Thursday, 28 March 2013

My Body, My Birth Badge, My Choice

I came across this image in my Facebook feed today. Take a moment to read its message...

That's a tall order for me currently.

I've always been dumpy to a degree, even back in primary school. I'm now a size 18 and not in great physical shape. At just under eight weeks postpartum I am out of maternity clothes and back into my jeans, which I am pleased about, but it's hardly the size and shape I want to be.

I've never had a huge amount of confidence in my appearance and to a degree have chosen to ignore my extra pounds, wearing baggy clothes and using a vast amount of boisterous character to distract. I guess it works more or less, but I certainly feel as though I'm the token tubber in my circle of friends.

Part of that lack of confidence can probably be attributed to my mother, who has always struggled with weight and has been on one diet or another for my entire life. It's worth noting that she recently found the diet that worked for her and has lost over four stone. It's also worth noting that having lost that weight she's been commenting on mine in her own inimitable style, for example she was concerned that I was actually putting on weight in pregnancy. There have been a few other unhelpful comments, none of them intended to hurt but still slightly infuriating.

I really don't want to pass that lack of confidence down another generation to Baby Badger (or Badger Cub for that matter, because image is also so important to boys nowadays), so it looks as though I need to give myself a virtual kick up the backside.

My Body. I have no one to blame but myself, but that also means that no one other than me is standing in my way.

My Birth Badge. I was talking to Father Badger earlier this evening about my stretch marks. I actually don't mind them: I've never been one for bikinis, so he and the little Badgers are the only ones likely to see them. I see them as a birth badge of honour, which is a good thing really - I really was huge by the time Badger Cub came out and the pattern on my tummy looks like a good bowl of spaghetti! I would however like them to be sitting on a tummy that was a bit less wobbly.

My Choice. It's up to me, entirely my choice, my decision, to get off my backside and do something about this. And it's time to do it.


Thursday, 21 March 2013

Your Body, Your Birth, Your Choice

Do you watch One Born Every Minute or Call The Midwife? ITV are showing Home Delivery at 9 o'clock tonight, a documentary following an independent midwife in Kent.

You may not know that this October the government is bringing in legislative changes that are going to prevent independent midwives from practising, meaning that childbirth will be one of the few areas of healthcare where you will have no choices. Independent midwives have a huge amount of knowledge around childbirth that our NHS maternity units are generally lacking, and this knowledge and experience will be lost to us.

Independent Midwifery is widely recognised as the gold standard against which the NHS cannot compete (no doubt because of cost and staffing levels). The solution should not be to remove that gold standard so what remains becomes the norm.

There are a number of ways you can show your support:

Sign this petition urging the government to find a workable and affordable way for independent midwives to obtain the compulsary insurance and continue to practise

Join midwives, mums and other supporters in a peaceful protest in London on Monday 25th March, details on the Facebook ChooseYourMidwife page.

Most importantly, spread the word. Don't let our choices be quietly taken away from us.

Sunday, 17 March 2013


When I was young, perhaps three or four years old, my grandad died of a heart attack. I don't remember much about it other than suddenly spending a lot of time at my grandma's house. I now know that it was because my Mum had to sort out everything for my grandma - everything had been in his name and she hadn't a clue what to do, obviously compounded by the grief over his sudden death. Once everything had been sorted, the funeral done, she moved from their home in Essex to a cottage in Oxfordshire, in the village where I lived with my parents.

Soon after that I started primary school and my Mum retrained as a teacher. My grandma collected me from school every day and looked after me until my Mum got home (my Dad was often working abroad and then later did shift work). She became almost a second mother, in my life on almost a daily basis, always around to talk to, never judgmental, always proud of me.

A few years ago we realised she was becoming more forgetful and it was confirmed that she was showing the early stages of dementia. Conversations became repeated, and she became less interested in making decisions for herself, but the essence of who she was, her sense of humour and her kindness, remained. From what I know of the disease, we were very fortunate - many sufferers become disoriented and confused, sometimes even violent. We kept her in her own home for as long as we could but a couple of years ago, shortly after her ninetieth birthday, we moved her into a residential home for her own safety - it's impossible to teach someone with no short term memory how to cope with new situations around their own increasing physical frailty.

We celebrated her 92nd birthday a few weeks ago. She enjoyed having lunch out with us, and met Badger Cub. I noticed that she wasn't engaging in conversation as much as previously but still seemed happy.

I had a call from my parents this morning. They had been called to the residential home at 3am. Grandma was having difficulty breathing. My parents were at her side, talking to her. Her breathing became more laboured, but she continued to acknowledge them and the staff, smiling. She slipped away peacefully at 6am.

I am grateful that she died in her own bed. I am grateful that she died peacefully, without pain. I am grateful that she believed, even though I do not, that she was passing to a better place and would have comfort from it. I am grateful that she died with her daughter at her side, and more importantly that dementia had not taken away her ability to recognise her daughter. I am truly grateful that her body failed, gracefully, before her mind did.

Goodbye Grandma. I love you very much and will miss you.

Image: Graeme Weatherston /

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Birth Story Take Two

Badger Cub is five weeks old today, so it's about time I wrote about the birth. It's going to be a long read: it's important that you know the background. The pregnancy has not been straightforward; not because there was anything wrong with me but because I didn't fit into standard pathways from the point of view of the NHS.

Baby Badger came out rather quickly - a three hour labour with us only just making it to the hospital before I started pushing. Understandably this made me rather nervous second time around and I was hoping, given that the labour was otherwise very straightforward, for a home birth. This was scuppered when I failed my glucose tolerance test and was referred to the diabetes clinic, which meant the NHS no longer considered me a good candidate for home birth.

There then followed a number of frustrating hospital appointments where the consultant repeated that she couldn't support a home birth and I repeated that it was all very well but I was unlikely to make it to hospital so her position wasn't helpful. After a referral to the consultant midwife and a long discussion, they eventually allowed my community midwife to help me plan a home birth as plan B for if labour looked to be progressing fast.

I finally felt as though things had taken a turn for the better, but at 36 weeks it was confirmed that Badger Cub was breech - this is where the baby is head up, presenting their bottom as the part to come into the world first. The consultant told me I would of course be booked for a cesarean section at 37 weeks. It felt as though my world had ended.

I got in touch with a lovely local independent midwife for advice. She pointed me at various sources of information around breech birth and reassured me that breech was just a variation of normal. I did my research and came to the conclusion that cesarean was far from the inevitable outcome. Breech birth has become a rarity in hospitals, and the NHS default recommendation is cesarean section. This means that the skills are being lost in hospitals, but community and independent midwives continue to see some, mainly because they are not diagnosed until labour begins.

I attended two ECV clinics, where they attempted through manipulation to turn Badger Cub. They failed. My consultant begrudgingly agreed that I was making an informed choice to birth vaginally and the cesarean was booked for just before 42 weeks - the race was on.

At 40 weeks and one day I woke up with mild contractions, as I had been doing for weeks. Father Badger and Baby Badger joined me for breakfast and I ate my toast and tea (for which I was later very glad). I realised that I was having to lean over the table to get through each contraction so we called my parents to say that they would probably be needed that day. I sent Father Badger upstairs to shower and dress, and when I stood up a few minutes later my waters broke! Father Badger persuaded me to call the midwives, we summoned my father to collect Baby Badger and I headed for the shower.

While in the shower I had three more contractions, so things were progressing fast! Two midwives arrived moments later - I had been on their red alert board for a few weeks due to the expected fast breech labour - and I headed to the kitchen where I was planning to labour. I continued to progress on all fours (the best position for breech) and one of the midwives confirmed I was already eight centimetres dilated. The ambulance they had called had arrived and Father Badger was busy making them tea when the midwife suggested I transfer to hospital in case of complications. I trusted her judgment and agreed.

I was bundled onto the trolley on my side with my TENS machine and a sheet draped over me to retain some modesty (a neighbour described me as a tent on wheels as I headed out to the ambulance). I was also told to use the gas and air to stop me from pushing, so the remainder of the birth is a little foggy: Father Badger filled in the blanks for me!

Both midwives got in the back of the ambulance with one paramedic, while Father Badger travelled in the front with the other - this turned out to be a good thing as the ambulance had come from a different county and had only been to the hospital once! The student midwife who had been caseloading me had just arrived so she followed in her car.

The journey must have been 20-30 minutes. I puffed away on the gas and tried my utmost to breath through the contractions, managing until we were almost at the hospital when I yelled that I couldn't stop myself for much longer. Apparently the paramedics were discussing which entrance was closest to the birth suite, and whether they should reverse up to the doors - everyone was aware how close I was to giving birth.

I was wheeled in to one of the delivery rooms and asked to move onto the bed. I did so and got onto all fours, but I was shortly asked to stand on the floor and lean over the bed. I had made it clear in my notes that students were welcome - breech birth is so rarely seen in hospitals and I wanted as many people as possible to learn from the experience. The room was packed - Father Badger counted no fewer than 12 people! A registrar was sat behind me for the delivery with several students, some newly qualified midwives, my student and the two community midwives. I'm not entirely sure who the others were but they asked the paramedics to leave as there wasn't enough room for them!

I was relieved to hear the consultant arrive - not the one who I had been under the care of, but the one that had performed my second ECV attempt and had been fully supportive of my wish for breech birth. He supervised the registrar, ensuring he kept hands off (essential for breech birth), and I pushed. Having watched many breech birth videos and read about how it works, it was a bizarre experience. I felt the bottom emerge. I felt the first leg come down, then felt a bit of assistance from the registrar to bring the second leg down. Badger Cub apparently then sent an arc of wee across everyone watching before wriggling himself round ready to bring his head out! The registrar supported the body and popped a finger into his mouth to bring his chin to his chest and he was born. Badger Cub was a little bit flat but my wish for delayed cord clamping was respected and he was passed through my legs to be where I cuddled and rubbed him until he picked up, no assistance required.

That's it folks! No doubt I'll write further about breech birth, as it's definitely an interest of mine now. Something to look forward to, huh?


Saturday, 2 March 2013

Another Badger has arrived!

As you may have worked out from my recent Silent Sunday posts, Badger Cub has arrived! He has been keeping me busy, mainly as a boob appendage as he's an enthusiastic feeder. Obviously, there will be a birth story to follow, just as soon as I get both hands free for the keyboard for longer than five minutes!

Baby Badger has reacted amazingly well. She spent the night with my parents on the day that Badger Cub was born, coming home the following morning with grandma and grandad. She clocked him on Father Badger's knee while I gave her a hug and kiss (we made sure I was free to see her), but decided not to go over and instead spent a couple of hours playing on the other side of the room. Once that initial period was over she came for a peek and since has been excited but gentle, wanting to hug and kiss him but without flattening the poor thing!

She has, however, been playing up a little with us. Dinner time and bedtime have been slightly fraught, and taking longer each day as she pushes boundaries, but over the last few days things have taken a turn for the better. I'm guessing it's nothing unexpected - her life has been radically altered. I keep reminding myself of this and hope that I have the patience on reduced "I've got a newborn" sleep to get through the next month!

Image: Jonathan Fitch /
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