Why I’m not pro-natural birth…

I’m a HypnoBirthing Practitioner so it’s obvious that I am pro-natural birth, right?

Well actually, wrong!

Croydon Hypnobirthing birth pregnancy

If I’m pro-natural birth, I’m by default saying that those parents that do not have a natural birth must be less in some way… and that is just not the case.

If I’m pro-natural birth, I’m effectively saying that parents who do not have a natural birth must have made some poor choices.

If I’m pro-natural birth, it could be interpreted by parents who do not have a natural birth that they did something wrong, that perhaps the mum’s body wasn’t quite up to the job.

If I’m pro-natural birth, I’m telling the midwives and doctors who are there for an assisted birth that they have not assisted effectively.

And all these things would be wrong.

The reality is that most of my HypnoBirthing clients do have wholly natural births. They haven’t felt extreme pain, their babies have birthed relatively quickly and the first moments with their baby have been easy because no one is exhausted. And this pleases me greatly.

One of my favourite birth reports came from a couple who had had a previous negative birth experience. They needed the second birth to be a good one to get closure on the first one and they did everything to achieve it including planning a home water birth with an independent midwife. I was so looking forward to their birth story and it was a truly great one (brought a tear to my eye as it happens). They felt empowered, they were in control, they made all of the decisions and reflected on it extremely positively; they had their closure. They also happened to have a C-Section. It wasn’t natural, it wasn’t how they planned it, but it was the best decision in the circumstances on the day.

So, I’m not ‘pro-natural birth’. I’m ‘pro-a positive birth experience’.

I support the parents that I work with to have a birth experience that they are happy with, that they can look back on and smile. You can own the birth process however it plays out and that helps in achieving a positive birth experience.

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Guest Blog – Who will be first?

I am hoping to welcome a series of Guest Blogs to my humble blog-site. I am looking for bloggers, parents, local therapists, and really anyone with an interest in pregnancy, birth and parenting to come and have their say here.

If you have anything you’d like to say, or you know someone else who might want to give some advice to expectant or new parents, please phone me on 020 8405 3499 or email me at helen_redfern@hotmail.com .

Later today, the first guest blogger will have their say – any guesses who it might be? Check back later to find out.

When’s my baby due?

I’m sure that one of the first things that you did when you found out that you were pregnant is try to work out the estimated due date (“EDD”); it’s also probably the first question that people ask when you tell them that your pregnant.

When is my baby due?

So, how accurate is the EDD?

Well first off, remember that the EDD is just an estimate. Your midwife will ask you when your last period started, count back 3 months and add seven days. This calculation assumes that you happen to be someone who scrupulously notes down your period dates and who has a ‘normal’ 28 day cycle; most of the HypnoBirthing mums I work with don’t match that description. It’s easy to see how using such a starting point and adding about 282 days to it may not give an accurate EDD.

Where does 282 days come from?

The gestation period for 95% of the population falls between 265 to 300 days. 282 days is simply the average of these 2 figures. You’ll probably find that your hospital will amend your EDD at least once during your pregnancy as the size of your baby is compared to the average foetal size. Most mums I work with consider that the EDD gets closer to the date that they intuitively feel is the right date. However, I don’t think any of my HypnoBirthing mums have birthed their baby on their EDD.

So, how many babies do arrive on their due date?

Only 5% of babies are actually born on their due date. How crazy is that? So it’s really not a good use of anyone’s nervous energy to focus on the due date that you’ve been given. Research shows that the average first baby is born at 41 weeks and 3 days, i.e. 10 days after their due date. Can you imagine how annoying, and pressurising it would be to have friends an dfamily calling and texting to know if you’ve had the baby yet as soon as the magical EDD arrives? Therefore, it’s more important to focus on that range of 265 days to 300 days. So, if you were due on December 15th, it would be fair to assume that the baby would be due sometime in December. My first baby was due on the 13th. Being keen to manage everyone else’s expectations and avoid any pressure, I told friends and family that the EDD was  towards the end of the month.

Is the EDD that important?

The importance of not focussing too much on the EDD is not just about avoiding other people’s expectations but allowing yourself not to worry about when the baby is born. As long as you and your baby are both in good health and there are no complications, you should enjoy these last few days of pregnancy rather than feel pressured to consider being induced. You and your baby know when it’s time to get things started. Once artificial intervention is introduced you’re moving away from what your body and baby know what to do.

In my next post I’ll be talking about how you can help things along naturally if your do go past 42 weeks.

Expectant Dads – How to be a Super Hero

How to be a Super-Hero – or what your role is during your child’s birth.

How are you feeling about the birth of your child? If you’ve seen TV births, be they fictional Soap accounts or real births on Channel 4’s One Born Every Minute you may be worried about how you are going to perform. TV dads generally fall into 2 camps – the headless chicken or a rabbit frozen in headlamps. In reality you have a great role to perform, can assist your partner in so many ways AND reflect afterwards on what a great part you played. When you perform your role well, you get to be a SUPER-HERO in your partner’s eyes. It’s a Win-Win situation.

First let’s look at what’s going on for your partner during birth. Women are designed to give birth perfectly well. However, most women hold varying degrees of fear about birth, ranging from ‘a bit nervous’ to ‘terrified’. Such fears cause her body to release the stress hormone catecholamine which sends her body into a fight or flight response. As much as she might want to she can’t take either option so instead she freezes which stops her body working effectively, causing childbirth to slow or stop and become painful. So where do you come in? Well, if you can keep her chilled and relaxed she won’t feel fear, which will make the birth smoother, even enjoyable and because YOU made it happen that way, YOU get to be the SUPER-HERO.

So, you’re now asking how you’re supposed to make all this happen. It’s surprisingly easy.  Let’s think of what’s going to make your partner stressed or fearful. In the build-up to the big day she is going to hear a lot of horror-stories from friends and family and she’s going to probably watch too many negative birth experiences on TV too. You will need to counterbalance this by helping her to prepare for the birth in a positive way.

The first way you will do this is by attending ante-natal appointments and classes with her. This is not just so your partner can feel supported it is so you can pick up a huge amount of useful information. You’ll learn how your local midwifery team do things and you’ll start to learn the jargon that might be used on the day too. You may also be able to build up a relationship with the team that you will see when your child is born. Even if you are planning a home-birth it is worth taking the tour of the maternity unit with your partner. Take a look at the birthing suite and ask how the room works. Can you lower the lighting or play music? Can you move the bed around and are birthing balls available. Ask what the process is for checking in. Find out where to park; do you have to pay; do you have to use a different entrance in the evenings or weekends? Research now will help on the day.

Write a Birth Plan together. This will explain to the midwives and doctors the preferences that your partner has for the birth. Ensure you understand what your partner wants so that you can advocate for her. Ensure that all avenues are explored. She may want to aim for a fully natural birth but the plan should also state her preferences for other eventualities. Take the opportunity to work out what everything is in the hospital bag. When the baby is born the midwife will ask you for some clothes and a nappy. Make sure you know what they are, and where they are.

So, THE BIG DAY has arrived. You, the SUPER-HERO, swing into action.  If you
are going to hospital, your partner will let you know when she is ready. You already know how to get there, where to park, and have money ready to pay for the parking. You know how to get into the maternity ward and have the maternity notes and birth plan to hand. You are fully in control. Your partner is concentrating on what her body is doing so it is your role to protect her from anything that could break the flow of childbirth and to advocate on her behalf. In fact all conversations between her and medical staff can be channelled through you if she wishes to stay within her birthing body.

You reach the birthing suite. You’ll have chatted through what she didn’t like about the room so help her to be in a place where she can’t see the things she didn’t like e.g. the clock that is going to tell her she isn’t labouring fast enough. Talking of time, many hospitals will aim for your partner’s cervix to dilate by 1cm per hour. Well, the arrival at hospital may cause things to slow or stop for a while. Tell her that’s OK, her body is just adjusting to its new environment.  Staff are going to come in, breaking the flow.  This is when you are really masterful and take control. When intervention or timescales are suggested YOU are really going to swing into action and YOU are going to do that by asking questions using your BRAINS! This is how you’ll do it:

B is for Benefit – What is the benefit of the intervention suggested?

R is for Risk – What is the risk?

A is for Alternatives – What is the alternative?

I is for Instinct – What does your Instinct tell you?

N is for No – What happens if you doing nothing – or wait another hour?

S is for Smile –  You’d be amazed how far approaching this politely will get you.

Before you know it, your baby is with you. You’ll tell your partner how great she’s been, you’ll tell her how proud you are of her and you’ll melt when you see your beautiful baby. You are also going to feel hugely proud of your part in the birth. You’re not a TV dad, you’re a SUPER-HERO. Prepare to take the plaudits for a job well-done.

If you’d like to know more about how you can support your partner during pregnancy and birth, and prove to be a Super-Hero, take a look at my Private HypnoBirthing Classes and Group HypnoBirthing Classes.

Nothing works?

Marie (Mickey) Mongan, the founder of HypnoBirthing®, recently presented the following speech at the HypnoBirthing® Convention. I thought it would be worth sharing this since it explains what mums have to do during their baby’s birth:

With HypnoBirthing NOTHING works!

We see it often – HypnoBirthing® mothers accept that they have the ability to relax through the first phase of labor. But when it comes to talking about the baby’s descent and birthing, the question is, “What do I do then?” My answer is always the same – “NOTHING!! That’s what I want you to get out of this course. The understanding of doing “Nothing!!”

With HypnoBirthing® NOTHING works. It’s Nature’s perfect design from the very onset.

Let’s look at a newborn baby girl – as she emerges, who teaches her to breathe? She does absolutely nothing to make it happen – but it happens.

If properly placed and encouraged, she crawls and bobbles her way to the breast for her first meal outside the womb. There is nothing that anyone gives her in the way of instruction – A natural GPS??

Within minutes of being born, she releases her anal sphincters, and out comes her first stool, or she pees. How does she do that without a chart of how to perform timely bodily functions?

Over time, as she grows and develops, with nothing to tell her how or when or how many times, she learns that she can sneeze to clear her nasal passages; she can signal that she is hungry or wants attention if it’s not readily there; she startles and becomes alert if she is frightened; and, if she feels secure, she can relax and fall asleep in loving arms. What did she do to learn to fall asleep? Nothing! Who taught her to awaken? How did she know she was hungry?

Fast forward to when she is a teenager. Her body changes with nothing but internal hormonal secretions to act as catalysts – she becomes a woman. The power of nothing is, and has been, alive in her human experience in so many ways, and she has mastered many functions with nothing but instinct to guide her.

Nothing has to teach her that she is experiencing her first love. She instinctively knows it and feels it. And when the time is right, there is nothing she has to study to learn how to express that love physically.

But enter the miracle of pregnancy, and all of a sudden, her previous trust, power, and confidence crumbles. She is now taught that her body is incapable of leading her through what should be a perfectly magical time. She must now be carefully taught how to nurture her pregnant body and her baby and ultimately how to give birth.

She is further taught that her trust and dependence is best placed outside of her own abilities and externally placed into the hands of others – strangers, trained and practiced experts, who know better than she. She needs them now to efficiently and conveniently manage her birth. They will teach and guide her along each step of the way. Instinct be damned!

She is now categorized onto charts – primagravida, and she’s put onto schedules, and regimens. She learns that she is inadequate and almost irrelevant to her own birthing experience.

For the woman who senses this as a disconnect, there are two options. She can go along with the prevailing model, or she can trust birthing, register for a HypnoBirthing® class and learn to do nothing!!

We know that many of our moms hear a common question when they say they are preparing to birth their baby with HypnoBirthing®. The question often is “Are you out of your mind.” In truth the response to that is “Yes.” To rely on her basic birthing instincts, a mother literally needs to be “out of her mind”. That’s where she turns her birthing over to her body and gets her mind and the regimens and techniques out of the way.

That’s exactly where we want our moms to be. When we teach them otherwise – how to do, and when to do, and how often to do – we confuse the inner consciousness, which controls instinct. Instinct no longer can function – we have stifled the natural function with the clutter of confused, panicked mind talk.

We strip it of the internal knowing, and then we turn to drugs as an external means of forcing the body to do what it used to know how to do. We know that drugs inhibit the bonding experience at birth, and mind talk also inhibits bodily function. Instead of achieving the objective, we confuse the body and it abdicates.

My question to all is: How dare we? How dare we presume to think that we can manipulate and redesign and introduce confusion into the experience with our own special outlines, instructions and techniques? How dare we mess with what is already perfectly created?

When we distribute charts and lists and lessons, filled with exercises and positions and advice,in effect,we are telling our parents that they need to do more and they need to do it this or that way at particular times. We need to bring about an awareness that what we teach in HypnoBirthing® is not the cornerstone of HypnoBirthing®, but rather suggestions to pass time.

Parents panic. They are afraid they will forget what we carefully instilled. They question are they doing it “right’? The only important thing is that they learn to do nothing – to just “allow” – to be the mammals that they are and return to their basic instincts.

Birthing has a rhythm and a flow, and every bit of “fixing” that we impose helps to disturb and shut down that very rhythm and flow. What they need to develop is a mastery to be “Out of their minds.” We need to stop humanizing birth. We have to put aside our own egos and our need to be a relevant factor in their birthing.

The time has come when we need to stop labeling these births as “exceptional” and “fantastic” and “out of this world.” They need to be seen as the norm and not out of the ordinary. When we no longer feel that we have to talk about how shocked and surprised the caregivers are, we will have begun to make progress. These will be the births that all mothers will expect when they are “out of their minds” and doing Nothing.

——Mickey Mongan, Director and Founder of the HypnoBirthing® Institute

What do I need to buy?

Due to popular demand, I’m adding to my Hospital Bag post with what else you need to have for your baby. I remember being so bamboozled by the array of items that I left it to about 35 weeks to start buying and only then after a panic-ridden call to my mum who used terms such as romper and sleep suit as though I should know what these meant. Here’s a run-down of what I think you need.

Baby Clothing

  • Body Suits –these are like 1980’s bodies that some of us are old enough to have worn. Can be short or long-sleeved and have poppers at crotch
  • Romper Suits – like a jumpsuit with arms and legs but no feet. Buy ones with poppers down the middle.
  • Sleep Suits – like a romper suit with feet.
  • Socks
  • Booties
  • Hat – either woollen for winter or sun hat for summer although newborns should never be in direct sunlight.
  • Grobag – This is a sleeping bag for babies. I highly recommend them. They come in 1.0 tog for summer and 2.5tog for winter www.gro-store.co.uk/sleeping/grobag-baby-sleep-bags.html

Changing Kit

  • Try to have a nappy changing station both up and down stairs. You don’t want to be rushing upstairs several times a day to change nappies, especially if there has been a leakage.
  • Nappy sacs
  • Baby wipes – avoid any with alcohol or added moisturiser. You baby’s bum doesn’t need anything extra. Try Huggies Pure
  • Cotton Wool – use cotton wool in preference for at least 6 weeks. Wipes can be too drying initially.
  • Nappy cream, such as Sudacrem or Bepanthem.
  • Changing Mat
  • Nappy Bucket. You don’t need an expensive ‘disposal system’, you just need a cheap plastic bucket.
  • Top’n’Tail bowl – opinion is divided on the usefulness of these bowls. I personally found them useful.
  • Change bag – there are some gorgeous change bags available, with gorgeous price-tags. Personally I used a satchel I already had which my husband didn’t mind being seen out with.

If using cloth nappies you will need:

  • Cloth nappies x 24
  • Nappy wraps x 5+
  • Nappy liners
  • Nappy Grips, if your nappy doesn’t come with fastening

If using disposables get a few packs in but don’t overdo it because babies grow quickly. Mine were in Size 2 within 10 days.

Out and About

  • Pushchair/Pram – Ensure it suits your lifestyle. Will it get onto a bus, will it fit in your car, will it manage steps you use every day? I’d advise you go to a showroom and wheel a few around. Take some shopping to hang off the handle bars and see how they manoeuvre. You will need to buy a cosy-toes or add blankets.
  • Sling/Papoose – You can opt for something like a soft structured carrier, a ring sling or a wrap-style. The BabyCalm Shop has lots of styles and designs and videos of how to use most of them too: BabyCalm Shop 
  • Car-seats – I’d highly recommend an ISOFIX seat so you know it’s installed correctly. This is one of the few things you must buy brand-new.

Bath time

  • Some people just use the kitchen sink or you can buy a basic bath for £10. I used a Supabath  to avoid bending whilst other people use Tummy Tubs
  • Hooded Towels
  • Small sponge
  • Bath wash

Feeding

If you are breastfeeding you will need:

  • Maternity Pads – I would highly recommend Johnson’s Nursing Pads; they are by far the most comfortable .
  • Muslin squares
  • Breast Pump

If you are bottle feeding you will need:

  • Formula
  • Bottles
  • Steriliser
  • Bottle Brush
  • Bibs

Bedtime

  • Initially most people go for a Moses basket or crib. Your baby will not stay here for long (mine lasted about 2 months) so this is the sort of thing that is worth buying cheap or borrowing, albeit with a new mattress.
  • Bed-linen. If you are using a Grobag you just need sheets.
  • A swaddling blanket will keep you baby feeling cosy and stop them waking themselves when they experience the moro/startle reflex.
  • You don’t need a cot at this stage but there can be a long lead-time so it is worth ordering sooner rather than later. If you have space I would recommend a cot-bed which will see most children through to about 4 yrs old.
  • If you are bed-sharing you can get away with not buying most of this equipment.
  • Monitor – you don’t need all of the fancy functions but I would advise you to buy digital. We initially had an analogue monitor but when next door had a baby their monitor interfered with ours.

Saving money

So much of what you buy now will only last you a few months. Most items can be bought cheaply at supermarkets (most supermarkets have special baby offers every month or so), from eBay (and sold on again in due course), from NCT Nearly New Sales and of course borrowed from friends. I hate to chuck away baby items; I want them to have another life. I think most parents feel like this so make sure all of your friends/family know that you are happy to receive their second-hand items. For larger items I have always found www.kiddicare.com really competitive price-wise and they deliver next day.

Oh, and remember, you will be inundated with presents. Let people know what you’d like, be specific. Your baby will always be well dressed. My childrens’ wardrobes are bulging and yet I have only really bought underwear for them. Family and friends will keep you stocked up – just hope they have good taste!

If you’ve found this useful, please tell other people about it, or subscribe for more useful posts.

Good luck!

Everything but the kitchen sink?

One thing I’m asked time again is what to take in a hospital bag. The last thing you want is to have got settled in the maternity ward to realise that you’ve left the most crucial item behind so I have written a list that should cover most eventualities.

The Bag Itself

Lets start with the bag itself. Try to keep the size and weight of the bag to a minimum because the person carrying the bag, hopefully not you, is going to do a lot of carrying as he/she walks from the car park to reception, and on to the maternity ward,  the delivery suite and finally the postnatal ward. You may find it easier to take 2 small bags, one for you during the birth and one for after the birth, perhaps with a nappy and first clothes on the very top to avoid the whole bag being emptied to get the baby dressed. Soft bags rather than hard sided cases are preferable for squeezing into hospital cupboards.

For Mum

  • Something comfortable and light-weight (hospitals can be very warm) to give birth in.
  • A dressing gown, preferably in a dark colour.
  • Slippers.
  • Lip balm
  • Things to help you relax or pass the time, such as books, magazines, games and so on. If you are likely to want to use your iPad, play music or a DVD take a battery-operated equipment, as many hospitals won’t let you plug things in. Some hospitals provide their own CD players or radios so check this when you take the maternity tour during your pregnancy.
  • A hairband. If you have long hair, you’ll probably want to tie it up.
  • Pillows. The hospital might not have enough to make you really comfortable. Perhaps leave these in the car for your partner to collect as required.
  • Nursing bras, tops or nightie to make breastfeeding easy.
  • Breast pads
  • Old, cheap or disposable pants. If you end up having a caesarean large ‘hip huggers’ can work really well.
  • Proper maternity towels. These are usually a little softer than sanitary towels which is useful if you have had stitches.
  • A toiletry bag with anything you would normally take for a couple of days away.  Maybe some make-up too, especially if your local newspaper visits the hospital to photograph babies for its new arrivals page! I learnt this to my cost when I ended up in the local ‘Advertiser’ looking like the creature from the deep!
  • Arnica tablets to help with bruising after the birth. Many women report that taking arnica helps reduce bruising and helps the healing process.
  • Food and drink for during and after birth. HypnoBirthing® mums especially tend not to lose their appetite so be prepared with a supply of goodies. Also, if you give birth during the evening or night it may be that no food is available until the morning and by that point you will have worked up a hunger. Remember that your partner will be hungry/thirsty too.

For Baby

  • Nappies
  • Cotton wool balls
  • Nappy Bags
  • Something to go home in; consider whether the weather is likely to be hot, cold or wet.
  • Sleepsuits, Bodysuits etc.
  • Blanket.
  • Socks or Booties
  • Scratch Mitts
  • Muslin Squares
  • Hat
  • Don’t forget to have an appropiate infant car seat ready. Most hospitals won’t let you leave by car without one. Take the time beforehand to read the instructions. When I put my baby in for the first time I had no idea how to tighten the straps and the midwife wasn’t able to help either so I had to get the manual out before we could leave!

For Your Birth Companion

  • A change of clothes for your birth companion in case their’s get messy.
  • Something to wear in the pool if he/she is likely to join you.
  • Food and drink.

Don’t Forget!

    • Your birth preferences. Take a few copies in case there is a shift change during your birth.
    • Your hospital notes.
    • Change for the car park. Leave some change in your car now (out of view) so there will always be some change available. During your hospital tour ask whether there are any special arrangements for the maternity patients. At my local hospital the parents pay for the first 2 hours and then a sign is put in the car to tell the parking attendant that the ticket will not be renewed due to it belonging to a birthing mother. This was not widely advertised so it is worth asking.
    •  A fully charged camera. Don’t rely on your phone or tablet that you have been using for hours to keep you entertained to have sufficient juice left to take photos.

 

Don’t Take:

Anything valuable since hospitals tend not to provide lockable cupboards and you may have to move to a different room quickly so items are easily mislaid.

 

I purposely haven’t put quantities down since you can never tell how long your birth will take and how long you will remain in the post-natal ward. Some mothers leave hospital within a few hours whilst more complicated births can result in a longer stay. Therefore, take enough for a couple of days but leave additional supplies, well labelled, at home for your partner to bring in as necessary. Perhaps go through it with him/her since new parents don’t necessarily know the difference between a romper suit, a babygro and a sleepsuit; I certainly didn’t and neither did my husband. Also ensure that your partner knows the whereabouts of the closest Mothercare. Boots or similar in case there is something that you have totally forgotten.

I won’t have covered everything so please, if you can think of anything else, please add a comment. I hope this has been helpful.

If you’re also worried about what you need back at home, check out: What Do I Need To Buy?