E+E Column: World Doula Week

Today marks the last day of this year’s World Doula Week and although the week is drawing to a close, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to raise awareness of the wonderful work that Doula’s do. You might be wondering what on earth I’m talking about so apologies, I’ll start from the beginning! A doula is a non-medical birth companion, someone who is hired by a pregnant mother to support her both emotionally and practically during her pregnancy, birth and postnatal period. A doula does not replace the invaluable role of a midwife but in our current climate where staff shortages in the NHS often mean an inconsistency in who you might see during your pregnancy and birth, she provides a constant. The mother is able to spend time with her throughout her pregnancy, to be able to explore any concerns she might have fully and then is guaranteed of her familiar presence at her birth.

The word doula is a greek word meaning ‘women servant or caregiver’. For me, this sums up the role. It is one of serving a woman during one of the most turbulent and exciting times in her life. Most doula’s receive training of some sort (there is an organisation called Doula UK that acknowledges several courses and has a database of doula’s for people looking to hire one) and have a good knowledge of birth physiology and often breastfeeding as well. My perspective is that doula’s are on the rise in the UK. I’m not sure I’d heard of them at all during my pregnancy with Sophia (over 6 years ago) but I definitely had while I was pregnant with Isaac and before Elijah was born, trained with Nurturing Birth to become one myself! I attended one birth which was nothing short of amazing and a real privilege to be invited to attend but, have since put my plans to serve in this role to one side whilst the kids are so small. I hope strongly that it is something I will be able to pick up again in the future.

There is evidence that shows that having a doula can mean ‘a reduced risk of caesarean birth, reduced risk of instrumental birth, reduced need for painkillers or epidurals, reduced rate of induction, shorter labour, increased parental satisfaction with the birth experiience and increased likelihood of initiatating breastfeeding and sucessfully establishing breastfeeding’. Although it is an additional expense, Doula UK have an access fund for those that can’t afford to hire a doula and I firmly believe that it is money extremely well spent. In Devon there is an increasing number of doula’s working which I think is great news for the pregnant mothers of our county! So this World Doula Week 2016, I’ll leave you with a quote from the amazing Sheila Kitzinger who exclaimed that ‘birth isn’t something we suffer, but something we actively do and exult in’! Let’s not be fearful of birth but trust the process and embrace what our bodies can do.

22.03.16

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Opportunities

It’s funny to think that it wasn’t much over a year ago that I was in Sussex taking part in the Nurturing Birth doula training course. My thoughts were consumed with setting up as a doula, how we’d manage to juggle childcare when I was on call and excitement as starting down a new path, one that felt distinctly separate from my role as mother and home educator (something that I felt most grateful for). The shock at finding out I was pregnant just a few months later sent that all into a bit of a (temporary I hope) tailspin. I managed to fit in one birth before I was too heavily pregnant and that was an amazing experience and an honour to be witness to but afterwards I was left thinking, what next? Was I destined to just embrace the stay at home Mum role for the next 2 – 3 years before doing something for myself again?

Since moving to Topsham for the first time in 2013, I identified the importance of being able to carve out some time and some kind of activity or task for myself that is independent of my role at home. It’s been good to reclaim my identity away from the kids even if it has been significantly changed and moulded by their presence in my life (in a good way I hope). I started working as a bartender/waitress initially and loved it, it may not have been intellectually taxing or particularly meaningful or important work but it was good fun and great to get out for a few nights a week. I also started playing music with Dan and actually joining him in playing gigs which was great for us as a couple and me creatively. Unfortunately, both of those pursuits ended up trailing off when we moved to Thorverton last year. However, by then, I thought we were finished having babies and after a lot of thought (and encouragement from Dan) had decided to follow my passion for childbirth by becoming a doula. It seemed like the perfect fit with home educating and I was excited at the prospect of serving women in this capacity. But then I fell pregnant and so that venture is on pause for the foreseeable future.

So back to my original question…what now? I love blogging and although I haven’t got much of a following, enjoy the act of writing itself as well as creating a record of my thoughts and our activities as a family. So I will endeavour to keep this site alive, even if it is only one post a week. However, in addition to this… earlier in the year I received an email from a friend who works for the maternity clothing company Yummy Mummy Maternity. They were about to launch a standalone site, http://www.yummymummy.co.uk with pregnancy and breastfeeding diaries, celebrity gossip and general parenting news and information and she wondered if I’d be interested in writing a weekly breastfeeding diary for them. I jumped at the chance; I love to write, I am passionate about breastfeeding and I wanted something to do to replace my bar work and my taster of being a doula. Although it is still directly related to parenting, I enjoy the challenge of making our breastfeeding journey informative and (I hope!) vaguely interesting to read. So every Thursday if you pop over there, you can see how I’m getting on with breastfeeding third time round. I’ll give you a spoiler – it’s not been plain sailing. But I won’t say too much more here, go and read about it for yourself! I don’t know how long they want me to do it for but I’m enjoying the opportunity for the time being.

A friend has also, just this evening, asked me about meeting up to play together (she is a violinist) occasionally which would be brilliant. She has two small children so understands the challenges surrounding practice and playing instruments but it would be good fun and a kick up the backside for me to actually get my cello out and start playing regularly again. I just hope that I don’t embarrass myself after such a long break – must get a bit of practice in before our first session I think!!

So I guess it basically comes down to the fact that I’ve been pondering my life-work balance, as it were. And just as I wondered how I could claim something for myself, opportunities presented themselves – in the form of writing and music. Elijah is also ok taking expressed milk and with the local pool reopening next week I’m going to grasp the opportunity to do some solo evening swims with two hands. (There is also the added benefit of supporting a local community swimming pool that is in dire need of funds for some big repair work – if you’re in the area, why not take a dip at Topsham Pool and help support them!) I feel like this is a bit of a self indulgent post so apologies for that. I wrote it mostly so I could keep track of where I’m at, to share what I’m up to and have a record to reflect back on in the future. But if you’re up for sharing, I’d love to hear how other people balance the various roles in their life and what opportunities have presented themselves at key moments for them.

I find it funny that whenever we are invited to a wedding, baptism or dedication, I tend to pull out the same verse from the Bible to put into the card: Jeremiah 29:11 ‘For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’. Obviously this is unlikely to be of much comfort if you’re not a Christian but for me, I find it helpful to reflect on it and remember it when I’m not sure where I’m going in life. When one path turns out to be a dead end and another seemingly has too many insurmountable obstacles, I try to remember that there is a perfect path for me, I just need to find it. Right now, my doula path has ended but I’ve been offered new opportunities which I’m going to embrace and if I get to rejoin the original path in a few years, that’s great and if not, I’m sure the next part of the journey will be equally exciting, whatever it may be. So here’s to opportunities…may we take them with both hands and enjoy the ride!

And then there were three

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I’m beyond happy to share with you that Elijah Philip Paul Durdin arrived safely with us a week ago at 7.59am on Saturday 21st February weighing 8 lb 9.5oz at 41 weeks and 2 days gestation.

He was born at home in front of a roaring fire (a detail that I mention because it reminds me of the book about home birth for kids – Hello Baby –
and makes me smile) after a very quick labour. The midwives just about made it here and the kids only just missed it! I wouldn’t have minded if they were still here but given what then happened, it was probably just as well that they had gone.

I attempted for the third time, and failed for the third time, to have a physiological third stage (to deliver the placenta naturally) but this time with more serious consequences as I had to transfer to hospital in an ambulance for a retained placenta. A third was delivered with the cord but the rest stayed stubbornly inside. I was speedily transferred and was whisked to surgery to have a spinal block and manual removal. All was well but I lost about 30% of my blood volume and was quite tachycardic (heart rate was up in the 160’s at one point during recovery) so I stayed in overnight before coming home on Sunday.

I’ll tell the whole birth story properly at some point in the future but thought I’d just do a quick update to explain my radio silence. Recovery has been harder than I expected, turns out losing a third of your blood takes it toll on you, who knew?! I’ve been on serious bed rest, haven’t left the house yet and still feel dizzy and weak if I spend too much time on my feet. But I am far from gloomy. The oxytocin is flowing in our house! Elijah is a gorgeous, calm little soul. He’s feeding well, very relaxed and very loved! Sophia and Isaac are loving on him hard, lots of cuddling and helping us are being done. Isaac is a bit emotional and clingy but that’s to be expected.

I’m also feeling incredibly blessed for the support of family and friends. From Mum who dropped everything and jumped on a train to look after the big two last weekend to the Church folk who have fed us all week with their meal rota, to Laurie for taking the kids at very short notice at 6.30 in the morning before Mum arrived to the wonderful wonderful Fab who has also stocked our freezer with meals, taken the kids out and just been absolutely amazing and then all our other good friends who have offered practical help, support and company. Thank you to you all! But my biggest thank you goes out to Dan. He has been beyond incredible, looking after all 5 of us and the house, continuing to do home ed bits with Sophia, being clung to like glue by a slightly insecure Isaac, taking the big two to their groups, changing nappies, cuddling Elijah so I can have a bath in peace, hoovering, feeding, cleaning, emotionally supporting and even managing to fit in his weights still 😉 A true super husband! I just wish I could repay him with more than words. Thank you husbot, I love you!

And I’ll leave you on that sappy note with some pictures from our first week.

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Always the joker!

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Pregnancy Diary: 40 weeks

Today I am 40 weeks and 2 days pregnant.
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Baby is now on average 51 cm long and is ready for life outside the womb, he or she will be able to find their thumb and suck it, much as they’ll be able to root for milk once they’re skinside. In theory he or she will be shedding vernix (the greasy substance that has covered their skin in utero) from this point but I’ve heard plenty of anecdotal stories of ‘late’ babies arriving still covered in the stuff. I meant to say much earlier that I’ve been pulling these facts from http://www.babycentre.co.uk each week, not just thin air! Very bad form on my part for not referencing them each time though so my sincere apologies for that.

I also need to apologise for posting this on Valentine’s Day, not the most romantic post but maybe it’ll give you some light relief from a newsfeed chockablock with pictures of roses, chocolates and peoples declarations of undying love for their spouses. (I managed a card for Dan and he took the kids out for the afternoon so I could rest, that’s love for ya 😉 )

I realise I missed posting during 39 weeks completely. That was partly on purpose, both Isaac and Sophia arrived at 39 weeks and 5 days (as I’ve mentioned before) so I arrogantly assumed this one would be the same or earlier I think so kept thinking I wouldn’t need to do another pregnancy post. It was also partly because this baby is a complete tease and I’ve had a lot of stop start contractions and niggles so kept thinking I was in early labour so there wasn’t any point in posting.

As it is, I’m still pregnant for now. I’m swinging wildly between thinking birth is very imminent and that the baby is staying inside forever. Somewhere in between the two obviously being the case! It’s odd having gone past my ‘due date’, although we all know that it is a fairly arbitrary date in the 5 weeks of being considered term. I read a reassuring article on the BBC this week which says that only 4% of woman deliver on their due date, 60% in the two weeks either side and goes on to encourage us to stop placing so much emphasis on one date. I was already in this school or thought but especially now, it was nice to read!

So not much else to say I’m afraid. Standard end of pregnancy symptoms here, feeling tired and heavy, more (practise) contractions..etc..etc But the excitement and anticipation is also mounting in the whole family…each morning Sophia is disappointed that the baby hasn’t been born in the night! But I’d better leave you all to your romantic evenings and go and spend time with the husbot, before another gorgeous ting person arrives and steals our attention!

Be well, big love to you all!

Pregnancy Diary: 38 weeks

Today I am 38 weeks and 5 days pregnant.
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Baby is apparently between 6.6 and 7lb by now (although this is obviously a very generic average as both Sophia and Isaac at 39 weeks and 5 days were over 8 and a half pounds and I find it hard to believe they could put on 2 pounds in just a week!) and his or her organ systems are fully developed and ready to go!

I’m not going to lie, I was hoping not to write this post. I was hoping my next post in this series would be announcing the birth. I know that bubba will arrive when he or she is ready and that I can’t rush things and should be savouring the last few days and weeks(? I hope not!) of pregnancy but I’m just getting so tired and uncomfortable that it is hard to. My right leg keeps going into painful spasms where it joins my hip and I have been incredibly breathless and tired. I just want to meet little one and to be able to walk freely around the house and town again without having to have ridiculously frequent breaks to sit down!

I do apologise for the negativity but I figure this should be a honest account of the pregnancy. I’m actually not really down in the dumps though, I feel really happy and positive at the moment. After a spate of post Christmas intense bickering, the kids have been getting on really well the last week or so which makes life feel a lot easier and more chilled out. We’ve been doing a good amount of structured learning to satisfy Sophia and making the most of hibernating through the cold by curling up under a blanket and reading copious amounts of books which leaves all three of us content and relaxed. I think I’d definitely rather be heavily pregnant in the winter than the summer when we would all want to be out enjoying sun, sea and sand rather than being home bodies.

So despite the impatience and uncomfortableness, the good vibes are winning out (hurray!) I’m excited about the birth but finding peace with not knowing when it’ll happen. So, maybe I’ll be back next week with another update and maybe I won’t but either way, that’s ok.

Until then, stay warm and happy!

Pregnancy Diary: 37 weeks

Today I am 37 weeks and 4 days pregnant.

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Baby is approximately 48cm long and could have hair that is 3.5cm long-madness! I don’t pay any attention to the old wives tale about acid reflux being a sign that your baby will be born with hair as I’ve had it increasingly badly with each pregnancy and Sophia had a head of dark hair but Isaac was completely bald (and remained that way until 18 months bless him) so am curious to see with this one! Baby is now officially term so I could go into labour at any point in the next 4 and a half weeks.

I’m not going to lie, I hope it’s sooner rather than later! My lovely midwife came on Thursday and said baby is 3/5 engaged which is very exciting but accounts for the worsening of my SPD. I am now very limited in my ability to walk much further than to the car or local park which is inconvenient so I’m hoping baby D number 3 arrives soon! Luckily, I am blessed with amazing friends and family who have been more than pulling their weight with helping me with the kids so it’s all good!

I’ve also had increasingly frequent braxton hicks contractions which bodes well, I keep reminding myself that even these ‘practice’ contractions have a job in helping to soften and prepare the cervix. It is all a step in the right direction towards meeting little one skinside. I have my midwife’s on call schedule and although I know you can’t choose when you give me, I believe there’s a certain psychological element to it so am hoping I can coincide with one of her shifts as we really get on and I would love for her to be there.

I must apologise for the quietness of my blog in non pregnancy related posts, I am aware these aren’t everyone’s cup of tea so I will ponder other topics anon. There have been murmurings of proposed legislation to monitor and possibly restrict home education in the home ed world so I’ve been trying to read about that, how much truth there is in them and what we can do and how concerned we should be. Once I’ve gathered my thoughts on it, I’m sure you’ll hear all about it from me here. But until then, I hope this finds you all well and enjoying this gorgeous sunny Monday!

Pregnancy Diary: 36 weeks

Today I am 36 weeks pregnant.
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Apparently baby is now approximately 47cm long and definitely in my case, has descended somewhat freeing up some space at the top of my tummy! Does make for some uncomfortable walking though…

I was asked to have a growth scan last week after I went into hospital with reduced fetal movement (baby was fine, just being a tinker!) and the midwife there measured me small. I uhmmed and ahhed as I have read that growth scans at this point can be pretty inaccurate with quite a large margin of error. In the end I decided to go in so they could check placental function and that the cord wasn’t compressed and decided to just ignore any size predictions. All was fine and in fact, baby plotted right where it should have on my personalised growth chart. My suspicions about the position of the baby were confirmed though, not just head down but incredibly low and engaged (hence the waddling)!

My acid reflux has been better the last few weeks but my SPD is getting worse as a result of bubba being so low! I’m also struggling with tiredness but that’s par for the course I guess! I’m (not so) secretly quite glad that I only have a week left until I’m 37 weeks and therefore, officially at the start of the 5 week period of being term. Having said that though, I’m aware that is probably going to be my last pregnancy so I’m trying to savour these last few weeks and not wish away the final bumpy moments. The kids are getting increasingly excited about their siblings imminent arrival with Isaac predicting that he or she will be around this weekend for his birthday! Hopefully he’s mistaken and I’ll be able to bore you with another diary entry before the Inevitable influx of newborn photos!