Sunday, 29 July 2012

Breastfeeding: Stories to Inspire and Inform - Review and Giveaway

To get us in the mood for World Breastfeeding Week 2012, I'm offering the chance to win a free copy of a wonderful new book on breastfeeding: Breastfeeding - Stories to Inspire and Inform, edited by Susan Last and published by Lonely Scribe. To enter all you need to do is leave a comment on this blog post - more details at the end of this review.

Susan Last is a breastfeeding peer supporter and the mother of three breastfed children. The book begins with her informed and thoughtful introduction, in which she writes very cleverly and concisely about the politics of breastfeeding, it's value, and the main myths that surround it in our current society.

The rest of the book is filled with over twenty women's stories of their breastfeeding experiences, and offers a wide and fascinating variety, from nursing a premature baby, to twins, to tandem feeding, and many more. In every tale, the women write passionately of both struggles and triumphs, of what helped, and what didn't, and of the unique bond that makes it all worth while. The stories are interspersed with photos and some really lovely quotes about breastfeeding, all of which gives the book a warm feel that would make it a perfect gift for an expectant mother.

But the book goes deeper: as I read I could not help but feel what a vivid picture it paints of the reality of breastfeeding in the 21st century Western world, and how it should also be read by midwives, health visitors, politicians, and anyone else whose work might impact on the success or otherwise of a new mother and baby's breastfeeding experience. Shining through the stories comes love, strength and perseverance...but there is also a great deal of doubt, and a worrying amount of bad advice, so much so that editor Susan Last took the decision to 'asterisk' what she calls 'potentially unhelpful myths' when they occur in each story, and refer the reader back to her introduction.

In many of the stories women are undermined and misinformed by the very people who are charged with their care. These unhelpful comments range from the infamous UK Health Visitors - obsessed with outdated charts and determined to recommend Formula top-ups, to the disgraceful words of one US Midwife who told a new mother, vomiting during nursing due to post-operative drugs, that 'something Freudian' was going on. In all cases, the women's stories show just how powerful and damaging negative comments can be in a world where women are already unsure of how to breastfeed and often very isolated.

Well informed support, sheer determination to do what feels right, and positive encouragement emerge as essential to successful breastfeeding - as Susan Last points out: "...for mothers who are struggling, it's just one person, saying one thing at just the right time, that can make all the difference". This book could well fulfil that role. I hope it is widely read, not just by new mothers, but by those who profess to wish to  help them.

Giveaway Entry
This giveaway is now closed. The winner, picked at random using, is Muslim Mummy. From her comment she seems a very fitting winner and I hope the book helps her to enjoy successful breastfeeding the second time around.

If you were not lucky enough to win, readers of The Mule can buy a copy at the reduced price of £11 by sending a cheque, made payable to Lonely Scribe, with details of their name and address, to:
Lonely Scribe, Welwyn, Bermuda Avenue, Little Eaton, Derby, England UK, DE21 5DG.

Alternatively the book is available on Amazon UK and USA. 


Friday, 20 July 2012

Dolled Up: High Heels for Four Year Olds - from Monsoon

Back in March I wrote a post about products that sexualise our children, and shared a few thoughts and images of makeup, bras and slutty fairies that I had noticed being marketed towards my four year old daughter. If you are interested and want to know more about why I think 'stuff matters', please take a look at the original post:

Dolled Up: Products That Sexualise Our Children

You might also like to read this article about new research that shows that girls as young as 6 are associating tight and revealing clothes with popularity and already aspire to copy this look:

Huffington Post: Why Six Year Old Girls Want to be Sexy

Today in leading UK retailer Monsoon I discovered a whole range of high heeled shoes that start in a size 8, and would therefore fit my 4 year old daughter. Monsoon are a fairly 'conservative' shop; their clothes usually have a vintage and old fashioned feel, so it seems doubly surprising that they would choose to market products of this nature:

And, although they don't have a heel, I wasn't 100% convinced about my 4 year old wearing these, either:

Especially if she's got her Monsoon Children's bunny ears on...
has given herself a full manicure...

painted her nails according to the day of the week...

and is wearing her make-up...oh, sorry, 'Face Paint'

Monsoon, this stuff is for grown ups. Please cease to stock it, sign up to the BRC Responsible Retailers Guidelines, and let girls be girls, and women be sexy.

I was born in high heels and I've worn them ever since.
Helena Christensen

Sometimes you have to sacrifice your performance for high heels.
Gwen Stefani

Sometimes, when I'm alone, I put on six inch heels and wear nothing else and dance around in front of the mirror and do my little stripper dance.
Tori Spelling

To me, being grown-up meant smoking cigarettes, drinking cocktails, and dressing up in high heels and glamourous outfits.
Lorna Luft

What doctor does not need platform heels and dark black eyeliner to treat their patients?
Sarah Chalke

Put a pair of high heels on a fellow and just look what he was reduced to.
Celeste Bradley

Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels.
Faith Whittlesey

You put high heels on and you change.
Manolo Blahnik

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Natural, Empowering Birth: Ten Ways to Prepare Differently

Lots of women want to give birth in a way that is natural, drug free and empowering, but often, this aspiration ends in intervention, and rather than the transformative rite of passage they were hoping for, many women begin their new lives as mothers feeling, at best, bruised and a little disappointed; at worst, violated and traumatised. Why is this? What is preventing women's dreams, visions and hopes for their birth experience from becoming a reality?

Could it be that -

Women's Bodies are not Fit for Purpose: Through some evolutionary error, women have a design fault that makes it nigh on impossible to give birth without help. Maybe the baby's head is too big, perhaps her pelvis is too small; whatever the reason, there's a mismatch here and women would be better off opting for an elective section than getting themselves all fired up and unrealistic about a candle lit water birth.

Or maybe -

Obstetricians are Evil Scissor-Happy Misogynists: Labour Wards are populated with doctors who see natural birthers as a sort of Lefty joke that they have to play along with until the clock ticks round and they can get the silly headstrong gal's feet safely in the stirrups.

Or could it be that -

Women Are Not Prepared: Out of touch with women's wisdom, daunted and scared by media portrayals of birth, lost in a maze of medical terminology, stats and options, women are going into birth lacking in confidence, fearful and unprepared. A bit of yoga here, some deep breathing there; a plastic pelvis, a shopping list for the hospital bag, and crossed fingers: none of these seem to really cut it in the white heat of the peak of a contraction.

Most of us have never seen another woman birth when we begin our own labours. Whatsmore, we are totally out of touch with our bodies and our human nature and our womanhood. We menstruate onto bleached factory made devices that we keep hidden away inside us and then flush away in disgust. We do not squat to shit, we do not wash our own dead. We do not expect to feel pain, even when we are dying. Some of us do not even prepare our own food.

We come to labour with bodies that have never truly done a hard days work in their lives, that have never had to push themselves to their absolute limits. Add into the mix the fact that we are filled with fear and not really sure who to trust, and it is perhaps not surprising that so many of us 'fail' - yes, let's be brave and call it that - fail to achieve the birth we want so much.

Could we prepare differently? If we wish to reclaim birth, I think we need to. It's no good to keep pointing the finger outwards, blaming the service, the doctors, the system. The best and most lasting change begins with ourselves. If we change the way we prepare for birth, we will begin our labours very different women, and the service, the doctors, the system will be forced to change the way they respond to us.

Here are some suggested ideas for alternative birth preparation. I bring to the table two births - one hospital induced forceps delivery, one home water birth, and experience as an Arts Therapist. I am not an 'expert' and I therefore offer these suggestions merely as a starting place:

1. Examine Your Familial and Cultural Expectations
Do some family story telling. If you haven't already, find out how your mother, your grandmother, and other women in your family gave birth. What messages do you think you have been given about birth as you have been growing up? Do you remember any specific comments or words? Then think about images of birth you have seen in the media, in documentaries, soap operas etc, throughout your life. Take a large sheet of paper. In whatever way you wish, create a collection of images, words, pictures, newspaper cuttings, colours and shapes to reflect the many messages you have received about birth throughout your life. Take as long as you like to build up the picture. When you have finished, take a step back, and look. What sort of picture are you seeing? Does your forthcoming birth have to be like this? How - if at all - would you like your birth to reflect these familial and cultural messages? And how would you like it to be different? On a new piece of paper, you might like to create a new image of birth to call your own.

2. Change Your Wallpaper
Images of birth are powerful, so if you are pregnant, avoid viewing alarmist documentaries such as One Born Every Minute, or tuning into conversations about birth horror stories. Read positive birth stories, and watch film footage of women giving birth in calm, strong and empowered ways. I've put together a list of such resources here.  Educate yourself about your rights and your options. Don't let fear make you an ostrich. Be in charge. And don't tolerate a house decorated with what I've termed 'the wallpaper of fear'; rather take ownership and deck the halls with positive imagery. What you see is what you get.

3. Examine Your Inhibitions
Create a long line on the floor from one side of the room to the other, using paper or scarves. Stand at one end of the line. This is your comfort zone, your safe place. The other end of the line is your absolute 'discomfort zone', the place you just really don't want to go. Think of a scenario: e.g., being naked in front of others. Move along the line until you find a place that feels right. How far away from your 'comfort zone' has 'being naked' taken you? Try again with other situations: making a strange vocal sound, crying in front of others, losing it, wetting yourself, your waters breaking, doing a poo...explore your fears. Fully imagine them. Face them. Now think - what can I take to my 'discomfort zone' to make it more comfortable? Talk this exercise through with a partner or a friend.

4. Practice Releasing Your Body and Voice
Spend some time alone, at home or in a deserted outdoor place, and experiment with letting go of your voice. Stand with both feet firmly on the ground, let your body and jaw relax, open your mouth and let out a long aaaaaaaaa. Try again, louder. Experiment with sounds. How do you feel? Silly?! Good! That's ok, that's normal. Keep going. Try making some sounds you might like to make in labour. If you want, put on some music, and play it loud so you can't even hear yourself. Then you can dance too, and you'll really look silly! Let your body move. Imagine you are birthing. What shapes might your body like to make, what sounds your voice? Get used to listening to what your body and voice want to do and responding spontaneously, without thinking, rationalising, analysing or telling yourself no. Practice as often as you can. You will start to feel less silly, and notice a loosening in your body and voice over time.

5. Read Birth Stories...and Creation Stories
Positive birth stories are wonderful to read, and essential for any pregnant woman wishing to change her wallpaper. But have you come across many of the world's Creation Stories, sometimes called Creation Myths? Every culture has a folklore, myth or story about how they believe the world came into being. Of course, all of these stories are rooted in some way in mankind's understanding of the creation of life that they have learnt from watching women become mothers! As we prepare for motherhood, they are a rich source of information and wisdom. Read some, and if you wish, choose a favourite and explore it further  using creative writing, art work, or simply discussing it with a friend. There's a collection of online creation stories here, and a project which animates them here, and you can also find many short films by typing 'creation myths' into youtube.

6. Dream and Plan for your Perfect Birth
Pregnant women are often told - 'Don't make too strong a plan, as you don't want to be too disappointed if if doesn't all go the way you want it to.' Hmmm. Do you think they say this to Roger Federer as he heads onto Centre Court? Or a politician with her heart set on the White House? Nope. It's important to dream and plan, in every aspect of life, for how we would really like things to be. Of course, sometimes this means we are disappointed. But we are not two year olds. We can handle it. Make a Birth Plan for your care provider and list precisely how you wish your birth to be. And make your own personal plan, too, even if it is just in your mind, of exactly how you imagine and want your baby's birth day to unfold. Let yourself turn this plan over and over in your mind and get excited about it.

7. Get Help
I'm not sure that birth was ever intended to be a one woman job, and admitting that you might need help doesn't have to signify weakness. You just need a strong team behind you. Positive support in the run up to birth and during labour WILL increase your chances of birthing without intervention. And it might be that your partner or husband is 'not enough', in the sense that he will be potentially overwhelmed by events and busy worrying about and looking after you. A Doula is a good choice if you would like a professional helper during labour, read more about them here. Or you might like to choose a friend or relative to support you. Think carefully about your choice of person - choose someone who really believes you can do it.

8. Express Your Fears
As you use these methods to explore your thoughts, feeling and inhibitions around birth, allow yourself to express any fears that may arise, no matter how foolish, irrelevant or irrational they may seem. You might like to do this by talking them through with your partner, friend or doula. Or you might like to write them down in a special notebook, draw them, paint them, or even dance with them if you are trying out suggestion number 4! When we give names and words to our fears this can feel scary, as if they might get bigger and overwhelm us, but actually, the opposite always happens - they diminish. If a fear seems particularly upsetting or difficult, consider talking this through with a professional.

9. Meditate, Visualise, Create Mantras
If you haven't tried meditation before, pregnancy is a great time to start. It's really just a way of sitting still, breathing, and focusing inwards that anyone can easily do. Try this breathing meditation, but don't get too fixed on instructions, do it your way. You might like to use the time to try to empty your mind and focus on your breath, or you might like to spend time connecting with your baby. You may also wish to create visualisations, either during meditation, at the end of sessions, or at a completely separate time. Be comfortable and let yourself focus on the birth you want, imagining it in every detail until the moment you meet your baby. You may also like to create mantras - phrases to repeat to yourself that make you feel empowered and ready for birth, for example, 'I was made to birth this baby', 'I am strong' 'I am ready to be open', 'I believe in myself and I have nothing to fear'. Repeat them, pin them on the mirror, chant them in labour, whatever feels right!

10. Think Warrior!
Stay strong during pregnancy, and fit. Don't always take the chair you will inevitably be offered. Prepare yourself for a physical ordeal, for a feat of endurance, for a test of stamina, for battle. Toughen up. Get your mind and your body ready for the fight. Believe you can do it. And know that afterwards, like all good warriors, you will be sat by your campfire - tired, bloody, spent - exhilarated and feeling at the peak of your powers.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Positive, Empowering Birth: A Directory of Resources

A compilation of resources for women seeking a positive, drug free, intervention free, empowering birth!

If you would like to suggest additions to this list, please email me or add them in the comments below.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth - Ina May Gaskin
Spiritual Midwifery - Ina May Gaskin
Birth Matters: A Midwife's Manifesta - Ina May Gaskin
Childbirth Without Fear - Grantly Dick Read
Birth and Breastfeeding - Michel Odent
Birthing from Within - Pam England
The Water Birth Book - Janet Balaskas
Birth Your Way - Sheila Kitzinger
Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful - Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa
Home Births: Stories to Inspire and Inform - Abigail Cairns
The Father's Home Birth Handbook - Leah Hazard
Gentle Birth Companions: Doulas Serving Humanity - Adela Stockton
Memoirs of a Singing Birth - Elena Skoko
Sheila Kitzinger - Birth and Sex

Books For Children
Hello Baby - Jenny Overend and Julie Vivas
Our Water Baby - Amy Maclean and J Nesbitt

Online video resource about the state of birth around the world today with contributions from experts like Sheila Kitzinger, Ina May Gaskin and more. Save Birth, Change The World.
UK based site with a wealth of info, stats and stories on home birth, but plenty of useful info for hospital birthers too. Also has a fantastic associated yahoo group.
Information links and stories for those hoping for a home or natural birth.
Grassroots movement to spread positivity about childbirth via a global network of free Positive Birth groups, check their site for more info or to see if there is one near you.

Information and stats on every hospital in the UK, plus details of home birth too.

Positive birth stories, resources, and a buddy system for expectant mothers.

Lots of info and films of birth, especially home birth and water birth.

Not what you think! Just birth as a positive and beautiful physical experience. Watch the trailer.

Ricki Lake explores the medicalisation of childbirth in the US, but relevant to us all.
Campaign for Normal Birth via the Royal College of Midwives
All about Doulas, and find one in the UK.
Doulas in the USA
Paying for continuity of care and expert help on of the most important days of your life is a choice worth considering.
Campaign for all women to have one to one care from their own midwife, and be able to choose where to birth.

Doula-lly - blog from a London doula, lots of birth info
Memoirs of a Singing Birth - great blog and a lovely book too
Birth Without Fear

The Pitfalls of 'Going with the Flow' in Birth
Code Name: Mama - Thirty Natural Birth Videos
Natural, Empowering Birth: Ten Ways to Prepare Differently
Becoming a Mother: The Wallpaper of Fear
Birth Plan, by Janine DeBaise

Facebook Groups
Bring Birth Home
Developing Doulas
One World Birth
One Born Every Minute - The Truth
The Birth I Want

Short Films

Documenting Delight - Born at Home
A beautiful film to move and inspire.

Fate of Earth - Fate of Birth
Explaining brilliantly why the way we birth is so fundamentally important:

One World Birth
Trailer - calling for a fundamental change in the way we view birth in the Western world:

Everyday Miracles
Positive and empowering birth in hospital:

Sadie's Homebirth Diary
With the help of Independent Midwife Virginia Howes, Sadie doesn't think she can do it - but she does.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Gentle Parenting, Birth and Motherhood: Three Short Book Reviews

"I have, indeed, turned over a good many books." Nathaniel Hawthorne

I don't read novels any more. The last time I sat and lost myself in a beautiful story was when my first daughter was a baby, and I would sit carefully with her hooked in the crook of my left arm, asleep but occasionally flutter sucking at my breast, whilst with my free right hand I held and quietly turned the pages of my book. Now, with a four year old and a two year old, neither of my hands are free, and the frustration of being constantly interrupted has become part of the fabric of my existence. I don't read novels, just as I don't get comfy in a chair: there is no time or chance to sink deeply into anything.

So as not to forget completely how to read, I now prefer what I call 'dipping books', the sort that you can pick up and put down, read a bit in the middle and a bit at the back, whilst chopping cheese into cubes or grilling fish fingers. Parenting books, non fiction, poetry anthologies, all lend themselves well to this approach - a dip here, a dip there, turning them over in your hands and mind until you feel as if you have read them from cover to cover. Here are three such books I've been sent for review.

Positive Parenting in Action - The how-to guide for putting positive parenting principles into practice in early childhood, by Rebecca Eanes and Laura Ling.

You might know of Rebecca Eanes from her Facebook page and blog Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond. Rebecca has now moved on from that page, but in the time she spent running it she, along with co-author Laura Ling, devoted a huge amount of energy to researching child development, with the particular focus on finding strategies to create an environment with firm loving boundaries, without resorting to threats or violence.

Many of us want to parent in this way, but it can be difficult. Not only do we have to 'unlearn' the messages given to us in our own childhood and often in our current society, but we also have to replace them with new ways of thinking and behaving. In the hectic heat of real life parenting, we can feel at a loss and find ourselves falling back on the old ways simply because we just don't know what to do instead.

Enter this book. Of its 69 pages, only the first 15 are devoted to theory. The large part of the book looks at specific parenting scenarios and makes suggestions for ways to parent positively. Many situations are covered, for example hitting, whining, interrupting, lying, sibling rivalry, meal times and night times. In each category the authors look at several different real life situations, explore what might be behind the child's behaviour, and make concrete suggestions for you as the parent to follow.

An excellent book: endlessly useful and practical, and with love and kindness firmly at its heart.

Positive Parenting in Action is available as an ebook from uploadnsell.

Memoirs of a Singing Birth, by Elena Skoko

This truly is a beautiful book for anyone with a passion for childbirth, and would make a particularly lovely gift for a pregnant woman. Elena Skoko writes with insight, wisdom and wit about her journey into motherhood, weaving into her birth story a wealth of information about birthing practices, the politics and history of childbirth, and the actual reality of her own birth experience.

Skoko - who forms a blues band, Bluebird and Skoko, with her partner - is an inspiring narrator. All women - not just pregnant ones - could benefit from borrowing a pinch of her courage and vulnerability, her thirst for knowledge and her open mind, her spirituality, her sexuality and her womanliness. In spite of being a modern Western woman, with all the fear and baggage around childbearing that this brings, Skoko chooses to reclaim birth for herself and make it's song her own.

Memoirs of a Singing Birth is available in paperback at Lulu and Amazon US & UK. Memoirs of a Singing Birth is also published as ebook on Smashwords.

Poetry of a Hobo Mama, by Lauren Wayne

Lauren Wayne writes the popular blog Hobo Mama and runs the Natural Parents Network. For some reason in spite of these credentials I was a bit skeptical when I took my first dip into her volume of poetry. Maybe it's because it's so easy to write poetry badly, and these days anyone with an internet connection can publish the sort of dross that a few years ago would have stayed safely under the mattress. My cynicism quickly melted away, however, within moments of beginning to read Poetry of a Hobo Mama. Wayne forges short, stark, luminous poems out of the deep melting pot of motherhood, bringing us little creations filled with exquisite detail on birth, love, miscarriage, breastfeeding, mortality - even elevating pumping to a thing of beauty! (The first tantalizing drip — drip — drip / like the flirting of a sprinkler / just out of reach on a hot day).

Wayne explores the great emotional contrasts of motherhood perfectly. She understands the bitter-sweet combination of sacrifice and pay-off and distills it into verse with skill, humour and heart. She knows what it's like to love someone more than you ever thought possible and still resent them for leaving a trail of lego, yoghurt and snot all over your once tidy life. She even laments the loss of time to read in Never Check Out Anything from the Library Again:

Reading’s not for you,
that careful paging through of paper,
tender paper that tears so easily you’ve found,
covers that get bent and dust jackets ripped off.
And there’s so much to reading, getting lost in the story,
in a paragraph,
just one damn sentence, please, and it’s no use,
because he won’t let you now.

No time to read...but, for now, time to dip, to turn over many books...knowing that one day we will sink deeply into our chair and our novel...enjoying the space, the silence...and mourning a whole new set of losses.

Poetry of a Hobo Mama is available from Amazon UK and US and createspace.

If you would like me to review your book on this blog, please feel free to get in touch.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Guest Post: Stillbirth

Followers of this blog will know that I love birth stories, and often share them here in all their infinite variety. But there is, it seems, a birth story that 'dare not speak it's name', the story of those babies who do not make it. In the UK, 17 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth every day. In the USA, a baby is stillborn every twenty minutes. The story of stillbirth is happening to mothers - and fathers, grandparents, siblings, aunties, uncles - but in our current culture which fears death so greatly, it is rarely discussed. This silence, this awkwardness, this avoidance - leaves parents who experience stillbirth without listeners willing to hear their painful story.

Hearing painful stories used to be a part of my job before I became a full time mother. But in spite of this experience I still sobbed as I reached the end of this guest post, sent to me by Mel Scott, who lost her baby at birth three years ago and has since reached out to help others through her organisation Finley's Footprints. I have no doubt that, as you read, you will cry too. Through our collective sadness I hope that, like Mel, we can transform grief into something positive, allowing feelings, stories and tears to flow and empowering others to break their silence.

The Birth of An Angel

When I found myself to be pregnant for the second time it was a bit of a shock. Two weeks earlier I had tearfully told my husband that I couldn’t bear to keep trying. My first pregnancy had ended with a missed miscarriage just a week after I found out I was pregnant. My best friend had her baby on the day that mine would have been due. As I held him crying for what should have been, I couldn’t face the reminders of my miscarriage as another month passed without success. Two weeks later I discovered I was pregnant.

Gone were the excited days of phoning everyone possible to tell them the good news minutes after finding out, and we kept the secret to ourselves. An early scan showed the baby was developing well and a reassuring glimpse of a sea horse shape with a beating heart. The twelve week scan showed me the most amazing sight of a tiny baby with arms and legs, lying back with it’s hand behind it’s head.

My friend gave me a book called the Gentle Birth Method by Gowri Motha, and I headed into a love filled pregnancy bubble. The rest of the world ceased to exist. I had a perfect problem free pregnancy. Following the Gentle Birth Method gave me lots of hope and positivity as I planned and prepared for a birth centre water birth. I had reiki and reflexology sessions weekly (and given the outcome, I am so grateful for these special bonding moments). I had none of the usual complaints of later pregnancy, even my hay fever disappeared.

My due date approached and I changed my Natal hypnotherapy pregnancy cd for the birth preparation cd, I upped my intake of raspberry tea. A sweep resulted in a show, but nothing else. As induction started to be mentioned, I trotted off for some acupuncture sessions. These finally worked at 41+5 and I had some mild contractions. My waters broke, so I started walking around listening to the birth preparation cd. I called the hospital, and the advised to come in to be checked. I got to hospital and there was meconium in my waters. That changed things a little, as suddenly I was being told I couldn’t have a water birth, or stay in the birthing centre. The monitor showed mild contractions, and a good heart rate. I was admitted to the antenatal ward, and my husband was sent home.

I couldn’t sleep so carried on listening to the hypnotherapy cd. About 4 hours later I went to the toilet and noticed that the meconium had got thicker and darker, so requested to go on the monitor. As soon as I was connected up it was clear that things were not right. I was getting worried as I saw that the baby’s heart beat was dropping. Events unfolded and after the heart beat dropped and didn’t come up, and a scan showed that there was still a heart beat, and an internal showed I had not dilated at all, the decision was made to carry out an emergency cesarean. I had a general anaesthetic and the last thing I remember was tears rolling down my face and a mask being pushed over my nose.

I woke up in recovery and was told that I had a son, but that he had not made it. I remember saying no, I am not sure whether I screamed. I went back to sleep. The next few hours I can piece together from photos and videos that we have. My husband arrived after the operation had happened, as did my parents. I cannot imagine what it was like to arrive at the hospital to the news your wife has had surgery without you, but that your son had died.

The staff were amazing the whole time we were in hospital. My Mum videoed those first few hours, and the midwife helped my husband to bathe Finley. There is a moment captured which is simultaneously heartbreaking and touching, where my husband and the midwife are discussing the fact that Finley has one ear bigger than the other, and my husband proudly declares that he has the same ears. Watching him tenderly wash and dry his baby, you can almost forget that the baby is no longer alive.

When I arrived in the room, my Mum brought Finley to me and asked me if I wanted to hold him. I am ashamed to say that I didn’t. But thankfully she did not listen, and she had the common sense to move us together for our first, and only, photograph as a family. It is an incredibly moving black and white shot that clearly shows the devastation.

We spent 3 days in hospital and during that time I went through an important process. Gradually as everyone left, I started to want to see my son. I touched him, and his fluffy blanket made me want to hold him. Once I had held him, I never wanted to let him go. I would even call the midwives to hold him so that I could go to the toilet. The bereavement midwife was amazing, and made it clear to us that the time was so short and we had no second chances to make memories to last us a lifetime. We spent a night where my husband was able to stay and Finley stayed with us, in the cot at the end of the bed.

The last night in hospital the bereavement midwife came to spend time with me, staying past the end of her shift. I was at this time cuddled up in bed with Finley. She took a series of heartbreaking photos instructing me to kiss my son for the first, and only time. She also spend time finding out how we wanted to say goodbye. I never wanted to say goodbye. I couldn’t stand to think of walking out of that hospital room without him. I broke down saying that all I wanted to do was be a Mum, and screaming how could I be a Mum when I had not even changed his nappy.

So three days after Finley was born, I got to take his nappy off, see his whole body. He was a big, healthy baby boy at 9lb 7oz. I bathed him, even laughing about the fact that I did not know what to do! I dressed him in a new outfit with a cute cap. We spent a little more time there filling in the most horrendous forms with the midwife, things like choosing a burial or cremation, consenting for a post mortem, and being told that we had to go to the registry office to register his stillbirth. Then it happened.

I read Finley a bedtime story, cradled in my arms, my voice breaking as I cried. I wrapped him in his blanket, and handed him to the midwife. Then we walked out – a family of three forever with a part missing.

Finley John Scott – 2nd August 2009

A moment in our arms – Forever in our hearts


About Finley's Footprints
Just a few short weeks after Finley was born asleep, Mel was given a website, called Finley’s Footprints. It began as a blog, but quickly developed into a space for Mel to share her experience and skills with bereaved parents and professionals who care for them. Mel was passionate about helping other parents to experience high standard of care locally and began fundraising to supply memory boxes to her local hospital.

Now nearly three years on, Finley’s Footprints provides regular training to birth workers, developing their skills to help parents create memories at a time of loss. It offers regular structured onlin support groups, and Occupational Therapy to people affected by the loss of a baby.

A sister organisation called Towards Tomorrow Together operates the fundraising activities, aiming to develop and support baby loss services in the South West of England through services such as advocacy, and parental mentoring, as well as funding doula care, and holistic therapy.

You can read the full story of After Finley available to buy at

Stillbirth Resources

It would be great to build this list  of resources further. Please contact me if you would like to suggest a resource to add - a blog, Facebook page, forum, or any other place of help, information or support. Thank you.