Blooming Mindful – Online Pregnancy Classes & Parenting Support

A course of pregnancy classes that honour the physiology and autonomy of you and your baby, alongside deep relaxation and powerful birthing techniques.

Lots of people approach me for pregnancy and parenting support, but don’t necessarily want another body in the room while they actually give birth – and that is ABSOLUTELY okay! I am still happy to serve you. A very wise woman once said to me, “it’s ALL in the antenatal”, and the more I have worked with women over the last few years, the more I have come to believe she is absolutely right!

I am also contacted by people who live too far away for me to support in the usual way.

So I have been working on a course of online classes to help you prepare for birth and mothering in the way that is right for you.

We will cover everything from pregnancy challenges – (sickness, fatigue, swelling, cramps, anxiety) and birthing techniques (breathing, positioning, active birth, navigating the maternity care system), to breastfeeding and parenting a brand new baby. The approach is practical and evidence-based and I’d like for there to be some laughs along the way! Each session ends with a deep relaxation.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I *LIVE* in the place where physiology meets autonomy, and my classes reflect that.

Our bodies are amazing, and they (usually) work brilliantly! I believe that the very best care and support centres around valuing your physiology – essentially, working WITH your body to facilitate the natural processes as much as possible.

At the same time, each of us is unique, the path unfolds differently for all of us, with different challenges, different medical issues, and, okay, different personal biases, too. The way we make choices is intensely personal, and that needs to be honoured, as well. There is no wrong way to have a baby. And as long as you are keeping your baby safe and being responsive to them, there is no wrong way to parent your baby, either.

We start with what is physiologically normal, and we temper that with what YOU feel is important. The task of parenting is constantly in flux, changing from day to day, moment to moment – from the time we conceive – and it never stops. Your classes and ongoing support need to be just as flexible.

These classes are suitable for all stages of pregnancy. Get in touch for more information.

Antenatal Classes Online

Are you looking for an online antenatal class? Maybe your usual class has been cancelled?

You can book here for my next course of online antenatal classes beginning in April.

I have been offering antenatal classes with The Daisy Foundation for the last several years, and because of the current situation, I am currently teaching online using Zoom.

Anyone already familiar with Daisy Birthing classes will know just what to expect – they combine gentle movement, breathing and relaxation, alongside practical information and techniques to support you through pregnancy and birth.

Many of you will have seen by now the statement made by the Prime Minister this week regarding social distancing in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID19. The new guideline is advising against non-essential social gatherings, of any size. The recommendations were particularly for vulnerable groups and the PM included pregnant women. (Please be assured though, that this is really just an extra precaution and we have no evidence to this point that pregnant women or their babies are affected more severely than anyone else by the virus.)

The upshot is that these new guidelines mean that many women are now left without the antenatal support and education that they had planned for.

For me, it means that all my classes and workshops have moved online for the short term. This is not ideal, of course, but we have to work with what we have!

This situation will be very isolating for many people. I am determined to ensure that you still receive the education and information you deserve. Pregnancy and childbirth are amongst the most challenging things we do in our lifetimes, and stress and isolation can make the difference between a joyful, positive experience and a traumatic one that affects our well-being for many months to come.

I have been working very hard to move all classes online, and expand these to include free socials, relaxations and Q&As for as many people as possible, especially in my local community, alongside the support groups and classes I already run.

Each class is just the same as before in terms of content and physical benefits. The difference is that now it is from the comfort of your home. Every cloud, right?

This is an incredibly difficult time for everyone and I want you to know that I will, as far as possible, continue to do what I do every day: bring women together, provide good evidence-based information, and be here for you!

If your classes have been cancelled, please do get in touch and I will do my best to support you. If you know anyone else who needs a lifeline, point them my way. Although I have license fees, insurance and software costs still to pay, I have reduced the cost of my classes as much as I feasibly can to make these accessible for as many people as possible. No mum is to be left behind.

Now, more than ever, we need to connect in other ways!

Let’s talk about guilt

I want to talk about Guilt. Specifically “mummy-guilt”, which we are all meant to feel as soon as our little ones are born, possibly even earlier, and it only grows and compounds as they get bigger. Supposedly, according to media, this is part and parcel of motherhood. You canNOT be a mum and NOT feel this horrible, all consuming guilt. The best you can do is “try” to forgive yourself.

Women feel guilty for having a smoke before they found out they were pregnant. Half a glass of wine with their dinner occasionally. They feel guilty if their baby didn’t have the smooth and straightforward arrival they were hoping for. They feel guilty when the baby cries, and they couldn’t get to them immediately. When the baby won’t stop crying. If they couldn’t breastfeed. When their baby rolls off the bed, or grabs the TV remote and flails it around, nearly knocking themselves out. When they found out that rice cereal was the debbil, and they had been feeding it to their child from 4 months old. Sending the child to nursery. Not having a clean house. Yelling. Vaccinating. Not vaccinating. The list is literally (I really MEAN literally) endless, and in many places, contradictory.

Social media makes it worse, because it looks like other people have got their shit together, so what the hell is wrong with YOU?

If you feel mummy-guilt take a minute right now to forgive yourself. We are probably ALL screwing up in one way or another. That one mum you look at and think she has her shit together, probably hasn’t. You probably are that one mum to someone else. (You may laugh now.)

Dear first time mothers: guilt is NOT a requirement for motherhood. Really.

Don’t get me wrong, in small helpings, your ordinary common-or-garden lesser spotted Guilt Goblin is useful and healthy. For everyone. It drives us to be better people, better parents. It pushes us to grow, to check in with our moral compass and adjust our behaviour.

“Mummy-guilt” is a different breed. It is voracious and prolific, like the emotional equivalient of Japanese Knotweed. This is the type of guilt you feel no matter what you do, because you love your children. There is ALWAYS something you haven’t done, or not done well enough, and this precious person’s LIFE and future is at stake here. There is no upper limit to the acceptable amount of mummy-guilt you can feel and there is no escaping it. It has a very strong and reliable protective mechanism to allow it to take root as well: there is a strong implication that if you DON’T feel wrenching, all-consuming guilt and doubt, then you aren’t taking this gig seriously enough. It gets under your skin by convincing you that it is a measure of how much you love your children.

Here is the thing. Not all of us feel this tremendous guilt that mothers are “supposed” to be eaten alive by (if we love our kids at all). We just muddle through, make mistakes, own them, move on. Research, make informed decisions, listen to our instincts, have a little faith in ourselves. Use common sense. We don’t love our kids any less.

Here is the other thing: why isn’t there “daddy-guilt”? Not just “guilt” (because sometimes shit happens and then you move on), but all-consuming, inescapable, almost irrational guilt that is all tied up with how much they love their children?

Is it because the amount of conscience you have is inversely proportional to your ability to grow facial hair?

Is it because the possession of testicles renders you a robot, incapable of emotion?

Is it because men are shitty parents who just don’t love their kids?

Nope.

I think it’s partly because women are supposed to be the gender that feels emotions (that is, outside the world of sport and casual racism). Women are the weaker sex, the hormonal ones, the ones who burst into tears in an argument, who love romcoms, go gaga over cute things and chat with their friends for hours about feelings. Women are supposed to be the sympathetic, understanding nurturers.

We have so much capacity to feel guilt, because we have so much capacity to FEEL.

This is bollocks, isn’t it? We DID just enter the year 2020, didn’t we? No one really believes this rubbish anymore, do they?

But the tired old gendered trope is still hanging on. In some cases, mothers feel guilty for what was (or should have been) a joint decision. Sometimes she feels guilty about things she wasn’t even in the room for. What’s going on there?

Does the man not feel guilt because he doesn’t care? Or does he feel it, but not express it (all over the internet)?

To compound this, the world keeps telling women they aren’t enough. They’re too fat or too skinny or too plain or too pretty. Women apologise for what they wear, they apologise for eating, for being a SAHM, they apologise to their gyneocologist for for having normal adult body hair for goodness sake. We are strongly conditioned from a young age to be apologetic about pretty much everything, up to and including how much space we take up. Is it any wonder parenthood exacerbates that?

I think there are some personality types that are pre-disposed to feeling a lot of guilt. If that’s you, maybe try to let go of it, if you can. If it will make you happier. There’s a couple of things I want to request:

1) Please don’t feed into the myth that we all HAVE to feel terrible guilt and second guess every decision we make. Motherhood doesn’t HAVE to be like that. Honest.

2) Please don’t use this guilt (which I am beginning to think might not actually be the norm) to silence discussion. It seems like every time evidence is published which could be helpful for parents and wider society moving forward, SOME bright spark will counter it with, “This sort of thing just makes mothers feel guilty.”

Women are not babies. We can handle a little guilt, a little cognitive dissonance, a little opportunity for personal growth.  A little bit is manageable.  A little bit is GOOD.

Let’s uproot this knotweed and burn it away, and replace it with something healthier.  Because I am DONE with mummy guilt.  I am sick of watching the mothers in front of me tie themselves up in knots over it.

Coronavirus (COVID19) & your antenatal classes

Keeping you up to date on the most recent news relating to the Coronavirus and our response

It is our absolute priority to ensure Coronavirus does not get in the way of expectant and new families accessing the level of education, support and community they deserve.

Pregnancy, birth and early parenthood is often filled with uncertainty and new challenges, and I am very aware just how our current health climate may impact you.

The situation and guidance is changing daily, and we are taking our response very seriously. We all have a duty to be a part of the solution.

This page will be kept up to date with any changes in policy as and when the guidance changes.

To access the most up to date information:

NHS – Coronavirus

Information for pregnant women and their families from The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Royal College of Midwives and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Department of Health & Social Care – for updated Government policy, response and information on self-isolation.

Daisy Birthing is now implementing the following hygiene policy, and ask all of our communities to support the policy.

We are continuing to clean all high contact surfaces in class areas including (but not limited to) door handles and light switches, using anti-viral cleaning solutions before and after every class.

We ask that to help protect both yourself and others, that you:

  • Respect the guidelines and should you have any kind of cough, cold or any signs of illness that you let me know straight away and don’t attend classes or workshops.
  • Respect the good practice behaviours of coughing or sneezing in to tissues or your elbow and disposing of used tissues in to bins.
  • Wash your hands with water & soap for 20 seconds or longer, before eating and drinking and after coughing, sneezing, going to the toilet or touching common surfaces.
  • Wash your hands upon arrival to class.
  • Avoid direct contact where possible with your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoid contact with anyone who has a respiratory illness and don’t use their belongings such as mobile phones.

The top priority is helping the community to stay safe. Our aim to to provide a safe space for expectant and new mums/families to access informed education and unconditional support. We wish to ensure that this service is continued for you and that you will always have access to a suitable alternative should it no longer be practical to attend locally.

I will be in touch with you by email and social media channels should local situations change.

We understand how isolating and confusing it can be under normal circumstances throughout pregnancy, birth and the early parenting days – we will absolutely be here for you with an alternative to help you stay connected, supported and to access Daisy Birthing classes and workshops.

Should it become necessary, then Daisy Birthing classes will be delivered to you at home via video link or a video download – so watch this space for more details.

Also watch this page for the National Daisy Birthing at Home service – Daisy HQ is rolling up its sleeves and bringing this to life for you as quickly as they can. 

Please know that we will leave no mums or babies behind!

If you have any concerns or questions relating to this policy please contact me.

BIRTH UNLIMITED – Antenatal Classes (Shrewsbury, Shropshire)

As well as doula services, I also offer a range of antenatal classes for mums to be in Shropshire.

Daisy Birthing Active Antenatal Classes

A weekly pregnancy class, incorporating yoga-based movement, breathing techniques and practical inofrmation to support you through pregnancy and birth. Each block is six weeks. (£72 for six weeks)

Daisy Birthing Active Birth Workshop

Ideal for mum-to-be and birth partner to attend together. Any birth partner welcome, but these classes are designed particularly with dads in mind! These sessions are positive, practical and solution oriented. I’ve heard many dads say they felt like a “spare tool” in the birth room. This 4hr workshop is japacked with things a birth partner needs to know to help facilitate a smooth labour, and enjoy the process as an informed, calm and active participant. (£80 per couple)

Antenatal Breastfeeding Workshop

A three hour breastfeeding workshop to prepare you for the highs and lows of feeding a newborn baby – and beyond! The primary focus of this class is breastfeeding, because a whopping 80% of mums to be do hope and plan to do this! But there is absolutely no judgement and if you have made the informed choice to bottle feed your baby, I am certain that there are many beneficial elements that will be useful to you, because at the beginning of life there is no way to seperate “feeding” from “parenting”. (£70 per couple)

Ready? Relax & Release

A one to one class, offered at the end of pregnancy, to help you feel comfortable, confident, relaxed and prepared. This one lasts about 90 minutes and can be by yourself or with your partner. Ready, relax and release into birth. (£25 for one or £40 for two)

What is Birth Unlimited?

Think of it like a “pass” giving you access to each of the classes I offer, and an opportunity for continuity of care throughout your pregnancy, at a discounted rate.

  • A guaranteed space with Daisy Birthing until the arrival of your baby
  • A guaranteed space on an active birth workshop in your third trimester.
  • A guaranteed space on a breastfeeding workshop between 20-28w
  • Up to THREE sessions of Relax & Release: one at 37w and another closer to 40w. A third session offered after 40w to those offered induction or experiencing prodromal labour (where contractions “niggle” on and off for several days).
  • One follow up visit at home for further support, signposting and give you the chance to debrief your birth
  • Unlimited telephone, text and email support from first class to final visit.

How to Book

Use the form below to confirm you would like the full antenatal package and I will send over an invoice and confirmation letter.

Something new is coming for mums-to-be in Shrewsbury

I have been working on something new I would like to offer to mums-to-be in my local community.

I meet so many mums nearing the end of their pregnancy who are just not feeling good.  This is for a lot of different reasons.  Maybe they are just thoroughly fed up with being pregnant.  Maybe they are in pain.  Maybe they feel as if labour is just never going to begin.  Maybe they have been booked in for an induction and they don’t want it, or they feel anxious about it.  Maybe they are worried about labour.  Maybe they have had a bad experience previously and this makes the whole process more scary.

This seems to be seen as normal and accepted as part of pregnancy.  Apparently, you are supposed to just suck it up. Well, I don’t think that is good enough.  I want women to have a better experience as their pregnancy reaches it end – more comfortable, confident, more supported, feeling totally safe and heard and cared for.

And I want women to have nothing holding them back from labour beginning spontaneously.  That is something we miss, these days, isn’t it?  You reach a date on the calendar and off you shuffle for an induction – what about combatting any worries or stress you might be experiencing first!

I know that mums need to feel safe and supported for labour to continue.  What if mums feeling safe and supported (or not) had an impact on when and how labour began in the first place?

So if you are a local mum-to-be, this is for you!  This is specifically to support you through this unique phase, to combat the typical challenges of late pregnancy, help you feel more comfortable and remove any emotional obstacles that might be holding you back from going into labour.  We’ll use practical techniques to facillitate optimum positioning for your baby, light massage to help you feel comfortable and supported, and finish with a deep relaxation.

This is ideal to book at term, anywhere from about 37 weeks. Perhaps you’ve decided to accept an induction or a membrane sweep?  I would love to work through these techniques with you a day or two before, in the hope that you will feel relaxed for your appointment.  I have every hope it will have a positive impact on your experience.

Your feedback is important, so I am willing to do the first few appointments for free, for those who are willing to complete a couple of short questionnaires to help develop this offering.

Contact me to book or for more information.  You can email me or find me on Facebook.

This entry was posted on February 18, 2020. 3 Comments

We can do better than induction

I want to talk about something that has been on my mind for a long time.

I want to talk about induction of labour.

More specifically I want to talk about IOL for “prolonged pregnancy”, where mum and baby are both healthy and well.

Particularly where the mum is less than keen on the idea. In some cases, where it risks her out of her choices for the sake of a box ticked or a line on a graph.

I’d like to talk about why it is slightly just a little bit rubbish.

Gonna include a content warning here for induction of labour, difficult birth. If you had a difficult birth and/or one where you didn’t feel listened to, proceed with caution.

This post is specifically NOT about severe or acute illness where baby needs to be born as soon as possible.

If a woman is perceived to be pregnant “too long” she is offered induction. Is it only me who sees that as wildly simplistic and below par?

We have all this amazing medicine and science. We have all this knowledge about how the body works. And that is really the best we can come up with?

What else could be offered or considered BEFORE induction?

All mums have heard of sex and pineapples (NB. not sex WITH pineapples: not recommended), or spicy curries, or bouncing on a birth ball.

What else could your midwife or doctor discuss with you before bringing up induction?

For example, if you are approaching your due date, has anyone talked with you about your family history? How long was your mother pregnant? Aunts, grandmothers? Did they look into why pregnancy appears prolonged – is this normal for you? How long were your previous pregnancies? Are the dates correct? Are you and baby well? In other words: Is this truly a high risk situation that warrants intervention?

My guess is no, you reached a date on the calendar and were told you “had to” (don’t, please! I know! But that is the language used) be induced.

My observation so far has been that there is usually no attempt to address the cause of the “problem”, except sometimes from the mother herself, depending on her own background knowledge.

Things like, is baby well positioned? I once heard a midwife tell a room full of expectant parents that scrubbing floors was helpful in late pregnancy. And sitting on a birth ball.

Hey, she is kind of right. But. There are so MANY ways we can encourage optimal foetal positioning without reinforcing tired gender stereotypes (“hey, women, you should do more housework – right at the time you feel exhausted and crabby and approximately the size of a hippo with a bladder the size of a pea.” Wow, thanks Janet, what a revelation, my life is changed.)

Is mother suffering anxiety, or stress? Knowing that how we feel has a direct impact on labor, does it not follow that it might also have an impact on its beginning? And this being the case, what is her mental health like? Is she struggling with depression? Isn’t it worth exploring that in light of how many women suffer from it?

More: does she have a good relationship with her spouse? Does she feel safe? Is she walking on eggshells daily? Does she have ANY decent support at home? Heck, how old is she? (I am thinking globally, here, and how many young girls have their first child early.) Is she a survivor of abuse? Domestic orotherwise? What might be inhibiting the onset of labour and how can we help her address this?  (Might be – if this is even a “problem” at all, as above.)

How often are any of these elements considered? And how often are all of them ignored – you reach an arbitrary date on the calendar, and off you go. Time to try and make the body do something it is probably just not ready to do (because if it was, it would very likely already be doing it).

There are some people out there who see the harms from overuse of IOL. People wonder, Oh dear, why labour was long/traumatic? Oh dear, I wonder why baby got stuck? Oh dear, I wonder why she tore so spectacularly? Oh dear, I wonder why she is upset? How can we improve this? I applaud those people, because I agree it needs improving. But the answer I have is too boring to listen to and doesn’t involve research or drugs or instruments. Just skin. People showing up and caring. That is hardly going to gain traction anywhere.

For a long while, IOL has reminded me of a baby just given a shape sorter, banging the cube randomly on the hexagon shaped hole repeatedly. He doesn’t really know what he is doing. Just wants to get this lump through this hole. Oh, it’s not working? Ram a bit harder, see if that works.

We don’t really KNOW what causes the onset of labor. We have a rough idea that the baby releases a protein when the lungs are ready. But…. /shrug. We can’t mimic that hormone dance completely even if we did know it. This almost never factors in to the induction process, unless it’s known baby will be premature and need help. It is almost an inconvenient fact.. Take a seat and pipe down, science.

There is no finesse involved in the process. When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

Oh, this person isn’t responding to this drip as well as we hoped. Solution? Turn it up to eleven 😎 Don’t give her freedom of movement to utilise gravity and allow the baby to achieve better position, because we won’t get a decent trace. The recording of our doing of the things is, legally, more important than your doing of the thing. Just hop up on the bed for me.

The system often fails to see the person as a whole person. In fact, lots of women don’t feel that they are seen or treated as a person at all, whole or otherwise. Daily I see and hear women saying, “I just left my appointment at XX weeks, and I feel so upset because…. ”

Why is this happening? Why are so many women feeling so unhappy with their care?

The (pesky) science is there to support that a normal pregnancy can vary up to five weeks in length. But I don’t see this recognised in real terms at any level. Babies are still ubiquitously described as being “late”. It seems everyone treats a mother as overdue at 40w1d. Are we pathologising healthy pregnancies? That is what it feels like.

I sometimes think of pregnancy as like puberty, and waiting for baby to arrive a little bit like waiting for your first period. You might have curves and spots and greasy hair and rage and tender breasts…. And your period could be months away. Or you can be straight up and down with very few of the usual signs, and get your period tomorrow. Would we give a girl hormone tablets if she didn’t start bleeding by her fourteenth birthday?

We know (don’t we?) that women have a basic need to feel safe and cared for during labour. Does she not need this before labor begins? If she feels alienated from or coerced by or ignored by her HCPs, surely you might as well have a sodding great sabre tooth tiger prowling around her home. Well, will you look at that. She does not feel safe. I wonder why labor is not starting sooner rather than later? 🤔

The same holds true during labour, too, when things slow down. Mum is quite often given a time limit and threatened with The Drip or The Doctor. “We only let you do this for a certain amount of time, you know.” (Thanks, Janet, could you please email that to my uterus?)

How often does anyone ask, When did Lucy (a made up name, Labouring Lucy) last go to the toilet? When did Lucy last eat something? Is Lucy staying hydrated? Lucy, you are quite safe. I am here to care for you. How often are women forced to try to labour effectively in the same room as someone who is frightened, angry, exhausted or tense? How often are NONE of these things addressed, and then, a little later, a drip set up “to get things moving”. Tale as old as time.

I know there are people out there who do address those things. Those births will end up in the “easy” category, with very little intervention. It’s negative data. But I see you. I just wish there were more of you.

We know (don’t we??) that labor is as much mental as it is physical. Before induction is offered, does anyone build a rapport with that mum to be and ask her how she is feeling?

Just THAT – that one teensy tiny change – making a connection, asking how she feels, truly listening…. If NOTHING else changed in the way IOL was offered and managed, that alone would make a humungous difference to our experiences as we become mothers… and on our mental health, regardless of whether IOL was used or how our babies arrive.

We all just want to be listened to, and we all deserve to be able to access continuity of care as a starting point and a standard, not some lofty unsustainable goal.

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