Tag Archives: pregnancy

Stepping out onto the path of motherhood

The path

At the age of twenty-nine I became a first-time Mum. In my twenties I struggled to carve out a place for myself in the world, navigating along a complex path which at times led me to a feeling of clarity and purpose, but more often to stress, confusion and uncertainty.

Pregnancy provided me precious time to reflect on my childhood and early adult-years, as well as the opportunity to look forward to the kind of world I wanted my son to be brought up in. On the cusp of motherhood I experienced a kind of epiphany. I suddenly felt with all my being my role in life was to take unending care of my son. The path appeared inviting and bright, yet cluttered with demons and traps to set me back.

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Labouring naturally: nature’s gift

Welcome to the June 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Embracing Your Birth Experience

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about at least one part of their birth experience that they can hold up and cherish.

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It is the journey, not the destination that matters. Here I describe the most beautiful, spiritual aspect of my labour, the first stages along a bumpy road to giving birth. My firstborn child, a son, was born in June 2010. Ewan’s birth was far from the ‘perfect’, natural birth I had envisaged, prepared for and naively believed I would have. Instead, I gave birth by emergency caesarean under general anaesthetic. Lying unconscious, I missed the first three hours of my son’s life, and then spent the next few days too ill to care for my son, recovering in hospital.

My suffering, the pain, trauma and long period of postnatal recovery were far outweighed by the child standing before me. My son was born a very healthy little boy, who nursed like a dream. Our first meeting was indescribable, as I instantly felt overwhelmingly attached to my son, an outpouring of unconditional love which knew no bounds.

Now, almost two years on, I can reflect on and celebrate this profound experience, cherishing the joy of labouring naturally, even though I could not in the end birth naturally. In this post I share the period before the second stage of labour, holding these hours up with strength, pride and happiness for all to see.

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Snapshots of love: family support

Welcome to the May 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With or Without Extended Family

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how relatives help or hinder their parenting. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

This post is dedicated to my parents

Our family on holiday in Quebec
Our family on holiday in Quebec

Breaking the news

The joy on my parents face when we broke the happy news to them that I was pregnant was priceless and indescribable. Having waited many long years for grandchildren, after having four of their own, my parents were utterly delighted. It also came at the best time for them, having both recently retired, my mother as a nursery teacher, so with more time on their hands to help support us. Added to us their total devotion and love of young children, and a strong relationship with me, we knew we were extremely fortunate and blessed entering this new phase of our lives.

A rosy childhood

I was brought up in a loving, secure household with my three brothers and many pets. I have many treasured memories of my childhood, all of which revolve around the unconditional love my parents gave us all. Annual family holidays with my cousins in North Wales, and in France, long walks in the local woods or up mountains in the Highlands of Scotland, visits to my relatives in Bolton, sunny days spent playing our large garden or indoors with masses of Lego, the list goes on. The blanket of warmth, comfort and security wrapped around me, enabling me to grow up valuing myself, my family and the world I lived in. My parents simply gave unconditionally, no sacrifice was too large.

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Ewan at eight months, in Park Guell in Barcelona

Mothering Through Breastfeeding: Part One, birth to ten months

This article was first published in La Leche League GB  ‘Breastfeeding Matters’ magazine, number 185, September/October 2011.

When I was pregnant I was asked whether I would breast or bottle-feeding. This puzzled me because there was never a question, to me breastfeeding is simply how you feed your baby. Luckily, I come from a family who support breastfeeding, including my Nanna who fed twins at a time it was ‘normal’ to bottle-feed, my Aunty who fed her children until they naturally weaned, and my mother who breastfed me and my brothers. I therefore felt supported in embarking on feeding my own baby.
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First meeting of mother and son

Part Four: Emergency caesarean

First meeting of mother and son

Emergency caesarean

No pregnant woman imagines having an emergency caesarean, yet around 60% of caesareans are unplanned. Of these only around 6% are real emergencies. Mine was one of these. My Mum kissed my cheek as my husband squeezed my hand tightly. They were left alone in a suddenly empty room, their concern almost palpable.

Feet running, alarms and lights blaring. Frantic voices. A cold room. One last huge contraction. Breathing in, then nothing. Awakening, shaking uncontrollably, numb, rising pain and panic. Had my baby survived? Where was he? Disorientated and confused no one had cut the umbilical cord. Was this because although I knew my baby had left my body I had not been awake to experience his leaving it?

My baby was found to be in the back to back position, which is why I had laboured slowly and experienced so much back pain. I will forever wonder whether if I had been more mobile in labour I could have helped Ewan to turn to a more optimal position for birth.

First hours of life

Equally, no new mum imagines not seeing her baby in those precious early hours. Yet this situation is quite common. I didn’t see Ewan for the first three hours of his life. The thought never occurred to me that I would not share his first hours on earth. He was born perfectly healthy, at 2.29am on Friday June 11th 2010. There is a video of my husband, Rich, holding and soothing our newborn, as he nuzzles and cries, trying to nurse. Each time I see this video I try not to cry.

Hospital policy

Rich was told off by a nurse for walking with Ewan instead of placing him in his cot, because he might drop him! This beggar’s belief. At what point in humanity have we arrived if we cannot hold our most vulnerable members of society to our skin to ease their transition into the world, simply for fear of litigation? Rich felt angry and humiliated at this admonition having simply followed his instincts. The sound of his Daddy’s voice must have been comfortable and familiar to Ewan when all about him was cold, bright and harsh. He wondered where his Mummy was. To leave him alone, even for a second, would have been wrong.

Meeting of mother and son

Eventually we met. A totally indescribable feeling, etched on my mind as my life’s most memorable moment. I was utterly amazed; he was perfect, so beautiful. Love at first sight. He gave me a look of knowing, he reached for me. He fed immediately, hungrily from both breasts. He had been denied this nourishment for what must have felt an eternity to him in this startlingly new, scary world. He made sure he wasn’t denied it again!

Statistics found in: Caesarian section

In labour

Part One: Hopes and reality of labour

Part One: Hopes and reality of labour


Midwife led birthing centre

I had hoped to give birth to Ewan in the local midwife led birthing centre, Darley Dale. However, I was put under consultant led care because the doctors found I was carrying Streptococcus B bacteria. Treatment for this includes the administration of antibiotics during labour and birth. This is a common infection present in up to half of the female population, which can cause severe infections in the newborn. I accepted my doctor’s advice, but felt saddened I was unable to give birth in the less interventionist, more homely environment of a midwife led unit. Having read about the many benefits of using water during labour, I fought to be allowed access to this in hospital. Eventually I was assured I could use water at the times I was not being administered the antibiotics.

The start of labour

The start of labour is a significant, often exciting time for pregnant women. Mine certainly was! Labour began slowly, mild tightening like period pains which came and went for over a day. I slept soundly my last night at home, before going swimming to relieve and distract me from the pain. I rocked to and fro on the birthing ball whilst listening to Buddhist chanting music, focusing on the deep, resonating tones of the monks as I breathed. I ate a hearty cooked breakfast to energise me, in preparation for the labour to come. I sought comfort from my parent’s border collie, who sensed my pain, nuzzling close to offer comfort. It was as if he knew.

From free movement to the confines of a hospital bed

In an active labour suite in hospital, I felt in control and on top of the pain. I was relaxed, moving around the room and squatting to use the birthing ball. A huge gush as my waters broke, with traces of meconium. Foetal excrement can be an indication the baby is in distress. However, in women who are overdue this is more likely to happen anyway, without the meconium necessarily being any sign of distress. I was informed I needed to be strapped up on the bed to an electronic foetal monitor, with electrodes monitoring my heart rate continuously.

It never occurred to me to refuse.

This severely restricted my movements, whilst jeopardising my hopes of using the birthing pool. As a first time mother I felt powerless in my patient role. I accepted, without question, the authority of the medical establishment, against my instinctive need to move freely around the room.

Electronic foetal monitoring

Although restricted I was determined to be as active as possible, kneeling on the bed with the birthing ball rocking from side to side. Both my heart rate and Ewan’s remained static for many hours, as we both remained calm. A handheld foetal device which the midwife uses periodically for short periods would therefore have more than sufficed, whilst allowing me freedom to labour as I desired, including being immersed in water. Research indicates no positive effects of electronic foetal monitoring. Instead, rather alarmingly, their use indicates an increase in the rate of caesarean sections in labouring women (see Michelle Odent). I can appreciate why. Caesarean sections also carry many risks for both mother and baby. Breastfeeding can also prove more difficult to get off to a good start and manage whilst recovering from surgery. Why are electronic foetal monitors used so readily? Part of the answer lies in the fact we live in a risk averse society, scared of not insuring against all risks by constant monitoring.

Michel Odent. Birth and Breastfeeding: Rediscovering the Needs of Women During Pregnancy and Childbirth

Ewan’s birth story introduction

Ewan’s birth story

Now that I’ve shared with you a few of my thoughts about parenting today and parenting in stone age times, I’d like to share with you a personal story, of how my son came into the world. Pregnancy and birth sowed the seeds for this blog, as it is where the amazing, life-changing journey of parenthood began. It is Ewan who continually reminds me to follow my instincts, who helps me to parent more naturally.

My pregnancy and early labour were natural and gentle, with few medical interventions. Sadly, Ewan was eventually delivered by emergency caesarean section. As traumatic as this was, we were also relieved he was born a healthy little boy and that I was able to breastfeed him problem free. On reflection I began to piece together the possible reasons for what became a very medicalised birth.

This experience has taught me to be far more questioning of the medical profession and proactive when dealing with them. What do these ‘experts’ do to our bodies in the name of ‘reducing the risks’? I am now far more open to alternative methods of birthing. In the hopeful event of another pregnancy, I plan to be more in control and able to manage my labour, knowing when to ask for assistance and from whom.