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.