Why do pregnant midwives seek out hypnobirthing?

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It’s true that more and more pregnant midwives are seeking out hypnobirthing, but why?? Right here goes…. pregnant midwives seek out hypnobirthing for their own births because…. IT WORKS.

Here at bumps ‘n’ babies we don’t often feel the need to bang the drum for hypnobirthing, cos there’s no need to really. Bookings are on the increase mainly due to word of mouth and the fact that hypnobirthing is becoming more recognized as a good birth preparation course, plus the research also shows – IT WORKS.

Now there’s some folk out there that feel hypnobirthing white washes over the truth about giving birth. They feel we set women up for failure by focusing on normal birth without giving much focus to ‘the other stuff’ that ‘might happen’. They think that we don’t truly prepare women for all eventualities.

But let’s go back to the pregnant midwives here…

When a midwife becomes pregnant everyone expects her to just get on with it, people think  she won’t need to attend a birth prep course cos she knows everything there is to know about birth. It’s her job. She sees babies coming out of women’s bodies on a daily basis. She knows her options on where she can give birth. She’s aware of the statistics, research and clinical guidelines that will impact on the care she receives. She knows what can go wrong. In the eyes of many she is ‘fully prepared for all eventualities’. She has witnessed the full range of birth experiences, she knows what ‘might happen’, so why does she seek out hypnobirthing?? Because she knows hypnobirthing will improve her overall  experience of pregnancy and birth and that even if she does need some help from the docs to give birth, hypnobirthing will make a huge difference!

Giving women just statistics, facts, and telling them what can go wrong does not necessarily ‘prepare’ a woman to give birth. Women aren’t stupid, they’ve heard the word stillbirth, they know a percentage of women will need a caesarean section and that nothing is set in stone as to how things will go on the day they give birth. They know there’s a ‘thing’ called an epidural – if they want one they can ask for one.

We teach hypnobirthing because of the hypnosis element, it’s what we love the most. Throughout the course not only do we look at the physical aspect of giving birth, we also focus on the power of the mind and how this can shape a woman’s birth experience both physically and mentally.

We’re not knocking other birth preparation courses out there, hypnobirthing won’t be to everyone’s taste, the fact that women have a choice of birth prep courses out there is a good thing. Women helping other women to give birth and have a positive experience is what it’s all about. But the reason that we don’t focus on ‘all that other stuff’ is cos it brings about the beast that is fear, and the physical responses within the body when the sympathetic nervous system is triggered by fear are not helpful to pregnant and labouring women. This is fact.

We’ve taught many doctors as well as midwives, the medical bunch seem to benefit the most from hypnobirthing. Hypnobirthing gives them the confidence to believe they can give birth without assuming that they will almost certainly need some help, and we remind them of the findings of the birthplace study – that ‘giving birth is generally very safe.’

Someone asked me only the other day – How do you define that hypnobirthing ‘works’?

Good question. Onto the research…

Hypnobirthing is still a relatively new concept so there isn’t masses of research on it, however what research there is, is promising. Some of the research trials looked at birth outcomes, whilst others focused more on pain management.  The findings of several trials shows that although the normal birth rate remains roughly the same; there is a significant rise in the instrumental birth rate due to a significant drop in the caesarean section rate, basically more vaginal births happen with hypnobirthing!

What seems to be a recurrent theme is that the women that had attended a hypnosis for childbirth course such as hypnobirthing, regardless of whether or not they requested an epidural or needed some medical assistance to give birth, reported more positive birth experiences. In short – hypnobirthing rocks!

So (here comes the shameless plug in this blog post), just as we’ve embraced the power of hypnosis for birth we’ve also applied the same concept to our new breastfeeding workshops. We’ve given focus to the mind – body connection, which as most breastfeeding mothers will tell you cannot be underestimated. As well as teaching pregnant women about the principles of breastfeeding and addressing the technical hitches that MAY crop up along the way, such as sore nips, over inflated boobs etc.( you see we are keeping it real!)  we’ve also incorporated relaxation and breathing techniques, visualizations and affirmations, all to encourage the flow of the necessary hormones for a positive breastfeeding experience.

Our first breastfeeding workshop will be held at Cossham hospital, run by the lovely experienced midwife Katie, on the 22nd of November, 7-10pm.

So if you’re a pregnant midwife reading this and wondering whether you should seek out hypnobirthing, the answer is – hell yes!! As the saying goes – there’s more than one way to cook an egg and there’s more than one way to give birth, so why not hypnobirth!

 

Sharon xx

The Latest Birth Fashions

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Jeans – that one item of clothing that almost everyone owns. Yes they’ve stood the test of time and they never seem to go out of fashion. There are different styles and ways of wearing your jeans; this season it’s out with the skinny fit and in with the loose fit complete with turn ups for a more casual vibe. Versatile, hard wearing and comfy, what’s not to love about jeans?

So what’s all this got to do with birth? Well believe it or not although babies are all born pretty much the same way, there are fashions and trends that emerge from time to time that shape the experience of pregnancy and birth for mums and their babies.

Here’s just a few of the latest birth fashions, will they grow in popularity or fall by the wayside? Only time will tell…!

Umbilical cord ties

This is a relatively new trend – some women are wanting their baby’s umbilical cord to be tied following the birth with a cord tie rather than the usual plastic clamp. A quick internet search will bring up several companies selling these cord ties with different styles to choose from. Check out this letter style design, what a great idea for identical twins – a different letter or colour helps tell them apart!

Screenshot_20160507-201923_1            Screenshot_20160507-202021_1      plastic clamp

Women that have used these cord ties say they feel more confident changing nappies without having the clamp to deal with. They also feel that skin to skin cuddles are more comfortable for them and their babies without the cord clamp getting in the way.

Birth Photography

Thanks to the smart phone there seems to be more photos being taken of women during labour and birth these days, but some couples are choosing to take it to the next level and are hiring a birth photographer to capture amazing emotional scenes such as these –

birth photo    birth photography

Hypnobirthing

Yes of course hypnobirthing gets a mention! Back in 2009 when bumps ‘n’ babies came to be not many people had heard of hypnobirthing and midwives were baffled by the concept of women using self hypnosis for labour. In the last two years there’s been a hypnobirthing boom with more and more women raving about the benefits. Midwives are on board with it too. If a hypnobirthing mum arrives on labour ward smiling, reporting ‘just a bit of pressure in her bottom’ then its gloves at the ready – she might just be about to give birth! It’s true that some hypnobirthing mums can seem too calm to be in full blown labour, they surprise us by breathing out a 9lb baby with seemingly little effort, their calm demeanour can fool even the most experienced of midwives!!

Placental encapsulation

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Women eating their placenta following the birth is not exactly a new fad but placenta encapsulation is. With placenta encapsulation the placenta is steamed, dehydrated, ground and placed into pills for women to ingest post birth. This trend has recently grown in popularity thanks to the number of celebrities opting to do this, the latest being Coleen Rooney! It’s believed that these ‘magic pills’ can reduce post birth bleeding, ward off postnatal depression, improve the appearance of skin/hair/nails, and encourage a healthy milk supply. However there is little scientific research to prove these health benefits. Women choosing to have their placenta encapsulated are strongly advised to contact a trained specialist such as those registered with IPEN.

Vaginal seeding

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Some mums giving birth by caesarean section are choosing to smear their newborns mouth, face and body with a swab soaked in their vaginal secretions, a trend known as ‘vaginal seeding’. It’s all about the microbiome! There is evidence to suggest that babies born by caesarean section appear to be at increased risk of illnesses such as asthma, allergies and food intolerances in later life compared to babies born vaginally and it’s believed that the lack of exposure to the bacteria present in the mother’s vagina at birth may have a pivotal role to play.

How it works – a sterile gauze is folded into a fan, moistened with sterile water, then inserted into the vagina and left to ‘colonise’ for one hour. The gauze is then removed and put into a sealed bag until birth when the swab can be wiped over the baby’s face and body to mimic the passage through the birth canal.

Although scientists are understanding more about the impact that the microbiome plays in human health, there is currently no scientific evidence to prove that vaginal seeding at birth is effective and mums should be aware that some bacteria in the vagina can occasionally cause illness in newborns.  We’ll be hearing the word microbiome more in the future, it’s a case of watch this space….!

Natural caesarean

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A natural caesarean is similar to the ‘bog standard’ caesarean section but with a slight twist. The ‘twist’ involves a slower, more natural delivery of the baby through the abdomen. How it works – An incision is made to the mother’s abdomen for the doctors to ease the baby’s head out, the screen is then dropped to allow the parents to watch as their baby wriggles its way into the world. The baby can remain in the womb for up to 4 minutes after the head is born, it is then guided onto the mother’s chest for immediate skin to skin contact with the cord still intact to allow optimal cord clamping. Mother’s are able to feel more involved during this special moment of ‘giving birth’ and trials are currently under way to determine whether a natural caesarean would benefit mums and newborns compared to the standard procedure. Read this mum’s story of her natural cesarean.

When it comes to giving birth it’s not one size fits all. As with clothing fashions what appeals to one person might not be to another person’s taste, so it’s great that women have choices. It’s crucial that women are involved in making decisions about how they bring their babies into the world to shape their birth experience by the use of research findings and what’s right for them.

Sharon x

http://www.bumpsnbabies.org

Bristol, the best place to have a baby!

clifton-suspension-bridge-balloons-bristolIn 2013 Bristol was named best city in the UK to live in. This came as no surprise to us Bristolians, we know we’ve got it pretty good living here. Just one look online at right move will tell you that many are flocking to our city to grab a piece of the action, flippin’ house prices going through the roof – arghh!!! So why do people love Bristol? Well it’s not just the place itself but the people: Us Bristolians are a pretty chilled out, unassuming lot.

When the one born every minute cameras set up camp in one of Bristol’s large obstetric units in 2014 we could see for ourselves how easy going the midwives were. We watched as they supported many women birthing their babies in water, standing up, on all fours, surrounded by bean bags, pillows and mats etc. Even HYPNOBIRTHING got a mention! Fair play to those midwives, as any midwife will tell you keeping birth as natural as possible on a busy, highly medicalised labour ward can be a challenge, it takes a fair bit of encouragement from the midwives to make this happen.

Across the city at the other large obstetric unit things were even more easy going. Yes it’s true; a therapy dog did in fact accompany a woman in labour as she birthed her baby on labour ward, and what a cracking birth partner he was!! Sitting quietly in the corner, no demanding cups of tea every half hour, no questioning ‘how long is this all gonna take’. Maybe we should replace all the dads with a lovely Labrador and see how well the women birth then. I’m sure the famous French male obstetrician Michel Odent would be up for that cos he’s not too keen on dads at the birth!

Meanwhile, a few floors up on the induction of labour unit, a couple decided to use their initiative to induce labour naturally. An overdue pregnant lady and her chap were caught having jiggy by one of the cleaners. Brilliant!! What gets them babies in also gets ‘em out!  News of this reached America to the famous birth guru Ina May Gaskin who was also really impressed. She said on her facebook page “Good for St Michaels hospital in Bristol. The prostaglandins in semen can be most effective in starting labour. I hope it worked for this couple and thought the reporter should have found out!” Ha, her comment was liked by over 4k of her followers!

The daily mail got a hold of both of these stories and the readers were quick to leave their thoughts in the comments section no doubt thinking that us Bristolian midwives are completely bonkers. No we’re not bonkers, just open minded.

You’ve also got a great choice of where to give birth in Bristol. Over the last 3 years many babies have been born at the brand spanking new Cossham birth centre. The first baby girl born there in 2013 was a bumpsnbabies hypnobaby! Read Andrea’s birth story here.

And both the major obstetric units in the city have also opened new midwife led birth suites alongside their labour wards because research shows that a relaxing home from home environment with care from supportive midwives encourages the birth process. 4946776-large

This month the St Michael’s midwife led unit officially opened by the late Lynda Bellingham back in June 2013 was ranked top in the country for it’s maternity services!! How proud are we!!

Of course let’s not forget home birth too. I know of a few roads in Bristol that are ‘hot spots’ for home births, keeping those community midwives busy!!

Bristol is also a mum and baby friendly place to be, which is a good thing cos it’s a city literally full of bumps ‘n’ babies. As you walk down North street in Bedminster you feel like you’re on some sort of assault course negotiating all the pregnant women and buggies. The tobacco factory, bubbahub and the hungry caterpillar are just some of the many breastfeeding friendly cafes in the area; you’ll often see a babe on the boob as mumma sups a latte. No need to head off to the loo to breastfeed here. And no wonder the women here are happy to get their ‘Bristols’ out because did you know that in 2010 Bristol was the first city ever in the UK to receive the prestigious UNICEF baby friendly award for promoting and supporting breastfeeding mothers. Go Bristol!!!

And for those of you wondering why boobs are called Bristols, well here’s your answer, its good ol’ cockney rhyming slang for ‘titties’  ‘A fine pair of Bristols Cities’ = ‘titties’. What is that all about? How does a bloke manage to link the football team Bristol City with women’s boobs?

A few other Bristol things to rave about:

The fab free positive birth meet ups for expectant parents and anyone else interested in the world of birth.

Bristol’s street art, even that happens to be mum and baby friendly, this one by artist El Mac is obviously our fav! street art

So there you have it, just a few reasons why Bristol is the best city to have a baby, but shhhh don’t tell everyone, especially those from the big smoke thinking of relocating to a smaller city cos did I mention the housing market here? and for us midwives at bumpsnbabies trying to move house right now it’s a bloody nightmare!!

Sharon x

http://www.bumpsnbabies.org

Perceptions and Birth Stories

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There is no truth, there is only perception……… Gustave Flaubert

Yes it’s another one of those irritating quotes that pops up as you scroll through your instagram account. But before you roll your eyes and groan, think about it, it’s true – There is no truth only perception.  When it comes to a birth story how much is truth and how much is perception? Us midwives love a birth story. Sometimes we hear the story from several people that were there at the birth, all chipping in with their own version of events and that’s when this quote really hits home, because one person can perceive an experience way differently to another.  A woman who has laboured high on a dose of birth hormones, adrenaline and some gas and air thrown in the mix will tell you her version of events, but then so too will her mother and her partner that were there with her and they all tell the story slightly differently. Confusing? Yes! So what is the truth? What really did happen during that birth? Who knows.  Let’s not forget there was another person in that room too with her version / perception of events …the midwife!   Us midwives know we have a massive role to play in a woman’s birth experience, but probably only to a degree, the rest is down to her and the way she perceive the event.

Let’s go back to the gas and air for a minute. Gas and air is fantastic stuff. It’s a mind bending, thought altering, wonder drug. It takes you to another planet where you just don’t give a toss about anything. Many women get right off their faces on it in labour. ‘This stuff is bloody amazing!’ they say as they cling onto the mouth piece for dear life. The gas is seen as her new BFF and she aint givin’ it up for no one. You know when a woman is in ‘gas land’ when she comes out with random things in-between contractions with a strange smile on her face. “Everyone just seems so far away man…just totally thought I was Barry White”. Yep, she’s in gas land. So if she thinks she’s Barry White what else does she perceive about this momentous moment in her life that will shape her version of her ‘birth story’.

Likewise another biggy when it comes to altering perceptions during birth is the beast that is adrenaline. Adrenaline flowing through a woman’s body in labour will trigger the flight or fight response within her. She becomes stressed, perceives she is in danger, fearful thoughts run through her mind. She leaps off the bed mid contraction yelling “that’s it, no more, I’m going home”.   She wants to flee the danger that she perceives, but of course she doesn’t get very far, she’s in rip roaring labour and about to have a baby. All that adrenalin surging through her body isn’t particularly helpful during labour and is likely to influence her perception of the birth in a negative way.

And why is it that one woman in labour can perceive the physical sensations of her contractions so differently to another? Some women describe their contractions as agonizingly painful; others report feelings of euphoria with no mention of pain at all. Perception has a part to play here too. In our hypnobirthing classes we demonstrate this idea by bringing the couples into a relaxed state and encouraging them to image that their right hand is in a bucket of cold icy water. We suggest that they perceive their hand becoming cold and then numb. We encourage them to bring their numb hand to their face and feel the numbing sensation transfer to their cheek and mouth. At the end of this hypnosis script the couples themselves seem pretty baffled at what they’ve just experienced. There is no bucket of icy water, that’s the truth, so how come they genuinely felt that their hand was icy cold and numb? What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve” ( Naploean Hill ). Clever stuff eh!

So can us midwives really influence a woman’s birth story in a positive way? Well yes, obviously it goes without saying, being kind, showing compassion etc. but it’s not always that simple thanks to good ol’ perception. The calm voice and those reassuring words that you used worked a treat as you supported a woman through her labour last week. The encouragement you gave to spur her on through her labour was spot on. She sent you a lovely thank you card and a cracking box of chocolates. In the card she wrote “Your kind but strong words helped me avoid the epidural that I considered having, I had a fantastic birth experience, thank you”.  But beware, woe betide the midwife that thinks she’s cracked it and becomes smug, thinking she’s worthy of a midwife of the year award, because tomorrow you might find yourself in a similar situation; you care for another woman in the same way, yet she perceives your encouragement as patronising and insensitive. She perceives that you prevented her from having her happydural and her birth story is far from positive. No thank you card or box of choccies from her. You feel deflated, cussing yourself that you got it so wrong this time, you bad midwife you.

Most women will have some recollection of the day they gave birth, but it seems time also has a part to play. A woman’s birth story can alter over time, cleverly edited by her mind with key events highlighted that she remembers forever, others becoming foggy and maybe less relevant to her. We shouldn’t dismiss a woman’s perception of events during her labour as irrelevant because it’s not. A woman’s birth story is exactly that – her birth story and that’s fine. Life is based on perception. Perception is based on opinion. Opinion is based on thought. Thought comes from the mind. So as midwives whilst we have some control over certain factors that influence a woman’s birth story, whether positively or negatively, we cannot fully control her perceptions.

Sharon x

http://www.bumpsnbabies.org

 

Compu’er says no!

computer says no

I had a slight meltdown on labour ward the other day, a meltdown that resulted in an argument between me and….. a computer system. Yea we’ve all been there, I’m sure many of you can relate to this.

There seems to be more and more machines and computer systems on labour ward these days, all designed to ‘help’ us do our jobs more safely and more efficiently (that’s if you can remember all your passwords!) Number one is the maternity computer system, that holds all the patient details, and where we record everything about a woman’s labour. You need your username and password to use this system. Then you need a different username and password on a different computer system to request blood tests and check results. Another username and password to use the fetal blood sample machine, another to use the glucometer machine, another for the urinalysis machine… the list goes on and on. Hang on a minute, all this technology just to have a baby??!!! Really??

My meltdown with the computer began when I entered a request for a blood test on the computer system for a woman I was looking after, and the compu’er said no! So not only did I need to ask permission from the computer to do the blood test in the first place, it then told me NO! It told me I had already requested this test today on this patient and was I really sure that I wanted to repeat this test again. Now hang on a minute, I’ve got a computer questioning my decision to do a blood test, surely this can’t be right, what’s next? The computer telling me that the woman’s labour is taking too long and she should be given drugs to speed it up? This will probably happen in the future, I kid you not (shudders). So after muttering ‘bloody computers’ under my breath I stomped off to the staff room for a cuppa and a Jaffa cake and had a flick through my iPhone whilst continuing to moan about computers taking over the world (oh the irony!)

But let’s face it; women did manage years ago to give birth without all of this. Please take me back to ‘call the midwife days’ when all midwives needed were a pair of gloves, clamps and scissors to cut the cord and a pen and paper to jot down the crucial details – time of birth, weight, sex of the baby. Job done. I’m pretty sure that in the not too distant future, as well as carrying a pair of gloves in their pockets, all midwives will be carrying ipads to input everything they say and do as they go. Oh well, that’ll be one more thing that’ll get dropped in the birth pool no doubt (along with the pagers, drug cupboard keys, and the fetal heart monitors!)

Of course there’s no stopping progress and I know we need to embrace these changes, but we’re talking about birth here not a bank transaction. Birth is a spiritual moment that brings people together. Birth brings everyone in its presence into the ‘present’ and reminds you of what’s really important in life. The definition of the word midwife is ‘with woman’ not ‘with computer’. If the midwife is interacting with the computers and all the other machines around her then she’s not interacting with the woman, and us midwives know that a woman in labour needs continual emotional support more than anything else, and that’s something a machine cannot provide.

So is all this technology in the birth room actually more of a hindrance than a help? Well maybe one day there won’t be any need for us midwives at all cos maybe there will be another machine designed to catch all the babies too!

Sharon x

http://www.bumpsnbabies.org

Midwife approved list of what to pack in your hospital bag

hospital bag

Giving birth is an unpredictable event; usually you don’t know when it’ll happen, or how long it’ll take. You might get lucky and have a super speedy labour and not need much from the list we’ve compiled below, but our motto is that of the Girl Guides – ‘Always be prepared!’

For you

Your iPod/pad/phone AND CHARGER!!! With the hypnobirthing tracks on them of course!!! Also make your own playlist in case you fancy something a bit more energetic, something by the prodigy maybe??!!

Fresh water in a sports bottle Don’t bother faffing around with a plastic cup and straw or you’ll likely end up with the straw rammed up your nostril and a face full of water mid contraction!

Jelly babies The instant pick me up when your energy levels are flagging, midwives love a jelly baby on a night shift too! 🙂

Food for him You never know how long your labour will take and a hungry birth partner = a grumpy birth partner, so pack some of his favourite snacks to keep him going otherwise he’ll be ringing his mum to drop by with some sandwiches

Isotonic drinks Just in case the vending machine is out of order, pack a few bottles

Bikini for the birth pool Us midwives have seen it all before but this whole  ‘getting your kit off’ in front of strangers is probably a new thing for you (probably), so just wear whatever is most comfortable for you, bikini, bathing suit, birthday suit, whatever.

Yoga mat A tad controversial this one, it’s for the men to have a snooze on if they’re super tired and the only option is the floor.  No he won’t be snoozing at that crucial moment when you’re birthing his baby, but he might just need 40 winks before the drive home maybe?

Hair band The good ol’ 90’s scrunchy is the best otherwise your other half is rummaging around in your make bag looking for your hair bobble for an eternity.

Change for the car park  Yes you need to take out a small mortgage these days for hospital parking but if you ask nicely you might be entitled to a free pass, worth a go!

Your birth plan.  Laminated, with key points highlighted (only joking) make sure you give it to the midwife looking after you.

Lip balm Gas and air = dry lips, nuff said

Flannel Yes it’s not just something we midwives suggested in the good old days, women in labour these days still need their brows mopped with a cool damp flannel!

Warm socks We’ve lost count of the number of women we’ve looked after in labour that have stripped off completely bar their socks! Must be something to do with blood flow going to the uterus leaving the extremities cold maybe?

Hot water bottle Great to put on your lower back or under the bump to ease any cramping. Be warned the midwives might not be able to re-fill it (due to elf ‘n’ safety) but if that’s the case ask if they have any heat packs you can use instead.

Big pants and proper brick like sanitary pads. Panty liners just won’t cut it if your waters have gone nor will they just after you’ve had the bubba – think 9 months of periods all in one go, gross but true. You could also try the TENA lady incontinence pants (we won’t judge you honest!) Oh and leave those lacy thongs at home, only big, baggy dark pants will do, yes motherhood is sexy!

Tracky bottoms (dark ones obvs.) and a zip up hoody for after the birth. Much comfier than jeans and teamed with a zip up top = easy access for breastfeeding and you’ll be looking bang on trend on the postnatal ward!

Flip flops  There’s just something a bit grannyish about plodding around a hospital in your slippers don’t you think? Flip flops can also be worn in the shower.

Lansinoh nipple cream Pricey but so worth it, put a smidge on after every feed keeps ‘em super soft and keeps the cracks at bay

Pillows.  There’s either a tone of pillows on labour ward or none at all, so to be sure best to bring your own, maybe sprinkle a few drops of lavender oil on them for added relaxation.

Nursing bras, and maybe a few breast pads too in case you’re ‘that woman’ with an abundance of breast milk and could easily nurse all the babies on the ward and still have some left over.

Toiletry bag with  shower gel, deodorant, shampoo & conditioner (do they still make wash and go??) and BB cream, well you wanna be looking glam for those post birth photos don’t you?!

 

For baby

Disposable nappies Even if you’ve invested in the washable ones, for infection control reasons just use disposable nappies whilst in hospital.

Cotton wool For cleaning baby’s bottom, wipes can be a tad harsh on their peachy cheeks initially, so best to save the wipes for a few days down the line if you can.

Vests, sleep suits, and a hat. Yes the pink frilly Dior dress is adorable but trust us, for those first few days it’s all about being practical and although the poppers will drive you a bit insane at 3am the sleep suit is the way to go for practicality.

 A nice warm blanket Yes the knitted ones are very classy but the warmest are those cheap fleece ones from Matalan, honest!

 

  • Top Tips – Make full use of the NHS linen, i.e. towels, cot sheets and baby blankets. It’ll save you the hassle of packing and washing your own!
  • Pack a little treat for yourself, maybe a mini bottle of prosecco??, or a scrumptious bar of chocolate?? after all you’re the one that’s done all the hard work, congratulations, you rock!!

Sharon , Katheryn & Jade xxx

An English Midwife in Spain

a brit abroadHow did this happen? This was not the plan. The plan was to work in a bar, pull a few pints and take it easy. I’d only been qualified and working as a midwife for just 18 months in the U.K when I decided I’d had enough. After three years of intense training, being skint and then the dreaded first year as a newly qualified midwife I just couldn’t be arsed with it anymore. Sod it I thought, sod the student loan repayments I’m off to Spain to live with my parents. The Costa Blanca, now we’re talking! Sun, sea, sand, and not a labouring woman in sight – bliss! In hindsight I was probably burnt out but didn’t realise at the time.

After a few months of winding down and working on the tan the plan changed… There was a new hospital being built in the area. Would they need midwives I wondered? Turns out they did, and the fact that I spoke English was a bonus due to the large number of English speaking Europeans living in the area. So there I was being interviewed for a job as a midwife through a translator because did I mention that I couldn’t speak Spanish? Yeah that’s right, not a word, nada!

So lucky me was offered a job and told to learn as much Spanish as possible over the next six months before the hospital opened. Yeah no probs I can do that I thought. Now I did my best in those six months trying to learn the lingo, swotting up all day everyday but there was no getting away from the fact that my Spanish was crap, I mean really crap. And now here I was on my first day having my photo taken for my ID badge. They say every picture tells a story, that photo says it all, the look of terror on my face! How was I gonna pull this off?

Fortunately there were others there in the same boat as me – mostly doctors, from all over Europe. Clinging to our translation dictionaries somehow we all got by and made ourselves understood one way or another and thankfully there wasn’t reams of paperwork to fill out like there is in the U.K. Our Spanish colleagues were lovely people with a lot of patience; I’ll never forget how kind they were towards me cos no doubt I drove them up the bloody wall most days.

Of course over time things got easier, I even became useful and was called upon as a translator if an English speaking patient was on the unit. Usually the classic English tourist – sunburnt, and shouting loudly in English hoping that the Spanish doctor would suddenly understand them if they shouted the same sentence several times, each time a bit louder. I could probably write a whole book about my time as a midwife in Spain, (no plans to) but there was one particular night shift on labour ward that comes to me now and again, along with the realisation that no matter what language is spoken words are just that – words, and actually maybe we all talk way too much. Talk is cheap, actions speak louder than words, you get the gist.

So I worked mostly day shifts but was asked if I could cover a night shift for a midwife who was off sick. It was a quiet evening, there were two of us midwives and two maternity assistants lounging in the staff room, nibbling on pipas whilst watching the Spanish version of ‘wheel of fortune’ (crap TV game shows in every country!) The only obstetrician on that night arrived to announce that the last patient on her list that she had seen in antenatal clinic needed her labour inducing. She was off to the doctors’ rest room to be called only if there was problem.

It was my turn to do some work. Within the hour the woman was in a hospital gown, on the monitor, with a hormone drip flowing through her veins to get her contractions going. No husband or birth partner with her, so it was just me and her and here’s the thing – she was Moroccan. She couldn’t speak Spanish or English and I couldn’t speak Arabic, so we communicated with the odd hand gesture and the occasional smile or nod.

With the lights off I curled up on a chair next to the bed near to the monitor. In the dark all you could hear was the baby’s heart beat, and the woman quietly chanting what I guessed was a prayer? An affirmation? Something from the Quran? Whatever it was it sent me into a chilled out trance. I gave her the occasional smile, offered her some water now and again and squeezed her hand to hopefully reassure her all was well. No words. After a few hours things hotted up, her contractions got stronger, she rolled from side to side and her chanting got loader. Then suddenly she looked me right in the eye and said something to me in Arabic which I guessed was ‘it’s coming?’ I lifted up her sheet and there were signs that she was ready to give birth so I called the maternity assistants and we moved her into the ‘birthing room’. This wasn’t her first baby, she started pushing, she knew instinctively what to do. Just the odd smile and nod from me. I caught the baby and put him in her arms. All straight forward, no problems and within half an hour the maternity assistants had cleaned her up, the baby was feeding at the breast, and she was ready for the ward. As she was wheeled passed me on her bed she leaned out and grabbed my arm, she looked me intensely in the eye and held my gaze for a moment. She smiled and said something in Arabic which I guessed was ‘thank you’ and then she was gone.

You know where I’m going with all this…… a woman in labour with a midwife by her side. They barely spoke yet a baby was born. All was well, the woman seemed happy with her care. Maybe the fact that we couldn’t speak to each other meant that she could focus more on herself, and switch off the thinking part of her brain which allowed her to labour better? (AKA Hypnobirthing). Some of you reading this will probably think, Yeah but what if something had gone wrong? Where was her informed consent? What about the lengthy discussions about the pros and cons of induction and what research backs up the evidence and the guidelines? What about litigation??? blah blah blah! I don’t know. Everyone will have their opinions on what’s right and wrong, but what I do know is that I remember that night shift, I remember the whole ‘not talking thing’ and it felt right, it felt peaceful, and sometimes I wish there could be more days when there is just less talk.

Sharon x

Here’s me and the only other English midwife with our lovely boss. Looking more tanned and healthy than your average NHS midwife in the UK!

midwives in spain