Saturday, 29 January 2011

Long distance relationships

Now I'm sure you all know that I love love love my job.  So when a friend messaged me to tell me that his wife was feeling fed up as she was now 9 days past her Estimated Due Date (EDD), well what was I to do but offer to help if I could.  I suggested acupuncture, booking in treats to while away the time, relaxation etc.  He told me that she'd had a bit of traumatic time for the birth of their first and so I offered to do a quick birth de-brief.  I ended saying... "of course you'll probably find she goes into labour before she calls me later".

So of course, just before she called me... she began early labour.  So it was a brief chat as we talked through her options and the things that she might find helpful.  Later that evening I got a message saying that they were in hospital and she was 2cm dilated and her waters had gone.  Fab news.  I gave the advice I would normally give, eat small bits regularly, drink well, pee at least every 2 hours.  I also told them that sideways walking up and down stairs was good for opening the pelvis and encouraging the baby to descend.  The reply came that I was mad!  Within 40 mins the next message said "You're good!"

I love that I am able to support people even from a distance and so fell asleep feeling very happy.  I did tell them to let me know when the baby came no matter what time it was. I got a text a 5.48am to say that their daughter had been born and that all was well.

Yesterday another friend messaged to ask if I had meant my offer of breastfeeding support as she had some questions.  I said that she could call.  So we talked about positioning and the best way to support the baby at the breast.  She wanted to know about expressing so that her husband could help out.  We also talked about how milk supply is established and the fact that her 3 week old daughter would now be going through a growth spurt.  She put down the phone satisfied with my help I think and I smiled the rest of the day.

I think that the key to support is the being there, whether physically or at the end of the phone/text/email and I am glad that I am able to be there.

Met a couple this morning who are looking for a birth and a postnatal Doula.  I told them to take some time to make their decision and they called a few hours later to say I was their Doula.  Happiness.

And another text from my friend and his wife "Thanks so so much for your comforting advice.  You are special."

Now that's what I call a good day.

Just a few hours old

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Some time for me

My on call started two days ago so booking a theatre trip was a bit risky, albeit a small risk.  I adore the theatre.  I booked tickets to see End of the Rainbow at Trafalgar Studios.  To say it was sublime is to understate matters.  Tracie Bennett was, in my eyes, superb!  Wow but I could see Judy Garland up there on the stage.

Today I had a rare day off and so I chanced my arm again and went to John Lewis on Oxford Street where I had booked the lovely Kay Ross, one of the Fashion Advisers to help me choose some new dresses.  Well a woman gets bored with the contents of her wardrobe sometimes.  A full bag and an emptier bank account later  I was on my way home.

Once the children have been fed and watered I shall be turning my hand to making marmalade (oh and roasting a duck because I have a yen for some duck tonight).

So whilst I'm waiting for the Toad in the hole to cook (the Reprobates turn their noses up to duck... well except Number One Son who eats everything) I find myself thinking about my ladies and the ones who do well.

The ones who do particularly well have one thing in common.  They recognise the importance of rest once their babies have arrived.  They go back to bed and sleep when the baby sleeps.  If they can't sleep they pop their feet up and either watch DVD boxsets or flick through trashy magazines.  Make a nest, have the phones (if necessary) to hand alongside the tv remote, some snacks and drinks.

Once a baby is born, the temptation is to shrug it off as though you'd done no more than a gentle stroll around the park is high.  Family, friends, dare I say society (or is that the latest celebrity to give birth) both show and tell new mums of the importance of not letting the baby rule their lives. "All you've done is have a baby.  You're not sick".  We're so used to rushing from one place to the other and maybe our work is high velocity.  Slowing down isn't easy.  It's important for Mum to sleep.  Growing, birthing and nuturing new life is more work than you think.

Don't worry, you'll be back to late night salsa dancing before you know it.  As for me... the sausages are done!

The wonderful Tracie Bennet in End of the Rainbow

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The Proof Is In The Pudding

Today I was doing a postnatal job for a lovely mum of twins.  Gorgeous little girls.  I arrived at 10am and mum and girls went back to bed.

I turned on the radio, emptied the dishwasher and began to cook lunch and supper.

When I do a postnatal job like this the first challenge is to work out what to cook.  So, I opened the fridge and saw chicken, grapes, cucumber, spring onions, single cream, fennel, celery, mushrooms, feta, milk and eggs.  In the cupboard there were chick peas and kidney beans alongside rice, couscous and pasta.

I can see you all trying to work out what you would have made.  Well my first thought was "Hmm... chicken with grapes, no wine... um..."  My second thought took me to my secret weapon, Lady Calm.

Lady Calm is my chef extraordinaire.  She is amazing!!!  She can create a menu out of anything.  I list the ingredients in a text, she replies with menu suggestions.  She'll even text me the recipe if I ask sweetly.  Of course the wonderful thing about my cooking relationship with Lady Calm is that she rarely gives quantities and I rarely ask.  We must cook in the same way... a bit of this, a dash of that, a quick dollop here, season, good to go!

Today's menu was baked fennel and cream with chicken and rice plus a bean salad with feta.  So that was supper sorted and after thinking about the mushrooms for a while I text for a simple mushroom soup recipe.

"Sweat off onions, garlic and celery in butter, add mushrooms and herbs (thyme or rosemary are good). Top up with stock bring to boil and simmer for about 30 mins. Puree and add seasoning and some cream to finish" came the reply.  

Gotta love her.  Yesterday it was chickpea cakes and couscous for supper and a feta and broccoli frittata for lunch.  I also made a cherry cheese cake (Thanks Lady Calm).  On the first day I made a vegetable pasta bake and a lemon drizzle cake.

I've been banned from making cakes more than once a week because they're too delicious!  My bad!

My ladies think I'm wonderful because I can create something out of nothing from their food stores.  Of course I agree but then I know my secret!  

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Train of thought

Last night I went to visit my February couple for their second Antenatal visit.  This was to talk through breastfeeding and how they were feeling in the run up to the birth.  I love these visits.  The excitement becomes more palpable.  Of course this is also when I remind them that term is 37-42 weeks and that perhaps they should think about the 42 week mark as the Due Date.

So I hopped onto the train and grabbed a discarded copy of The Evening Standard and two articles, in particular, caught my Doula eye.  The first NHS reforms will put babies in danger, says midwives' leader.  The article goes on to talk about how the change could lead to different standards of maternity care in different parts of London.  It continues on to talk about the lack of Midwives and "increasingly complicated pregnancies".  Now this is scary reading, particularly if you are a first time expectant mum (or indeed a mum several times over).  When people share their labour and birth stories they don't tend to be the "well I didn't make much noise, short labour, easy pushing stage, glorious birth, breastfeeding was easy" stories.  They tend to be the "[add expletive] horrible, painful, screaming, intervention, emergency caesarean, cracked nipples" stories.  So headlines like this will resonate through the "birthing community".  All of that, however, doesn't take away from the news of the midwife shortages.  We have never been further from One Woman One Midwife.  It is truly saddening.  It is also the reason so many women are turning to Doulas.  

My attention was then immediately drawn to the picture Miranda Kerr, wife of Orlando Bloom breastfeeding their son.  This was a picture that she posted on her blog where she shared her birth story.  It's a beautiful picture and one, I agree, that shows relaxed breastfeeding and should serve as an encouragement for other mothers.  Of course people will jump on this as an example of another celebrity trying to tell us how to do things.  When you consider that neither Ms Kerr nor her husband announced the birth of their son in the media, you do have to wonder exactly who is trying to tell "us" how things should be done.  

It is such a crying shame that breastfeeding is so slammed in many quarters.  There is big money to be made in the commercial baby food industry.  In my own opinion the lambasting of breastfeeding and the ignorant cries of "bitty" when a woman is seen feeding her child are the ones that inform society. This needs to change. Just another view from the BMJ.

Me in scrubs having attended a caesarean

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Silent Phone

So here I am, sat in bed.  My phone is silent.  That's a good thing.  It means that none of my ladies are in need of me (did I mention my god complex?).  I'm not on call.  I've said that several times haven't I?  It's good not to be on call.  I can sit back and relax and do some of those things I like to do without interruption.

But I confess!  I'm bored.  There are times when I long not to be on call, but there is no pleasing me.  I keep checking my phone to make sure it's not broken.  I scrabble around in the bottom of my inbox to check for missing messages.  I look through the pictures of the babies that I've seen come into the world.  I play around with the photo slideshow on my laptop.

<Interrupts for quick scream of pride/joy/elation.  Number One Son has just had his third University offer.  So far Manchester, Nottingham and Leeds have seen the brilliance that is my boy.  Just waiting on Exeter and Bristol.  I think I may burst!>

So what will today bring me?  Lots of time with Breastfeeding and Human Lactation and as I read through the chapters I'll be testing my knowledge with the online tests.  Then I'll need to find someone to talk to about what I've learnt so that I know it's grounded in my mind.

And talk about "talking too soon" my Christmas Eve lady just called.  She has a problem with oversupply.  Of course this is a "good" problem to have.  Her baby is growing well and she is happy.  So a quick conversation, signposting good websites including the wonderful Dr Jack Newman and How Breastfeeding Works. So all should go well there.  I look forward to the update.

Calls like that simply serve to make me want to study more and to gain my IBCLC status.  I am keen to get it because I love learning and I want the shiny badge.  Also, I want to formalise my knowledge so that I can speak with authority (for my benefit) when things outrage me. I also find myself devouring blogs such as The Analytical Armadillo and reading whatever I find.

Time to study!  I've answered a call.  I've called the world to share my pride.  Now back at it.

Did I mention Number One Son got three offers????? lol

Monday, 10 January 2011

My family (the ones I actually birthed)

As I've mentioned a time or two... I'm a mother of five.  Boy, girl, girl, girl, boy!  Number One Son is 18, Miss Thing is 16, Space Fairy is 12 and The Wee Weapons, Lady Baby and Boy Child, are 7 in February.  It seems only fair to tell you of my own birth experiences.

Number One Son was born by caesarean section back in 1992.  I remember watching Hook the night before he was born.  I had a backache and couldn't really settle in one place.  I had done no antenatal classes and so was rather unprepared for what was to come.  At 7.30am I woke with lots of intermittent pains and set off to the hospital.  Oh the joy of hindsight!  I arrived at Chase Farm Hospital where a midwife (who I can only describe as incredibly large with enormous fingers) gave me a vaginal examination, laughed at me and told me that I was only 1/2cm dilated and shouldn't make a fuss.  It was the 15th December and the hospital  had wanted to induce me (Christmas was looming after all) so I wasn't sent home.  Instead a pessary gel was inserted and I was left on the antenatal ward.  Because I had been told off by the admitting midwife I tried hard not to make noise as my contractions built.  A passing midwife came over to me as tears ran down my face.  She asked if I was alright.  All I could do was shake my head and cry.

I was moved to the labour ward where I was given an epidural (I didn't have the wherewithal to ask about other options and my lack of knowledge also meant that I didn't know to ask).  I had progressed to four centimetres, but didn't budge from there.  Number One Son didn't like the epidural and his heart rate plummeted.  I was whisked in to an emergency caesarean and six and a half hours after my labour started my first son was born.  I lost two litres of blood during the caesarean and had to have a blood transfusion through the night.  Number One Son was cared for by midwives and his first feeds were formula milk.  I had no knowledge or real care as to what was happening to him.  I was completely out of it.  The next day he breastfed like a champion and after five days I was allowed home.

Miss Thing was born just under two years later at The Whittington hospital.  Like her older brother her labour started four days after her Estimated Due Date.  I remember that they gave me Pethidine for her birth.  I didn't like floating away from my body, and I could still feel the pain.  As with her brother's labour I was stuck at 4cm.  I could feel the dread that the same scenario would be repeated.  This time, however, the midwife broke my waters and I progressed very quickly.  I remember constantly asking if Number One Son was watching Sesame Street and being told that he was.  The cord was wrapped around Miss Thing's neck twice and tightly.  So it was cut and she was ventoused out rather quickly.  She lost a lot of blood and had to be taken to SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) where she would have a blood transfusion.  And so my second baby was separated from me after birth.  Like her big brother, however, she also breastfed like a champion.

My gorgeous Space Fairy was born at the end of a hot summer four years later.  I remember having a bit of a back ache the day before but not thinking much of it.  Her brother and sister had been born four days after their EDDs so of course I knew that Space Fairy would be another eight days in arriving.  I woke with a real need to clean.  The rest of the family were sleeping and I didn't want to wake them.  I spent the beginning of my labour loading the washing machine, cleaning the sink and doing gentle squats as the dull pain filled me.  In the end I called the hospital and apologised for not knowing whether or not I was in labour.  I got the usual advice, have a hot bath and take a couple of paracetamol.

I remember travelling to the hospital but not really having many contractions at all until I pressed the button at the entrance to the delivery suite.  Then my contractions rolled over and over me causing me to bend over double.  I was sent to the bathroom to provide a sample and told that the delivery suite was full but that I'd be fine as I probably had a while to go.  It was a sheer force of will that got me out of the bathroom because the contractions were intense.  In the end I was found curled on the floor in the corridor trying to get back to the Midwife's station.  I remember hearing them ask if anyone had seen me and I couldn't make my tiny squeak heard as I whimpered "I'm here".  Space Fairy was my easiest birth which is funny because the Midwives and Doctors thought she would be enormous and that I would need a Caesarean.  I was using "Gas n Air" which my Midwife took from me because she said it wasn't helping me concentrate on pushing her out.  This baby stayed with me from the start and like her siblings, breastfed beautifully.

The Wee Weapons were a different birth entirely.  Finding out that it was twins was enough to send me into hysterical denial.  I'd always dreamed of having four children.  Five was taking the mickey somewhat.  My blood pressure shot up at seventeen weeks and so I was monitored closely and I remain amazed that my arm retains any blood.  As I was at risk of Pre-Eclampsia it was decided that I should have a Caesarean section three and a half weeks before my EDD.  It was a very different experience to my first section.  It felt cold and clinical.  I remember looking at the babies and wondering if they were mine.  I didn't feel the same emotional rush as I had with the others.  I know now that when a woman goes into labour oxytocin flows and that hormone is the love hormone.  Again my babies were taken from me, after I had seen them briefly, whilst they were being checked over.  Boy Child was the big twin at 5lbs 14oz and he was also the one that was taken away for three hours of observation and no-one came to tell me how he was doing.  Lady Baby was away from me for about an hour, all 4lbs 5oz of her.     Their first feeds were formula because "well they're twins and they're so tiny they need help".  Again my current knowledge tells me that I could have breast fed and expressed straight away.  We were home a week after their birth where, despite the doubts of my Community Midwife, I breast fed them.

So there you have it.  My birth stories.  I wish I had known what a Doula was because I could have done with one for each birth.  Of course my own experiences have simply informed the way that I practise and I encourage my ladies to know their options.  I think it also explains the joy I have when I see Mum and baby/ies tucked up together after birth.

Miss Thing, Boy Child, Number One Son,  Lady Baby & Space Fairy

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Think Twice

I'm a mother of twins.  They are babies four and five in my household.  It was a shock when I discovered there were two babies growing inside my womb.  I laughed for a long time and it was not so much joy as hysteria.  Of course looking at them now, they are seven next month, I cannot imagine my life without them.  They really are a double blessing.

Those earlier days of pregnancy were filled with the not so helpful comments of some passerbys. "You're huge!"  "Is it twins?  It is! Oh my goodness."  "Double trouble."  "Did you mean to get pregnant with twins?" ad nauseum.  This didn't end with their birth.  Strangers seemed compelled to ask "Were they ivf?", "Did you know it was twins?", "Ooh you've got your hands full", "I know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone with twins.  It's really difficult, you're going to need lots of help", "Are they twins?".  It was tempting to walk with an A4 leaflet answering their many questions, my two favourites being "If you tell me how your children were conceived in intimate details..." in response to the IVF question and "No they're triplets.  I left the ugly one in the car" as a witty riposte.

Of course that's just one of the blessings/curses that comes along with twins.  When you've had a hard night they are not best appreciated, but when you're on top form you just smile knowing that you're rather clever for producing two at once.

There are some bigger things to think about when it comes to a twin pregnancy and twin birth.  And long before the mother of singletons you find yourself having to make decisions and future plans.  What type of birth will you have?  Where will you have it?  Assumptions are made that you will have a caesarean birth, use a maternity nurse/night nanny and bottle feed.  It is easy to feel overwhelmed with it all and sometimes it is hard to see anything positive in the middle of the harbingers of doom.

Well take a step back.  You have time to make decisions.  At the beginning just enjoy being pregnant.  Enjoy the fact that you have growing more than one life.  Put the worries aside, surround yourself with the positive stories.  Don't listen to labour stories until you have your own to share (something I tell all my mums).  Take a deep breath.  Twins!  A double blessing!!

My babies four and five.  Reception year.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Today I became an Honorary Grandma

Now at my..ahem.. young age, Grandma is not something I aspire to.  Today, however, my twin dad told me that the support I had given and continue to give to him and his wife is priceless.  They wouldn't be where they are today without it.  He said that the highest compliment he could think to pay me was that I was "Grandma" to his children.  This was the man who was initially sceptical about the role of a Doula.

Now... I know what he's saying... and I thank him for it, but one of my friends said 

"Grandma? You? I don't think so - that young man needs his eyes testing! He needs to be aware that he has a rascally, getting up to no good, fun! fun! fun! auntie for his lucky twins!"

Of course I have no idea what she means lol!

What a great start to the year.  The boys are doing well, one still needs lots of care but the second is growing well and gets more and more kangaroo time with his mum.  

Another of my ladies whose baby didn't get latching on for the first few days is doing very well and feeding at the breast more and more.

A current client, due in February, called just prior to Christmas because she'd been told the baby was breech.  She text to say that her daughter is now head down.

My early March client is a repeat client.  Looking forward to catching up with her and the family as we look towards the birth of her second.  All going well.  My late March/April client initially wanted my Welcome Home Package but after we met she decided, with her husband, that my Birth and Postnatal Package would work better for them.  I love it when I get to support them pre, during and post birth.

My repeat client for May wants a homebirth after her first was born by caesarean section.  She's well read and knows that with the right support it can work.

I'm looking forward to 2011.  Seeing old clients/friends, supporting new clients and watching some of them become friends.

Yeah... I think I'm getting what I hope for.   It's certainly a great start to a new year.