Perpetuating The Myth

Being someone who doesn’t usually pay attention to celebrity news, media or commercial entities, I found myself attracted to the recent media coverage surrounding the birth of Robbie Williams and Ayda Field’s second child, Charlton.

The couple made numerous videos during the labour and posted them online for fans and celebrity fanatics to follow Ayda’s labour progress. Trying to keep the mood light, their videos included Ayda twerking for husband Robbie and Robbie singing the well known soundtrack to the film Frozen while Ayda has a contraction.
Since the birth, the videos have made their way onto television, online newspapers and social media sites. They have sparked many conversations and debates about everything, from whether this was a media stunt, to what mothers think and if they would have approved of their partners doing the same thing?!

Of course, like anything surrounding birth, everyone has an opinion. I’ve read everything from “Oh how funny!” to “I would kill my husband if he did that to me!”. It seems many find the videos in bad taste, asking “Is nothing private anymore?!”. However, amongst of all the comments there didn’t seem to be much said about the actual labour itself or the number of interventions that appeared to be going on despite it being portrayed as a normal labour.

Although the couple don’t go into details of the labour progression, they give the impression that everything is ‘going to plan’. Ayda doesn’t look concerned about the birth and for the most part seems quite happy playing along with Robbie’s antics.
Robbie performs his song ‘Candy’ for Ayda to take her mind off of the labour. Whether he believes this will actually help the labour move forward smoothly, or whether this is in fact a publicity stunt, Robbie appears to be unaware that if wife Ayda is irritated by his joking around, then this is likely to slow her labour down! Making the mother feel completely comfortable and safe is key to a smooth untroubled labour.
Furthermore, behind the bravado, the couple are surrounded by bright lights, a drip (most likely containing syntocinon/pitocin, a drug used to induce labour), stirrups, blood pressure cuff strapped to Ayda’s arm, use of an amnihook and when it came to ‘push’ Ayda was flat on her back with her legs in the air!

With the abundance of research carried out and information available regarding birth, you might think the couple would know to avoid interventions where possible. Bright lights can slow labour down, babies can be born with the waters still in tact and laying flat on your back is certainly not the optimal position for a smooth birth.

The after birth video quotes Ayda as saying “Every ounce counts!”, but I say “Every centimetre counts!” and laying on your back can decrease your pelvis size by 30%, constricting the opening your baby has to squeeze through and forcing them to travel uphill; making the mother’s and the baby’s job harder!

While the videos may be amusing to some, it is yet another example of how intervention has become routine, widely accepted and in some circumstances, expected. Many believe the videos were made to be all about Robbie, he is the star of the show while Ayda just so happens to be giving birth in the background. This is unfortunate because it means people lose sight of the message the footage could be sending to young women and men about birth.

Men can and do have a big part to play in the birth of their babies. They are there to ensure the mother feels secure, protected, trusted, empowered, listened to, comfortable and not rushed!

Media is powerful and what the footage portrays is overshadowed for a few laughs. If you’re going to show birth why not share the details, explain what is happening and why? Some believe birth should not be used as a media stunt, but others were annoyed that after all the hoo-ha the couple didn’t show the baby once he was born! Some might argue that once you start to put your birth on social media when does it stop becoming public and turn into something personal, exempt from the publics viewing?!

Whatever the reason behind the videos, they perpetuate the myth that interventions are ‘normal’. This does an injustice to the next generation of mums and dads who will continue the cycle of believing that a drug fuelled, intervention led, fast labour is better for them and their baby, when in fact the opposite is true!

 

-B

A Helpful Question

There are short exchanges and small remarks that can leave you feeling a little silly. The following exchange did just that and occurred at the beginning of our antenatal class:

“Do you both believe your/partners body is capable of making and growing a baby?”

Without hesitation we both answered “Yes” just as we think most people would.

It was then remarked:

“Then why would you think that a body that is capable of such a feat, would not be perfectly capable of giving birth to that same baby!”

It illustrated how irrational some of our fears really were. In that one little exchange a confidence and calmness was instilled, that stayed with us throughout. When we were worried or nervous for no apparent reason one of us would ask the other that question and found it comforting.

When you are feeling worried or anxious about your impending birth try asking yourself that same question and hopefully it will help to dispel those irrational fears many of us have.

-J

Adrenaline: Bad For Labour? Huh!

One of the things that amazed us most was learning about the negative effects adrenaline can have on labour. The pre-conceived idea of labour that most people have is a labour full of adrenaline. But this is just wrong! A calm, relaxed labour is far more beneficial and rewarding for all parties involved. A calm, quiet, drama-less labour makes for bad TV. So most, if not all labours seen on TV are loud, frenzied and drama fuelled. All this does is perpetuate the stereotype of a dramatic labour.

We have learnt many things along our way and this was probably the most enlightening of them all. It came as a shock and completely changed our approach to labour. Luckily for us, we found this out at the beginning of the second trimester; whilst we were still deciding and had no set birth plan or mindset.

When a woman goes into labour her body releases oxytocin (known as the love hormone or cuddle chemical) and that in turn releases pain relieving endorphins (morphine like in nature; but far, far more powerful, they attach to same brain receptors as morphine and codeine). It’s these two things that make labour bearable and manageable for the mother. When adrenaline is involved it directly counters the effects of oxytocin and in turn the endorphin release, resulting in reduced pain relief.

If there is too much adrenaline, it can actually stop labour and even reverse the process. This is an inbuilt system; the emergency response, the mothers instinct is to protect her child and to feel as safe and secure as possible. If she feels stressed or insecure, however minor, it will have negative effects on the progression of labour.

However, it isn’t completely bad! The negative aspects are mainly referring to the ‘up stage’ of labour or the ‘first stage’ of labour, as this is the stage that consists of the greatest proportion of time in the whole process. However, once into the second stage of labour (generally the last hour or so) there is a fine balance between oxytocin and adrenaline. Oxytocin and the other cartenocenides enable pain relief, but no endurance. This is where adrenalin kicks in, right when it’s getting too much, it slows oxytocins effect down, gives the mother a boost in energy, then backs off and the cycle starts again. This balance is completely different for every woman. Every woman will have different limits and abilities and the balance will be tuned perfectly for them, if left to do what it does best.

If all but the last hour or so of labour is adrenaline free, a woman can have access to all the pain relief she could ever need, far more potent than any available drug, just waiting for the taking.

 

– J

 

The Forth Trimester – Tips To Aid The Transition

Yes you read it right, the fourth trimester! Everyone knows that pregnancy is made up of three trimesters. The first trimester where you may want to hurl when talking about, looking at or attempting to eat food either in the morning, noon or night or if you’re really unlucky, all three. Then there’s that bit in the middle where your bump starts to show, you feel those fluttery movements for the first time and you get to make the decision whether to find out what sex the baby is or to wait for a surprise when the birth happens. Then finally the third trimester where most people including strangers will suddenly want to know the ins and outs of your plans. You know the kind of thing I’m referring to – “Where you’re going to have the baby?”, “Do you plan to breastfeed?”, “Do you know what you’re having?”, “Have you got a name?”, “Is the baby’s room ready?”, ” Have you got everything?”.

The three trimesters we’re all familiar with are related to pregnancy, those 40 weeks that a woman carries her child with her everywhere. Nine months of uninterrupted togetherness; being one and the same, sharing every part of our lives, feeling each other’s movements. For three-quarters of a year we are never alone, we share, bond with and nurture our bodies and our babies to keep them safe, warm and protected, so they and we feel secure.

The fourth trimester refers to the first few months following birth. For first time mums especially, this is usually the period they feel the most insecure, but also the most judged. We are bombarded with conflicting information from professionals, health visitors, midwives, “self-proclaimed baby experts” and other mothers and are asked questions like “Is he a good eater?”, “Is he sleeping well?”, or my personal favourite, “Is he good?”. It’s no wonder we feel under scrutiny.

The first few months are called the fourth trimester for a reason. After being dependant on their mother for 9 months, there has to be a period of adjustment. Before birth all a baby is aware of is weightlessness, in warm, soft and dark surroundings, the muffled sound of voices (mostly mums, possibly dads or grandparents), always with the mothers constant heart beat for company. Being born into a bright, loud, cold world with scratchy, itchy materials is a massive change and one that is regularly underestimated.

The mother also has to adjust to her baby being separate from her own body. Looking after your baby when pregnant can be quite simple, avoid certain foods/alcohol and keep a relatively healthy diet; you can’t really go wrong. After birth there’s all sorts of things for mothers to fret about. It’s no wonder we might have a feeling of wanting to carry baby everywhere, it’s what you’re both used to and it’s a very natural way to feel! 

The fourth trimester is about meeting your baby’s needs, aiding their and your adjustment to life on the outside. Think of it as a transition from womb to world. There are a few ways in which to help this:

DO AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE
This is possibly the only time you can say ‘NO!’ to the hoovering, washing up, food shopping, cooking, clothes washing and get away with it. If you want visitors, why not ask them to bring dinner, make their own tea when they arrive and make you one while they’re at it! After all, you are taking care of a new baby, so you need taking care of in turn. This is the time to call in those friendly favours and your partner to pick up the slack.

BABY WEAR
Carrying baby in a sling, will provide a feeling of comfort and closeness for baby, (a soft wrap sling is great for the early weeks). Being able to hear the heartbeat of the wearer will feel like a home from home for a newborn. With the help of a sling you can carry little one and watch tv, read a book, use the bathroom, eat dinner, it’s a win win.

For mothers, holding your baby releases the love hormone oxytocin into both your systems. This, and skin to skin contact will aid the bonding process for you both.

LISTEN AND WATCH FOR YOUR BABY’S CUES
As we’ve written about HERE, Dunstan’s Baby Language is a must have tool for any parent. You’re baby is trying to communicate with you, albeit with a different vocabulary.

Listen and watch your baby to see if you can pick up on their early signs, this will help lessen fussy and crying periods. Remember, once baby is crying it’s already too late, you’ve missed the cues and their attempt to communicate. The more you study them, the more you’ll learn and hopefully the easier your adjustment will be.

FEED ON DEMAND
Babies, like adults, can get thirsty as well as hungry. Do not worry yourself with unrealistic expectations of your baby feeding a set amount at set intervals. New babies will eat as much or as little as they want at any time of the day or night. I’m sure you do not eat the same amount of food at the same times of day, everyday; so you should not expect your baby to.

Aiming to put baby onto a feeding schedule too early will teach little one to eat when not hungry; promoting bad eating habits, that have the potential to be carried into later in life.

AID BABY WITH SLEEP
Quite a few of us have heard the ‘making a rod for your own back’ speech. This is especially given to mums who let their baby’s fall asleep at the breast and/or hold them to sleep.

Putting a baby down on their own to sleep is an unrealistic expectation, especially in the early months. Babies learn new skills with our help, love and support, this includes sleep and self settling.

SLEEP is an acquired skill and just like walking takes time, help and guidance. You would not expect your child to walk, without first rolling over, sitting unaided, crawling (sometimes backwards first), standing, walking holding furniture, to finally walking alone; albeit with many trips, stumbles and falls. Sleep is a skill that is acquired and will take time and patience to help them master, accompanied by “trips and falls” (the well known 4 month sleep regression is one).

To SELF SETTLE, a baby must first learn this skill. A great way of doing this is to hold and soothe your baby to sleep. Humming, swaying, breast feeding, talking gently or simply sitting still, in a relaxed state will teach your baby that to sleep we must be relaxed and content. The feeling of being close to someone should make for a longer more peaceful sleep for baby.

The ‘rod for your own back’ brigade give mums a false impression that if they hold baby while he/she sleeps they run the risk of baby being clingy and needy. This kind of advice is not helpful nor realistic to the baby’s needs.

Advising mums to settle baby down on their own to sleep, putting baby into eating routines and generally putting space between mother and child is more likely to create a needy baby as they feel their most basic needs are not already met.

FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCTS
For a child to be independent, they must first be dependant on their mother to meet their needs. This allows the baby to later inspect and explore the world from the safety of knowing their mother will meet his needs emotionally and physically, as and when he needs it.

Do not be afraid of following your heart, no matter what others think, YOU know what is best for your child. If it means standing out from the crowd then so be it. A lot of mothers are now are encouraged to not be instinctual; but instead to follow the crowd, trying out sleeping routines, feeding schedules etc, all in the hope of achieving ‘good baby’ status.

You may not always feel like you’re getting it right, but if you follow your instincts and remain objective about your choices then you’re mostly there.

 

Keep in mind that this period of adjustment is far more upsetting for baby then it is for you. You have the ability to ask for human contact if you’re feeling scared, able to express your upset and to ask for comfort if needed, make yourself something to eat or drink or take something for trapped wind. You know this world, the sights, sounds and smells. You have control of your body and know the sensations you feel. Your baby does not, and has limited ways of communicating.

So while mums, dads and babies go through this period of adjustment, encourage them to embrace the fourth trimester, not go against it. Hold baby if they want to, whether the baby is sleeping or not. Instead of showing your disapproval of bed sharing, help them find the necessary information to ensure they do it safely.

Encouraging parents to go against their instincts makes more nervous, anxious, less confident parents. Instead, encourage her mothering instincts and provide her with the same love and support she is trying to nurture her baby with. We all deserve the opportunity to become the best parents we can be to our children; with the right support along the way, we all stand a fighting chance.

 

-B

Mother Knows Best?

When it comes to birth there seems to be some confusion over who is in charge of the process. Is it the Mother or the Midwives and Hospital Staff?

Every time this debate arises it is met with blank expressions and shrugging of shoulders. Surely the hospital staff should be in charge because they know what is going on and will only do what is in the best interests of Mother and child?

A majority of people would like to think so, but let’s face it, from the moment you walk through those labour ward doors your clock starts ticking. In that moment what should be a perfectly normal part of every day life turns into a race against time. Suddenly labour and birth has it’s time limits and if your baby and body fail to fit within the parameters set by the ‘professionals’ then measures will be taken to aid in the safe birth of the baby. Giving the impression that Mother and child are no longer deemed capable to provide safe passage, why is this?

For the majority of us we attend a hospital for help, because something is wrong and we need an expert to tell us what it is and fix it so we feel better. With birth, many people have the same view, attending hospital to get professional help and ‘drugs’ to make them feel better. Why do many treat having a baby the same way; as if there is something wrong with them? They are not ill and certainly do not need fixing! So why are we so dependent on meddling in what is just another natural bodily function?

For many women a ‘natural’ birth would be not having pain relief other than gas and air. While this would give women a great sense of achievement, there are actually many other things that Mothers sign up to while in labour that aren’t necessarily in the benefit of the natural labouring process. For example, internal examinations are not necessary to tell dilation, using one of many other options, the position of the woman’s bump could provide enough information to which stage the labour is at. It’s hard to comprehend why examinations are widely used given that a woman could go from 2cm to 6cm and back to 2cm at any point given the circumstances at the time. There are no limits to how long each centimetre should take and therefore it is difficult to see a benefit in having this ‘routine’ procedure. In fact it could have the opposite effect, making the woman uncomfortable which could possibly slow the process down if her body reacts to the unnatural intrusion.

Every minute without progress leads closer to more internal examinations, induction drips, baby monitoring, mother monitoring, drugs and in a lot of cases the mother having to remain stagnant on a hospital bed so the Midwives can monitor their progress.

Everything natural about the process is removed until we are left with a situation that must be controlled. Moving further and further away from the natural beauty that is birth.

It is also frustrating that many mothers are not warned of the consequences of having such ‘routine’ procedures; in many cases, intervention leads to intervention. Every time we interrupt a woman in labour, we are potentially setting her progress back, this could lead to her feeling more uncomfortable and out of control. The ‘professionals’ are potentially slowing down her body’s ability to birth, thus requiring more interventions to get her back on track. That’s not to say an internal examination will lead to an epidural, c-section or otherwise; but it increases the likelihood.

When something has to be done, is the Mother being told or asked?

It seems that many women are not aware that in the UK there are laws to protect women so they can make choices regarding their birth experience (for more info see this article).  This means that it is not the Hospital ‘letting you have your baby without intervention’, it is the Mother who gives permission. Permission to carry out examinations, monitor mum and baby; permission to oversee her birth and administer care when she so asks or agrees to it. Unfortunately this is not common practice and for the most part it is completely the opposite.

Many women are not aware that they can and should be in charge of what is going on. Midwives and birth partners are simply there to facilitate it. I have met some wonderful midwives who understand and encourage women to experience childbirth the way every woman deserves to. I was fortunate to have such a midwife present at the birth of my child and to her I am grateful of the support and respect of my choices throughout my pregnancy, my birth and after.

However, there are midwives who either do not care or do not understand how their actions can have a detrimental effect on the mothers ability to birth and bond with her child after birth. It is true that you do not get a medal for going ‘Au Naturel’, but having the opinion that it is of no benefit/gain to a woman and baby, is ignorant at best.

For the most part though, I feel that many midwives have their hands tied by ‘the system’; they are given a set of parameters in which they have to assess the progress of the birth and provide the ‘necessary’ care to ensure every mothers stays somewhere within them. So concerned of the blame culture we have nowadays we seem to have lost the ability to be subjective and see the bigger picture.

Instead of disabling women with time limits, unneeded interventions and blinding them with unnecessary rhetoric that is for the most part neither useful nor helpful to a birthing mother. We should be empowering women, better educating them, encouraging and enabling them to take charge of their birth; trust their instincts and provide them with safe secure surroundings, in which to experience what should be the biggest achievement she has ever made.

For info on birthing rights or queries regarding them in the UK try here http://www.birthrights.org.uk/ or here http://www.aims.org.uk

– B

Breastfeeding from the other side! A Dads View!

Breasts; they are not obscene, they are not vaginas or penises, they are not grotesque appendages that will put people off their dinner, they are just breasts! They are the food and drink, the sustenance, the everything to my 20 week old.

Why does breastfeeding cause such an issue in today’s society?

If I see a breastfeeding woman, do I feel awkward?

Why it causes such an issue, in my opinion, is because the sight of a breast, the flash of a nipple, can and does make people feel awkward. It has made me feel awkward! But that is my issue, we are exposed to breasts in society as sex objects, there for others pleasure. As soon as they become something else, the very conduit of life, it confuses people and this confusion leads to awkwardness and prudishness.

Who’s problem is it?

IT IS NOT THE MOTHERS. It is the person experiencing the awkwardness! These persons feel they have right to interject and/or complain. It is their problem and we as society should learn to ridicule those who make this very natural and sacred act so potentially difficult and anguishing.

Now I’m not a rampaging fully signed up member to the “Breastapo”, contrary to my rant so far. I am a Dad who thinks his child should be able to feed almost anywhere without fear of interjection. I don’t think it’s appropriate to do it blatantly. If I couldn’t get away with exposing my hairy chest, then show some decorum. Yes, it is just a breast and I know that, I don’t however want a guided tour. There is no need to announce your intention to breastfeed by showing your breast to everyone within your vicinity, if there is a glimpse in the pursuit of feeding, then so be it.

I have often wondered if many of the horror stories we often hear, about discriminated breastfeeders, are because of the ‘Breastapo’ type approach; “I shall bear my breasts to everyone I possibly can whenever my baby needs feeding”

There are many ways to be less obvious, less provocative and it still be unmistakably feeding. There are any number of ways to achieve this from the simple and cheap to the custom, purpose made items. The simplest being a Muslim tied to a bra strap or a shawl or blanket draped over a shoulder. The custom items ranging from nursing tops, to ponchos, to feeding aprons.

One argument against these tend to be about covering up the baby, this isn’t always the case. Most nursing tops allow just the exposure of the area needed for nursing, meaning that when the child is latched, very little if any flesh is on show (my spouse has stood in a supermarket car park talking to strangers about a push chair whilst doing exactly that and no one had a clue she was nursing).

Along with the covering up comes the awkwardness in seeing your baby and I agree that this is probably the biggest downside to the cheap and simple solutions. However, in a pinch, it can be used successfully. A solution we found to this, in addition to nursing tops, was this nursing apron from this company, which has a rigid boned neckline that allows eye contact to be kept. We have found it invaluable and has allowed breastfeeding to be undertaken with the minimum fuss or concern from any party.

In the UK we have the remnants of Victorian prudishness and have still not shirked its hold upon society. It makes the transition harder. The sight of a breastfeeding woman should not raise eyebrows, but it does. We need to aid that transition by being and showing willingness to be courteous to others. That doesn’t mean hiding your child under a blanket in the middle of a heat wave, nor does it mean a glorified expedition of the breast during an announcement to the world of your intention to feed. It means being mindful of others and your surroundings and choosing the method that suits. If your child will only nurse if you’re naked from the waist up, then so be it, but you wont be feeding openly in a posh restaurant or at a wedding.

Whilst I agree breasts are not going to make me go blind in any circumstances, there are times when they should not be purposefully put on display; just as there are times when my hairy chest should not.

There will be times when your little one will decide that they don’t want to cooperate and will make it harder. Putting them first is always the top priority and should remain so, but that should not be used as an excuse for insensitivity to others.

Nurse in public, in shops, in restaurants, in museums, in libraries, in the post office queue, in the playground, in the car, in a car park, in the park, at dinner, at lunch, at breakfast, at a wedding, at a funeral, at a christening. We have in most of these circumstances.

Nurse anywhere and everywhere you damn well please, just show a little decorum for the environment you are in, be considerate to others and maybe, just maybe, we can all move past the stigma, that something so natural and so pure has gained; because of the lack of respect for all parties involved.

-J

Be In Awe Of Yourself!

How many women go into labour unsure of what to expect? – Now I’m not talking about the ‘pain’ of labour, a contraction is a strange sensation and can be as individual as the person experiencing it – But in terms of what a contraction is, what it is doing and how it is aiding your body to birth your baby, how many women can honestly say they know these things?

It’s thanks to our antenatal teacher and chosen birthing method that we were taught almost everything there is to know about birth and what to expect when the day finally came. We took the time to speak about anything and everything birth related, what we wanted/did not want, our hopes and fears, the ‘what if’s?!’

Throughout my labour, there we’re no nasty surprises, no real wonderings of ‘what is happening to my body?!’.

I cannot help but wonder if many women have these thoughts during labour and are scared of how their bodies feel. It wouldn’t surprise me if this leads many women to ask for or agree to pain relief/intervention because they feel out of control and are unsure of what is happening and if what they’re feeling is ‘normal’.

The mechanics of birth, when understood, are so profoundly beautiful that I challenge women not be be in awe of themselves and their body’s ability to create life.

To me, knowledge was power and I was in control, not of my body, but of my mind. I need not control my body, it knows what to do, however the mind is powerful and can cause havoc if not aware and informed.

-B

Home Birth – You’re Brave!

Deciding to birth our baby at home was absolutely the right decision for us, it was disappointing that other people did not see it that way.

At our 16 week midwife appointment we had a lengthy chat about our birthing method and our choices on where to birth. Up to this point birthing at home seemed like a wonderful idea but a scary prospect. After a frank discussion our apprehensions were all but gone; the only thing holding us back now was the worry of what other people will think! What if other people don’t approve? Or if they find the prospect scary and inappropriately start to talk to me about what would be their fears?! We made the decision there and then that we both wanted a home birth, but it was something I was not ready to reveal to others just yet.

So we continued with our birth course and researched the facts about birthing, we researched the research to make sure it was balanced and left no stone unturned. If we were going to do this we needed to ‘know our stuff’; ‘winging it’ wasn’t going to be good enough and quite honestly I feel would’ve been irresponsible.

When the time came to ‘go public’ we were over 32 weeks pregnant. I still wasn’t confident that people would be accepting of our choices, but I was confident we had made the right choice and was ready for any eventuality. As suspected, we were met with questions of ‘Do they let you do that with your first baby?’ and statements like ‘You’re brave!’ People were also shocked that you can ‘Only have gas and air!’ at a home birth.

What’s more, they were quite happy to share their awful birthing experiences with us, I can imagine the only reason for this being that it was supposed to ‘prepare’ us for what they thought we might experience.

So sick of the naysayers I started to retaliate. When men would say ‘You wait till you start to shout at your husband, poor bloke won’t know what’s hit him!’, I would reply ‘If I’m shouting then something has gone astray, there is no benefit to shouting while giving birth’. When women would say ‘Only gas and air or a paracetamol – do they think you’re having a baby or a headache?!’ I would state ‘Considering my body will provide a natural painkiller 200 times more powerful than morphine; I’m hopeful I won’t need anything else’. I was aware that this could be coming across as confrontational at times, but I was tired of women who had babies saying ‘You wait until it happens, and you’ll do anything and everything to get that baby out!’

I learnt a lot about people’s outlook on birth over those few weeks. It would seem that people view birth in a way that is generally portrayed in films and on so-called ‘reality’ TV. Unfortunately these things are edited for entertainment, therefore are not a true and balanced reflection of reality.

Eventually I learnt to ignore the raised eyebrows and the rolled eyes, especially the looks of disbelief when I confidently told people that I was not worried about the birth or apprehensive about the pending arrival, but was excited to meet my bundle of joy and sad my pregnancy was coming to an end.

It’s upsetting that my initial suspicions about people’s reactions were right. I found this disappointing, but the more people we spoke to, the more confident I became in my and our baby’s ability to do this! Birth, I felt, did not have to be screaming and sweating and swearing and crying and begging for it to be over. Instead I pictured it as an uncomfortable task that would be overshadowed by joy and excitement and happiness and wonder and love; lots and lots of love.

– B

Your Baby Can Talk!

Okay, not talk, communicate, just not in the conventional sense. The early noises that generally pre-curse a cry can be differentiated and do mean different things. Then there’s the body language, some obvious and some individual to the child.

Let’s start with the cries:

Priscilla Dunstan teaches that babies make sound reflexes. Much like sneezing and hiccuping that have recognisable patterns (when sound is added to the reflex), so too do babies cries.  She outlines 5 of these sounds in ‘Dunstan’s Baby Language‘. We found this to be extremely helpful, but not fool-proof, as all babies vary in their annunciating. The five sounds she outlines are: 

NEH – Hungry
EH – Upper Wind
HEH – Discomfort
OWH – Tired
EAIRH – Lower Wind

Not all babies will use all these sounds, according to Priscilla, some you may hear a lot, others occasionally and some never. We have heard all 5, lucky us, but some have been very rarely used or heard.

The sound for hungry is NEH, the neh coming from the suckling reflex. We did not hear this properly until our little one had his tongue tie snipped at 4 weeks, until then it was more an EH (which DBL teaches is upper wind). Once the tongue had been freed we heard it multiple times a day and used it to our full advantage. 

We have had some difficulty differentiating between our little ones EH and EAIRH sounds, most likely our bad ears (We certainly don’t have Priscilla’s photographic memory for sound). We would try to help ease lower wind pain and promptly get a large release of upper gas! We have heard these fairly regularly and only time will tell if our ears become trained to know the difference between these two. 

The discomfort sound HEH didn’t really appear to us until around 4 or 5 weeks. Maybe we missed it, maybe we kept him so comfy he had no use of it (I doubt it, but enjoy a bit of wishful thinking). We found if we weren’t paying attention it could be missed entirely or mistaken for playful sounds. They were not loud or abrupt, but more akin to rapid or heavy breathing. This developed into the typical sounding HEH as he grew and became more aware. We would hear this sound several times a week.

The tired sound of OWH (yawning reflex) first appeared at approximately 6-7 weeks. By approximately 9 weeks old we had heard this no more than a couple of times. It was very distinct and we understood it immediately and heard it more as his night-time sleeping increased and his daytime sleeping reduced.

 

Body language:

Body Language can be ambiguous and not always as straight forward as DBL’s pre-cries. Some are common and easily understood whilst others completely individual to your child. Here is a list of some examples we have found or had mentioned to us. Your baby may do some if these or none of these. Even if they do, it does not necessarily mean the same thing.

Ear Pulling or Hiccupping; May mean your baby is getting tired.

Gaze aversion; May mean your baby is tired or over-stimulated.

Pulling up legs; Can simply be a reflex action to indicate upset, not always an indication of abdominal pain.

Going red; Can mean the little one has been crying for too long or is overheated, not necessarily in pain or constipated.

Blue outline to lips; Could mean your baby has trapped wind.

Sticking tongue out, putting fist in mouth or fidgeting; Could mean your baby is hungry.

Rooting (A head-turning and sucking reflex towards a stimulus, apparent in young babies); Generally indicates hunger.

Clenched fists tightly; Can indicate hunger. Their fists become loose when sated (it’s more noticeable once grasp reflex gone somewhere around 2-6 months).

Head butting, head shaking (like saying no) and drooling; Can indicate hunger.

Wiggling down when on shoulder or throwing in direction of breast; Can also indicate hunger.

I hope these make communication with your little one easier and less frustrating.  Bare in mind your little one is as individual as you are, as are their queues and body language.

 

Good Luck!

-J

Bonding With Your Bump – 5 Things That Helped Me Make the Most Of My Pregnancy

Finding out I was pregnant was a bag of mixed emotions for me. I was delighted, relieved, joyful, scared, nervous, but most of all thankful. Not all women get to experience the wonder of pregnancy and I was going to grab the opportunity with both hands and embrace this journey which in the grand scheme of it, would be a blip in my lifetime.

Finding out the good news so early on (2 weeks) we had a hard time keeping a lid on it! We told our mums and dads, brothers and sisters and very few close friends. The weeks leading up to our 12 week scan dragged on and it felt like we had kept this secret for a lot longer. So used to the idea of protecting this little life from exposure, I found it hard to let go of the secrecy. In a few months I had gone from wanting to shout from the roof tops to not being able to find the words to tell people we were going to have a baby. It was as if the more people we told the more like a dream it felt, a very very happy dream, but a dream no less.

I’m pleased to say that I made the very most of my pregnancy and just 3 days before the birth a stranger asked if I was tired of being pregnant? I could honestly answer that I was not tired at all, in fact quite the opposite, I loved being pregnant and the impending due date gave me a feeling that I could only describe as bitter-sweet!

I learnt a lot during those weeks and months and was able to reap the rewards of this knowledge ten fold. Below are a few realisations I had and things I learnt that helped me make the most of my pregnancy.

 

 

MAKE MEMORIES FROM DAY 1

Almost from the word go I started tracking every minuscule moment. With the help of a pregnancy journal nothing was to be missed out! Every twinge, every feeling, week by week I tracked every appointment, our ideas, dreams, hopes for a healthy pregnancy and birth.

Once the baby is born you will, over time, forget most of the little details, especially all the wonder and discovery moments.

Quite often Mothers can only recall negative events from their pregnancy, I feel this is a tragedy. I did not want to forget this wondrous journey. To see the big picture you must include the small details.

 

HAPPY AND HEALTHY GO HAND IN HAND

Determined to start as I meant to go on I looked up details on healthy eating, exercise classes and the dos and don’ts of pregnancy. Although overweight I was the fittest I had ever been, running 3 times a week and ate a relatively balanced diet. Having always heard phrases like ‘eating for two’ and advice given to pregnant women about ‘resting up’, I was curious to know how helpful this advice was, as it turned out it was quite the opposite.

I was shocked to find that in the first two trimesters of pregnancy you don’t really need any extra calories! Yes you might be tired and therefore use food as fuel to get through the day until you can return home from work and fall asleep on the sofa before dinner, I know there were days I did; but it’s not a necessity to the development of the baby. Only in the third trimester do you really have a need for them, and then it’s only another few hundred calories or so, this equates to two slices of bread and butter!

As for exercise, because I had already established a fitness regime it was absolutely fine to continue as normal. As long as I wasn’t doing any abdominal workouts or pushing my usual boundaries (ie distance or quantity of runs) I and my baby were safe and I was encouraged to continue as normal.

I ran until I experienced pelvic discomfort at 20 weeks, caused by a Calcium deficiency. At this time I had already started pregnancy yoga classes which I attended weekly from week 16, right up to the night before the birth.

Doing this kept my serotonin levels up and I was getting as much goodness as possible by enjoying a normal balanced diet with just maybe an extra treat or two. It was a great decision and I believe made all the difference.

I feel I had a much happier and healthy pregnancy then I would have had if I was ‘eating for two’ or ‘resting up’.

 

ACCEPT ALL THE CHANGES AND BE PREPARED TO ADAPT ACCORDINGLY

It’s important to understand and accept that your body will change, in ways that are pleasing and ways that are not.

Morning sickness kicked in quite early on for me and was at its worst in the evenings. Discussing what to have for dinner was almost impossible, the idea of eating was nauseating. So I changed my habits to suit, I would eat a large breakfast, eat lunch early and then mid afternoon when the sickness started I had already pretty much eaten my calorific intake for the day so if I had to skip dinner it was no big deal. Listening to my body and responding in kind was the only way to cope.

During my pregnancy a lady commented to me that she thought I was having a girl because I had put on weight ‘all over’. I found this comment insensitive, however I was not ignorant enough to be believe my weight and shape wouldn’t change. In the beginning I was desperate to have my bump, as the weeks went on and the bigger my tummy grew the greater I felt about my body. After all, the more my tummy grew the more room my baby had to grow, I felt this was something to be thankful for, not to be resented. Yes I have stretch marks, but who doesn’t? Yes I have been using an ointment to reduce their redness, but I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of them, they are a reminder of a wonderful unique journey, never to be replicated.

 

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

Almost from day 1 I had cravings for orange juice and ice. Other cravings came and went but these things we’re the only that stayed with me throughout pregnancy. At my early blood tests I was found to have low iron so put onto supplements, it’s not a coincidence that craving orange and ice is linked to low iron. I listened to my body and gave it what it needed. That said, not all cravings are linked to deficiencies, otherwise I would’ve eaten a LOT more sweets; but by listening to my body I was helping it get all the nutrients it needed.

As most mums will know it is recommended you don’t sleep on your back or left hand side after so many weeks into the pregnancy. That said, I was very uncomfortable on my right side and so would turn over in my sleep or wake at night to find I was sleeping on my back. Talking to other mums-to-be at my yoga class it was reassuring to find I wasn’t alone. One lady who was quite a few weeks ahead of me said you will know when it’s no longer good for you and will automatically adjust. She was right, the night I woke up and was stuck like a tortoise on its shell I knew it was time to stop sleeping on my back! The only damage done was that of my pride when I had to wake my other half and ask him to roll me over so I could get out of bed to use the toilet!

 

TALK TO YOUR BABY AND ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR PRESENCE POSITIVELY

With the help of a few ‘apps’ I could look up the progress of my pregnancy day by day, week by week and I revelled upon reading about every little detail my baby and body were going through. This was exciting and made my pregnancy feel ‘real’ but the best thing I did to bond was talk to my baby. I strongly believed that by talking to my baby and touching my belly he would understand my love for him and the happiness I felt for his presence.

When he moved I acknowledged him and when he moved in a way that made me feel uncomfortable I would gently move him and explain that it was causing me discomfort.

I would share with him many happy journeys to work singing in the car and the excitement on the way home when I would tell him we were going home to see daddy, who loves us very much.

Already having conversations with him was wonderful and it really helped me feel he was a part of me, sharing my being, not ‘invading my body’, which is unfortunately how I hear so many women describe it.

I feel so privileged to have taken that journey into motherhood. I thank my baby every day for letting me carry him in my tummy and for all the precious moments we shared.  Each private communication, when he would move and I would respond in talking to him acknowledging his presence, or when I would rub his back and pat his bottom when he had hiccups and seemed to be annoyed by them somehow. Even now he will get upset if hiccups won’t go away but is soothed by my picking him up and rubbing his back or patting his bottom, it’s a beautiful gentle reminder of the special bond we shared for so many months before he was born.

 

-B