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

 

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

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

Support? Or…

Having just read this article;
I feel inclined to agree, I have witnessed friends and family members react to my partner in the exact same manner and I find it shocking. When we achieve, we feel proud and we want to share. When we fail, we desire compassion and understanding. When we learn something new, often the inner child wants to tell everybody, especially those closest to us. This had never really been an issue, until we became pregnant! 

We quickly learnt that the further we were from the process experienced by the individual, the more we were lambasted. It varied in amplitude, but stung and hurt no differently. 

We entered pregnancy thinking we would go to a midwife led unit, have drugs and use anything that sped the whole process up. However, within 1 month we realised how wrong we were and by 4 months had more or less decided that we wanted to be at home, in water and in a non pressured environment: Thus allowing everything to proceed as naturally as possible, in a time that suited both the mother and the child, no rushing, no drugs and no hospital. 

We came to these decisions slowly, individually and gradually. As we learnt and our knowledge gained; we wanted to share with family, expecting similar “WOWS” to our own! They very rarely came and we were often faced with accusing looks or verbal, aggressive defensiveness of their own decisions. We have always been fairly pragmatic in our approach to decision making and felt our decisions were sound, unbiased, informed and most importantly, perfect for us. Not them! But many conversations quickly became exactly that, all about them.

It’s not that we weren’t interested in their experiences, quite the contrary, we wanted to know everything, the good, the bad and the ugly. It was incredibly important to us, there could be similarities and learning about their experiences we could better prepare ourselves. We rarely found out very much, the slightest question or deviation from their perceived norm, descended into a defensive rant. 

We had hoped that once the birth had come and gone things would lessen and ease off. In bringing up our new bundle of joy we had hoped to gain knowledge, share new findings and receive joy and support from our friends and family. Especially as all the work and effort we put into achieving a calm birth, at home, in water, with no pain relief, paid off. Everything we shared that had been received badly was proved to not be nonsense and could work. In some instances, we got just that. In others, not at all.

Our new found thirst for knowledge transcended from pregnancy and into the land of babies! This proved to be even more fraught with potential land mines, waiting to explode at a moments notice. We have found our social and larger family dynamic change as a consequence, as we become ever closer to those willing to share and discuss without judgement, dismissiveness or defensiveness and shy away and distance ourselves from those who show just that. The sad truth is that the latter are some of the closest and dearest and cannot see that all we want to do is share our own experiences, gain knowledge from theirs and provide each other with very much needed support.

The following is from the same article that sparked this post and explains it succinctly:

“We are at a stage where people – notably women and mothers – seem unable to get beyond themselves when talking to someone else about their experience.  I honestly believe that many of us carry a lot of emotional baggage about our choices and our experiences that this pops up when we are encountering someone else’s.  For some, the guilt of a choice made makes them defensive and seeing attack around every corner.  For some, the sadness of what they missed means they read judgement into all comments.  For some, even the happiness of their own experience colours how they respond to another’s situation, particularly a sad one.  Yet it isn’t about you.  It’s about the person who’s talking and sharing and when we are so focused on ourselves, we are failing miserably at the one thing that we give a lot of lip service to these days: Support.”

-J

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

A Birth Day To Remember

When we found out we were pregnant, we both knew we wanted a natural and peaceful birth for our child. We did not like the thought of our baby being born into a room with bright lights and people bustling about; we wanted a calm, more intimate environment in which to meet our child.

Although this was our hope, I was nervous. What if I can’t achieve this ideal birth? After all, we’re often told of mothers who scream, shout and swear their way through each contraction. To accompany this terrifying thought, the father’s account of events is often equally as traumatic, with feelings of helplessness as they see their wives/girlfriends/partners in a lot of pain but are unable to do anything about it. Their only option, to offer the woman a hand to hold while being subjected to a torrent of abuse about how this was all their fault!

I felt it didn’t need to be this way, but had no idea on how to avoid falling into that same labour cliché!

Embarking on our own journey we chanced upon a birthing method which promised to help us achieve our wants and hopes for a peaceful birth without intervention.
Although at a ‘Baby and Toddler Show’, finding a birthing method was the last thing I was thinking about. I was dreaming of buying clothes, bedding sets, toys, teddies and much more! Now I look back on it none of these things mattered, my baby certainly wasn’t going to notice or care about any of these things so why should I?

A few weeks after our baby was born we attended another Baby and Toddler Show. This time around desperate to see our antenatal teacher and show her our happy little boy who had been so peaceful and content since his calm birth. While chatting to her it was apparent that pregnant women would look in the direction of her area, see what she was promoting or ‘selling’ and promptly walk by. It quickly became obvious that many women were there for the same reasons I had first attended the show for. I have to say this made me quite sad, I wanted to call out to women ‘Hey, come and chat to these ladies, it could be the best decision you’ll make today!’.

Thinking about all the things you want for your baby, how many women will stop and think about the first thing you ever give them. . . their birth day.

To me now it seems so obvious, this should always be the mothers first focus, after all it’s the start of a new chapter, a new journey; quite literally a new life.

On reflection I am very thankful for that first day at the show, without it our baby’s journey into this world could have been so different.

-B