Guidelines - not tramlines
Only 60% of NHS guidelines are based on evidence
I’ll say that again.
Only 60% of NHS guidelines are based on evidence. Right. So...what are the other 40% based on.
Opinion. Habit. Just because.
Before I had my first baby I had the view ‘well I don’t want any intervention ideally but if I do have it, it’ll be because I / baby needed it.’ Sound familiar? The trouble is, we know it’s often not needed. Or wanted. But it happens anyway. Intervention per se is NOT a bad thing - if it’s needed! But it’s so often not. THIS is the problem.
And so when you’re told ‘you need to have this because x, y, z’ it’s so important that you are able to decipher the guidelines supported by evidence from the guidelines that are there because...well no real reason! We KNOW some things that are done frequently and routinely are actively unhelpful for birth. So it’s up to you to learn what they are.
Empower yourself. Get in touch so we can start preparing for your birth to be wonderful.
Can you afford not to do a hypnobirthing course?
'I’d love to do hypnobirthing but I can’t justify the cost right now.'
Sure, I get it, there’s a pandemic on! We’re going into recession, people are furloughed and/or being made redundant all over. But honestly? There’s never been a more important time to do a hypnobirthing course.
Why? Firstly, there is so much anxiety right now. About covid, about the NHS, about resources, about finances, about our health and our future in general. That anxiety is going to really impact on how you birth - literally - so you need to know how to calm yourself and properly relax, to help your labour to be shorter and more comfortable.
Secondly, if we’ve learned anything through this period it’s that, sadly, what’s best for everyone’s health doesn’t always come first. There is often another agenda at play. Money and resourcing for example. I mean, have you noticed that your partner is allowed to go and sit in a pub but cannot accompany you to your antenatal appointments?! Not to mention the restrictions post birth, when your baby is actually here. It’s SO important to understand that not everything that is done is underpinned by evidence. And to know how you can navigate that to make the best decisions for you.
Thirdly, the NHS is inevitably under more strain than ever. I’m hearing reports of lack of contact from midwives, lack of time to give information and discuss options, and lack of support if you want to do anything other than what you’re ‘told’ to. On top of this, you are dealing with these conversations on your own, without the support of your partner (who, naturally, is sat in the pub with Boris.)
So consider, can you really not afford a hypnobirthing course? Maybe you could get a second hand buggy instead? Maybe you could get a cheaper monitor? (We’re on our 3rd - they’re all rubbish, either the cable or the battery breaks...)
I don’t wave you goodbye at the end of my course and just see you on the other side. I support you up to the birth of your baby. So when you come across the above - which almost inevitably you will - you can get in touch for a supportive ear and some top tips to help you feeling calm and in control again.
You're the one that has to push the baby out!
Heard these words from your partner? Quite often, hypnobirthing is something which Mum signs up to, because she (unsurprisingly) is the one giving birth the most thought, and then her birth partner just sort of goes along to humour her... Because it all sounds a bit weird and a bit awkward...but ‘sure, if it makes you happy...’
And then, guess what. Half an hour into session 1, you notice the birth partner nodding along with what’s being said. You see concentration when it comes to the science bit. You see a thoughtful head tilt when it comes to the discussion about sports psychology. And you hear snoring at the end of the relaxation!
The transformation in birth partners by the end of a hypnobirthing course is just magical. Partly for me (!) but mostly for you! Because now you don’t have a birth partner who is anxious and wide eyed and who just says ‘whatever you think! It’s not my body giving birth!’
Now you’ve got a birth partner who knows as much as you about birth! A birth partner who is calm, confident and excited. Who is in awe of your amazing body and how it’s going to give birth. You have a birth partner who is prepared, with a stash of questions to ask should things start to take a more twisty path. A birth partner who is armed with a varied selection of comfort measures to help you feel more comfortable and more in control whenever you need a little support. A birth partner who can protect your birthing space and ensure it’s as helpful as possible for you.
Imagine what that’s going to do to your birth experience! Imagine what that’s going to do for your last few weeks of pregnancy. Imagine what that’s going to do for your relationship post-birth.
If you’re tempted to drag your birth partner onto a hypnobirthing course get in touch and I’ll give you some tips on how to sell it to them!
Get off your back!
What position do you think is the most popular position for birth?
In 2017, a study found that 83% of women in the UK give birth on their backs on a bed. Of those, 35% have their legs in stirrups. This is despite the fact that this position is usually more painful, it decreases the size of your pelvis by a third, and it increases the risk of tearing. So why?!!
Firstly, some women don’t know how unhelpful this position is. All we see on telly and in the media is women birthing on their backs! So it’s commonly thought that this is how babies come out.
Secondly, we of course have the patriarchy to thank. Because this position was introduced purely because it is easiest for our doctor to kindly deliver our baby for us, whilst we are heavily seated and barely conscious, in this position. This is harking back to years gone by (generally...) but sometimes things just carry on being done like that. Because that’s ‘just how things are done’. Even though we know there are much better ways.
Some women know it’s not ideal, but forget all that when they walk into the hospital. Because poorly people are in hospital. And they get onto the bed. So that’s what we do. Some women know all the info, but feel like they should get on the bed because they’re either subtly or actively encouraged to.
My course will give you the antenatal education to know what’s most helpful or unhelpful for you. But it will also teach you your rights. And it will give you the confidence to stand by what you what to do. Because sometimes knowing the facts just isn’t quite enough.
For some women the bed will be the best place for them. But that should be a choice, which they make freely, armed with all the information. Not for any other reason.
What are you waiting for?
Your friend has recommended hypnobirthing to you. You know you need to do some sort of birth preparation....but you’ve not taken the leap to book a course. It’s much more exciting to look at baby clothes and nursery colour schemes!
Perhaps you’re shrugging your shoulders and thinking you’ll be fine. What will be will be...bring it on! 🤷🏼♀️ Could a hypnobirthing course actually change how birth turns out? How long it is? How comfortable I am? Surely not...?
I’ve received all of these comments over recent months...
‘We learnt so much more on your course than the NCT course we did’
‘I think I under-estimated how much of an impact your course would have on me.’
‘My midwife commented I’m like a different person from my first appointment.’
Not only can hypnobirthing affect your labour and birth but it can transform your experience of pregnancy. Don’t spend weeks pushing the idea of birth to the back of your mind. You can feel lighter, more excited, more in control. So that you can really focus on whether to go with the soft yellow or the mint green...
Stop putting it off. Your baby’s birthday is getting closer every day! Get in touch today. I promise you’ll feel better even just getting the course booked. I can’t wait to transform your experience of birth. Rachel x
Hypnobirthing; What is it and how can it make your birth better?
I recently wrote an article for Support Local Magazine, in which I set out exactly what hypnobirthing is - and isn't! - and explain some of the ways in which it can have a real impact on your birth experience. From the mental to the physical to the practical. Click below to read the article in full:
It just made everything so much more positive
As Gok Wan would say....I am all about the confidence! (#ifyouknowyouknow)
If there’s one thing I can teach you, I hope it’s that you call the shots. You say no thank you if you’re not keen. You question, enquire, explore, discuss. And then you decide.
I got this brilliant message from a client the other day: ‘I walked in confidently questioned a couple of things without worrying about it and got some really positive responses. I can't tell you the difference between me last time and this time, it just made everything so much more positive.’
We suffer from white coat syndrome so much that we feel like we must take everything that is said by a midwife or doctor without so much as a raised eyebrow, and it’s just not the case! This mum 👆🏼is a good few weeks away from having her baby yet, but already she’s seeing the difference that our time together has made. I’m so delighted for her - and her partner, and their baby. Because they’re all going to benefit, both now and in the coming weeks and months.
What I wish I'd known
The term ‘antenatal education’ isn’t exactly sexy is it? It’s the boring bit of having a baby - it’s not tiny vests or cute soft toys. It conjures up those stereotypical images of a room full of pregnant mums, sat between their partner’s legs, holding their bump and doing deep breathing!
But it underpins everything. Without it, you cannot feel confident about what’s happening during birth, confident about the decisions you’re making, confident about your options, or confident about asking questions.
When I reflect on the birth of my first son, there’s so much I wish, wish, wish I’d known. I wish I’d known that meconium did not necessarily equal baby in distress. That my planned home birth didn’t necessarily need to go out the window. I wish I’d known that I could’ve changed midwife, that I didn’t need to continue labouring with a midwife who was quietly rolling her eyes at me and threatening a caesarean whenever we questioned things. I wish I’d known what ‘a clip’ going on my baby’s head actually meant, so I hadn’t been shocked when he was born with a cut on his head which scarred him for months after.
Over all, I didn’t actually have a terrible birth. But there’s things I’d change. I’d put me more in control. I’d give myself the feeling of empowerment that I shouldn’t have been denied.
Roll on 3 years, and I had a truly amazing birth with my second baby. I knew I was in the driving seat that time around. I knew what was happening. I had no nasty surprises.
The knowledge that came with my hypnobirthing practice was quite literally gold dust. Don’t wing it. Don’t assume your midwife knows everything and so you can just leave the reigns with her. The saying ‘if you don’t know your options you don’t have any’ is so incredibly accurate.
Contact me to talk about what is covered on my course, and how I will ensure that you are more prepared than a Boy Scout.
What's in your newsfeed?
When you pick up your phone and start scrolling, what do you see? And what do you feel?
After reading this post, do a little experiment. Scroll for the next 5 minutes and then evaluate a) what you’ve seen and read and b) how you feel. When you are pregnant, it is so important to protect yourself from negative, fearful words and images about labour and birth. They will only harm you. It is not helpful to hear about someone else’s terrible birth - they are not you, their baby is not yours, and you will have your own birth experience- which you can influence!
When we fill ourselves up with fear we only impact negatively on our birth experience. Those thoughts and feelings sit with us right the way through to birthing our baby and what do they do? They encourage the body to protect itself. To produce adrenaline. To stay closed and keep your baby safely inside your body. Meaning that labour is slower and more uncomfortable. None of which we want!
So protect your mind, body and emotions from the scare stories and do a cull of all things anti-birth. Hear me when I say ‘your baby’s birth can be the most incredible, amazing thing you’ve ever experienced’. And if anyone is posting anything which goes against this statement - tap ‘unfollow’ and wave goodbye. Then replace them with someone saying inspiring, exciting, empowering things about birth. Because that will have a bigger impact on how you labour and birth your baby than you realise.
Does your newsfeed pass the positivity test? Let me know!
Vaginal examinations - a necessary evil?
They're not very nice...but necessary so that your midwife knows that things are progressing. So we’ve just gotta suck it up, right? Wrong!
Are you aware that you don’t have to have or do anything that you don’t want to? Literally, anything. Vaginal examinations being just one example.
Some women want a vaginal examination so that they can find out how many cm dilated they are. That may be a comfort for them. For others, vaginal examinations can feel intrusive and uncomfortable and may interrupt how wonderfully they were labouring. So if you decide to decline any or all vaginal examinations, how will your midwife know that things are progressing?
Midwives are trained to pick up on our nuances, to be able to observe our behaviour in labour. How are we breathing? How are we moving? What noises are we making? How quickly are contractions coming and how long do they last?
In addition there are some other tell tale signs that baby is getting close to being born. These include a blue line which travels up from between your bum cheeks to indicate how low baby is. Also, as your pelvis expands to let baby move down and out, a triangular shape may be seen popping out from your lower back as your body literally opens up. Amazing huh?
So there are other ways that your progress can be monitored. You may choose to have regular vaginal examinations, or just one on arrival at birth centre or hospital or none at all. It’s entirely up to YOU.
And in any event it’s worth remembering that we’re all different and birth is not linear. So you might be 8cm but two hours away from birthing your baby, or you might be 3cm and half an hour away from birthing your baby! Trust your body and your baby. They know what they’re doing.
There's no returns policy on your birth experience
How much time have you spent researching your travel system?
Are you the sort of woman that loves a spreadsheet?! Perhaps people joke about your need to plan...to be in control...and you joke about it too...but it’s absolutely true!
How many lists have you written so far? Things to do before mat leave, things to buy for baby, things to do to the house, things to get for the hospital bag, books to read, things to research...
Where does your birth prep sit amongst all that? Does it rank above or below the ‘to buy’ list? We spend So. Much. Time. Researching the best buggy or monitor or bouncer yet - guess what! All of these can be returned. If we don’t like them, or they’re not quite what we wanted, we take them back.
There’s no returns policy on your birth experience. As a mum myself, I’m acutely aware of this. So that’s why your birth prep should get the biggest investment of all. And I’m not just talking finances here: I’m talking time. Effort. Engagement. Priority.
You can influence your birth. I’ll say that again. You can influence your birth. You can make it better. Yes you can! I wish everyone knew this stuff!! So if your spreadsheet is lacking a section on ‘how to make my birth calmer, easier and more enjoyable’ contact me now! So we can correct this and make you feel a whole lot better about things. X
One size definitely doesn’t fit all
4 July 2020
Our NHS is amazing. If we’ve been reminded of anything this year, it’s that. But we must remember that it is designed for the masses - policies and guidelines are necessary for it to operate, but that doesn’t mean that those same policies and guidelines will be best for everyone.
Let’s imagine you’ve just had your 40th birthday - hooray! And you’re feeling amazing! You’re in the best shape of your life, you eat well, you have no health conditions, you’re an average weight, you’re feeling much fitter than everyone said you would... and you’re pregnant with a baby which you cannot wait to meet! But guess what. You’re high risk. So you’re going to face some decisions with regards to how and when you give birth to your baby. And potentially some resistance to those decisions.
Let’s now imagine that you’ve just had your 25th birthday - hooray! You have a bit of a sweet tooth...the pounds have crept on since uni, you can’t bloody stand exercise (!), and this baby came like a bolt out the blue! Particularly given that you had been living your best party life...and love a decent bottle of vino. But guess what! You’re low risk! Birth where you like and how you like - your choice!
Is this feeling a bit unfair to you? There are many different examples that can be made where our ‘one size fits all’ approach to maternity care doesn’t work. Stick a label on it and treat it like this. Nope - that’s not a guarantee to a best outcome for mum and baby, OR to a positive birth for mum to look back on for the rest of her life.
It is so important to know your rights. To know the benefits and risks of everything you choose. And to know that you can speak up! And say ‘thank you, but that won’t be best for me and my baby’.
Sometimes what works for everyone else will work for you too. But sometimes it won’t, and it may feel pretty damn unfair when you’re having to fight your corner.
Whatever it is that you want from your birth, I’ll be in your corner with you. Get in touch so we can start preparing, together. Rachel x
Covid-19; change in restrictions regarding maternity services
5 July 2020
As of 6 July, the above changes will be introduced to the maternity services under Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells Trust. These do not put us back where we were pre-Covid, but they are a vast improvement from where we were just a few weeks ago.
If you live under another NHS Trust, keep an eye on what restrictions are in place in your Trust area, as all are liable to change in the current climate.
So you're suddenly 'high risk' - what now?
30 June 2020
You were happily sailing through your pregnancy...you’ve been low risk from the start, you’ll probably have a water birth, you know you don’t want any intervention if you can avoid it.
And then....bam. High risk. Out of the blue you’re told that now you’re high risk. Something to do with your placenta...or your baby...or your body. You haven’t been told much - you only had a short appointment. You just know you have to go back for more appointments. And you’re high risk. Risk was said a lot. And something about induction or caesarean....
And now it seems your ideal birth is out the window. Gone. In a flash. What now?
Book a hypnobirthing course. What?! But that’s only for natural birth, right?! Wrong. Book a hypnobirthing course.
Now is the time to learn your options. To get informed. To find yourself a hypnobirthing practitioner who will listen to you...really listen to you...and signpost you to further reliable information so that you can arm yourself with the facts. What are the actual risks? ‘Double?’ What does that actually mean?
And now is the time to learn some seriously good relaxation techniques. So you can feel calm about the hurdles you’re jumping over. So you can have an appointment with your consultant where you’re actually able to calmly ask questions and discuss your options, not just be a rabbit in the headlights.
And now is the time to plan YOUR positive birth. It might or might not be your original idea of a positive birth, but that’s ok. You still retain control over what happens and how it happens. That’s right - you retain control. And there’s SO much you can still choose.
Get in touch today and let’s get things back on track for you. Rachel x
Who wants a less painful birth?
27 June 2020
On Thursday I had to take this (not so little!) little one for vaccinations. I do not and cannot look at the needle. Just like I don’t whenever I have an injection myself.
I’ve realised that when I don’t see the needle I’m much more relaxed about the whole process and I definitely feel less pain. So that’s just the norm for me - never look at the needle and everything will be so much better.
Isn’t it funny though that it actually feels different. It’s the same sensation yet it feels different because of what we see and think.
Have you ever cut yourself but not realised? And then as soon as you see the blood it hurts? Do you see how much we can influence how much pain we feel.
So why would you not prepare your mind and perspective for labour and birth too?! Who wants to feel MORE pain? Not me!! Are you preparing for a more comfortable birth?
What's your dream birth?
26 June 2020
At the start of every course I teach I encourage my clients to start dreaming about and talking about their dream birth. Their absolutely ideal scenario.
Until that point, they’ve probably not talked about their dream birth. They know what they don’t want, and they have a vague idea of the sort of thing they think ‘might be quite nice’...but no ‘I would really love X’
Why? Because we don’t want to set ourselves up for a fall. Because we don’t want to get our hopes up only to have them dashed. But in what other aspect of life do we do this? ‘Let’s not dream about our future husband / future wedding / future career / future house / future adventures / future baby - just in case they turn out to be shit and then we’re upset’. We’re not 9 year old girls, thinking about Christmas!
Dreaming about your ideal birth: a) gives you an idea of what you want so that, practically speaking, you can start preparing for the specific aspects that make up that birth. B) it fills you with excitement and joy - not the fear we feel when we imagine our worse case scenario. And we need to keep clear of the fear because we know it’ll slow down labour and make it much more uncomfortable. C) over time, it encourages our brain to reach for a positive image rather than a negative image, each time we think of birth, changing our mindset. Thereby triggering helpful hormones again.
So I ask you: what’s your dream birth scenario? Have a think - it'll be completely individual and unique to you.
Have you been told you’re expecting a big baby?
25 June 2020
This usually evokes one emotion in us...fear! Giving birth to a small baby sounds tough enough! But a big one?!
We doubt our ability to carry and birth a big baby. Surely he/she will be too big to get out of me?! What if baby gets stuck...what if I tear...
But, where there is no diabetes, your baby will grow to the correct size for your body to birth him/her. So in cases of surrogacy, even if the genetic parents are both 6ft+ and the surrogate woman is a petite 5ft, the baby will only grow to a size that will allow him/her to be carried and born naturally. Pretty amazing, huh?!
‘But I’ve had a scan and baby’s predicted to be huge!’ you’re thinking. Did you know that scans are only 80% accurate? If I had £1 for every time I heard about a baby that was predicted to be huge and was born a perfectly average 7lbs...I’d have my feet dipped in a beautiful swimming pool right now rather than my son’s paddling pool!
Research also suggests that it tends to be the intervention which takes place because of the suspected big size of the baby (think sweeps, induction, caesareans) which are likely to lead to complications rather than simply the size of the baby.
So have some faith. In your body and your baby. And if you are concerned? Ask for extra monitoring, to make sure baby is hunky dory in there. And the other thing you can do? Do a hypnobirthing course and learn about all the simple ways you can birth your baby more easily, more confidently, and more comfortably.
The Home Advantage
20 June 2020
Hang on...yes I am talking about football, but bear with me! As we all know, it’s back... and there’s a lot of chat about how they’re playing, who’s there, how it’s all adapted to be COVID-friendly (or unfriendly?)
This morning they were chatting about the home advantage (and whether it still applies with the fake crowd noise rather than real fans). Normally, this refers to the fact that the team playing at home will usually score more goals and has a better chance of winning. Why? They’re on familiar turf, and they have the support of the crowd behind them. The same team, with the same abilities, but doing better. Simply because they feel more at home and more supported. In addition, they may benefit from bias from the ref, who is sometimes more lenient towards the home team.
Birth is the biggest, best example of the home advantage! In your own home, where you’re in familiar surroundings, more relaxed, and with a loving, familiar support team behind you, you have the ultimate in Home Advantage! Your body is more relaxed and more comfortable and your birth is often quicker. Perhaps you also have a midwife that you know, or a doula to support you, adding to that small crowd of people quietly cheering you on. And what about the ref? I mean, midwife! She’s on YOUR turf. In your home. In your space. She has to ask if she can use your loo. Or your kettle. Think about how that changes the dynamics compared to when you’re in a hospital, and you do as you’re told without questioning anything. The power shift is quite dramatic.
Home birth isn’t for everyone, but it’s always worth investigating and considering. Because for many people, they really will notice the Home Advantage.
A new normal
19 June 2020
So as restrictions start to lift...a new normal is unfolding for Strong Like Mama courses.
Am I still teaching through zoom? Absolutely! Both small group courses and private courses are continuing in this way. It’s working really well and it means that I can help you prepare for a positive birth, wherever you are in the world! AND you can wear your PJs and be cuddled up on your sofa for the duration of the course. Downside? No biscuits from me I’m afraid.
Am I teaching face to face? Sort of! My exciting new announcement is that, if you live within half an hour of Tonbridge, Kent, I am now able to teach you face to face - at a safe distance, in your garden. This only applies to private courses and is obviously weather dependent - if we’re suddenly facing a terrible weather forecast then we will revert to zoom. Downside? Still no biscuits from me! But I hope that this means we can take some baby steps back towards face to face courses. I will not be taking any risks - so garden access only via an outside gate, 2m+ distancing, I bring my own drink and snacks, you bring yours.... but hopefully that face to face contact can finally start to return.
So whether you’re local or not, or you’d like a face to face course or not, we can now have a chat about what might work best - whilst keeping all of us safe. So we can all focus on you, your baby, and your beautiful birth.
Covid-19; Changes to place of birth
On 31 March, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells maternity announced that they will no longer be offering home births. Yet another piece of really stressful, upsetting news for pregnant women in Kent. And it’s not just Kent - whilst some trusts are leaning towards home birth to keep women out of hospital, many others are also closing this option.
So if you are pregnant and wanted a home birth, what now? Allow yourself time to grieve. I totally get how devastating this must feel. Then, write down all the reasons you wanted that home birth. Now add a second column to that list: how will you recreate / mirror / allow for each of those points in your birth now?
Whether you choose a birthing unit or hospital as your plan B, there are many ways to make it your home from home. Think playlists with sentimental value, pillows from home, LED candles, a rollerball with a comforting, familiar fragrance, photos of loved ones, a mask to block out the lights and people and allow you to mentally return home. Push the bed to the side of the room and make the most of the birth balls, birth pools etc available. You can transform that space and make it your own.
Also make sure that those around you know why you initially chose a home birth. Put it in your birth plan and discuss it with your birth partner. If intervention is a concern for you, then have reminders that having that intervention available makes us more likely to reach for it. It may help you to pause and discuss your options first.
Many women give birth at their second choice place of birth and have wonderfully positive births. It will be ok. And you will be amazing.
Covid-19; Birth partner restrictions
I’m hearing a lot of anxiety about women potentially being denied their birth partner, for some or all of their labour and birth. I am so sorry that we are even thinking and talking about this. It’s something I never imagined.
If you are facing this then (after screaming into a pillow and having a cry) you should have a think about how you can prepare for this in a positive way.
Prevention: can you and your birth partner self isolate for 2 weeks before your birth? This may not be sufficient in every trust area but it will definitely help in most, to demonstrate that your partner brings no additional risk. Bear in mind baby is due anytime between about 37-42 weeks, so its not just the fortnight before your due date.
Alternative: can you line up a second possible birth partner? If your first choice starts showing symptoms of the virus, it may be a godsend for you to be able to have another friend or loved one with you. They should be familiar with your birth plan and on board with all your wishes.
Preparation: now consider how you will relax and reassure yourself during labour in the instance that you are without a birth partner. How can you improve your environment? Can your birth partner record you voice notes? Or relaxations? Can you prepare a birth board with photos and messages of support?
Whilst this is not a situation you will have ever imagined, if you prepare for it well you can still have a positive birth. You’re strong, mama. You’ve got this.
Life goes on! Live, interactive courses through zoom
Just because we can’t all meet up, doesn’t mean life gets cancelled! My antenatal and hypnobirthing courses are still happening, to prepare you for your best possible birth! They’re happening through zoom, fully interactive and in real time so you can chat to me as you would face to face and ask me any questions - however worrying / embarrassing / weird you might think they are! Nothing has to change - you just have to supply your own snacks I’m afraid...
Get in touch to discuss availability over the coming weeks. Let’s dial down all the anxiety you’re feeling at the moment and get you feeling confident about giving birth!
A rabbit in the headlights
For the last week or so, I’ve felt like a rabbit in the headlights. ‘The virus’ has occupied so much of my thought and chat time that the rest of my life has sort of fallen by the way side. (Apart from parenting which actually still keeps me pretty busy 😆😴). It’s just such a massive focus though, with so much uncertainty and so many unknowns.
How are you feeling? If you’re pregnant, I suspect you might have paused thinking about all nice things baby, and are just focused on the fear. Fear for you and fear for baby - re ‘the virus’.
During ‘normal’ times you would probably be thinking about planning your labour and birth and how to make it as wonderful as possible. In the current climate, you may have switched to thinking that you both just need to all come out alive. But actually, the same rules apply- you can still come out the other side having had the most amazing birth, and a truly wonderful first meeting with your baby. The cancellation of face to face antenatal courses does not - and must not - mean the cancellation of your birth prep.
I am now teaching my full antenatal and hypnobirthing course live via zoom. Everything that was on offer in person is still on offer, including post-course support from me up to the birth of your baby. Your baby is still coming, pandemic or no pandemic. Let his or her birth be an amazing experience, not just something you get through.
Out of control
Right now, the world seems as out of control as a toddler on the loose in a supermarket. I’m not enjoying it.
We’re hearing contradictory information. We’re being told what we can and can’t do. We’re fearful. We’re anxious. If you’re pregnant then I have no doubt that all these feelings apply to your pregnancy ten times over.
And I feel really sad for you. That your pregnancy, which should just be this happy, exciting, amazing time, is not just staying as that. That it’s being clouded by all these other negative feelings.
Doing a hypnobirthing course can change things for you. It can put you back in the driving seat and help you take back control. You need to know your options for labour and birth, now more than ever. You need ways to get rid of the fear and to start to feel confident about birthing your baby. And you need tools to help you relax, both before, during and after birth.
Get in touch to discuss how I can help you with my antenatal and hypnobirthing course - the only course you need to prepare for giving birth. I’m running these via zoom for the time being, so we can find a time that is best for you and your birth partner, and we can start to change how you’re feeling. Give you back the control that the whole world is losing right now. I can’t wait to hear from you!
Physically isolated. Not emotionally isolated.
You may be choosing to self-isolate at the moment. Or even just distance yourself socially. I, and I think most people, find that really difficult to deal with mentally. The smallest lovely things in our day are suddenly gong to disappear and that’s really challenging to deal with on top of all the fear we’re being exposed to.
Social connection is massive, it is at the core of our mental and emotional well-being. So spend some time thinking about how you can connect emotionally despite the physical isolation. Schedule FaceTime chats with friends and family into your day. Take up longer email writing. Have FaceTime dinner dates - eat the same meal as another couple and share the same evening but at a distance. Whatever appeals to you.
But my key point is to prioritize emotional connection. It’s more important now than ever before.
Have your group antenatal courses been cancelled?
I’m hearing reports of this, given the ongoing pandemic panic. (Panpanic?) Your baby is still going to make an arrival though, so please, please don’t just give up your plans to prepare for labour and birth.
I have decided to extend my current offering of providing my full antenatal and hypnobirthing course on a private 1:1 basis, for the same price as my group course. That gives you approx 10 hours of course time (either face to face at your home if logistically possible given the ongoing situation, or over Skype / FaceTime) plus additional home learning and ongoing support from me, for £249.
Coronavirus is dominating a lot of air time (and mind time) at the moment but the arrival of your baby will most likely be a much bigger event in your life. Make sure you give it appropriate time and preparation. In 10 years time it will be the birth of your baby that you will remember, not all the chat about hand washing and empty supermarkets!
Papers. And stuff. And agendas.
I write this, of course, in the context of the crazy times we’re going through. The Coronavirus pandemic is like nothing we’ve known before and it is naturally going to cause anxiety - most of all, in those with a particular medical condition. Or those who are expecting a baby!
But now is a really good time to remember that headlines are there for a reason. To stop the scroll. To make you look twice. And then read or buy (or both).
This is something that we should take with us at all times, especially in pregnancy. Even when there isn’t a pandemic (!!), there is always a long list of health scares that the media want to terrify you about. And you know what? When you look behind the headline, things are so often not quite what they seem. A little more nuanced, and a little more pragmatic. A risk ‘doubled’ for instance may not be a jump from 20% to 40% as you might imagine - it might be 0.5% to 1%! Which completely changes the context of the conversation. In hypnobirthing we look at the evidence so that you can make informed decisions based on fact, not fear.
So I urge you, now more than ever, to read the facts. Look at what that expert actually said in full, or what that study actually concluded and how it was undertaken. If you are pregnant and worried about the risk that Coronavirus poses for you, avoid the Daily Fail and instead have a look at the RCOG and RCM guidance. You’ll find yourself having a much more sensible discussion, with yourself and your birth partner.
How do you feel about giving birth to your baby? And now the bigger question: WHY do you feel like that?
If you are a first time mum, perhaps you have heard stories from friends or family members. Snippets of their birth experiences. Dos and don’ts from their journeys. Perhaps you’ve watched One Born Every Minute, and you’ve seen the way birth is portrayed in soaps. Perhaps you’ve picked things up from stories in the media - Daily Mail articles about how terrible labour is.
We all have ideas and perceptions based on what we have seen and heard. What is really important is that we are aware of how these perceptions can impact upon what then actually takes place. How they can become your reality.
You have an opportunity to change the stories you’re telling yourself. Create your own reality. Impact your own experience. Your perceptions can and will affect how your birth unfolds - make sure yours are based on facts and on a mindset that actually helps you and your baby.
Photo credit: @psplechta_birthphotography
Could I have sex here?
A question you ask yourself all the time right?!
But the very time you should be asking yourself this question is when you are planning your birth environment. That might surprise you. You might picture labour and birth being something that happens in a hospital, surrounded by machines and doctors and bright lights, all there to keep you and your baby safe. And hospital may be the best place for your birth to take place - but that doesn’t mean that you have to feel like you’re in a super sterile, clinical environment.
But why does it even matter? Because your environment will have a direct impact on how well your body labours. On how long your labour lasts. And on how much pain you feel! Er...tell me more, Rachel?!
To make your contractions more effective and less painful, and your labour shorter overall, you NEED an environment in which you can answer YES! to this question. Think romance - lighting, music, fragrances, privacy, massage, the whole shebang. To really get things progressing, you and your partner need to feel like there’s no reason why you can’t get it on, there and then... On a Strong Like Mama course we talk about the science behind this fact, and how we can plan your birth to make sure your environment is as beautiful as possible, wherever it may be.
‘You’ve got to go with the flow’
...sure, if you’re choosing what to have for dinner! Not when it comes to planning for the birth of your baby!
Who knew there were SO MANY decisions to be made about how you give birth?!
I’m now using the brilliant @milli.hill Positive Birth Book birth plan cards in my courses to demonstrate just how many decisions there are to be made. They provide us with brilliant prompts to discuss which options are the right ones for you and your baby.
They also help to demonstrate how essential a birth plan is! With this many options and variables, how on earth is your midwife supposed to follow any or all of your wishes otherwise?! Some of these are super simple and can be implemented without any preparation or thought, so don’t deny yourself the opportunity to prepare for the labour and birth that you want.
‘You’ll think you’re going to die, but you won’t’
Throwback to this pic, when I was about 36 weeks pregnant with my first baby and I had heard this phrase from at least two mums. They didn’t say it to terrify me, they said it from a place of kindness and warning, they thought they were doing me a favour. And so did I! I really was grateful for the heads up! I thought well, if I know that, then I can remind myself of it and I’ll just get through it. It’s just one day!
Two babies later and I now think WTAF?!! How awful that this was the experience women had had, and that I was going into labour with this mindset too. It’s so sad - no mum should feel like this either before or during their birth.
Second time around, I felt nothing but excitement to give birth. I had done the leg work and felt prepared - I knew my options, I knew how to help my body during labour, I knew what my birth preferences were - both the negotiables and the non-negotiables, and I had confidence in my birth partner, my care givers and myself.
Don’t leave your birth experience to chance. You don’t need to be the mum giving warnings like this! I promise you that this is something that you can have an impact on. Get in touch to take your first step towards a confident, positive birth.
Put your hand up if you've been told a horror story about childbirth
Protect yourself. Say ‘no, thank you’ to the horror stories from friends, family and total strangers who want to tell you how awful their birth was. These stories serve no purpose and only do you harm. They are not you and you are not them. Your birth story will be your own - and listening to the horrible stories only makes you more likely to get one of your own.
Surround yourself with positivity. With stories of amazing, powerful, incredible births. Take from those stories all the aspects that make you feel warm and glowy and consider how you will incorporate them in your own birth planning. If you were planning for your wedding you wouldn’t be googling wedding horror stories! You would be on Pinterest getting inspiration for the wedding of your dreams! Preparing for the birth of your baby is no different.
When you feel a sad or scary story being volunteered, just ask them to save it until after your birth. ‘No, thank you.’
Let’s talk about pain!
Because, come on, for the VAST majority of people, birth is painful.
In hypnobirthing, we talk about the fear - tension - pain cycle: the more fear, the more tension, the more pain. So by losing the fear and the tension we reduce the pain. And it really will lead to a less painful birth.
But painless? Very rarely. Here I am, somewhere near transition, birthing my second son, and it was Intense! But it’s too simplistic to refer to it as just painful. Pain is your body telling you something is wrong - but nothing was wrong. Those surges served a purpose. They were powerful.
So not only do we work on re-framing your view of pain in labour and birth, but we get you as relaxed as possible so that what you do feel is greatly reduced.
AND in addition to all that, we get you fully informed on all your pain relief options. Because, contrary to what some might think, we are not all about a drug-free birth at all costs! Learn what’s available, learn the benefits and risks of each, and then have what you want, if you want it.
Get in touch to discuss availability for a private Strong Like Mama antenatal and hypnobirthing course.
Vaginal examinations? Yes.
Blood tests? Yes.
Caesarean birth? Yes.
Vaginal birth? Yes.
Hospital birth? Yes.
Home birth? Yes.
And I could go on because the list is literally endless.
When I say ‘your care giver needs to obtain your informed consent to everything ’ it seems obvious...yet mums still often tell me what they have been *told* will or will not be happening to them or what they are not *allowed* to do. We accept these things because we’re conditioned to believe that the medical professionals know best and we should do as we’re told. Often the advice we receive will be absolutely correct, but it must still be mum’s decision and sometimes that decision will not be one that the care giver agrees with. That is irrelevant- mum will make the best decision for her and her baby. Know your options and ensure you have the confidence to do what’s right for you.
Is it niggling at you?
How am I going to get this baby out? What do contractions feel like? At what point do we go to the hospital? How is my partner going to cope seeing me in pain? My sister had a caesarean but my mum gave birth naturally with no pain relief- what will my birth look like?
All these questions going around in your head don’t have to stay there. Talking about them doesn’t make them scary and real - they’re already scary and real! Talking about them and getting the answers to them allows you to deal with them and plan the birth that you want. Get rid of the black cloud that taints the feeling of excitement that you have about your baby’s arrival. You don’t have to put up with the niggle. Learn about birth, learn about your options, get rid of the fear and learn how to relax. Like, really relax. Start feeling like you’re preparing for the most amazing day of your life, rather than feeling like this scary day is creeping up on you.
I do not like being pregnant. I am not a happy pregnant person. Sure, there are happy and exciting bits - the moment you find out, the scans, the planning, the kicking, the excitement - but generally, no. For me, pregnancy is sickness, tiredness, discomfort, eating cereal at 4am and feeling like it will NEVER end!
Birth on the other hand... I love it! Bringing new life into the world. Meeting your baby. The feeling of power. I would take giving birth over being pregnant any day!
How do you feel about giving birth? Are you with me, or do you think I’m totally nuts? However your birth pans out, you should feel at least some of what I’ve described above. It’s certainly not easy, and it’s flippin intense, but all women should feel like they are the absolute bees knees after bringing their baby into the world.
PS my husband has confirmed that he hates pregnancy too... Says it all I think!
Photo credit: @birth_photography
Home birth won’t be right for everyone but it’s worth exploring whether it might be right for you. Make that exploration based on fact rather than assumption.
What? Mere survival? And just 50%?
This is essentially what is being said when we hear - or maybe even say - that age old, well known phrase ‘a healthy baby is all that matters’.
Only the baby matters. And by ‘healthy’, we actually mean ‘alive’. So, what we’re striving for is the survival of the baby. Seriously? Is that IT? Talk about aiming low... imagine if we aimed that low with everything in life...I wouldn’t make it out of bed in the morning!
What is so dangerous about this phrase is that it reinforces the view that the physical, mental and emotional health of the mother doesn’t matter. That she is just a vehicle for the baby, and if she has a few crashes along the way and comes out feeling a bit battered the other end then..well...at least the baby’s alive.
This should be so low down on our list of objectives that it shouldn’t even be thought, let alone said to or by the birthing woman. How about we aim for a positive birth for all involved. For optimum physical, mental and emotional health. For a birth that will be remembered fondly in 20 years time. For a birth that sets mum and baby up for the most healthy and happy weeks, months and years following the birth. Just a thought.
Let’s get a new phrase out there, in hospitals and birth centres. What phrase would you like to hear?
Are you expecting a summer 2020 baby? How are you feeling about the birth? Do you know all your options? Does your birth partner know how to fully support you and improve your birth experience? Do you feel confident about what procedures you can say yes and no to?
I’m now taking bookings for private 1:1 courses for summer births and for a limited time I am offering this at the same price as a a group course - saving you £100!
Get in touch and get birth confident!
Complimentary therapies post-dates service
Think complimentary therapies are all a bit wishy washy? Check out this recent midwife-led service which aimed to reduce induction rates by 3-4%...and achieved a reduction of 27%!! Just shows the power of positivity, support and relaxation. Let’s hope this gets rolled out across more NHS Trusts 🤞🏼
The Duchess of Cambridge has been talking to @mrsgifletcher on her Happy Mum Happy Baby podcast about how hypnobirthing helped her to cope with hyperemesis gravidarum. She says that it taught her the power of the mind over the body and described it as ‘hugely powerful’.
Having used hypnobirthing for all three of her pregnancies and births, she says that she ‘really quite liked labour’.
Perhaps Kate is not the type of person you would expect to do hypnobirthing. Perhaps the description above is not how you would expect her to describe her feelings about labour. Perhaps its time you find about more about hypnobirthing and how it can help you with your labour! If your baby is due any time from May 2020 onwards, get in touch to book a 1:1 course with me and find out what she’s talking about!
This is the big question that gets thrown at you every time someone new meets your baby. I’m still in the phase of hearing it, over one month on!
And it’s a bit of a personal question isn’t it? Yet few people stop to think what impact it could have. How triggering it could be, and how the birth might be something you don’t want to think about every time you look at your baby.
Frankly, it’s no one’s business how the birth was and you’d be in your rights to tell them where to stick it! It doesn’t matter how you gave birth, certainly not to anyone else! But what I do care about is how you feel when this question is asked. What feelings does it conjure up in you?
I want you to look back and feel like you bossed it. Like you took on this massive, intense, huge thing and you approached it with knowledge and preparation and confidence and the gravitas it deserves. That you made every decision informed whilst feeling respected and in control. And so the birth ultimately was the right birth for you and your baby. So that your reply can simply and confidently be: the right birth for us.
That is the purpose of our course. Get in touch to discus how I can help you.
Currently reading Why Induction Matters by @midwifethinking during night feeds to stay awake! There’s so much that I could feature on here but this paragraph about risk assessments by care providers really struck me. Your or my risk assessment of a particular option will be different to a midwife’s or an obstetrician’s or that which contributed to setting NHS policy. It underlines the importance of getting informed yourself and being able to assess the bigger picture, not just the here and now. You are OBVIOUSLY going to choose the option which you think is best for your baby - but that does NOT mean disregarding what is best for you too.
So a week ago, this little chap came into the world! I had him at home on Friday 3 January and it was truly amazing. That is why I’m a little quiet at the moment, whilst we find our feet as a family of 4.
Delighted to say that the next positive birth story that I share on social media will therefore be mine! Visit my facebook page @StrongLikeMamaHypnobirthing or Insta @_stronglikemama_ to have a read.
I’m taking some time out from teaching for now but will be teaching 1:1 sessions from March 2020. Get in touch for more information!
I’m off for more newborn baby cuddles xxx
How do you want to feel about the upcoming birth of your baby?
I had this lovely message after an all day, 1:1 teaching session with a first time mum and dad. All sorts of emotions can be felt at the start of the course: anxiety, fear, lack of control, skepticism, dread. My goal is to get rid of all of those negative emotions. By the time we say goodbye, I will have you feeling positive, informed, prepared, empowered, excited and strong.
This will help you as an individual but also as a couple. Whoever your birth partner is, you can now have an informed discussion about how you want your birth experience to be. What your priorities are, for you and baby, and how you want to feel.
Remember: when you don’t know what your options are, you don’t have any. And closing your eyes and sticking your fingers in your ears is never going to leave you feeling good! Change that - make an impact.
Affirmations - particularly this one - often make me think of the Friends episode with Chandler Bing... ‘You are a calm, confident woman’
And it can be tempting to see them as a bit wanky...what can they actually achieve?
But if you think of it conversely - imagine that every day you were told you were stupid. Or fat. Or unloveable. That would get you down, and it would eventually make you start to believe it. Start to hate yourself. This is why emotional abuse is so effective.
So if that’s the power that negative words can have, imagine the power that positive words can have. Surround yourself with them (as you can see, I picked the places I visit most...the loo being one of them...) and over time they will have an effect on your subconscious.
‘So we’ll induce at 39 weeks.’
‘You’ll need to give birth in hospital.’
‘We’ll be having active management of the third stage.’
You may have heard some of these statements, or you may have been informed of another approach that will be taken to your birth. And you may think so what? They know best.
But were your different options discussed with you? Were you taken through the benefits and risks of each option? I hope so, but often it’s not the way, unfortunately.
Every single course of action has benefits and risks to it. Some will be right for you, some will not. And who decides which course will be taken? Your midwife? Your consultant? No! YOU! And your consent to any course of action (or lack thereof) must be INFORMED. How will you give informed consent if a) you don’t know your options, b) you don’t know the benefits and risks of each, and c) the suggestion is an instruction rather than a question?!
I received one of the above comments from a registrar. First time around, I think I would’ve accepted what he said as gospel. Having trained in hypnobirthing, I understood that his proposal was not so straightforward and we discussed the various options I knew to be available to me. I want my clients to be able to have the same confident conversation. To be able to reach a decision they are happy with, so that however things pan out they are satisfied that that course of action was right for them.
We spend years studying, training, developing. Building a life that we want. Working our way into the job we want, saving for the home we want to live in, growing a relationship with the right person.
Then we get pregnant. And what happens then??
We abandon control, we silence our opinions and we doubt ourselves. We let the ‘professionals’ take over and do what’s ‘best’. Why?!!
Having a baby is like anything else in life. There are different ways of doing things. Once size does not fit all. What is best for me may not be best for you. But how do you know what’s best for you until you know your options and the benefits and risks to each? You don’t let someone else choose the career you’re in, the house you live in, the partner you’re building your life with. So why would you not take control of your birth experience? Of the way your baby enters this world? Of your first few hours as a mother? Make them your own. Get educated and learn about what hypnobirthing can do for you, your partner and your baby.
What’s in your hospital bag?
This is the question that people google. That people post on social media. That people ask their new-mum mates. And most answers will involve practicalities like breast pads, cheap pants, baby grows and phone chargers. All valid ✅ But have you thought about the things that you take for granted at home that really help you to feel comforted and relaxed?
Wherever you are planning to birth, you need to think about this even if just for a plan B or C. Keeping your mind and body feeling calm, safe and relaxed will help your body to continue labouring in the most efficient and comfortable manner. The last thing you want is the transfer to hospital stalling everything and undoing the last few hours hard work!
So what do I suggest you include? Your headphones and favourite, feel-good play list. A spray or oil of a scent that you love. Some photos of loved ones and happy times. Your usual pillow (for a familiar smell, and so that you’re comfortable when the hospital runs out of stock...), and finally an eye mask. To shut out the world and let you focus on relaxing and breathing and staying in the zone. (And maybe dreaming of cocktails...)
What else would you include?
Fireworks! I know there weren’t any when I met my husband 😆 We gradually became really good friends and it was nearly two years before there was anything romantic.
Many people say that the moment you meet your baby will be the moment you meet the love of your life. But for some mums it’s not quite like that. Just like it did for me and my husband, sometimes it takes time and the right nurturing and environment for that love to grow into something beautiful.
The hours following birth are SO important for putting in those building blocks for a lifetime of love and bonding with your child. On our course we look at the golden hour and the mental, physical and emotional effect that it has on both mum and baby. It’s so precious and must be protected. And if circumstances mean it cannot immediately follow birth, all is not lost - we consider what else can be done to aid the building of that beautiful relationship. Sometimes it takes a little time and effort for these things to come... that doesn’t make them any less amazing when they arrive ❤️
She said this to me straight-faced and wide-eyed. She couldn’t even think about vaginal birth for this reason.
What if I told you there are a whole load of ways that you can help to prevent tearing? These include:
💡bouncing on a birth ball
💡pelvic floor exercises
💡giving birth at home
💡avoiding coached pushing
💡using your breath to give birth slowly
💡perineal massage (😳 more on that soon....)
💡 not giving birth on your back
What if you approached the birth of your baby without learning about all this? What if you just ‘went with the flow’ and ended up lying on a bed, on your back, *not* doing all the things that could help you. Because you couldn’t bear to think about it. Because you can’t plan a birth so there’s no point preparing for it. What a missed opportunity - and its gone forever.
Hypnobirthing is not just a few hippy dippy breathing exercises. It’s practical, evidence-based ways to prepare you for birth. Properly. So that you can take control and have a real impact on your birth experience. Grab the opportunity - with both hands.
We are the only mammals to doubt our ability to give birth! Let’s think about that.
Do you doubt your ability to breathe? Or poo? Or sneeze? Do you doubt whether your heart will keep beating or you’ll be able to walk or talk tomorrow? There is so much that we take for granted that we just do.
But when it comes to childbirth, somehow all that trust falls away. Why is that?! We doubt that we’ll spontaneously go into labour if we go a day past our due date. We doubt we’ll be able to cope with contractions. We doubt that baby will be in the right position. We doubt that we’ll safely birth the placenta without human intervention. But never would we expect our body to fail with any other automatic function.
There a number of reasons for this lack of trust. From an overactive neocortex, to society viewing women as weak, to the over-medicalisation of birth. Sure, sometimes a helping hand is needed and we are very lucky to live in a country where that expert help will usually be on hand. But *generally* the body does fine by itself. All we need to do, is ensure that it is able to operate optimally, in the best environment. Gaining an understanding of how your body will operate best, means you can place more trust in your body and accept that - actually - maybe it will all be fine! Maybe it will be better than fine! Maybe it’ll be the most amazing experience of your life.
Some women are horrified by the prospect of a caesarean birth - it’s truly the worst case scenario for them. For other women, it’s the only real option for them (whether that’s for medical or psychological reasons). Either way, it can be really comforting to know that you can still have an impact on the way your birth unfolds. You do *not* hand over all control the moment you sign those consent forms.
On a simple level, you can influence what sort of environment your baby is born into. Simple things which can nearly always be facilitated are having a playlist or relaxation of your choice playing in the background, or requesting that your care providers speak calmly and quietly, having dimmed lighting (save for spotlights in the obvious places - you don’t want that done in the dark....)
You can also take steps to ensure that your oxytocin levels are as high as possible for when your baby arrives. Have your gown on back to front so that you can have immediate skin to skin for instance - this will have big benefits for both you and baby, including helping with bonding and facilitating breast feeding. If you are unable to have skin to skin, you might like your partner to have this time with your baby instead.
On a more fundamental level, some women struggle with a feeling that they’ve not really ‘given birth’. Having a clear screen, or a lowered screen, so that you can see your baby being born can really help psychologically. So consider whether that’s something you might like to discuss with your care providers.
Finally, have you heard of a gentle caesarean? Rather than your baby being pulled out of you, after the incision your baby is given time to wriggle his/her way out of your body. This is of course a much more gentle entry to the world, but also has the added benefit that baby’s lungs are more prepared for entry into the real world (as happens during the massaging that take place in a vaginal birth).
So there are many options to consider, and that’s why it’s really worthwhile getting educated and thinking about what is best for you.
Oh god, they’re so boring. It doesn’t matter whether you’re pregnant or post-partum, it still feels like life is too bloody short to be doing pelvic floor exercises. Particularly if you aren’t having trouble holding your wee. Surely you can get away with not doing them then?
The thing is, it’s not just the wee side of things that mean you should do pelvic floor exercises. Everyone focuses on the drawing up, and being able to hold it, but actually that’s not the only benefit of PFEs (let’s try and disguise it with an acronym....)
The big benefit is the release. Once you get control over your pelvic floor you can release it as much as you can hold it. And it’s in labour and birth that that comes in really useful. Because if you are tight in your pelvis, your muscles are fighting your contractions and fighting the movement of baby down 👇🏻 the birth canal. Release - and everything moves more easily.
But they’re still so bloody boring aren’t they. Who on earth remembers to do them? I suggest a little coded post-it somewhere. On your kettle? On your dashboard for when you’re sat at traffic lights? Try and create a habit. (And remind yourself that birth and weeing aside, your sex life will also benefit and that should help to motivate you!)
‘When are you due?’ people ask, expecting me to say a date in October or November...
‘January’ I say - only to be greeted with this face: 😳
I looked pretty big with my first baby, and he was 6lb10. Second time around I’m even bigger, which I put down to the fact that a) it’s my second baby and they usually show earlier, and b) I’m only 5ft1 so a bump really does stand out on me.
It’s so easy to compare your shape and size with other women. We do it when not pregnant and so when your body is changing it’s even more tempting to compare bump size and think ‘should I be bigger / smaller??’
We’re all so different - in build, in shape, in height. Our babies are different and they sit differently within each of us. Try not to compare yourself with other mums to be - your body and your baby know what they’re doing. People can’t help but pass comment or pull faces - but just let it wash over you. Wouldn’t it be boring if we were all the same!
I’ve finally gotten around to booking onto my own hypnobirthing course! With KG herself, no less! It’s taken a while to sort out - pregnancy is long and life gets in the way, so it can tend to be one of those things that gets put off until a quieter day, but having previously given birth I really believe in the importance of preparing for your birth.
But, hang on you ask, why are you booking onto a course if you are a KGHypnobirthing teacher yourself?
Sure, I know the KGH course inside out - I’ve trained and qualified with KGH. I also know my own preferences with regards to place of birth, birth environment and a lot of the big decisions that I will face around birth. Other than listening to me whitter on about hypnobirthing to him though, my husband does not have the same knowledge. And this course is as much for him as it is for me.
It is so important that your birth partner has the same knowledge as you so that you can work together as a team in making the birth of your baby as positive as possible. My husband, as my birth partner, is as essential as my midwife. I need him to be on the same page as me so that he can speak for me when I’m busy giving birth (!), protect my environment and make the big decisions about birth and our baby with me. And this course provides us with space to really focus - without all the distractions that there are in day to day life - to discuss what is important to us and what our plan A and plan B will be if things unfold a little unexpectedly.
I’m so excited to be an observer on this course. Not just because I’m a birth nerd but because my husband is going to walk out feeling as confident and excited as I am about giving birth.
I say ‘yet’ because the chances are that you will be. It is an almost routine suggestion these days. When pregnant with my first baby, I was offered to book in for a sweep at 39 weeks. I was pregnant with my first baby (first babies frequently come after their due date) and hadn’t even reached my due date!
Why? Was there a reason for my baby’s arrival to be sped up? Was my body showing no signs of going into labour? No. Quite the contrary. My baby was happy as Larry, and I could feel my body gearing up with practice contractions. I knew labour was imminent.
So what conversation did my midwife have with me? Did she talk me through the benefits and risks? Did she warn me that it would be uncomfortable if not painful, that it wouldn’t necessarily work, that it might cause my body to have ineffective practice contractions for the next few days (or even weeks) causing me exhaustion but without putting me into established labour? No.
All the 2 minute conversation did was leave me feeling like my body might need some help. Maybe I wouldn’t - couldn’t - go into labour spontaneously. If she was suggesting it, there must be a reason, right? Wrong.
So what happened? I walked out of that room, went for a long walk with my husband, went home and lo and behold I went into labour within a couple of hours. My baby arrived that night.
It’s very easy to go with the suggestion that’s being made. To think that it must be needed if it’s being proposed. Just pause and consider things and ask a few questions. Maybe your baby just isn’t quite ready. Maybe you just need to relax. Maybe all is fine left alone. If you decide a sweep is the best option for you, great! Just make sure you know the facts before you sign up, so that you know that it’s the best thing for you and your baby.
This is what a mama-to-be said to me the other day and, I have to admit, I was a bit gobsmacked! What makes you say that I asked? We established that she had a perception that hypnobirthing could only be practised without pain relief. That there were rules. That the birth would be vaginal and as natural as possible (almost at all costs).
In fact, hypnobirthing is the least scary - most reassuring and empowering - thing ever. It is there to be used by YOU, as is most helpful for YOU and YOUR baby. There are no rules - anything goes! Have the epidural. Have an induction. Have a caesarean. If RIGHT for you - and hypnobirth your way through it! But decide on those things because you understand them, because you know the benefits and risks and you’ve decided they are best for you (not just because your mate said they were fine for them). Hypnobirthing will give you the tools to cope with all of that better. It will give you a calmer, more positive experience, regardless of what YOU decide for your birth.
So no, not scary. But a safety blanket. A tool box. A unique journey for you, your baby and your partner.
Why do you even need an antenatal education? That’s what all those medical professionals went to university for, right?
Wrong. There are a whole host of reasons why it is really important that you arm yourself with the facts in the run up to giving birth.
1. You are going to be faced with some big decisions before you go into labour. Where do you want to give birth? Who do you want there? How do you feel about sweeps and induction? What if you are presented with the option of a planned caesarean birth? All of these have benefits and risks, for you and your baby. Your midwife/consultant will not have time to discuss them all, and will be constrained by hospital policy in any event. This varies according to region so cannot possibly be right for every woman. Every woman and every birth is unique. Make the right decision for you and your baby.
2. Having an understanding of what your body is doing during birth will help to keep you calm. Less fear = less tension = less pain. What’s not to love?!
3. However your birth pans out, women who have felt informed, respected and part of the decision making tend to feel much more positive about their birth experience. So it’s not just your baby’s birthday that matters - it’s the weeks, months and years that follow that will benefit from your antenatal education.
Pregnancy is a roller coaster!
I am over the moon to be expecting my second baby. I love feeling him kick, I love that he starts dancing when I eat cake or chocolate and I cannot wait for my boys to meet each other and become brothers,
But myyyyy goodness. I’m exhausted! Theo had us up at 4.45am because he wanted to go to Peppa Pig World... I get breathless walking up any kind of incline, and it feels like the baby is either burrowing into my lungs or my lady bits...
None of that makes it any less wonderful or me any less happy. BUT. It’s not easy! A big shout out to all mamas to be - you’ve got this. Keep on. One minute / hour / day at a time (adjust according to mood!)
Think you can’t afford to do a hypnobirthing course? I’m going to ask you to pause and just think about that.
Much of life is about our priorities. I don’t care how big my TV is or what car I drive, but holidays and travel are what really get me excited. People might say ‘bloody hell, she’s going on holiday again!’ but I drive a second hand Ford Focus and can’t tell you how many years we’ve had our TV for.
Having a baby is really similar. Particularly when it’s your first baby and that ‘to buy’ list is SO LONG! Everyone will say ‘you must get x buggy’ or ‘your baby won’t sleep without y contraption’. And you’ll buy loads and then use half of it. And then get annoyed about whether it’s going to fit in your loft or whether you need to eBay it. That is mums the world over, I’m afraid.
So again it comes down to priorities. Can you really afford not to do a hypnobirthing course? Or are you just not placing enough value on it? Would you rather have an iCandy or the latest Bugaboo? Ok, fine. But just consider how you’ll feel about your buggy in 20 years time. Will you even remember it or care about it? Consider whether your buggy will impact on you physically, mentally, emotionally in the weeks and months that follow the birth of your baby. Consider whether your first buggy will impact upon how you feel about having a second or third baby.
There’s a lot of stuff you can cope without when you have a new baby in your arms. (And TBH babies are picky, unpredictable little things anyway so half of it is just suck it and see!) But ask yourself whether you will cope without any birth preparation. Ask yourself what value you place on feeling calm and confident about birth, rather than scared shitless! Ask yourself whether you are sure that your list of priorities is going to serve you well in the short and long term. We’re all different - you might scoff at my old Ford Focus! Just make sure your decision is a conscious one, and right for you.
When I arrived at triage, in labour with my son, I think that every midwife I came across practically greeted me with this. ‘Hello, I’m (X) - are you hypnobirthing?’ This spoke absolute volumes to me. You see, your midwife is constantly assessing you, even when it looks like she’s sat there doing nothing, she’s monitoring your breathing, your emotional state, how you’re coping. Not just because she’s concerned to make sure that you’re coping okay, but also because it tells her so much about how far labour has progressed and how things are going.
When a midwife comes across a hypnobirthing woman, she often finds that she has a woman who is calm, breathing well and ‘in the zone’. All of which is fantastic! But, this of course impacts upon the conclusions that that midwife draws about the labouring woman’s labour. Hypnobirthing mums are often told you don’t look / sounds very far gone - because they’re not screaming in pain or saying they can’t cope. Then it turns out that actually their labour is very well established - they’re just managing it very well.
Be the woman who gets asked whether she’s hypnobirthing. Be the woman who is coping with her labour so well that her midwife suspects she’s turned up at the hospital too early. Be the woman who thinks her labour is in it’s early stages because she’s coping so well, yet who is actually close to birthing her baby. Its up to you to choose this, no one else.
When people hear about hypnobirthing, it’s often one of those things that sounds like it might apply to other people - people who meditate, people who are spiritual, people, people who believe in the alternative... etc. People who want to birth in the woods. I absolutely thought this when I was pregnant with my first. Frankly, how can some relaxing words and music actually help me in childbirth? CHILDBIRTH for goodness sake!
But if you are pregnant, then your body is capable of growing and giving birth to a baby (however that might come about). And that is, actually, all you need to be able to benefit from hypnobirthing. It can be as woo-woo or as practical and scientific as you want it to be. It’s a completely unique and individual journey for every woman.
And if you are classed as ‘high-risk’ (egh...HATE that phrase) you stand to gain just as much, if not more, from hypnobirthing than a ‘low-risk’ woman. Why? Because you are likely to face more decisions. Needing more questions and more information. Sweeps, induction, continuous monitoring, caesarean birth. All of which hypnobirthing will help you to navigate. Plus, being ‘high-risk’ will inevitably leave you feeling a bit more anxious about how your birth will pan out.
So when you’re googling, and reading positive birth stories, and watching amazing, calm birth videos, pause before you think ‘great for them, but no chance for me’. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
The power of language! Even as a KGH trained and accredited hypnobirthing teacher, this shows that I too can be affected by careless language. Which underlines the fact that EVERY pregnant woman needs to prepare for her birth. The subconscious mind is very powerful. More fear means more pain - get rid of the fear and make your birth more comfortable.