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!
Uncategorized

Why it takes so much more than just hiring a doula to have a good birth

 

As we hear more and more about doulas, it’s easy to get the impression that having a doula will somehow magically lead to having a better birth experience. It often feels like one of the things on the ‘positive birth’ checklist; hire a doula, do a hypnobirthing class, read a birth book etc. and it’s true that having a doula can significantly reduce the risk of interventions and birth trauma, but that is largely due to the work that a woman does with her doula, and by herself, during pregnancy.

What we have learnt from women

Through our years of working as doulas in Greater Manchester, we have come to realise that birthing within the maternity system can and often will come with complications, barriers and difficulties. One of the best ways to combat these hurdles is to know what’s coming. Knowing how the maternity service works and knowing their policies gives you a head-start and also shows you that there are other options, such as birthing outside of the system. Knowing your rights and your options are the first steps to having a positive birth. A doula can support you in learning all of this, provide you with information and books on the subject, they can give you information about how the system works and how you can navigate it, and tell you all about the birth process, but it takes you to make the difference. 

Women who have had a traumatic birth in the past often come to us believing that their body failed them and that they need to do something different this time. Hiring a doula is a great start because it gives them the space to talk openly about what happened last time, a place to wonder whether those things were necessary or completely unacceptable, a place to cry and ask questions. Once women learn and start to believe that the process of birth is not inherently dangerous, and is not a medical event, it leads to an awakening that is incomparable. Getting to this point though takes a whole load of courage and openness from that woman, and when that woman is heard, she can find the answers she’s been looking for. So many of the women we listen to were having a perfectly normal, healthy pregnancy and labour until it was interfered with by medical staff, and realising that sometimes complications in birth are caused by the interference is key to protecting themselves against it. Their body did not fail them, the system did.

We have been programmed to think that authority means safety, but in so many instances we have been proven that in fact, the opposite is the case. When we trust someone else’s word over our own feelings of discomfort, we are left feeling violated. When we look to someone else for the answers, especially in birth, we are handing over our control and ignoring our intuition. We often hear in women’s stories that the parts that felt the most traumatic are when they went against what their body was telling them, and just did what they were told – so far I haven’t met a woman who regretted following her body. Our intuition is what has kept us alive and safe for so long, and birth is such a private and personal event that it makes very little sense to look for external approval or guidance. When we trust women, birth is safe. A doula is often the only person in the birth room who is solely focused on you, as the birthing woman, and having someone who completely believes and trusts in your body at that moment can make a huge difference to the energy. Questioning the authority of medical staff is necessary to get the birth you want, because going with someone else’s flow will inevitably lead you down a path that makes you uncomfortable or feels wrong. You ARE the authority, and you DO know best, even if you have never birthed before. Birth is a hormonal event and a normal bodily function – if you were monitored, observed and examined whilst trying to have an orgasm it probably wouldn’t go very well, would it?

Birth is led by the hormone oxytocin – as are orgasms – and for oxytocin to be released it needs the right environment. For women to release oxytocin they need to feel safe, warm, unobserved and undisturbed, so when you put a labouring woman in a brightly lit hospital with a bunch of strangers, unfamiliar loud noises and smells, and continue disturbing her with monitoring and examinations, it’s no surprise that birth takes longer or is more difficult. When birth is undisturbed, endorphins are released to match the intensity of labour as it builds – this is what makes labour pain manageable. When we interfere with the body’s natural pain killers, we cause more harm than good. Understanding what birth needs is a great foundation for planning where you want to give birth, and who you want to be there. Doulas can be really helpful in supporting you to navigate the maternity system when you are “going against medical advice” or just declining what you are being told is “how they do things”.

What we wish women knew before giving birth

We wish that all women knew that they were in charge of their body and their birth, that they didn’t have to agree to anything that feels uncomfortable or compromise with medical staff. We wish that women knew that birth doesn’t need to be fixed or monitored or sped-up and that they have the right to say no or to seek the care they are not being offered. We wish that women who have had traumatic experiences knew that they were not alone and that what happened to them was not okay. We wish that women weren’t expected to be “good girls” and do what they are told even when it feels wrong and that it’s okay to be “difficult” or “bossy” – in fact, that shows a belief in yourself, and the ability to assert your boundaries!

The work we do is to create the space for women to ask questions, to speak up and use their voice, to take what they need and to take back their power. We listen to women’s traumatic birth stories, we help them to write birth plans, we share information and experiences, we are behind them when they are navigating the system, or choosing to birth outside of it, and we have that unwavering trust in the birth process and in the woman in front of us. 

We support their choices, we hear their voices and we are privileged enough to witness their power.

But ultimately, what makes a positive birth is a woman who is ready to go deeper, to question what she is being told, and is fully supported in her decisions.

black Big Lottery Community fund logo banner
Funding, News

COVID-19 response funding from National Lottery Community Fund

This week started off on an incredible high with the news that we are being awarded almost £12,000 in National Lottery Funding for our COVID-19 response project.

This is going to make a significant difference to women in our community and means that we can confidently offer fully funded support to any woman who wants and needs it.

Why have a COVID-19 response project?

It quickly became clear that pregnant women and new mothers are being hugely affected by the new measures put in place due to the pandemic. This includes restrictions imposed by individual Trusts, inconsistently and without first exhausting alternatives, in direct opposition to guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. There are also many doulas who are not able to provide their services to women in our community, and as a result, we have experienced an increase in the number of women asking for our support.

Women have the right to choose where to give birth and with whom, but those options are rapidly being taken away from them or made completely inaccessible, making women believe that they no longer have a choice. Women, now more than ever, need personalised emotional and informational support whilst navigating the maternity services in the state that they are currently in.

Women who report birth trauma are most often not talking about the physical birth process, but the way they were treated during labour and birth. During the COVID-19 pandemic so far we have already witnessed the stripping away of women’s options for labour and birth, and women are fearful of the consequences of the restrictions put in place.

During this pandemic, women are likely to be and are already being subjected to human rights violations and unnecessary interventions under coercion – leading to an increased risk of traumatic birth experiences. There is also the added risk associated with isolation of new mothers, whilst being separated from their friends and family who would ordinarily be part of her support system. These two things will lead to an increase in postnatal depression and PTSD which will have a long term impact on the overall well-being of both the woman and her baby.

Big Lottery Community fund logo

What are you planning on doing?

This funding will be used to deliver one-to-one support sessions and community groups via video chat, for women planning their birth during the pandemic and women who are facing or who have experienced birth trauma as a result of COVID-19. We will be facilitating community groups, and providing Holding Space sessions and birth doula support (both face to face and virtually), free of charge for any woman who cannot afford to pay.

We aim to create a safe space for women to access emotional and informational support and to help them feel less isolated and more supported and empowered in their birth choices. We will help women to navigate the new restrictions within maternity services and support them emotionally through unexpected changes to their birth plans. This will extend to virtual support during labour and birth for women with additional vulnerabilities. For women who are facing the trauma of birthing alone because of COVID-19 restrictions, we will provide in-person physical, practical and emotional support throughout their labour and birth.

We are sending all our thanks to National Lottery players and The National Lottery Community Fund for recognising the importance of our work. It has been a much needed boost being awarded funding during a time that is scary and uncertain for both women and small organisations like ourselves. We hope you are as excited as we are that we will be able to continue to support women, even during a global pandemic! 

If you are a woman who could benefit from this project please get in touch, we would love to hear from you.

Much love,

Lori, Elle & Amy   

 

 

 

man and women with newborn baby in the bath
Birth, Birth Story, Doulas, Uncategorized

A healing second birth – Part 2

We’re back again with the next part of this inspiring birth story. Here Jess shares her experience of the last weeks and days of her pregnancy and the beginnings of labour!

Jess with her toddler and breastfeeding her newborn babyEden’s birth story Part 2:

Every evening for over a week I’d get these annoying period type cramps. Once I even had a contraction. I’d also get these strange nerve pains that would make my legs feel numb, quite scary when I first experienced them. I’d have to do a low squat & breathe through them. Anyone witnessing me doing this as I walked around Tesco must have thought I was in labour! 🤣 In fact someone once asked me if I was okay!! All these things were uncomfortable & annoying but I took them as normal late pregnancy issues & tried to let go and enjoy our last days as a family of three.

For a few weeks I felt the need to slow down and conserve energy. We had help from family so I was able to spend time connecting with baby, resting, meditating, writing, nesting & batch cooking. Looking back I think these quiet times helped lay the foundations for the birth we were to have. Some dear friends put on a mother blessing for me & I made a birth altar in my bedroom with the affirmation art they made for me & other things I cherished.

I also met with my doulas, Greater Manchester Doulas, a few times and generally talked about how things had been. They were my true antenatal care, they listened with no agenda & made me feel valued. The main thing that kept coming up for me was not knowing the midwife who would attend my home birth. Everything I’d researched about the smoothest & safest way to birth was for the mother to be undisturbed so she can tune into her own body. So the idea of having someone there who knew nothing about me & who I’d never met before seemed bizarre and scary. I hadn’t had good experiences with my midwife team so had no faith that they would respect or even consider the importance of the energy or atmosphere they’d bring. So I decided we’d contact them late on in labour & ask them to stay in another room unless needed. I dared not tell any of the midwives this was our plan as I couldn’t face the barrage of questions and scare mongering that would have been bestowed on me so late in pregnancy. (Continued in comments)

Jess sat with her toddler breastfeeding her newbornInstead I wrote a birth plan and Ben and my doulas agreed to speak with them when the time arrived.

As the days rolled by and the baby got lower and heavier in my pelvis and the cramping and nerve pains continued, I began to get cabin fever. The day of Eden’s birth I was so grumpy and restless, like when you have an itch that you can’t quite scratch. Looking back this must have been a result of a hormonal surge in my body preparing for labour. I spent the day on my own and slept a lot. I had the urge to make a really nutritious and carb heavy lunch which is unusual as we tend to eat our main meal in the evening. The restlessness grew stronger as the day went on. I text a few friends and made a plan to meet up the next day with Luca in tow. I had no idea how I’d physically manage to wobble around a park with a toddler at nearly 42 weeks pregnant, but that feeling of needing change was intense! Later that evening Ben persuaded me to go for a walk with Luca and our dog Tilly. Walking any distance would set off the nerve pains so I wasn’t always up for them. It was a beautiful sunny evening and after our return, still feeling fed up, I decided there was only one thing for it…. a glass of wine! Well, this certainly got the baby moving! He started somersaults and pushing right down into my pelvis and generally having a dance party!! 🤣

Luca’s bedtime came round and I lay with him and fed him to sleep while Ben went to get us both food. While I lay there I began to realise the period cramps that I often experienced in the evenings were coming and going in more of a pattern than before. Not wanting to get excited I didn’t allow myself to think this could be the start. At this point in my pregnancy I was genuinely considering the idea that I might be pregnant FOREVER!! 😆 Luca went to sleep easily and we ate takeaway and chatted. Ben suggested watching TV but I didn’t fancy it. I felt an energy in me stirring, a really subtle shift of consciousnesses where half was busy somewhere else, perhaps preparing and paving the way for the journey I was about to take, while the other half was here, in the now. I knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on much. I was in the ‘doing’ phase of labour: also the ‘denial’ phase where it’s actually obvious things have started but you pretend to yourself it hasn’t!!

newborn baby breastfeedingWhen Ben asked how I was I told him the cramps where coming and going but not to get his hopes up as they would probably fade away. I could talk quite easily through them. It was about 9pm and the surges were probably every 20 minutes (although I wasn’t timing them and had no intention to start doing so either; I wanted to just stay in the moment). I suggested we got an early night incase things stepped up but by the time we’d sorted the dishwasher etc it was 10pm before we went upstairs. I told Ben to sleep in Luca’s room as I wanted him to get as much sleep as possible and not worry about disturbing him. At this point I was also really craving to be by myself.

To be continued…

Part 3 coming soon! In the meantime follow Jess and her wild adventures through motherhood on Instagram @these_adventures_of_ours

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!

Doulas

What it means to be a full spectrum doula

If you’re here, I imagine you are probably aware of what a doula is in the context of birth and postnatal support. Doulas are most commonly known for working with women and their families, providing continuous physical, emotional and informational support through positive pregnancies, birth and the early days of parenthood. However, we see pregnancy and birth as just one part of a full spectrum of reproductive experiences and bring this model of care to any pregnancy discourse and outcome. Given all this we consider ourselves to be full spectrum doulas.

But what is a full spectrum doula?

In short, a full spectrum doula is one that offers support across the full spectrum of reproductive experiences. We trust women and their inherent strength to make the best reproductive decisions for themselves, offering witness, companionship, information, resources, advocacy and support. Here are some of the ways that our full spectrum ethos influences our work as doulas and the support we offer:

Conception Support

Every pregnancy has to start with conception! As full spectrum doulas, we can support you in looking at your physical and emotional health and wellbeing before you are even pregnant, helping you to be in the very best place before heading into any future pregnancies. For some, growing a baby isn’t easy and not every pregnancy and conception journey is plain sailing. We can be there to guide and support you through these possibly challenging times.

Abortion Support 

We are pro-women and pro-choice, providing non-judgemental, compassionate support, focused solely on nurturing your needs throughout your experience. We can provide one to one support before, during and after your abortion, depending on the method chosen and the support we offer is always completely tailored to your needs and wishes.

Birth Doula

As your birth doulas, we will provide continuous support for you and your family throughout your pregnancy, birth and the early days with your newborn.

Miscarriage and Stillbirth Support

We offer both emotional and practical support to families experiencing loss. We hope you know that your loss matters and that we can be here to support you through this time and help you through your grieving process.

Postnatal Doula

The first few weeks following the birth of a new arrival is often a bit of an overwhelming whirlwind. As your postnatal doula, we will provide non-judgemental practical and emotional support for you and your family, helping you to adjust to life with a new baby.

Holistic Support

In addition, we recognise that each of these reproductive experiences are significant but also interconnected and we bear this in mind throughout. For example, a previous baby loss experience may or may not influence how you feel about your pregnancy and birth and this could have an impact on your needs and the type of doula support you want. As full spectrum doulas, our support is always holistic and women-centred. We support you as a whole person, and see you as more than just your current pregnancy and birth.

We’re always up for chatting about the way in which we support women so if you’d like to learn more about what we do, please get in touch.

Much love,

Lauren, Christine & Elle x