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POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES: MY SECOND BIRTH

SECOND TIME MUM, UNASSISTED HOME BIRTH

Just as with my first pregnancy, my due date came and went. I always told myself not to hang all my hopes on that single date.. but as it passed I couldn’t help but feel impatient. At my 40 week appointment on 1st March 2017, my midwife booked me in for an induction for the 11th March with little discussion. Her reason for this was that “it gets booked up quick”, so better book me a slot. I was furious with how blasé she was. I had made it clear I did not want to be induced and to be booked in only 10 days past my due date, I just didn’t feel heard. 

At that same appointment I was told my baby was head down and partly engaged – which made the induction date seem even more unnecessary. I went home feeling frustrated. That induction date hung over my head for days. I wasn’t getting any niggles or signs of labour yet and was dreading the prospect of my labour being interfered with. 

We walked a lot over those next few days! I was dragging Jack (my partner) & Elba (my eldest daughter who was just over 2.5 years at the time) out for walks everyday and bouncing on my birth ball at every opportunity. 

I toyed with the idea of a home birth during my pregnancy, but we opted for another hospital birth this time because I really felt I had such a positive experience the first time; I’d felt safe and things had gone exactly how I’d wanted. Naively, I thought that by keeping the hospital as my choice of place to give birth, I’d be able to have a similar experience. Of course, no two births are the same!

GOING INTO LABOUR

On Sunday 5th March (40+4) I had a familiar, dull period-like pain coming and going all day. During the night the pains were coming more frequently and I was sure something was happening. It didn’t feel very established, so I took myself to bed to get some rest, assuming I’d be woken by labour at some point during the night. This wasn’t the case. I woke up in the morning to nothing! Any discomfort I was feeling had completely stopped. During that morning, I was pretty sure my waters were trickling. I popped a pad in and went about my day. We chose not to contact the hospital as I worried I’d be given a countdown to induction and didn’t want to be given a time limit for my birth to happen spontaneously.

We chose not to contact the hospital as I worried I’d be given a countdown to induction.

I walked with a friend that lunchtime. My waters were still very lightly trickling and I was feeling a lot of pressure in between my legs. Once I returned home, at about 3.30pm, the tightenings and period-like pains returned. I decided it was time to speak to the hospital. My mum drove down to be with Elba and we went in to be assessed at 5.30pm. At this point I was experiencing irregular contractions.

BEING ASSESSED

After arriving at the hospital my waters gushed. It was such an odd feeling and so unfamiliar. During my first labour my waters didn’t break until the last moment and I was already in the pool.

I was very briefly assessed by a student midwife around 6pm, who listened-in to baby and felt my tummy. She confirmed I was experiencing contractions, which I obviously already knew! She said she wouldn’t internally examine me because my waters had gone, so I was at higher risk of infection. I was a little surprised by this. Usually they are keen to perform VE’s to get an idea of how things are progressing (despite this being unreliable). Nevertheless, I was happy to not be poked and prodded too much during my visit!

The student midwife then told me I wasn’t in established labour because my contractions weren’t regular enough yet; to go home, take a bath and have something to eat. Then, of course, told me I’d have to come back in the morning for an induction if nothing had progressed further by then. I was adamant my baby would be here before the following morning! 

ARRIVING HOME

As we left my surges were getting stronger. Even by the time we reached the car park I was having to stop and breathe through them. We followed her advice and headed home anyway! The journey home was pretty horrendous. Labour came out of nowhere and every bump in the road exacerbated each contraction. We arrived home at 7pm. I was so relieved! 

My mum was in shock to see us home. She’d made some dinner, but I couldn’t stomach anything to eat. I stood in our front room, bent over the table, breathing through regular, strong surges. Mum suggested taking off my leggings and shoes, and getting a little more comfortable. I was adamant I’d be going back to hospital soon, so just took off my shoes and stayed fulled clothed. 

I stood in our front room, bent over the table, breathing through regular, strong surges.

As my contractions were getting stronger and closer together, I suddenly felt so disheartened. I felt I was not coping with my surges as well as my first labour. Little did I know how close I was to having my baby! Elba was sitting on the sofa just opposite from me at this point. I asked my mum to take her up to bed.

Jack spoke to the hospital again just after 7.30pm. We explained how my labour had progressed substantially since leaving the hospital. They kept firing questions at Jack, who was repeating them to me. I was not in the right frame of mind to be answering questions. I had zoned in; focusing on my body, my breath, the swaying of my hips. They asked Jack if we wanted an ambulance sent out or if we could make the 25 minute journey back to the hospital in the car. I just looked at him. I think my eyes said it all. At this point I had no idea how close together my contractions actually were, I just knew there was no way we were getting back to the hospital in time for our baby’s arrival. 

BABY’S ARRIVAL

I felt calm. Whilst mum took Elba to bed, Jack and I stood in the lounge swaying together. He took my weight as I hung from his shoulders. I felt the roar in my throat and the urge to bear down. When my mum returned I told her felt like I needed a poo, so she helped me into the downstairs toilet. As I pulled down my leggings, the pad I had placed in my pants to catch my waters had a little blood on it. The sight of blood made me feel uneasy. Mum asked Jack to grab some towels from the airing cupboard. I went to the toilet and we laughed as she wiped my bum for the first time since I was a toddler! It still makes me crease just thinking about it.

A second later I felt my baby crowning. 

I felt the roar in my throat and the urge to bear down.

I said “mum, I can feel the head… the head’s there”. 

She said “let me check”. 

I said “No need.. I can feel it!”, as I reached in-between my legs and cupped my hand over the top of the head. A feeling I will never forget. In fact, sometimes now when I place my hand on the top of her head, it takes me back to that moment and I can physically feel how much she has grown. 

I pushed with my next contraction and my baby’s head was born. The rest of her followed very quickly with the next contraction. Two pushes and she arrived earth-side at 8.05pm (an hour after arriving home from the hospital). Jack and my mum held the corners of a towel and created a hammock underneath me, catching her as she arrived.

IN A TANGLE

As I stepped forward, mum wrapped the towel around her. We didn’t know what sex our baby was, but I didn’t even think about checking to find out. I just instantly felt I wanted her skin on mine, but the umbilical cord was trailing between my legs to where she was behind me. I still had my leggings around my ankles so I had to untangle myself! Mum was right… maybe I should have taken them off! 

I stripped off my clothes and mum passed her to me through my legs. I brought her up to my chest… and then she cried. What an amazing sound to know that she was ok. Jack and my mum wrapped us both in towels as I sat and cuddled her. I beamed as I realised I had another beautiful daughter. 

THE THIRD STAGE

I sat naked, holding my little Wren for half an hour before the paramedics arrived. They checked us both over and allowed us to wait another half an hour for the placenta to be born. This didn’t seem to be happening naturally. I was eager to get her straight on my breast to encourage a physiological third stage. She took a couple of minutes to work it out. Perhaps she was a little shocked after her speedy arrival!

After an hour, they suggested going to the hospital for a managed third stage, which I accepted. By this stage I just wanted to get cleaned up and my bum was numb from sitting on the floor! Jack cut the cord, it was completely white! Amazing! We were put in the ambulance. Wren laid on my chest for the duration of the journey to hospital with her eyes wide, staring into mine. 

My birth didn’t go how I thought it was going to, but it was the most empowering experience of my life. To birth unassisted, calmly and in control, feels incredible! In hind sight, I should have given more thought into preparing and planning a home birth, but I am grateful I had a completely undisturbed birth and it was very telling for how in times like that, instinct takes over.

Do you have a positive birth experience that you would like to share?

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POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES: ELLIE

FIRST TIME MUM, BIRTH CENTRE, VAGINAL BIRTH

During her pregnancy Ellie invested time in preparing for her birth, enrolling on a hypnobirthing course, which led to her feeling confident and excited to birth her baby. Since becoming a mum, Ellie has trained and a Hypnobirthing and Antenatal Teacher to share her wisdom and encourage others to take control of their birth. You can find out more about her and her amazing courses here.

Below, she shares the story of her daughter’s arrival at 39 weeks.

“Since doing my hypnobirthing course, I felt confident heading into my birth. I even felt quite excited. I finished work and started maternity leave 2 weeks before my official “due date” and had spent the past week washing baby clothes, folding and putting them away (and re-folding and re-putting away – god knows why?!), batch cooking and general tidying and pottering. 

I woke up on April 6th 2016 to a message in my NCT WhatsApp chat, that the second baby of the group had been born overnight. My feelings of happiness for my friend were quickly overshadowed by jealousy and intense impatience. When was my baby going to come out? Looking back – this was crazy, I was still a week from my due date! (With the hindsight of both of my birth experience, impatience is definitely one of my signs that something is afoot – baby is having ideas.)

I went about my day as normal, pottering away and cooking the final few meals to put in the freezer. The only thing that I had noticed that day was that my Braxton hicks had completely stopped. I had been having quite a lot of Braxton hicks in the week prior to this day, but I hadn’t felt any all day. This only made me think that things had slowed down and I would be waiting sometime before my baby made their appearance. Little did I know!

OUT FOR DINNER

That evening we went to meet my friend and her partner for dinner. As soon as I got out of the car, I felt a twinge. I ignored it. A few minutes later I felt another. I ignored that one too. These twinges continued, coming every few minutes and I continued to ignore them and carried on with my dinner and catching up with my friend. I didn’t let on to anyone what I was feeling and carried on chatting away and munching on my Nandos. 

About an hour into the meal things felt to have ramped up a bit and the sensations felt more like tightenings now. I also had the distinct feeling that I was going to poo myself. However, whenever I went to the toilet nothing happened. I eventually told Joe what I was feeling and he suggested we go home. But I hadn’t had pudding yet so I wasn’t leaving! We leisurely finished our meal and said goodbye to our pals and drove home.

FINDING COMFORT

Once home, I got into bed hoping that I would fall asleep. However, my surges were still coming fairly frequently (between 3 and 4 minutes). They were also getting more intense so I decided to get out of bed and spend some time on my birth ball, bouncing on it and then kneeling on the floor and leaning over it. 

I found the bath absolutely amazing! The feeling of the warm water was incredibly comforting…

It had now been about 4 – 5 hours of experiencing surges which had been fairly frequent from the start. Their duration was getting longer and the intensity continued to gradually increase. I decided I wanted a bath and Joe ran one for me. I found the bath absolutely amazing! The feeling of the warm water was incredibly comforting and I felt completely relaxed with just candles for light and joe stroking my arms when I was experiencing a surge. I started using my breathing techniques with each surge which I also found incredibly soothing.

Sometime later, Joe rang the birth centre to let them know that I was experiencing surges and thought I was in labour. I spoke to the midwife who listened to me breathe through one of my surges. She asked me if I felt I was handling the sensations and I told her that I was. The breathing and the bath were helping me through each surge. So she advised us to stay at home. Fine by me!

I continued to relax in the bath but after some time I started feeling like I wanted to move around so I went back into my bedroom to bounce on my birth ball and listen to my hypnobirthing relaxations. Joe had lit some candles in the bedroom and turned the lights down really low so it felt lovely and calm. 

Over the next couple of hours, my surges started to get a bit closer together. I was having one every 3 minutes (almost on the dot) and they were lasting for just under a minute. I started to get a bit worried about getting to the birth centre on time! I remember being told that this is when we should ideally head to the birth centre, so Joe called in again. Again, I spoke to the midwife who asked what the surges felt like. I explained that I was handling them fine with my breathing techniques and going between the bath and my bedroom to bounce on the birth ball. The midwife told me that I would ‘know’ when to come in and to try to stay at home for as long as possible. So I continued to do my thing, relaxing in the bath until I felt the urge to get up and move around.

HEADING TO THE BIRTH CENTRE

By about 4.30am, I decided I wanted to go to the birth centre. So Joe called again to say that we intended on coming in and they agreed that this was sensible since we had already called twice before. I got dressed and Joe called my mum to ask her to drive over (she was my second birth partner).

The car journey was peaceful driving through Bristol in the dead of night. We saw a fox cross the road ahead of us just after we set off from home and for some reason, I took this as a positive omen. 

We got to the birth centre at 5.50am and we were showed to our gorgeous room. Cossham Birth Centre is incredible. I call it the “baby hotel” because that’s exactly what it feels like. Our room was beautifully spacious with dim lighting, a double bed, a gorgeous pool and an en-suite bathroom. As soon as I got into the room, I had the urge to take my clothes off and walk around, stopping and swaying and leaning on Joe when I felt a surge. 

My midwife asked me if she could do a vaginal examination and I politely declined. I asked if I could get into the birth pool and the midwife told me that I couldn’t unless she could examine me to confirm that I was in established labour (grrrr!). I still didn’t want an examination so we filled the pool up a little bit so that it felt like a bath and I continued to breath through my surges.

I kept feeling like I needed to do a poo so I spent some time in the toilet. Whilst I was sat there, I felt the sensations change to an incredible pressure inside bearing down on my bum. This caught me off guard and I called for the midwife who came in to check on me. She asked again to perform an examination and this time I agreed as I really wanted to be in the pool. 

Sometimes dilation happens like that – very gradually and then all of a sudden just snaps back like an elastic band. 

She told me that I was 5cm dilated. I remember feeling quite disappointed at this. I had been experiencing sensations for about 11 hours at this point and they felt to be getting really intense. I had hoped I would be further along. 

The midwife suggested that I try walking around which could break my waters which she told me could help ease the feeling of pressure I was feeling. She also offered me some paracetamol (even though I had asked in my birth preferences not to be offered any pain relief unless I asked for it – second grrrrr!). Despite this, I took them. Looking back I’m not even sure why, as I had been handling the sensations fine with my breathing alone. 

I continued to pace the room leaning on Joe for support until, fairly soon after, my waters went. At this stage everything ramped up very quickly. I felt I needed to stop moving and get settled somewhere. I wanted to be upright so I decided to kneel on the bed leaning over the back of it. I was feeling the urge to push. 

My midwife asked to examine me again and, reluctantly, I agreed. She told me I was 10cm and that baby would be here very soon! She also explained that sometimes dilation happens like that – very gradually and then all of a sudden just snaps back like an elastic band. 

TRANSITION

I got back into my position on the bed (since we wouldn’t have time now to fill the pool up). With each surge, I felt my body instinctively moving the baby down. During this second stage, I could feel my baby’s head moving back and forth. With each surge I felt them move right down but then, the wave would pass and the baby’s head would retreat back inside. I found this incredibly difficult and it was then that I started to feel myself coming out of my relaxed state. I started exclaiming that I couldn’t do it. But with the next surge, my baby’s head was born and on the next, the rest of her followed.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. My proudest achievement.

Poppy was born at 7.50am (just 2 hours after arriving at the birth centre) on 7th April 2016 to two delighted parents and an ecstatic grandmother.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. My proudest achievement. I was left feeling like Superwoman and like I could do absolutely anything and I genuinely believe that, had you asked me to, in that moment I could have.” 

Do you have a positive birth experience that you would like to share?

If so, pop an email over to info@theintuitivedoula.co.uk, I’d love to hear from you.

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BIRTHING YOUR PLACENTA

WHAT IS THE THIRD STAGE?

The third stage is defined by the birth of the placenta shortly after the baby is born. During the birth of the placenta you will experience uterine contractions as the placenta separates from the uterus wall, moves through the cervix and, when it has moved down far enough, you will work with a final contraction to push and get the placenta the rest of the way out.

As third stage often gets little mention in pregnancy books, lets discuss how protecting the third stage environment, as we do with our birthing environment, may encourage a faster, natural delivery of the placenta, reducing the need for intervention or an ‘actively managed’ third stage.

For the new mother, the third stage is a time of reaping the rewards of her labour

Dr Sarah Buckley, Gentle Birth Gentle Mothering

THE PLACENTA

(noun) A flattened circular organ in the uterus of pregnant eutherian mammals, nourishing and maintaining the foetus through the umbilical cord.

When you become pregnant, your uterus contains just a cluster of cells. Half of those go on to become your baby and the other half become the placenta. The placenta is a temporary organ that is attached to the wall of the uterus throughout pregnancy. It performs many functions including providing nutrients, oxygen and protection against harmful bacteria via the umbilical cord. More or less anything you consume will pass to your baby via the placenta, which is why toxins should be kept to a minimum during pregnancy.

The placenta also disposes of the baby’s waste, such as carbon dioxide, which passes back up the umbilical cord to your blood stream where your body disposes of it.

Put simply, the placenta serves as the baby’s lifeline during the 40ish weeks in the womb. It is amazing and should be recognised for it’s vital role!

PHYSIOLOGY OF THE THIRD STAGE

During pregnancy, most women often spend lots of time making plans for their birth and deciding what birth preferences suit them most, but often the third stage is forgotten about or generally not given much thought. In many hospitals now, it is routine to have an actively managed third stage which means as your baby is born you are given an intramuscular injection of a synthetic form of the naturally occurring hormone oxytocin. Some women may not have a preference whether or not they have an actively managed or a physiological (natural) third stage (see below for pros and cons) but for those that do, its good to know what things could help the third stage progress so that you are able to protect the ‘golden hour’ and deliver the placenta naturally.

As mentioned above, oxytocin continues to play a huge role during the third stage. Oxytocin is a very shy hormone and there are things within the environment that can cause adrenaline to spike and for oxytocin levels to decrease, which will slow uterine contractions. In order to keep a good hormonal balance it is important to continue to protect the birthing space.

BREASTFEEDING AND SKIN-TO-SKIN

Initialising that first feed encourages the release of oxytocin, but if your baby doesn’t show signs of wanting to breastfeed straight away, just holding her close to your chest will have a similar effect.

MOTHERS COMFORT

Maintaining the environment of the birth space with low lights, warmth and no observers encourages the mother to feel comfortable and, in turn, speeds up the duration of a natural third stage.

Stimulation of the breasts causes a powerful endocrine hormone called oxytocin to be released. Oxytocin in turn stimulates uterine contractions.

Ina May Gaskin, Spiritual Midwifery

PHYSIOLOGICAL MANAGEMENT

  • Encourages a calm, quiet and undisturbed atmosphere allowing you to be present with your new baby.
  • Allows time for bonding through breastfeeding and skin-to-skin.
  • You can adopt different positions and move instinctively with your body.
  • Physiological management is less likely if labour has been induced or required pain management and intervention, as the administration of synthetic oxytocin will inhibit your ability to produce your own oxytocin.
  • It can take some time for the placenta to deliver naturally (time which is less likely to be allowed for in a hospital setting) and just as with earlier phases of labour emotional and environmental factors could delay it; such as a change in lighting, temperature or a feeling of being observed.

ACTIVE MANAGEMENT

  • The process is quicker than a physiological third stage, lasting 5-15 minutes. After synthetic oxytocin is administered the placenta needs to be delivered quickly to avoid retained placenta.
  • In the event of the placenta taking a long time to deliver, it will have to be removed manually under general anaesthetic.
  • You may experience discomfort when the midwife performs the controlled cord traction (CCT), which is performed after you receive synthetic oxytocin via an intramuscular injection. A CCT involves the midwife placing her hand on your abdomen so that she can feel when the uterus contacts. She will then pull gently on the cord whilst applying pressure to the uterus.
  • It can be uncomfortable as you will most likely be asked to lay on the bed in a semi-reclined position so that the midwife can carry out the CCT.

DELAYED CORD CLAMPING

Another thing very injurious to the child is the tying and the cutting of the navel string too soon; which should always be left till the child has not only repeatedly breathed but till all pulsation in the cord ceases. As otherwise the child is much weaker than it ought to be, a portion of the blood being left in the placenta which ought to have been in the child.

Darwin, 1801

For many years immediate clamping of the umbilical cord (between 10-15 seconds) after birth has been standard practice. There is now evidence to suggest that it is beneficial to allow the cord to fully pulsate before clamping for the following reasons:

  • The cord and placenta hold up to 30% of the baby’s blood. Allowing the cord to pulsate means the blood can flow through it and aid the baby’s lung expansion. When the cord is clamped immediately, blood has to be “borrowed” from the rest of the baby’s circulation in order for the lungs to be fully functioning (even though the baby’s other organs also need blood to start functioning).
  • As the baby receives the full amount of blood from the placenta, iron levels are higher and it reduces the chances of anaemia. Anaemia in infants can go on to effect the development of the nervous system and brain development.
  • Delaying the clamping of the cord allows the baby to receive up to a billion more stem cells than if it were to be clamped immediately after birth. Stem cells have wonderful healing qualities.
  • Birth weight will be increased and blood pressure stabilised after delayed cord clamping.
  • If resuscitation is required after the baby is born it is beneficial to leave the cord unclamped as it assists in oxygenating the lungs.
  • It has been suggested that the baby’s cord stump will take less time to heal and ‘drop off’ after delayed cord clamping.

BENEFITTING FROM YOUR PLACENTA

The placenta is becoming increasingly recognised for the important role it plays in post-birth healing. According to the Placenta Remedies Network “during and after a normal vaginal delivery (including post-natal bleeding) a new mother will lose between 1/8 to 1/10 of her body’s blood supply. Losing a large amount of iron so quickly can cause anaemia, leaving a new mum feeling tired, faint and exhausted. The blood needs high supplies of iron to carry oxygen to the cells. Low supplies of oxygen leave your cells starving and less able to heal after trauma.”

Consuming your placenta, which is rich in iron, restores your iron levels reducing fatigue. Blood loss during the postnatal period stems from the wound in the uterus where the placenta was attached and can last for 3-6 weeks. Consuming your placenta can reduce postpartum blood loss to 5-10 days because the placenta is full of stem cells and growth factors, which play a huge role in healing the wound in your uterus. Your placenta also aids the replenishment of vitamins E and B6, is rich in hormones such as oxytocin and corticotropin and immune boosting proteins. In addition to reducing the duration of postpartum blood loss, all of the wonderful nutrients in your placenta contribute to encouraging a plentiful milk supply, boosting energy levels and balancing hormone levels reducing the chances of “baby blues” and postnatal depression.

Your placenta can be made into numerous different remedies which include:

  • Raw placenta smoothie
  • Placenta Encapsulation
  • Tincture
  • Essence
  • Homeopathic Remedies
  • Creams or balms

There is growing interest both in the placenta as an extraordinary organ which nourishes the baby during pregnancy, and the rituals surrounding it in other cultures.

AIMS, Birthing Your Placenta

MAKING A THIRD STAGE PLAN

It can be very beneficial to include your wishes for the third stage in your birth plan. You have the right to an empowered third stage too. Things to consider for a physiological third stage:

  • State that you’d like to try for a natural placenta delivery. Keep the birth space protected – dimly lit, comfortable temperature.
  • Allow time for the cord to finish pulsating before clamping.
  • Immediate skin-to-skin with your new baby.
  • Put your baby to your breast. Try to initiate the first feed. Keep things calm and undisturbed.
  • State if you want to wait for newborn checks and weighing.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask to see the placenta once it has been delivered. If you want to take it home to benefit from placenta remedies ensure you state this in your birth plan and have your birth partner discuss plans with your midwife upon arrival.

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POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES

FIRST TIME MUM, HOSPITAL, VAGINAL BIRTH

This first time mum has anonymously shared her story of a birth that didn’t go quite as she thought it would, but how she was able to navigate a positive experience by remaining the decision maker throughout the process. See below for her full story.

“I’m a paediatrician who gave birth at the hospital I work at (so knew most of the midwifery, paeds and O&G team). I didn’t make a birth “plan” as have seen enough things go wrong to know you can’t control it, but I did have “preferences” – not on the bed, ideally not monitored, water for plain relief, hypnobirthing breathing techniques.

My labour was spontaneous but complicated by prolonged rupture of membranes. I was in established labour by 24h so didn’t need induction, but they wouldn’t allow me to labour at the birth centre.

The negatives of my delivery were that I cried hysterically when my husband wasn’t allowed in hospital with me initially, which I’m convinced slowed things down. I couldn’t use the pool because it was in use, and I had one puff of gas and air and nearly vomited.

However, I had a really positive experience overall. I had two absolutely amazing midwives who supported me completely in decision making.

I wasn’t sure what to do about pain relief because I couldn’t use the pool or tolerate the gas and air and although I’d got to 9cm with hypnobirthing breathing techniques I really needed something as was shattered after being awake for around 32 hours. After chatting with the midwife I made the decision to have pethidine 3 hours before he was born, which definitely allowed me a couple of hours to build my strength before pushing.

“The helped to guide me through a wonderfully peaceful, natural delivery”

I also declined continuous monitoring although it would definitely have been easier for them. They accepted this and did intermittent monitoring with a handheld Doppler instead.

Most of all they helped to guide me through a wonderfully peaceful natural delivery without over medicalising things.

Looking back I’m not sure I would have changed anything other than my husband being able to come straight in with me (we had such a good team approach to managing contractions at home that I struggled to cope without him). Although I didn’t want to be on delivery suite my birth wasn’t “medicalised” unnecessarily and the midwives were just amazing. It wasn’t the birth I had imagined but it was wonderful and I left hospital with a beautiful baby boy and an enormous sense of achievement! I’m hopeful I will be blessed with more children in the future and would love to have a similarly peaceful and empowering experience, wherever I end up giving birth.”

Do you have a positive birth experience you’d like to share?

If so, please email me at info@theintuitivedoula.co.uk

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BOOK REVIEW: GIVE BIRTH LIKE A FEMINIST

Every woman who has a baby, however that baby is ultimately born, treads the path of the heroine, and yet it’s not always perceived that way.

Milli Hill, Give Birth Like a Feminist

Not only should every pregnant person (& their partner) read this book, but anyone who works in maternity services should. Milli Hill’s writing style kept me engaged throughout. She has perfectly articulated how mainstream birth culture and maternity systems disempower women and why. 

Too often, assumptions are made that women’s bodies need help to birth their babies, that they are badly designed and need medical intervention to be able to do so. By medicalising birth we have been conditioned to believe that we do not know our own bodies and think that qualified professionals know our bodies better than we do, which takes decision making away from us as mothers. We no longer realise that we have choice. Milli shares her own experiences throughout, but also provides practical tools for women to use when making decisions during labour, including the B.R.A.I.N decision-making tool, which as doulas we often refer to with our clients. For anyone unfamiliar with the B.R.A.I.N tool, I have a post about this over on my Instagram

This book delves into how and why we have perhaps become too reliant on interventions and have lost the ability to trust our own bodies. Hill highlights how birth is depicted in the media, TV & film – showing women distressed and screaming, lying on their backs in a brightly lit hospital room, hooked up to machines with people coming in and out of their birthing space – no wonder its daunting to so many of us! She also discusses how the censoring of images of birth and breastfeeding on social media also contributes to misrepresentation. 

GBLF reaffirms how important it is to know your choices, because without being educated you don’t have any. It doesn’t tell you that there is one right way to birth your baby, but that all preferences are valid, to respect all choices and be informed. Every decision during your birth is yours, but Milli shares some of the coercive language that is all too often used in the birth room and explores why you might come up against it. By being informed you can confidently give your consent (or not) and, no matter what path your birth takes, remain in control. Milli empowers women by recognising birth for the incredibly, primal act that it is and challenges the narrative of women being child-like in labour; clean shaven and often referred to as ‘good girls’.

In a time when there are such strict restrictions within maternity care, it is even more important to remember your rights as a birthing person. Your human rights don’t disappear because you are pregnant. I would highly recommend this book, it empowers the reader to educate themselves on their journey to meeting their baby. By being more aware of the history and how certain language and attitudes still exist today is eye opening, and by opening our eyes and supporting women and families so that they understand their birth rights, enables them to take back control in the birth room. 

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POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES: AMY

FIRST TIME MUM, HOME BIRTH, VAGINAL BIRTH

Amy is a first time mum who had an undisturbed water birth at home at 37 weeks. Her experience was calm and positive. Read her story below.

By sharing positive birth experiences written by real women, we can empower.

“As a first time Mum I was expecting to have my baby sometime around 41 weeks. I had my home birth all planned and had just tested the pool out and got the right adaptors for the taps. A few days later when I was exactly 37 weeks pregnant (to the day) I had quite a lot of energy and was going about my business as usual. I cleaned the house, popped to shops and went on a long walk with my dog. After walking up a big hill I felt an ache in the side of my belly. It didn’t even cross my mind that this would be anything to do with labour I just thought it was a weird pregnancy pain. This ache continued until I was home so I had a nap for a few hours and by the time I woke up, the ache had gone so I carried on as normal. 

At around 7pm I sat my big old pregnant bum on my husband’s knee and gave him a squeeze. When I got up to walk to the kitchen I felt something run down my leg…”hmmm I don’t think I weed myself” I thought, before realising that this was probably my waters breaking. We called the midwife who asked us to monitor the situation and call her back in the morning. I had some dinner, had a shower and washed my hair.

A bit after that I lost my mucus plug (promptly took a photo of it which I still look at to this day) and started to think things might be kicking off a bit quicker than expected. At around 9pm I started getting quite intense surges and was just sitting upstairs on my yoga ball thinking I would have to deliver my baby myself…we called again and our lovely midwife said she would be on her way. She got stuck in traffic so I had a slightly worrying few hours breathing through my surges upstairs while my husband inflated the pool and got my birthing cave ready. 

“I had so much respect for my body and what it could do, without my conscious mind getting involved.”

When she finally arrived I had been having intense surges pretty close together, for a while (I didn’t time anything so I don’t have the details) I was surprised how much I felt it in my thighs, something I wasn’t particularly expecting. I had no vaginal examinations as I had requested and everything seemed to be moving very quickly. I had all these lovely active birth movements ready in my mind but in reality all I wanted to do was sit cross legged and bolt upright on my bed. My midwife just sat in my room and chatted to me in between surges. It was immensely comforting and reassuring. 

I think it was around 2am I shuffled down the stairs and hefted myself into the birthing pool. I think at this point I was in transition and having really intense surges, pretty much back to back. My midwife gently suggested that I try turning around and kneeling up leaning my arms over the side of the pool, which I did, and things seemed to kick up another notch. I decided that although it was even more intense in this position I would stick it out as it would probably be over quicker! Then I did the typical thing of thinking I needed the loo, hefting myself out of the pool and padding my wet feet to the toilet and realising I didn’t need to go after all! I got back in the pool and back into that same position leaning over the side and my body just started to push. This wasn’t a voluntary thing at all, my body just did it for me which felt totally bizarre but a relief from the back to back surges. I am not sure how long the pushing lasted for, my husband says it was 45 mins to an hour (if you asked me I would say it could have been 5 minutes or 5 hours, I have no idea). For a while my son kept edging down the birth canal and then what felt like him shooting back up again (this was alarming to me as I had not been warned it might happen) but around 4.30 am all 7lbs of our beautiful little guy eventually emerged, and was in my arms within seconds. 

I actually found the second stage easier than the first as it felt really productive and my mind was totally overridden by my body’s natural instincts, meaning I wasn’t completely aware of what was going on. I just went with it. Yes it was incredibly intense, yes it was incredibly challenging, but I would not have wished it any other way. I had so much respect for my body and what it could do, without my conscious mind getting involved.  I had a physiological delivery of my placenta and then after examination my midwife realised I had a small tear and so she stitched me up on the sofa, using the torch on her phone to keep the cosy atmosphere.

An hour or so after giving birth little baby Noah managed to latch on nicely and the three of us snuggled in bed, in disbelief that this had all happened so quickly! I believe that in addition to a certain amount of genetic luck, the preparation I did previous to my birth (pregnancy yoga, hypnobirthing, reading and watching positive birth videos) as well as my decision to have a home birth all strongly contributed to my straightforward and quick labour. Thanks to this I decided to retrain as a pregnancy yoga & hypnobirthing practitioner so I could help other people have a similar experience. 

Women’s bodies are incredible.” 

If you had a positive birth experience that you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you. Please send your story and any pictures you’d like to include to info@theintuitivedoula.co.uk.

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MY DOULA JOURNEY

It’s been a long time since I wrote a blog post. When I came out of university and was taking my first steps in the world of fashion, I started a blog to update about what I’d been up to and how my career was progressing. I was 21. I am now 30 and following a completely different path, which I am so unbelievably grateful for! 

It was during my first pregnancy that I read and researched so much about growing and birthing babies that I knew I wouldn’t be returning to a career in fashion.  My first pregnancy was unplanned… by no means unwanted, but due to being slightly irresponsible, myself and my partner (of five years at the time) found ourselves having to grow up very quickly after falling pregnant aged 23. Fast forward a couple of months we were extremely excited and prepared to welcome our baby earth-side. I think it is important to realise pregnancy has many different meanings for people, many different reactions and many different outcomes. I draw on my experience of finding out I was pregnant for the first time and understand that some people don’t feel immediately ecstatic but that news may also come from a place of shock, worry or panic, and it may take a while to digest the news. I know that it did for me. I had always had that mothering instinct, perhaps from having three younger siblings (the youngest of which is 16 years younger than me) but at that time, I felt like the least likely person to have a baby. With that being said, I was in awe of the whole process. We had a dating scan at 7 weeks because I genuinely had no idea when my last period was, so was completely unable to estimate how many weeks pregnant I was. From the moment of the scan and seeing that tiny kidney bean with a flickering heartbeat, all fear left me. From then on I was absorbed in it. I read books, started a pregnancy yoga class, listened to podcasts and joined every forum and group online that I could. I wanted to know and understand everything that was happening to my body and how it was growing a baby. 

Finding out I was pregnant for the second time, with my daughter Wren, was much more relaxed. I felt ready. I always kept track of my monthly cycle by this point (which is where my fascination with women cycles started, but thats a whole other blog post) so I was sure, when my period was a week late, that we had another baby on the way. I was very lucky with both of my pregnancies, they both went very smoothly.

“I am extremely passionate about
women receiving the right support during such a transformational period of their lives and that is what fuelled my desire to become a doula.”

I went on to have two very different but equally empowering births. Elba was born in the water at the hospital in a dark, cosy birthing suite with a little gas & air for pain management. It was the birth I had hoped for and felt so lucky to have had everything go to “plan”. My second birth was an unplanned, unassisted home birth… & although it may sound it, it really wasn’t that scary and it didn’t occur through lack of giving enough time to get to the hospital. My waters had started trickling that morning so early evening we went to the hospital to be assessed, where my waters literally gushed and contractions had started to come on a little stronger. But because they were irregular & not lasting a specific amount of time, I was sent home with the advice to “have something to eat, take a bath and wait to be in established labour” before going back up there. Wren was born in our downstairs toilet an hour after arriving home from the hospital, with just my partner & mum there to assist the birth. It was an incredible experience. It happened pretty fast but everyone was so calm, allowing instinct and intuition to take over. In hindsight I wish I’d planned a home birth after toying with the idea throughout my pregnancy. 

I am extremely passionate about women receiving the right support during such a transformational period of their lives and that is what fuelled my desire to become a doula. I really wanted to have the most natural labour possible, so I armed myself with tools that I felt would make this happen. I felt calm, confident and welcomed birth. I couldn’t wait to experience it. I want to empower women to feel this way, to rid them of any fear they are withholding and coach them through in the gentlest way possible. I am fascinated by women’s health, our cycles and everything childbirth, & genuinely feel it is my calling to support women in this way.