Hypnobirthing – How Was It For You?

I’m going to be completely honest here when I tell you that I am a complete wuss. Not only am I a complete wuss but I had also been dreading giving birth since I found out what was involved.  Well, who wouldn’t?  When the realisation that the stork wouldn’t be bringing me a baby hit home and not only that but any child would be emerging from my front bottom, I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect.  Then when words such as stitches, agony, forceps and tears crept into my consciousness, followed by others like incontinence and episiotomy, I became truly terrified. And slightly obsessed. There’s a specific term, ‘tokophobia’, which means fear of childbirth. I definitely had it.

I sought out birth stories whenever I could, both personal accounts from women I knew and those in literature/on the net/on telly.  A sizeable proportion of births seemed like distressingly negative experiences, which often led to longer term trauma or problems bonding with the baby.  I felt like giving birth naturally just wasn’t for me – I couldn’t do it.  I would have to save up three grand to go private so I that could have an elective caesarean.  And I was thinking all these things when I was single and had no idea whether I might even be able to conceive or not.

Then I heard about hypnobirthing.  It offered the possibility of a calm and relaxed birth, a comfortable birth.  I decided that this was definitely for me, should I ever meet the right man, settle down and want to have a family. Fast forward a couple of years and I had met my lovely man, Rich, and we eventually decided that we wanted to have a baby together. Happily we did manage to conceive quickly and I started looking for hypnobirthing tutors in the local area.

One of my closest friends was also expecting, although 11 weeks earlier than me.  She and her other half were also keen to learn hypnobirthing.  We found a lovely hypnobirthing teacher, Marie, and all had lessons together at my house.  Both Rich and I enjoyed the sessions and found them to be very informative and relaxing.  I found the fear release guided hypnosis to be very useful and this was something I followed up by myself several times during my pregnancy.  Rich and I both listened to one of the relaxation mp3s almost every night of my pregnancy after doing the course and it was very effective. So much so that he would often drop off when he was just reading next to me and not supposed to be listening to the mp3 at all! Marie is an ex-midwife and currently works as a doula, health visitor and breastfeeding counsellor.  Her knowledge and experience were invaluable and her sense of humour and humanity much appreciated.  I also came across Dany Griffiths and her Tums2Mums hypnobirthing website and bought her distance learning course, as it contained some extra mp3s and a really useful workbook.

So, with our planned homebirth all booked in and our delivery kit waiting with the birth pool in the spare room, my due date came and went. Two days (Weds) later I began having contractions and the day after (Thurs) that my waters broke. My contractions were easy to handle with my TENS machine and hypnobirth mp3s.  The midwife had come out to the house that day and I was 3 cm dilated. Then everything stopped. Then started again overnight and then….stopped again in the morning.  I went into hospital on Friday to be checked over and they wanted to augment my labour (same as being induced but when labour has already started) at that point as my waters had been broken for over 24 hours.  We declined this, but said that we would be happy to come in for monitoring each day.  I fully expected that the contractions would kick in again with a vengeance at any moment and our baby would be born a few hours later.  However, an extremely miserable Saturday and Sunday passed with stop start contractions and me going for acupuncture each day. I was not able to get comfortable in any position from Wednesday onwards.  Only in water was I able to feel some sort of comfort.  Car journeys were torture. Richard and I had talked on Sunday and decided that we would go in for augmentation on Monday, as I was in so much pain and had barely slept or eaten for 5 days.  However, we had promised the doctors that Richard would take my temperature every 4 hours and on the Sunday evening, I mentioned that I felt hot.  Richard took my temperature again and it had risen above the level that the doctors had given as a limit.  Just as well I had packed that emergency hospital bag!  We grabbed it and headed off to the hospital.

It’s fair to say that I had very mixed feelings about going in to hospital to have our baby.  I had really wanted a home birth, with as little intervention as possible. Now I would have to be hooked up to a hormone drip to hurry things along throughout my labour and I would also be given IV antibiotics.  In addition, I would have continuous monitoring belts across my abdomen, which would restrict my movement. On the plus side, I would have a midwife with me at all times because I was on the drip and having IV antibiotics. I had heard lots of bad things about being induced and really wanted to avoid the cascade of intervention that often follows induction. I was also frightened that once on the drip, my contractions would ramp up to a level that I couldn’t cope with and any thoughts of using my hypnobirthing techniques would be forgotten.

As it happened, my labour was fine.  I put my hypnobirthing mp3s on and listened to them over and over again.  The cannula was inserted into my hand (this was not painful, actually – I was surprised) and the drip and antibiotics were started at 11pm on the Sunday night.  I used the ‘Rainbow Relaxation’ and ‘Surges With The Sea’ tracks to get myself into a deep state of relaxation.  As my contractions increased in frequency and intensity, I carried on listening to the mp3s and also used the golden thread breath that I’d learnt in my pregnancy yoga class. I could feel pressure, but not pain.  At about 6am, I started having very intense surges that felt like falling off a cliff, in that I could feel a build up and then gave in to the sensation.  The contractions were still not painful. I could just feel a massive amount of energy with each one.  The first one took me by surprise and I remember asking the midwife, “What the hell was that?”! She told me that it was an involuntary pushing contraction and I would soon be able to start pushing.  She checked me at 7am and there was a small cervical lip, so asked me to wait another hour and I then started pushing just after 8am.  Unfortunately, my midwife finished her shift at 8am and another midwife and student then joined us instead.  They were pleasant and encouraged me in my pushing.  Hypnobirthing theory is that you should breath the baby down.  However, there were concerns about the baby, so I had to forget about that and get pushing. Unfortunately by this point I couldn’t even feel my contractions.  Not at all!  I had to get the midwives to tell me from the monitor when they were happening.  I pushed for an hour and a half and then the doctors performed a foetal scalp blood test on my poor baby and she was one point above the level that indicates distress.  Although she was literally only one centimetre inside my body, a small episiotomy was performed (now that smarted with no anaesthetic) and she was born with the help of a ventouse (a vacuum device) at 10.08am on Monday 19th September 2011. Our daughter’s APGAR scores (these are scores out of ten that measure a baby’s condition at birth) were 9 and 9. 🙂

Although the birth was quite different to how I had imagined or hoped it to be in terms of being quite heavily medicalised, it was still quite comfortable and certainly not painful.  The only pain I experienced was when the doctor cut me without any anaesthetic and that was only momentary. It was also the only time I made any noise! I am certain that hypnobirthing was a major factor in this and would recommend it to anyone, but I would also say that you must practice it religiously.  The medical staff were amazed that I had been hooked up to the hormone drip and not had any pain relief at all.   I was elated and high as a kite on endorphins after the birth and one of the first things I said to Richard was, “I want to do it again, tomorrow!”. I think that says a lot.

Have you used hypnobirthing techniques during labour? How did you find they worked for you?


10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Breastfeeding

1) It’s all about the angle of the dangle. Positioning and attachment is everything. If you are big-boobed like me and don’t have nips like those old-fashioned wooden clothes pegs, then the position that works for you might not look like the illustrations on the web.  For example, for us, a breastfeeding pillow like a Boppy (the sort that wrap around your front) is really unhelpful.  It’s better for us for baby to be on my lap directly.

2) You really need to have loads of drinks and perhaps some snacks to hand when feeding.  How many times have I found myself stuck on the sofa watching my cup of tea going cold on the coffee table because it’s out of reach? If you have access to a CamelBak  water rucksack jobbie (no, really) that might be a good option at home during growth spurts or in the early days when it seems like your baby is feeding 24/7. Otherwise, a water bottle with sports cap is an excellent option!

3) Use a wedge. Again this may be one for the well-endowed ladies, but I have found a wedge under the boob works wonders in getting my babe attached well for feeding. You can buy specially designed ones, but a rolled up muslin, pashmina or thin blanket will do just fine. I use a mini pillow that came with a Mamas and Papas changing mat cover.

4) It may take aaaages. My little one has always been a slow feeder. She was 5 months the other day and has recently got slightly faster and more efficient at feeding.  However, until very recently it would take me about an hour to feed her (both sides with nappy change in the middle).  If you have a slow feeder, you can’t do anything to make them feed faster, so embrace it and make sure the telly remote is within reach and also….

5) Get a smart phone. Although I spend time looking lovingly into my daughter’s eyes when feeding her, she usually closes her eyes for a lot of the time she feeds.  She’s not asleep, just deeply relaxed and concentrating on the job in hand. I recently got a smart phone and it’s fab for the breastfeeding mother.  I can blog, Facebook and Ebay one-handed whilst feeding.  Not to mention call and text.  Just brilliant.  I even managed to play Angry Birds a bit today, albeit badly! What on earth did I do before?

6) Master feeding lying down asap. Although (unexpectedly) I am always pleased to see my little munchkin at 3.30am or so for her night feed, I am obviously still tired.  Being able to feed lying down has made a big difference to night feeds.  They are much more restful for me and I have even fallen asleep or dozed during a feed on occasion.

7) Scarves are really useful. I took my little one out in the sling today.  I was running late for baby massage, as usual, and ran out of the door with baby and my small rucksack-style handbag.  I just packed a nappy, wipes and nipple shields and off I trotted.  I wore a pashmina and variously used it as a soft blanket for the baby to lie on at baby massage, a boob wedge at my parents’ house (see above) and to aid discretion when feeding at a café in town.

8) Big is not necessarily best. If you have big boobs, you might be under the impression that they’d be great for breastfeeding.  You’d be wrong.  Obviously not in every case, but they certainly can be more of a hindrance than a help.  They do not produce any more milk than those of our smaller sisters and getting the angle of the dangle (see above) right with big boobs is often harder. In addition to this, wrangling big knockers and a wriggly baby can mean that trying to feed discreetly is tricky.

9) Do what feels best. This follows on from point 1, above. Breastfeeding is a team sport, which you and your baby learn to play together.  Your positioning may look spot on, but if it’s painful, it’s wrong for you. Detach your baby and try again. Doesn’t matter how many times.  It’s all about what is comfortable for you and your baby using your combined anatomies. The more comfortable feeding is, generally the better the baby is attached and the better the milk transfer will be.

10) Vest tops are your friend. I haven’t bought many clothes especially for feeding.  I have found that wrapover tops and dresses are great, as well as cotton jersey tops and dresses with lycra. I often wear these with a vest top underneath usually in the same colour as my bra.  I can then pull the stretchy top or dress down and the vest top up, which creates a smaller area of flesh to be exposed whilst getting my baby attached. Once she is in place, I can pull the vest top down so there is very little, if anything, to see.

What are your top tips for breastfeeding?  Do you have any advice that might help new or expectant mums?

It’s A Pushchair, Not A Bomb Or A Wheelbarrow Full Of Manure!

I have always hated those women who brandish their pushchairs like some sort of weapon.  Now though, I appear to have become one. A few weeks ago, Rich and I took Rosa and my stepdaughter Scarlett to Oxford accompanied by Auntie Kay and her two little girls.  We had a fab time at the Pitt Rivers Museum (although this is possibly the world’s worst museum for pushchair users…next time I’ll take the sling) and the girls really enjoyed the special kids activities that had been laid on for half term.  We took the train, as Scarlett had especially wanted to travel that way and it’s actually quicker to get to Oxford by train than by car from where we live.

We arrived in Oxford with three very hungry little girls (Rosa doesn’t count) in tow, and ended up going to Pizza Hut as it was en route to the museum and it was raining cats and dogs. We will never go to Pizza Hut again!  After queuing on the street for several minutes, a really stroppy girl, who had irritatingly kept shouting “Can you shut the door, please!” whilst we were queuing out of the door with four small children, finally served us. I would have loved to shut the bloody door and be in the warmth, but there were too many people queuing and I couldn’t fit my pushchair inside. After asking if we’d booked (snigger, this was Pizza Hut for god’s sake, at lunchtime) she asked, “How many?” We said that we were seven in total.  She then said, with a look of absolute disgust on her face, ” AND a pushchair?”.  Yes, you dark-rooted, bottle blonde oik with a complete lack of understanding of the meaning of customer service.  A pushchair.  Because heaven forbid that people might have the audacity to bring a pushchair into a restaurant that has a kids’ menu. I was by this stage, fuming, and whispering murderously to Rich, “Let’s go, now!” But it was too late and our party was on the way to our table.

Then on the way back, the train was a nightmare.  I followed a wheelchair user and the Train Manager down the train as a ramp was being produced that I thought might be handy.   The Train Manager said, ” Ohhh, I’ve got several pushchairs on board today”, implying that he might not be able to accommodate us.  Jeez, I bet he wouldn’t have said that to the wheelchair user. On that day, I couldn’t fold the pushchair up, because it was very wet and also as we were on a day trip there was a lot of stuff attached to it.  Anyhow, there was space and all was well.  But twice on that day we were made to feel like a  great inconvenience because we had a pushchair with us.  I find this really annoying.  Parents of young children, who are not exactly a tiny minority group, are going to use pushchairs.  Public transport, restaurants and attractions really should be able to cope with parents, children and their pushchairs!  Unless the message is that young kids aren’t welcome in those places, of course. Now, not only do I understand the mums angrily wielding their pushchairs, but I’ve joined ’em.

Is it possible to breastfeed discreetly? And why should we?

Ooh, rant alert! Why is it that perfectly lovely people add little conditions to the end of sentences expressing their support for public breastfeeding such as, “as long as it’s done discreetly”?  To my mind, thus rendering themselves bastards.  It makes me very angry.  Having had a baby and struggled with breastfeeding the whole 5.5 months of her life so far, it makes me particularly peeved.  I have worked very hard to continue feeding her and unless we were to stay in and not go anywhere ever, I have to feed her in public sometimes.

Everyone knows that breastfeeding is incredibly beneficial to babies.  My little girl had an infection just after birth and spent 3 weeks fighting it in the special care baby unit.  So I am very motivated to get as much breast milk into her as possible so she can benefit from all those lovely antibodies.  I can tell you that wrangling a big ole boob, a wriggly baby, my special under boob feeding wedge and a nipple shield (yep, we’re still using those at nearly 6 months) in public is not easy at all.  Especially not when the aforementioned child is pulling my top up every time I try to pull it down to cover the boobage.

I will never feed my baby in a toilet, because toilets are not where you eat, are they?  Breastfeeding a baby in a toilet would be both uncomfortable and unhygienic. And what sort of message does feeding in a toilet give out about breastfeeding?  That breastfeeding is ‘rude’ and/or dirty.  WTF??

In summary, I shall be feeding my daughter in cafes, restaurants and wherever else I need to.  If someone has a problem with seeing a bit of boob, then they need to move. And get a frigging life, too!

Slow Weight Gain And The Evil Red Book

My baby is a skinny minny. She was 8lb 7oz at birth but has only gained weight slowly.  She’s now nearly 13lb at just coming up to 5 months old. She has never, ever lost any weight. She is and always has been incredibly alert and active and developmentally she is either bang on or ahead of her milestones.  She is also a very cheerful little soul.  I say this because I am 100% certain there is nothing wrong with my baby.

Every Mum in the UK is given a red book when she has a baby. This is your child’s personal health record. It contains various forms for medical professionals to fill in, so it has details of our daughter’s six-week check, batch details of vaccines she has been given etc. It also contains growth charts. These chart your baby’s weight against age. It has centile lines marked, one of which your baby is supposed to follow. The red book has become the bane of my existence!

My baby is not following a centile line (sorry, I don’t think she’s read your policy) and as a result, I have felt really under pressure.  I am quite certain that the reason the small one is not piling weight on is that she is rubbish at breastfeeding. As a result, at the health visitor’s suggestion, we give her one formula feed per day.  I want to mainly (if we can’t manage exclusively) breastfeed her until she is at least 6 months old, especially as she had an infection just after birth and spent 3 weeks in the Special Care Baby Unit. She needs the antibodies in breast milk more than most. I won’t be bullied into giving her more formula and less breast milk just because she isn’t following a centile line.  If there were any other indication that she were in anything other than rude health, I would do so.

The poor breastfeeding (more about this in another post – trust me, I have sought out every bit of help available) and slow weight gain have caused me so many tears.  There’s something really primal about feeling like you’re feeding your baby adequately.  I dread attending the Well Baby Clinic for weigh-ins.  Not least because our health visitor wanted us to come weekly and kept calling me at home to “remind” me.  Not that I ever didn’t turn up when I said I would. She once came to our house to weigh my daughter 3 times in a week, with 2 of these visits being just 24 hours apart. I have no idea how a baby is supposed to gain a significant amount of weight to that timescale. I ended up giving the baby a massive bottle of expressed milk just before she arrived to get the health visitor off my back!

The interesting thing is that the red book states that babies should not be weighed more often than once a month. Illness, teething and various other things can cause a baby to gain weight slowly or remain static for a week or two and this is normal.  That’s been the case with my little one.  Because she’s rubbish at breastfeeding, any change in routine or even a snuffle can stop her gaining weight for a week or two.  She always piles it on in the next few weeks then and averages out ok over a month.

It has taken me some months to stop worrying almost obsessively about my baby’s weight and be able to relax enough to really enjoy being her Mum. I think that as a Mum you know if your baby is unwell or if something is amiss.  If your baby is alert, developmentally spot on and generally happy with him or herself, then weight should be seen as part of the picture and not all of it. Surely that’s just common sense.

PS Happily, our GP and Paediatrician also see things my way and that’s made me feel a lot more confident about my daughter’s weight being ok.

Hot Chocolate Fudge Sauce Recipe

I did promise that I’d give you the recipe for the hot chocolate fudge sauce recipe I enjoyed on Friday night whilst my other half was out drinking. Over a scoop or two of plain vanilla ice cream it’s the best!

This recipe makes enough for 2 fairly greedy people:

50g dark chocolate

15g unsalted butter

60 ml water

1 Tbsp golden syrup

1 Tbsp sugar (my preference is for golden caster)

Pinch of salt

couple of drops of vanilla extract


Melt the choco and the butter in the microwave, putting it on for 30 secs on High then stirring, then another 30 secs until it’s mainly melted and nearly smooth. The residual heat will take care of any further lumps.  At the same time, bring the water to the boil on the stove in a small pan. Add the melted choc and butter to the water and stir until smooth.  Now add the golden syrup, sugar and salt and bring the lot to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring regularly. Simmer for several minutes until the sauce is thickened and glossy, then stir in the vanilla. Pour over ice cream, or pancakes, or profiteroles and enjoy!



Daddy Got Drunk

Although I may have been laying off the booze for over a year, I have no problem with my lovely other half going out from time to time and having a sherbet or two. However, last night he crossed a line.  HE STOLE MY SLEEP! That is clearly an unforgivable transgression. Let me tell you what happened….

He went out at about 8pm saying, “we’re not going to have a big session tonight – and definitely NO sambuca” and our baby fell asleep at about 8.30pm.  I then had lovely times, writing my first blog posts and having vanilla ice cream with hot fudge sauce (I will share the recipe with you later). I expressed some milk and then gave that to our little one at 11pm.  She then woke up and I spent an hour settling her again. It was about 12.45am before she was asleep again.  Imagine my delight then when I received a soppy text message at 1.02am from my other half. I should have known that this meant trouble. Anyway, I went to bed and was deeply asleep when my mobile phone rang at 2.30am. It was charging at the other side of the room and I went from horizontal to diving towards the phone in a fraction of a second to avoid waking the baby.  The conversation went as follows:

OH: slurs “Hi hon, how are you?”

Me: whispers viciously “I was fine until some w*nker phoned me at 2.30 in the morning. What do you want?”

OH: slurs “Just wanted to tell you I’m at Dave’s house and will be here for a bit longer. Hope that’s ok?”

Me: “I don’t give a crap what you do, as long as you do it quietly and without waking me and the baby!”

OH: hopefully slurs “Love you!”

Me: “Grrrrr!”

It then took me 30 mins to get back to sleep and 30 mins after that I had to give bubster her night feed, which takes an hour. I was somewhat tired this morning as a result. But OH then made me a lovely breakfast and was quite cutely hungover, so I’ll let him off – just this once, mind.

PS It turns out that sambuca was imbibed, because the pub landlord proffered one on the house as it was OH’s first Friday night out since our daughter was born. So not really his fault…I suppose.