have at least two numbers saved in your phone: a local specialist you can call during daytime hours, and that one friend who you can call at 2am when the baby is crying and won’t latch, everything is sore from the nipples downward, and you are so tired you’ve forgotten your own name.
  1. Choose birth place carefully. Plan to give birth at a breastfeeding friendly hospital, or at home. Where possible, choose breastfeeding friendly providers.
  1. Write a birth plan. You can’t plan how it will go, but you can write it to stack the odds in your favour of having a straightforward birth with a “golden hour”, (ie. early uninterrupted skin to skin and an opportunity for the baby to self-attach).  You can also use it to demonstrate to your health care providers that breastfeeding is important to you.  If you are having to give birth in a place which is not known for its BF success rates, be as stroppy as you like with your birth plan.  Let them know that you do NOT consent to formula use unless under the guidance of a specialist and with a view to ultimately preserving breastfeeding long term.
  1. Do not buy formula Or any of the paraphernalia that comes with it. You do not need it.  When you go on a diet, do you have chocolate cake in the cupboard “just in case”?  Well, OK, I know people who do, but the point is those people fail to achieve their goal more often than not.  Don’t let formula in the house.  (Cake though, that is practically mandatory.)  You probably don’t need bottles either.  Babies can be fed by syringe, spoon, cup or SNS should supplementation become necessary, or if you have to be away from them.  A lot of people think bottles are a must have – this is just a successful marketing strategy and nothing more.  Don’t be fooled.  Dummies are probably not a good idea initially either. The time baby wastes sucking on them, they could be giving their “make more milk” signal to your boobs.  On a related topic, if you can afford it, buy a Perfect Prep machine.  And then smash it into itty bitty pieces and set fire to what’s left.  Then dance on the ashes. Then post the ashes to Tommee Tippee and tell them Sam sends her regards.
  1. Skin to skin, and more skin to skin When the baby is born, get as much skin to skin as early as you can, as often as you can. In the ideal world, you’ll have that vagina-fresh hot goopy little person on your bare skin immediately and for as long as you want. In which case, wallow in this state for as long as you can stand it.  I mean, OK, I admit I might have had a shower within a few hours, more fool me, but feel free to stew in your own juices for a few days, if you like.  A not-dressed mother-baby still smelling like birth is a fabulous unwanted-visitor-deterrent.  If things go a little sideways during birth, as they sometimes do, the window for skin to skin does not close for a good few years.  Do not assume the boat has been missed.  Jump in and catch it.  Unwrap that baby burrito ASAP, strip down and SNUGGLE.  Get plenty of pheromones from off their head and behind their ears to go whooshing up your nose.  If your DNA is not threatening to merge with your sofa: subscribe to Netflix, get flapjacks delivered from your local supermarket and double the snuggle-time.  The non-breastfeeding parent, or another relative, or doula can come in and vacuum, do laundry, cook meals.  This is YOUR time and it is brief and fleeting; milk it for all it is worth.
  1. Feed on cue Or as often as possible. When they move or squeak, try some boob.  This will help ensure a plentiful supply of milk.
  1. USE that support network should you need it! Feeding might hurt a wee bit – it is different for everyone, but it should be manageable and temporary.  REACH OUT!  Do NOT suffer.  Do NOT struggle on alone.  Do NOT collect £200.  Do not assume that it means breastfeeding isn’t working, or you can’t, or “it’s not meant to be”.  Sod Fate.  Rule of thumb: if it’s mildly uncomfortable, it is most likely something that will work itself out or that you can fix on your own by experimenting with positioning.  Your peer to peer support groups, online and in real life can be a valuable resource.  If it hurts so much you want to stop the feed, there is something wrong.  Get expert help as soon as you possibly can.  If it is so dreadful that you want to give up completely, get help *YESTERDAY*.  You can do it.  I know you can.

15 things I would tell my pre-baby self

Inspired by a recent post at The Motherload (https://the-motherload.co.uk/letter-pre-baby-self/) I also wrote my pre-baby self a letter.  It feels weirdly good, actually 🙂

1 – Be suspicious of mainstream advice; most of it is driven by consumerism.

2 – Do not discount the hippies. They may smell of patchouli and muddy vegetables, but they have some things right on the money. One day they will inherit the earth.

3 – Get your head out of the sand and learn some stuff. It won’t freak you out I swear. The facts are actually wonderful and fascinating and  mostly reassuring.

4 – Admire your belly. I know you hate it, but enjoy it now, in it’s unscarred state. And when the time comes, enjoy its soft scarred wobbliness, too. Everything only lasts for a season. You don’t have to love every bit of it, but take care at least not to miss the good bits 🙂

5 – Treat both babies as if they are your last. Because the end will come sooner than you are ready for.

6 – Have more sex. You love it, so why not? You’ll have less time for it in the future.

7 – On a related topic, for goodness sake, stop thinking that motherhood is frumpy, snot-covered baggy clothing. Okay,  okay, SOMETIMES it is, but sometimes it’s fucking GORGEOUS. One day you’ll look back at your pregnant, milky self and realise you missed a trick.

8 – No one is looking at you when you breastfeed. No one cares. Honest. Except a few people whose entire day was lifted by catching sight of you, and a few who feel like, yeah, maybe I can do that, too.  You’re going to do something wonderful. Embrace it.

9 – While we are on the subject, breastfeed that little lad longer. You’ll regret it otherwise. Well. Regret is a strong word. But you’ll wonder how much stronger his immune system would have been and how his mircrobiome might have been different.  I know, you don’t even know what a mircrobiome is do you?  See (3)!

10 – In your entire breastfeeding experience (which as of now is almost 6 years) you will encounter exactly 4 mild unpleasant reactions. 2 from your husband, one from your MIL and one “eye daggers” from a bint in Liverpool who you don’t give a flying flip about.

11 – Ditch the disposable pads. They make you sore. Use washable bamboo ones, and go without as often as you can.  If you feel full, guess what?  That’s what your baby is for.  It’s a two way street.

12 – Also get some maternity sanitary ones in bamboo as well if you can, because ohmygoodnessme, that stuff is so SOFT it is like Christmas Day for your vulva and dammit IT DESERVES A TREAT.

13 – You’re going to have a home birth. Stop laughing. Really. Pack a birth bag just in case. Do not send hus home for supplies without a very specific written list. Let’s just say he has some funny ideas about pre pregnancy skinny jeans being acceptable post natal clothing.

14 – You’re going to grieve for this version of you – your pre-baby self.  No offence, but you’ve got a lot of pre-conceived ideas about what parenting is and should be and what it takes to be a good mum.  The sooner you let that version of us go, and all that baggage too, and jump into you new self with both feet, the happier you will be.  Don’t worry. You’ll find us again 🙂

15. In some ways, it is harder than anyone ever told you.  But it’s also nowhere near as bad.

What about you?  What would you write in a letter to your pre-baby self?

This entry was posted on May 14, 2017. 1 Comment

Changing hospital birth by staying at home

Even the RSPCA recognises that the expression of natural behaviours is very, very important to the well being of ANIMALS (even when they are NOT in labour!)

Yet as I discussed in my previous post, women giving birth experience the suppression of natural behaviours all the time, as a matter of course within the maternity care system.  (Just to be clear, this is a criticism of the system we are currently working with, and not any individuals working in it or using it.)

Zoos are supposed to give their critters room to roam about if that is what they need to do. Access to water for bathing in if applicable. Space to HIDE from prying eyes if they are vulnerable.  If an animal can barely turn around or move into a comfortable position, we recognise that straight away as a basic welfare issue.

Funnily enough, this is something we have in common with other animals: these are all things that WE need, too.  When we are in labour, we need the freedom to move into different positions, we need to walk about, get in water if we want, hide away in private sometimes.  These things help us cope, help us relax, increase comfort, help diffuse stress and reduce risks to mum and baby.  But so often these basic things are seen as frivolous extras, and are missing from the place most people intentionally go to when in labour, in the belief that being in that place will make them safer.

(This is where we are not like animals at all.  While other mammals are holing up in a cozy den and doing what comes naturally, we’re dashing about and bundling things in the car and making midnight phone calls to Gran to have the older kids and realising at the last second that we hadn’t made any kind of accommodation for the dog.)

We are at least as important as animals and yet so many hospitals fail to afford satisfy basic needs for comfort and privacy – basic things that your average zoo animal in a cage is usually afforded.

It’s ironic that I used animals as an example here, because the truth is that when maternity care is often just not up to scratch in many areas.  We are being de-humanised at a crucial and vulnerable time.

Now some people reckon that hospitals need to be more homey, and I think that would be a darned good place to start, because some women do need to give birth there.

But this is only a starting point.  It is not enough.  We need a grass-roots-level paradigm shift away from viewing all birth as a dangerous medical emergency that needs to take place in a clinical setting.

If I had a penny every time I heard, “I’d like to give birth with as little intervention as possible….” and then in the next breath, “We are going to be in hospital <em>just in case.</em>”)  I would have a sockful of pennies to hit Jeremy Hunt in the face with.

Hospital birth and home birth are fundamentally different.  Sometimes, trying to labour in a hospital is a little little trying to bash a round peg through a square hole (not maligning anyone’s holes here).

Many people are finding themselves disappointed in a clinical institution for, let’s face it, looking and feeling like a clinical institution. Lots of people are not taking into consideration that if they want somewhere home-like, there’s no place like, well, home.

How would maternity care change if the majority of women planned to stay at home to have their baby?  What would hospital birth start to look like if home birth became the norm?

I’m going to go out on a limb and speculate a little bit, here.  I think that if home birth was normalised:
<ul>
<li>Midwives and doctors would be well integrated, making transfers smoother and safer (I know we have a pretty good system here in the UK, but it seems this is not the case in other parts of the world).</li>
<li>Midwives would be respected for the work they do (I believe they should be on equal footing with doctors, but that is a post for another day).</li>
<li>This would lead to fewer midwives quitting; we would have more midwives (which we so desperately need!) </li>
<li>Well respected midwives would give a very high standard of care.</li>
<li>A very high standard of care means excellent outcomes for mothers and babies</li>
<li>The elements of home birth that facilitate a smooth labour are recognised and valued and integrated as much as possible into the hospital setting.</li>
<li>Women’s rights and choices are respected and deferred to</li>
<li>Hospital beds are freed up for complex or emergency cases</li>
<li>Birth is de-mystified</li>
<li>More women feel satisfied with their birth and the care they receive</li>
<li>Fewer mothers would experience post natal depression</li>
<li>More mothers would successfully breastfeed (and all the positive knock on effects that would entail).</li>
<li>Support would generally happen at home and in the community and not in a clinical setting</li>
</ul>
I honestly believe that, individual choices aside, birth (at home OR in hospital) must surely be safer in a culture where home birth is normal, than in a culture where it is not.  As well, a culture where home birth is normal is one where women are highly respected as individuals (both the ones giving birth, and the ones attending).

This is not to say that more people “should” have their baby at home.  The system SHOULD definitely be more accommodating for those who want to, though.

Untold numbers of women experience pressure to change their home birth plans, and they exprerience this pressure from all sides.  This is not acceptable, just as it isn’t acceptable to pressure women who have already decided to have their baby in hospital, or have already decided to bottle-feed.  There should be less fear-mongering and less judgement, from media to medical professionals.  Surely well-meaning family and friends feel more comfortable passing judgement and thoughtless discouraging remarks, because those things are not even seen as discouraging or judgemental?  They are seen as the normal way to speak to and about people giving birth; they saturate our culture from end to end.

I am convinced this shift would mean that the number of people considering and having home births would naturally rise and it would become a more acceptable choice.  It should be that home birth is considered the physiological norm.  The reason hospital birth became “normal” was not because it was safer.  It gained in popularity for a lot of reasons, but it was never because it was “safer”.  It was lucrative, it was convenient and being in hospital meant easier and safer access to analgesic pain relief at that time.  These days our options for pain relief have improved and there are a number of things that are perfectly safe to use at home.  So why is hospital birth still the cultural norm?

21 things to try when you are waiting for labour to begin

I will give you fair warning. I mention orgasms.  I mean, I mention them a lot, actually, but in this specific instance I mean I am going to mention them here, in this piece.  Go ahead and snigger and get it out of the way.  I might also use some mild swear words.

Maybe your “due date” is approaching.  Maybe it’s come and gone, and you’re still here,  still pregnant.  Maybe you’re fed up of being pregnant.  Maybe you have been booked for an induction and maybe this is a source of relief for you (finally!!) or maybe it is causing you anxiety.  Maybe the world and his wife are asking you, “Have you had that baby yet?” and I am here to tell you it is okay to want to hit those people in the face with a jumbo box of baby wipes.

I know. I get it.  This stage of pregnancy can be hard.  Do not feel guilty if you hate it. There is no such thing as the Pregnancy Police that go around scolding naughty women who don’t savour every last drop of pregnancy, down to the last second.

That said, there are ways to make those final days more bearable, with a particular view to making timely spontaneous onset of labour more likely.

Some people want to avoid induction. This post is for you.

Some people have consented to be induced and are just a few days away from it.  This post is for you, too.

Basically, if your pregnancy is almost over, this post is for you.

Every time someone tells me that they are so close now, and so tired/fed up/anxious…. that they can’t wait for the induction, or they are dreading it…. I always say the same things. In the interest of lazi- erm, efficiency, I’ve decided to put them all here.

1. If at all possible, prioritise rest, relaxation, recuperation, pampering etc for the next couple of days.

2. Try a fear release. I was skeptical, if I’m honest, but I was amazed at how much it helped.

3. Ask your partner or a friend to do some bump sifting to release trapped fluid or tight ligaments.  It also just feels good.

4. Stay hydrated. Eat yummy things, because why the ffff…flip not.

5. Take gentle walks. Go easy – no sense wearing yourself out at this stage!

6. Lots of orgasms.

7. Binge watch all the things on Netflix. If you have a birth ball to sit on, so much the better.  Feel free to fidget. I beleive cake is mandatory.

8. Better yet a movie that will make you cry your eyes out (release!) or belly laugh (oxytocin!)

9. Cuddle

10. “Talk” to your baby, even if that sounds or feels crazy.

11. Do something that makes you feel ready – go over your birth plan, do some finishing touches in nursery if you have one, make sure your birth bag is packed and labour playlist compiled.  Do you find yourself nesting? (I wish I did!)

12. Do whatever makes you feel good – swear, get your hair/nails done, meditate, have sex if that is still a viable option for you.

14. Intimacy is your greatest tool for releasing oxytocin, and potentially your best comfort.  This does not have to be sex.  It could be long hugs, slow dancing, massage, shared meals.  Dim the lights. Speak softly.

15. Right now, you are literally at your most creative. Distract yourself by writing (journal, blog, story, poem), drawing, painting, photography.  These things are also helpful if you have a long latent phase. I think of them as “last minute memories”.  Think of showing them to your little one a few years down the line.  “When I was pregnant with you…” Start a project. There is some twisted universal law that says the more involved the project is, the more likely that labour will get going once you’ve made a start on it.

16. It is possible, or even likely, that labour has begun already, it’s just not making itself felt quite yet.  Remind yourself of this.

17. Repeat after me: My body is working beautifully.  I am ready. I am safe. I am already opening. My cervix is like butter left out in the sun on a hot day.

18. Slow down. Pause.  Smell the roses. When you feel rushed or stressed, your  adenalin levels are high, which is not conducive to labour starting or progressing efficiently. Breathe gently.

19. If you are feeling resentful, grumpy, weepy, restless, lethargic… well it sucks, I know – but it’s okay to feel those things. There is ebb and there is flow.  Allow yourself the ebb. These are often the first (un-noticed, unsung, ignored) symptoms of early labour.

20. Be mindful of your positioning – sit up and forward on your seat bones rather than sofa-sitting, rest on your side rather than your back, etc. Rotate your body. Dance if you feel like it.

21. Sod literally everything else. Be selfish. You don’t have to do anything for anyone right now, this is (should be) **your time**.  You are on the brink of a bloody miracle, during which you will give it your all.  So get your diva pants on and TAKE for a little while, entirely guilt free.

Good luck!  Happy birthing xx

About those speedy babies

This is a little piece I knocked together in the hope of reassuring mothers anxious about experiencing a precipitous birth or a BBA.

A precipitious birth is one that takes less than three hours.  It doesn’t happen very often, despite what Hollywood likes to portray 😉 A BBA (Born Before Arrival) is where the baby arrives before the midwife gets to you.

Obviously this isn’t a medical guide, just some suggestions from a layperson to mothers who have any anxiety about labour happening quickly.  It is not medical advice.  It is not a guide to freebirthing, or a recommendation to give birth alone.  I am in the UK, so if you are reading this from across the ocean (coooeeee!) be aware that guidelines may be different where you are.

I’ve mostly directed this at mums-to-be, but I think this may be useful for dads, too 🙂

There isn’t actually very much for you or your partner to *do* when birth happens quickly – you don’t need to “deliver” the baby or do anything to the cord or anything like that.  TL;DR – stay warm, stay calm, keep baby skin to skin and don’t touch the cord.  🙂

Some people make a mad dash to the hospital at the last minute.  This is entirely up to you – you need to factor in the risk of driving quickly while distracted and possibly having a baby in the car while moving, or at the roadside, versus staying put somewhere warm and safe and letting the medical help do the dashing.  This is a list of suggestions to think about if you do decide to stay put. Some of these things are worth thinking about for any labour, wherever you are 🙂 (If someone is with you, they can do a lot of this stuff for you.  But if not, they are mostly fairly simple things that you can do for yourself 🙂 )

As you get closer to giving birth, it’s helpful if your notes are somewhere easy to find and the telephone numbers you might need are in an easy-to-see place, next to your house phone, or stuck to your fridge.

“Ohmy%£¥@! This baby is coming NOW!  EEK!”

Breathe.

Adrenalin won’t help.

First, call your local midwife led unit, or 999.  They will reassure you.  They may send an ambulance and paramedics rather than a midwife, or they may send both.  (You can insist on a midwife.) Midwives have to obey the laws of the road – speed limits and traffic lights and so on – but an ambulance can usually get to you more quickly 🙂 If your partner calls, they may keep them on the phone and reassure them, or talk them through how to help you if needed.

If you are alone and your partner will take a while to get to you, you might want to call someone nearby who can come and be with you – a friend or neighbour.  Preferably someone who is generally unflappable and whose presence will help you stay calm and feel safe. 🙂

Make sure whoever comes to help will be able to get in when they arrive!  (Unlock your front door, leave it on the latch, switch on outdoor lights if it is dark out.

You and the baby both need to be warm. Make sure there’s no draughts (close windows and doors) and turn the heating on.

Grab some towels to put under you and to dry and warm the baby with, and maybe a big bowl to put the placenta in (although health care professionals are fairly likely to be with you in time to deal with that).

Stay as calm as possible, and remind yourself that if it is happening fast, it is usually happening well 🙂

Get somewhere comfy and safe (for example, not on the stairs 🙂 )

Try a “chest to floor” resting position – this may help to ease the intensity for you, and maybe slow the descent of the baby a little bit.

Don’t fight it, don’t force it.  Some people will advise you to pant, or try to hold your baby in – I can’t imagine why this would be helpful.  On the other hand, if you push for all you’re worth you are more likely to hurt yourself.  Let your body do what it has to and relax as much as you can, knowing that your body is working beautifully and help is on the way if you should need it.

Get into whatever position feels right – partner can remind you to stay off your back, as this will allow your pelvis to flare back.  This will make it easier on you and your baby.

Put your hand down to help protect your perineum.

You don’t have to “catch”, as such.  Some people find this idea a little bit daunting (how slippery will the little tyke be, what if I miss?!) If there is a soft landing for the baby, you or your partner can just guide the baby down to it gently, and then you can pick the baby up confidently and hold them to your chest, skin to skin, when you are ready.  Don’t pull on the baby in any way as they emerge.

If you are in water (for example, in the bath) put nothing in the water (think of baby’s eyes!).  No bubbles, no aromatherapy oils.  The only additional thing to remember is that baby is usually stimulated to breathe by exposure to air.  So either keep your bottom well down under the water, or just make sure that once the baby is exposed to air that they don’t go back under the water.

Keep baby skin to skin, stay calm, stay warm, put a cover over you both. Your baby might not be bright pink as per movies and TV – this is usually OK, too. Rub them with a towel.  Touch their head, face, back, hands and feet and talk to them.

Leave the cord alone 🙂 Most likely it will be intact and functioning just fine, giving the baby oxygen in those first moments while they get the hang of what lungs are for.  It may be looped around the baby’s neck as they are born – this happens in about a third of births and most of the time it’s okay and easy to unloop.

The placenta will probably come out without any intervention – it usually takes longer than if you had the injection, but your body should be primed to release it physiologically if that is your preference.  You might feel some tightenings or pushy sensations (not as strong as before), or you might have an urge to get more upright.  In that case, go for it – it is ok to listen to your body.  Maybe stand or squat and try using a little downward pressure if you feel the urge, but if not never mind the placenta, just cuddle your baby while you wait for the staff to arrive 🙂

They are likely to get to you fairly quickly.  They might discuss with you whether or not to have the injection for the placenta.  They will probably want to clamp the cord (if you are not ready for this yet it is fine to wait longer).  They might recommend you go into hospital. If you and baby are well (which is what we hope and expect!) then this is a choice.

Even if your birth *is* quick, there is still a degree of stress on the body that you need to recover from, so get as much rest as you can and be very kind to yourself. The area where the placenta was attached to your uterus is an open wound that needs to heal – all the more reason take it really easy for a little while and ease back into things as gently as you can.

I hope that is helpful – if I missed anything, please mention it in the comments! 🙂


 

6 Reasons Why I Hate “Happy Mum, Happy Baby”

Happy mum, happy baby is a ridiculous phrase/culture and it needs to DO ONE.  It is IMPORTANT that mothers practice self-care.  It is IMPORTANT that they are supported properly , particularly when they have a young baby.  In those early days, the best way to care for the baby, is to mother the mother.  Both of these things are true.  That said, this is not how this phrase is generally used.  The context I usually see it in is as justification for any and all decisions a mother might make, and for that reason I find it problematic in a number of ways.

Here’s why:

It is often inaccurate

Here is the truth: you might be a perfectly happy and care free parent, but your kid is still struggling.  You can be miserable and a good mother.  You can be care free and a bad mother, frankly.  You can be happy as a clam and raise a child who is anxious or depressed. Or you can have struggles with mental health and depression and still do a damn good job of raising secure, happy children into secure, happy adults.

To begin with, most children don’t develop empathy until what, 5?  (Feel free to correct me on that one.)  Babies and toddlers tend to be on the selfish side – this is an evolutionary survival trait. The upshot is that what they mainly need is their needs met. They don’t NEED you to be “happy” (whatever that means) in order to be happy themselves.

It’s a double edged sword

For every mother that finds this comforting, there will be someone – possibly battling with depression – who is basically being told they can’t be a good parent and their kids can’t be happy, because *they* are not happy themselves.  For one thing, that’s not true (see above). For another, that’s a good way to kick a person when they are down.  Can’t we find more specific and helpful things to say than this trite nonsense?

It’s gender specific colly-wobble

Did it ever occur to you that no one ever says, “happy daddy happy baby!”?  No one ever uses that to justify choices a father might make.  Why is the child’s happiness dependent on the mother, but not the father?  Do fathers just not count, then?  Aren’t we living in an age where we are encouraging fathers to be more involved?

Women shouldn’t HAVE to justify decisions about our bodies and our health in this way. “I chose this because it was better for my health.”  Isn’t that good enough?  “I chose this because it is what felt safe and comfortable to me.”  The subtle subtext that our OWN well-being is not enough of a justification bothers me a lot.

It’s infantilising

“Happy mum, happy baby” suggests to me that people assume mothers are incapable of processing uncomfortable emotions around our decisions.  It suggests that the choices we make don’t matter one way or the other, “as long as we are happy”.  I wholeheartedly disagree on both counts.  Our decisions DO matter!  We are made of stronger stuff!  We’ve grown a flippin’ PERSON, for goodness’ sake.  We don’t need this pre-chewed platitude to validate us in lieu of us doing the work of unpacking this stuff and becoming better informed, more confident in our decisions and more at peace with our journey.

Is this really a sound basis for informed decision making?  Can we really not handle reasoning more complex than this?

It’s a lazy and selfish phrase

It is a terrible idea to assume your kid is happy just because you are.  At best, it’s a bad habit and reeks of self-centredness.  In this rush to buy into this raindbow-unicorn-fart-laden rhetoric, you can miss what is right in front of your eyes.  Don’t pretend it never happens.  I have spoken to adults who have said this about their own parents.  At worst, it is selfish, willful blindness and ignorance and it can be damaging to the child in question.

Lastly, but to my mind most importantly:

It denies the child is a person in their own right

Kids – even babies – are people in their own right, and not an extension of their mothers. Surely we do our best parenting when we meet our children where they are, not project our Stuff on to them.  To my mind, this alone is a good enough reason to abandon “happy mummy, happy baby”.