The Babymoon

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Thankfully the furore surrounding the birth of  Prince George has finally died down and, with luck, Kate and William can get on with their lives without such an extreme media spotlight glaring.  They have entered that phase that has become known as “The Babymoon”.  This term was originally coined by the splendid anthropologist Sheila Kitzinger (who I saw last in Edinburgh in April – in her mid-eighties and as lucid and sharp as ever) to mean a time immediately after birth when the parents hunker down and spend time getting to know their baby.  In fact, it is believed that fathers find the transition to fatherhood far easier if they do spend two weeks minimum at home after the birth.  The babymoon term has been “stolen” by various travel companies to entice pregnant couples away to enjoy one last holiday together prior to the baby’s arrival, but we won’t dwell on that!
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Negative Notions of Birth

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This week I went in to my daughter’s Year 3 class at school to give a talk about my job.  I was a bit apprehensive, as I am sure you can imagine, thinking about all those 7 and 8 year olds running home and telling their parents about how they had learnt all about birth, breastfeeding and the like, so decided to focus on the postnatal and baby massage side of my job – on what babies need when they are newborn and how doulas can support mummies and daddies in looking after their precious new baby.  My first question to them all was “What is a doula?”  As expected very few responded, but one little boy, Spike, thrust up his hand.  Surprised, I asked him;  “I know Ab-doula, from Tintin” came the reply.  I’m fairly sure from my rusty memories of Tintin that Abdullah is a man from the Middle East, so I said I didn’t think he did the same thing I did.  When I told them that “doula” comes from the Ancient Greek meaning female slave they found that quite amusing.  Not very women’s lib really is it!
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Preaching to the Converted – reaching out

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I have recently been hugely inspired by conferences attended by doulas, midwives, obstetricians and other birth workers.  The passion and positivity that comes from these events is so rewarding, but also it brings new challenges.  In so many workshops/study days/seminars I attend the speakers are preaching to the converted – we know just how important where, with whom and how a woman gives birth is.  So, I have been thinking about how to extend this – how to get those all-important messages out to the people who matter – the women giving birth, and the people supporting them.

Many people will have heard of the Red Tent Movement – women coming together to share all things female – pregnancy, birth, menstruation …  I would like to start something in the spirit of the Red Tent, but not exclusive to women – it is important that the men are on board too!!!  I propose to organise bimonthly get togethers at my home in Wandsworth for anyone who is interested to talk/share/listen and discuss subjects around birth.  At each of these get-togethers I will most likely screen a relevant film, and the first I propose is Birth Stories, the new film made by Ina May Gaskin.   Ina May is a revolutionary midwife, author and activist whose birthing centre, The Farm, in Tennessee has been so instrumental in reminding us what is important in the supporting of women during birth.  For more information about her visit http://www.inamay.com/biography

So, if you would like to come along to one of these get-togethers (and I will come up with a better name for them!) then please let me know via the contact form on my website.  I look forward to hosting the first of what I hope will be many interesting and stimulating evenings.

x

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Kate’s Due Date Revealed!

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Stop the presses – we know when Princess Kate is going to give birth.  Or do we?  Actually the only time we can ever be certain of when a baby is going to arrive is if there is a scheduled caesarean, and there is no denying that in some cases that is a positive thing.  However, I have come to really loathe the concept of the 40-week due date for a number of reasons:

Firstly, it seems such an arbitrary figure to pluck out of the air.  In medical terms a baby is believed to have reached full-term from 37 weeks gestation … and anything up to 42 weeks is considered absolutely normal.  In France the “due date” is given as 41 weeks, so our international friends cannot agree with us.  As a birth doula I tend to go on-call from 38 weeks, but I make sure that all the women I support are aware that the majority (65%) of first-time Mums (primips) go past 40 weeks.
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Birth Trauma: “Open it up and spit it out”

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I’m just back from the annual MAMA conference -a joyful two days spent with midwives, doulas, birth educators and other interested parties – a plethora of brilliant and informed speakers and much to think about.  However, there were also some challenges, particularly one as I was leaving the beautiful Assembly Rooms at the end of the first day.  Chatting with the cabbie who was driving me back to my hotel he asked what I was doing in Edinburgh and I explained about the conference.  He asked if it was mainly women attending, saying that if birth was done by men they would just “open up, spit it out, then be back at work a couple of days later”. To say I was shocked would be an understatement.  Various feelings and thoughts ran through my mind, the overwhelming one being “What an arsehole”. I contemplated getting out of the cab and refusing to pay. However, for some reason we were destined to spend more time together as there was a huge traffic jam on Princes Street.  
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Back to Sleep and Tummy to Play

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Those of you who know me well will be tired of me constantly banging on about the benefits of putting a baby on his/her tummy.  However, Peter Walker (who trained me in Baby Massage teaching) has just sent the following through and I felt it worth sharing!

Research from America followed 350 babies from birth to walking. This showed that babies who spend time on their tummies are able to roll over, sit up, creep, crawl and pull themselves up to standing significantly earlier than babies who remain on their backs.

The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) now recommends that babies sleep on their backs but spend wakeful time on their tummies. “Back to Sleep and Tummy to Play” is their message.
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Tongue-tie

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One thing that I come up against all too often is tongue tie.  Perhaps it is because I am contacted primarily by women having “problems” feeding – nipple damage for them, endless feeding by the baby, poor weight gain, fussiness at the breast – the list goes on.  What I am shocked by is the lack of support and care for women who suspect that their babies have this problem.  Indeed, I heard recently that a Paediatrician at a well-known London hospital declared that he didn’t believe tongue-tie existed, and that tongue-tie division is simply a ruse for Breastfeeding counsellors to make money.  I have no doubt  (and have seen) that there are babies with partial tongue tie who can feed effectively and/or who do not cause pain or damage to Mum.  But, I have witnessed first hand what a massive difference a frenulotomy (tongue tie division) can make to Mum and baby with significant feeding problems.  His ill-advised comment made me wonder how isolated and confused parents he had spoken to had felt.  Feeding, particularly at the breast, but also bottle, requires the tongue to work a great deal – to be able to stretch, reach and stimulate – how can it do that effectively if it is anchored to the floor of the mouth by a bit of extraneous tissue?

There is a group who are surveying parents to find out their experiences of tongue-tie.  If you would like to take part then visit http://www.tonguetiehelp.org.uk/surveys.html.  My feeling is that the more information we can gather about parents’ experiences the more we can help future mothers and babies.

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The Rhythms of Labour – Denis Walsh

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For those who don’t know Denis, and I hadn’t heard him speak before the MAMA conference, he is a midwife.  A rare thing to find a male midwife, but I have to say that those I have met along the way have been fantastic, and I have come to believe that if a man decides to pursue midwifery he really must have a calling and a passion to do it, given that it is such a woman-dominated profession.  Denis is now Associate Professor of Midwifery at Nottingham University, having done his PhD in the Birth Centre model, and his research awareness is second to none.  I have to admit that I (and a few others whose names I shan’t mention) now have a bit of a crush on him – I found him truly captivating to listen to and would love to hear more.
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The Oxytocin Factor

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Kerstin Ovnas-Moberg – Oxytocin and the impact on motherhood

I have long wanted to hear Kerstin speaking as I was introduced to her work before I became a doula, and her book, The Oxytocin Factor, became one of the first in my ever-expanding doula library. She described herself as having a helicopter vision, having been an MD in Pharmacology and Physiology. The focus of her work has been oxytocin which she says is the same in all mammals. She describes sex, birth and feeding as the 3 main activities for oxytocin release (though Mars Lord, fellow doula, thinks that eating chocolate is a fourth, and who am I to disagree with that!). What she described is that oxytocin is needed both to initiate and perpetuate bonding; that raised oxytocin levels increase curiosity in the mother, but also encourage the body to work better – our digestive systems are more effective, our skin more sensitive. If regularly administered, oxytocin influences other more well known neurotransmitters which leads to less stress, more growth and healing, and reduced blood pressure levels. It reminds me of the TED talk on oxytocin which summarises that if we all received 8 hugs a day the world would be a very different place.
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