Beginner’s Guide to a Confident Birth

A friend this week asked if I could signpost them to some articles that could help some people they knew feel a little less afraid of birth.   So I searched all my resources for an appropriate article, something that was an overview and that inspired confidence. Importantly something that made them think, “yes I can do this and it’s going to be ok, actually better than ok!”.

So I searched, and I couldn’t believe it. A simple comprehensive blog entry, that was an overview or that focused on building confidence totally eluded me. Don’t get me wrong, there are hundreds of fantastic blogs on normal birth, hypnobirthing, home birth, confident birth but they’re a patchwork quilt of specific articles about one tiny part of birth.

If I were considering a normal birth that made me think about the birth with confidence, and helped me to think that it could be different and better than I had imagined, with some basic resources to get me started,  I would be unlikely to stumble upon it.  I would just feel overwhelmed with all the information.

Seasoned bloggers and natural birth advocates know where to look, but to a mum just beginning her journey who is frightened or apprehensive, and just come across the term normal birth,  it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack. A haystack that is stuffed full of comments and threads from pregnancy forums, compounding most fears about birth.

So for my clients and others who are interested I thought I’d write a condensed resource, a beginner’s guide to normal birth and a springboard into the vast network of information on the internet about how birth can be powerful and amazing.

There are some bullet points to get you thinking, a couple of videos that show you what you can do, and links to blogs and birth stories of mothers that have done it.

  1. Your body is designed to birth, you CAN do it and do it well.  Women birth every moment all over the world about 49,000 babies are born every day and the large majority of those babies are born healthy and well.
  2. You have choice every step of the way, you can change your midwife, you can choose any hospital you wish, you can choose a homebirth, you can have as many birthing partners as you wish, you can choose to have a vaginal examination or you can choose not to have a vaginal examination, you can choose to have more time, you can choose the birth you want.
  3. Birth is not the worst pain ever, but fear of pain can make it worse. Some women say they don’t experience pain, others do and find it very intense.   I broke my elbow a few years back it was awful, it was constant and it lasted for weeks. If you are contracting over a period of 8 hours 4 mins apart you are perhaps only having contractions for 2 hours.  The trick is to remain focused and do a class that teaches you great coping strategies.  Many second time mums find it easier, not because their physiology has changed or they ‘know how to do it’, it’s because they lose the fear and they know that they can do it.  It’s amazing what we can do when we are in the right mind set.
  4. Stop watching anything like One Born Every Minute, I find that programme incredibly upsetting sometimes, and find it difficult to get rid of some of those images in my head.  I can’t imagine watching it a few weeks before I’m due to deliver.
  5. Understand the truth about any fears you have during pregnancy, concerns about a big baby, concerns about tearing, or being out of control.  Do some research so you can really understand how your body works and take preventative measures or do some good reading. Odds are that you’ll find research that contradicts common pregnancy myths and  you’ll feel more confident.
  6. Learn about how your hormones work, and what your body is designed to do.  You’ll learn that the more you let go of your fear, the easier it is to focus and to be in control of your birth.
  7. Do a good class, hypnosis for birth or yoga or even one of our Mindful Mamma classes.   This will build your confidence and help you to see birth in a different way to how it’s generally portrayed in western society, a medial event and helping you stay in control. Even some confidence building Mp3s will help.
  8. Don’t always believe what you are told, if you don’t want what you are offered there is always an alternative. It’s up to you to ask.
  9. A cliche I know, but listen to your instincts. We are animals at the end of the day. Animals don’t come with manuals, they instinctively know how to birth.
  10. Focus on your baby, often forgotten, this is baby’s journey and your journey into motherhood.  It’s a labour a love, bringing your baby into the world and into your arms.  A good friend recently who is mother to two young boys said “there is too much focus on the birth, when becoming a mother is so much more”.
  • Links
  • If you are worried about having a big baby visit this Big Babies myth busting website.
  • If you are worried about malposition visit this site Spinning Babies which is a great resource.
  • Essential reading. I would urge every mum-to-be to read this. Learn the truth about pain during labour, this article Ecstatic Birth, by Dr Sarah J Buckley is a must and helps you understand what your body is doing.
  • This site has been going for years and hasn’t changed either!  It’s called Home Birth UK but is a superb resource for all things around natural birth. I refer all my clients to this site.
  • Favourite Blogs
  • This blog, The Midwife Thinking Blog written by a midwife in Australia, gives you great insight into common interventions and why they are not always necessary.
  • Kedi is an NCT teacher and Birthing Companion. Her blog Kedi Talks Birth is a great insight into normal birth within the UK.
  • Articles
  • These are articles around specific fears linked to birth that often crop up in classes or common interventions that can change the course of your layout.
  • Tearing or needing an episiotomoy – http://midwifeinfo.com/articles/episiotomy-and-how-to-avoid-it
  • Breaking of waters –  a routine intervention in the UK to speed things up that is important to fully understand http://midwifethinking.com/2010/08/20/in-defence-of-the-amniotic-sac/
  • Learn about what induction actually means and why it may not always be the right option.

Help I’m a Terrible Mother

“You’re going to think I’m a terrible mother….” is one of the most frequently heard phrases in my consulting room. I always think “yup you are a terrible mother, a terribly wonderful mother that the thought and instinct to do the best you can for your child is always there and that you are looking for ways to manage your frustration and anger”.

The guilt that women feel for snapping or shouting at their child is a cruel thing, perhaps there are some of you out there who have never yelled at their child, wished they would just shut up, or wanted to lock yourself in a room with noise cancelling headphones on. If you’re a mum like that I salute you, because you’re better than me.

The truth of the matter is, things are harder for new mothers than they ever have been. Two generations ago, or even a generation ago, we lived much closer to our families. We had trusted support networks that gave us a well needed break and the opportunity to find the space to care for our own wellbeing. It is hard to be mindful of ourselves and our actions as a parent, when we are so busy with interruptions and the spaces between time seem to get smaller. Thich Nhat Hanh a Buddhist monk who has done a lot of work on mindfulness in Western culture, said that children create one of the most beautiful but the most challenging lessons in mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn speaks of your time with the children as a meditation and an opportunity to become more self aware. This great blog by Myla and Jon gives wonderful guidance on how to tune into yourself.

These types of approaches are still on the fringes of our culture however and the overwhelming sense is that women are quite far removed from the opportunity offered through parenthood to become more self-aware, to adjust, to enjoy and to learn. We don’t have the networks we need to support us in that journey and often our sense of self as a parent is obscured by thoughts and feelings of what is expected of us as a mother.

Historically, as women moved more and more into higher education, several things happened, we migrated away from our families to university, we became independent, we got jobs, and we stayed away.Then we got married and had children but we held onto that independence, onto our jobs and onto our children, our right to have it all. The right to be equal to men was something our mothers and their mothers before them had worked hard for, the suffragettes, the 60’s feminist movement sacrificed much to bring equality in the home and in the workplace and there is an inherent responsibility to honour that fight.

I grew up on Virginia Woolf, Mary Wollstonecraft, Germaine Greer and many more but now as a mother and career women I’ve come to realize that I can’t do both and give them 100%, it’s a cruel fallacy. Apparently Nicola Horlicks, Karren Brady and other women are proof that you can have it all, but Karren was back at work 6 weeks after the birth of her son. 6 weeks! It was the right choice for her and that’s fine, but it shouldn’t be sold as having it all, it’s being a full time businesswoman and part time mother.

My instinct is to be at home with my children, making sure that the home is running smoothly (If I’d said that to my 19 year old self, I’d have had a good talking to) but there is also my job which I love, but which I squeeze in around my children, rather than my children squeezing in around my job. That’s my choice and that’s fine too, but I’m a full-time mother and a part-time businesswoman.

When you first become a mother, balancing all these demands is tiring, it’s exhausting, often mums can become brittle and then snap.Most of us are awfully British, even when help is offered we say “no no no, don’t worry I’m fine”, when it may be abundantly clear that you are not.

So when people come and see me saying they’re a terrible mum or that they can’t cope, I remind them of how important their network is, how important that ‘holding’ has been to women throughout time, from the ancient Greeks up to the present day. When you are challenged, be mindful of the feelings and thoughts that arise in you, observe them, understand where they are coming from. Sometimes the fear you have of your child hurting itself while exploring the world around it, may have been learned by you as a child by your mother, awareness of that emotion gives you the chance to know yourself more deeply than before and to let go of obstructive thoughts.

Don’t be afraid of emotions however strong or upsetting they may be, find space to explore those feelings and above all remember that as your child learns its way in the world, you are still learning to. Be kind to yourself.

Here are some quick ideas to create space to breath, focus and tap into your inner strength.

  • Say yes to offers of help. If you are away from friends or family consider a postnatal doula or a night nanny. If you haven’t heard of a night nanny have a look at this site by Elizabeth Stokes who is based in Nottingham.http://www.eastmidlandsnightnanny.co.uk/
  • Put your baby in a sling and go for a walk, perhaps turn it into awalking meditation.
  • Use a talking meditation with your baby: Describe, the sunset, or a tree in the park, or a beautiful view in as vivid detail as you possibly can to 
your baby.
  • If you ever feel at breaking point or feel you are going to snap, put your baby in safe place and go into the garden. Getting in touch with nature can be very calming, and you can use a simple walking mediation in a circle, breathing in and breathing out until you are aware of that emotion subsiding.
  • Make yourself a cup of tea (even better get someone else to make it for you) tea has magical properties!

Don’t….

…..Think that you can manage on your own all the time, it’s ok to ask for help and if you do ask you will probably get it!

What is an International Board Certified Lactation (IBCLC) Consultant?

An IBCLC Lactation consultant is a healthcare professional who has been certified  to possess the necessary skills, knowledge and attitudes to provide quality breastfeeding assistance to mothers and their babies.

The International Board Certified Lactation Consultant examination( IBCLC) is recognised internationally as the ‘’gold’’ standard in lactation consultant  credentiallng

Look for this credential when seeking a lactation consultant to ensure the highest level of training, experience and expertise.  This credential is renewed after 5 years through continuous education and after 10 years by resitting the exam set by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners.

Pregnancy

This is a post for expectant parents in Nottingham.