Lincoln’s Birth Story

Lincoln's Birth Story

Lincoln's Birth StoryAt 5am on Sat 1st April, six days before my due date, I got up to pee and felt a dull, period pain-like ache.

“Aaron, I think we’re cooking on gas now,” was the first thing that popped in to my head to say as I walked back in to the bedroom.

We’d spent a wild amount of money and time on hypnobirthing classes, and spent the day putting our techniques in to practice. I wanted to be as chilled out as possible before the main event started so I sat on my birthing ball watching Netflix for most of the day while Aaron roughly timed my contractions. I had a bath and listened to my birth affirmations one last time.

At one point we got down to 6 minute gaps, then further apart again, but eventually at about 9pm we phoned the Midwife-Led Unit to let them know we were coming.

I’d had to battle to be allowed to birth in the MLU (that’s a story for another day), so I felt incredibly grateful to be there. About half an hour after we arrived, there was a pop like a champagne cork and my leggings were soaked through.

After my waters broke, the contractions got real. On my first examination, they told me I was only 2cm dilated. “You fucking what?” I said. “Is that all?” There was a long way to go.

The main reason I had fought to use the MLU was for the birthing pools, and as they were both free we went to use one for a bit of pain relief. I floated about in the water for a while, Aaron playing our hypnobirthing tracks on repeat, and the water really did help with the discomfort. At some point, after about an hour, the midwife told she thought it was time to start pushing, so I did. I hadn’t had any pain relief but was in the hypnobirthing zone, it was like an outer body experience. I was completely focused on my body. Aaron said he’s never felt more helpless in his entire life, that the noises I was making weren’t human, but I don’t remember any of that. I pushed for maybe two hours (although to me it felt like no time at all), and if I’d had the Dream Birth I’d have pushed out my perfect little kid then and there. But this was not the Dream Birth.

They wheeled a bed in to the birthing pool suite to examine me and it turned out I was only 4cm dilated, and by that time exhaustion was already starting to take hold, I’d been up since 5am and all those wasted pushes had taken it out of me.

At about 3am, we left the birthing pool room and although the contractions were manageable, the pressure baring down on my pelvis was getting to me, and I asked for gas and air.

At some point, and I have no idea when or why, I asked for or accepted the offer of Pethidine. The only thing I really knew about my birth was that I wasn’t going to take Pethidine, but I did, and I think that’s why I can’t remember shit. (Most of this birth story has been pieced together by things Aaron told me in the days and weeks after the birth.)

The hours of pushing in the pool had started deep, fierce, surging contractions in my body that I couldn’t stop, and yet I was nowhere near ready to birth. To calm the contractions, they transferred me upstairs to Labour Ward for an epidural.

Aaron phoned my Mum at 6am because he was crashing, exhausted, and I think scared shitless. She was with us within an hour, just in time to watch them wrap me in a bedsheet and wheel me through the hospital.

Aaron went to the car for a couple of hours to sleep, regroup, and my mum dressed me in my maternity PJs so I wasn’t completely starkers anymore. Then for the next 12 hours, I just lied in the bed, off my tits, talking nonsense, being fed bites of Rice Krispie cake and sips of orange juice and water, my cervix making glacially slow progress.

I was put on a drip for dehydration and given epidural top ups so often it was like they were offering cups of tea. Every time my contractions got out of control, the epidural would rein them in again.

But I was exhausted, my body was getting to the point where it wasn’t strong enough to birth. My contractions started to get further apart again, and then there was some sort of inducing process to get things moving again. I have no recollection of it!

When I was finally fully dilated, I tried to push him out. My hypnobirthing classes advised against ‘pushing’ the baby out, instead breathing them down, but by this point Aaron and I were so tired we couldn’t remember any of our techniques, and just did whatever the midwives told us to do. We had completely lost control and I kept getting in trouble. I was told off for making noise, told off for pushing when I shouldn’t be, even though it was body was involuntarily doing it. I remember I kept saying, “I’m not, I’m not!”

But nothing useful was happening, and when they examined me again, I was back to 9cm. A new doctor came in, and after a brief conversation about intervention, she shoved her entire hand up my vagina like I was a farm animal. I screamed and screamed “Please, stop! Please!” but she wouldn’t. No one else in the room made a sound, and the distress was palpable.

When she left I told the midwife that even though I was on a lot of drugs, I was still a consenting adult. “If I say stop, I need that to happen. I need you to make sure it stops.”

The doctor came back and told me they wanted to go straight for a c-section, and I agreed. I knew in my heart he just wasn’t coming out any other way.

The doctor that had violated me sat next to me on the bed, put her arm around me and read me the disclaimer I had to sign. She was extremely comforting now about what was to come, and I signed even though I couldn’t see straight enough to read my own name.

Aaron came back wearing scrubs and Crocs and my mum made sure to get a photo to make fun of him later. The theatre was brighter than I had imagined, and full of people. The night shift that had just come on would be performing the procedure, but the day shift wanted to stick around to meet Lincoln, so it was a full house.

I perched on the table for an injection in my spine, Aaron holding one hand and a nurse holding another. I was laid down, sprayed with something cold and poked with pins. I was talked through every single step before it happened, and I I can’t stress enough the warmth and kindness that enveloped me in that theatre. It was the first time in the entire labour that I felt things were calm and under control. I wasn’t panicked, or frightened, even for one moment.

According to my paperwork, the first incision was made 8:19pm, and he was born at 8:22pm. They asked Aaron if he wanted to see, and from just behind my head, he said “No, you’re alright.” He told me afterwards that what he could see was already enough, my body being moved violently from side-to-side as they tugged and pulled.

They lifted Lincoln over the screen like he was a lion cub, and he was just a perfect, cone-headed, red-faced little sunbeam. He disappeared and there was a very brief cry somewhere off to the side and then he was with Aaron. Aaron had his skin-to-skin time, holding him up so I could see until his arms ached, and we talked to the anaesthetist. We asked her how many partners say yes to looking over the screen, and she said it was about 50/50.

The day shift started to leave, popping their heads in to my view of the ceiling to say congratulations. Aaron took Lincoln for his Vitamin K shot while they finished sewing me up.

“How long will it take?” I said to the anaesthetist as they left.

She peered over the screen. “About 20 minutes.”

I met back up with Aaron and Lincoln in the recovery room, and I finally had Lincoln on my chest for skin-to-skin. I had really, really hoped for a breast crawl and he eyeballed the nearest nipple but was so utterly fucked from the birth he didn’t make the move.

My mum was allowed in the recovery room very briefly before she went home, and she took the first photos because Aaron hadn’t realised he was allowed his phone in the theatre. Aaron made the calls to the family we’d left in the dark for the last nine hours, and I remember lying there and just thinking none of it mattered. I wasn’t freaked out, upset or angry, I was completely serene, and I knew I’d have done it all again the next day just to have this kid in my arms.

Being a Good Influence(r)

Be a good influence(r)

Be a good influence(r)As you’ve probably heard by now, last week Hello! Magazine launched their annual ‘Star Mum’ campaign, sponsored by Next. Aside from the incredibly icky ‘judging motherhood’ factor, the campaign was heavily criticised for the lack of diversity in its panel.

The backlash itself came under fire, with some feeling that the celeb mums were being treated too harshly, and the blame lay solely with the brand and magazine. And of course, the reality is that if the board rooms in which these campaigns were signed off were more diverse, this shit wouldn’t keep happening. Continue reading

Make Motherhood Diverse

After I gave birth to my son in April, I decided to leave the murky swamp of Mumsnet to frolic in the warm, welcoming pool of Insta Mum sisterhood I’d heard so much about. But as I waded in to the world of #letkidsbekids and #motherhoodunplugged, I was genuinely surprised by the narrow view of motherhood that was being represented.

There weren’t even any skint, plus-size mums like me, let alone BAME mums, LGBT mums or disabled mums. For me, one of the greatest things about the internet is that there are no gatekeepers, anyone can get a blog or a YouTube channel and tell their story. But, of course, once there is money being made, there are gatekeepers, and just as the most successful YouTubers are cute, thin, white teenagers, it’s fair to say that the most successful Insta mums are cute, thin, white women. Because that’s who the brands want to sell (and buy) their products.

Well fuck the brands. The Insta Mum sisterhood is self-made (just like the individuals who are killing it daily with their blogs, babies and brands) and now it’s essential we make it a sisterhood for everyone.

In the same way that to declare yourself a feminist is now no big deal, we have got to become more confident about declaring ourselves supporters of affirmative/positive action (or positive discrimination as the haters refer to it). It’s really nothing to be afraid of, let me break it down. The vast, vast majority of the positions of power are held by white men. So either you believe that white men are inherently more talented and deserving of these positions than the rest of the population, or you believe there are other factors are at play. That’s it; there’s no third option. Being a white man is already an unfair advantage in life, positive action simply levels the playing field.

And it applies to all situations where there are calls for diversity. If you don’t take the opportunity to use your platform to amplify the voices of marginalised women, to stand up when you can see not all voices are at the table, frankly you’re part of the problem.

So here some simple ways you can very easily do your bit to help #MakeMotherhoodDiverse:

  • If you are an event organiser, make sure all voices are represented in your panel/guestlist. Aim for least 50% BAME women, LGBT women, disabled women, women from working class backgrounds, fat women, etc. All of these women will have very different experiences of your topic and it’s important they’re all heard!
  • If you are a brand, make sure your brand reps are diverse. Even the babies!
  • If you are asked to participate in an event or campaign, ask who else is involved. If you’re unhappy with the diversity of voices, tell the organiser. If they don’t do anything about it, drop out. Or mention it publicly at the event.
  • If you have the swiping link function, use it to highlight the blogposts, videos and products of women from marginalised groups.
  • If you participate in #FollowFriday, use it to grow the platforms of women from marginalised groups instead of only recommending women who already have a significant platform.
  • If you enjoy content from mums from marginalised groups, engage with it (like, share and comment) to make sure social media algorithms put it in front of as many people as possible.

Small actions can make a big difference, so let’s get on this. I’d also just take the opportunity to give enormous kudos to @candicebrathwaite and a whole gang of other amazing women who are making this campaign happen and championing some much needed change.

Mumtrepeneurs & Work That Works

Mumtrepeneurs and Work That Works

Mumtrepeneurs and Work That Works

I have to confess there was a time when I would shudder at the the use of the term ‘mumtrepeneur.’ And it wasn’t just the clumsy portmanteau that bothered me, it seemed reductive to attach the achievements of trailblazing women to their parental status, as if they were not equal to their male (or female, childfree) associates.

But, of course, it’s true that they’re not equal at all, and actually to ignore the context in which these women are frequently breaking ground and reaching the top of their game is to do them a huge disservice.

In 2016, official figures confirmed that there are now over 800,000 mothers (of children under 18) running their own business part- or full-time. When you become a parent, financial security seems more important than ever, and the decision to forfeit guaranteed salary, regular shift patterns, pension contributions, sick pay, annual leave and parental leave is not one taken lightly.

Many of these mumtrepeneurs are women who have been pushed out of contracted employment as a direct result of their choice to have children. In spite of the fact that every employee has the right to request flexible working, mums are increasingly feeling that the only way they can continue to use their skillset in the workforce is to go freelance or set up a new business.

The economy still benefits from the experience and skills of these women, without any workers’ rights whatsoever. The think tank Development Economics estimates that in 2014 alone, mumtrepeneurs generated approximately £7.2billion of wealth in this country. Many are running their businesses with zero childcare, further increasing the emotional labour that disproportionately falls on women. Even those with school age children must negotiate thirteen weeks of school holidays per year, plus any unexpected sick days.

Digital technology has enabled mumtrepeneurs to create prosperous and often ground-breaking kitchen table businesses. But it’s not OK that these women have to leave workers’ rights behind in order to find success. The promise of a union being set up to support freelancers is a positive step, but going self-employed has to be a choice, not the only option.

This week is Digital Mums’ #WorkThatWorks Week, urging businesses to champion flexible working for all, highlighting proven benefits to employers such as reduced costs, increased efficiency and staff retention. Anna Whitehouse of Mother Pukka fame is also drawing attention to this issue with her Flex Appeal campaign. On 31st October this year, you stand up and be counted by joining Pregnant Then Screwed’s March of the Mummies. 

It’s vital we all back campaigns like this and go out of our way to demand a flexible and supportive workplace culture for all employees, parent or not. You never know when you might need that flexibility, and going self-employed isn’t the right choice for everybody. 

Plus Size Guide to Maternity Wear

Plus Size Maternity Wear

So after years of teary dressing room meltdowns and wearing all black outfits in the hope they would make you invisible, you’ve finally found your plus-size fashion game and you’re looking *flames* *100* all day, every day. Except now you’re pregnant, and you hit up your go-to plus size ranges only to find your maternity options look like this:

Not that there’s anything wrong with white denim puff sleeves per se, but they might be a little difficult to style out in the office. And besides, given that almost none of your clothes fit now, you could probably do with some wardrobe staples first. Continue reading