12 week scan

Yesterday we went for our dating scan. It’s funny how these ultrasounds have become pregnancy landmarks now that they’re routine on the NHS. We opted to have one (interestingly, I think many people don’t realise you can opt out) but declined Down Syndrome testing just as we had last time. When I was pregnant with Talitha, we actually had the scan at 10 weeks so waiting until 12 weeks this time felt like ages.

Our roles were reversed this time. I was calm and not giving it much thought but Laurence was actively worried. With Talitha, I panicked that they’d find an early missed miscarriage or that I was having a phantom pregnancy (ever the active imagination) while it wasn’t quite real to Laurence.

Then all of a sudden, there was the outline of a baby on a screen. A real baby. Flipping over and over. Kicking madly. An active, perfectly formed baby. I realised that despite all the changes my body has been through in the past few months. The small bump, growing breasts, sore nipples, the exhaustion, the queasiness… It hadn’t quite hit me that there really is a baby growing inside me. That we have children, plural.
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Second time pregnant

Last Thursday afternoon, I shifted the duvet off two-year-old Talitha’s chest. She shuffled a bit then fully woke up, smiling at me. “Did you have a nice nap, baby?” I asked her. “Yes,” she replied then returned, “Nice nap, Mummy?” Actually, though I’d spent a portion of those two hours in bed with her, for most of it I was rushing around packing our bag so we could leave as soon as she awoke.

For the rest of it, I did what I’ve been doing so many nights for the past six weeks, lying in bed, worrying and looking things up on the Internet. I didn’t tell her this, of course. I just nodded and told her we were going to see the midwife. “Do you remember what she’s going to do?” I asked her. She said, “Yes, look after baby in Mummy tummy.”
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Save independent midwifery: Choose your midwife, choose your birth

I was fortunate when I was pregnant with Talitha to see one community midwife all the way through my pregnancy. Most women I’ve spoken to since have said they never met the same midwife twice.

Sadly, my community midwife was not on call to see us while I laboured at home and she was not the one who delivered Talitha in hospital.

The midwives who helped us were wonderful, mind. But every time a new person entered the scene, my contractions slowed down. If there’s one lesson I learned from Talitha’s birth, it’s that a woman’s body can be very sensitive to stress and anxiety. They can tell her cervix that it is not safe so it is not time.

Although her birth ended in a normal delivery, it was not without intervention. I know it could have been worse but that doesn’t change the fact that it was traumatic. This wasn’t helped by feeling that we were at the mercy of this sea of faces we didn’t know. Though it was my body and our baby, we felt like we were on their time and had to play by their rules.

I’m incredibly grateful that they got us out of it alive and well but I’m convinced that our birth wouldn’t have become such risky business had we had the continued care of someone we knew and trusted.

I don’t know that we would go for an independent midwife next time around but I’m gobsmacked that women might lose the option. From October 2013, an EU directive will be upheld in the UK, requiring all health care professionals to have indemnity insurance to practice. Currently, independent midwives have to practise without it because the premiums are prohibitively expensive. October onwards, independent midwifery will no longer be viable.

If I were to fall pregnant with my second now and this change in law were to go ahead, we’d be boarding the NHS train a second time without a choice. The NHS would hold a monopoly on maternity care. This seems wrong.
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Home Delivery

Tweeting while watching Home Delivery on ITV1 last night, I was expecting the shocked responses. There are people would actually choose to birth at home over going in for the works at hospital?

Because, you know, hospital is so much safer. Hopefully, if they continued to watch it, the programme has whet their appetites to learn more. Home Delivery is a positive homebirth series that views like a healthy antidote to the at times terrifying One Born Every Minute.

What surprised me was the flurry of tweets horrified that a woman was letting her eight-year-old son see her give birth. The worry was that he would be traumatised. Some called it “wrong”.

It was strange to me that these viewers didn’t seem concerned that it would upset him to see his mother in pain so much as adamant that he shouldn’t see his mother’s vagina.

What’s the problem here, though? The act of giving birth is not sexual. Body parts are capable of diverse functions. Even ears can be sexual organs. An eight-year-old is old enough to cope with the context in which he sees his mother’s naked body.

Certainly, many eight-year-olds know something about sex by then. Why shouldn’t they get a healthy view of women’s bodies by observing a birth?

I loved that the son was just chilling out with an iPad, manning the camera for a bit, then checking in on his mum in the birth pool.

What an amazing way for a family to welcome a new baby.

Over to you – would you or wouldn’t you have an older sibling at your baby’s birth?


“Birth story” – a documentary about Ina May Gaskin and the Farm Midwives

What would happen if everyone attending your baby’s birth remembered to be nice to you? What if the obstetricians tried singing before cutting? In the documentary “Birth Story”, midwife, author and activist Ina May Gaskin suggests with amusement that they could consider complimenting you: “You have the best vagina I have ever seen.”

The feature-length film tells the story of Ina May and the Farm Midwifery Centre in Tennessee. The centre started as a group of friends delivering each other’s babies and went on to change the way childbirth is approached today. “Birth Story” reveals Ina May to be funny and refreshingly straight-talking. Anyone who’s read her books Spiritual Midwifery or Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth probably isn’t surprised.

As we follow the history of her pioneering work at the Farm, she calls us to believe in birth. After all, it’s sacred, normal and works. Birth needn’t be overwhelmed by fear and shouldn’t strip a woman of her confidence. And it shouldn’t lead to as many deaths as it does.
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The night we threw out my 15-month-old placenta

Our freezer had this problem of icing up so we couldn’t close it properly.

Well, the two were probably related.

It was also icing up because we weren’t closing it properly.

Last week, it finally said: “ENOUGH!”

The damn thing wouldn’t close.

I chopped away at the ice with my Chinese chopper (at least that’s what we call it in Trinidad).

I held the baby back.

She wanted to help with a wooden spoon – such youthful optimism.

Finally the reality sunk in.

I would have to defrost it.

No, you don’t understand!

It WAS big deal!

My first thought was: “Better get some towels.”

This was quickly followed by: “OH NO, THE PLACENTA!”

What the hell would I do with my placenta?
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Six ways to prepare for breastfeeding

“I wish I’d prepared in advance for breastfeeding.” I’ve lost track of how many times I have said this over the past year. People usually respond: “You can’t really get it until the baby comes.”

To an extent, they’re right. It’s one thing to familiarise yourself with an NCT diagram and another to actually introduce your newborn to your breast. Yet I disagree. You can prepare for breastfeeding. In fact, I think you should if you want to give yourself the best chance of meeting your breastfeeding goals.

My own breastfeeding success is a mixed story. I would rather not have introduced formula supplements from two months until six months but I’m grateful for being able to continue to breastfeed. I don’t beat myself up about this but being completely realistic, I could have benefited from some preparation.

In a perfect world, we would not have to prepare for breastfeeding. It would just happen. For many women it does. It probably could be that simple for more of us if we saw more women breastfeeding, preferably – dare I say it – with breasts exposed.

We’re certainly not helped by the fact that we no longer trust our bodies, or our babies, to do what they’re designed to do. I thank a number of things for that but off the top of my head, thank you, formula advertising and misogyny.

Here are a few suggestions for what pregnant mothers can do to prepare, in no particular order. Please add yours in the comments.
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