I’ve been asked in a few different contexts if my husband and I follow any particular parenting style, so I thought I’d have a little journal-style ramble, practical and theoretical, on our thoughts on this.
In a nutshell, the answer is no. Pre pregnancy I always believed in doing what felt right, not picking a dogmatic theory and adhering to someone else’s thoughts on raising kids.
That’s still kind of where I land.
BUT I am naturally an obsessive researcher so I read alllllllll the things about child development with a focus on neurological, psychological and emotional development so that I was informed and able to decide what felt right from a space where I felt sufficiently educated about the impact of our decisions on my child.
I knew lots of the old fashioned control and coercive ways of parenting were out for me based on how I felt when I experienced the use of these in one of the households I grew up in. Threats, bribery, punishment, time outs sitting on the stairs, being told our heads would be banged together, lots of shouting… I knew that 100% none of that would be okay for raising my daughter.
All the research on child development supports this, so our natural inclination towards gentle parenting felt supported by science. I don’t love the label, as the word gentle is thrown around a lot and the exact meaning is unclear. But it’s as good a descriptor for mine and my husband’s leaning as any.
I’d probably describe our approach as going by our instincts but underpinned by the following basic beliefs:
• children are individuals and humans, not robots or pets who need teaching and training; they deserve respect, autonomy (within safe boundaries) and to be treated with the same respect and dignity as adults
• Children’s behaviour has to be understood in the context of their physical and emotional development. Things like tantrums are expressing emotions kids don’t have the tools to cope with. This is key for me to how to handle topics like “discipline”; punishing them for not being able to emotionally regulate is not only ineffective but immensely unfair
• Shouting and violence towards adults is not okay. There is NO REASON why this is okay for children. See above re: respect and rights!
• Secure attachment is surely the goal of all parents and evidence shows this is achieved by responsiveness; children need to be able to trust and feel secure their needs will be met but their caregivers. Following an approach like attachment parenting doesn’t guarantee this, only responsiveness does.
While I do a few things that are on the attachment parenting approach checklist, it’s not because I follow AP, it’s simply because those things happen to work best for me and my baby (example: Cub hates prams and pushchairs so we’ve always worn her in a carrier. We also breastfeed exclusively. But even if you do these to specifically follow AP it’s worth reiterating these things as check box items don’t guarantee secure attachment; only responsiveness and cultivating that confidence and knowing their needs will be met does).
For these reasons we naturally fell into the gentle and responsive styles, but we don’t actively follow specific practices, this is just how we tend to be, if that makes sense. What does responsiveness mean? Always responding to her! Crying, day or night, shouldn’t be ignored. As she gets older, not dismissing or belittling her moods or reactions, meeting her where she’s at, allowing her to feel however she feels (e.g. validating that no, I still won’t let her do xyz as it’s not safe but I understand she’s feeling upset and frustrated. I’m going to move her away now to keep her safe but it’s okay to be mad at mummy and cry if you need to, does she want a hug? No? That’s okay, I’ll stay here with you. Etc etc)
I also align with some elements of mindful parenting and reparenting – I.e doing the inner work on myself and my issues, my reactions etc so that I can regulate my own emotions and responses to things and respond to my daughter rather than react, to get rid of or manage my own triggers and my feelings about any difficult experiences I’ve been through to avoid or reduce the chances of them affecting her.
My husband doesn’t read all the stuff, he parents by instinct. But we align completely (feel like you need to know this before you have kids personally!) We’ve spoken to colleagues etc and people where dad is shouty and disciplinarian and mum is the soft one but not respected and the kids ignore her. That’s totally not for us. My husband agrees it’s not okay to shout at children, we feel like its expressing parental anger and frustration rather than helping them. We both feel a responsive, gentle approach is for us but that doesn’t mean being permissive; we both hold boundaries jointly and equally. He just doesn’t read all the things and know all the buzzwords.
There are things we know are ideal (avoiding praise etc) that we can’t do, it feels wrong and too hard, and I explained the literature on it to my husband and he suggested we don’t overthink it. We both decided to place emphasis on effort over outcome to avoid negative effects, but will you stop us telling our daughter how curious and intelligent and beautiful she is? Nope, not a chance! We’re humans not walking textbook-swallowing-robots! I don’t believe you need to, or that this is mutually exclusive with cultivating a growth mindset.
I feel like it’s nice to parent with “informed instinct”; to do what feels right but understand the neuroscience and psychological implications of things. Data and emotion, right?! 🤍
Obviously with a baby much of this feeds in to debates around sleep. All of the above should make obvious we wouldn’t ever sleep train our child. Having studied holistic infant sleep courses and currently finishing off a CPD accredited infant sleep certification, I love helping parents work on sleep WITHOUT sleep training or teaching (I.e. anything that limits responsiveness). I don’t judge people who do choose to sleep teach, it’s just not for us and a holistic, responsive approach is my specialty and what feels good to work on in our family, and when I work with other families ❤️ I do this over at @infantsleepclinic if you fancy talking sleep! 🌙
Now it goes without saying this is our view, our baby, our life, and not passing judgment on anyone else (with the exception of hitting/spanking/any physical violence, which I do find intolerable and won’t apologise for opposing it).
Everyone is doing their thing and finding their way with what’s best for their family, which is all any of us can really do 💙
I guess that’s my feelings on parenting styles in a nutshell. I’m an over-researcher and over-planner obsessive reader which obviously affects and informs what I do. But hopefully that ramble sums up how I/we are navigating this “parenting” thing! I don’t follow a set method, I cherry pick practices that feel optimal and aligned with our views and values à la informed instinct 🥰
Hope you and your little ones are well in these crazy times. Parenting hey?! What a wild ride!
It’s taken me a while to get to writing this because 1) I didn’t want to speak too soon; and 2) newborns are all-consuming!
Apologies for the dodgy writing, I’m typing one handed with a sleeping baby on my lap and have no time to edit this post so it’s a bit rough and ready!
I wanted to write this post though because my recovery honestly has been amazing, and everyone tells you how awful it will be so it made me very nervous about c-sections when actually it was a really positive birth for me (and the right thing – I wish I hadn’t tried to accept induction to be honest), and my recovery was so smooth (and touch wood continues to be!)
I’m 7.5 weeks post partum at the time of writing. 🙂 I feel fully recovered which is tricky as I still technically need to let my insides heal even though they’ve been pain free for weeks now, but I was blown away by how good my recovery has been after such a major operation and after all the negativity you hear about it!
A few things to say though –
a c-section is major surgery and we all recover differently; my experience may be very different from yours!
my c-section was elective. Recoveries from electives tend to be much smoother than recovery from emergencies
None of this is medical advice, it is just my experience. ALWAYS consult your medical practitioner about anything to do with your recovery and don’t use/copy people on the internet – we are all unique!
Ultimately we can’t control how our bodies respond to surgery and healing, but I did want to spread the message that it doesn’t have to be something you’re afraid of! I’m going to have a c-section again if I have another child one day, rather than a VBAC.
I’ve heard a lot of super pro-natural birthers (which is fab, nothing wrong with that, I’d hoped for a minimally medicated water birth as a first preference too) reaaaally lay into c-sections so I wanted to counter that. Its major surgery so not something to have lightly. But equally I had reduced movements at 41 weeks, was advised the safest thing on balance was to get baby out, and for personal historical reasons I knew induction would be traumatic for me and yet I persevered because of this fear mongering about c-section recovery when actually a section was best for me and my mental health, and my baby at that point. I had a wonderful experience and don’t want anyone else
So throughout pregnancy I read about sections just incase I ended up needing one (especially as I had low lying placenta for a while so it looked like I might not have an option) so I’d seen the tips on staying up to date with meds and made sure I did this. I’d advise anyone else the same!
I had a combined epidural-spinal block for the procedure (no idea how its different from an epidural or spinal alone!). I accepted one suppository in surgery when they asked me, and was ok with this as the epidural meant I couldn’t feel it but said I only wanted oral medication thereafter.
After the procedure a midwife gave me one epidural top up.
I then was given rounds of paracetamol, ibuprofen and Dihydrocodeine which hospital assured me I could take and still breastfeed, although I wasn’t happy with the dihydrocodeine.
I accepted the meds every time they offered them. I’d reeeeally suggest listening to this tip! Everyone I’d read about and watched videos about their experience said it is much better this way rather than letting the pain kick in and having to work to catch up to get on top of it.
My baby had been born shortly before 4pm, and the next morning I stood up for the first time. I dreaded it as people said how hard it was but it was fine! I didn’t feel pain, I just felt a bit weak and slow moving. Walking took time, steps were small, I was a bit hunched… but I was ok!
As I’d been alone overnight due to COVID, and couldn’t twist to pick up my baby but I didn’t want her to cry and have to wait for midwife help, I’d kept her on me all night so I hadn’t slept due to safety. My phone battery had died and I’d struggled to reach water and snacks let alone a charger and was embarrassed to ask the midwives. I knocked out my cannula, got covered in blood (and baby!), baby projectile vomited and it was a ‘mare of a night and I was exhausted. I was determined to go home asap.
In the morning they mentioned you could be discharged in 24 hours if you passed urine twice in a cardboard thing and showed the midwives; walked around; passed wind so they knew your bowel was starting to work again and showered and removed your wound dressing.
I was a woman on a mission! I got up, I walked around LOADS while baby was with her dad once visiting hours started to be deliberately seen by all the midwives so they knew I was ok and were more likely to let me go. I drank a tonne of peppermint tea and ate lots of fruit and veg my husband brought in to get my bowel working again and release some trapped wind.
I was SO SCARED about having the catheter out. It stung a fraction, barely anything, but was ok. I drank soooo much water so that I’d need to wee, and managed to do the two to fill the card things and show the midwives (some blood comes out too but this is normal!)
I removed my dressing and showered (neither hurt the scar!) My stitches were dissolvable so I didn’t need to worry about their removal later.
A midwife mentioned my discharge the next day and I looked devastated and said they’d told me earlier I could go in 24 hours. She said that’s fine she just assumed I’d want more feeding support. I probably did but we were doing okay, I’d seen the infant specialist feeding team and asked loads of midwives about my latch and figured we’d get a lactation consultant later in case of any issues. I just wanted to go home for my mental health, for my husband to see baby and not just be a visitor, and for him to help me with her after our difficult first night as at that point I’d been in hospital for 2 nights before the section with barely any sleep, and 1 night post section with no sleep.
And so I got discharged in under 24 hours after my op!
Painkillers at home
They sent me home with paracetamol, ibuprofen and Dihydrocodeine to be taken 4 times a day (and one was only 3 I think, I forget which). I took them on days 1 and 2 but on day 3 I forgot one or two, on day 4 I thought I’d try tapering as I hadn’t felt any pain forgetting them, and by day 5 I ditched them altogether as I wasn’t in pain.
They said I didn’t need blood thinners as I was so low risk, so no injections to administer at home (yay!) and even though I lost more blood than normal in surgery, things corrected themselves and I didn’t even need iron supplements. I was also given a laxative solution to help stimulate the bowel so that I could go to the loo. They gave me a week deadline I think where that needed to be back in action (and I managed by day 4 or 5!)
Mobility came back surprisingly quickly. It was in the first two weeks I think I could do gentle pram walks and wear baby in a carrier. Yes, the first few days I didn’t do nappy changes as I couldn’t get up and down from the floor easily, and my husband had propped up the mattress so I could sleep semi-sat up. There was a lot of manoeuvring myself using my arms so I was thankful for having kept strong and my previous primal bodyweight classes so I was used to moving my body in weird ways.
By 2-3 weeks I felt absolutely normal again, but I was aware that just because I didn’t feel pain didn’t mean my insides weren’t still healing so I continued to be careful and not lift heavier than my baby and all that advice!
My uterus shrank back down really quickly too, probably thanks to breastfeeding which apparently speeds it up, and the night sweats (my god I hadn’t really believed they’d be that strong!) took care of releasing all that pregnancy water retention.
I had a blister by my scar that burst and looked a bit questionable so my GP put me on a 7 day course of antibiotics and gave me a cream. It was all fine though, I don’t think it got infected. I was a bit unhappy about taking them and breastfeeding even though I was assured they were breastfeeding safe, but ultimately I wanted to make sure there weren’t any complications and to avoid hospital re-admission.
The adrenaline of it all wore off a bit by day 3, and on day 4 when my milk came in I was super emotional in that sense of baby blues, not the post natal depression sense. The emotional element continued for a few weeks really, and I got quite post natally anxious due to my little one suffering with colic, trapped wind and reflux very badly.
Breastfeeding after a section?
I had immediate skin to skin with my baby and latched her within the first hour, and fed throughout my hospital stay. This continued with cluster feeding at home.
I’d also expressed colostrum antenatally which I fed her in hospital as at points she was too distressed to latch.
My milk came in on day 4 and she fed lots, I had a lot of supply and none of the issues around this that people say can happen after a section.
I didn’t have to pump for supply AT ALL. I only pumped at week 4 to try to introduce one expressed bottle so I could get more sleep and my husband could feed Cub.
I’m not sure if it’s a bit luck and a bit biology here that I didn’t struggle with supply post-section, but I can say:
potentially having harvested colostrum prior to birth helped me; at the very least if it didn’t impact supply, it gave me confidence that I had enough to feed my baby
I fed responsively. No schedules. Feeding on demand, every single time baby cues, even if its for hours, even if its for the first few weeks, even if cluster feeds continue… this is good for supply and while its tough, you just have to ride it out!
If you want to exclusively breastfeed, don’t give formula top ups (this will reduce your supply). Cluster feeding is normal and baby’s way of establishing supply, it doesn’t mean they’re not getting enough. Lack of supply is actually rare. If baby does the right number of wet and dirty nappies, and is gaining weight as anticipated, it is so unlikely you need formula top ups unless you want them.
The above isn’t to say there’s ANYTHING wrong with combi or formula feeding – do whatever works for your family! I’m just saying that IF you want to breastfeed only, don’t be pushed into giving formula top ups, or scared into it, as it can impact your supply negatively.
I was cleared to start gradually building back up at week 6 but told to avoid anything putting strain on the abdomen until 12 weeks (so no abs, no sprinting obviously!) I started gentle upper body stretches, bodyweight legs, and of course I’d been walking a lot wearing my Cub for weeks by this point. The GP cleared me for light jogging but professional physios advised me to get a check first for diastisis recti etc. so that’s on my list for after Xmas. I must admit I did a 5 minute jog at 7 weeks post party just for my mental health as I had a difficult few days of bad sleep and poor little one suffering with reflux and I didn’t feel any pain at all, it was fine.
However much I want to return to running properly, even though the GP said yes to ‘light jogging’, I know I should see a women’s health physio first so I’m forcing myself to wait as just because I feel really good and my scar has healed amazingly (I’m 7.5 weeks post partum right now!) my insides are still obviously recovering and I don’t want to set myself back, risk any injuries or any damage to my interior tissues which can impact future pregnancies.
Don’t do something just because I did, or someone else who blogged did when it comes to exercise, medication, or anything in this vein really.
*Always consult a medical professional before returning to exercise. I believe the usual advice post section is wait 8-12 weeks. Even if your GP clears you, consider seeing a women’s health physio as GPs do not specialise in post natal exercise!*
A final note
So this isn’t the polished and detailed post I’d like it to be, I’d really wanted to be able to take more time over this, but you know… new parent life!
I can’t speak highly enough of my birth experience though (our birth story is here) and my recovery has been brilliant. A second caesarean will be my plan over a VBAC if or when there’s a baby number 2 in 5+ years time (definitely not for a while anyway!)
I’m not pushing this type of birth by the way – I’d hoped for a water birth in our hospital’s midwife led unit – but the safest and smoothest birth for me and my baby turned out to be a section and I wouldn’t change it, and so I want to take the fear out for other mamas who may have been scared by the media circus, or movements which suggest a home birth with candles is the only valid way. It isn’t. All birth is valid ❤
And recovery can be great. I’m living proof 🙂 It might be harder than mine, remember as above my surgery was technically elective and I was in good health… but it need not be the nightmare you might be expecting. ❤
I always felt like birth was a really private, personal thing between mum, dad and baby but birth stories helped me so much during pregnancy I found that I couldn’t wait to write mine up and share it.
I always imagined I’d be posting this immediately, but newborn life is a whirlwind and there were parts that I still needed to process, and I wasn’t ready to write it while feeling like an emotional cocktail of hormones!
Buckle up, grab a cup of tea, it’s a long post…! I’ve included subtitles so you can skip parts you’re less interested in.
First of all it must be said that all along our goal was the right birth for us, and as smooth and safe as possible – not necessarily a “natural” or “hormone/drug free” birth, and we considered preferences for all scenarios, which served us well! Hopefully this goes to show you can have a really positive birth experience even with 1) things not following your first preference and 2) some parts being difficult.
Also, despite all the horror stories about sections, mine hopefully shows they can be positive, and while recovery is so individual and depends on all kinds of factors (you, how the op went, was it elective or emergency, your health, maybe luck…) I had (/am having!) such an amazingly fast and not painful recovery, I was discharged in just under 24 hours and off pain meds entirely by day 5 – better and smoother than some mums I’ve followed who had vaginal deliveries and had issues with stitches weeks later, so it really is different for everyone ❤
Our birth story
🤱🏻First time parents
👶🏻 Known baby girl
📆 born 41 weeks
💊 Gas & air, up breathing, combined epidural-spinal block
💧first preference (all being well) was water birth at birth centre attached to our hospital
🏩 actually born via elective c-section after issues trying in-patient induction for reduced movement
🌠 discharged within 24 hours of op. Time in hospital – 2 nights before section, 1 night after
🗺 London, UK
🧿 born during COVID-19
⚠️ possible triggers – mention of difficult personal circumstances, use of the word contractions as it wasn’t a negative for us, failed attempts to insert pessary for induction.
So it wasn’t quite the ‘kicking off with early labour, Gavin & Stacey and pizza while bouncing on my birth ball in our living room ready for vaginal labour in water at the birth centre’ that we’d prepped for as our first choice…
But luckily we’d prepped for various scenarios and we made the right decisions as we needed to for baby & for my mental health & I’m proud of my birth. It was just past difficult personal circumstances that made it more challenging really but in the end we had a wonderful birth overall.
I could NOT have coped without my husband who was AMAZING… it absolutely took the two of us to give birth to our little Cub.
Let’s start at the beginning…
My pregnancy was pretty straightforward – I found out on Valentines Day this year (I think 4 weeks pregnant?) just before my period was due, and we had an early scan at 6/7 weeks to see the gorgeous heartbeat and I sailed through the rest of pregnancy with barely any symptoms and no sickness at all! Felt super lucky.
I also was very active before pregnancy (lots of boxing and plyometrics) & remained active throughout which really helped it be a smooth ride to the end (although I had to stop running at 31 weeks as it flared up my PGP/SPD), and as I didn’t get any sickness I was able to continue 5-10 portions of veg & fruit a day (I’m really into nutrition) along with my supplements which I think helped a lot too.
We found out early on I had a low lying placenta & we knew if it didn’t move we’d need a c-section but we were fine about this as long as our Cub was ok, even though our first preference (not ‘plan’ as I don’t believe you can plan something as variable as birth…!) was for vaginal birth.
I didn’t pay attention to the due date as the calculation is so outdated, and also as less than 5% of babies are born on that day, plus knew I had a longer cycle than the 28 day average which can apparently impact it, and I didn’t want « is she here yet?! » messages 24/7 so we just went by a « due time » of 37-42 weeks (although I knew I personally wouldn’t let us get to 42 weeks). I told people when they asked us that she would come mid – late October / early November (except work who need the actual date on your matb1 for mat leave purposes!) I really recommend this approach so you don’t stress about going overdue or get spammed with messages the night before an arbitrary date!
As we’d known for ages we’d try for a baby in early 2020 (we’d just assumed it would take the average 6 months, not be immediate…!) well before we were even trying I’d read loads about birth, pregnancy and hypnobirthing (I’m an OTT planner 🤣)
I read a million positive birth stories, from the smoothest to the most complex intervention filled ones and it really helped. I also read some less positive ones for balance, to understand better what I could do to make our experience as positive as possible.
I also spent time imagining/visualising my birth 1) in the birth centre, with a pool and without just incase, 2) on the labour ward and 3) in theatre as a c section so that I felt calm and positive about all of the possibilities.
🔴Books I’d suggest not bothering with (v personal though so no shade if you loved them!):
🔻Ina May Gaskin’s stuff – too weird & spiritual for me, just really not my thing! If you’re more earth mama / hippy / crunchy inclined you might feel differently though!
🔻while Milli Hill’s Give Birth Like a Feminist is so interesting, maybe read it after pregnancy not during as reading everything that’s been wrong with women’s maternity care over the years is a bit stressful!
🔻Clemmie Hooper How to Grow a Baby & Push it out – was a bit meh for me really, and the other books I recommend above cover all the same material and more in a better format with better detail.
Together we did tonnes of research, we discussed what we wanted and we adapted the Positive Birth Company template and wrote preferences for all scenarios including caesarean so we felt prepared and happy with our choices for any eventuality (e.g. skin to skin in all scenarios with me or my husband if not possible with me; delayed cord clamping, vitamin K injection, I definitely wanted the injection to deliver the placenta etc etc). The ideal option for us if things were simple and safe to do so was a birth centre water birth.
How her birth actually went down…!
The lead up…
I had my 36 week scan to check the placenta situation & see if we definitely needed a caesarean or if we’d be trying vaginal birth first, and……. it had moved! We knew this was likely as 90% of the time they do move, but we were convinced she was transverse due to her movements so we thought we’d need a c-sec anyway (we both wanted to decline an ECV if offered) & she wasn’t – she was head down and ready to go (back to bump) like she had been at 20 weeks ☺️… It seemed we’d get our first preference (or an attempt at it!) after all!
Then the waiting game began… it was amazing to hit 37 weeks and for us to be able to tell her she was technically fully baked and it was now definitely safe to come any time she wanted now we were in the 37-42 week window, even though I wasn’t keen to go much past 41 weeks (i know the risk increase is small but I hate risk…!)
I started getting sporadic pretty mild period-like cramps from I think week 37 (not many though and not strong so it was nice to think my body was gently gearing up for labour but I felt like it was going to be ages as I didn’t get any obvious pre-labour signs or strong Braxton Hicks – at least if I had them I couldn’t feel them!) It’s so funny to be so excited about and desperate for any signs of pain! Also I knew my due date was probably wrong as I have longer cycles than 28 days which is the standard they use to calculate it so it really was a waiting game and sure enough, 40 weeks came and went (had my appointment at 40+1) and I was gearing up for my 41 week appointment at the birth centre where we’d be discussing induction.
At 40+5 around 10pmish I was worried about reduced movement as baby had a fairly quiet day and then missed her usual night wriggling session so we went for a routine check at hospital. Monitoring showed all was fine thankfully, I was told just to see the doctor and then I assumed I could go home.
At 40+6 (as it had gone midnight at this point!) a doctor came to discuss our options (I was alone due to Covid) and they recommended induction on balance as reduced movement can be a warning sign so waiting may carry some risk, and at 40+6 it’s very safe for baby to be born. The doctor was lovely and very measured, not pressuring, answered all my questions and made it clear it was my choice. I used BRAIN framework (benefits, risks, alternatives, instinct, nothing), and although induction was my nightmare scenario due to past personal circumstances which we won’t go into, on balance it seemed better for baby and my husband and my recovery. I also had never wanted to go much over 41 weeks anyway due to increased risk (I know a lot of people are happy to go to 42, but from my reading and research – check out Evidence Based Birth – I didn’t want to) so I’d been trying to mentally prepare for the possibility of induction at 41+3 / 41+5.
A bit of me struggled with this choice after as I did it thinking it was best for baby and my husband. Instinctively I knew it probably wasn’t right for me with past personal circumstances etc, but I tried to just gloss over that and crack on anyway. Now, I can’t regret it as everything that happened brought me here to a healthy, beautiful baby, but part of me has taken a while to adjust to my failure to opt for caesarean straight away.
The induction suggestion was so unexpected that night as the monitoring turned out fine and I thought I’d be going home to bed with my husband and not staying in hospital alone so I was super emotional and cried A LOT, and as I had to be admitted to a ward I had to have a Covid test which was hard with the crying…!
Because of the past stuff which I hadn’t expected to affect me this badly, being alone and being knackered at 1am, the induction reality (even though I was choosing to do it for baby) really hit me and I had a real panic/meltdown having to explain it on the phone and send my husband home for my hospital bag…!
I used the up breathing to try to calm down and it helped to chat to my husband (probs pissing off everyone on the ward trying to sleep at 1.30am!) as he packed the last items he hadn’t been able to in advance in my bag like charger etc… and he was really excited which helped me feel more positive.
My husband was allowed to drop my bags off just outside the ward and we had an emotional goodbye, and I got settled in my ward by 2.30am and told that as the labour ward was busy it would likely be a 6.00am kick off for the induction.
One of my faves that really helped was “I am prepared for whatever kind of birth my baby needs”.
The induction… attempts
This is the only section that is hard for me to write and I’m still processing a bit. I barely managed to get an hour’s sleep when they woke me up at 5.50am to monitor baby’s heart rate and start the induction (so thankful they let my husband in at 6am which was out of Covid restricted hours due to my previous personal circumstances to help me which I was super grateful for).
I really thought I was more over my past experience than I was, and despite heavy use of gas and air (which basically felt a bit like being tipsy on a couple of big glasses of wine), it was very hard for me. They tried to examine me which didn’t work then tried several times to insert the pessary but because of my history and involuntary seizing up, even feeling drunk on gas and air they couldn’t get it in (my issue was panic and flashbacks more than pain, so gas and air really didn’t do very much for me to be honest). The midwife was nice about it and I kept apologising, we took a few breaks and I forced myself to try again about 4 times but it wasn’t happening and my husband helped me call a stop to it.
She looked at the monitor which showed I was having contractions every so often anyway even though I couldn’t feel them at all, so she said to wait for the doctor and we could discuss. Baby was healthy and her heart rate was good, but given we were 40+6 now and she’d been quiet the previous day we didn’t want to take any chances so getting her out was still their recommendation, which I agreed with especially given my feelings about not going over 41 weeks.
Because of the failed pessary attempts I was in so much distress I couldn’t go through with any more internal exams. My husband understood and was so lovely to me as I felt a bit like I’d let baby down and him down not being able to do it even after trying really hard. I also felt embarassed as the doctor initially thought I just wasn’t coping with the pain, which wasn’t the issue.
Thank god for the doctor Helen who came to see me, she was so so understanding and really sensitive to how distressed I was and once we’d talked it all out she was so open to tailoring to suit us not putting me in a box and insisting on a set route that was ‘typical’, and made me cry more for being so nice!
We discussed all the options at length, I took some time with my husband to discuss (I honestly really don’t know what I’d have done without him!) and I ended up with an elective c-section decision having used the BRAIN framework to analyse everything.
My husband was amazing at asking all the questions to get more info so we could make the best decision for us and as reluctant as we were for a major op, it became clear it was the best choice for us and my mental well-being as well as for baby.
Positive c-section prep…
I was asked not to eat and drink except for water, as they planned to squeeze me in that afternoon after 5 womens’ electives, so we couldn’t eat the yummy seashell chocolates or terrys chocolate orange, dates, satsumas, apples and flapjack we’d lovingly amassed for labour snacks and we waited for the consultant.
A bit later some midwives came and did my bloods and MRSA swab.
A few hours later after my husband and I chatted and watched Gavin & Stacey for while, happy to get in some of the oxytocin inducing stuff we’d planned. I had a quick shower to freshen up, another doctor came to get me to sign the consent form and run through all the risks etc. The risks sound scary, but they’re pretty remote and as they were risks to me and not baby, I was fine with them.
Around lunch time they put me back on the CTG monitor to check her heartbeat. It also showed I was still having sporadic contractions I couldn’t feel.
I was starting to get really bloody hungry and not enjoying the pre theatre starvation!
My husband popped home to get my colostrum that I’d expressed out of the freezer while I was still hooked up to the monitor and waiting.
The consultant came and explained they were super busy, and as they were happy with baby’s monitoring and there wasn’t major urgency they booked me in for a section mid morning the next day which would also mean my Covid test would be back negative and my husband could come in with me (they hadn’t said before that otherwise they have to assume you have Covid and don’t let partners in). I got excited for a moment thinking I could go home, but was advised that it was totally my decision but they’d say it was best for me to stay in overnight to keep baby monitored which I of course agreed to if that was the advice for her safety despite being desperate to go home. At least I got to finally eat some seashell chocolates as my new nil by mouth bar water deadline was midnight.
I managed to sleep for a couple of hours as I hadn’t the night before, and woke up around 4pm really glad my husband was still there as I just felt really anxious after the morning’s induction stuff. I used up breathing and talking to him to try to stay calm. We went for a walk outside a bit later after a long nap and I had more monitoring in the evening, my husband went home & I cried a bit and then settled down for the night ready to meet our baby the next day!
My last snack was a nakd bar at 10pm and as I was meant to have my section in the morning I figured it wouldn’t be too bad only being allowed little sips of water til then.
Sleep was hard even after having only 1 hour the night before because of noise on the ward, lights etc and I woke up quite a bit. Luckily I couldn’t sleep much past 4am as they woke me up for monitoring at 5.50am anyway!
I prepped by reading c sec recovery articles as I’d forgotten some of the info on the PBC post partum pack which I planned to rewatch at home, and used positive stories by amazing mamas – their insta details are @helenderbs @londonpaleogirl @lucyjessicacarter and @sophieloutaylor – to feel ready and positive about birthing my baby abdominally!
At 7am I had some pre surgery meds and they tidied the shave on my bikini line up ready for the incision. I was quite stressed because they said Covid tests come back in 24 hours and mine still hadn’t in 36+ which meant if it was not back before I go into theatre my husband wouldn’t allowed to come in for the birth. I was just trying to stay positive and have a nap until he arrived at 9am.
The doctors came to discuss the procedure with me again and also let me know my Covid test was negative so my husband would definitely be allowed in theatre – woo! I was so relieved and now properly excited again.
The anaesthetist came an hour or so later to discuss the anaesthetic and review my medication and run through the rare risks – we were getting there!
At 12.25 someone came by to say “are you ready?” And 2 minutes later we were moved to the labour ward, I was strapped into compression stockings and my husband got into his scrubs, rush rush rush. But then an emergency happened so they said we’d be next in the queue but we had to wait for a bit longer. Then we got pushed back for ANOTHER emergency just before 2pm which I understood but also was getting anxious about as I didn’t want to be pushed back another day again and I made my husband go and check and confirm we would definitely be done that day which they assured him we would – we heard they sent the other electives home but I was in. I was feeling a bit weak at this point only being allowed water and not having eaten at all since the day before. I was also starting to potentially feel my contractions (they couldn’t have been more than early labour as they weren’t frequent enough but they did feel just like period cramps and then more intense at the peak).
An amazing caesarean birth
Eventually we were told go time! I felt really teary and emotional and had my cannula fitted. We were taken into surgery which was overwhelming – lots of people (although I knew to expect this) and bright lights, and quite a few people talking at once asking me questions.
We established my preferences for having the screen up (too squeamish), immediate skin to skin (but I agreed for them to quickly towel off baby as theatre was so cold), delayed cord clamping etc.
I was scared about the epidural hurting and not being able to stay still as I felt a bit shaky, and also was feeling my contractions slightly more (I was being given a combined epidural-spinal block – not sure how its different from the separate things but there we go!) but they were so nice and reassuring, my husband was there and also another doctor held my other hand and stroked my arm.
We had epidural & spinal issues in that after the local anaesthetic, they thought they put it in, tested me, and it wasn’t right. We all joked about it though and I wasn’t in any pain. Eventually they asked if I did a lot of pilates or something as what was happening is my ligaments were so tough they’d thought it had gone into the spine but it was just a ligament!
We got there in the end and it was not painful at all.
They tested me with cold spray, and lay me down, we waited for it to spread up my legs which took a while, and tested my tummy with pinches. It seemed to take ages to work – I could still feel them – and I got a bit nervous they’d start the operation and I’d feel it.
At this point it’s a bit blurry but I was talking to my husband and a doctor, and then felt someone pushing on my tummy quite hard – I assumed they were palpating it before starting the op like they did at midwife exams! – but it was quite strong pushing so I was worried they’d hurt baby before getting her out, and asked my husband to look over the curtain to see what was happening (genuinely had no idea the op was in progress!)
Poor husband got an eyeful more than he bargained for!! They’d tested me without telling me and got the ball rolling 🙂
It was all painless – just lots of tugging and pushing, genuinely as everyone says like ‘washing up in your tummy’.
When it all stopped, no sooner had I asked “Is she out?” she opened her beautiful little lungs and scream/cried for dear life so I knew she was breathing, and I asked if she was okay and burst into floods of tears. My husband followed as they took her to dry her quickly (as theatre was cold) before immediate skin to skin.
I could hear her crying at the top of her voice, and the drying took a little bit longer than I’d have liked. They were then about to weigh her but my husband stepped in and said she needed to go straight to me for skin to skin, and I got to see and hold my beautiful baby girl. It was completely magical. She was the most perfect thing (and the most vocal!)
I held her while they finished me off behind the screen, tried to latch baby but the position was hard with the screen up in the way, and then she went to daddy for cuddles and to get her vitamin K jab while they did a few last bits to my stitches, moved my body onto a stretcher slidey thing and slid me onto a bed to be wheeled to recovery where we had several hours of skin to skin cuddles and she breastfed straight away. ❤
It was honestly an incredible experience, nothing about the caesarean was painful in the least, and it ended up being the perfect birth for us and our baby.
Afterwards in hospital…
I was told I’d lost a bit more blood in the procedure than normal, but otherwise it was all very uncomplicated and that resolved itself with no issue and I didn’t even need iron supplements.
They let my husband stay a bit past Covid visiting times, but when I was moved to the post natal ward he did have to go home. Staying alone that night was hard as I couldn’t twist to pick up little one from her cot, and the midwives were rushed off their feet and couldn’t always get to your buzzer instantly so I kept baby on me all night and forced myself to stay awake which was tough! She cried so much, and I knocked out my cannula and got blood everywhere, then she projectile vomited, and needed a nappy change and I had to have two midwives help me…
I was grateful I’d expressed some colostrum before birth to settle her, as while breastfeeding was working pretty well, sometimes she’d be too distressed to latch.
My husband had left me with loads of nice treats – chocolate, dates, satsumas, seashell chocolates we’d brought for labour – but I couldn’t reach them myself on the table next to my bed with baby in my arms and didn’t want to ask the midwives!
While that night was hard, I had my beautiful baby safe with me in cuddles, and then my husband was back to help the next day and seeing him and baby together just made me melt. ❤
I was told I could go within 24 hours if I did certain things, so I was on a mission to get up, walk, get my catheter out, wee twice, all of that jazz as quick as I could and prove I could do it! In non-covid times I’d not have been as worried and would have stayed a day longer for extra breast feeding checks and support if needed, but I absolutely didn’t want a fourth night in hospital alone, without being mobile enough to fully care for my little Cub, she was feeding fine, and I figured we could see a lactation consultant if any issues arose.
I’d been told standing up was agony so as I used my arms to haul myself awkwardly to the end of the bed, I was nervous… but it was fine! I just had to be a bit careful.
I was discharged in slightly less than 24 hours after my section and then tired, emotional, but so in love with our baby, we all went home, and I couldn’t be more grateful for our brilliant birth and the midwives, doctors and anaesthetist who looked after us on the labour ward, in theatre and in recovery afterwards. ❤
Mammoth birth story haha but I wanted to capture everything and wrote some notes of it while in hospital so I wouldn’t forget.
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It’s funny how many millions of these posts it feels like I read in early pregnancy, so when I had to pack my hospital bag and baby’s I knew exactly what I wanted to take 🙂 Boy was surprised I packed baby’s bag properly and he didn’t need to re-do it haha (I’m a terrible packer and he’s super neat!) And he packed mine (top tip I’ve got from so many people that we’ve used and we love – get your partner to pack yours because they need to know where to find the stuff when you’re in labour!)
As I mentioned in this post – What’s in My Hospital Bag – lots of peoples’ ideas differ on what you should or will want to take, and there are tonnes of YouTube videos and blogs you can use for inspo, and my top tip is to take the advice of someone you relate to / feel is more similar. For example I’m not a “crunchy mom” / earth mama type so those aren’t my thing but if you are, those might be your go to!
For baby’s hospital bag we’re using one of our changing bags – this one from Bababing, available from JoJo Maman Bebe, which comes with a handy changing mat and bottle cooler, both of which we’ll take to hospital for easy changing on the bed if needed and for taking in my colostrum syringes.
A winter coat (in case its really cold when we’re bringing her home)
The Contingency Stuff:
Colostrum syringes (I’ve been harvesting in advance to have a back up supply just in case of a c-section and / or issues with latch etc). We’re keeping these in the freezer for now, and will transport them in the bottle cooler that comes with our changing bag to store in the hospital fridge.
Aptamil ready-mixed formula – pack of 6 sterile ready to drink bottles (this seems to cause a lot of controversy but I did not want the stress of a hungry, stressed out baby in the event of latch issues, or a c-sec and delay in being able to feed well, or if we ran out of my back-up colostrum, or if I needed to be in theatre for a while for stitches/transfusions and couldn’t feed her… not that I need to justify our decisions, but formula and breast feeding talks get heated so this was our thinking – we want my husband to be able to feed her if needed if for any reason I can’t. We’re both planners and this made the most sense for us. If this isn’t what you’d do, that’s fine, but we’ve done our research and made our decision so please don’t message me not to do this!)
We’re travelling light with baby in my head, but apparently you always overpack…! So we’ll see. Either way, we live 10 minutes drive (ish) from the hospital and so it will be easy enough for my husband to get us stuff from home if we need it, given restrictions due to Covid at the moment seem to prevent partners from staying with you the whole time.
What else did you pack in your baby’s hospital bag? Anything you feel like we’re missing?
If you found this post useful, you might also like:
I found all of the youtube videos and blogs on this topic so interesting just to be nosey about how everyone approaches packing their hospital bag (!) and super useful in working out what to take in mine, so I thought I’d do a similar post.
as the base of what I was taking, and then I supplemented based on videos I watched where I felt like I identified with the people filming (as some people, for example, pack a tonne of fairy lights, battery operated tea lights to transform the hospital… that wasn’t really for us, so pick people who you feel match your temperament best!)
Videos I liked and found most helpful were by Fleur de Force and Lily Pebbles, but there must’ve been a million that I watched for inspiration – just search on youtube!
Note: this is what’s in MY hospital bag; we also have a separate bag for baby’s things, and one for my husband which includes all my snacks/drinks etc for labour 🙂
PS. Top tip – don’t pack it yourself! Get your partner to do it, as they’ll be the one needing to root around to find you stuff in it when it’s all kicking off…! Plus if you’re lucky like me, there’s the added bonus that they’re actually a neater packer…! 😉
PPS. If you’re home birthing, it’s still worth maybe considering all the things you’ll want accessible for your birth and immediately afterwards so you and your partner don’t have to stress about locating stuff while you’re mid contraction… just a thought ❤
What’s in my hospital bag
Extra copies of our birth preferences (we based ours on the PBC template and planned for all scenarios)
Iphone, charger, headphones (to be packed on the day!)
Bikini top & sports bra (options to wear if we do get a pool, if I want to wear some kind of clothing – I probably won’t care!)
Flip flops (incase I do take a shower in the hospital and don’t want to walk on gross floors!)
Lightweight dressing gown (one I got from a spa to relax me, and not too fluffy as apparently hospitals are hot AF…! But also one I don’t mind leaving behind me, because you know… hospitals, gross, hygiene, COVID etc…)
V. v. loose short dress (instead of a nightie – loose enough that it’s easy for breastfeeding, comfortable for labour if I’m not in the pool, and if I did have an unplanned c-section it wouldn’t irritate a scar)
x2 flannels (for cold compress during labour and/or washing my face later!)
Lip balm (gas & air dries your lips a lot apparently)
Hairbands, hairbrush, hair clip (gotta keep the mane off the face!)
Pillow (?) In non-covid times I’d take a comfy feather one, but I might just take one of our less nice spare room pillows and chuck it, but that seems pointless as the purpose of this is more for comfort/familiarity/relaxation, so I may not bother…
Water wipes (these didn’t fit in baby’s bag… in baby’s bag we have cotton wool as you’re only meant to use cotton wool and water on newborn skin but apparently the first meconium can be super tough to get off, so you can sort of cheat with 99.6% water wipes… we got these Aqua Wipes)
Breast pads (the bamboo washable ones from Boots – I think they’re these Boots maternity pad ones but I’m not sure as Boy bought them for me – TMI but my colostrum started leaking from week 19/20 in pregnancy so we bought them early)
Big knickers (high enough to go over an emergency c-section scar just in case! I can’t remember which ones I got but I got navy as they were out of black and it was a pack of 6 or 7 from Amazon)
Disposable maternity knickers (yep, adult nappies ready for all the blood. JOY. Again, I found these on Amazon)
Dark towel (dark is best because you will bleed!)
Toiletries (toothbrush, paste, cleanser etc)
Mini makeup bag (with my MAC concealer, some lipsticks, mascara… nothing scented so that baby can smell me not my makeup though. Fleur took a makeup bag in and I just agree that it’s a fab idea as you don’t know how long you’ll be in hospital, I don’t know how much of it will be without Boy due to COVID restrictions, so if baby is sleeping and I’m alone, I might want to actually sort my face out and feel some semblance of normal human being. I also might not give AF (probably gonna happen!) and ignore it, but its nice to have just in case!)
Going home clothes (I picked a long black dress from ASOS that isn’t maternity but I’ve worn all pregnancy as it’s so comfy and makes me feel less like a whale! But the key is its loose fitting and won’t irritate me, even if I have an unplanned caesarean or something!) I’ll also have the maternity leggings, top and jumper I’m going to wear into hospital incase I’d prefer those!)
Essential oils – lavender, frankincense, bergamot and clary sage (for my compress/relaxation during labour – I find lavender and clary sage super relaxing – just don’t go sniffing clary sage before you’re 37 weeks! Bergamot I find really relaxing too (I love earl grey tea and it’s the same scent!) And apparently frankincense is a good one to help with breathing when you’re in transition and completely freaking before the pushing phase…!)
Liquid yoga room spray by Mama Mio – this smells divine and the peppermint notes are really refreshing. I saw so many mums and Lucy Flow Yoga recommend this, and just had to have it! I spray it when I do yoga at home, so for hospital it should help me get back into that more chilled headspace.
Sleep/relaxation blend roller for pulse points – this was a gift for xmas one year and it’s a nice destress little blend 🙂
UPDATE post publication: also packing paracetamol & ibuprofen – my due time buddy just gave birth early and recommended I pack these because it can be a few hours wait sometimes if they’re busy before you’re brought pain relief on the post natal ward, so I just shoved some in my bag and I want these for when I’m a bit sore/uncomfy when it’s all over!
What did you pack in yours/what are you currently packing?! I’ve seen people take huge wheelie suitcases but we’re just taking a small weekender bag (given we live like 10 minutes from the hospital, and Boy will be visiting hours restricted due to COVID 😦 he’ll also be able to pick up any extras from home if we need them in between, we just wanted to take the essentials.
Might do a separate post on baby’s bag too as that’s waaaay cuter 🙂 More gorgeous little outfits and less adult nappies haha!
(This was last year, when we knew we’d be trying for a baby in early 2020, but as the crazy over planner I am I was listening to and reading all the parenting, birth, baby and related content I could find in advance haha!)
Fast forward to 2020, newly pregnant, and I was glad I’d already found a whole bunch of resources I could use to support me in my pregnancy, and specifically for birth which I’d spent (like many women!) a lifetime in fear of! (See my blogpost on overcoming the fear of labour and birth here!)
The Dream Birth Companypremise of blending the best of mindfulness techniques with the best of hypnobirthing (but re-branding the ‘woo’ness of hypnobirthing that often puts the slightly less hippy/alternative-inclined people off – including me initially!) was something that really appealed to me, and I think they’ve done it incredibly well. Not to mention I’m a sucker for their gorgeous water-based imagery… calming from the get-go!
They have fantastic free audio on their website herewhich you can use to help you relax throughout pregnancy and gradually change your mindset about birth. It sounds mad that affirmations can help (I’m not into positive pop psychology as a rule!) but they really did make a huge amount of difference for me – plus Clodagh’s amazing soothing voice is just the best for pre-recorded meditations and relaxations ever!
Chatting about birth and babies on instagram, Clodagh was also kind enough to gift me a copy of The Dream Birth Company’s Dream Dad Handbook, and I wanted to share my thoughts because I think resources for women in pregnancy are often plentiful but sometimes the dads get overlooked in the process, and while they’re not giving birth themselves, labour is a huge life changing experience for them too, and they will have a big role to play in supporting you!
TheDream Dad Handbook is a really concise, easy guide, so perfect for any dads who don’t have tonnes of time to read a million books ahead of birth! It covers:
Roles and responsibilities – understanding birth, and the role you can play in supporting your partner
Practical ways you can help – top tips and actions you can take in preparation for and on the big day!
The Dream Dad List – a handy checklist of what to pack to take to the hospital if that’s where you’re birthing your baby, or what to have on hand at home
Early labour – how you can help prepare and ideas for helping your partner during early labour
Breathing techniques – so you know how to coach your partner (and keep calm yourself!)
It is such a simple, short, beautifully put together ebook that gives dads who are short on time the essentials in a very practical way.
You can also upgrade to use on of the Dream Birth Company’s packages or a 1:1 call with Clodagh for more specific coaching.
If you’re looking for something clear, easy to read, and very practically-based, then The Dream Dad Handbook is exactly what you need!
My husband is very meticulously organised and appreciates things being super-concise, well-ordered and efficient so I think he’ll really appreciate this! 🙂
Have you used The Dream Birth Company resources or packages in your pregnancy? Let me know what your fave parts were! ❤
*The Dream Dad Handbook product mentioned in this post was gifted*.
I just thought I’d pop on here and do a quick review of a course I found really useful in my prep for getting our beautiful baby born this October, however that ends up happening (!) be it vaginal delivery or out of the sun roof 🙂
This is not sponsored, nor was it gifted – I found this over the course of lockdown and The Maternity Collective were kindly offering everyone free access to their online antenatal course (usually at a price point of circa £80 I believe) because of the COVID situation.
COVID clearly did reduce access to ante- and post-natal support for so many women, so access to The Maternity Collective course was incredibly useful, but regardless, it’s still something I’d recommend to you if you’re pregnant even when we return to more normal times!
The course is delivered online in easy to access videos, and has subtitles for anyone with accessibility issues in all sections except the breastfeeding and newborn behaviour presentations (at the time of writing this) but these do have written accompanying slides you can download with the key information points on them.
What I loved about the course is that while all of the hypnobirthing content and books and the online course I’ve done have been super helpful and include some science,The Maternity Collective was created by a wonderful, highly qualified obstetrician and so it better covers the medical ins and outs in more detail, with more clarity, than hypnobirthing-geared content – but Dr Ellie Rayner (who you can find on instagram here @maternitymedic) also appreciates the value of hypnobirthing techniques and that approach to birth and so fuses the best of both worlds into a really helpful, informative, calming and reassuring course (she is a hypnobirthing instructor as well as an incredible, highly qualified medic!)
I’ve found ‘pure’ hypnobirthing books and techniques very helpful, don’t get me wrong, (I recommended many of their resources in some of my other recent posts!) but I do think some hypnobirthing content out there almost creates the impression that it’s hypnobirthers vs. hospitals/medical professionals/’bad’ over-medicalised birth, which really shouldn’t be the case, and The Maternity Collective will give you all of the medical facts, pros and cons, from an unbiased perspective, whilst the value of hypnobirthing is completely recognised and optimal practises are recognised and encouraged.
The course is thorough without being overwhelming, and covers:
Preparing for labour and birth (and understanding how it all works!)
Normal labour and birth (the various stages, what happens, and pain relief options)
Reasons you might meet an obstetrician (all the details on everything from inductions, delays, assisted delivery, tearing, episiotomies, caesareans and what happens if there is too much bleeding after birth)
The postnatal period (physical and emotional recovery, and caring for your brand new baby!)
A quick summary (on how to create your birth preferences, and make informed decisions throughout labour so that you are in control of everything that happens to you)
Breastfeeding and newborn behaviour (all the science of milk supply, techniques for feeding, baby’s body clock, sleeping, what to expect, what’s normal and trouble shooting, plus a guide to formula feeding)
There are also some course notes, birth preference templates and breastfeeding and newborn sleep slides for you to keep.
I loved the course’s simple and accessible format, and it will tell you everything you need to know to prepare for labour (you don’t even need to buy any other books if you don’t want to!) and it has some amazing content to get you thinking about what happens afterwards as well, particularly the detail on breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is a topic you hear about so much and is shrouded in mystery because on the one hand it seems so natural and on the other you hear all these stories of problems, struggles, pain and experiences where it didn’t work out.
The Maternity Collective course goes in to a lot of detail on how milk supply works, common breastfeeding issues and the best action to take, seeking support, how and when to feed and what to expect from your baby, how you will know if they’re feeding enough or if there is cause for concern, why babies need to be fed so much at night, and much, much more! There is also the recognition though that you may want to formula or combination feed and so there is a handy pdf guide to formula feeding should this be the best option for you.
If you’re looking for a one-stop shop to prep for labour and afterwards, I would say this course is it!
It’s also a good one for husbands like mine who might find some of the slight ‘woo’ perceptions of hypnobirthing branded courses or content off-putting – with The Maternity Collective you get the same important information, but in a more factual, practical manner (and more of it, from someone who is very, very qualified!)
Hope this helps, let me know if you do try the course and what you think!
If you liked this post, you might also be interested in reading these:
Well hello again everyone! I’ve been fairly quiet on here which is odd given that you’d think in lockdown I’d have had much more time to blog… but being pregnant in a global pandemic, having started a new job (my first fully qualified lawyer job) remotely and various other things have meant that blogging just hasn’t crossed my mind for a while.
Today, though, inspiration struck and I wanted to share some resources that I’ve used to totally change my mindset about giving birth.
This post will cover the resources I’ve used which I’d credit (alongside a lot of time investment on my part!) with taking the fear out of the prospect of giving birth for me, and also helping me prepare for birth generally and the postpartum recovery period.
*(Reminder nothing in this post is sponsored/gifted/other, it’s all stuff I’ve paid for [except the Maternity Collective course which they were giving free to everyone during COVID] and loved and 100% recommend!)*
Where does fear of labour come from?
Because let’s face it, I’ve spent my entire life TERRIFIED of giving birth, like many, many women.
What you see on TV – Rachel on Friends, for example – people lying on their backs, screaming, faces contorted, sometimes legs in stirrups, yelling for epidurals… and that’s just movies and light entertainment (I’ve never even watched One Born Every Minute).
In my ED days I was even scared of pregnant people because of their size – how messed up is that?!
Then you get the STORIES. The whisperings and ‘oh you wouldn’t believe how bad her labour was’, the horror stories, the drama, the nightmare scenarios that people like to tell you…
So as a base line, generally, as a culture, birth has become a very medicalised thing, and something to be feared.
Growing up, I swore that if I had kids I’d get an elective c-section. Now, because I know all the benefits for my baby, I want to try to birth vaginally (if allowed – I may not be able to because at the time of writing [28 weeks pregnant] I still have a low placenta and if this hasn’t moved by the time they do the extra scan to check it at 36 weeks, I will have to have a c-section due to it basically blocking the exit and also high risks of haemorrhaging!)
If you want the short answer for how I overcame the fear, I guess there isn’t one – it’s a process that took time, effort and mental reprogramming! But a combination of education (and more education!), and taking elements of hypnobirthing which worked for me and my personality (not all – see below!) and basically using my previous study in mindfulness to create an approach to birth that worked for me. I didn’t go on any expensive course or find a magic bullet, I just put the work in.
Getting informed (but still scared!)
One of these books was The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill. Did it make me feel positive? HELL NO! I found it scary on first read. But I read it 3 or 4 times, alongside some other books which I’ll list below, because it took away the mystery and the unknown, and made me understand all the options for birth (location, pain relief, what interventions might be needed and why, induction, caesareans, pros and cons of absolutely everything).
While initially scary for me, getting educated was a key part of the process to make sure I was in control. Because guess what? You have to consent to everything. You do not ‘have’ to have internal examinations to check dilation. You do not ‘have’ to have an induction. It may be there is a good reason to have them, but knowing you have the choice, and knowing you should ask for all of the benefits, risks and reasons was a game changer for me.
Both are hypnobirthing books, a concept I thought sounded a bit hippy but I’d heard people I admire and respect who didn’t seem completely ‘woo woo’ rave about it on podcasts, so I gave them a go.
I also used the Positive Birth Company Digital Pack(an online hypnobirthing course, which was discounted due to the lack of pregnancy support in hospitals etc during COVID 19).
Hypnobirthing is perhaps a woo name, but it’s not really all that woo and certainly isn’t to do with hypnotising yourself, or ‘out there’ practices (full disclosure: occasionally I found hypnobirthing does have a slight push towards home birth (which isn’t for me) which I found a bit annoying, and it could get a bit focussed on fairy lights and candles and prioritising natural birthing to the point it almost felt like it was saying non natural birth was negative [although they explicitly do state ALL births are valid] sometimes, but generally it is science based to help you ensure you stay calm to keep your body hormonally optimal for labour to progress smoothly, with less pain).
Some hypnobirthing fans recommend Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, which is a book I HATED because it was waaaaaay to weird and spiritual and hippy for me. But we’re all different I guess!) But if that’s not your bag, more practical and let’s say ‘modern woman’ rather than ‘earth mother’ approaches do exist, and those are the ones I’m talking about here that helped me.
I don’t for one second buy all of it, particularly that birth is pain free (some hypnobirthing teachers claim it doesn’t have to be painful, others state that they disagree with this like me!), but I do believe that naturally our responses to what is happening in our bodies (e.g. panic, fear, relaxation, understanding, acceptance) can influence that and how bad it feels.
I found that hypnobirthing is really an approach that focusses on empowering women to:
understand your body during labour, how the muscles and hormones work to facilitate your birth and what you can do to keep these as optimal as possible;
understand your choices during labour (you ALWAYS have a choice, and it is important to be informed and that you know you have the right to give or refuse consent for anything)
learn relaxation techniques to keep adrenaline (which inhibits labour) at bay and maximise oxytocin (which makes labour happen) – these can also be used to keep you calm during interventions or caesareans, they’re not just for vaginal births!;
understand natural techniques for labour e.g. using upright, forward and open positions to allow gravity to help you, instead of mindlessly following TV over medicalised assumptions that you should lie down, which really just helps doctors/midwives see what’s happening!; and
essentially to feel empowered and have a positive birth experience, whatever path your birth takes (rather than feeling traumatised and like decisions were made for you, or that you were not in control).
Plus it helps guide your birth partner on how best to support you during labour.
Many of the relaxation techniques weren’t for me and my partner (if he even tried to read me a relaxation script we’d both die laughing!) but the breathing techniques, positive affirmations and emphasis on re-wiring my view of birth from something necessarily traumatic to something that can be a positive experience really helped me move past being scared.
Rewiring your brain
I was NOT up for watching videos where I’d have to see a baby emerging from a vagina. I’m way too squeamish, and not one of those women who thinks that sight is ‘beautiful’. Sure, babies are beautiful, I’m sure the experience of birth can be beautiful, but that’s too much gore for me personally.
Hypnobirthing advocates using positive birth stories, photography, videos, and affirmations to gradually re-condition how you perceive birth. Stop all negative input, and crowd it out with positive.
I didn’t really want to see pics or graphic videos, but I did use:
I started skipping ones which had trigger warnings that particularly worried me (episiotomies, tearing, forceps, ventouse, emergency c-sections) and just read ones that sounded smooth and simple.
As I did more hypnobirthing practice and read more of these, I became less afraid and started reading the more complicated birth stories too – this made me realise that even a complicated birth which has things go ‘wrong’ or not as planned can still be a positive experience. So many women wrote about births which on paper you might think could have been super traumatic, but because of their mindset, their hypnobirthing, the fact they were informed and in control and had prepared for all scenarios, they still felt empowered and that the overall experience was positive. This was a game changer for me.
I also listened to the birth experience of my nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert on her podcast (here) which sounds very traumatic and happened during the height of COVID-19. I found it so interesting to hear that a lot of the stress comes from feeling things are going ‘wrong’, not knowing what happens for certain procedures and feeling like birth isn’t going to plan. This really brought home to me that being prepared for birth to take any number of unexpected courses is key and has helped me lose the fear in the build up to it.
Limited (!) videos – I watched a few you tubers talk about their positive birth experiences and hypnobirthing, as an intro so I didn’t need to see it. Then I found a couple of you tubers who vlogged their labour (but don’t show you anything too much!!) helpful – especially Kerry Conway’s third labour (no epidural) (part 1 here and part 2 here), and Jess Hover’s two births without epidurals (vaguely remember some brief religious mentions which I just ignored as that’s not my thing).
This was great for some pregnancy-friendly yoga for relaxation, and also learning more upright, forward and open optimal birth positions. She also had helpful resources on the fact that it is sometimes possible to be mobile even with an epidural or continuous monitoring – how to ask and how this can be done, which was really useful.
Lots of the yoga flows are designed to help ease pregnancy specific problems (back pain etc) and to prepare your pelvis to really open up. It was amazing to learn the facts about how you can get 30% MORE SPACE in the pelvis by not lying down and preventing the sacrum from moving etc.
It was also nice because membership comes with free access to her Member’s Hub where you can chat about all things pregnancy, yoga, other, ask questions and generally support other mums!
As I’d done so much reading and research, and the fact that due to coronavirus antenatal classes in person being cancelled, when I looked at antenatal classes charging £250+ for stuff I already knew, I didn’t see the point, especially as most people say the value is in making mum friends, and I didn’t feel like paying that much money to do that over zoom.
Then I found the Maternity Collective who generously offered free access to their online antenatal course (normally circa £80), again because of the lack of pre and post natal support for women during the coronavirus situation.
It was SO helpful because it was more medically / scientifically detailed than the hypnobirthing content on the physical parts of labour, pain relief, interventions etc.
It also had extensive sections on feeding options and newborn sleep, to help prepare for the part which comes after the labour!
Postive Birth Company – Post Partum Pack
PBC’s postpartum pack (an online course covering everything you need post-birth!) was also reduced to £20 because of COVID for a limited time, and I found this really helpful to prepare and swot up on breastfeeding, baby sleeping (or lack thereof!), maternal mental health, physical and mental recovery from labour, post partum rehab, exercise and yoga, and much much more! Definitely recommend this, especially if coronavirus or other things have prevented you getting to classes or having the normal amount of support with this.
Thanks for reading my ramblings!
I hope if you did stumble across this post as you prepare for birth that you found it helpful – everyone is different, and what works for one may not work for another, but I was so so so scared and anti the idea of labour before and now I’m so excited for it, so it is possible to have a complete mindset shift!
Best of luck with your pregnancy and birth prep if you’re at that stage of your journey, or if not and you’re curious ahead of time like I was… fab, I genuinely don’t think you can get enough prep in because these are things we can never ever be fully prepared for!
I have devoured as many blogs, books, vlogs and podcasts on these topics as I could possibly find on my TTC journey (I saw my nutritionist as well to discuss!) and some resources I found useful, some I didn’t, some I could relate to and some I totally couldn’t. (Spoiler: my nutritionist was brilliant though!) We knew well in advance that we’d start trying in 2020, & I had a good 6 months prior to that to do my research so yep, super nerdy & organised but there you go!
So here is another post that I’m throwing out there into the depths of the internet that may bore you to tears, or you may wish to ignore, but if it helps just one person or just one finds it vaguely interesting or helpful in their TTC research – that’s the whole point of blogging, right? Making sense of things, I like writing for the sake of it anyway and sending posts up into the internetz where you can discard or read as you like.
So. My TTC journey, tools and tips. PS nothing here is sponsored (obvs I’d have stated if it was!) this is all just what I’ve done and purchased etc. myself!
I’m struggling with this topic slightly as I’m conscious that TTC is a journey for two, and my other half is way more private than me, so I’m trying to be careful not to overshare… but equally I want to write about my experience on the topic, so hopefully I get that line right!
What I did – in prep for TTC
TTC, if you didn’t already know, is ‘trying to conceive’ lingo that you’ll find all over forums etc. Naturally I took steps before we were even trying. These were…
Read, read, read! & research
Omg did I over-read, over-research and over-prepare! I devoured everything I could on trying to conceive, and there were pros and cons to this. First and foremost, knowledge is power, right, so it’s good to know stuff. Also, a woman really should know her cycle (and I honestly can’t believe I haven’t tracked my whole life!) so from a health point of view and knowing and taking care of your own body, I would highly encourage you to download an app (I use Glow and Clue) and track your crimson wave, ladies. Glow is best as if you do later use ovulation tests, the algorithm accounts for these and adjusts accordingly whereas Clue is less sophisticated (but can help you get a loose idea of cycle length & when your fertile window will likely be).
I listened to podcasts not just about the TTC portion though, but about motherhood, all topics baby… I dunno, I studied lit & then law LLM so maybe obsessive research is just in me. Soz!
Track your cycles – before you’re even thinking about TTC
I started tracking I think 4 or 5 months before we were TTC. As I said above, I think we should all track our cycles anyway, but if you’re going to be TTC its helpful if you have several cycles of data so you know the length of your cycle, how often this tends to vary, so that you can better predict ovulation etc.
Improved my diet
I cut out caffeine for a few months, and alcohol (except for my hen and wedding, although I did slip with this over Xmas!) I disguised this on insta as the « Level Up Project » which you’ll see on my highlights if you’re eagle eyed 🙂
I focussed on getting as many fruit and veg portions in and eating a rainbow as much as I could, and, as always, tried to eliminate processed foods as much as possible, plus I started adding berries to my porridge in the mornings for an extra antioxidant boost.
Then I wanted to take it a step further, and…
Visited a nutritionist
I went to see Rhiannon Lambert, my nutritionist (clinic details here) to check in on my diet 4 months before we were going to try, to see if it was optimal for TTC, to discuss any changes I might need to make, to check my supplements, and anything my other half should be doing to his diet too. It was super helpful. I can’t recommend it enough. I ended up needing to up my fibre intake a little more every day, and came away with tips, tricks and recommendations for the two of us. ❤
This is SO HARD, I know. And then after being period-regular as clockwork for years, just before we were TTC I was late by 11 days!!!! 11! That never happens for me! And it stressed me out even more!
Some of the techniques I used to reduce stress were:
A mindset shift. Prioritising self-care more
Regular baths with aromatherapy oils
Reading amazing books on my commute
Walking more, outside, as much as possible
Practising deep breathing techniques and pranayama at my desk even in the middle of the day
Taking 2 minutes to go to the loo and hide in a cubicle do the yoga pose ‘forward fold’ which is INCREDIBLE
Inhaling lavender oil scent at my desk when headachey or stressed
10 minutes of meditation per day
Reduce ‘hardcore’ workouts (this was so tough for me!) as they can put more stress on the body, and I took up some lighter ones – taking some of the intensity out of my boxing, jogging not sprinting, regular shorter sessions instead of triple Kobox etc.!
What I did – actually TTC!
Obviously, this is a given. To maximize chances there are recommendations that you have sex every other day for the whole month, and more if you want during your fertile window (ideally daily). I guess you have to find what you feel works for you. Various studies suggest slightly different things though but the facts below help you do the math and make your own decisions. I won’t overshare here on what we did because I feel a bit like you stray into the too personal, and also I can’t imagine Boy would thank me for writing about those details on the internet…! I’ll just share some facts below and you can work out what you feel is best for you and your partner.
Some facts to help you decide what you want to do…
Each month, there is only roughly about a maximum 20% chance (for a healthy, fertile, normal couple!) that you’ll get pregnant.
It can take 12 months for a healthy, fertile, normal couple (under 35) to get pregnant, and this is normal.
There are 55 million sperm roughly per ejaculation… and each time, only 15 will make it to where they need to be. Turns out the vagina being acidic, attacking sperm as a foreign body incase it’s a virus, all kinds of things, makes it a pretty tough trip for your guy’s swimmers.
There seem to be conflicting studies on whether you should have sex on alternate days to let sperm replenish (I read another study that suggests sperm motility is best 3 hours after a previous ejaculation, so back to back sessions could be good during the fertile window! So basically, it seems there’s not necessarily a clear scientific answer… I personally reckon the best idea here is have as much sex as you fancy!)
Many lubes can kill sperm so you need a sperm-friendly one if you want to use it. Try Pre-Seed if you want a definitely safe one 🙂
Continued to track, and ordered OPKs
I hadn’t wanted to use Ovulation Predictor Kits originally, but for various reasons including Boy needing to travel for work, we ordered some anyway. I used the Clearblue Advanced Digital Ovulation Test, and you can order a pack of 20 on Amazon. I also continued to track using my apps (Clue and Glow – Glow is much more detailed and you can track literally everything including orgasms haha, and it will overlay any temperature charting you do if you log it with the rest of your cycle for greater accuracy!) The app algorithms for both of these predicted the same fertility window for me, and then I had OPKs to try and confirm and make sure things didn’t change or happen early and late so we’d miss it, and started tracking my basal body temperature for extra accuracy/reassurance.
The reason I chose this particular Clearblue OPK despite it being a bit more expensive, is that it works differently from other OPKs – instead of just tracking one hormone, it tracks two – here’s the spiel from the website and personally I’d give it a really positive rating – it worked for us:
Clearblue® Advanced Digital Ovulation Test works differently to other ovulation tests as it is designed to detect 2 hormones, estrogen and LH. When it detects a rise in your level of estrogen it displays High Fertility (flashing smiley face), and will continue to display High Fertility in the following days whilst it looks for your LH surge. When your LH surge is detected, the test displays Peak Fertility (static smiley face).
Bought cheapie pregnancy tests in bulk ready for the 2 week wait mania!
You can get packs of like 50 on amazon and it’s soooooooo much cheaper than all the pricey digital ones if you know you’re gonna be on edge during the two week wait and need to keep testing, even though you know you should just wait for your period. I used One Step.
Turns out I didn’t need it all as we might have been expecting to try for up to a year as all the science says that’s normal, but in reality it turned out we were super lucky and we got pregnant first time!!!! ❤
Fertility yoga & meditation
Yep, sounds woo and crazy right? I was up for trying anything, and found it helped me relax, so I used the fertility meditations on Glow premium, and did a bit of research on google on fertility friendly yoga! Whether the ‘fertility’ focus makes any difference, who knows, but it’s a good tool for keeping stress levels down, and staying positive.
Hydrate even more than usual
Ok so this is the grossest thing, but you want your CM (cervical mucus! told you it was gross!) to be egg-white consistency (it helps the sperm travel!), which will usually happen around ovulation – but if you’re dehydrated, your body can’t do this. So drink up!
Stayed off caffeine & alcohol (obviously!)
Caffeine increases the likelihood of miscarriages and also it’s just recommended that you cut it right down if you’re trying. Alcohol… obviously, as per the guidelines, it is best not drink at all if you are TTC and/or pregnant, or might be pregnant. It affects both egg and sperm quality so it’s best for your other half to stay off it as well. Sorry chaps! Sperm quality is 50% of the deal after all…! Not to mention it is not good for the embryo if you do have a little one starting to grow in there.
Bought a BBT thermometer
My original plan was not to bother taking my temperature and just use my apps and OPKs, but I just needed to know I was doing everything possible so I bought this one – the Femometer Digital Basal Body Temperature Thermometer. The reason you need a special BBT thermometer is you need it to detect your temp changes with a greater degree of accuracy, and regular thermometers are only accurate to around 2 degrees so you need a BBT one to make sure you don’t miss the changes (this one that I used has a high level of accuracy (to 1/100 Degree) can be used as a basal thermometer for pregnancy, but also as a general thermometer to measure fever – multi purpose!)
The reason you may want to track your temp while TTC is because it helps confirm when you’re going to be ovulating, so can help you time your extra sex 😉 Mid-cycle you’ll notice a rise in your basal body temperature (BBT). I’m no expert but basically, once your temperature rises up for at least 3 days and stays elevated, you’ll know you’ve ovulated. Ps apparently, if it stays up beyond 16 days then you’re probably pregnant!
So there you have it… TMI and a half haha!
So that’s basically everything, I think… anyone else have anything they did/tried/recommend?!
While I did a lot to support my body and fertility, everyone is different and we were so lucky that it happened first time for us – we’d really expected that it would take at least 6 months if not a year (not least in the back of my mind were my old EDs and the fact my mum needed to go on Clomid to conceive me) and I guess there are never any guarantees. But this is just what worked for us, with a little bit of luck thrown in I’m sure, and obviously everyone’s biology is different ❤