Birth Story and Q+A

Birth Story and Q+A

I’ve wanted to write this for a long time, but its taken me a while to process my birth experience and understand how I feel about it. (as well as remember what happened in what order…but we will get to that later)

Whilst I was pregnant I spent a fair bit of time wondering what birth would be like. It’s one of those life events that happens all the time, but there is no way of knowing what it’s actually like until you experience it. (Although I think most mothers could agree that the depiction of birth in films etc is not very helpful, nor is the fact that no one TALKS about birth)

When I was past the half way mark in my pregnancy and it felt like birth was drawing ever closer, I decided to read a book about hypnobirthing by Katharine Graves. I wont go into what hypnobirthing is but anyone who is pregnant should do some research into it (no matter what kind of birth you are having – natural, Cesarean, epidural etc; hypnobirthing is for anyone who is bringing a baby into the world) The Positive Birth Company is also incredible.

I decided I wanted a completely natural birth, in the midwife led unit and in a pool if possible. Although I was preparing myself to have whatever kind of birth me and my baby needed.

My due date was the 27.01.19 based on my cycle, but that was moved to 25.01.19 when I had my dating scan.

SATURDAY 26TH OF JANUARY

Me and Kieran decided to take our dog Archie on a long walk along the beach and grab a coffee in town. I’d been experiencing Braxton hicks contractions at random for the last few weeks, so didn’t take much notice of them while we were out – although looking back they were much more frequent that day. I will note that at this point I was fully setting myself up to be pregnant for the next two weeks…everyone tells you that first babies are late.

We got home, cooked some dinner and had a relaxing evening watching telly in bed (if I recall correctly I think I managed to bag myself a massage from Kieran too) we went to sleep at around 10PM (by this point in pregnancy sleep was a distant memory amongst all the peeing and turning over to stop my hips aching)

MIDNIGHT

At around 5 minuets past midnight I was woken up by what I can only describe as period pain, strange I thought – even though late pregnancy is full of pains and twinges I had never been woken up by anything before. I tried to go back to sleep – but unsurprisingly that was not successful. (I will admit I was laying in bed glaring at Kieran slightly pissed off that he was fast asleep)

12:20pm, the pain came again. They continued to come for the next two hours, but completely randomly and at all different intensities. Slightly disheartened at the fact that it was probably just Braxton hicks, I went to cuddle the dog and get some cereal (if anyone knows me they know that cereal is my solution to almost any situation)

I then sat bouncing on my birthing ball in the dark in our bedroom (might I add that Kieran is still fast asleep)

At around 3am the contractions started to get stronger, and were coming at more regular intervals. what started off as slightly irritating period pain was now requiring me to focus on my breathing a little more to get through it. Here’s where I decided to wake Kieran up (no easy task). It took about 15 minutes from waking Kieran up to having a functioning Kieran who understood what was going on…amusing now, not so much then.

We started timing the contractions…but they were still slightly irregular and about 6 minutes apart. So we went to make hot cross buns and tea and sat in the dimly lit bedroom having a mini picnic at 3am…slightly strange but was just what I needed at the time.

4:30am. I was trying to wait until I really needed it to get in the bath…water is a really amazing pain relief in labour but I didn’t want to jump the gun and not get the benefit. But I definitely needed it at this point…being on all fours and burying my head in a pillow was no longer working. Kieran ran a hot bath and we both went to camp out in the bathroom for a while. Can I say, getting into a hot bath has never felt as nice as it did then. All the tension I had built up over the last 4 hours seemingly melted away. I think I stayed there for a good hour, timing the contractions with Kieran. There was something so calm and safe about being locked in the dimly lit bathroom in a hot bath while it was dark outside and the rest of the world was still asleep.

9AM – TIME TO CALL THE HOSPITAL

The first time we called, the contractions were not quite 3 in every 10 minutes, so the midwife said it would be best to relax at home for a while longer. Here’s where I had my second bath…might sound a little excessive, but being in the bath was the best place for me.

11AM – SECOND CALL TO THE HOSPITAL

The hospital I was down to give birth at is a 45 minute drive from our house…believe it or not there was no other option. I was dreading getting in the car…the thought of not being able to move about was horrific. So the majority of this call to the hospital consisted of debating if I should come in…because if I wasn’t in established labour (4cm dilated) they would send me home, and I was not going to do that journey more than once.

In the end they agreed to send a community midwife to my house to see how dilated I was and make the decision from that.

The midwife who arrived was a lovely woman who had seen me a few times during my pregnancy, she checked all my vitals and sat with me for a while. She was hesitant to give me an examination as I seemed so calm and so she assumed I wasn’t dilated very much. But I convinced her as I really just needed to know where I was at…much to everyone’s surprise (but me of course) I was 4cm and in established labour.

We all got in the car and made our way to the hospital. I put my headphones in and listened to one of my chill playlists on Spotify. Much to my surprise I was completely calm, eyes shut and focusing on relaxing into each contraction. I’ve never felt so relaxed and focused in on myself as I did in those 45 minutes.

We arrived and were shown to our room in the birthing centre, I had all my vitals checked and got straight into the big pool…absolute bliss. Kieran sat by the side of the pool holding my hand and we just relaxed there for a few hours. (we did change rooms somewhere in the middle of that as the temperature regulation of the pool stopped working…but that’s a minor detail)

3:30PM. I had a second examination only to find I was still 4cm…the midwife immediately wanted to break my waters and was preparing the equipment AS she was asking me. I told her to stop and explain the pro’s and con’s to me, and decided to wait a few more hours but try to walk around and use the birthing ball more to move things along. I wanted as little intervention as possible, and was determined to have trust in my body. We spent the next few hours with Micheal Mcintyre in the background and pacing around the room – intermittently burying myself into Kieran which was more than comforting.

A few hours later we decided to have the midwife break my waters in the hope it would naturally release more hormones and move things along. I decided to have some gas and air at this point…after a fair bit of deliberation as I was terrified of it making me throw up. But thank god it didn’t…just made me slightly delirious and say a few strange things. I used it for a couple of hours and then left it.

8PM – SHIFT CHANGE OVER

Here is where I was assigned a new midwife – Laura – an absolute angel. I got back in the pool for another hour or so, but had started feeling like my body wanted to push. (believe it or not, you body just does it for you and you don’t get very much say in the matter – incredible right?) Laura said she could see what was called MEC (where the baby does a poo inside) which can have a few complications, so she wanted to move me to a room in the labour ward as a precaution. Despite being hesitant, I agreed in the end. We all up and moved room for the second time (quite comical really)

10PM – THINGS GET REAL

Everything suddenly moved on very very quickly. I had gone from 4cm – fully dilated in around 4 hours. (which all the midwives were pretty shocked at, despite me being on my knees telling them that this baby was coming, dilated or not)

At this point I was leaning over the edge of the birthing pool, Kieran was standing next to me with his hand on my back. Suddenly what looked like rather a lot of blood appeared on the floor…I could hear Kieran in the background concerned and checking with the midwife that that was normal, which it was she reassured him. (I was too focused to care)

I got back onto the bed and little ones heart rate began to raise slightly. By this point I was exhausted…I hadn’t slept in 48hours, nor had I eaten much in the last 24. The midwife said it would be best to give me some fluids through a canula…but I refused and knew I had the strength in me somewhere to do this completely by myself.

11:30PM – ANOTHER MIDWIFE JOINED US.

Lead midwife Becky joined us as little one (still unnamed at this point) was crowning, but his heart rate showed a little bit of distress. After a discussion between me, Kieran and the midwives they decided to give me a small episiotomy to get baby here quickly and safely.

11:58PM. With one push, a squirming, vernix covered baby was placed on my chest. I’ve had Kieran confirm that my first words were “oh my god that’s a baby”…as if i hadn’t noticed that he had been inside me for the last 9 months.

Kieran gave me a kiss and we waited for the cord to finish pulsating before he cut it. Our baby was here, safe and perfect. I’d brought him here with nothing but two doses of paracetamol and a few hours of gas and air. Proud is an understatement.

I felt the very first twinge at around 0:05am on the 27th, and our boy was placed in my arms at 23:58pm on the 27th – just about fitting his entire birth into the 27th, his original due date. Kieran was by my side the entire time. Birth is an incredible experience, and it truly showed me my strength as a woman. I would do it again in a heartbeat, and not just because you get a baby at the end of it – because the whole process is something so very special.

Arlo Tobias Woolf was named at around 7am on the 28th. 8Ibs4oz.

Q+A

‘Did you do any antenatal classes prior to birth ?’

Yes, I attended the half day course offered by the community midwives – but if I’m honest it wasn’t very enlightening. The best source of information for me was the research I did on hypnobirthing. I also started following lots of positive birth accounts on Instagram, in order to expose myself to all different kinds of birth and make me feel prepared for any scenario.

‘Do you think exercising during pregnancy helped you during labour?’

YES! I can not emphasise this enough, labour is like a marathon. Personally each contraction was not a type of pain that I couldn’t handle, but the relentless nature of labour is tough. Endurance is built through exercise, and if I had not of kept up my training throughout my pregnancy I don’t believe I would have had the birth I did.

Are there any things you would do differently?’

Although I am incredibly proud of my birth experience, there are a few things I would set up differently for next time. I 100% will be having a home birth, something I would have done this time if we had been living in our own house. I will also pay for a private midwife if I have the money, as seeing the same woman throughout pregnancy and then at the birth I believe would make a world of difference. I would also like a birth photographer – one thing I do regret is not taking enough pictures.

Georgia X

Unplanned pregnancy + mental health

Every woman can relate to the struggle of trying to not get pregnant. Balancing having a great sex life with the fear of becoming pregnant when you don’t want to be is difficult. And I’m sure 90% of women have had that ‘shit… am I?’ moment when they’re a few days ‘late’.

Personally I have always made the choice not to use artificial/hormonal birth control (and continue not to), having only in the last couple years managed to regulate my cycle and being an athlete – I try not to interfere with my body as much as possible. So I’m a natural methods kinda gal…if you know what I mean. (until we decide to try for another little squish hehe)

But no matter how safe you think you’re being…it can always fail you. Being in a long term relationship…this is a scenario me and Kieran and discussed and ‘thought’ we had prepared for if it were to arise.

When I took the test, even though i was a few days late, i was sure it wasn’t going to be something that would happen to me. In hindsight….that was pretty naive. I specifically remember seeing the two lines and feeling like everything had just gone blank, like I had just received a bit of information that my brain couldn’t process. I was three days away from my 18th birthday and two weeks away from my A-level exams…boy I felt like I’d messed up (which I hadn’t…it wasn’t anyone’s fault, just a fact of life that happens more than you would think)

In the weeks following this…I went through all the motions to get a termination, because this is what society made me feel like I had to do. I spent my 18th birthday on the phone to The Marie Stopes Foundation doing an assessment. I went to a clinic in Maidstone in the middle of my exams for a second assessment. I even travelled to Kings College Hospital London for a third assessment (The termination system in this country is a complete mess, every woman has the right to a termination and I really feel we are failing our women with the way it’s set up…but that’s a discussion for another time)

This was by far, the darkest time in my life, I couldn’t sleep – the only thing ever on my mind was the thought of being put to sleep in the operating theatre, and waking up without my baby. Our society continually tells us that teenage pregnancy is one of the biggest failures you can make. That it’s something that should be hidden, with young girls dragging themselves to termination clinics to ‘get rid’ of the problem. Yet it is something that happens ALL THE TIME. Our society makes young women like me feel isolated, pushing us to have a termination when its often not what we want. This has to change, what young women need is support and compassion – and most importantly to know we have OPTIONS.

I knew I didn’t want a termination right from the start, but had been made to feel like I didn’t have a choice because if I didn’t, my life was over there and then apparently. It took me right until I was outside the doors of the hospital on the day of my termination to stand up and say ‘actually, I want this, I can do it, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it’.

And here I am, doing it. I haven’t failed, I have the brightest future ahead of me, I have a wonderful little family. I am a teenage mother, and no less of a mother because of it.

Becoming pregnant when you didn’t plan it has a huge effect on your mental health, no matter your age. But as a society, we need to stop stigmatising young girls who choose to have their babies – because they made that choice and they are entitled to it. We need to love and support them and show them that they are still capable of anything they want to achieve.

And to all the people asking me if I’m ‘managing ok’ in that slightly sheepish tone of voice. I am bloody great – I absolutely love my life, I am incredibly proud of what I have achieved and what I have ahead of me. So please don’t go asking me questions that you wouldn’t ask a mother who is 10 years older than me.

Georgia X

Body Image and confidence

It takes a long time to truly find ways that make you feel confident in yourself, and even when you get to a point where you feel great there is always further to go. Finding your confidence and having a good relationship with your body is a continually evolving journey.

Now this may just be the sociologist in me, but personally I think the most important thing is to know why and how we are all conditioned to have poor body image. After all, knowledge is power right?

Corporate businesses sell us all an idealised version of ourselves, be it beauty products or underwear adverts showing body types that are genetically unobtainable for 95% of the population. They do this because by selling you a way of ‘reaching’ those unobtainable standards, you buy into their products and they make money. In short, rich people are thriving off societies ingrained self hatred. Alongside this, women are continually objectified and degraded to be nothing but items of beauty. Something that happens right from birth, girls are continually referred to as being ‘pretty’ or ‘kind’ etc while boys are ‘strong’, ‘funny’, ‘clever’ – notice how boys are valued for things completely unrelated to their appearance? As a result, women relate their confidence to how they look, not what they’re doing.

When I first began to understand all of these things (Thank you A-level sociology) the first thing I did was clear out my social media. EVERYONE should do this. Unfollow all those accounts who’s pictures make you feel awful about yourself, block all those people you don’t want in your life anymore and fill your feed with things that inspire you. Social media is your tool, to use how you wish, and that can either be extremely detrimental or extremely beneficial – you decide.

Deadlifting with a tiny baby bump

I slowly began to focus on what my body could DO, not what it LOOKED like. Here’s where Powerlifting completely changed my life – suddenly all I cared about was my performance in the gym, and it was achieving goals within that that gave me confidence – not having abs or fitting into a certain size of clothes. (I urge everyone to invest in their personal fitness or take up a sport)

When I fell pregnant, all the confidence and positive image I had built was really challenged. Your body changes so quickly and beyond your control. It is one of the only times in life that you have to just step back and let it happen, and that is hard. My advice to get through this, would be to have trust in your body that it is doing exactly what it needs to do – even if you do gain more than the ‘recommended’ weight (we all know those numbers are bollocks anyway) or you get more stretch marks than the ‘average’ woman (trust me there’s no such thing as average). Your body was build to do this and it knows exactly how to do it without any input from you, so don’t waste your money or time on stretch mark creams or any other item sold to reduce the effects of pregnancy on your physical appearance.

Now, postpartum is a whole other ball game – just when your getting used to your pregnancy body, you give birth and your left in a strange in-between stage. You’re no longer growing life, but you don’t look or feel anything like the you before pregnancy.

Number one, don’t jump straight back to trying to put on your old clothes – they most likely wont fit. Number two, give your body and mind time. The most important thing in those first weeks is looking after you and your baby, focus as much as you can on soaking up all those first moments. Also try not to place to much importance on that stupid ‘6 week’ mark. Women are continually sold this idea that everything will go back to ‘ normal’ at six weeks – you resume your sex life, start exercising and supposedly look like how you did before pregnancy. All complete lies given how different we all are. For me, I had sex at 4 weeks, began working out at 3 weeks and am never going to look how I used to.

As a young mother, there’s increased pressure to ‘get my body back’ (a ridiculous phrase). As an 18 year old I’m supposedly meant to be wearing tiny clothes, showing off my flat stomach and going clubbing. For one, I wear nothing but sports clothes (you’ll catch me in heels and a tiny dress when i’m dead) and for two i hate the idea of clubbing and is most likely something I will never want to do. I’ll do me, you do you and we’re all happy right?

Here’s to building each other up, raising confident women, and placing our self worth in the things we are achieving.

Georgia X

Education + careers as young parents.

Me and Kieran met in the summer of 2017. By complete coincidence and perfect timing. I was living in Brighton at the time, and just so happened to have come back to Whitstable for the weekend as I was visiting Surrey uni the next day. Within a few weeks of knowing each other, I had made the decision to move back to Whitstable.

As a result I had to change schools, and do the equivalent of completing my A-levels in one year. This was the boldest move I had ever made in my life, and despite almost everyone doubting me, it was the best choice I have made to date.

I worked incredibly hard to catch up with my A-levels, driven to succeed at any cost. All while training the hardest I had ever trained in preparation for competing in Powerlifting. It may sound strange, but I was the happiest I had ever been. Moving back, meeting Kieran, rekindling my love of studying and prepping for competing regionally all contributed to me truly feeling happy with who I was and what I was doing in life.

I had my place at University, I was predicted to achieve high grades and had a bright career in front of me.

Then two weeks before sitting all the exams I had worked so incredibly hard for, I found out I was pregnant. In that moment, everything felt like it had come crashing down. Me and Kieran knew we wanted children in the not so distant future, but just not now.

Although we hadn’t decided what to do, I was determined to still achieve what I wanted from my exams. I was sick (very sick) almost every morning, I was hiding everything from everyone I knew, I was attending appointments at abortion clinics AND I was sitting the most important exams I had ever sat.

But in all adversity, I did it. I got the grades I had worked so hard for and for that I will forever be proud.

On the 12.07.18, outside the doors of Kings College Hospital London, me and Kieran chose to meet our boy. And I am eternally grateful we made that choice.

Walking around London 12.07.18

Now I sit here, holding a place at University for September 2019 AND holding our baby. Kieran travels to London everyday to study Osteopathy, and in September we will both be enrolled at the same university, living in our own house, building the brightest futures.

Having a child and studying is hard, don’t get me wrong. But so is having a child and working a full time job. Instead of bringing a child into our lives, we our building our lives with our child. Kieran is studying to become an Osteopath with his own practice, I will be studying to become an elite strength coach, and we’re both working towards our dream of opening a gym. Balancing looking after our boy and studying is all about organisation, and is by no means impossible.

Arlo gets to see us work hard, achieve our ambitions and grow as people – to me that is priceless.

Georgia X

Pregnant powerlifting

Pregnant powerlifting

Before I found out I was pregnant, I had been training as a powerlifter since I was around 16. I started by using my dads home weights set up, then I got a commercial gym membership before finally joining a real powerlifting/bodybuilding gym.

Squatting during comp prep

I competed in March 2018 at the South East winter divisional. After the competition I decided to prep for another max test around the end of May…I then found out I was pregnant on the 27.05.18. Little did i know i had actually maxed out all my lifts at 4 weeks pregnant…Oops. (safe to say I didn’t get the numbers I had hoped for…I was rather confused at the time as to why my strength wasn’t where it should be)

As soon as I found out I was pregnant I knew my training was something I was going to continue right to the end. Not only because I NEED to throw some iron around for my mental sanity, but because I knew it was best for my body and my health.

Unsurprisingly, everyone had something to say about this. As soon as people find out you’re pregnant it’s like everything you do is suddenly up for debate. (A note to anyone passing judgement on a pregnant woman; it’s their body, their baby and their choices.) I did my research, I spoke to people and I listened to my body. I switched up my training to a more bodybuilding style format, while ensuring to start with one of the main lifts (squat, bench, deadlift) each session. This way I was creating greater hypertrophy while maintaining my strength and technique in powerlifting.

Deadlifting 75% of my comp max at 35 weeks

Here’s the shocker…I actually made strength GAINS in pregnancy. My strength on the main lifts dropped slightly, but in all other movements it either increased or stayed the same. Alongside this I also took cardio more seriously in pregnancy (everyone knows powerlifters are pretty lazy really) and I greatly improved my cardiovascular fitness.

Something else I decided to work on was unilateral strength, to help with balance and overall function. So I added in things like weighted step ups, single arm dumbbell press and pistol squats. Along side this I worked on my pelvic floor and did movements to engage my deep core muscles to help with diastasis recti. (I am by no means a health professional or PT, so I simply did what worked for me and what I thought was best given my research)

All in all I stuck to weight training 4 times a week, walking a 4 mile round trip to the gym and adding cardio into my sessions right until the end of my pregnancy. I had a completely natural birth, which was very fast (24 hours from the very first twinge to holding my baby), and made an 8Ib4oz baby boy (trust me that’s a fairly big baby).

The key to training in pregnancy is to adapt, yes some things you wont be able to do for a while but that doesn’t mean you have to stop. Trust your instincts, your body will tell you if you shouldn’t do a particular movement.

I am beyond excited to be starting training postpartum and working my way back to the platform, I have so many fitness goals for the next few years so watch this space. Postpartum fitness blog post coming soon…

Georgia X

A note to my non-breastfeeding self.

Breastfeeding is an experience you can do very little to prepare yourself for; the idea of using my previously purely sexual assets for their actual purpose was rather foreign before giving birth.

Every Tom, Dick and Harry has a different opinion on breastfeeding (and yes even men think their opinions on it are important). To pump or not to pump, to use formula or not to use formula, to feed in public or not to feed in public – the list is endless.

Now two weeks into my breastfeeding journey (having gained an understanding of why mamma’s refer to it as a ‘journey’ – it is very much an evolving journey!) I realise I am extremely lucky. Arlo knew exactly what to do right from the start, we have had no issues with latch or supply like I know many women do; so for that I count my blessings. I would tell my non-breastfeeding self that you can’t worry about breastfeeding until you start because you simply cant predict how it’ll go.

You hear all these stories about how beautiful breastfeeding is, making you picture yourself lovingly looking down on your perfect baby as you provide all the nourishment they need almost as if you’re both in a little mamma-baby bubble. Now let me reassure you, these moments definitely exist and they are as wonderful as they sound; BUT it’s almost certainly not always like that. Such as when your baby is screaming and your firing milk up their nose with the right boob while simultaneously soaking their clothes with the let down of the left boob. You very quickly learn to find a big wet patch on the bed or on your top and have the response of ‘eh its probably just boob milk’. This is where I would very firmly tell my non-breastfeeding self that breastfeeding is messy, and that’s okay.

Our first public feed on day 7.

Breastfeeding in public is a very controversial topic, some mothers pump and only bottle feed in public, others find the most private place possible and some will feed almost anywhere. All of which are completely valid and more than acceptable in my opinion. Personally, I’m usually happy to feed anywhere; we’re currently on day 15 and I’ve fed Arlo in Cafes, in the pharmacy and on a train. I’ve yet to receive any backlash from members of the public thankfully, although I’m sure that day will come so I’m mentally noting any witty come backs I can think of.

I’m aware that so far I’ve made breastfeeding sound relatively magical, but me and Arlo have (and are currently having) our own trials and tribulations. Night feeds. Need I say much more. Here’s where I fall down, and am currently trying to figure out how to master them – so I think that’s a post for a bit further down the line. (Here I would most definitely tell my non-breastfeeding self that sleep is precious, enjoy it while you can)

weight training at 8 months pregnant.

So that is where we’re at currently, but with me returning to training in a few weeks me and kieran are considering introducing some formula and taking a mixed feeding approach for more flexibility. Something which I am very excited about and can’t wait to share. (I am so excited to get back to powerlifting and regular training!)

Georgia X

40 weeks…and counting.

40 weeks…and counting.

So we’ve reached little mans due date, hurray! The date we’ve been counting down to for what feels like an eternity has finally come around, rather anticlimactic if I may say so myself. Mama is starting to feel veryyy impatient little one.

After the absolute whirlwind of a journey that pregnancy is, it has come down to drinking excessive amounts of tea in bed, watching a criminal amount of daytime telly and spending most of my time just…waiting.

So what better a thing to do than start a blog to fill some time…right before the impending beautiful chaos that is motherhood is brought upon me. We’re about to embark of one of life’s most wonderful adventures and I can not wait to document it….even the not so beautiful moments of course.

So as I sit here drinking my excessive amounts of (decaf…sigh) tea I just can not wait to count baby’s tiny toes and have warm newborn cuddles. As unexpected as it was to be becoming a family so young, and as hard as pregnancy has been; I’ve never felt more at peace with the path my life has taken and I cant wait to share it.

Here’s to more waiting…just hopefully not for too much longer little one,

Georgia X