Taking the fear out of childbirth…

I don’t know if you saw the recent feature in Saturday Times where Natasha Pearlman, editor of Grazia Magazine wrote a searingly honest account of her labour and birth 3 years ago.  As a practicing midwife it both saddened me and made me despair in equal measure.  It is apparent that what should have been a wonderful and memorable time for Natasha and her partner has affected her emotionally and left deep scars.    Now, obviously I cannot comment for her and on Natasha’s particular delivery but I am fortunate enough to work in a busy maternity hospital whereby I do not believe this would have happened.  However, having said that, antenatal classes and labour, birth and postnatal education is the Cinderella of maternity services – with many new parents choosing between classes provided by the hospital, which due to time constraints and staff availability are at best, a brief overview of what may happen, or choosing to join a local smaller group.

Antenatal education is not for everyone.   Some people are happy to choose to just go along with events as they happen.   Yet, when you are having a baby for the first time, there is no blue print and however much you may want a low risk, low intervention birth, sometimes circumstances can dictate that you end up in an obstetric unit with doctors making decisions – hopefully with you, as to the labour and birth of your baby.

However, with comprehensive and complete education,  education that allows you to get involved and ask questions, shows you the equipment used if you veer off the midwifery led pathway, tells you about all the types of pain relief available – (I mean, you’re not getting a medal at the end of this, take the pain relief if you need to), and the who, why and when it may be essential to go to theatre, you will feel more empowered and in control.  And not that you have failed.  Having any kind of an instrumental delivery or caesarean section is not a failure, it can happen for any number of reasons and by having this information beforehand will allow you to make informed decisions and feel more in control.   Using hypnobirthing or having a doula with you is no guarantee of an intervention free labour and birth – but what you learn from those classes will serve you well in every situation.  But, by gaining knowledge of all types of birth and possible intervention that may occur gives you the power  to make informed choices.

For example, if the classes mentioned in the Saturday Times article discussed how the latent phase of labour works – when contractions stop and start and there’s little or no rhythm or consistency to them, and explained that this very early stage of labour that is bringing your cervix forward and shortening it in length, should you find yourself in the maternity unit and they suggest you return home,  you will feel strong enough to do so, confident that things were happening and the fear and lack of confidence would will not be an issue.

I know  from experience that hospital antenatal classes spend little or no time focusing on the early days at home – when you go home with a new baby and feeling emotional, tired and perhaps a little out of your depth.   We feel it is important that once you have your baby, you know that Day 3 is going to be a weepy day, that your milk may come in and you’ll apparently cry at the smallest thing.  Gathering as much information as possible before you have your baby can make such a difference to how you feel and can help you make informed decisions about your body, your labour and your birth.  Ladies, you deliver the babies, as midwives we just facilitate this and act as your advocate.

Many hospital units offer a ‘birth afterthoughts’ service whereby, after having your baby,  you can have an appointment with a midwife who will go through all the notes and documentation from your birth.  This is often done when a woman falls pregnant again and lots of memories – sometimes not always positive ones, rise to the surface.  I hope Natasha Pearlman has access to such a facility.

The Naked Midwives need your vote!

Wow what a fantastic year so far…Sam and I have had the pleasure of guiding so many expectant parents and lovely couples through the preparation of one of the most exciting but daunting times of their lives and what fun we have had! The feedback so far has quite honestly been overwhelming and we continue to grow day by day, even now venturing into the unknown territory (for a midwife) of YouTube… eek.  Our free workshops also seem to be taking off well and we have lots of little projects on the go that I’m sure you will all be hearing about soon. We are also both thrilled and humbled to be in this years semi-finals of the Venus Business Mother of the Year Award 2017 and would really appreciate your support. Voting is simple, just click the vote icon below, find me and then scroll down to the bottom of the page to hit submit vote.

Competition is tough this year and as we are fairly new to the scene, if you believe we are worthy of a vote then please click away as every vote counts. Please scroll down if you wish to read My Story (Alex)…Many thanks fabulous people, Alex and Sam. #growingahumanbeing

My Story

1 “Alex Williams is …”?

Alex is a petite northerner with a big character. She is the most tenacious person I know, always showing loyalty, kindness and support. She laughs a lot, has a warm heart and infectious sense of selflessness and a top mum.

  1. About your organisation.?

Unique, complete and comprehensive antenatal education. Midwife led, therefore, talking from experience with no fluff or filter, focusing on what is realistic not idealistic! Taking the fear out of childbirth for expectant parents in beautiful venues across the south.

  1. My biography….

Growing up in the North amongst a forever expanding family I spent most of my childhood surrounded by pregnant women and young babies – and this fascinated me. Not only the development and transformation of the female body but also the changes I witnessed in the personality? And demeanour of my Aunts and Cousins. However, as is normally the way, I grew up and foreign adventures proved more of a pull! I travelled through Israel, Egypt and finally settled in Greece where becoming a Midwife couldn’t have been further from my mind. After my savings had diminished and I could no longer stand the smell of ouzo I returned to the UK to pursue a new life in London. I managed to find a lovely job as a Lettings Negotiator for a small estate agent in Muswell Hill and life was great. A change in circumstances then led me to Bournemouth and the beauty of the South Coast and the sea air. Here is where my daughter was born and boy what a shock! Like a sledgehammer I was back to reflecting on my own childhood and soon decided now was the time to pursue my dreams. Undertaking my midwifery degree was a huge journey and during the course I can honestly say I learnt as much about myself as I did about becoming a midwife.? Yes, the academic side was very tough but what you learn in practice definitely confirmed that this was the profession for me.? I am now proud to be a Midwife and increasingly passionate about both my clinical practice and the educational antenatal classes I teach. Throughout my experience so far, I can undoubtedly say, as a Midwife you have the ability and the privilege to place colour upon each and every incredible journey that is childbirth and for this I feel truly blessed. As my career was blossoming I soon realised that birth education, especially the latent phase of labour, was my niche

and passion! This led to the birth of my company ‘The Naked Midwives’ providing realistic not idealistic birth preparation – no fluff, no filter, just honest, reliable and up to date information for expectant parents as how can you truly know your options if you are not fully informed.

  1. My obstacles…My Ups and Downs….How I ended up here!

Firstly, I feel I should explain, I come from one of those families where there’s always a lot of drama – it’s never been any different! For the best part of my Midwifery degree I was a single parent and had to manage my academic studies with my clinical placements as well as nurturing and caring for my then 4-year-old daughter. Challenging, to say the least, especially with all my family being in the North. My 3-year degree soon turned into a 5-year degree just so I could keep my head above water. Graduation finally came upon me and I was successful in securing a job at Princess Anne Maternity Unit, Southampton. All guns blazing and confidence building I was managing 30hrs per week, child care and I even had a little spare time for me! Then….my father, who already had an existing mental health problem, tried to take his own life. The family was turned upside down and we had to come together to stay strong. I returned to my hometown of Sheffield to support my father and my family in which was going to be a long road to recovery. These events led to me developing significant anxiety with a downward spiral. Amongst some of my symptoms was severe hand dermatitis, another barrier to getting back to labour ward! After a lot of running (my new-found hobby to defeat the anxiety) and a whole load of input from a consultant dermatologist I was gratefully back delivering the newborn babies into this world. All going well I caught myself saying but then……the accident happened! I was involved in an accident whereby my right foot was crushed by a speaker falling from a stage, bizarre I know! At first, I thought this would be a 6-week setback but 3 months later I’m still on crutches. All in all, my recovery took 12 months and this is a long time to be out of practice. As time went on the anxiety returned, along with the dermatitis and I soon realised I was going to need a plan B. I started to think about all the hard work and sacrifice that went into my degree. Also, security for my daughter and how I was going to manage a work-life-health balance and then the light bulb moment came. Discussing options with a friend and fellow work colleague over wine, we decided labouring women were being let down by unrealistic expectations of birth leading to a sense of failure. As women and midwives, we couldn’t let this happen. With a lot of winging it, little knowledge of starting a business and even less money, we managed to build an office, website, social media sites, awareness and began delivering our classes in January this year. I now have a bank contract and work 3 shifts a month at the hospital with the rest of my time promoting and teaching classes.

  1. My children

Nancy is now aged 12 (almost 13) and don’t I know it!

Zac is my Step-son and he is aged 11, he’s much more sensible and relaxed!

I find it’s a constant learning circle with the dynamics and organisation of our family. My step-son lives in Sheffield and his dad (my husband) is with him one week on and one week off so he travels a lot! The weekends he is with us, either Nancy and I travel to Sheffield, or they travel to Bournemouth so we can all spend some time together. Nancy also spends one week at a time with her dad and one week with me, so, as you can imagine there are an awful lot of comings and goings! Sometimes it works really well, other times it’s almost an impossible uphill struggle! We all make sacrifices but ultimately everyone is healthy, happy, cared for and supported so I think we’re doing ok? dare I say it….