Amy Antoinette - A Motherhood & Lifestyle Blog

25 April 2016

How to Overcome A Traumatic Birth Experience

Traumatic birth experiences. As if childbirth isn't emotionally and physically difficult enough as it is, there's those who will have a birth experience that will leave them traumatised, and possibly with PTSD. I've been unfortunate in that all three of my birth experiences have been traumatic - enduring 12 hours of labour with William and Noah, knowing that they would die soon after their birth; the anxiety during Henry's labour and the fear for his safety when the neonatal team arrived due to meconium being present; and the very fast and intense experience of precipitous labour with Everly. 

Interestingly, it was only after my daughter's birth that the trauma of the experience affected me. Perhaps it is the culmination of three traumatic birth experiences, perhaps it's solely down to the way hers unfolded that was so different to my expectations, but either way, despite all of them being distressing experiences, it is her birth that has stayed with me, keeping me up at night as I replay it in my mind. 

Precipitous labor is the medical term for labour that lasts less than 3 hours from the start of contractions to delivery. The contractions are intense - your body is going from zero to 10 centimeters at an extremely fast pace, and for labour to be completed in such a short length of time, the contractions are continuous and extremely long and intense right from the start, with no time to administer pain relief. I had no time to process my labour. One minute I was experiencing my first contraction, the next I had arrived at hospital with less than a minute between them and begging for someone to help me. I felt out of control, helpless and fearful.

Those are my experiences of traumatic births. There are a number of other events that can contribute to a traumatic birth experience. A lengthy labour or a short and very painful labour. Induction, poor pain relief, feelings of loss of control, high levels of medical intervention, emergency deliveries, impersonal treatment, not being listened to, fear for baby's safety, stillbirth, or baby’s stay in the SCBU or NICU. For parents, events around their baby’s birth may have been confusing, unexpected or unplanned.

Here are a number of ways that have personally helped me and I hope can aid others in recovering from a traumatic birth experience...

Writing is such a cathartic process. It may be difficult, but it allows you to process your thoughts and clarify how you feel and pinpoint the particularly difficult parts. I write down my thoughts through my blog - sometimes I publish them, other times they stay in draft form. Jot down thoughts in a notebook, write in a journal or pen a letter to yourself. I found it particularly helpful to write out Everly's birth story and detail what had happened, step-by-step.

I believe in the power of tears. Let the tears come - don't suppress the emotions. Disappointment, sadness and grief all manifest through tears, and it the ultimate release. Only 30 minutes after arriving in hospital, I lay in bed with my newborn daughter in my arms and I cried due to the shock I was in over the whirlwind of events that had just taken place. I needed to let those tears come and acknowledge the disappointment I felt that yet another birth had become an unpleasant experience.

Whether it's with medical staff, the person who was present with you at the birth, a doula, or a counsellor, talking is a form of therapy, and an ideal way to explore your memories, feelings and thoughts surrounding a traumatic birth. When I was seeking out information about overcoming a traumatic birth experience, I discovered Birth Afterthoughts - a confidential service in the UK that provides an opportunity to discuss and understand what happened during the labour and birth process. It's the perfect opportunity to have any questions answered and fully understand the medical assessment and decision making process that took place.

Request Birth Notes
It's likely that the labour and birth were very different to your expectations and the plans you made during pregnancy.  In the moment, you may not have had time to process what was happening, or the reasoning behind it, so reading over the birth notes at your own pace, in your own environment, can allow you to fill in any blanks and help you come to terms with the sequence of events.

Make a Complaint
This may not be applicable for every traumatic birth experience, but if you were treated in a poor manner, it can help provide closure and healing. William and Noah's birth was traumatic for obvious reasons, but with Everly's birth, the way I was dealt with contributed to the trauma I experienced. I should not have been treated the way that I was, and I don't want any other women to ever have that experience, either. The nurse in triage didn't check to see how dilated I was, she didn't check our baby's heartbeat, she didn't monitor my contractions, she refused to give me pain relief, and ultimately she did not believe that I was in labour until Everly's head was crowning. And this was despite informing her that my waters had broken with meconium present, and that I had tested positive for Group B Strep and needed antibiotics asap. No woman should feel so disregarded that she ends up pleading for help, and I will be lodging a complaint with the hospital.

Support Groups
It can be a huge helping talking to others who have been through the same, or a similar, experience. Search for Facebook Groups, find charities who offer support forums, or look for groups that meet locally. Getting in touch with other women who have experienced a traumatic birth gives you access to people who are able to hear, acknowledge and understand your experiences. Their support and understanding can be invaluable, especially as your closest friends and relatives are often unable to provide that level of comfort and comprehension.

Have you experienced a traumatic birth?  Let me know what helped you recover from it.

20 April 2016

10 Natural Teething Remedies

Excessive drooling, red cheeks, irritability, constant gnawing on fingers and toes.... these are all the symptoms of teething and mean your little one is getting ready to sprout those first tiny milk teeth.  When it comes to teething, I prefer to reach for natural remedies over medication, and I've tried an assortment of different products in the search of something that will help ease the pain of my little one's suffering. These are my 10 favourite natural teething remedies which I can always rely on to provide some relief for those sore gums...

1. Camilia Teething Relief Camilia is a natural one-product solution that contains no benzocaine, sugar, dyes or preservatives. I love the convenient single-use liquid oral doses, they're sterile and so easy to administer.

2. Comotomo Silicone Teether Both my little ones loved to chomp on their itty bitty fingers, but it can leave them looking a little red and sore, which is why I love the Comotomo Teether.  It's perfectly designed for little hands to hold and features multiple baby-finger-shaped biting points to chew on. It's easy enough for even little baba's to use, plus it's made of 100% safe medical-grade silicone.

3. Bickiepegs Teething Biscuits These were a favourite with Henry. These hard, finger shaped biscuits are perfect to bite down on, and I love that they don't contain sugar.

4. Fox Wooden Teether This cute little teether features a clip, so it's always within reach when baby's gums need some relief.

5. Amber Necklace The premise behind these necklaces is that amber is a resin which when warmed by the body releases oils containing succinic acid – a natural pain reliever. The oils are absorbed through the skin and into the blood steam where they get to work improving immunity, relieving headaches, teething pain and reducing inflammation of the throat, ear and stomach.

6. Freezer Pop Moulds These are the perfect size for little hands to hold. Either freeze homemade fruit purees for a tasty and soothing treat, or use breastmilk if your baby is under 6 months.

7. Weleda Chamomilla Granules Made from soothing chamomile root, these granules are ideal for younger babies (they can be used from birth by being crushed and dissolved in cooled boiled  water). The base granule is made from sucrose so it won't cause problems for lactose-intolerant babies, and  they work for colic as well as teething pain.

8. Hyland's Natural Teething Tablets Just pop 2-3 of these tiny teething tablets under the tongue for fast relief. They dissolve almost immediately, so they don't pose a choking hazard, and quickly soothe baby's teething troubles.

9. Fresh Food Feeder These are great for soothing a baby's sore gums - just pop in a piece of frozen fruit and they can safely gnaw away!

10. Orajel Baby Naturals Teething Gel Containing no benzocaine, parabens, belladonna or dyes, this homeopathic formula immediately soothes irritated gums and calms restlessness.

The age old favourite of freezing a wet washcloth is also an easy and effective way of helping soothe sore gums! What are your go-to teething remedies?

8 April 2016

Co-Sleeping With The BabyBay

When I was pregnant with our baby girl, I spent hours searching for the right place for her to sleep for the first six months of her life. Whereas Henry had slept in a moses basket, and then a small crib besides our bed, I knew I wanted something different this time around. I'd read about the benefits of co-sleeping, (or side-sleeping), and I'd also become a lot more aware about the importance of using an organic mattress when it came to a baby's sleep environment. 

What I loved about co-sleepers was that I would be able to see and hear my baby with her being so close to me, without the danger of her actually being in bed with us. It would mean no getting out of bed numerous times each night (a huge plus if you've had stitches or you're recovering from a caesarian) to feed, soothe, and cuddle our newborn, which can exacerbate the already overwhelming exhaustion. Night time nursing sessions would be a lot easier, too.

It wasn't just for my benefit either. I knew that newborns love to be in close contact with their parents, where they feel comforted and safe. A co-sleeper allows baby to sense and smell their parent, helping nurture that special bond. It sounded like the ideal sleep solution for a newborn. Safe and secure in their own crib, yet within an arms reach to comfort and soothe. Now I just had to find one.

I soon discovered that here in the USA, there is a very limited choice of co-sleepers available, and none which fit the criteria I was looking for. So I started researching what other countries used. The SnuzPod (owned by pretty much every blogger that has given birth in the past year). The Halo Bassinest. The Chicco Next to Me. But none of these were right. I wanted a wooden co-sleeper, no plastic, no mesh sides, no foam mattress. I didn't want it to cost a fortune, either.

And hallelujah, after months of research, I stumbled across the BabyBay, and it ticked every single box. The multi award winning Babybay is THE original bedside cot and offers all the benefits of co-sleeping without the risks. Not only was it everything I was looking for, it’s versatile (a side rail can be added to make it a stand alone cot, and lockable wheels can be added for extra mobility), plus once your child has outgrown the crib, it can be adapted using a selection of accessories. It can be transformed into a bench, a desk, a highchair.  Far for being a 6 month wonder, Babybay offers years of flexible use, making it good value for money.

I love that the BabyBay is designed and manufactured in Europe from locally sourced, sustainable natural beechwood, which offers antibacterial and antistatic protection. The water-based finishes are non-toxic with zero or low VOC, to promote a healthy sleep environment.

The BabyBay is priced at a whopping $445 here in the USA, but through my research, I found that a lot of UK parents were buying the crib from Amazon Germany, where it's very popular and a lot cheaper. So I did the same, at a price of just £85, and I ordered a Little Green Sheep Organic Mattress from Amazon UK and had that shipped over too.

It took just one week to arrive, and only 15 minutes to assemble. The sleeping platform (which also features ventilation holes) can be raised and lowered easily using an allan key, allowing for quick adjustments. Once attached to our bed, it was extremely sturdy, solid and secure. It sits completely level with our mattress, with no gaps or any risk of slippage between the crib and our bed.

It's now been 4.5 months since we first placed our baby girl beside us in the BabyBay, and we're still loving having her so close to us. With hindsight, I should have opted for the BabyBay Maxi - their larger version - but I didn't realise we would have such a long baby! I'm hoping for another month before we reluctantly make the transition to her own room. If you're looking for a natural, wooden co-sleeper with an organic mattress, I highly recommend the BabyBay. Affordable, safe and it looks pretty cute, too!

1 April 2016

Breastfeeding - The Essentials

Breastfeeding requires a lot of dedication and perseverance, and it can actually be difficult to get the hang of it - for both mama and baby.  So anything which makes it that bit more comfortable and easy to manage can be a lifesaver, especially in the early days when you're dealing with engorged breasts, cracked nipples and hours upon hours of nursing. So for all of you mamas out there that are, or will be, nursing your sweet babies, here is a list of my breastfeeding essentials, which have really helped me when it came to nursing both my little ones.

Whether you want to introduce a bottle of expressed milk to your baby, build a stash for going back to work, or just relieve engorged breasts, the Medela Swing Breast Pump is my favourite of all the breast pumps I’ve used. Its small size means it's convenient to store (or fit in your handbag) and it's ideal for helping to build your milk supply. What I love about the Medela is the way that it mimics the way a baby suckles - fast in the beginning to stimulate the let down, and slower and more forceful once the milk is flowing. I once tried a manual pump and expressed absolutely nothing... then I used the Medela Swing Pump and was over the moon to pump 4oz just on one side. 

I tried using a nursing cover a few times with Henry and didn't like it - it inhibited my view, left us both hot and I was constantly having to rearrange it whilst feeding. This time around, I knew I didn't want to be messing around with a cover, but I wanted to limit my skin exposure when nursing in public, for the sake of my own inhibitions.

I love Undercover Mama because it clips onto any nursing bra and transforms it into a cami, so if you need to lift up your top to feed, having this on underneath keeps your stomach covered, which is ideal for the immediate postpartum wobbly stage, plus it keeps you warm! I either wear them on their own around the house, or under non-nursing tops, which eliminates the need for buying special (and usually expensive) nursing clothing. 

Breast pads that are soft and absorbent are so important to have on hand in those first few weeks, and as you continue nursing. Any breastfeeding mama that has forgotten to put in her pads understands the importance of these! Milk doesn't just let down when you're feeding. Random baby crying... looking at photos of your children... generally feeling happy... yep, here comes the milk! I love washable bamboo breast pads as they're super soft, extremely absorbent and not at all bulky. They come in packs so you always have some to wear whilst others are in the wash and they dry really quickly. For when I'm leaving the house and want something a little more secure, I rely on Lansinoh Disposable Nursing Pads to stay in place and keep me free from milk stains.

4. Burp Cloths
Neither Henry or Everly spit up a lot,  but they both had trouble with my fast let down, which meant a lot of spilled milk when they were learning to control the flow. There were also many times when Everly would pull off the breast, but the milk just kept on flowing! Nobody wants to end up with milk-soaked  clothes, so I always tuck a burp cloth underneath me as I nurse, to soak up any spills and keep both of us dry. Of course, it's also great to use as a burp cloth that you throw over your shoulder. These SwaddleDesigns Muslin Burpies are incredibly soft and absorbent and feature a reversible pattern. They're the perfect size for rolling up and popping in the changing bag, too.

5. BKR Water Bottle
Your body needs a lot of water, and breastfeeding is thirsty work. There were so many occasions with Henry when he'd fallen asleep whilst feeding and I didn't dare move and wake him - so I sat for hours, unable to reach my water although I was desperate for a sip! Having a water bottle close to hand means you can drink as you feed and stay hydrated. I love this glass BKR bottle which has a silicone sleeve and looks cute, too.

After researching a few nursing pillows, I came across 'My Brest Friend,' which seemed to be the best of the bunch. Unlike most others available which have an open design, it clips around the waist, securely keeping it place and supporting the back, as well as giving you a place to rest your arm. Using the pillow made breastfeeding so much more comfortable and stopped the backache I experienced when I tried to nurse with no support.

The cover is removable and washable, and also has a little elasticated pocket on the side, which is a great feature for keeping any extras like Infacol, lip balm or a burp cloth nearby. Whilst I did stop using this after a few months once Everly was bigger, it was an absolute essential when I was getting the hang of nursing again. It really is worth investing in - I used it 8 times a day for the first 3 months with both my babies - it's definitely earned its worth!

7. Nursing Bras
Having to wear a bra all day and all night isn't so great (we all know how good it feels to take it off at the end of the day) so I was searching for a completely soft, comfortable nursing bra that I could also choose to sleep in. I love Emma Jane for all of those reasons – it almost feels as though I have no bra on. The band doesn't cut into my ribs, it gives minimal support but still keeps things contained and it holds a breast pad on one side for letdown during those nighttime nursing sessions! For more structure and prettiness, I can't fault Bravado, which gives great support and shape without any underwires.

Little Extras
Nipple Balm
Although somehow I magically never needed it, nipple cream proves invaluable to a lot of breastfeeding mamas, particularly in the early days when babies nurse pretty much constantly day and night. Lansinoh Lanolin Cream and Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter both get amazing reviews, and I always have some on hand, just in case.

Tracker App
Another lifesaver during those first few days and weeks. In the haze of sleep deprivation and countless feeds and nappy changes, a tracker app allows you to easily keep note of when you feed, which side, and for how long. I use 'BabyConnect' from the App store and it enables me to log everything from feeds, sleeps and nappies, to weight and length measurements. I absolutely love having all of that information in one place and in my phone, because I pretty much always have my phone within reach when I'm breastfeeding!

Ddrops Baby Liquid Vitamin D3
Baby Ddrops were recommended to me by the pediatrician, as they're specifically designed to support breastfed babies to ensure they're getting enough Vitamin D. Just one drop contains the recommended dose of 400 IU, without any other chemicals or additives. The best thing about these drops is they're so easy to administer - just pop a single drop on the nipple at the beginning of a feed once day!

Are you a breastfeeding mama? What are your nursing essentials?

30 March 2016

Everly's First Easter

I hope all my lovely readers had a wonderful Easter break, despite what I hear the weather was like back in the UK! Easter is a big holiday here in the US. The stores are filled with all the Easter paraphernalia you can think of - ready filled Easter baskets, an entire 30ft aisle filled with an assortment of egg shaped candy and chocolate, books, crafts, toys and religious items. Not to mention all the Easter egg hunts in different locations, photos with the Easter Bunny, an Easter parade and a Spring petting farm at the mall. 

Easter has always been a time when we visit family, so it was bittersweet this year, as it was our first with Everly with us, but also our second Easter away from our parents and my brothers, nieces and nephews. We couldn't help but feel homesick when we looked out of the window and saw cars lined up outside our neighbours homes.

Nevertheless, we had a lovely few days together as a family of four. This was the first Easter when Henry could actually participate in an egg hunt. I have such fond memories from when I was a little girl and my brothers and I would eagerly run out into the garden in search of treats from the Easter Bunny, so I was excited to start the tradition with Henry. Our backyard here in Virginia (the word 'garden' somehow doesn't fit anymore and feels too English!) is around 50 times the size of the one we left behind in our small Victorian terraced house, so I had a fantastic time finding lots of secret spots to hide the eggs!

We didn't want Henry to gorge on too much chocolate, so we opted for colourful plastic eggs which I filled with a variety of mini chocolate eggs and little toys. It was a delight to watch him search through the trees and leaves, exclaiming in excitement when he found an egg. Watching our little boy run around the large expanse of grass under the impossibly clear blue sky, with the sun warming our bare skin, just confirmed for us that we made the right decision in moving to America.

Easter was also special for us as Everly chose to celebrate by rolling from her back to front for the first time - whilst on a Skype call to Granny and Grandad no less! All in all, it was a really lovely weekend, filled with many special moments. I just love all the happy memories that are being made here.