Birth control, something we are all taught to think about but yet no one actually seems to talk about it? What is it that is so taboo about birth control anyway…I’m sure most women are pretty open about if they want a baby right now or not?
Personally, I have never liked the idea of messing with my body’s natural cycle with hormones. So the likes of the pill or the implant etc have never been for me. Right from when I started having sex I’ve always just used condoms + tracked my cycle. I use an app called ‘clue’ which I very highly recommend! It looks like this;
Which worked well for a few years…and then I fell pregnant. As I’m sure you may have guessed, the ‘morning after’ pill was not something for me either.
So now I sit here with my baby, who I hadn’t planned on having but who is the greatest gift I have ever received.
After you have a baby, you’re very fertile – and midwives very heavily impress on you to ‘sort’ your birth control out. When my midwife mentioned it and I said I didn’t want any hormonal birth control she seemed quite shocked. But obviously as a professional she can’t change or question my choices.
Despite having an unplanned pregnancy, I still firmly stand in my choices not to use hormonal or invasive birth control. Which I think is a decision I have made for a few reasons.
One likely being that the physical effects of pregnancy and birth on your body are so intense, that I want to give my body a break. After all the hormones that had ran through my body to grow my baby, I needed to leave my system alone to level back out.
Another reason being that now I have experienced the joy of motherhood and that I know there is never a ‘right’ time to have a baby, if it happened again I know I’d cope. Just to be clear, I definitely don’t WANT another baby while I’m doing my degree etc and I will be taking precautions to not get pregnant, but no matter how many precautions you take their is always a chance – that’s just life.
So unplanned pregnancy hasn’t changed my opinions or choices surrounding birth control, if anything it’s made me feel more confident in my decisions – which I suppose is a very strange thing to say. But hey ho it makes sense in my mind.
I’ve had a few women reach out to me in the past saying they have received hate for not wanting to use birth control. So I suppose that was one of the reasons I wanted to write this. Your choices are your choices ONLY, and no one should EVER pass comment or judgement on that.
This is a collection of stories, written by some incredibly strong and powerful women, showcasing why choice over our bodies is important. Termination is discussed very little in our society, yet it is something that becomes part of so many women’s lives. Women need support in their choices, to be given confidence that their choice is the RIGHT choice for them. So this is us, taking back our keys over our bodies and showing the world why we need to not only be given choices, but be supported in them. Share yourself holding you key on your social media with the hashtag #takingbackourkeys
I’m unfortunately a carrier of a rare genetic abnormality which causes severe disabilities and a very short life. There is a 1 in 10 chance with any of my pregnancies that the baby could be affected by this and unfortunately my baby was severely poorly and I had to make the tough decision to abort the pregnancy. I then fell pregnant again and lost my daughter early on due to the condition.. I didn’t choose to abort and I gave her the chance but she was just to poorly. Our choice matters because without that choice I would of been through heart ache more than anyone could imagine. Our choice matters because it’s OUR pregnancies and our way of life
My best friend and I fell pregnant at the same time; mine planned, hers accidental. I found out when I was 2 weeks gone, she did not find out until she was 13 weeks. In those 13 weeks, she had been heavily drinking, smoking, doing all kinds of strenuous activities that non-pregnant people do. When she found out, she was told it likely wouldn’t be a viable pregnancy, and if she did happen to carry to term, there may be further issues. Her partner also told her that it was him or the baby. She felt as though the decision had ultimately been taken out of her hands, with both medicine and her partner against her. She made the decision to have a termination, which at this stage had to be surgical. She had her termination at 15 weeks and a few days. It nearly broke her. Her sister also happened to be pregnant, she was two months ahead of the two of us. Throughout her pregnancy, she was messaging my best friend, her sister, photos of her bump captioned “this could have been you.” She had very little support. Despite this, she was there throughout my pregnancy, she has been there for the first months of my sons life, and she loves him with every piece of her heart. She is amazing. This experience ultimately didn’t break her, but it so easily could have, given the lack of support along with the stigma of termination. It is not always a choice, but taking away that choice is just barbaric. She wanted her baby, but having the choice to do what was best for her at the time, is a right that all women should have.
I think choice matters because even though I haven’t had to make that choice yet in my life, if I should have to I should have the freedom too. It shouldn’t matter the circumstances that a woman should fall pregnant it should be her choice (and her partner if they have an appropriate relationship). It should be a decision they should freely make. In my personal opinion I would rather a pregnancy was terminated then a pregnancy go to term unwanted and another child end up in the foster system. Or another woman be forced to illegal and unsafe practises of abortion leading to deaths and unnecessary illness just because safe practise was not available.
ovh_x (Instagram name)
Pregnancy and the gift of giving life is an amazing thing however it isn’t for everyone. Every life matters. Every choice matters and every woman matters. Pregnancy in itself can entail several physical, mental and emotional difficulties. As a mother myself I can vouch for this. I made the choice to have my son however I’m not afraid to say I struggled and to this day I am still struggling. I am now almost a year postpartum and can confidently say I do not want another. This is my choice and my body. Life isn’t just about surviving it’s about living. Women being stripped of this choice can imply so many downfalls, whether this be physical, mental or emotional. Pregnancy and motherhood is life changing it isn’t just a temporary segment to ones life; its impacts are lifelong. The very point in this law being applied is relative to the fact that ‘every life matters’. Nevertheless, it is not just about life itself but also the quality of life. Whereby a woman is not in the correct physical, mental, emotional or financial state to carry a baby and become a mother she should have the right to a voice. Wherein a rape victim falls pregnant; she has a right to not carry her rapists baby, which can only add trauma to an already existing traumatic event. Where a woman has had a difficult and traumatic experience in pregnancy or relatively so, she has a right to choose whether or not she can put herself and her body through this again. Such laws don’t just impact women but also the very life that these laws have been put in place for. If a mother is not of great stability, that child may too struggle. Instability can be damaging to both children and adults. Every childhood is precious and so is every child thus every life big or small deserves the very best. The seed to stability in children stems from a stable mother and more importantly love and warmth. Women should not be imprisoned by their own bodies nor stripped of their rights. A child isn’t something to be taken lightly and nor are women. I believe it is crucial that the lives of women and children are not negatively impacted by such laws and policies. Happiness and stability are the key to success and health.
I had a termination at age 17 after finding out I was
pregnant with my partner at the time. It wasn’t a healthy relationship and
things turned ugly as he was physically and physiologically abusive. During in
that time I felt pressured into having a termination by my partner, and
although I was uncertain as to what I wanted – I knew the decision had been
made for me.
The day of termination I was scared, the environment in
which it took place was scary I was I sent into a room in a gown and got told
to wait until I was called to be put under general anaesthetic (for the first
time), where I’d go to sleep with a baby and wake up without. I was later sent
home, with a leaflet of support but never called as I just didn’t know what to
say, I was in shock and it wasn’t ever spoken of after that.
I suffered in silence for a long time after having the
termination. I felt guilty that I had what I felt like ended a life when I felt
I had so much love to give them. I felt shame that if anyone was to find out
they’d judge me in a negative light. I felt sad, alone, scared, selfish, weak
But I know that it wouldn’t of been right for me to carry on
with that pregnancy, in that relationship, at that stage of my life with a
Saturday job, still at college and living at home in a abusive relationship. I
wouldn’t of been able to give that baby what they deserved and for that I felt
guilty and then I felt selfish because I felt that I should’ve been stronger
and made the changes needed to be able to give them a great life. But I was a
child and as time went on things did get easier, I was able to understand my
emotions and that I was grieving the lost of someone I loved but never met.
However now 5 years later about to have a baby I’m happy in
my life, in my relationship, in myself that I know I can give my baby the best
start in life. I still feel a sense of guilt as to why this baby and not the
one I terminated. And I still don’t have the answers which still affects me to
this day. All know I won’t ever forget my angel baby.
Having that termination saved me as I dread to think what my
life would’ve been like with an abusive partner so young. It’s ok to grieve
over the loss of someone you love but never met, no one’s judging you. It’s ok
to not be ok and when the time does come that you’re ready to create and
nurture a life, you shouldn’t feel guilty because it’s your life too and you
deserve to be happy.
When I was 19 I was pregnant with my 1st baby, I was anxious and nervous and really sick. But when it came to my 12 week scan I was told my baby had a condition called ancephaly. And was told that my baby was very poorly. And the reason I had been so poorly was because of an infection caused by baby because something else was happening too, it was pretty much all a blur. I wasn’t given any information on the condition I was just told that I should consider a termination. I went home and googled the condition (worst mistake ever) but basically it said that baby would not survive because the brain wasn’t growing. And along with the infection caused to me I was risking both our lives by continuing the pregnancy. There was nothing more that I wanted than to have this baby and hold her and love her. But the consultant basically just told me that couldn’t happen. I ended up making the choice to have a surgical termination and although it caused me massive heartbreak I think it was probably less heartbreak than if I had had the baby and met her just to lose her. If I had to go through that I’m not sure the rest of my life would have gone how it has. I now have 5 beautiful healthy babies and I am planning my wedding to my soul mate. If I wasn’t given that choice and was made to continue the pregnancy regardless I could have died, and if I hadn’t I would most probably have had to give birth to a stillborn baby and spent the 30 weeks knowing that would happen would have had severe effects on my mental health.
I’d had pregnancy scares before. Not because I’d been
reckless or irresponsible … just sometimes I’d be a few days late and no
matter how safe I’d been, I’d automatically think ‘the worst’ and begin
panicking. Then eventually it would come and I’d breathe a sigh of relief and
laugh at how silly I was, thinking I could possibly be pregnant! Only stupid
girls manage to get pregnant ‘accidentally’.
But one day, my period didn’t come. And so I waited.
Nothing. I took a test, just to rule it out, there was no way I could be
pregnant for God’s sake!But there they were, the lines that I was really hoping
weren’t going to appear were very clearly there. And in that moment I felt as
though my life had ended completely…Because that’s what society leads us to
believe. All girls that manage to get pregnant while they’re young are dumb,
dirty or trying to play the system to get a council house. And I’m ashamed to
say I thought the same.
So there I was faced with essentially two choices. Keep or
abort. Life or death. I was very fortunate to have so much love and support
from my mum, who promised me that she’d be behind me no matter what avenue I
went down. Not all girls get that luxury. I tortured myself trying to decide
what the f*** I was going to do. I honestly don’t think I slept at all those
few weeks, how could I?! This little thing was growing inside me day by day all
the while I was praying to wake up one day and for the whole nightmare to be
I went to my GP to try and get some advice? Therapy? Im not
really sure what I was expecting to get out of it, I think I just wanted
someone not emotionally involved to talk to. What I wasn’t expecting was
for said GP to listen to everything I
had to say, and just hand me the contact details of BPAS. So it seemed very
clear to me what society was screaming at me to do.
Eventually I phoned BPAS, sobbed down the phone and booked
the appointment. I went to the clinic for the pre-assessment where they talk
you through the procedure, make sure you’re mentally stable with the situation
and then scan you (with a very aggressive looking wand) and long story short I
realised I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t for me. This baby wasn’t planned by my God
was it wanted and so very loved.
But I’m not ashamed. And I’ll never be ashamed. I’m sure I’m
not the only young mum who is constantly asked “was he planned” *insert eyeroll
here* I’ve never quite understood why people are so desperate to know that, but
I’m always pretty blunt and I’ll happily say I went down the route of abortion
but realised it wasn’t for me. I can’t really explain what made me decide I
wanted to keep him (possibly it was the scary wand being waved at me) but it
was like a sudden light switch. Looking back, had I not been able to explore
the route of termination with the love and support of my mum and my boyfriend,
I truly believe I would have resented the whole pregnancy journey and
worryingly even the baby. I hate feeling out of control and being able to speak
to family and professionals about something as taboo as abortion whilst not
feeling judged helped me feel in charge of my own body and my own life.
And now I am fiercely protective of women’s right to their
Own. Damn. Bodies.It baffles me that we can be in 2019 and STILL be having this
conversation. I PERSONALLY didn’t have an abortion, I made the CHOICE that was right for me, for my situation, for
my mental health. How dare ANYONE try to take that away from a girl. The
thought of being forced into a pregnancy I didn’t want makes me want to scream,
and that’s why I’m screaming and yelling for all of my sisters who are.
Being pro choice doesn’t make you ‘anti-life’ It means you
respect women enough to let them have control of their bodies and their lives.
Knowing what I know now, at 26 with 3 children, I know that I did the right thing when I was 15 and decided an abortion was something I needed to do. At 15 I got the shock of my life finding out I was pregnant, I got pregnant in my final month of school, and had only been with my then boyfriend 3 months, so I tried to deny it for as long as possible, if I didn’t think about it, then it wasn’t happening(or so I thought). At 15, I wasn’t mature enough to look after another human being, I was very selfish in my wants and needs, and I had no job, no money and stayed in a 2 bedroom flat with 5 people Fair enough I could of applied for my own flat, but I could barely look after myself, my mum still did everything for me, I would of had no clue on what I was doing so I would of needed her with me. That wouldn’t of been an option though, as my mum made it very clear how disappointed she was in me, and the fact that I would be doing this on my own. And well, my boyfriend at the time made that pretty clear that he didn’t want a baby. He was trying to get into university, he wasn’t trying to become a dad and raise a child. A d&c was my only option as I denied it for so long, and the procedure was fine, apart from me feeling incredibly upset before and after. I felt this choice was bullied upon me, and it wasn’t one that I fully made myself. I do regret it everyday, and funnily enough so does the guy I was with, I wish we spent more time going over it all, and truly talking about it instead of just no we can’t do it and that’s it. I know it was the right thing to do though – we had no money, both stayed with our parents, no job and had just left school. We had nothing, and I always knew I wanted to give my kids the best start in life and I just honestly don’t believe they would of got that with me at that time. I believe that abortion if not misused is fine. Nobody should feel judged for a choice they have made, because if they are anything like me I can guarantee they probably feel terrible about it every single day. You never know a persons situation, why should someone be forced into bringing a child into the world if they honestly know that it isn’t the right thing to do?
As I lay in the bath googling “termination” scrolling through the sterile environment of online information about how they will remove my baby from his home, my mind flashes to my 3 beautiful children all laid snug in their beds. Each child I carried and brought into this world, each child becoming my entire world the moment I knew about them. So why am I laid here reading through about termination? Life is chaotic. I have 3 children 5 and under, work full time living in a 3 bed home with a car that seats us all comfortably. My relationship is strained with the day to day stress of managing financially along with 3 young children who demand our attention. My youngest hadn’t turned one yet, she was still only 9 months old! It’s Tuesday. I took the test this morning. I don’t know why, but there it was, “positive” staring right back at me. I took another and another. Now I’m laid in the bath. Pregnant. Fuck. I’d always thought of myself as someone who would never even consider termination. The information online scared me. The questions and thoughts that bounced around my head completely contradicted each other. My body didn’t feel strong enough to deal with this even more so my mind couldn’t. I’d not been back at work long from my youngest child, we had only just got used to life with 3, to being outnumbered in our home, to the stress it brings not having enough pairs of hands to console everyone at the same time and now I was crying too. I read through posts from women who were asking online communities their opinion, what they should do, asking the faceless strangers online for advice…
“should I terminate my 4th baby”
“Help! What shall I do? Pregnant with unexpected 4th child”
As I scrolled desperate for an answer myself I read though comments from women supporting women. Pro choice, everyone knows their own circumstances and what will be best for their family. Then, the comments started, hateful, nasty comments, “murder” “selfish” “not worthy” “undeserving” Do these words really define me at this moment in my life? The hundreds of faceless people online telling women they will cope and they need to have the baby and manage. Will they manage though? Will they cope? Was I coping right now? Is coping a way of living? I stared down at my stomach and cried, for what felt like forever. Would bringing this baby into the world destroy my relationship? Would having this baby ruin my career? I don’t think I could spread myself any thinner! We’d have to buy a new house, a new car. I can’t deal with this, I’m tired and stressed and emotional. What will my family think if I have another baby? What will my family think if I have a termination?! What will everyone think if I have a termination? Will I cope with a termination, could I live with the guilt? Termination. It’d be a secret. Something swept under the rug, never to be discussed. Silently eating away at me as I looked at my children, as I celebrated their birthdays. Always there.
I’ll remember forever the day I went to the “clinic” British Pregnancy Advisory Clinic. That’s what they call it these days. Also known as the door I struggled to walk through. I went alone. I needed to be alone. It took me 4 attempts to try and walk through the door. An inconspicuous door at the side of the main hospital. I sat outside across the road for half hour before my appointment. Looking around for people looking at me. They know why I’m here, I can see the look of disgust on their faces. As I finally walked inside it was quiet, very quiet, not the usual busy hospital corridors and wards. This was a “first appointment” a smiley face approached me and offered me a cup of tea. “No thank you” I was sat in a waiting room plastered from wall to wall with different kinds of contraception available. Advice I feel was slightly inappropriate for a room where women go to discuss options on unplanned pregnancy. A sort of “this is what you should have done” being thrown in their faces. A man and woman sat opposite me, in complete silence. I could feel their presence, I could see the thoughts running through their head seeing me sat here alone. Maybe I shouldn’t have come alone. But I wanted to be alone. I was taken and quizzed about my past pregnancies.
5 pregnancies. 3 children. 1 missed miscarriage. 1 molar pregnancy. This is my 6th pregnancy.
“How many weeks?” Erm, I don’t know. I don’t have monthly periods. *sigh*
“Do you want the baby?” I was asked, without her looking up from her papers. Fuck. I didn’t know the answer to this question. I paused in silence. Silently screaming inside my head. I burst into tears.
I was taken into the room with the scanning machine. No excitement. No smiling. No chatting. Silence. I laid on the bed as she scanned my stomach. She moved further up my stomach. 6 week foetuses don’t sit that high up. “All done” I sat up on the bed, “Can you tell me how many weeks?” She nodded, “24. I have you at 24 weeks.”
The decision was taken from me because of how far along in the pregnancy I was. To be honest this worked best for me. Because I wasn’t dealing well with the torment in my mind of what to do. There was nobody to talk to, nobody who was giving me advice on my options, if i had options. When I look back and think about it I was scared of what people would think, with whatever I decided. Having babies is an amazing privilege that I’ve been able to experience 4 times over, its talked about day in day out. The good, the bad and the ugly is healthily discussed with my friends and family. But not having babies isn’t. It’s not discussed. It’s not talked about. Meaning when the situation arises it becomes a whole whirlwind of confusion and emotions. I don’t know what would have happened if I were less weeks than what I found out I was. I don’t know if I’m quite ready to think about the what ifs. But what I do know is that choice is the be all and end all. Your choice. Your body.
I had a termination in 2014. I had just met my current partner and we conceived the first time we had sex. I didn’t know we would still be together 5 years later, and with a 10 month old. I had just finished my first year at university and he had just started his career as a fireman, and we lived 220 miles apart. Even though I’m still plagued with guilt, it was the best decision in those circumstances. And I wouldn’t have changed it!
A year ago today I found out I was pregnant.
I was on the pill at the time so thought that this would never happen. Everyone kept saying to me ‘what are you going to do?’, at the time I thought ‘what do you mean?’ and then I realised they meant that I could always just have an abortion.I had been with my boyfriend for just over a year. We were starting to look for houses so we both knew that we were going to be in it for the long haul. When the test said pregnant we both cried, not because we didn’t want it but just the pure shock of the fact that our lives were going to change drastically and that I was actually pregnant! Once we’d both got over the shock both of us just looked at each other and we both said that we could do it. At no point did we ever want to abort the baby and I’m so glad that we didn’t because we now have a beautiful baby boy but the thing we also had was CHOICE.
A few weeks later we had our 12 week scan. That was the first time we really spoke about abortion and this is the reason why. At your 12 week scan you have screening tests done on your baby, we were lucky enough that ours were 1/100,000. However, some people aren’t as lucky. If the test had come back and said that our baby was going to be really poorly and wouldn’t have a proper life; in and out of hospital and to be in pain or even die before he was 1 – then we both made the decision that we would have an abortion because it would not be fair on the baby to be raised in this world in so much pain. Once again we had a CHOICE.
Our baby boy is now 4 1/2 months old and is happy and
healthy and I’m so glad that he chose us. However, a few weeks ago we had
another pregnancy scare. It turned out that I wasn’t pregnant but we had had
the discussion that if I was we were going to have an abortion. The reason why
is the fact that we are not ready to have two children, not financially and I
am not mentally ready. I really struggled adjusting to the lack of sleep and at
times felt that because of my age people had made me think that I wasn’t good
enough or mature enough to look after my baby. Once again it is not fair to
raise a child in a world where you can’t give them your all. But once again, I
had a CHOICE.
How can people decide what you do with YOUR body? Everyone has their reasoning behind abortion and no-one should have to explain or have that choice taken away from them.
Well, what a year it’s been. The idea that what was once causing lots of heartache and fear, has now created a wealth of happiness still blows my mind.
Sunday 27th of May 2018. 5:30am. Those two pink lines instantly appeared and we worked out that I was just over 4 weeks pregnant. From that day our lives were turned upside down. Arlo Tobias Woolf, creating a whirlwind since May 2018.
I sat all of my A-level exams knowing my baby was there, but not knowing if I would ever get to meet them. But through all the uncertainty and throwing up, I still achieved my grades. Which – after moving schools, changing exam boards, self teaching one of the subjects AND THEN finding out about Arlo 2 weeks before all my hard work was going to pay off – I think is pretty bloody impressive.
At around 11 weeks pregnant, me and Kieran took a trip to Amsterdam. We spent a few days walking around canals, sleeping on a boat house and looking at (almost) naked ladies in windows. All with Arlo tagging along for the ride. It’s pretty surreal to think that he was there, becoming.
And when we got home, we decided to meet our baby. There it was, we were having a baby! Bet no one was expecting that when we announced it…
On the 7th of September 2018, we found out it was a boy! We were both so very happy about this, being one of two girls I really wanted to be a mum to a little boy. (As well as buying all the tractor and dinosaur prints….pink + frills aren’t really my thing)
I did powerlifting-style training until I was 36/37 weeks pregnant. Even managed to pull 100KG when I was 4 weeks pregnant…I didn’t know at that point though! I am still so happy I kept up my training throughout pregnancy, despite people telling me I shouldn’t. All my hard work definitely payed off during labour and recovery. Not to mention the fact that I made an 8Ib4Oz baby!
23:58pm on the 27th of January 2019, you were here. 24 hours of labour and hard work and I finally had him in my arms.
The next couple weeks we spent encased in a little bubble. Anything else going on in the world didn’t seem to matter. It was all feeds, nappy changes and getting to know our boy.
The number one question I get asked all the time is ‘wow, how did you find that name?’. In all honesty I’m not 100% sure how Arlo came about, we wanted something different but not too ‘out there’. Tobias is from the Divergent trilogy that I read a few years ago.
We have both kept up our training since returning to the gym at 5 weeks postpartum, and I am getting stronger by the day. Getting closer and closer to my pre-pregnancy weights and even considering competing again soon. We both walk the 2 miles to the gym with Arlo in tow, one trains while the other looks after Arlo and then we switch. If that’s not dedication I don’t know what is.
At 9 weeks old we took Arlo on a day trip to London…which was brilliantly hilarious, but I won’t get into the details of that (there is a separate blog post all about it)
The last 4 months have been filled with so much adventure and learning. Loving and growing. Becoming and healing. Arlo is the calmest, most content little baby I have ever met. He doesn’t fuss about anything, sleeps well, feeds well and is becoming ever more interested in the world around him.
Seeing him grow and learn is incredible, getting to be the person who nourishes that development is second to non. I have loved every second of being a mother and am beyond excited for all the trials and tribulations to come.
365 days since we found out. 365 days of overwhelming amounts of fear and love all at once. The 365 days in which I became the best version of myself yet.
This question has been playing on my mind a lot lately. Does it end when we have our 6 week check? When baby has been out longer than they were in? Or does it never end?
Of course, I don’t have a scientific answer to this – is there even a scientific answer? But I think it’s an important question that acts as part of a wider discussion around motherhood.
A lot of people (including healthcare professionals) talk about feeling ‘normal’ again after having a baby. What an annoyingly awkward phrase. Just think, right now, about how you would define ‘normal’. You can’t can you?
I remember sitting with my health visitor (who is a LOVELY lady – those people do an incredible job) and her saying ‘You’ll probably begin to feel normal around 9 months after having the baby’. I just sat there and thought…but I feel normal now? Right now is MY normal. For me, this kind of ‘talk’ just highlights the bounce back culture we live in. Comparing how we feel ‘now’ to how we felt ‘then’ and how we will feel ‘soon’.
As a society we need to focus more on being present, on embracing the ‘now’ and taking that as our current ‘normal’. If we are constantly comparing how we feel or look to how we used to feel/look, we are stealing the joy of the current moment without even realising it.
Postpartum essentially means ‘after baby’. So in my opinion postpartum doesn’t end, but evolves. I will always be living ‘after’ I gave birth to Arlo (unless someone invents a time machine…which would be quite exciting). I am constantly changing, healing, growing but I am always postpartum.
Along with how we ‘feel’ as mothers, comes an important discussion around how we ‘look’ as mothers. With the phrase ‘your tummy will shrink back to its normal size’ or ‘your stretch marks will fade and begin to look like normal skin soon’ being thrown around all too regularly, women are experiencing a tidal wave of emotion around what ‘normal’ really means.
Let me set this straight. You were normal two months ago, you are normal right now and you will be normal in two months time. Your postpartum tummy was normal 2 minuets after birth, it is normal right now and it will be normal in two months time. Growing your confidence is about defining your own ‘normal’ and living by it.
Postpartum isn’t a mere fleeting 6 week time period, it is a completely new chapter that is now your own individual ‘normal’.
Before becoming pregnant, I’d never seen birth. In actual fact I’d never ever talked about birth, I suppose it has been a bit of a ‘Taboo’ topic. Images of birth are often censored, many parents don’t discuss birth with their children and the representation of it in the media is awful.
I knew I had to do something about this…I was about to experience one of life’s most intense moments and yet I had never been exposed to it in any capacity.
I took to Instagram and searched “labour” in the hashtag section. All of a sudden millions of images of women in labour, all around the globe, appeared. I was amazed at the rawness and emotion filled images I was seeing, thousands of women in the throws of such a powerful experience. But not only that, I was amazed at the amount of different births I was seeing. Water births, home births, c-section births…the list could go on.
From here I began to uncover the pages of lots of astounding Birth Photographers. I filled my feed with all these images. I was exposing myself to the raw realities of a diversity of births every single day. It was this gradual but consistent exposure to birth that I believe helped me exponentially during labour and postpartum.
I was able to have trust in my body, to know that all births are wildly different but equally beautiful. In addition, I was able to process my birth with much more clarity afterwards.
We need to work towards a society where these images are not censored, and are more widely seen. Where birth is an open discussion. Not only for women to feel more power in their experience and confidence in their bodies, but for the rest of society to be able to support women.
I know that birth will be an open and encouraged discussion within my family, and if I go on to have another child I would want Arlo to be included in the experience of birth. Exposure is key to understanding.
Among some of the photographers I found was Lacey. Lacey Barratt is a pioneer in the birth industry, paving the way for a more inclusive, dynamic, and unapologetically raw content through visual arts. As a doula, she pushes the boundaries of what women think they are capable of; helping them to break free of any societal norms or standards by understanding they are their own individual with individual needs. Lacey makes sure that her imagery is nothing less than artful and educational, striving to help women gain knowledge through her images.
Here are Lacey’s thoughts on why birth photography is important.
When I had my first baby seven years ago my mum asked if my husband was going to take any pictures. Actually, I was mortified by the thought of looking back at them. I also thought she was being selfish because she was in the states and that was her way of being invasive without being *invasive*. Man, the regret I felt 12 months later….We all know good ole Facebook. Reminding you of the things you did on this day twelve months ago. Timehop. Yep….facebook’s Timehop had me crippled on his one-year-old birthday. I was already emotional and then add on top of it that I had three photos from the day of his birth and I was devastated. It shook me to my core so much so that I started offering birth photography as a service to my clients.
I never wanted anyone else to feel the regret that I felt that day. Or any family to experience that type of void. I now see all the ways that birth photography benefits families. I see that my mum was not actually being selfish. Or invasive. Or passive aggressive. It was for both of us.
I wondered if I had that birth face that you see in all these stunning birth images. I wondered what my husband looked like when he had skin to skin. I wondered if he touched me during labour more than I remembered. All of these questions will be there forever. I’ll never actually know the answer to any of them.
I can say that my subsequent babies had birth photographers.
I have this theory that documenting your birth extends the high of a good birth and helps heal a bad birth
No, my images won’t magically take away the pain of a traumatic birth. But with 100 time-stamped images it can help you process what happened in a chronological order better than your memories can.
When you are in labour we naturally (if left unhindered) go into what is called labour land. This is a place where all of your hormones are making a concoction potion, so to speak. Oxytocin, testosterone, adrenaline, progesterone….and heaps more to get you out of your logical brain. So you don’t have to think…you just do what feels good in that moment. This enables you to go deep inside of yourself and focus on your body and your baby. Making you less aware of the things that are going on around you. This is why we forget. We are biologically programmed to not remember. Not to protect us from the physical pain as mainstream society would say. But to help you birth your baby. This is the fight side of the fight or flight phenomenon.
After our baby is born, if things don’t go exactly to plan we have the ability to process exactly what has happened to us. Births, where we felt empowered, enables us to relive that feeling of being empowered. Hormonally, we are getting boosts of oxytocin over and over and over every time we look at our images….meaning our high lasts longer.
Why do you want to relive this experience ESPECIALLY if it was traumatic? This seems like it would be a trick question. But it isn’t. It is because after we experience our power being taken away, the only power that we have left is the power over our emotions. When our bodily autonomy isn’t respected our emotional autonomy is OURS. Forever and ever amen. Once you have your images, with the time they were taken and an unbiased documentation of your birth story, it is then that you are able to look at them and decide how you want to feel and own that in whatever capacity you want to. It’s a way to take your power back, if not with your body, with your emotions. That in itself is incredibly empowering.
Without realising it, our birth experiences shape us. Scientifically, with the bonding of our babies, how we respond to touch, how we process feelings and it spills into our everyday lives…even if we don’t realise it.
This is why I regret not documenting my first birth. I’ll never have that physical evidence of my power, of my vulnerabilities or my trauma to process.
This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. As with all aspects of life, the postpartum period holds so many different expectations. Expectations on how to parent your child, how your body should ‘bounce back’, how your relationship with your partner (if you have one) should be flourishing etc etc etc. As mothers, how should we managed these? How can we not fall into the traps of comparison? And as members of society, how can we support our pregnant + postpartum women better?
I am extremely into my fitness, and while I was pregnant I was able to maintain a fairly intense training program. Throughout my pregnancy I received the comment ‘oh but you’re fit and young, your body will bounce back’ more times than I could even count. The irony being that I didn’t keep up my training in an attempt to ensure I got my pre-baby body back postpartum, I kept it up because I love it.
There are so many things wrong with this comment, and it’s been bugging me because no one ever talks about why we shouldn’t be saying such things to pregnant (or postpartum) women. Without talking about these things, we can not expect to change them.
When someone said something like that to me, it didn’t fill me with optimism and confidence, in fact quite the opposite. It piled on the pressure for me to go back to looking how I did before I got pregnant as quickly as I could after giving birth. It made me feel as though my identity as a powerlifter relied on how I looked after giving birth. This filled me with anxiety during pregnancy, I felt like who I was was hanging in the balance, waiting to see how my body would look and perform 2,4,8 weeks postpartum.
Why are we doing this!?
Our bodies are fluid, constantly changing, adapting, improving. And when a woman grows, carries and births a baby her body unsurprisingly changes too. I haven’t ‘bounced back’, I haven’t lost all the weight I put on during pregnancy, I haven’t started exceeding the fitness levels I had before pregnancy. BUT, I most certainly haven’t lost my body, instead I’ve transitioned into a new one.
So how about instead of denying women the right to embrace the changes we experience during pregnancy and birth by enforcing this ludicrous idea of ‘bouncing back’, we support them to see life (and our bodies!) as an ever evolving journey? Stop placing such unobtainable expectations on our women, and let them experience the changes; the softness of motherhood, the vulnerability of those early postpartum weeks, the intricate and unique nature of the transformation our bodies and minds undertake.
In addition, if one more person comments on how I look like I’ve ‘shifted all the baby weight’, or ‘gone back to how I used to look’ I might just explode. Have you seen me naked recently? I didn’t think so…so how the hell would you know the ins and outs of how my body has changed?. Yes I am training incredibly hard in the gym, day in day out, but that is purely because it is what lights my fire. I don’t want my ‘old’ body back, I want all things that represent my journey to stay – stop telling our women they should think otherwise!
As a society we have dug our women such a big hole that it’s so hard not to fall into it. I suspect many postpartum women find themselves comparing themselves to pictures of other women at the same stage as them (I know I have been guilty of this). ‘oh but she hasn’t got any stretch marks anymore’, ‘she got her abs back 10 days after giving birth’….I could go on. Almost like it’s one big competition. We must start supporting women in their own postpartum periods by applauding and validating them as individuals, as every woman will have a wildly different experience.
As for expectations on how to parent your child…well they can take a running jump. Motherhood seems to have become this huge commercial, opinionated, debatable subject. Erm…why? It’s the most instinctive, natural process there is. YOU know how to parent YOUR child. Mamma, stop second guessing yourself. When I was pregnant, I made the conscious effort not to read a single book about parenting and still vow never to do so. Society is teaching our women to suppress their instinct, and replace it with advertised products or methods etc….oh look it comes back to the big commercial giants making money. We need to be giving our women confidence in their choices. Want to bottle feed? Great. Want to go back to work 4 weeks after birth? Great. Want to be a stay at home mum until they leave school? Fab. Want to co sleep? Fantastic.
Please, lets stop comparing ourselves. Lets start supporting the beautiful, chaotic journey that pregnancy and motherhood is. We must stop forcing expectations on our women and start giving them the tools to embrace their own unique experiences.
I hope this isn’t just a ramble and actually gets my point across. I am so passionate about changing how we are valuing our women and helping them through what is possibly one of the most vulnerable stages of life.
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)
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.
‘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.