And A Baby Was Born!

Our single mother nativity scene

Our single mother nativity scene (we can’t find Joseph)

This year as we were decorating  the house for Christmas and singing very loudly (and badly) to The Pogues ‘Fairy Tale of New York’, I set up our little wooden nativity scene.  Now we’re not a religious family (ahem) but I have told my girls about the birth of Jesus minus the virgin bit – far too complicated.  But as I am a little obsessed with all things birth, I felt it was important to talk about one of the most famous births in history.  And a BBA too!  This term stands for Born Before Arrival (of the midwife) and I have to say I praise Mary for being a woman and just getting on with he job in hand despite the circumstances.  In a cold stable, with various cattle watching on and not an midwife in sight.  Joseph stood by and watched his very young wife give birth all by herself.  I often wonder, who was really supporting and looking after that young girl?

There is a joke about what would have happened if three wise women had shown up at Jesus’ birth instead of three wise men.  It goes, “Three wise women would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts.”  I wonder if perhaps a wise woman did attend that young mother in the stable. I always hoped that Mary had someone around who could support her, dry off her baby, help her get started breastfeeding, keep an eye on her bleeding—these are the same things I wish for all women, but unfortunately many lack this very basic care.

If the image of a birth in a stable captures your imagination the way it captures mine, I ask you to think about the conditions and circumstances surrounding birth around the world today.  As a midwife, working in a affluent area of South East London, it is easy for me to forget about the deprivation and poverty that babies are born into every day.  Whatever your personal beliefs, I know that we all wish for safe births attended by loving and supportive midwives.  I know we wish for all children to be educated, valued, fed and loved.  I know we all wish for peace on earth and goodwill for humankind.

Thank you to all of you who read Gas and Air, and I wish you a very merry Christmas.

The Power of Intervention


My Induction


As I have previously written about in this blog, my second daughter’s birth ended up being an induction due to Obstetric Choleostasis.  I had planned a water birth at home but ended up at 38/40 being induced.  I was fully informed of the risks OC carries (mainly the small increased risk of stillbirth) and consented to having a medical induction of labour.  It was not an easy decision to make, I knew induction also carried many risks and I was concerned about the ‘intervention’ factor.  I did achieve however a water birth, which was against medical advice as the hospital guidelines recommend that labour is continuously monitored using a CTG machine.  This decision again was made entirely with informed consent, discussed with my midwife and Consultant and documented in my notes.

So it came with such shock when I read this article in the Observer on Sunday about a woman who successfully proved that the hospital which she gave birth ‘finally admitted to bullying her into taking precautionary antibiotics she didn’t want or need. They had threatened that social services would be called to take away her child after the birth’.

Horrific.  Can you imagine being in that situation, when you’re in pain, feeling vulnerable, emotions are high and a Consultant throws the social services card at you.  I have to say they have been times as a midwife supporting a women in labour, when a doctor has unnecessarily ‘convinced’ the women to do something she doesn’t want.  It’s not always a power trip in my opinion,  but more of a way they cover their own backs.  I have been in quite heated situations with doctors and always act as an advocate for women if I feel they are not being listened to.

I hope as I continue in my new role as a caseloading midwife, situations like this will be rare but if they do arise I will support my women’s choices, what ever they chose for their birth.

Did you ever experience a similar situation?  Did you ever feel bullied or not listened to by any health professionals?

On Call

My 'beloved' pager

My ‘beloved’ pager

I’m week 3 into my new role as a community midwife, and I’m beginning to get the hang of the ‘new’ me.  With a new  job comes lots of new experiences and a bit more paper work than I am use to.  But my new job has come with something I’m still trying to get use to, being on call.  Our on calls start from 5pm until 9am the next morning.

Last week I was on call 3 times.  The first night I took my pager into the bathroom every time I needed a wee, it sat next to me staring at me as I prepared dinner, it even joined me to watch my number 1 programme Girls (I swear it laughed at all the appropriate parts).  But I slept soundly (as did it) and woke feeling refreshed as it hadn’t beeped once.

The second night was the same and by the third night I was feeling rather cocky that these on calls were easy peasy but at 2am it beeped.  I say beep it’s more alarming than that ‘beep beep beep beep beep beep’ and I bolted upright.  My husband woke too and I slowly came round and realised that no it wasn’t the smoke alarm, nor was it the alarm clock telling me it was 7:30, it was my pager.   After hearing the exciting news that a home birth was imminent, I got dressed and quickly jumped in my car and drove to the woman’s home to watch her give birth so peacefully and calmly in the pool.  I was on such a high that I failed to sleep properly that day but my happiness continued as I watched Florence and The Machine belt out Cosmic Love to a audience of 20,000 adoring fans at the 02.  Indeed the whole experience was cosmic.

Me attempting to sleep after a homebirth

Me attempting to sleep after a home birth

I feel it’s too early to say I’m LOVING my job, I can’t believe I’m home by 5pm each day and it’s so great to be able to take the girls to school and nursery.  I think my poor husband is the only one suffering from the new change.  Sharing a bed with me and the pager, I think it’s fair to say there are now three people in our marriage.

Even Princess’s Get Morning Sickness

Even the smell of roses made me vomit

Even the smell of roses made me vomit

Horrah Horrah!  A Royal baby has been conceived by the Duke and Dutches of Cambridge.  Unless you have been living in a cave for the last 2 days, you will all know that Catherine is indeed with child.  But poor old Kate has been admitted with severe morning sickness also known as hyperemesis gravidarum.  For anyone who has suffered with this horrible condition will know just how awful Kate must be feeling.

The severity of the vomiting can cause dehydration, weight loss and a build-up of toxins in the blood or urine called ketosis.  It affects 3.5 per 1,000 pregnant women and can cause women to vomit blood.  Symptoms also include severe nausea, low blood pressure and fast heart rate, headaches, lethargy or confusion.

I suffered with morning sickness (not hyperemesis) which included daily bouts of vomiting up to about 14 weeks of pregnancy.  But the sickness was mainly in the evening and the night which was great when I was working nigh shifts on labour ward.  I mostly lived on plain jacket potatoes with chunks of cucumber on the side.  I could barely open the fridge door and all flowers were banned in the house which is very unlike me.  I’m not really sure anything really cured it but a few things I found helpful.

  1. Haribo Star Mix, don’t ask me why but a packet of these in my bag were a life saver.
  2. Sea-Bands which you wear on your wrist and a small button pushes on a certain acupressure point thought to ease nausea.  The only problem is, if you’re trying not to tell anyone you’re pregnant you’ll have to wear long sleeve tops so not to show the bands.
  3. Chinese Ginger Chews I actually still eat these.
  4. Ginger Snap biscuits
  5. And sleep lots of sleep, I went to bed most nights at 8pm.  Not much fun for my husband but I was terrible company.

What tips helped you avoid praying to the porcelain gods?