Thursday, 8 October 2015

I'm not good at this blogging lark....

It's been a while since my last confession, I mean blog post. I'm not good at this blogging lark....
But maybe its time to get digits to keys again.

Anyway, I first wrote about my feelings regarding my son's birth about 5 years ago. 
I have since edited them a little on a couple of occasions as I continue to grow and learn. 
So I decided to revisit them again and put them out there on my blog.  
Disclaimer: These are my own personal feelings and are not to be considered 
in judgement of anyone else's or as medical advice

  • I hate that I was so naive as to expect 'Them' to guide me through labour
  • I hate that 'Their' ARM was the beginning of the end, as my baby was back to back with a deflexed head and I was lying down for Foetal Scalp Electrode.
  • I hated 'Them' asking me if I wanted my baby to die. (It was actually a Him)
  • I hated the shivering
  • I hated the vomiting afterwards, so much so that I had to ask for less effective pain relief so that I wouldn't be sick.
  • I hated having to care for a baby with an abdominal scar as well as a broken wrist (broken a week before CS)
  • I hate that I couldn't even look at my scar for years afterwards.
  • I hate that I ended up with PND and my marriage broke down.
  • I hate that I lost two years of memories. I can't really remember that much of life back then.
  • I hate that 18 years on I could still cry about it
  • I hate that my VBAC 12 years later was affected by the primary CS and I ended up with spinal and forceps and not feeling the birth.
  • I hate my episiotemy.
  • I hate that I'll never get to feel a baby being born
  • I LOVE that I've become a Doula because of my childbirth journey, and a Hypnopbirthing Practitioner (The Wise Hippo Birthing Programme) and now a Complementary Therapist, offering NO HANDS Massage (including massage during pregnancy, aromatherapy, reflexology) 
  • LOVE that I've met some wonderful midwives who show me what midwifery should really be like.
  • LOVE that I now know some very wonderful people all working to make a difference in maternity services so that our daughters and their partners may not necessarily suffer birth trauma. This includes the lovely 'family' of The Wise Hippo Birthing Programme. 
  • I LOVE that I found NO HANDS Massage which protects me as a therapist and provides me tools to provide a wonderful treatment.
  • I LOVE that my various 'hats' all utilise the fabulous hormone Oxytocin.

I can be grateful for my primary Caesarean 22 years ago because without it 
I wouldn't be doing what I am today, I wouldn't be where I am today 
and I wouldn't be able to reflect on previous times throughout my life 
that have been challenging and see what they've taught me in quite the same way.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Are some birth quotes damaging to women?.

This is a blog post I started two years ago and got stuck with. This is why I have not really posted since June 2010.

"We have a secret in our culture, and it's not that birth is painful; it's that women are strong" - Laura Stavoe Harm

I have this quote on my Facebook profile. Let me tell you why.

I believe the fact that women are strong IS a secret and sadly it is kept secret from many of us. I did not know I was strong, I knew very little about my body, my hormones and myself. I had to reach my 40s before I began to realise. I had to have an emergency caesarean, post-natal depression, query Post Traumatic Stress?), a VBAC with spinal and forceps (so I still feel that my baby was extracted) and it was only after I began to become more holistic in my life that I began to realise. Seeing  (wish I'd seen this as a teen), for example, actually listening to my instincts rather than ignoring them, etc. has helped me to realise that I am strong, and that I always was, but that my strength and feminine instinct had been subverted for so long by science and over-medicalisation.

Medical science has given us the ability to save lives but sadly the tendancy of those in the medical profession with misquided intentions to help or fear of litigation based practice, has meant that routine intervention is actually more of a risk than a help. Iatrognic birth injury may possibly be the greatest cause of mortality or morbidity but I have no statistics, just the anecdotal stories I hear time and again.

I accept that many women do feel that some quotes hurt them, but I urge them to consider that it's not that they weren't strong. They were and they are, it's just that they didn't realise and were 'not allowed'.

We do the best we can, with the information we have at our disposal, in the circumstances we find ourselves. But for too long we have been conditioned to believe that birth is dangerous, and for too long women have been subjected to this very paternalistic system. It's no wonder we don't appreciate our strengths! So yes, it does hurt to think that we must have done something wrong and that we were not strong enough. But really, it's not our fault. 

Where did it all go wrong?

Women have lost the 'knowledge', ever since midwives were persecuted as witches back in the 1600s and then when they were superceded by obstetricians in the paternalistic model of medicine.

I hope that one day we will get back to the times when women were revered as the givers of life, when women had their faith in their abilities and no fear about birth, when women were respected for their strengths balancing against the strengths that men possess.

"But saying to me after a birth like that, that the secret is not that birth is painful, but that women are strong would have been like a knife twisting in my chest. It says immediately to me that ‘you should have been stronger’.  And maybe also “If you were strong, your birth wouldn’t be bothering you now”.
Of course, it saddens me greatly that women are feeling such pain. I am passionate about physiological birth, and of more women getting back to this type of birthing, but preserving their mental health is even more important to me and I would defend to the death a woman's right to a caesarean birth if this is her infomed decision. Unfortunately, women are being let down by maternity practices that do not serve the interests of individuals, and this leads to women feeling a failure because they were not able to make informed choices about their body, their baby and their birth.  

I believe women ARE strong, in many different ways, but that does not meant that we can always overcome the current medicalisation of birth when it happens to us in that fragile, hormonal birth dance of labour. However, I believe that strength will carry us forward as we strive to regain balance, as we strive to return to the instinctual, mammalian model of birth that our physiology affords us. When our birthing is returned to us, when the voices of Ina May Gaskin, Michel Odent, Denis Walsh, Sarah Buckley, Gloria Lemay and many others are finally heard by the world, then... THEN we will see just how truly strong Woman is.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Wisdom Birth

During a heart bypass operation do you think it would be wise to stop the heart BEFORE switching on the bypass machine?


So why is it common pactice to immediately cut the cord of a compromised baby before taking it away to be resuscitated? How many valuable minutes are lost to the baby? This practice has become commonplace over the 20th century for reasons I shall not go into here.

Dr Sheena Kinmond co-presented the lecture on 'Avoiding immediate or early cord clamping' with Dr David Hutchon and explained to us the importance of the baby receiving its full blood volume from the placenta. Cutting the cord too soon can cause up to 40% of the baby's blood to be retained back in the placenta. This can cause a dramatic reduction in blood pessure which impacts on the ability of the lungs to inflate and transition into beathing air. Thus, you have a baby who is already compromised in a situation where her ability to revive is shockingly reduced. It makes absolutely NO sense!!!

Dr Hutchon told us, with passion, that babies should NOT have their umbilical cords cut EVEN when the baby needs resuscitation. He was very tearful at the thought of his own early practice and the damage he had been unwittingly doing before he learned about the physiological benefits of waiting. But I say to him, and all parents who accepted procedures they may have doubts about now, you can ONLY do the best you can, in the situation, with the information you have at the time.  

Robin Lim talks about when the cord should be cut on this You Tube video:

I am intrigued by the BASICS trolley that has been devised and feel that it may be a useful tool. Sadly for many of the delegates, Dr Hutchon did not have a trolley to show us, or any further information about its dimensions. However, the best place to resuscitate a baby, in my opinion, is the mother. 

Dr Nils Bergman, a doctor in South Africa who specialises in Kangaroo Mother Care, says "The mother's skin is the baby's natural environment, and both physically and emotionally the healthiest place for the baby to be".

So, we need to keep ALL babies connected to their mother until long after the umbilical cord has stopped pulsating and been cut.

What is surprising, pehaps, is that this knowedge about timing of cord cutting has been known long before we had the modern scientific research to back it up.

“Another thing very injurious to the child, is the tying and cutting of the navel string too soon; which should always be left till the child has not only repeatedly breathed but till all pulsation in the cord ceases.  As otherwise the child is much weaker than it ought to be, a portion of the blood being left in the placenta, which ought to have been in the child.
                                                                        Erasmus Darwin, Zoonomia, 1801.

It really doesn't matter if it is a healthy term baby or a compromised premature baby.... no, scap that. It matters EVEN more to the compromised premature baby. We need medical professionals to be taught how to resuscitate a baby on the mother's abdomen. We can fundraise to get BASICS trolleys in every unit and/or we can get wall mounted resus units installed with oxygen hoses that can be taken to the baby wherever the mother is resting immediately after birth. But most of all we need to ensure that resuscitation is done to baby without separation from the mother.

Again, as in my previous post, it may be that it will be a ground swell from parents that drives the change from immediate clamping to waiting until the cord stops pulsating. Many mothers are now even waiting until the cord separates from the baby naturally. This has been termed Lotus Birth.

But also, the time is long overdue for medical professionals to stop looking at procedures for short term gain. They need to look at the bigger picture and ensure that research also focuses heavily on long term outcomes.

"Everybody doing it together" - Sheena Byrom, 26/04/12 Troon in Scotland

Saturday, 28 April 2012

I forgot to talk about poop!

Ina May Gaskin and me!

That. was. a. maze. ing! 

I had the great good fortune to be able to attend the MAMAconference in Troon on the 26th and 27th April 2012. Speaking were such well respected people as Michel Odent, Ina May Gaskin, Denis Walsh, Kerstin Uvnäs-Moberg, Sheena Byrom, as well as many others and amongst the delegates were some very knowledgeable and passionate midwives, doulas and obstetricians as well as many keen student midwives and birth workers.

During my self directed learning I could say that I have discovered most of what was presented and discussed over these two days, but that does not detract from the wonderful experience of sitting listening to such inspirational speakers. It is heartening to know that recent research affirms all that I believe in when it comes to physiological birth and that nothing has changed to affect my passion for birth. New advances in research and maternal medicine only serve to further benefit the understanding of how birth works. I feel justified in my beliefs about physiological birth and in the emotional and spiritual side of birth. Something which scientists will find hard to quantify.

So, what were the greatest discoveries for me from the conference?

The shocking realisation that many 'professionals' in maternity services still don't get physiological birth. This is 2012 and yet our midwifery and medical schools still don't teach enough, anything like enough, about physiological birth, it would seem. 

I have read about avoiding early cord clamping, I understand the physiology of it, I understand that the blood circulating between the baby and the placenta belongs to the baby and is separate from the mothers blood. Yet, my jaw dopped to hear from an obstetician that he knows of some other obsteticians who think that by not clamping the cord the baby will get the mother's blood!

If this is true, then Michel Odent's thoughts that 'We are at the bottom of the abyss in childbirth' are correct. He is 82 and no longer wishes to be politically correct. He feels that we need to 'rediscover what is simple'.  I believe he is right, we can no longer afford to work quietly in the background, changing the face of birth one birth at a time, we have to act fast, and NOW!
Michel Odent with Chair of Conference Gillian Smith,
RCM Director of UK Board for Scotand

Michel was explaining more about epigenetics, which I have read a little about, and watched programmes on TV. It is my understanding that the genes that our parents give to us also have markers on them which can be primed (often during or by the process of physiological birth) to activate at different points. If I understand correctly, in relation to childbirth, this could mean that in even just one generation we can be affecting women's ability to birth. If babies are born by surgical means will their genes have markers on them which say that a vaginal birth is not necessary? It is incredibly scary to think that by interfering in birth where not necessary we could be speeding up an evolutionary process beyond our expectations. Perhaps it is not just global waming that Man has influenced! We can be affecting our future generations in many other ways we don't yet understand and it is possible that current birth practices of epidurals, synthetic oxytocin, immediate cord clamping, instrumental deliveries and Caesaeans without a valid medical reason could be having far reaching and serious health implications for future generations. Thinking about asthma, mental health issues and austism to name but a few....
As Michel says, "It is becoming serious!"

The common consensus from speakers such as Dr David Hutchon, Dr Sheena Kinmond and Denis Walsh is that there is VERY little evidence base to many current birth practices in modern facilities. We suffer from a very paternalistic approach to childbirth which has little understanding about physiological birth. But as Denis said "Some things that really count, can't be counted".  So how can obstetricians and paediatricians understand birth and newborns if they cannot do ethical research, and indeed if some of them can't seem to even grasp basic biology and physiology?

Most work to the principle that all that matters is a healthy baby. They forget to look at the emotional and spiritual side of birth, they neglect the mother. The presentations by Dr Roch Cantwell and Mia Scotland came from quite different perspectives but confirms my own beliefs that we are affecting mothers' mental health detrimentally and that a very much more holistic approach needs to be considered when caring for mothers during the antenatal, perinatal and postnatal periods.

It comes back to mothers then, listening to their instincts. Women need to stipulate in their Birth Preferences what they want for a physiological birth, and indeed for a necessary surgical birth. They need to demand that their wishes be respected, they must decline certain offers of intervention if they so wish. They must gather the strength to NOT defer to the experts. Change is ONLY going to happen from the ground up.

And there is evidence for this.

Ina May Gaskin's figures at the Farm Midwifey Centre in Tennessee actually speak for themselves. Women going to her and opting for physiological birth can expect to have one. Between 1970 and 2010 there were 2844 women planning a birth at the Farm.
  • 1.7% ended in a Caesarean (compared to US 32.3%)
  • 0.37% were forceps deliveries and 0.04% were vacuum extractions
  • 3.5% were breech and of those 8.6% required a Caesarean
  • 1.7% had a post partum haemorrhage
  • 5.4% were induced, but this was by castor oil or by stretch and sweep
  • 19 sets of twins were born, all vaginall7
  • 1.5% epidural (compared to US 80+%)
  • 99% Breastfeeding Initiation (compared to US 50%)
  • 0.39% Pre-eclampsia (compared to US 7%)
I know of women who have demanded their wishes be respected in some challenging cases. Although we cannot make birth 100% safe in all cases, whether home births or Caesareans, if women take responsibility for their own bodies, their own babies, their own births then they CAN be the instrument for change.  Then perhaps the medical people will have more of a chance to see for themselves what a physiological birth looks like. 

Just chatting to, or overhearing from, student midwives made me realise that in my short time as a not very busy Doula I have seen far more physiological births than most student midwives see in 3 years training, if any! And obstetricians certainly rarely see any and so their pactice is entirely clouded by fear from only seeing the abnormal. But fear is a tangible emotion, at least by hormones, and if a woman is fearful, or someone in the room is fearful, then her very clever body stops birthing to protect her baby. This is a fundamental part of labour which many medical professionals fail to grasp. If they cannot understand the very delicate balance of hormones which drive labour then it is no wonder we have such high intervention rates. 

I call for those who understand physiological births to be given the opportunity to teach this to the upcoming medical students. This is a very important aspect that needs to be added to current medical training as it clearly is lacking at the moment.

"Oh..., I forgot to talk about poop!" - Ina May Gaskin, 27th April, Troon in Scotland.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Rainbow Holistic Therapies

Well, since my last published post I have completed a course to become a Complementary Therapist, begun working out of a wee clinic to offer treatments, taken a part time job in a supermarket in order to pay the bills while I try to build a business, embarked on a Childbirth Educators course with Nadine Edwards, met Dr Sarah Buckley, and have a blogpost unpublished which I need to revisit, update and then publish. My son has turned 18 and left home. My partner and I nearly split up but have become stronger. Humphrey is now on a raw diet, loving rabbit in particular and my daughter continues to be an effervescent whirling bundle of joy.

Tonight I have a new blogpost to write, which may take some time. Bear with me.

Thursday, 10 June 2010


I received an email today stating I have now been offered a place on the ITEC Complementary Therapies course and will get official notification next week. I need to arrange to get fitted for my 'uniform', and await details of where to apply for bursary etc.....

This came as a complete shock as I had resigned myself to the fact that I was not getting a place. I fully expected my Reserve list offer to remain in the reserves ;)

I am happy, I am healthy, I am whole, I am harmonious, I am strong, I am woman! :)

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Instinctive birthing

My neighbours new kitten is about 8/9 months old and a very cute boy, so friendly and often trying to get into my house.

On Sat morning (5th June) I was talking over the fence with my neighbour's daughter, she had come to feed the cat as her mum was away till Sunday evening. As we were talking I noticed how big his tummy appeared to be, and we discussed the possibility of pregnancy.

Later the cat was visiting my garden, as he does and I notice a string of mucus from his back end. My mind goes into overdrive as I've never had a cat have kittens before.

We go out to the park for my daughter's birthday (it was her birthday midweek but we are meeting some of friends at the weekend) and when I get back the cat comes charging over, mieowing his head of and shoots in my house. I decide not to shoo him out, bearing in mind our fears that he is actually a she.

She makes for under the sofa and is purring away like a tractor, and checking her rear end, then I'm aware of the rasping of cat tongue on my carpet and I decide to call my Cats Protection League contact for guidance. She doesn't answer so I leave a message during which an almighty yelp came from mum. First kitten is born at 5.40pm! I keep peeking at her to make sure she is ok, and baby is ok. I speak to CPL contact who heard that yelp on the message! Then I see her eating the placenta. I try to move them to a box taking instructions from CPL, but she is having none of it and goes back under sofa, so I take the hint. Then there is nothing for a while, apart from occasional kitten mewing and purring from mum, Then I am aware of a second baby. Next time I check her she is curled up looking proud as punch with two kittens tucked up.

Much later there's a third kitten, again I saw mum eating the placenta... this is AMAZING!!!!! And then I realise from noises coming from under my sofa that there is now a fourth kitten. And now she's finished.

She seemed so happy, the purring is intense!!! She had a looooooooooooooong pee at 4am on Sunday, and ate little portions of food I stick under her nose. I placed water beside her too.

During Sunday I ensure she always had food, which she ate ravenously. I periodically check that all the little bodies are moving and vibrant. At 7am on Monday 7th June she finally has a poo, and it's a BIG one!!!! Now I can relax that all her bodily functions seem normal. Peeing and pooing is important in childbirth so I know it's important in having kittens too :) She has been seeing to their needs beautifully in that respect, stimulating them and clearing up after them. And she's barely out of kittenhoold herself. She gave me such a beautiful leasson in instinctive birthing and parenthood, whilst the kittens show just how well they are designed to find the breast. Cats are mammals. Human Beings are mammals and we definitely need the same kind of birthing space.

On Monday night she comes out from the sofa looking for food so I take the opportunity to give her it away from the sofa. While she is eating I take each kitten, quickly inspect it and put it into a carrier, finally she is shut into it as she follows her kittens. Her owner and I take her back over to her own house and quietly settle her into the room she had previously been nesting in. She does another ENORMOUS poo,  while we quickly look at the kittens and weigh them. Three are just over 100grams and the fourth is just under and feels much slighter than it's siblings. I keep my fingers crossed it continues to thrive. We arrange for me to take a spare key so that I can go over and check she has enough food etc during the longest part of the day when the owner is out. She is so grateful I took in and looked after her cat while she was away, as although she had come to realise her cat was pregnant, despite being told it was a boy when she got her, she hadn't realised she was going to birth so soon!!

This has been the most amazing experience! I am so happy to have been able to see first hand how instinctive birthing can be if left undisturbed. I often refer to Dr Sarah Buckley's articles and now I can relate even more to what she writes: 
"All mammals seek a safe place to give birth. This “nesting” instinct may be due to an increase in levels of prolactin, which is sometimes referred to as the nesting hormone. At this stage, as you may have observed with your cat, interference which the nest -- or more importantly with the feeling of safety -- will stall the beginning of labour." 

So now I am so proud of myself for fiercely guarding her birthing space, and of that young mama cat as she listened to her instincts.

This morning I read a blog by Dr Poppy Daniels.  
"As I type, I look over at my one-week old baby zonked out in his cradle swing and am in awe at how awesome his arrival was.  Instead of having my third c-section as scheduled, I went into labor on my own (first time in 5 tries) and delivered him (precipitously in fact), one hour before I was to arrive at the hospital for my surgery......   .....Reflecting back over my journey, I see how much the field of obstetrics has managed to contribute and sometimes outright cause complications, all the while assuming they are just keeping everyone safer.  And I see how much fear has overtaken the natural birthing process."

I feel so sad as I know what she has gone through is happening all the time. It's what led me to become a Doula. However, we now have at least one more mama who knows the truth, and who hopefully will join the increasing number of birth activists who are making a difference, one birth at a time.

Update: Having guarded her space so fiercely by instructing my kids to be quiet, not allowing my daughter to play on the family Wii in the living room, not allowing our cat Humphrey to have access to the living room, and having ensured she was quietly observed periodically around the clock with her space kept darkened and enclosed, I have been apprehensive about the transition from my house back to her own house. Today I went back over to check and she is absolutely fine!!! And the kittens are still good. So far, job's a good 'un :)