The blog with no name

Existence in a human body is defined by change.

Adolescence, the phase in our life (about a decade) when we physically, neurologically, emotionally (sometimes) change from being a child to an adult.

Matresence is the underused but real nevertheless, term to describe the phase of change that becoming a mother represents- physical, emotional and neurological changes that can take a number of years, not just the moment when a a child is born, or adopted.

Then, for child-bearing* humans there’s a phase around your 40’s or 50’s, sometimes earlier, that is the physical, neurological and emotional change moving from fertile mother* to crone. I’m there, I’m sure you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Why is this period of change not described with an “ence” word, words that have positive, movement, growth implications in their incantations? Instead we get “pause” a stop, an end. Peri-menopause and Menopause.

Well here I am fully in the peri-menopause, probably completely “paused”, I have a few months to go before I can say it’s official, but I am not paused, there is no “Stop”, The only thing pausing is my hormones and frankly, I’m glad to see the back of them.

I, and almost all the women I know in the same phase are still in the middle of active parenting, some are moving in to active grandparenting. Creating, caring, giving, working, the best is still to come.

There is no pausing in this stage of my life, except perhaps to have the clarity of wisdom, experience, vision and intuition to step away from the things that do not serve me in my ascendency. There’s a word.

ASCENDENCE** to wisdom, to Elder. Like Adolescence and Matresence it takes a number of years and isn’t necessarily smooth sailing. Even if you’ve been through the other two already, it turns out that there’s still a lot to learn about yourself, what matters and what you can do about it.

Sounds pretty bad ass though

Don’t mind me I’m in the midst of my Ascendence.

Change, growth, forward movement. NOT the end…

*This doesn’t mean that you have to have born a child, or that you should, just because you can, but that you have or have had the biological structures which would enable that process if it’s on your path.

** Or TRANSCENDENCE for our Trans Brothers and Sisters.

The power of emotional connection

Something happened to me this morning that was out of my control. It was sudden, unexpected and shocking.

(Quick spoiler alert in case anyone’s worried, I and everyone who was involved are totally OK)

Before the thing happened, I was totally in control, living my life, making decisions, being my usual bad ass self, moving forward, and then the thing happened. For a moment everything changed.

The thing was witnessed by a number of wonderful people who I’ve never met and am unlikely to meet again but in the immediate aftermath they were responsible for making sure that I was OK, even though I was quite sweary at the time. In their company I felt held and supported, someone even made me a cup of tea – wonderful. I shall call them The Community. I also called my husband.

Once the initial shock had passed, I knew there was some procedural stuff that was needed and I started to speak to the other party to the event. It could have been a simple sharing of details but it was apparent that something was a bit off. In my shocked state, I wasn’t quite sure what to do about that. I did call the police, but the person I spoke to, based on the information I gave them just took the details and said there was no need for them to attend.

All the time, whilst collecting the other party’s details, calling my husband, speaking to the police, and from the instant the event happened, part of my brain was running through what happened on a loop, trying to establish if there was anything I had done that contributed. That made me feel disconnected from the subsequent events. The community, for the most part, kept me in the moment and reassured me. A few of them also pointed out that they could also see something off about the other party and someone else called the police. On the basis of that report, a police officer attended in a matter of minutes. So while I felt held, I also knew that they were partly motivated by their outrage at the event as well as their concern for me.

Even as the police officer arrived, the initial shock had worn off a bit and I had established that everyone was OK in a physical sense, the shock was still playing out in my body, I was emotionally heightened, if that’s the correct way to describe it, and close to, but not actually in tears because I was alone and needed to stay aware of what was happening. Slightly disconnected but also focussed on minutiae – Where did I put my phone? Where are my glasses? can i still drive the car? How will I pick up the kids later? tomorrow? What time is it? how long have we been here? and continuously scanning my body to check that I wasn’t obviously hurt to answer the people who kept asking me – “but are you really ok?” So much going on in my head and in my body.

The police officer was thoughtful, kind, and efficient, but when my husband arrived on the scene, I felt a sense of calm flooding through me like a wave. I knew, without question that everything that needed to be done would get done. I would find my glasses! I was able to let go, and let him take the lead. I stepped back a little bit (metaphorically speaking) and drank my tea! I would have been OK if he hadn’t been there, the same things would have been done, the same reports would have been made and on the face of it the outcome would have been the same BUT when he wasn’t there I felt adrift, and afraid, detached. If I had continued to manage it alone, I would have had to summon up extra reserves to get back in to the car and drive it home. My fight or flight response would have stayed higher for longer and I certainly wouldn’t have recovered from that initiation so quickly.

I think that there are two reasons for my response, and neither of them are that I am a helpless female! they are why I was compelled to write this down. One is, of course that I love him and he loves me, our connection is assured and because of that, as soon as I saw him, I knew that my welfare was his main focus. The absolute power of Oxytocin in action. Additionally he is a retired police officer so with that guaranteed connection came experience and knowledge about this sort of event that I will never be able to match. He knew exactly what the police officer needed and how to get that information across. I felt secure and safe. The police officer was professional and thoughtful and The Community lovely from start to finish but it wasn’t until my trusted, knowledgeable person arrived who could speak the language that the police officer understood, was not shocked so could speak with the community openly and asking the right questions that I felt that incredible wave of calm flood through me, and my physical recovery began.

Me & my safe place. Photo credit https://www.facebook.com/bgsweddings

You might have gathered that this was a Traffic accident. Another driver drove in to the car I was driving from a side street at low speed. There were a lot of what ifs, that thankfully never came to pass but I am ok, they are OK and as far as I know their passenger is OK. My car is a bit of a mess! and it turns out the feelings of the situation being a bit off was correct. The driver wasn’t insured, and without the community AND my trusted person I don’t know if I would have asked the right things to get to that level of information. But more importantly for the purposes of this brain dump it was the visceral feeling of relief, love, calm and connection that came over me when my husband arrived that made me think of my work.

A doula can do this for you in your birth space. The physical comfort measures that doulas bring to your labour and birth are talked about often, but what is less talked about is their ability to bring that same instant feeling of calm and connection. It’s why it’s so important that you get on, that you gel. It is a doula’s job to love you. They are your trusted, knowledgeable and experienced person. This is not to say that your partner can’t be some of this as well, but the added benefit of a doula in your corner, is their knowledge and experience of birth. They know how the medical birthing machine works and comparing back to my morning, can speak the language of the professionals if that’s the birth path you take. Even if you are confident and able to communicate your needs when you’re in the thick of it, the comfort of knowing you have a witness or an advocate in your corner can add even more power to your elbow. A client of mine has said;

“I felt so much more empowered knowing Mel would be there to back me up that I was more able to voice my wishes. She always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, and doing the right thing. It was so nice to have a face I knew there, and one who already knew what I wanted.”

Your doula will get to know your needs and desires and can navigate with you, as you steer through this exhilarating, exhausting, transformational event in your life. Recognising your need for a doula does not indicate helplessness, we’re human, connection is our superpower. It’s not weak to need as much love, support and connection as you can get for, let’s face it, a significantly more life changing event than a minor road traffic accident. Even without any medical interventions, this birth is unique to you and to the people around you. You cannot put a price on the benefit that doula support has to your mental health, self esteem and physical wellbeing, allowing the physiological process of birth to proceed as it should, keeping your fight or flight system at bay and protecting with all of their might your calm and protected system. Not only for this birth but to set you up for any future births you might be planning.

Now I’ve got all that off my chest, I’m off for another cup of tea and possibly a nap!

If you want to chat more about what doulas can do and more specifically how I can help you, contact me in any of the ways listed here.

PS – to the people (women in the main) who gathered to stay with me, to offer their information to witness, to the lady who brought me a cup of tea, thank you so much. To the man, who came out with a broom to sweep the glass off the road. Amazing humans all. I hope I will return the favour some day, or at least pay it forward. Connection is your super-power. Thank You xxx

My poor little car 😥

From the Covid-19 pandemic & beyond – navigating Maternity ultra-sound scans.

TL:DR

  • All ultra-sounds in a non-complicated pregnancy are offered and not compulsory.
  • Whether you accept that offer or not is your choice!
  • If your partner is not able to accompany you in person to a scan or other clinic appointment, you can dial in with your partner or record the conversation.
  • You can feedback your experiences of your care during your pregnancy, fertility and post-natal journey via the Central Cheshire Maternity Voices partnership. (MVP)

There is no doubt that being able to see that monochromatic fuzzy outline of your baby on a screen whilst its still inside you, is an emotional and significant event. The miracle of pregnancy, combined with the non-invasive* application of scientific development is remarkable and one can be forgiven for saying, undeniably magical. Pregnant people and their families often describe it as the first time they “believed” that they were pregnant; that it was the start of a bonding process for fathers or partners; that it was an event in their pregnancy that they were most looking forward to, and so on. These feelings are real, valid, and understandable given the ubiquitous nature of scans. Occasionally the scanning experience is less anticipated and for some families is downright distressing; if anomalies are discovered or if the pregnant person has severe anxiety or fear of hospitals, for example.

Over the last 12 months, for various reasons and to varying degrees, as the Covid-19 pandemic waxed and waned and infection control procedures remain, pregnant people have often been denied the support of a significant person, to share their scan experience. If that experience is at the negative end of the scale, this can, and is causing emotional harm. There is, of course a need to balance the emotional and physical needs of an expectant person or couple with reducing the chances of Covid-19 infection to them and indeed the sonographers and support staff. At a recent Central Cheshire MVP meeting (Jan 2021) we were told that at that time, the sonographers department was running at about 70% due to their own sickness, self isolation requirements, childcare/home schooling and so on. The sonographers who do your maternity scans at Leighton maternity unit, also support the rest of the hospital. I understand the pressures and I’m sure you do, but understanding that doesn’t mean that you can’t feel stressed, angry, sad, or annoyed about the change in what you were hoping was going to be a positive experience.

I am writing this blog as a response to all of this uncertainty and change. I did some digging around the internet and found the NICE guidelines CG62 – Antenatal Care for Uncomplicated pregnancies. (emphasis my own) and by presenting this information to you I hope that you will be more able to manage your expectations, potential disappointment and preparedness for outcomes that may not be altogether positive, within the restrictions imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. It’s March 9th 2021 and the “reopening” of the country has begun, but it is realistic to assume that some level of infection control and protection will be required in maternity departments for some months to come.

A note on choice

While these scans (and many other tests and appointments) are routinely offered, and are included in such tomes as the NICE guidelines, that does not make them the law! The key words to remember are offer and choice.

Everything that happens to you in your pregnancy, birth and post-natal period (that isn’t an automatic function of your body – like contractions say) is your choice. It might be an obvious decision (to you), but it is still your choice. This is true of scans as well. You are offered scans, you think about the many factors which might influence your individual decision, and decide whether you take them up on their offer or not.

Nice Guideline CG62 – Antenatal Care for uncomplicated pregnancies

In the UK, the NICE guideline CG62 – describes two occasions when an Ultra-sound scan is offered**

  • Gestational age assessment (CG62; 1.2.6)- is offered between 10 weeks and 13 weeks & 6 days (as well as determining gestational age, this is also used to detect multiple pregnancies) If this scan happens before 14 weeks, an ultra-sound screening for Down’s Syndrome can also be offered. (Down’s Syndrome screening cannot be done by ultrasound after 14 weeks and should not be done at any time without consent)
  • Screening for fetal abnormalities (CG62; 1.7.1) – should be offered between 18 weeks and 20 weeks and 6 days this is commonly referred to as the 20 week or anomaly scan. The majority of pregnant people who have scans see healthy babies, because fetal abnormalities are rare, which leads me to believe that this is probably the reason why these scans have become synonymous with “seeing your baby for the first time” However the NICE guidelines specifically state:

At the first contact with a healthcare professional, women should be given information about the purpose and implications of the anomaly scan to enable them to make an informed choice as to whether or not to have the scan. 

NCG62 – 1.7.1.2 – emphasis my own

The Gestational Age Assessment.

A pregnancy is considered to be “term” between 37 and 42 weeks. If a baby is not born at 40 weeks (the EDD) the pregnant person is not overdue, merely still pregnant. I have blogged about this before – here and AIMS has some excellent information on Due Dates and accuracy of the various prediction methods here. (TL;DR: they’re not very accurate).

If you haven’t been aware of your pregnancy or booked in with maternity support before 13 weeks, it is unlikely that a dating scan will be helpful. It becomes less accurate as more weeks go by after 13 weeks. In these late booking in cases it is extraordinarily rare that multiple pregnancies (another reason for the dating scan offer) are not picked up through the usual schedule of regular appointments and conversations and checks with midwives, without the use of a scan at all.

If a pregnant person is sure of the dates of their last period, they may decide to decline the offer of this scan. It might be of more use in cases of irregular periods, or when recollection of menstruation dates is more fuzzy. Worth remembering though that a due date arrived at by this “10 week scan” is still an estimated due date (EDD) but anecdotally is likely to trump any dates calculated from the menstrual cycle information, even when those dates are certain. In some countries, dating scans are not offered unless there is doubt about the validity of the menstrual dates.

Declining the offer of this scan, may raise some eyebrows, and even generate some “feedback” but if you are informed and confident in your decision then remember that they are not compulsory. Declining or accepting this offer does not mean that you will decline or accept all offers. Situations and information can change and so do decisions.

The fetal abnormality scan

Screening for fetal abnormalities, whether by ultrasound or other method, is a sensitive and highly personal subject, families have their own approaches as to whether to accept these offers or not. “Seeing your baby”, “bonding with baby” and/or finding out the gender, are often happy consequences of this scan, but do not feature in the medical reasoning behind the offer.

There is nothing in the NICE guidelines, for example, about identifying the biological sex of your unborn baby, this is entirely optional and dependant on your Health Trust and the skills of your sonographer and your request to know, may be declined.

The NICE guidelines do say that the purpose of the scan is “to identify anomalies and allow:
reproductive choice
parents to prepare
managed birth in a specialist centre
Intrauterine therapy”

Whilst equipment and technical abilities are improving all the time, and more refined observations of fetal abnormalities are possible, it is still not possible to detect all the possible abnormalities that might occur, whilst your baby is still in utero. Humans survive in an infinite variety of forms and abilities, that’s one of the things that makes us so amazing.*** We also exist with different tolerances for ambiguity or control, so whether you want to be able to make a choice, prepare or undergo intrauterine therapy is your decision and yours alone, whether you have the scan or not.

Do Not Do Recommendation

The evidence does not support the routine use of ultrasound scanning after 24 weeks of gestation and therefore it should not be offered

https://www.nice.org.uk/donotdo/the-evidence-does-not-support-the-routine-use-of-ultrasound-scanning-after-24-weeks-of-gestation-and-therefore-it-should-not-be-offered

It might surprise some women and pregnant people to learn that not offering routine scans after 24 weeks is a thing. This is definitely worth knowing, if you are offered scans after this time and you have no other risk factors or concerns for needing one.

Navigating scans if restrictions are in place

Firstly – find out what ‘s happening locally. At Leighton maternity unit – as I type (March 2021), the following is the situation regarding support and attendance at pregnancy ultra-sound scans. I would expect this to be updated shortly, so will amend this post when the news breaks.

this was posted in January 2021, I would expect an update soon

This infographic obviously covers all maternity/covid restrictions locally, but in relation to scans, if you cannot or do not travel to the hospital by car, there are identified areas for partners and pregnant people to wait inside the hospital.

Secondly – know your rights. For example; if you do need to attend further for re-scans, or for any other purpose where a partner is not able to attend, you are able to video the scan and/or speak to your partner on the phone while you are in clinic.

This is a screen shot of a section of a page on Birthrights.org.uk – further hyperlinks below

Additionally, Birthrights, (a link that’s worth keeping in your pregnancy and birth resources) explain that maternity services should always consider exceptions, should review changes regularly, and provide reasonable adjustments for vulnerable communities such as those represented by disability, mental health, and Black and Ethnic minorities. Birthrights’ Covid-19 specific information where you can follow the link pictured above is here.

centralcheshiremvp@gmail.com

Thirdly – let the people who proved the services you have encountered know how they’re doing! If you have any feedback for local maternity services (Cheshire) in relation to the care you’ve received or been offered at any stage of your pregnancy or fertility journey, you can of course contact that service directly, but the Central Cheshire Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP)***** would also like to hear from you. They can take your feedback to the maternity care providers (anonymously if you wish) individually, via one of their monthly listening events, or at one of the quarterly meetings, to ensure that improvements are made or maintained.

*non-invasive but not necessarily completely harm less. https://www.aims.org.uk/journal/item/ultrasound-weighing-the-propaganda-against-the-facts
** offered not essential – up to the pregnant person to decide whether to have it or not.
*** Myself and Kate Blakemore the founder of Motherwell Cheshire, recorded an online discussion about our personal experiences of having babies with additional support needs. You can find this video here.
**** there are MVPs all across the country, if you are not using the services provided in or around Cheshire, you can find your local Partnership here.
***** I am the current vice chair of this group – so you could contact me as well if you wish.

Drawing in the lines

My reflections on my work and professional development over the first half of this year (2020) has had an unintentional theme. I didn’t even really notice it until some way in to lock down, but now that I have, with the help of my mentor and my own observations of the peaks and troughs of my own mental health, it’s really focused my mind and my actions.

The theme is Boundaries.

I work from home, self-employed in a predominately caring profession. As a Doula, I (during the normal course of events) have a low number of clients at any one time, and really get to know each one, personally and emotionally. I am for the period of time I’m working with them, their sounding board, emotional sponge and advocate. Occasionally as circumstances dictate, I also do all of that for their partners and families too. It’s brilliant, I absolutely adore it, but it can get a bit “leaky”. My clients’ concerns, worries, and problems can spill over in to my own personal life, when I spend time and energy I could be spending with my family on a client’s concerns. Some clients are more attached to me than others, and demand more of my time. I do what I can to meet their needs as individuals, but sometimes their need to be heard, intrudes on my own need for love and connection from my own family, or even just for rest and recuperation. By the same token, it’s important that my clients don’t feel discarded or ignored because of mine or my family’s needs.

I live with my semi-retired husband, two teenagers and a cat (two older children have left home, so they’re not in my immediate circle any more, but they are often on my mind) Until the Covid-19 lockdown, boundaries seemed to sort themselves out, and I didn’t think too much about it. The kids went to school, I did admin and meetings during those hours and family stuff in the evenings with the occasional phone call from an anxious client, which I was able to absorb.

My husband works 3-4 days a week from home, for a charity, also involved in delivering caring support services. He was often away from home for a couple of days each week, so would just set up his workspace wherever he fancied on the days when he was at home.

Then lockdown happened. My kids were home all the time, my husband is home all the time. I realise that I am not alone in this. His adhoc approach to work stations, had to stop, because the quantities of online meetings he now has, to replace the days he was away from home, would mean whatever room he’d chosen (often the kitchen) was off limits to everyone else for the duration – not at all sustainable. So we all set up shop in the dining room. Him, me, and the kids. Like an office. We were able to help the kids with their school work (which wasn’t often thank goodness) without being too diverted from our own work. We talked about our working days, made plans and we shut up shop at 5 o’clock or there abouts and walked away. Long, unplanned and convoluted client phone calls in the early evening, were no longer tolerable, the overlap made me stressed and anxious, in a way I’d never felt before.

In the initial lockdown, as with many other businesses, doula work disappeared overnight. Doulas were prevented by NHS trusts from entering birth spaces as a means of controlling virus spread. This restriction has continued for longer than is necessary (follow #butnotmaternity on the socials if you want more information) and I and many other doulas have become avid followers, interpreters and conduits of news, Maternity Unit updates and campaign actions. It might only be from the comfort of our own homes, but we carry the emotional burden of this work as well, whether we have clients on our books or not. In mental health terms alone, with the ongoing background levels of general Covid related anxt it’s really not sustainable without drawing lines, breaks and boundaries.

In September our kids went back to school and college, or one of them did. The other one, the college one, has a physical difference that requires additional support. It turns out that college didn’t (and still don’t some 8 weeks in to term) have anyone recruited to provide that support. It’s a long and tedious tale, that is for my personal blog, not my work one (boundaries see) but the upshot is that my time and emotional energy has been called on again to support them with their online studies, guide them through their own emotional response to the circumstance and harass the college to pull their bloody finger out. I can’t do that and offer unlimited support to people I do not have contracts with, so I’ve reduced my administrative working hours again. My husband still spends the majority of his time working from home, but because that involves plenty of online meetings, I’ve had to leave him in the dining room alone, so I can focus more readily in the hours I have allocated to my own work. We have updated my office space though.

These are the things I have done to draw the lines I need.

  • I have clear and defined “working” hours – now published on all my business contact points – emails, website, Facebook and contracts.
  • A separate phone and phone number for work things, which is switched OFF, not just silent outside of my standard hours – unless I’m on call, or something has been prearranged.
  • Separate accounts/pages for personal and work related social media shenanigans.
  • Content in my contracts, describing when and how clients can get in touch with me during and outside of the “on-call” period.
  • A clear structure to my day. With housework, gardening and leisure activities happen outside of my working hours, as a result I’m actually doing many more of the things, outside of my work that make my heart sing.

None of this is new, I know, caring and counselling professions have been dealing with this since forever, but it’s the first time for me, that I’ve noticed the effect of absent boundaries and had the assertiveness to fix it, and I’m not perfect. Leakage still happens, but I’m much more able to notice it and manage it appropriately. Doulas are amazing conduits of positive transformational change, but we can’t be all the things to all the people all of the time! Sometimes we need to take a leaf out of our own book, and that’s much easier to do when you know where the boundaries are.

Your Covid Birth Room

In normal circumstances, you might not give much thought to your birth room.

Maybe you’ve decided on a Home birth so your home is just where you’ll give birth, it always looks like that no problem

The Midwife led Unit – a home from home you’ve been told – no need to think about it.

The Labour ward- you’re being cared for by a consultant so you’re expecting to give birth on the labour ward. You’ve had a look around and the rooms are a good size but hospital looking, and you’re accepting this location.

Yeah – so what? – why is My Birth Room so important anyway? Why Should I give any thought to how it looks, or feels or smells? or what I can see?

We’re not living in “normal” circumstances right now, just in case you hadn’t noticed! Birth centre rules and restrictions are changing all the time, sometimes favourably and predictably at other times not so much. The removal, or threat of removal, of some options like home birth or water births however temporary, can have an impact on your sense of control. Spending some time thinking about how you can influence your birthing space, even if it’s not going to be where you first planned to give birth or even considering how you might mitigate any last minute changes of plan, can go a long way to bringing the focus of the situation back to you and your baby. Here are some thoughts that might help.

But first a note on Oxytocin.

If you haven’t heard of it already – it’s the miracle hormone during pregnancy, labour and birth. There are others, but focusing on this one, brings all the other good things along with it! Good levels of it can keep labour going physiologically, reduce pain perception and gets your body ready for breastfeeding. It works on a feedback loop while you’re in labour – the action of the baby pushing on your cervix during a contraction produce more oxytocin which produces more contractions – honestly this is a good thing!

Oxytocin is a happy hormone. However it’s also a really shy one. It won’t come out to play under bright light or if you are feeling observed, nervous or scared, and it can be completely overshadowed by it’s hormonal big brother – adrenaline, which comes to play when you are feeling observed, nervous or scared. Funny that!

But still – why should I think about my birth room, what difference does it make?

In a bit of a throwback stylee, think Hygge. When your environment is comfortable and cosy, you feel good right? low lights, soft furnishings, nice smells, the presence of people you love. Think about how you relax when you return to your favourite space, after a stressful day, you might throw off your clothes, have a scented, warm bath with candles. Whatever floats your happy boat.

On the other hand how unhappy might you feel if you returned home after a stressful day when you’re having home repairs done. There’s scaffolding around your house, strange people climbing all over it looking in to your windows, the heating’s off and there’s no-where cosy and clean to relax in. The happy boat scenario, that feeling of calm, and peace is driven by Oxytocin, the latter – not so much.

romantic space

So your immediate, intimate environment can affect your Oxytocin levels and you can get even more of the good stuff by manipulating the environment of the room you’re in to remind you of your Hygge or happy place.

An analogy that is often used, is that the same sort of environment that facilitates romantic sex, will also facilitate a positive birth! All the elements of dim lights, nice smells, good food maybe, comfort, a lack of interruption will help. It’s not trivial.

In these Covid-19 times, it is more apparent than ever, that things change, often quickly, some times with little warning. In my local area at the height of the first wave, our Home Birth service was suspended, it was reinstated quite quickly but any actual or the perception of inconsistency in the services available that might relate to your birth plan can cause feelings of concern and nerves, so now is the time to plan what you’re going to do instead.

Even if your birth is some months away and you’re hoping that any suspensions or restrictions will be lifted by then, it’s really worth thinking about all the possible scenarios that may play out when your time comes. How can you make your birth room as homely, as Hyygeyey (word of the day) and as Oxytocin rich as you can. These things apply without Covid-19 in the mix but, I think they’re even more important now. So here’s a list as a starter for 10!

A note on infection control – when you are allocated a room in a hospital or Midwife Led Unit to birth in, it is yours until your baby arrives, and will be cleaned well, before the next person arrives. Therefore anything you take from your home environment is OK for you to use. Your midwives and Healthcare Professionals will be using PPE, to protect themselves from possible infection, but it’s still a good idea to make sure your property is as clean as it can be, so cleaning and packing it before you need it is a good idea.

Here’s the list! Items that might need packing and/or purchasing are highlighted in bold.

1.Think about how you are going to transfer in to hospital. If you’ll be using your own car then get the person who will be driving you to practice the journey at different times of day. Consider using an app like Waze  so that you, the birthing person don’t have to worry about how you are getting there. Your transportation isn’t normally considered as part of your Birth Room set up, but it could be an element of your labour, so making it as stress free as possible is definitely the way to go. This is particularly important in relation to point 3.

2. Your birth room starts with the door, so whether you’re at home or in a health care setting, consider making a sign to let people know what you need from them. Here’s an example you can access and change to your requirements. Don’t forget to pack blue tac to attach it to the outside of your door if you’re not going to be at home.home birth in hospital

3. Stay at home – for as long as possible, the first stage of labour is when your Oxytocin production ramps up, but can be easily quenched by stress, change, fear, observation etc. If your home is part of your happy place, then labour at home for as long as you are comfortable. In the very early stages, you could try making a cake! The more established you are in labour, the less likely that the transfer and associated curfuffle when you arrive will affect your progress.

4. Think privacy. How much privacy you need is personal to you, but even if you’re a nudist, birth can be an exposing process. Midwives are aware of the need for privacy, of course, but on the whole, they don’t know you or your privacy needs. You may also find that your needs are different when you’re in labour than they are in your normal life. Midwife Led Units, are generally more flexible in how you set up the room, but Labour ward rooms can be moved around as well.

If you’re going to spend any time on the bed, consider moving it so that the foot end doesn’t point towards the door.

Protecting your privacy is an essential role for your birth partner – making sure the curtain that covers the entrance door is pulled all the way across for example. Make sure you talk to them about this, so they know it’s part of their role before you get there.This is your room for the duration, you can adjust things.

5. Think smells – Not everyone is sensitive to smell but they can be a powerful element in your Hygge/Oxytocin mission. Aromatherapy is becoming a more mainstream feature in Midwife Led Units at least, but if you don’t enjoy the smell of Lavender, a common essential oil used for relaxation in labour, you will need to think about your own preferences and supply your own sources of those smells.

6.Think lighting – Most labour rooms have dimmable lighting, insist that the lights are dimmed. You can bring your own battery powered tea lights or fairy lights and consider going as dim as possible!

Assessment units, labour ward rooms, theatres and the corridors between them are generally much brighter, which can be disconcerting.  If you are comfortable with the sensory deprivation, consider packing an eye mask or sunglasses to mitigate the effect of that light on your Oxytocin/adrenaline production.

I have noticed that the ensuite shower rooms attached to labour rooms often have automatic lights that come on when someone enters the room. If the birth room is on a low level of lighting, this can be quite jarring. Shut the door! People entering your room from the corridor can create significant light pollution as well. This might be something you put on your sign, and make sure that your birth support is primed to manage.

7. Think activity. Being as active as you can be during labour, really helps with your progression, and getting baby in to a really great position for birth. Just because there’s a bed in the room, doesn’t mean you have to use it – well not as a bed anyway. All hospital beds go low, high, and bend in several places. So either push it to the side of the room to show your intent on as active a labour as possible or ask to adjust it so you can use it as a prop – maybe with the head end up, you can kneel on the bed and lean on the raised end. There are nearly endless possibilities. Most Midwife Led Units and Labour wards, have access to mats, birth balls and peanut balls. If they’re not in the room when you get there ask for them or during labour if you change your mind. It might be worth a call to the unit you expect to birth in though, to check availability, so you can bring your own if want to

8. Think sounds – Hospitals, and Midwife Led Units are strange places for noise. Sometimes there are machines that go ping; staff chat in corridors, often not quietly and possibly directly outside your room; you might even be able to hear other women in labour. Whatever might be going on, the noises are not familiar and could be popping your birthing bubble! Sounds, like smells, can be a powerful conduit to your happy Oxytocin filled feelings. If you’re a music lover and you have tunes that generate those feelings, then put some work in to your playlist before hand and take it with you! Many units have facilities to play music (or hypnobirthing tracks) in the rooms, but taking a phone or portable speaker means that you will know how it works, and there won’t be any hassle getting the sounds going.

Some speakers have a light production aspect too, to link back to number 5. A little search on Spotify led me to this pre-loaded play list, and there are a couple of others there, if you need inspiration.

9. Think food – in spite of popular opinion, eating and drinking in labour is a good thing. Labour is hard work, and maintaining hydration and energy levels is important to get you to the end! I know from a “recent” experience (11th April) of supporting a hospital birth at Leighton Maternity unit, that they, at least provide a packed meal at various points in the day. These included a sandwich, a piece of fruit, a bag of crisps, a cake/biscuit and some orange juice. I, as the birth partner was offered a meal too. I don’t know what the current provision for any restrictive diets or food allergies is, but pre-covid experience suggests not much. So if you want something delicious and comforting to eat, especially if you have a specific dietary requirement I would strongly recommend taking your own food in. Small snack sized, easy to eat portions are ideal for you to grab a mouthful in between surges. Also take a drinking vessel that has an integral straw – it needs to be easy access, your birth partner might hold it for you or it might just be near you so you can turn your head and take a sip as and when – it seems a small thing, but having to drink out of a cup or a bottle without a straw can get quite tricky when you’re in the thick of it.

10. Think Comfort, Touch & colour – 3 things there – grouped together because I’ve run out of numbers! but this is where I’m asking you to think about what your room looks like. Hopefully, by now you’ll be imagining soft lighting, maybe some fairy lights, and there will be lots of space for you to move around. There might be birthing balls, a pool or large cushions on the floor, but things might still look a little sterile, and the sheets on the bed will be white, VERY white. You could take your own pillow (which will have the added advantage of carrying your smells from home), a colourful blanket or throw, that changes the feel of the room from hospital to bedroom. Maybe you’ve got something you made for yourself, or that someone made for you, that brings with it feelings of love and connection. It can both be seen and then used when your baby is born, and you’re skin to skin to keep you and your new bundle warm and together.

I have a bonus point for these Covid-19 times – think communication. If you and your birth partner are separated, or because of yours or their infection status you are unable to be together at all, or you had planned to have a doula as well, but infection control means they are currently not able to be there, you can still benefit from their support.

Take your mobile and video call them when your need is highest, continuously if the hospital has good wifi or you have a good data contract. You are allowed to use mobiles in hospitals, but remember to take your charger and a charged battery pack so you don’t lose contact when you need it the most. Remember the cables. These will also be helpful if you are transferred to the post-natal ward, as in most places, and Leighton is one of them, visitors are restricted outside of the birth locations.

Remember, babies are still being born, and you still have options and choices, even if they are within a slightly different framework. I hope that some of these suggestions will help you to make the best birth room you can have.

With love and blessings for a joyous and positive birthing experience.

Doulas are still working and able to support you, ante-natally, in labour and post-natally. If you’re thinking a doula can help you navigate your pregnancy, labour and post-natal period in and around Crewe & Nantwich, then you can contact me through my website, or on Facebook. Alternatively search for a doula in your area using the Doula UK Find a Doula page. or the Developing Doulas Directory.

Now what?

It’s the 31st March 2020. In the UK we start our second week of Covid-19 related lockdown.

Since this new virus started getting people all riled up, I’ve started several blog posts, none of them are finished, words are not coming easily to me. Today I’m removing perfection from my blog writing goals and am just seeing where this will take me.

I’m a doula, because I KNOW, that connection and continuity heals things. In birth, in life, in death. It changes lives, it changes futures, it changes communities, it changes the world!  It has come as somewhat of a shock to me, to be confined to my home and to know that other doulas are similarly confined at a time when our work is so sorely needed. I may be one, but I am one of many; our army that heals the world one family at a time has, on the face of it, been stood down.

I do not need to write a post with information about what to do and where to do it, because someone, somewhere has already written it* and that in itself has been a problem for me. After the initial – well that’s buggered us up – phase of my response to the crisis, and I move in to the – Well what can I do? – I am overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of offers out there. I am perhaps smothered, my small voice, and my limited reach, insignificant in the overall scheme. The army is actually on the virtual move. It has caused some moments of panic that I will be left behind or maybe swept up.

stones - me

I am fortunate (in a way**) that I do not have any current clients on my books, I do not have to think quickly about how to support those particular women and their families, I have time on my side, and I have focus. Indeed I do not matter, I am part of a larger movement and proud to be so. My connection to that movement matters.

I have reached out to my wider family, my neighbours and my past clients offering support, shopping and a listening ear. I have volunteered to work in and around the maternity hospital when the need arises, I am part of a virtual Emergency Early Labour Support network, I continue to facilitate an online version of our Positive Birth Movement group,  and I am looking after myself, (our garden has never looked better!) I continue to read and learn both about the current situation but also more broadly, in order to develop what I do have to offer, whenever I am needed to offer it. I will stay safe and well. These things matter.

And this leads me to my final point. Fear is an evolutionary response, it keeps us alive in times of attack, but it should not rule us, even now, when we are actually under attack. Connection is what keeps us healthy. Connection to each other, (emotional connection works too) and connection to the universe. My connection (my calm & connected system) creates trust.

I trust that what I do makes a difference to individuals and the wider community.

I trust that I will be called upon when I am needed. 

I trust that I will be able to respond to that call when it comes, compassionately and fearlessly.

I trust that there will be an end, a change, a continuation. Of all the times that my work will be needed, it will be then.

Love and blessings to you all.

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*At this moment in time I recommend the following links, that do not overwhelm with conflicting information

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynacologists has a regularly updated page of information and advice relating to pregnancy and birth.

Evidence Based Birth – is an excellent resource for all things birth. It’s hosted in the U.S but is international in its reach. Covid-19 is of course also covered and they have an excellent Podcast.

If you need a doula, or think you might need one (they’re not just for birth!) then Doula UK has a great Find a Doula service that is location driven.

The New Scientist podcast is a general information source, but most importantly rooted in facts and current science. It also includes interesting sciencey updates on non Covid-19 related topics which I have found helps to keep perspective.

** unfortunately this means that I’m not earning any money! It is possible to buy me a virtual coffee though to keep my spirits up as it were! https://ko-fi.com/doulamelanie

 

 

Emails – are you waving or drowning?

De-cluttering isn’t just about having less physical stuff. It’s about releasing ANYTHING that doesn’t serve you, by being in your physical space and/or in your head space.

Email is one of those intangible things that can cause quite a lot of anxiety, and it’s one of those things like washing up that continually regenerates – annoying. If you’re one of the people who can exist happily with 3465673 emails in your inbox and you don’t worry about a single one of them, then this post is probably not of any use to you, but if the number of emails gives you palpitations or you find yourself avoiding dealing with any of them because of the sheer quantity – read on.

stressed person at computer

As well as personal anxiety, emails are a significant generator of greenhouse gasses – A new study published at the end of last year estimates “that if every adult in the UK cut back on ‘thank you’ emails, it could save 16,433 tonnes of carbon per year” (more information on that here) Companies like Microsoft are apparently continuously improving the carbon footprint of their online storage but less is always better!

These are some things that I have found helpful in managing my inboxes. Sharing in case these things might help you too.

Get Ready, preparation is key…

  • As well as an email account you will also need a way of scheduling any actions that might arise from your emails – phone apps are good – ToDoist is my list of choice but there are plenty of others or you might prefer an actual diary or bullet journalling. Once you’ve put the action in your list you can delete the email – no need to keep it as a reminder.
  • Consider having more than one email address – this might sound like I’m just adding to the problem, but I work from home so my work email and my home/personal emails can quickly become entangled. I have one address for work contacts and one for all the useful stuff I buy online and the occasional personal correspondence. Keep it simple though, 2 or 3 is probably ample.

  • Prioritise – I check and process my work email more regularly than the personal one.

  • Decide how often you want/can review your emails – use your “out of office” function to let your emailers know your timescales. If you’re worried about missing something actually important on the days when you’re not checking – include a contact phone number with instructions to call you if they’re not happy with a response in the timescales you’ve put down. Do this, no-one will call you, you therefore know that none of your emails are life-changingly urgent.

  • Set up a recurring action in your to-do list to process your emails and set a timer when you do it. Weekly works for me, although I often put it off a few days if I’m not in the mood, there are hardly any things that can’t wait a week, and if there are, then the person will call you or contact you in the way you’ve suggested to them in your “out of office” text. Weekly also leaves me with a manageable number of emails to go through – in the 10’s rather than the hundreds, and even then most of them are a quick delete.

  • Turn off the little email notification thingy on your phone, especially if it pings or flashes across your screen. You do not need this level of notification.

  • Set your emails to list oldest first. Every time you log in, you see the messages you’ve left, once you’re in control it’s easy enough to scroll down to the newest ones, but having them there in your view, reminds you to do something with them, even if it’s only to delete them.

checking emails on phone
those are not my legs

So you’ve decided what, where, when and how – now it’s time to take action

  • If you’re starting with an inbox of thousands. No judgement- set a timer on your phone for 30 minutes say – and just eat that electronic elephant one bite at a time.

  • Delete everything over 12 months old, as a start, if you find that easy, then try 6 months, 5 months, 4 months etc. If any of that starts to make you feel a bit panicky, pick your date and start there. Take it a step at a time, but delete delete delete.

  • Report junk emails as junk, but remember to empty your junk file every now and then.
  • Unsubscribe – you don’t need to do this every time, the delete button is very cathartic if you’re in a bit of a rush, but if you find yourself with a bit more head space, take a few seconds to find the unsubscribe link and then click on it. As a by note – always check the text in the “do you want us to contact you” sections on websites and the like. 9 times out of 10 it should be a no shouldn’t it? You do not need any marketing emails from organisations selling you stuff. If you actually need a thing, you’ll go and find it, you don’t need to keep those dubious discount emails just in case. We are bombarded with marketing gumpf on every internet forum we visit, be selective about the ones you keep in your inbox. Newsletters from lovely doulas might stay for example!

  • Delete all the emails you don’t need any more, including ones you’ve sent.
  • If you order things online. Delete the dispatch, confirmation etc emails when the thing has arrived. That information is on the originating website anyway. – eg amazon notifications that an item has been ordered, dispatched, with the courier, on the way, delivered. If you really want to know your item’s progress get the store app on your phone and set the notifications on there – they flash up and then they’re gone, you know what’s up, and there’s nothing left to action. I know this works with Amazon – I’m sure there are others that do this too.
  • You have given yourself some time to do this email malarchy – see point 4. So sit down and do the things that need doing. Then delete the email that’s finished with. In rare instances if you don’t quite have everything you need to complete a task, use the flag option and keep that email there to revisit next time you log in.
  • Organise – personally I find folders in my email accounts turn in to a big black hole, I have a few – things like “actions pending” but generally I forget to check them so they languish there until I do have a look and then most things are ancient and get deleted anyway.  If you’re the sort of person who likes a category though then file away, but really think before you move it. Does it need keeping? Is the information stored somewhere else? like on another person’s or organisation’s website? Can you save the information in a different way? If you have replied to an email, but you need to follow up if the person doesn’t respond back – put an action in your to do list/diary to check. Delete the email.
  • If you really need to keep an email for reference eg as a receipt for tax purposes, or evidence that you’ve done something or received something, consider saving it as a file on your computer and then delete it from your email folder.
  • Day to day – if you get sent emails in your day to day interaction with a website – password resets or survey verifications. Get in the habit of deleting that email as soon as you’ve done the necessary clicking and updating.
  • At the end of your scheduled session – Go to your trash folder and empty it. This will permanently delete the emails where they can no longer worry you any more.

In addition – now and then, in moments of downtime, like on the train, or waiting for the kids at school, I’ll have a quick scroll through on my phone to do some more deleting – the swipe delete action is fun!

If you’re in a business where you manage a mailing list, it can also make you think hard about how many emails/newsletters you might send!

Let me know how you get on. I’d love to see your before and afters – I’m off to empty my sent items folder, I appear to have emails in there from 2015! *blush face* and unsubscribe from Amazon order updates by email.

Full disclosure – as I hit publish on this post – I have 15 emails in my “home” email inbox and 27 (too many) in my “work” one

– we’re all a work in progress…

jumping person - freedom
enjoy the freedom!

One Minute Recommendation – WAZE

This is the first in a series I hope, of quick and to the point recommendations. Not many of us have got time to check out all the options out there for all the things we might need or want. My recommendations are based on my own personal experience of a product or service that I think might be of use to you as a pregnant person or new parent. If I’ve been given something to test and I do recommend it, I will tell you, but I cannot be bought! If it’s crap, pointless, or unnecessarily wasteful in my opinion, there won’t be a recommendation coming from me whether I was given it or not!

 

So first up, because I cannot praise it enough – I absolutely LOVE it – is the WAZE app.

I appreciate that this is not a new thing, and you’ve probably heard of it already, but bear with me on this. As a doula, I travel to places and addresses I often haven’t been to before to meet clients, and then I need to get back there again if they book me for follow ups and then in the quickest time possible for B Day! Waze is a brilliant app. It’s like a little traffic reporter pixie living in your phone, diverting you around roadblocks, accidents and traffic and re-routing you if something happens on the way. It has never let me down and has in fact directed me through some lovely parts of Cheshire that I otherwise would never have seen if I’d been stuck on the main roads, grumbling and fretting about being late.

If you’re pregnant and planning to birth in hospital, and you need to travel any distance to get there – then get the person who will be driving you to get the hospital programmed in as a favourite asap. When the time comes, you will get there in the quickest time possible and you’ll be able to update the hospital to your eta pretty accurately. Even if you think you know the way – use this app, in case something happens on the roads ahead of you while you’re en route.

 

The slight downside for my personal transport arrangements (BMW) is that the app does not sync to the car’s communication system completely, so there’s an extra step to adjust the settings in order to hear the Waze instructions and still be able to receive a call through the car if I need to while I’m driving to a client. Also you do need phone signal and data of course.

 

This recommendation is brought to you by my own discovery and useage over many months. Apologies if I’m preaching to the converted, but maybe there’s someone out there who doesn’t know about it yet!

 

I have not been asked to recommend this app, nor have I been paid to do so.

A picture of the Holmes Chapel viaduct taken from the field, with a grey brooding sky and bare shrubs in the foreground.
The Viaduct at Holmes Chapel – one of the landmarks I love to drive past on my WAZE journeys. Photocredit me

The Story of my bag

Doulas have bags, maybe not all of us, but all the ones I know, and they’re obviously the best kind!  Rather like Mary Poppins’ bag they are full of magic and tricks. Really they are just a grab bag full of simple caring things that can help the doula support a mum through labour and some self care items for the doula too.

It’s taken me a long time to find the right bag – I’m not sure I have yet, because the current incumbent has not been tested, but since my birthday this year (September), I have had this beauty.

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It’s from Wyatt & Jack –I’ve lusted after one for ages, and on top of that it’s made out of the bouncy castle Stone Henge “Sacrilege” that did the rounds in 2012 and I bounced on for my birthday that year – it’s flipping awesome and a limited edition. It’s also a really good size, waterproof, and strong. Check them out if you haven’t already!

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Such a bonkers thing and great to have had a go on it. It’s really cool that Wyatt & Jack have got hold of it now that it’s been decommissioned and that all that stuff isn’t going in to landfill, and I get to own a little bit of it!

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This is me and my daughter bouncing! It really was fun – I’m not laughing mercilessly at my daughter falling over!

Right so what’s in the bag?

I’m trying to keep my doula business waste-free. Hospitals or midwife attendants at home births generate enough waste  – understandably and hard to reduce because of sterility requirements and so on, I don’t want to add to that if I can help it though.

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From top left

  • Paleo bars from Aldi – high energy, high protein. Just two of these got me through an overnight birth not long ago, they might not be the only snack of choice for the future but they’re pretty good – apart from the individual plastic wrappings, will work on that one…
  • Box of tissues – for me or for my client – plastic free packaging from Greencane UK
  • A crocheted purple boob – more of a good luck charm than a need for a birth bag!
  • Empty spray bottle – has the potential to be filled with a water/essential oil mix for misting over a hot face or making a room smell nicer
  • Battery powered tea lights – not entirely waste free, the little batteries are not rechargeable, but naked flames are not considered good form in a hospital room, home births are a different kettle of fish all together though.
  • Essential oils – the one pictured is Clary Sage, but I might have any number of oils based on the scent preferences of my client. I’m not an aromatherapist, and am careful with the oils I offer and use them very sparingly after discussion with the client – it’s more about relaxation and comfort than any sort of properties at this stage in my doula development.
  • A coin purse – parking and vending machines – for me and/or my client.
  • A toiletries bag for me – contains toothbrush etc, deodorant, clean pants and washable pads,
  • A couple of wet bags for taking home any wet cloths
  • Warm non-slip socks – for me – I haven’t used them yet, but I hate having cold feet and I don’t like to wear heavy shoes while supporting a labouring person, so they are there just in case.
  • A washed bandana – one of the things that can be rinsed in cool water and tied on to a hot neck, or head. If the woman isn’t enjoying being touched during labour, this is a good hands off way to help her stay cool.
  • Another wash bag – with potentially useful things for Mum in – all new things, given to Mum if she needs to use them – hair ties, head bands, a comb that sort of thing.
  • A pile of new flannels – for coolness or warmth – depending on what the client needs. (Essential oils can be added to these too) These are all new with their labels, I do take them home after to wash and sanitise them, but then they get added to my home stock, rather than back in the doula bag. These I think were from Wilkos and are about 50p each.
  • all of that is sitting on a large woolly shawl thing, for me to snuggle under for naps, or for keeping Mum warm and cosy if she’s feeling a bit shivery.
  • Not pictured because I’ve taken it out, is my yoga eye mask – the heavy wheat filled ones. I have offered it to women who go in to the Midwife Assessment Unit (MAU) for any length of time, because it’s totally dark, and the weight can bring a much needed prompt to relax. I have also used it for me, when trying to catch 40 winks in a family room, while a client was in theatre for an unplanned caesarean. I’m hoping to make individual ones for future clients, so I don’t have to worry too much about washing my own one (although of course I will)

Things are added and removed according to an individual client’s preferences, needs and circumstances, but this is it at the moment, and I’m loving the bag itself. Bring on the next birth!

Waste free baby showers

I’ve been to a few baby showers now, and they seem to all have some things in common:

1 – A wonderful outpouring of love and support for the pregnant person and the new human they’re growing in their belly.

2 – So much stuff. Mostly in the form of presents for the baby – clothes mainly, and while it cannot be denied how exciting it is looking at, choosing and buying new baby clothes, they really don’t wear more than sleepsuits and vests for the first 12 weeks, apart from the occasional “outfit” for an outing or something, and you really can have too many blankets. Then the stuff is wrapped in more stuff, which can just end up in the bin.

3 – A lack of presents, in my opinion, specifically for the pregnant person, to honour them and support them in their transition to a new state of being.

4 – Cake

As well as these general thoughts, I’ve been thinking about Zero Waste week, which was the first week in September. I’ve finished thinking now, so here’s what my brain’s come up with for some alternative/waste free gifts for a Baby Shower.

1 – A Doula – well Gift vouchers for one anyway. It’s probably not a surprise, that this is top of my list, but really there is published evidence to show that Birth Doulas and Post-natal doulas are quite literally worth their weight in gold, but like gold, can appear to be costly– If you’re in the UK, Doula UK offer a Gift Voucher scheme, and while one person might not be able to fund a whole doula, many people can fund a small part of one – a few £20 gifts soon add up and even if a top up is required, a baby shower contribution can still represent a significant saving.

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gratuitous picture of me – with my own label

2 – Pay it Forward – Consider Donating some money to The Doula UK Access Fund on behalf of your friend. Like donating to charity instead of gifts at a wedding. The Access Fund aims to provide doulas to women who really have no way of paying for one themselves but would really benefit; refugees and other displaced people, survivors of trauma, and so on. Of course a charity close to the heart of the pregnant person would also be a suitable recipient of a Baby Shower collection.

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3 – A clean bundle of pre-loved baby clothes –  if you’ve had your own babies you’ll know that the clothes from the first 12 months of a baby’s life (and beyond really) just never wear out, they are not worn often enough. If you’re related to the pregnant person, you may even have some that might be considerwhite and blue textilesed family heirlooms – There are 2 sleep suits that have done the rounds of all of my children and my niece and nephew – I think they might have been passed on outside of the family now, but as well as reducing the impact on the planet, there is a lovely spiritual connection between all of the babies who have worn the same clothes, they are received with a “ooo it’s our turn”. If you don’t have your own children’s clothes to pass on – the NCT run really good nearly new baby sales, you’d be able to pick up some excellent quality items, not just clothes, from there. Try and pick gender neutral colours so that they can get passed on for every baby not just 50% of them.

4 – A meal rota.
brown fish fillet on white ceramic plateIt’s not a secret that the first 12 weeks of a baby’s life, require levels of stamina and often sleep deprivation never experienced before, together with recovering from labour and birth itself, and maybe also caring for other young children at the same time. It’s really important that the new parents are well nourished, and hydrated, at a time when they probably feel the least motivated to do so. You don’t have to offer to move in and cook all the family’s meals, but you could co-ordinate amongst your friends a meal rota, there are even websites like https://takethemameal.com/ that help you to do that easily. Maybe you can get the baby shower attendees to sign up to help while they’re supping prosecco or eating the cakes! Nothing like making the most of a captive audience.

5 – On the food theme – a supermarket delivery saver account – maybe for a year, would I think, be well received, The ability to get food ordered and then delivered, whenever it suits, rather than schlepping around the shop with a new born will save the new baby grower lots of stress.

6 – Washable nappies and a soaking bucket– this will need some co-ordination with the pregnant person, because if they’re not planning to use them it’s a wasteful gift in more ways than one. There’s no doubt that disposable nappies are an environmental nightmare and washable nappies are a more environmentally friendly alternative, but they can be expensive to purchase in the first instance. A gift of one or two or however many you can afford, will go a long way towards setting up this new family’s stock, that will last them for many years, used for later babies if that’s how their families develop or indeed be passed on. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

7 – A stretchy wrap

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this is a ring sling actually – but a similar concept

this sounds like a new thing right? To add to the stuff that we’re trying to reduce. Well yes, but in my opinion of all the stuff that’s thrust on new families, a stretchy wrap has the potential to be the most useful. In those first few weeks babies need to be carried, a LOT, a wrap can help with that, helps to keep baby feel safe and warm and frees up the parents to do other things at the same time, if that’s their bag, saving backs and arms – you might be surprised how heavy a 7lb baby feels when you’ve been holding and nursing it all day. Wearing your baby is one of the very best bonding activities you can do, and the non-birthing partner can join in too. In answer to the new stuff thing well Little Possums have a pre-loved department at very reasonable prices, and as it happens very useful information about wraps and how to use them.[1] Also Congleton Sling Library – meet all over Cheshire and can talk you through options and suppliers if you need some face to face advice. If it was a toss up between the pram that does all the things and the wrap – I’d go for the wrap, every time.

8 – A paediatric First Aid Course – this might be a useful gift for grandparents as well. The Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance provide courses specifically aimed at parents at very reasonable prices. No-one wants to think about needing to perform brown and white bear plush toyCPR on their baby, but if the need arose, wouldn’t it be great if they had the skills to jump in to action. another gift that will keep on giving – the information will last a lifetime

9 – Books – pre-loved ones of course. This might sound a bit “cheap” but like the pre-loved baby clothes, passing on a much loved children’s book is a touching and personal gift, and In this case, if your own copy is too battered or too loved to part with, a new purchase will surely be an exception to the waste free rule, if you and your family loved reading it, you can be sure the new family will too.
photo of man and child reading book during daytime

10 – A book of promises – this is just limited by your imagination and motivation to support the new family – but it could be “I promise never to offer unsolicited advice” “I promise never to speak negatively about birth or post-natal bodies to you” “I promise to be cook you a meal” and so on.

 

That’s my almost waste free starter for 10  – can you think of any others? and if you’re inspired to gift any of these things at a baby shower you go to, please let me know  how they were received.

[1] Lots and lots of other websites and Youtube info for local support on wraps – you could ask a local doula for links to your local support services.