He Put His Fingers Where? Part 1

I can’t remember exactly when it happened, I know I had been working in a ‘case loading’ model for about 2 years when it did. By ‘case loading’ I mean that another midwife and I were offering care to a group of about 80 women, they would see one of us at the start of their pregnancy, then all the way through, including the birthing phase.

The project ‘rocked’, home birth rate was beyond 18%, women spoke of very high levels of satisfaction, the service seemed to work (depending on how you measured it). Working this way was very enjoyable, as a midwife I have never since experienced the same sense of autonomy and stretching of professional competency that the project demanded.

What happened at the time made me feel angry and dismayed but later as I reflected upon it I began to see how it exposed the prejudices and narrow mindedness that can creep up on a group of professionals with out them noticing, like a frog being boiled alive as water gradually reaches scolding hot from being cold.

A woman in our caseload had experienced an horrendous emergency cesarean section previously and was requesting a home birth this time. She was being supported by our team, all of the necessary supervision support was given to her and us and the pregnancy passed with out event.

Late one evening I was called to her home, she had been having what she thought were ‘early labour’ tightenings since midday and these had become ‘more intense’, “please come”, she said, “and see how I am doing”! She and her partner lived very close to me and although on a day off I checked in with my colleague and went to see her and the family.

When I arrived, the lights were down,gentle music was playing and she was standing against a pine chest of draws,rocking gently back and forth, the sway and rhythm of it a little mesmerising, but reassuring.

Her partner started to tell me how the afternoon had gone and when her eyes opened she said she wanted to know how far she was ‘progressing’. We talked about her contractions, how long they were lasting, the frequency between them, wether she was experiencing any pressure in her ‘back passage’?

I watched as another tightening ran its rhythmic course and noticed her breathing change, her body take control as she yield to postures best suited to comfort herself, as the birthing process gripped her, as she, grasped his hand I saw the blanched skin of his knuckles and her nail marks left behind.

Having spoken about all these ‘signs of labour’ she wanted to know how far ‘dilated’ her cervix was and having palpated her abdomen and determined the position of the baby I gently examined her, she had asked if she could stand while I did so and with one of her legs on a small stool we proceeded.

“How far am I”? She pleaded, “2 centimetres”, I replied. Seeing the disappointment in her face I quickly explained that her cervix was ‘paper’ thin, the baby’s head was very low down and that the cervix was tightly applied to it. “All of these findings suggest that things are progressing well”, I said.

We talked for a while as we drank our tea about how things were going, she seem encouraged and was keen to for me to go home, I explained that first thing the next day I had something’s planned (day off remember) and that I might not be around.

Her partner asked me to explain what I was ‘feeling’ for when I did a vaginal examination. I talked about the cervix being ‘thick and hard’ and ’round the back of the body’, about it ‘softening and thinning ‘and moving to the front of her body and beginning to open, about the baby’s head applying pressure to the cervix as it descends, the feeling of the bulging membranes, like pushing a ballon through a polya neck shirt. He seemed to be thinking deeply, thanked me and I went home.


Birthing For Blokes

Birthing For Blokes is committed to providing excellent teaching, training and on going support to men whose partners are pregnant.

When this 3 session programme is finished you will know:

How to identify when ‘labour’ has started
What to do to support her in ‘labour’
When to call the midwife
What the ‘stages of labour’ are
How you can create an environment that supports her giving birth
How to speak to her to reduce her feelings of fear
How to manage your own ‘fight or flight’ response
The meanings of the medical words Midwives and Doctors use
How to use relaxation exercises to support her when she is giving birth
How breastfeeding works and how to support her feeding choices

The cost of the programme includes unlimited email and telephone support until baby is 28 days old and hand outs etc.

Price: £7.50 and Hour, paid before the programme starts (£45). We are committed to everyone who wants to do the sessions being able too, please ask if the price is a challenge, payment plans are available.

To book a place on the next programme email: livingawake@me.com or Phone Mark on 07725 894 452

Who Is The Founder Of Birthing Awareness?

I am registered as a midwife and nurse. I love being around people, always have as long as I can remember; having five sisters and three brothers afforded me plenty of practice and now with five children of my own and 4 grand children (another on the way), I have lots of opportunity to indulge my people passion.
The choices I have made in my professional life have been shaped by this gregarious inclination. I have trained and worked as a Nurse, Midwife, Teacher in Further Education, hypnotherapist, NLP trainer, out reach youth worker. I still work as a Midwife offering a birth education through a programme called, Birthing For Blokes (@Birthing4Blokes), work and play often merge for me.

Stone-Age Bodies Living In the Fast-Lane

It never ceases to amaze me that palaeontologists are constantly discovering with new dinosaurs. After all this time, millions and millions of years, ‘ops here’s one we missed’, last month another one reared its head. In fact it wasn’t a professional palaeontologist this time, it was one of those anorak wearing, spectacled, ‘just rummaging around in mud for fun types’, appropriately called Kevin.

The evolutionary process is no slouch, and the end product works perfectly, in the main our bodies do the job they have evolved to do over millions of years very well thank you!

Those of us men who are fathers or who are about to become fathers are no exception, an understanding of how our bodies and more specificity our hormones are working as we are with the women we love as she births, is a missing key to truly loving the experience and to us being the very best we can be in the situation.

Evolutionary biologists tell us that and evolutionary adaption takes about 5,000 generations to effect change in a biological system, that’s around 70 million years. In short we have Stone Age bodies now living in the fast lane, the responses we make physiologically are ancient and have been adapted for a different context than the one we find ourselves in.

As the birthing process starts for her the ancient parts of her brain are releasing oxytocin (and a mix of other hormones), this powerful hormone is responsible for keeping the process moving forward, climaxing in the birth of a new human being. The Neo Cortex, a relatively young structure of the brain (10,000 years old) has many jobs, the ones of interest in our discussion are those with the task of ‘thinking’, the very acts that mark us out as different from the other animals, language production, the ability to think about thinking.

These reflective skills in a woman who is birthing result in fear and self consciousness leading to the production of adrenalin, a hormone which at this stage of her birthing inhibits the work of oxytocin, labour is slowed or stopped.

This process worked perfectly, when in days gone by on the plains of Africa, attacked by a predictor she was then able to run away, but now, an understanding of what can slow labour is important for a ‘good’, fulfilling birth experiences.

We know a lot about what encourages oxytocin to be present in a woman’s body in abundance, just as we understand what can inhibit its flow.

A list of oxy-pro factors:

Being warm
Being private
Not talking
Feeling safe and loved
Dark environments
Familiar places
Deep relaxation

A list of oxy-antagonist:

Unfamiliar places
Tense body postures
Being inhibited regarding movement
Bright lights
Answering questions
Chit chat

That’s right, both lists are not exhaustive, you can add to them because you get the idea. Now think about arriving at hospital, knowing that your birthing is under way……..and suddenly it becomes VERY clear why the use of ‘synthetic’ oxytocin is on the increase (more about that in a longer post later).

Knowing these basic things about how our bodies have worked for thousands of years should inform our behaviour right? Hey, like I already said, evolution is no slouch when it comes to efficacy!

Men: when the woman you love is being taken over by an oxytocin fuelled trip,you are going to become an adrenalin factory! Why? Because when we were hunter gathers she needed protecting. She still DOES!

The difference now is that ‘fighting’ or ‘fleeing’ is not an option. Being present, as a protective ‘force-field’ of lovingkindness is your job, understanding what’s going on will help. In ancient days protecting her from fear meant wrestling wild animals, now it probably means keeping her warm, turning the lights down and guarding the birth room door.