Birth Confidence Summit

Do you have an urge to listen to BigBirthas.co.uk founder Amber Marshall talk about high BMI birth for 50 minutes? Surely you’re keen to marvel at how much I waggle my hands around when I talk (because it’s a LOT)!? Well, I’m pleased to tell you your wait is over! I recently took part in a free online Birth Confidence Summit, organised by Birth Confidence Mentor and founder of BirthEssence.co.uk Charlotte Kanyi.

Screenshot of Amber Marshall - founder of BigBirthas talking to Charlotte Kanyi of BirthEssence at the Birth Confidence Summit
Amber Marshall – founder of BigBirthas – talking to Charlotte Kanyi of BirthEssence

Charlotte has interviewed 27 ‘experts’ (her title, not mine) over Skype about many different aspects of birth. Talk titles include Healing from a traumatic birth, Exploring Induction Choices, Dropping the Nice Girl Conditioning – Make Birth Better (which links with) Visibility, Birth and freeing yourself from the Good Girl Archetype, Hypnobirthing for Confidence and more.

It’s a great idea and you can access all the talks for the bargain price of free!

I talk about why I set up the site, research, the difference between absolute and relative risk, looking positively at pregnancy vs the self-fulfilling prophecy, the media, blaming and scapegoating, and a bit about my two pregnancies and births and how I felt about them.

TL:DR?

In my interview I discuss how our bodies are designed for making and birthing babies. That we’re no longer in the minority and therefore shouldn’t be treated as ‘exceptional’ or ‘problematic’, in fact, we should have the same options as anyone else! Yes, carers should monitor the risks and act accordingly, but until something negative arises (and odds are it won’t) we should stay positive! Do your research and don’t expect your doctor to know everything about your personal circumstances and what is best for you. You decide, and you can use the BRAIN acronym to help you ask the right questions.

The Birth Confidence Summit Speakers

It’s a formidable line-up! There are some great speakers here:

Charlotte Kanyi, Confidence Mentor at BirthEssence

Natalie Meddings, Author, doula and birth yoga teacher

Debs Neiger, Independent midwife at Yorkshire Storks

Rebecca Schiller, Writer, Doula and Co Founder of BirthRights Charity

Alexia Leachman, Therapeutic Coach and Host of the award winning Fear Free ChildBirth Podcast

Kemi Johnson, Independent midwife,  KG Hypnobirthing Teacher and Positive Birth Movement Facilitator

Liz Stanford, Owner of the Calm Birth School of hypnobirthing

Clare Ford, Birth Coach and Master Reiki Healer at Beautiful Souls

Mandy Rees,   Pregnancy and Postnatal Yoga Teacher

Mars Lord, Award winning Doula, Doula Trainer at Abuela Doulas and Birth Activist

Phoebe Pallotti, Practicing Midwife and Associate Professor of Midwifery

Dr. Amali Lokugamage, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and Author

Samantha Nolan-Smith, Writer, Feminist and Founder and CEO of The School of Visibility

Simone Surgeoner, Mother of four and Journey Practitioner

Jo Bolden, Mother of one and Co founder and professional dancer at One Dance Epic

Emma Svanberg, Clinical Psychologist specialising in pregnancy birth and parenting

Dr. Rebecca Moore, Clinical Psychotherapist in Birth Trauma

Naraya Naserian, Mother of two and Journey Practitioner

Zoe Challenor, Professional Singer and Co Founder of B’Opera and Mother of Two

Lorna Phillip, ​Doula and Mizan Therapist at Birmingham Doula

Jennie Harrison, Energy Healer, Mindset Coach and Birth Trauma Specialist

Joy Horner, Independent Midwife, and facilitator of Positive Birth Movement Group

Kati Edwards, KG Hypnobirthing instructor and Doula at Birth You in Love

Nicola Goodall, Author, Founder of Red Tent Doulas and director of Wysewoman Workshops

Maddie McMahon, Breast Feeding Counsellor, Doula and Doula Trainer at Developing Doulas

Rachel Elizabeth, Mother of four and Doula at Creative Birth

Take a look and big thanks to Charlotte for organising and facilitating!

Birth Story – Twin Home Birth at 42+2

I love a good birth story. And a twin home birth story? Double the fun!

I read this one recently on Chilled Mama, and knew I wanted to share it with you. It’s not a plus-size birth story, but I do think there are some relevant messages about it being the woman who does the allowing, and about how important it is to get the right support. So thank you to Cathy from Chilled Mama, and Laura for sharing this story.

Twin home birth - Caitlyn and Evelyn
Caitlyn and Evelyn

I’ll let Cathy from Chilled Mama take over from here:

Many women are told ‘you’re not allowed to …’. Not allowed to have a home birth with twins. No water birth with twins. Not allowed to have a home birth after 42 weeks.

This birth story comes from Laura, who knows it is women who do the allowing. Supported by AIMS and local consultant midwife, to have a positive home birth previously, finding herself pregnant with twins, she knew she was the one making the decisions about their birth. Her body. Her baby.

Here’s her twin home birth story:

Upon finding out out at the 12 week scan we were expecting twins ( 2 sacs, 2 placentas) I was told ( yes told!) at the time I would be attending the twin clinic at the hospital from now on for all checks etc. This immediately set me on edge. I hate hospitals; many bad experiences including the birth of our first left me traumatised even more. When I fell pregnant with our second I went through AIMS and was put in touch with the consultant midwife, previously known as supervisor of midwives, who came out to the house to talk through everything that happened first time and put me at ease about planning a home birth. Having our little lady at home went perfectly and was so cathartic for me restoring my faith in my ability to birth. 

With twins I knew a home birth would go against the grain so back to this wonder lady I went explaining I didn’t want to have my antenatal checks at the hospital, I wanted to stay with the community team and treat this twin pregnancy as a normal pregnancy until such times as we had evidence to suggest otherwise. This was arranged and we followed the normal schedule of antenatal checks. We had the anomaly scan as normal at 20 weeks showing everything was as it should be so for the time being I declined further scans as babies now just needed to chub up. 

Roll on to November we started to prep for the home birth. We discussed how early we were prepared to stay at home, for the midwives it was 37 weeks, for me I was happy at 36 but I also knew my history was long gestations so I just had to hope we’d make it to 37… we did! Everything in place, pool up, equipment here, team on call, we were all ready to go. That was 19 Dec! 

So we waited and still no babies and carried out the normal antenatal checks at the community clinic once a week, everything always as it should be so no concerns. I was always worried how I’d cope over Christmas and new year with our older two with nursery and play groups etc being off and it was definitely hard with them in the house so much. Hubby was due back to work on 1 Jan so in the absence of babies off he went not wanting to waste his leave. Getting to 40 weeks was quite surprising but again every check showed happy babies and my health remained stable. 

At 40 weeks I did start going down to the hospital to see the consultant midwife and each time we would do a trace of the babies, check BP etc everything always perfect. At 40+3 we did a scan to check fluid levels and placental flow. We also tried a sweep in the hopes of moving them along, generally I would always decline a sweep and have in the past but felt I wanted to try something. We followed this pattern checking on the babies on a Tuesday and Friday each time to check we were safe to wait a few more days. 42 weeks came… and went!!!

At 42+1 (Wednesday) the dream team midwives were coming to the house to check on the babies and discuss next steps… one had a weekend away booked, the other had commitments on the Friday and Saturday so while medically there was no reason to do anything, should the babies not be here by the Thursday night the midwives who would come would not be those I had been working with and trusted which did make me nervous. As it was in the 10 mins before the midwives arrived I thought I had had 2 contractions… one midwife had been awake 36 hours at this stage attending the birth of her grand child so she ran off home to bed. 

Contractions didn’t come to much while seeing to our older two, by 9.30pm they were starting up again so I tried to go to bed and rest. By 11 ish I had to get up, I had a feeling the pool needed started and things organised. At 12 I messaged our doula to say no rush yet but head over, I had the pool filling and the bath so I could get some relief while waiting for the pool. Not long after this I also messaged the consultant midwife feeling terrible that she wouldn’t have had much sleep but knew I couldn’t leave it any longer.

Our doula arrived about 12.30 and just quietly sat with me in the bath as things picked up. After maybe 20 mins I asked her to call the midwife just to make sure the team were on the way, unknown to me they had snuck past the bathroom door and were getting organised. Around 1 I got into the pool at last and got the gas and air going, which felt so much better. That was me in place, I could get my earphones in and my hypnobirthing CD on and go away. 

The sensations had familiarity this time and I could feel as the first baby came through my cervix and felt able to pull back and let it come slowly. Baby crowned relatively easily and again I felt able to hold and breathe while she turned. One final surge and there she was… at 01.35 such an incredibly tiny baby! I don’t think I’ll ever forget or forgive the midwife’s next statement… “Don’t tell me we have undiagnosed triplets!!!” 

One thing was for sure though, this was no overdue baby! Immediately I was so glad I’d stuck to my guns and declined induction, this wee one looked like she needed a few more weeks in the oven. 

As it was we got very little time to dwell as contractions started up again within about 4/5 minutes, seemed like no time at all. I tried to leave baby with her cord and bless them the midwives tried to hold her to me as the contractions were full on straight away but I just couldn’t cope with her there, I was worried I was going to squash or drop her. Quickly we got her cord cut and she went off for cuddles with daddy. 

I could feel the midwife trying to feel for twin 2 position, we knew it had been head down but also that it now had a lot of space to play. As it was the contractions were just coming too fast and I heard her say we’ll just need to be surprised. Again I could feel baby coming down and again tried to hold back and let it come slowly. At 02.10 we had another little lady… who behaved impeccably and stayed head down, born in her caul no one even realised she was out until I sat back and got her out the water. Obviously much bigger than her twin, she was the carbon copy of her older brother and sister, daddy has genes of steel! Again with little time to dwell contractions came back with a vengeance for the placentas.

Again I tried to hold on to baby but these were massive surges that took all my focus and again we had to cut her cord tho I think she got about 5 minutes with it. I always said I wouldn’t want a managed third stage but I did feel after maybe 10/15 mins that I was just so wiped I just wanted it done. Asking the midwife for the injection she was a bit taken back knowing I hate needles but got it sorted quickly and thankfully it was over. I have honestly never felt so depleted I couldn’t even open my eyes.

Soon after the midwife started to get a bit anxious saying she could smell the iron in the room and was concerned over blood loss and wanted me out the pool so I made it out and set up camp on the sofa. At this stage I think I downed two bottles of Lucozade in an attempt to get myself back up. The after pains were also horrific and I was sucking on the gas and air as much as I had done through their births. However after a while I really wanted a bath and the lead midwife started to look like she was hitting a wall she must have been so tired now part of me was keen to show her I was okay to give her the peace of mind to be able to go home. Sadly this is where I’d went a bit haywire….

I got up and made it through to the bathroom but was starting to feel faint so sat down in the toilet seat thinking I’ll be fine in a minute. Sadly I wasn’t, my blood pressure dropped dramatically and I blacked out… the next thing I knew I was aware of a phone call for an ambulance and they were getting me on to the floor to stabilise me.

By the time the paramedics arrived and they exchanged the information needed I was feeling a bit better again, I think lying on the cold floor actually helped me. So much so the midwives were actually saying they didn’t think it was a medical event, more a lack of sleep, not eaten and yes a little more blood loss than ideal but I had stopped actively bleeding so she said if I wanted to stay at home she was happy for me to do so as long as I could make it up to pee as my bladder was really full. However as soon as I tried to get up again I could feel how weak I was and even though I hate hospitals, even I said I think I should go in. So off we went…. two babies, daddy, 3 midwives and our doula.. we were quite the cavalcade!

Thankfully in the end all they really had to do was feed me and give me some stronger pain killers. They checked my iron levels which had dropped 3 points so they said to start taking the iron tablets again but otherwise I’d be fine with time and chance. Again the consultant midwife had made sure I was looked after and had a room to myself and all the midwives on the ward had been asked to leave me alone unless I called to give me a chance to rest. By mid afternoon I felt strong enough to make it home so it wasn’t too bad in the end. It was more of a visit to hospital rather than delivering there which I would have struggled to cope with. 

So that’s how it came to pass that we had our twins delivered at home at 42 weeks and 2 days. I’m forever indebted to the consultant midwife who could not have done more to support me and orchestrate everything to make sure my wishes were carried out right to the last. And all from a supposedly failing NHS…. it just goes to show what patient centred, evidence based care can achieve. 

Laura, Caitlyn and Evelyn

I’m in complete agreement with Cathy here. I love this story because it shows what is possible. You have to ask for it. You may have to talk to the right people. But it is possible. It also shows the value of patient centred evidence based care, as Laura says.

If you have a birth story you’d like to share with the Big Birthas audience, we’d love to hear it! You can contact Big Birtha here.

Help us with our research!!

Exciting news! For a few months now, I’ve been working with an organisation called Parenting Science Gang – we are a group of mums (there may be a few dads, but it’s mostly mums) doing research into what interests us – and we’ve got a special Big Birthas Parenting Science Gang Group.

We’ve discussed what research we’d like to see, researched what science and data is already out there, and we’ve interviewed other scientists to get their views on what we should research and how to go about it, and now we’re finally ready, have received ethics approval, have volunteers ready to send out, receive, and analyse questionnaires – all we need are a few individuals who fit the criteria we’ve set to answer our email questions!

Could you help us?

We need people who:

  • are over 18
  • have had 2 or more pregnancies where their BMI was over 29
  • whose youngest child is under 3
  • whose births took place in the UK
  • are happy to be interviewed by email about their experiences

If you can say yes to all three, please follow this link for more information and sign up here to be interviewed –

http://parentingsciencegang.org.uk/experiments/big-birthas-research/

your thoughts could really make a difference!

Shoulder dystocia page now online!

Shoulder dystocia is a popular reason given for restricting the choices in how and where we give birth as bigger women.

But is this fair?

The potential consequences aren’t great, and as bigger mums we’re told that we have a 3 or 4 times greater risk. But a look at the evidence, as usual, is not that clear cut.

More information here.