This world doula week we’re really pleased to bring you the birth story of a Hampshire Doula baby.
We talked to his mum and their doula and we’re sharing the story here and across our social media to celebrate the way doulas help make ‘it’ happen. That ‘it’ might be: better births, bonding, support, breastfeeding, information or comfort.
Doula Vikki Young starts the story.
I saw the birth of a brand new soul last year. His name is Brodie. He’s a Hampshire Doula baby through and through!
Mum, Ali is a Hampshire Doula and I was her birth Doula.
It’s a pretty huge honour to be asked to be anyone’s Doula. But when it’s for a Doula herself you literally BEAM sunshine and rainbows.
Doula and Mum Ali Russell-Webb can start the story from further back. She tells us about her first birth and why she wanted a doula with her during her second birth.
After my first birth, I was completely traumatised. Naive to the world of, anything to do with, healthcare, I had no real idea what was happening to me or what was about to happen. Everything had been quite stressful, I had undiagnosed antenatal depression and I was overdue. This led to me being coerced into an induction, with the only thing I was terrified of, being a c-section.
My induction failed (or as a VBAC midwife once told me- it didn’t fail because it put me into labour). Well after 24 hours of that induced labour, and pain, I ended with a c-section for, what we thought was a failure to progress. This, we later found out, at a VBAC session, was not the reason, but the baby had turned OP and couldn’t get out. I stayed in the hospital for 7 days, after the birth. During which time my baby was topped up with formula, I was made to feel like I couldn’t feed him and I was shouted at by a midwife. This all resulted in terrible PND, with which I was suicidal, and PTSD. It took me 10 months to go near the hospital again.
[Editor’s note: post-traumatic stress disorder is something that can happen after any traumatic event including a traumatic experience of birth. There is help and support available if you think you may be struggling with this the birth trauma association is one good place to start. If you’re local please contact us here and we can also help you find local support. If you’re planning a birth and looking to avoid this please consider attending your local Positive Birth Movement meet-ups and look into having doula support for your birth.]
Despite all this, I knew I didn’t want an only child. When I found out I was pregnant again, I was terrified. This pregnancy was awful- HG, for 4 months followed by nasty PGP. Between both babies, I had trained as a Doula, and studied, inside and out, maternity care. I knew I needed a Doula to support me this time, and wonderful Vikki Young agreed. Even though I am not easy to support, and probably even worse when pregnant. I spent my whole pregnancy beating myself up because I was a Doula, I know about birth, why was I so terrified? Also, I have never felt so lonely, as I did in the last weeks, probably another bout of, less severe, antenatal depression.
So now we come on to the birth story. Ali tells us how things got started.
I planned my HBAC, still terrified of the hospital and was fairly content with the plan. Due to my newly learned knowledge about my first son being OP [positioned back to back with mum in the uterus more details here] and PGP [pelvic girdle pain –more details here], I had chiropractic treatment all the way through my pregnancy. I did yoga, Spinning Babies and anything else to ensure good positioning.
After a second dose of evening of primrose oil, [this is a personal experience Hampshire Doulas recommends you research anything before deciding if it’s for you which applies to alternative therapies as well as suggested medical interventions] I woke up about 3.30am, the date after my EDD (estimated date of delivery – those are nonsense) with a lot of fluid, but mostly smelling of evening primrose oil. 😁 I thought it was my waters but tried to go back to sleep. After being kicked in the face, by a toddler, for the millionth time, I gave up. There were mild surges starting (remember I’d never gone into natural labour) and I was bloody determined they were going to develop because I was so over being pregnant! (I don’t do pregnancy or babies small)
After labouring, well, staying active and being able to chat to Vikki, everything seemed all good. I got into the pool, which was blessed relief. Everything gets a little hazy, at this point, perhaps due to the amazing gas and air, perhaps I was in the zone.
One of the advantages of having a doula is they can fill in the gaps of your hazy memories of the day!
Ali laboured at home all day. Having one contraction every three minutes from about midday to the point Brodie was born at 21:20. Not just the little breathe through it contractions. But the ones that curl your toes and make you try and glue yourself to the floor. She had a bit of gas and air and a pool. I mean MAN ALIVE she was awesome.
That kid was quite happy where he was though. Unaffected by his mum’s heroic birthing efforts.
Intensity was really building and from the look of everything, Brodie was ready to come into the world. The room was peaceful and I was able to make it through the intensity of the contractions with Vikki keeping my eye contact and reminding me to breathe. Her calmness was invaluable.
After a while, and some gas runs later, things seemed not to be moving and I couldn’t feel his head. I am absolutely an advocate of physiological birth and less focus on interventions, but there is a reason we have medicine and are fortunate to be able to access expertise.
I had received no VEs but knew at this point, although it was uncomfortable out of the water, there was something not quite right. The midwife examined my cervix and found I was 3-4cm dilated, and after the work so far, I knew I needed some relief if I was going to be able to birth him. Vikki’s calm reassurance was amazing, as I had that nagging feeling of failure, but it went.
After hours at the same dilatation and no let up in those contractions, it was time to get some help. Drugs would be good right now.
Birth is unpredictable, but with good support and knowing the decision to change to plan B is yours, that unpredictability and positive birth are not mutually exclusive.
An ambulance came…
The ambulance ride was hell for Ali. Being told to lie down and keep still on this teeny bed are not things a woman in the throes of labour will ever take well.
She made it to the ward with only a few choice words 🤣
As they monitored her with the CTG [Cardiotocography (CTG) is a technical means of recording the fetal heartbeat and the uterine contractions during pregnancy.] it was clear the contractions were still coming thick and fast with no sign of the baby. An epidural was requested.
Your doula and your midwife will always tell you to trust your instincts and this was one time those instincts were needed and right.
Once we arrived at hospital I knew, in my heart, I was done and I needed a section. I am so grateful that I was in a position to know what was happening to my body, and feel self-assured enough to make an informed decision about the way forward.
I am indebted to my wonderful Doula for her sitting with me through the section, keeping me calm during the hardest parts of pain, and her presence reassuring me of my body and my ability to know exactly what I needed.
Ali had decided that this was the same road as Fin. She knew it. Mums always know. The baby was not coming without some assistance and trying to delay it was futile.
As the doc suggested waiting a bit, Brodie’s heart rate started to dip with the contractions. [This is one sign that baby might not be coping well with labour anymore.]
He was tired, she was tired and more importantly, Ali knew this baby needed to be born by c section. And soon.
The medical staff listened to Ali and she was whizzed round to theatre. I accompanied her as by now we were pretty much one unit. The eye contact was keeping her going and she needed that.
Her totally amazing husband knew it was what she needed and totally supported her ❤
So off Ali and I went to theatre.
Little (ha!) Brodie was out in no time. He was in my arms and held up to Ali so she could get those intoxicating new baby smells and hugs as she was stitched up. [Sometimes skin to skin isn’t possible immediately but it’s never too late.]
I popped out to get Ali’s husband while she was still in recovery so he could meet his brand new baby boy 💕
It may not have been the HVAC I planned, but as Doulas, we know birth is never a sure thing. I was safe and followed my instincts as my space was held for me, with love.
What started off as pretty textbook labour (whatever that is, right?) turned in to a real need for those wonderful obstetric wizards to come out and say “Hey, it’s ok. I’m here to help you. Let’s make a plan.”
I know we moan about them a lot. Terrible communication skills and an inability to listen to the woman are most common complaints. They are often seen as the worst thing to walk through a delivery room door BUT do you know what? Sometimes we need those peeps. We need their years of training in seriously complicated surgery. They can step in and save lives.
So what can we learn about doula support from this birth story?
Doulas still need Doulas. We lose our rational brains when we’re in the zone of labour and birth and are TERRIBLE at taking our own advice.
Skin to skin it’s the answer to everything.
You may have already read about skin to skin and how many benefits it has for babies when they are first born. If you’re pregnant now read up on those benefits and think about if you want to add skin to skin to be kept in your birth plan whatever else happens.
But if you’re looking back on what happened when your baby was born and skin to skin didn’t happen as you hoped for whatever reason don’t despair it’s not too late. Equally, if you’re looking back thinking how lovely that skin to skin time was now is a great time to get back skin to skin with your baby.
If you had a birth that didn’t go to plan or if you and baby are struggling to get breastfeeding going well or if you’re finding it difficult to feel that overwhelming bonding and falling in instant love that you’ve been lead to expect will happen as soon as baby arrives skin to skin can help. Skin to skin can happen as much as you like, any time you’re in the house you can snuggle skin to skin under a blanket or pop baby skin to skin in a stretchy sling. Skin to skin raises oxytocin (the feel good loving hormone) levels so don’t worry you can not overdo it. Babies and mothers (and dads, siblings, grandmas etc) benefit in many ways by spending as much time as possible skin to skin.
Bathing with your baby.
One way of being skin to skin that many people find really positive is to have a bath with your baby. Sometimes this is called re-birthing but it’s nothing spiritual or just for hippies just an opportunity for mum and baby to get the skin to skin and cuddles they might have missed out on at birth or just to get some more. Here’s a quick how-to guide if you think you might benefit from this.
- Have someone help you, run a nice deep bath, get in and relax.
- Have your helper pass you your baby.
- Hold baby between your legs (in the warm water) as you sit in the bath make eye contact and talk to your baby about how long you’ve been waiting to meet them, how important they are, how beautiful they are and how much you’re going to love them.
- Then bring your baby up on to your tummy/chest so you are tummy to tummy just as you would have been had birth gone to your original plan. Relax like that as long as you and baby are happy.
- Have your helper put a towel over your baby to keep them warm if necessary and be prepared to hold your hand or stroke your arm if the tears start to fall. If the tears fall do not be surprised, let them come and let the emotions out. Make sure you’ve picked a helper who is prepared to be with you through the emotion and offer loving sympathy not try to cheer you up or fix the problem. The talk and the helping may come later but this is the time for just feeling and letting the feelings out.
- It’s quite likely that in this position tummy down, head between your boobs baby will start to root. As long as baby isn’t getting upset try to leave them to it to find the nipple and latch on themselves.
- Your helper can take your baby and then offer a support if needed for you to climb out of the bath when you’re ready.
Your birth or postnatal doula will be more than happy to be your support person or helper through this process. If you don’t have anyone who’s right for the job yet check the find a doula page.
At Hampshire Doulas we’re always on the lookout for good local opportunities to learn more about supporting women and families through pregnancy birth and postnatal times. So, of course, we’re very proud to be able to be involved with Positive Birth Portsmouth first ever conference.
It’s going to be an interesting day learning all about how the way women and their families are cared for during the perinatal period affects their mental health throughout life.
One of the speakers is a trained doula, and also a consultant anaesthetist. We’re really looking forward to hearing all about how those two things can be brought together to promote positive birth experiences for more women. We will also be hearing about supporting women with mental health issues and about recovery from birth trauma.
If you would like to join us make sure to get your name on the guest list on the PBP website https://www.positivebirthportsmouth.org/conferencedetails.html
Everyone will find their own way of coping with labour on the day. But being prepared with some ideas of things you can try that might help you cope with your contractions and positively work with what your body is doing is a great way to feel prepared and confident for when you go into labour.
Active labour positions:
Your body’s first job with your contractions is to move your baby into the best position for coming out. Sometimes early labour with contractions that stop and start and often feel strongest in your back can be frustrating especially if they are very intense but don’t seem to be having a measurable effect on your cervix. This is very normal and doesn’t mean anything is wrong. Moving about and changing position can not only help the potentially overwhelming sensations of your contractions to be easier to cope with but can also help to create space in your pelvis to allow baby to move around and tuck their chin in to be in the best position to move easily through your pelvis.
Deep relaxing breathing:
Planning to ‘just’ breathe through your contractions might sound hippy-dippy or too simple to be of actual use. It’s good solid science though. Controlling and relaxing our breathing allows us to relax our other muscles which allow our body to get to work birthing. Tensing our muscles feeds into a fear response which encourages our bodies to produce adrenaline which is the natural enemy of oxytocin the most important hormone for labour and birth. Switching off our thinking brains and doing everything we can to raise our oxytocin levels gives our bodies the best chance they can have to get on with the job. Breathing doesn’t have to be done any one specific way as long as you breathe in a relaxing way and find a rhythm that feels relaxing to you it will have a relaxing effect. It can help you to feel relaxed and ready with ways to remind yourself to breathe deeply if you practice in pregnancy. Some places you can do this are at pregnancy yoga or Daisy Foundation classes.
Having something to repeat to yourself in your head is another effective way of keeping your thinking brain relaxed and allow your body to get on with the job of labour and birth. There’s another blog post with more details on how they work to get your head in a good place approaching birth and can be used to keep your brain busy thinking positively during labour and birth.
Water can help you in two ways, labour is really hard physical work and like with other physical activities your body needs to stay hydrated. Having something that’s easy to sip and easy to drop when you need to focus on a contraction is a handy tool. Water can also help to relax you when you get into it. A shower or a bath can be a useful tool for early labour and in later labour, a birth pool is brilliant for providing a lovely safe space and wonderful support to allow you to relax and to find comfortable and effective positions for birthing.
The sensations of labour and birth can be really overwhelming, finding something that keeps you grounded can help you to focus on the things that keep you relaxed. This is where a good connection with your birth partner is vital. Not only can your birth partner help you keep calm by helping you feel that you’re not alone but the way they make you feel loved and cared for actually raises your oxytocin levels. The physical connection your birth partner provides also raises your oxytocin levels and increases your relaxation.
Here’s a recipe for our Nourishing the New Mother series that can be made meaty veggie or vegan whatever your preferences. It’s great comfort food and really nourishing. Perfect for your doula to make for you or to make and freeze in small batches ready for when you need it.
Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie
Notes: apparently strictly speaking it’s only a shepherd’s pie if you use lamb mince, with other kinds of mince it’s a cottage pie. The original inspiration for this recipe came from Alexandra – BBB doula.
Ingredients. Quantities for two people.
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- 200g mushrooms
- 225g mince of your choice (lamb, beef, quorn, or substitute lentils or cannellini or pinto beans)
- 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 200ml stock of your choice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons mixed herbs
- 200g sweet potatoes peeled and chopped into squares
- Peel and chop onion and carrot slice mushrooms. Cook sweet potatoes in boiling water for around 10-15 minutes, until soft and well done.
- Saute onion in olive oil in a large/deep frying pan or wok (if you like you can add some garlic too). When it starts to look transparent add carrot mushrooms and mince (you can change these for other vegetables if you prefer or have different veggies in the fridge). Stir-fry for a couple of minutes then add stock, tomatoes and herbs, some people like to add a teaspoon of sugar too. Season to taste.
- Cook for about 20-30 minutes stirring regularly until the sauce has reduced. Place in casserole dish. Drain and mash sweet potato (sweet potato is so soft it usually doesn’t need any liquid to mash easily if you feel it does use a little of the sauce from the mince mix.) Top the mince with the sweet potato and a little grated cheese (or vegan cheese substitute) and when ready to eat pop in a medium oven until hot and bubbly around the edges.
Establishing and maintaining a good breastmilk suply is one of the top worries that many mums have about breastfeeding. Our society and the prevalence of formula advertising have made us think that this is a very common problem but it’s really quite unusual to not be able to make enough milk with the right supportive atmosphere. There are some people who have conditions which mean they don’t make any or enough milk and if that’s you this blog post may not be of much use to you but you might need support from a qualified breastfeeding counsellor or an IBCLC.
Your doula is more than happy to provide you with practical support and confidence in your normal breastfeeding journey and will be glad to refer you to expert support if you need some.
Should you even be worried about how much milk you’re making?
Probably not if your baby is putting on weight, producing wet and dirty nappies, not making you sore and feeding frequently.
Making sure you have a good breastmilk supply and get enough milk into your baby is as easy (and as hard) as following your baby’s lead.
Here are our top tips.
- Make sure your baby has a good latch and can easily transfer milk from your breast. Being well attached to the breast makes it easy for baby to get all the milk they need and the more milk they take the more milk you will make. The easiest way to help your baby get a great latch is to use a breastfeeding position that will encourage all your baby’s natural instincts. Laid back breastfeeding positions are perfect for this. If you find it difficult to get a comfortable latch even in this position please get in contact with a breastfeeding counsellor or an IBCLC there are sometimes physical reasons for that pain (such as tongue tie) that need extra support and care. If you want to focus on relaxing and feeding baby, don’t forget your postnatal doula is there to bring you water and snacks and hang out your washing while you do this very important job.
- Get skin to skin. When babies are born they are ready and good to go with breastfeeding and the easiest start to that feeding journey and to having loads of milk is to hang out skin to skin as long as you can. If you miss out on this initial skin to skin don’t panic it’s never too late to get skin to skin with your baby and once is never enough. Hang out with your baby skin to skin anytime you like as much as possible for as long as possible. Not only is it great for your milk supply but it’s a great way for dads and babies to bond too.
- Feed feed feed. In the first few days, every moment your baby spends suckling is a moment that’s switching on more of the milk-producing cells in your breast. And in those first few weeks, there are many growths spurts where you baby (who will always feed frequently) will seem to feed constantly. That constant feeding suddenly happening again often makes women worry they haven’t got enough milk but it’s actually nature’s way of putting in the order for more milk in the next couple of days. Even if you think baby can’t possibly be hungry again allowing them to keep swapping sides and feeding more will allow them to build up your supply, never forget you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby.
- Look after yourself. Making all the food another human needs to survive and double their weight in six months is hard physical work. Make sure that you keep hydrated and well nourished and find ways to fit in any extra sleep you can get. Even malnourished women can make enough milk for their baby but a mother’s body will prioritise milk over its own well being and keeping your head in the game without feeling completely run down and overwhelmed is important too.
- If you plan to mix feed in the long term manage it carefully. Mix feeding is prefered by some women for many different reasons. It can be done and it can suit some families really well. But making sure that breastfeeding and especially your milk supply is established first is important too. Maximising your baby’s time at the breast in the first six weeks will mean your supply is well established and much more flexible after this time. If you do any bottle feeding before six weeks try to use your own expressed milk if possible and if you find baby is still hungry after a bottle feed offer a top-up from the breast, not the bottle. Also, remember the purpose baby is increasing feeds during growth spurts and add in extra breastfeeds not extra bottles.
What about galactagogues and lactation cookies?
You might like lactation cookies, lots of them are really yummy and there’s no harm in munching them if you do. But ultimately you don’t need them to make plenty of milk for your baby. Some women find them helpful especially during growth spurts and your doula will be happy to make you some but eating them is no magic pill and will only help if you’re also frequently feeding your well-latched baby. Sometimes complex feeding issues may be helped by the use of galactagogues but if you’re in that situation you need the expert help of a breastfeeding counsellor or IBCLC who will help you find the right solution for you.
Macaroni and Cheese is such a simple staple we often forget how good it is as a comfort food. This is another great recipe for making in advance and freezing in portion size pieces for when you need something filling to pop in the microwave and enjoy. It’s also something your postnatal doula could easily make for you while you enjoy a rest and a chat or go and have a bath.
- Broccoli, Cauliflower, or your prefered vegetable
- Cheese Sauce
- Bread Crumbs mixed with grated cheese
Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet and cook the vegetables al-dente (mostly cooked but still a little crunchy). Drain and mix with the cheese sauce in a rectangular casserole dish. Top with breadcrumbs and cheese and grill top to brown.
Making a cheese sauce is much easier than some people think. Basic cheese sauce is just made by melting a tablespoon of butter in a pan over a low heat, adding a tablespoon of plain flour and mixing then gradually adding milk a splash at a time and mixing till smooth with a plastic whisk each time until you have a smooth sauce of a consistency you like (probably between half a pint and one pint of milk total). Add grated cheddar cheese to your taste (about 100-200g) and mix it in until it’s all melted.
These yummy chocolate energy bites are perfect for nibbling in labour or when you’ve got a new baby and need some quick energy now. They’ve also got dates in them which have been shown to be potentially very helpful to pregnant women. Find out more about that from the Evidenced-based birth website.
The only problem my taste team discovered was they were all gone too soon.
There are loads of ways to make easy energy bites so watch out for more soon on the blog.
When your postnatal doula arrives at your door there are a few things she might have with her. One might be cake another is a sling to help her as she cares for you and your baby. So what’s so great about slings?
- Lots of babies sleep really well in a sling. Babies come into the world with expectations based on their experience to date which is of being in a lovely snuggly womb. Being in a sling, especially on the move. Is very soothing and cosy and can help babies to sleep. One of the most popular jobs postnatal doulas do is allow mums to get some time (often to sleep) to themselves which they can be easily relaxed enough to do when the baby is sleeping snug in the sling with their doula. This is also a brilliant advantage for dads and partners and grandmas and uncles. Slings help everyone help baby sleep.
- Babies who are colicy or refluxy are often more comfortable upright and well supported in a sling. Doulas often find themselves supporting families when baby is struggling with feeding or with being comfortable after a feed. Babies who cry a lot can be really draining to care for and doulas can do a great job of taking some of the stress away by caring for the family and helping them to care for themselves. Being able to calm a baby is an important skill for doulas and using a sling is a great tip we often pass on to families as an added tool for their toolbox
- Slings leave your hands free to do housework. While housework isn’t the main reason your doula is there she’s more than happy to do a few chores that help you feel relaxed in your home and allow you to focus on resting and recovering from birth and sleepless nights. Using a sling allows your doula (and you if you give it a try) to load the dishwasher, fold the laundry or make you a sandwich with two hands.
- Slings also leave hands free for caring for mum and older children. Your doula can keep on looking after you (give you a foot massage for example) or entertain your older children (make a wooden railway over the playroom floor for example) while you look after yourself. Using a sling will allow you to keep on doing things for yourself, go for a country walk, get a manicure, have coffee with a friend and look after your older children, take them to the park and push them on the swings or stay home and read a book.
- Last but very much not least, sling cuddles are some of the best kind. Doulas are not shy to admit we love a cuddle, we’re great at giving them and we’re oxytocin junkies so we rarely turn one down. Some people (who are wrong) will tell you that cuddling your baby all the time will make a rod for your own back. The evidence of the many happy healthy independent children who were carried in slings shows that’s simply not true. All the cuddles are great for mums and dads and babies too.
If you’re thinking “this sounds great I want in” talk to your doula she can help you get going with a sling. Or find a local babywearing consultant to help you find the best sling for you. Click through and read our quick guide to the different types.
Here’s the second post in our new category: Nourishing the new mum. This recipe is for vegan broth. Soup is easy to eat and easy to fill with lots of good energy boosting foods so it’s perfect for those early postnatal days and weeks.
This is just one example of a yummy nourishing soup great for making ahead and brilliantly easy to eat when you’re recovering from birth and learning how to survive on a broken night’s sleep. If you’re looking for the meaty version click here.
This is just an example, use things you like from your cupboard. Make it high in protein and high in vitamins and minerals. Enjoying eating it is the most important criteria.
-2 tablespoons coconut oil
-2 sweet potatoes
-2 teaspoons vegan stock powder
-2 teaspoons turmeric
-1 teaspoon paprika
-1 teaspoon cumin
-2-3 pints water
-1 teaspoon molasses
-2 teaspoons almond butter
-1 teaspoon super green powder
-1 teaspoon yeast flakes
-salt and pepper to taste
1. Peel and chop onion. Saute in a large saucepan with coconut oil.
2. Peel and chop the carrot and sweet potatoes. Add to pan with stock powder and the spices. Add water and bring to the boil. Simmer on a low heat for 1/2 hour to 1 hour until all the vegetables are soft.
3. Blend to a smooth soup.
4. Add the rest of the ingredients and warm through before serving.