Birth, Birth Story, Doulas

The wild home birth of baby Seren

Today is the 2nd anniversary of the wild home birth of baby Seren. I know we’re not meant to have favourites… but I loved supporting Naomi and having the privilege to witness her give birth in her wild power. What better way to celebrate than by sharing her story. 

Naomi got in touch with us in her third trimester after she found herself feeling unsupported by her midwives. She is the perfect example of a women who recognised what she needed and responded to those needs, in both her pregnancy and in her birth. She centred herself completely in her birth and it resulted in a powerful experience, completely on her own terms. A wonderful, wild home birth. You rock Naomi!! Happy birthing day 🥳

“I went to bed after feeling restless and uncomfortable, and had a fairly restless sleep. In the morning I felt dull, mild, period type cramps. I told my partner and asked him to keep his phone on as he left for work.

I then paid little attention to this as I focused on my toddler. We went to playgroup, where I kept moving position as I couldn’t get comfortable; choosing to kneel rather than sit, and continued to have mild cramping.

We left around 11.30am. While pushing the buggy I had to keep stopping due to the increased intensity of these feelings. I got us home and made lunch and had the urge to sort, so I quickly tidied and cleaned while thinking, “I need my toddler to nap.” I lay down with him and nursed him to sleep. During this time I concentrated on noticing the cramping, and realised they were every 10 mins now, and getting stronger, but still extremely manageable.
I thought maybe I’ll meet my baby tomorrow.

I decided to call my partner around 12.45pm just to let him know I thought I may be in very early labour, but not to bother coming home, as with our first baby I’d had two episodes that fizzled out at 38 and 40 weeks, with him finally being born at 41+1. He decided he would come home anyway.

I also called my neighbour to ask that if things continued could she take my toddler on the school run, before my friend came for him after work at 5pm.

My partner arrived home around 1.30pm, and I asked him to pick up some things from the shop while our toddler was still asleep. At this stage my attention was on organising for “if I go into labour” and not really on “I am in labour”.

When our boy woke up I would take myself just out of sight for a contraction as I was now having to give attention to them. I leaned on the kitchen surface, furniture and doorways. In between contractions I just carried on caring for and interacting with my toddler. I told him he was going with our neighbour to do the school run, and he was excited about that.

He left at 3pm. I had a shower, listening to music and leaning into the walls during the two surges I had there. I washed and dried my hair, and shortly after that my partner started timing my contractions.

They were five mins apart. I was leaning on surfaces, doorways and him for these now, and although requiring my concentration they felt good. I was relaxed and talking between them. We sat down to eat some soup around 4pm. When I could feel a surge coming I’d get off the chair, lean into birth ball, and then return to the meal.

woman in birth pool holding her partner

My partner asked if I wanted the pool filling, to call the midwife, and Lori our doula. I initially said no to all but then asked him to get Lori to come in half an hour. This was when my toddler would be collected by our friend and I thought things might move along once I knew he was with her. I wasn’t “in the zone” and therefore couldn’t believe I’d be meeting my baby soon!

When Lori arrived she’d had a busy day and I told her to have a lay down, as, “I’m only very early on…”

Things quickly felt more intense, and I took myself upstairs without saying anything. It was dark, and I put on some fairy lights and carried on listening to music. I went into the small spare room where I had set up the pool, and I enjoyed being alone, having several surges there and feeling very calm and fuzzy.

My partner came up to see how I was and I held onto him. He showed me a photo of our son having a good time with the neighbour’s kid but I couldn’t focus on it. I called for Lori to come upstairs and she sat in the room with me crocheting in the corner. 

Around 4.30pm I agreed to him calling the midwives but I didn’t want them to come yet. As it was we didn’t get through for a while and when he did they said the team would call back. My contractions were building and becoming more intense. We got a call back around 5pm and I was told to come into hospital due to staffing. I was speaking between contractions but another one was coming so I said “speak to my partner” and handed the phone over. He said I was not going to come in. They agreed to check availability again.

women standing on sofa holding partner and giving birth
“Standing on the sofa like you do”

I then felt a shift in gear, my water broke, and I pulled at my trousers to see – I had the mucous plug/show and my inco pants had held the gush of waters. Then around 5.20pm I said to my partner that the baby was coming and to call the mw back. They decided to send an ambulance.

My body was on automatic, I felt intense pressure in my pelvis, I could feel my sacrum making space and I felt like I was going to poo myself, the feeling of bearing down made me cry out loud low sounds, I felt as if I was singing. I was stood on the sofa at one point- my body moving about where it needed to go. I looked at the pool and asked if I could get in… No chance! It was under minimum.

Lori was calmly topping it up with buckets of water. In the next couple of contractions I could feel my baby’s head nudging down, and I felt SO much pressure and intensity. I was told the pool was on minimum, so I got my partner to check she was just crowning and her head wasn’t out. As soon as he said, “Yep, just crowning”, I jumped in the pool.

The relief was instantaneous. I was leaning over the edge on all fours holding my partner tight. I felt suddenly overwhelmed as my body was taking over, then one more massive surge, and I knew my baby’s head was out. I said, “Her head her head is out oh my god oh my god”, then I flipped onto my back, and back to back contractions, she slipped into the water. I said “get the baby!!” to my partner. He passed her straight to me, I held her on my chest and she did the loudest cry! I rubbed her with a towel vigorously, and kissed her head.

I’d thought I’d want to stay in the pool to deliver the placenta but I was too hot and not comfy, so I climbed out and sat on the sofa, where we were wrapped up together. I wanted her to feed to encourage the placenta to be delivered, so my ideas of breast crawl etc went out the window. She fed a little and would pop on and off, taking me in and crying.
Just as the control room said the paramedics were nearly with us I felt a contraction coming so I stood up holding my baby and asked my partner to put a bowl on the floor under me. I felt a slippery movement, and then a bigger fuller feeling and plop! Out came the placenta into the bowl. Less than half an hour after she was born.

I got two hours skin to skin just with my daughter – no one took her to be weighed, and all checks were done with her on me. We declined transfer in to hospital and a mw came to see us in the early hours. It was an amazing way to meet my baby earthside.”

home water birth
Welcome to the world baby Seren!
women marching with flags
Birth, Human Rights

A letter to midwives who have lost their way

Dear well meaning midwife,

I’m sure you found your way to this role through good intentions. I imagine you became a midwife through a passion for women, or a call to contribute towards positive change within the birth world. Somehow though you seem to have lost your way. Can you see? Can you recognise that in your attempt to change a patriarchal system, you have become part of the problem – but you don’t have to be.

You can stop reporting women to social services for believing in their bodies and their ability to birth their babies without your help. It is a woman’s human right to choose a wild pregnancy and/or freebirth. Maternity services are not compulsory.

You can stop infantilising the women who ask for your support during their pregnancies, and those who invite you into their sacred birth spaces. They don’t belong to you and they are not little girls you can judge to be good or bad. They are whole women who deserve to be treated as such.

You can stop acting as the gatekeeper. Stop “allowing” or “not allowing” women to make choices that they know to be in their best interests. And what is best for a woman is best for her baby – because nobody cares more about the wellbeing of a baby than its mother. It’s not your job to ensure women are making informed decisions. It’s your job to offer balanced information and above all trust women. They are the gatekeepers, not you.

On that note, you can stop lying to women about the options that are available to them or giving them false information. I’m tired of hearing women tell me, “I didn’t know”. They didn’t know that they could say “no”, or that they didn’t have to go for that scan, or accept that vaginal examination. They didn’t know that your policies aren’t always evidence-based or in their best interests. Do you see how coercive this is?

You can take the time to recognise and examine your personal bias. There is a reason why black women are five times more likely to die in pregnancy and birth than white women, and it is not because their bodies are broken. Acknowledge the systemic racism in maternity services and do the work to change it.

You can brush up your knowledge on what constitutes informed consent before going back into work again. When you carry out intervention without informed consent, it is assault. This might help… 

informed consent definition

“For consent to be valid, it must be voluntary and informed, and the person consenting must have the capacity to make the decision.
The meaning of these terms are:
Voluntary – the decision to either consent or not to consent to treatment must be made by the person, and must not be influenced by pressure from medical staff, friends or family.
Informed – the person must be given all of the information about what the treatment involves, including the benefits and risks, whether there are reasonable alternative treatments, and what will happen if treatment does not go ahead.
Capacity – the person must be capable of giving consent, which means they understand the information given to them and can use it to make an informed decision.
If an adult has the capacity to make a voluntary and informed decision to consent to or refuse a particular treatment, their decision must be respected.
This is still the case even if refusing treatment would result in their death, or the death of their unborn child.”

This isn’t about bashing midwives. I know that wonderful women-centred practice happens. But it doesn’t happen enough. I see midwives fighting for change, but I also see midwives who prop up a system that thrives on hurting women. If you are not fighting against the abuse of women in maternity services, then you are part of the problem.

What can you do instead? Offer women all the information, not just part of the puzzle. Respect women’s bodily autonomy above everything and call out anyone who doesn’t. Trust and believe in women, their bodies and their instincts. Support women who are finding creative and intuitive ways to birth safely in a world that does not care about them. That is what being with women is all about.

Black and white mandala
Resources, Uncategorized

Colour in with Greater Manchester Doulas CIC

Oh how much our worlds have changed in the last couple of weeks! How are you all doing? Elle, Amy and I are now working from our respective homes, learning how to continue to support women from a distance and keep our community connected. 

We are still here and more passionate than ever about supporting you however we can. Whether you are looking for birth doula support, want to join our community groups or just need a chat with women who will listen, we’re here for you.

Like many other women, I am trying to balance work life with mothering my stir crazy babes and managing the household (which gets messy so quickly with us all here 24/7!), it’s hard work! Colouring in has been one activity that has helped to keep us somewhat sane, so I thought I would create a little collection of GMD illustrations to colour in.

For grown ups and babes alike, I hope it adds a little more colour into your week during this uncertain time. There are no strings attached and it’s completely free to download. If you do want to give back though, here are some ways you can support our little women-centred biz:

  • Donate to our crowdfunder.
  • Buy us a ko-fi.
  • Follow us on social media – like, share and comment on our posts.
  • Write us a testimonial on facebook and google.
  • Make us your chosen cause with The Co-operative.
GMD Colouring Book Cover
Download the GMD Colouring Book

Much love,

Lori x

 

 

 

 

Doulas, News, Uncategorized

Some things never change

Elle and I awoke with heavy hearts this morning. We fear that our new conservative government will have devastating consequences, not just for us personally but for the maternity services we support women to navigate.

MBRRACE report figures
MBRRACE report figures

An already broken maternity system is likely to disintegrate further, with women’s needs and voices being silenced by Tory austerity and a society that does not value us. We anticipate more birth trauma and increased rates of infant and maternal mortality, particularly among black women who are still five times more likely to die in birth than white women.

It is easy to feel like all hope is lost, but as Anna and Elsa sing… “some things never change”. As women our strength and resilience lies deep within within our bones and that will never change. When we feel lost and afraid, we can always lean on our sisters and hold each other up, no government will ever take that away from us. Now more than ever we need to recognise the power in sisterhood and solidarity, and continue to fight together.

Hold on my friend
Hold On, My Friend – L. R. Knost

If today’s news has taught us anything, it’s that our work as birth keepers is perhaps more important than it has ever been. We will continue to defend women’s human rights, continue to provide accessible, holistic support and education and most importantly continue to build sisterhood between women. There is so much work to be done but together we will thrive despite a government that does not wish to see us rise.

Uncategorized

Lauren’s second home birth

This time 5 years ago I had just given birth to my youngest baby! Elle and I don’t often talk about our own experiences but the birth of my youngest taught me so much about the support I needed (and what I missed out on!) as a birthing mother and it was a huge part of my journey into doulaing so it feels right to share. If you fancy reading on you might want to get comfy with a cuppa as it’s a long one!

Going back to the night before, I was 40+4 weeks pregnant and beginning to wonder if labour was beginning. It was a Friday evening and I was just clearing up the spaghetti from dinner that my almost 2 year old had strewn across the table and floor when I felt the first twinges. As I wiped over the mucky high chair I remember suddenly being aware of a heaviness low down in my bump but as quick as I’d noticed it, it has stopped again.

Lauren the doula smiling and pregnant Was this the start? Not wanting to get too excited I carried on getting Theo cleaned up and ready for bed. 20 minutes later though…more cramps and this pattern carried on throughout his bedtime. Having experienced a long prodromal labour in my last pregnancy I figured I had a couple more days at least until I would be holding a new baby in my arms so after texting my doula to give her a heads up, I went to bed to try and have an early night. 

I lay in bed listening to my hypnobirthing tracks but sleep didn’t come. Instead the cramps built into more regular, stronger surges. I was definitely in labour! After tossing and turning for a couple of hours I couldn’t ignore it any longer, the surges needed my attention so I decided to get up, put my TENS on and head downstairs. Entering the living room I instantly felt relaxed and calm. The pool was up, the lights were low… this was my birth room, this was where I would meet my baby.

Throughout the night I rested on a makeshift floor bed dozing and watching Netflix as the surges gradually got more intense and regular. I bounced on my birth ball and breathed through every sensation, riding each wave until the peak passed. As they got stronger I remember going more within, no longer able to focus on what was going on around me in between each contraction, Labour Land was calling me and it was where I wanted to be. As surges built I needed to reach up, grabbing on to my birth partners neck and as the peak approached I would sink down into a deep squat, feeling the sensation spread over my bump and down my thighs, surrendering to the power within my body. Occasionally fear would get the better of me and I would tense as I felt another one starting… “Oh no not another one! Not yet!” Those were tough, but when I allowed myself to be curious and welcome the sensations it felt so different, intense and sometimes painful but not more than I could handle. Newborn baby sleeping

The early morning approached and I knew it was time to call my doula and get in the pool. She told us she was on her way and I relaxed deeper, knowing my chosen support would be here with me soon. When she arrived however, she had her young son with her! I remember being in the pool and looking up after a surge had passed and wondering why this little boy was in my birth space. Uninvited, intruding, not what I had expected at all. Seeing that I was very much in established labour, she suggested calling the midwives and left to find childcare. 

Theo woke up around this time and was the perfect little birth partner. He pottered around with his bowl of grapes, watching his Very Hungry Caterpillar DVD and occasionally toddling over to me to stroke my shoulders and head. They were such special moments. I carried on following my body, listening to my birth partner on the phone… “Yes, contractions are maybe 6 minutes apart”, I heard him tell the midwives. I knew they were much closer together than that. There was barely time for me to catch my breath in between but I was so deep within that I didn’t want to vocalise and engage in his discussion.

Lauren the doula pictured holding her newborn babyBy the time the midwife arrived and my doula returned I was bearing down, intermittently and involuntarily. I didn’t need anybody to do, I was doing it all by myself but looking back, I really needed someone to hold my space. I was in my labour bubble but I felt alone, not supported and held. The midwives were doing their notes, occasionally bothering me to check I definitely didn’t want any vaginal examinations, my doula was taking pictures, my birth partner was being dad to our toddler… I knew I could do it alone but I wanted to feel that they were with me. Making sense of these feelings though and finding the right words felt beyond me, I had surrendered and my body and baby had all of my attention.

Around 11am I felt the familiar sensations of his head beginning to crown, then the frustrating feeling of him going back inside! He felt so close but so far. I kept trying to  trust my body though and the relief when his head was born was incredible. Sadly, this is the point where things began to go awry…

Newborn baby breastfeedingThe midwives suggested I sit back so I could pick him up once his body was born and like a good girl I did as I was told. The next two contractions came and went and he hadn’t budged. I wasn’t worried but before I knew what was happening the midwives’ fear filled the space and without warning or explanation I was being dragged out of the pool. The next couple of minutes were a bit of a chaotic blur. As I got out of the pool he was born into the midwife’s arms, his cord cut immediately. An ambulance was called and cancelled and I remember feeling like a forgotten, empty vessel, having no idea if my baby was ok. There was absolutely nobody holding space for us and it was not what I had ever imagined would happen.

As quick as the chaos had started, it was over and he was in my arms searching for my breast. I had a physiological third strange and birthed my placenta ~15minutes after he was born. Theo tentatively approached, meeting his baby brother for the first time and surrounded by my two boys I felt more grounded again, rediscovering my centre as our new family life began.

Lauren the doula smiling and wearing her newborn baby in a woven wrapReflecting back on this birth now I’m a doula brings up so much and highlights what I believe are so important to remember when supporting a birthing woman. There is no doubt that it has shaped the doula I am today.

When Elle or I arrive at a birth we come ready to be present with the birthing woman in every way. We leave any baggage at home and have childcare plans for our childcare plans so we can serve her wholeheartedly.

When we are in the birth space we trust the birthing woman unreservedly. We don’t need to tell her which positions she should adopt or to intrude in any way without her permission. Her intuition is going to guide her better than anyone else, she is the ultimate baby monitor and knows what her body and baby needs.

In the birth room we are not always doing but we are always holding space for the woman and her baby. We are aware of when it’s right to sit back and crochet and when she might want us by her side. We know how to sit on our hands without making a woman feel ignored and abandoned. We are all about meeting her wherever she is at and serving her however she needs us to.

When we are with women we are mindful of our mission to support them to birth in their power. We believe all birthing women have innate wisdom and strength and should always be held at the centre of our work as birth keepers with unconditional positive regard, trust and reverence. Birthing mothers are magic!

Painted Rainbow Mural
Doulas, News

Reflecting on the closure of One to One and the current state of maternity care in the UK

Elle and I were shocked and saddened this week to hear the news that One to One Midwives have gone into administration. It’s a huge blow for birthing women and our hearts break for the midwives involved and most of all for the women whose birth plans now feel completely up in the air.

One to One Midwives logoIt is great to see women rising up and demanding change, creating petitions and sharing their outrage that yet another women-centred service has been forced to close it’s doors. However, I can’t help but feel like it won’t be enough to create any real, lasting change for women. The closure of services like One to One highlights a much wider issue around women’s services.

Why aren’t women a priority?

Albany Midwives, Neighbourhood Midwives, the drawn out difficulties for independent midwifery, One to One… services like these that really serve birthing women in a holistic and woman-centred way have always been and will aways be at risk. The closure of One to One is another example of how the NHS does not place any significant value on models of care that are proven to improve outcomes for women and their babies.

Should it be enough for trusts that following a birth everyone still has a pulse and nobody gets sued? The overall physical and emotional well-being of a mother and her baby don’t seem to be valued at all. Certainly not enough for the NHS to invest in services that recognise the importance and undeniable benefits of holistic models of care.

What about the woman left feeling traumatised after a birth full of unnecessary intervention? Then the resulting upset of the mother-baby dyad and the impact of that disruption on bonding, breastfeeding and the long term wellbeing of both the woman and her child? It’s a story we hear over and over because the system does not work.

What if things were different?

Imagine a world where all women birth in power and not fear and it’s not surprising that the state doesn’t want to support organisations and services that put women at the centre of their birthing experiences.

When we birth in power, we feel powerful! We feel capable of anything and no longer willing to be good girls. We dissent and take what we need because we see our countless strengths and recognise our worth. And by protecting the bond we have with our babies, we are able to pass this wisdom and power on to the next generation. Would a nation of powerful women be able to fit into our current patriarchal society?

Who does it serve when women birth in captivity and in oppressive environments that centre obstetric models of “care”? It’s certainly not women, ignoring our needs in an effort to keep us docile and compliant. And it works so well!

But what can we do?

Arunhati Roy quote “The system will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling - their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: We may be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them. Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”The cost to the system of listening to our outrage and responding to our petitions might be too great. But that doesn’t mean we can’t change birth for ourselves. What would happen if we stopped asking our oppressors to change the system and instead started to take back our power in birth? Real change will come from women living and birthing in power despite oppressive systems of care because it’s our birth rite.

Asserting our human right to birth however we choose to, only accepting interventions that we want, listening to our intuition over and above policies and procedures every step of the way, autonomous pregnancies and free birthing knowing that we are the ultimate knowledge when it comes to our bodies and our babies. Women supporting women rather than relying on a system that does not serve us.

What are Greater Manchester Doulas CIC doing?

We will continue to serve women across Greater Manchester, supporting them to realise their innate power and wisdom by protecting their human rights, providing holistic support and education, and building sisterhood between women. 

Art by Taynee Tinsley
Art by Taynee Tinsley

If you have been affected by the closure of One to One, we’re here for you. As doulas we aren’t substitutes for midwives. While we can’t replace the support you had from your One to One midwife, we do offer an additional layer of support that might help you to navigate this difficult time. Whether you want birth doula support, or want some help reimagining and preparing for your birth with our HoldingSpace service, please get in touch. We can offer long term payment plans, and have funding available if our fees are prohibitive. Know that we see you, we care and we’re so sorry that the rug has been pulled out from beneath you.

 

 

 

Doulas, Uncategorized

The power of a gentle presence

When women first get in touch with us, they often have their own ideas about what a doula is, and does and the kind of people we are. Sometimes women expect a strong and forceful protector of the birth space, a “force to be reckoned with”, a fierce advocate who will take control if things go awry. Then they meet us…

Whilst I absolutely consider myself to be a strong woman, and my role is often about advocacy and protecting a birthing woman’s sacred space, the energy we bring as doulas is not fierce or forceful. We are gentle and calm and peaceful.

For some time, I wondered if I needed to find that fiery defender within me, to be a better doula, to better serve the women I work with. But along the way, I have realised that my gentle presence IS my strength. My feminine expressions: empathy, warmth, compassion, gentleness, intuition, patience, vulnerability… these are the very things that make me a strong female and shape the doula that I am.

I am embracing my femininity and appreciating its power more and more. As doulas we support and protect and advocate with a soft, feminine energy, rather than a harsher, masculine approach. By recognising and celebrating our feminine qualities, and our identities as women, we simultaneously honour the power of the labouring women we serve.

Our gentle presence at births supports the flow of oxytocin, the powerful hormone that women need in bucket loads to birth their babies. In order for physiological birth to happen, a birthing woman must feel safe and secure; as doulas we are a barometer of normality, communicating through being calm and peaceful that all is ok and that she is safe and supported.

We see the power and strength within the women that we work with and trust that they know what they need. As your doulas, we support you to own your experiences, speak your truth and advocate for yourself – we know that at times, that might mean looking to us to communicate your needs and wishes with others but we would never decide what those needs were for you.

Our culture continually encourages us to denigrate our femininity, but as doulas we see the power in the female body, in you as a birthing woman, in the women all over the world who are birthing with you. Through our gentle presence, we support you to reconnect with your true power, because owning your feminine potential can be life changing!