Category Archives: Pregnancy

The Calm Birth School

Towards the end of my pregnancy, I was offered the opportunity to review The Calm Birth School, an online course teaching hypnobirthing techniques.  The course takes four weeks to complete, and I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t manage all of it as I was already about 35 weeks pregnant when I signed up.  In fact, a combination of my lack of organisation and baby boy’s early arrival meant that I didn’t get very far with it, but I have seen enough to know that is something I would definitely recommend.

The course includes video modules, digital handbooks, mp3s and online support from the course leaders and other members of the group.  I only got as far as watching the welcome video, and the first teaching video, so I didn’t get to the point of putting the techniques into practice, but my initial impressions were very positive.

In the welcome video, Suzy Ashworth and Hollie de Cruz, the founders of the Calm Birth School introduce themselves and explain what the course covers.  These are the key points:

  • no such thing as a perfect birth
  • no place for perfectionism
  • focus on creating a positive birth experience
  • trust your body and your baby
  • breathing techniques
  • the science of birth
  • release your fears
  • support from Suzy and Hollie

I also watched Class 1 Module 1 – Physiology and Psychology of Birth, but I was a little distracted as there was a lot of noise in the background from my other children who were needing some attention.  I got to the part where you are supposed to practise the breathing techniques, and I did try, but the noise level rose to the extent that I couldn’t hear the video so I gave up, thinking I would come back to it later.  Of course I didn’t, which is the story of my life, so all I got was a tantalising glimpse of how useful the course could be if I’d managed to devote some time to it.

One of the features of the course which I particularly liked was the online support available, in the form of a facebook group, and direct contact with the Suzy and Hollie if needed.  Again I’ve been somewhat on the sidelines, but I’ve been observing the group and it is lovely and positive, and I believe the support and encouragement could make all the difference particularly to first time mothers who may be getting more negative messages about birth from other sources.  As with the course as a whole, the group clearly promotes the idea that it is possible to achieve a calm birth but it’s not about perfection, and giving birth is not something you can fail at.

baby boy first feed

As for my own experience, I had a lovely calm birth this time round, which I will be writing about separately.  After a difficult birth the first time, and a moderately difficult one the second time, I’ve had three really positive experiences thanks to the support of friends and things I have learnt along the way.  But I do wish I’d had something like the Calm Birth School to help me prepare during my first pregnancy, and I highly recommend it to anyone, particularly first time parents or those who have had a difficult birth before.  I’d like to say thank you to Suzy and Hollie for letting me access the course and join the group.  I’m sorry I didn’t make more use of it but I think you are doing a brilliant job and I will be recommending you to every pregnant person I meet!

I was given free access to The Calm Birth School course materials and support group for the purpose of this review.




Pregnancy Diary: the Last Week

The last pregnancy diary post I published was at 36 weeks and 2 days.  Just over a week later I went into labour, and baby boy was born at 37 weeks and 4 days.  In the last post I wrote that I was “hoping that the increase in intensity and frequency of the Braxton Hicks contractions doesn’t mean baby is going to come too soon.  A bit early would be okay, but not this early please baby, I am so not organised.”  I never really did get organised, but I think what was most worrying me was the idea of giving birth before 37 weeks.

The first couple of days of the last week of the pregnancy were quite difficult, because the Braxton Hicks were really painful and frequent, and I was just exhausted.  I felt a bit better on the Wednesday as we had the final growth scan which was lovely.  It was very reassuring to see baby boy, and know he was okay, and a very normal weight of approximately 6lbs at that point.

I remember saying to a few people the weekend before that I wouldn’t mind giving birth early, but not before I’d had my pre-baby hair appointment!  That was on the Thursday, and was very relaxing.  It also marked the end of week 36, as I was exactly 37 weeks on the Friday.

Pre-baby hairdo

Hair Done – baby can come now!

37 weeks

37 weeks

I would have been very glad to know, when I took those photos, that I only had to wait four more days before meeting baby boy.  There was just one more obligation that had to be fulfilled first and that was Messy Church, which Paul and I were running on the Saturday.  The theme was the Nativity, and the children were hoping that the baby would be born in time to be Jesus, but I wasn’t quite so keen on that idea!

After Messy Church was over, I went home thoroughly exhausted but feeling that now baby could come when he was ready, and even though we weren’t organised it wouldn’t really matter that much.  So when I had a show that evening, and realised that my instinct was right that he really was coming soon, I felt reasonably calm about it.  I went to church on Sunday in a positive mood, wearing my favourite maternity dress and feeling rather fabulous.  I was also pretty sure I was showing off the bump for the last time, and it turns out I was right.  (I’m not counting the following two days spent in scruffy but comfortable clothes while I was in labour!)  After the service I mentioned to a couple of people that I thought baby was imminent, and later that day I finally got round to packing my hospital bag.  Once that was done I tried to go to bed early, but unfortunately couldn’t sleep at all.  I had contractions on and off throughout the night, and though they weren’t distinctly different from the Braxton Hicks, I had the feeling that they were gradually changing.  At five to six in the morning I had a contraction that was much more intense, and I knew from that point that I was definitely in labour, though still in the early stages.

And now, baby boy is demanding my attention so I will have to save his birth story for another day.

Pregnancy Diary: 36 Weeks

Today I am 36 weeks and 2 days pregnant.

36 weeks

Baby is: the size of a large canteloupe, about 6lbs and 19-22 inches long.

I am: hoping that the increase in intensity and frequency of the Braxton Hicks contractions doesn’t mean baby is going to come too soon.  A bit early would be okay, but not this early please baby, I am so not organised.  But at least I have made a start.  Yesterday I bought some of the things I need for my hospital bag.  Still quite a way to go, and not sure when I can next get out shopping, but I feel better for having bought nappies at least, and a few other bits and pieces.  I can see how it’s going to go – fifth babies do not get the same treatment as first babies, but I need to do a bit better.  So far I have two vests and three sleepsuits from the charity shop (thanks mum) but nothing else in the newborn size.  I’m all for a bit of minimalism but I seem to remember that babies go through more clothes than that in a day!

Pregnancy Diary: 35 Weeks

Today I am 35 Weeks and 3 days pregnant.

35 weeks

Baby is: about the size of a honeydew melon, approximately 5.5 lbs, and 20 inches long.

I am: very tired today but mainly because I went to the theatre in London last night, which was brilliant, and is a better reason for feeling tired than just general pregnancy exhaustion.  I’m still having painful Braxton Hicks contractions pretty much all the time, but my back is a bit better so I’m managing to get a bit more done.  Too tired to think of anything else to say – it doesn’t feel like there’s much else to report, and no news is probably good news!

Pregnancy Diary: 34 Weeks

Today I am 34 weeks and 4 days pregnant.

34 weeks

Baby is: as big as a pineapple.  He has been wriggling around a lot and I feel a bit more comfortable so I think that foot is out of my ribs for now.

I am: feeling quite calm right now so it’s probably best to write this before that changes!  My back pain got a lot worse at the end of last week, and has continued to be quite bad over the weekend, so this week got off to a horrible start.  But, although it’s still painful, I think it’s slightly better today than it was and my movement is not quite so restricted.  I’m hoping that the improvement continues so I can get some housework done because it’s horrible watching the chaos build up, and the stress of that makes everything else harder to deal with.  I’m still not sleeping much either – all the usual reasons, with leg cramps thrown into the mix as well.

I had an appointment at the hospital clinic today, and was seen separately by a nurse, a midwife and a consultant, after which I had to have some blood tests.  By the end of it I couldn’t wait to get out of there.  It was stressful for a lot of reasons.  The clinic was running late and Paul had to go back and collect Tiddler from preschool, so I was on my own which always seems to be when things go wrong.  I found out I have protein and leukocytes in my urine, so that has to be checked out.  Probably just a UTI, but the protein thing makes me nervous as it is a sign of pre-eclampsia.  I’m sure they would have mentioned if my blood pressure was high though (in the stress of the moment I forgot to ask), so it’s not very likely to be that.

It took the midwife a really long time to find the baby’s heartbeat too, which was horrible, but she did find it in the end and everything seems to be fine.  Then I saw the consultant, who said, as I suspected, that I need to start taking Metformin because my early morning sugars have been either borderline or a little bit high.  It’s really disappointing, as my sugars have been fine after meals and it seems very marginal.  The consequence is no home birth, no midwife-led unit and the possibility of continuous monitoring in labour.  I’m not looking forward to the prospect of another hospital birth,  but I know the positions that work for me, and I know that it’s possible to be monitored without lying on a bed so I will just have to be assertive – or maybe Paul will!

So after all that, and with a sore back and two sore arms (one from the blood tests today, the other from the whooping cough injection I had yesterday) it’s surprising that I am still feeling calm but at the moment I am.  I think that bizarrely the fact that this baby is already causing trouble (like the rest of them, I’m tempted to add) somehow makes me more sure than ever that he’s entirely meant to be.  The thing about children is that they drive you a little bit crazy a lot of the time, but then they catch you out by being completely amazing and lovely and you forgive them.  I’m sitting on the sofa, the house has finally gone quiet so I’ve got time to pay attention to the smallest one who is moving around reassuringly and I’m quite enjoying watching my bump.  I’m so looking forward to meeting him, and I know all this trouble will definitely be worth it.

Pregnancy Diary: 33 Weeks

Today I am 33 weeks and 5 days pregnant.

33 weeks

Baby is: the size of a honeydew melon (around 4.5 lbs.)  Foot still firmly stuck in my ribs but I suppose I should just be pleased that he’s head down and looking likely to stay that way!

I am: beyond tired but feeling quite a sense of achievement.  I took Owl to London last night to see War Horse and he loved it.  Today we have had our Tiny Tots church service, followed by a lunch that I organised with two friends.  Then a walk in Nonsuch Park with Home Education Group, and the day finished with taking Rabbit to Rainbows.  I am thoroughly exhausted but at least I hope the children will sleep well tonight.  My back is worse again, which is perhaps not surprising.  I’ve realised that every time it gets a little bit better I do too much, particularly laundry because it’s so frustrating watching it build up when I can’t do it, and so my back gets worse again very quickly.  It’s hard to know what to do about it.  Well, the answer is probably to train the children to do their own washing and ironing I suppose!


Pregnancy Diary: 32 Weeks

Today I am 32 weeks and 6 days pregnant.

32 weeks

Baby is: about the size of a coconut.  Or, more accurately, as we’ve had another growth scan this week, about 4lb 4oz.  All the measurements suggested that he’s more-or-less exactly average, which is good news.  I’m still hoping to get away with controlling the diabetes with my diet to avoid unnecessary interventions, so it was a big relief.  In other news, he is head down which is good, but he appears to have a foot stuck in my ribs which is not so great.

I am: up and down and all over the place.  Sleeping only with the help of pills, tired and emotional and in a lot of pain.  But I’m trying to make the most of occasional random bursts of energy and get lots of things done while it lasts.  It’s been quite a productive day today so I feel a bit better, though as I’m up too late to take a sleeping pill it doesn’t bode very well for tomorrow.  I’m looking forward to seeing some friends at a coffee morning at church, though, so maybe it will be a good day.  I haven’t been out very much recently and I know that’s part of the problem.  I went to the theatre last night which felt like an achievement.  I found it hard because of a few anxiety triggers, and just having too much on my mind.  I tried really hard to be distracted, with only partial success, but the play was very good and I’m glad I went.  I came back in tears, which confused Paul, and fair enough – I couldn’t even begin to explain.  I think I just need to get out more!


Pregnancy Diary: 31 Weeks

Today I am 31 weeks and 6 days pregnant.

31 weeks

Baby is: the size of a head of lettuce (about 18 inches, and 3.2lbs.) I can feel that he’s getting pretty squashed in there now, because there are all sorts of interesting wriggling and rolling movements going on!

I am: still having trouble sleeping, and thinking I may need to start taking the sleeping pills most nights.  I was trying to alternate, but I’m struggling to keep going with so little sleep on the days in between, and it is still affecting my blood sugar levels in the morning.  It’s been a difficult week as my back has been quite bad again, and the combination of that and the painful Braxton Hicks contractions is quite overwhelming.  I suppose it’s a good sign though – the end is in sight!

Pregnancy Diary: 30 weeks

Today I am 30 weeks and 6 days pregnant – and leaving this to the last minute as usual, though I did take the photos last Friday.

30 weeks

Baby is: the size of a butternut squash.  All his organs are almost fully developed, just the lungs need to mature and he is gaining weight at the rate of about half a pound a week.  His eyes are now open when he’s awake and closed when he’s asleep.

I am: very tired but otherwise ok.  I’m having Braxton Hicks contractions which are quite painful.  I remember having them for a month at the end of the last pregnancy, but I didn’t expect them to start this early!

Pregnancy Diary : 29 Weeks

Today I am 29 weeks and 6 days pregnant.

29 weeks

Baby is: the size of a small cabbage!  He is still very active which is reassuring, and I’m finding that watching my bump move is at least as entertaining as watching the television in the evening.

I am: still not sleeping much.  I’ve been using the sleeping pills a bit, but I don’t want to take them every night.  They work to some extent, but they can’t stop me being woken up by children in small hours, so short of moving out for a while I’m not sure what I can do about it!  I’m a bit stressed, but also feeling very blessed by my lovely family, including the smallest one who is making his presence felt with all the kicking and wriggling.  I’m really getting impatient to meet him now.