Kent family photographer – Prop testing at the beach

You know how sometimes you get something new and you just can’t wait to try it out? You buy a new sling, and your child is up on your back the minute its out of the packaging, that type of thing. Well this week has been a bit like that for me!

As many of you who follow my Instagram will know (if you don’t, you can follow me here) I have been building myself a raft! I put the finishing touches to it this week, and couldn’t resist taking it out for a test run using my toddler as my model.

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It started off well. Beautiful sky, gorgeous light. I was so excited as I set up and got my son changed.

But things just don’t often go to plan do they?!

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This pretty much sums up the first half of the session. He wasn’t happy. At all. He was cold. But he didn’t want his cardi on. He didn’t want cuddles. He didn’t want to wear the hat, or play with the shells. Or even sit on the raft. These models, they’re such divas haha.

But we had a chat, Daddy acted silly, we promised him ice cream, and I finally got some shots I could work with.

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I’m absolutely loving this prop. And having some gorgeous photos of my camera-shy little dude is a very welcome bonus!

The raft can be used for newborns as well as sitting babies and toddlers. So if you would like this incorporated into your session, just let me know when you book 🙂

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DIY Needle felted basket stuffer

I love to give my clients the most bespoke service I possibly can, a real personalised experience. So, where possible, I try to source props that are a little bit different. Or sometimes I like to make my own.

This is a little tutorial I’ve put together for how I make my needle felted basket stuffers. These beautiful little squares add a gorgeous finishing touch to prop images, and making them myself ensures that they are unique. Just another little personal touch.

So to make a basket stuffer I use:

Half an A4 sheet of craft felt

Needle felting tool (mine came from here)

Needle felting block (or block of stiff foam)

Thick wool, at least 4ply

Scissors

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Step 1: Cut wool into lengths around 6-8 inches long. My wool is a 50g ball, but its more than enough for a small stuffer.

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Step 2: Carefully separate a strand of wool into two, and then each of those into two again. Chunkier wool can be split in half again.

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Step 3: Place your felt n top of your felting block or foam. Take your strands of wool and place the ends in one corner of the felt, with the main lengths of wool facing outwards. Then use the needle felting tool to pummel it until it is fastened to the felt.

Step 4: Repeat the last two steps all the way around the outside of the felt.

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Step 5: Keep working your way around the inside of the felt, until it is all filled in. Add a few more lengths of wool to the middle, so it doesn’t look too flat.

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And thats it! A few hours of work and a unique, bespoke prop to use 🙂

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Kelly.x

 

Never stop learning

Being a photographer is like being on a never-ending learning curve. There is always a way to improve, or a new technique to try. Regular training is important, to learn new things to keep your work fresh, and to remind yourself of those important aspects such as safety, to keep you from getting complacent and cutting corners.

So as a photographer, when you find yourself child-free and caught up with work for a morning, having just received some beautiful new goodies, what else is there to do but get yourself set up and practise practise practise?

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My daughter’s doll acted as my model this morning, testing out my gorgeous new bonnet and stuffie set. Just one of many new props and bits I have arriving over the next few weeks. I will be putting out a model call on my Facebook page for real babies to test these soon!

So keep an eye on Little Pandas Photography for more details 🙂

Kelly.x

New heirloom products from Hythe family photographer Little Pandas Photography

Exciting times here in Kent at Little Pandas HQ. I’ve just received samples of a fantastic new product I will offering very soon.

Handmade from poplar plywood sourced from sustainable forests in Slovenia and Austria, these wooden photo blocks are made to last.

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These blocks are available in many shapes and sizes, from 4″x 4″ squares (shown above) to 16″ circles, to 16×24″ rectangles. There are even beautiful collages available (see below). The smaller sizes are freestanding, for displaying on desktops and shelves. But all come with a small hole at the rear for wall display.

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I’m so happy to be able to offer these beautiful, heirloom products to you all as soon as my 2017 price list is finalised!

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Kelly.x

 

10 Things every new parent needs to know

Parenting is one of life’s greatest adventures! Starting out on that journey is exciting and scary in equal measure. There are so many things to learn and remember, and many people are quick to offer advice and opinions on how you should be raising this tiny new person you’ve brought into the world.

But there are some things people don’t tell you. Maybe they think it will scare you, maybe they’ve just forgotten because it’s been so long since their children were tiny. So I’ve compiled a list of ten things every new parent should know.

 

   1. Meconium sticks to EVERYTHING!

Seriously, you think you’ve got it all ready. Nappies sorted, wipes on hand. But then your baby does their first poo. And you realise you could never have been prepared. This substance is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Thick and black, like something from the depths of hell. My husband described it as like melted licorice, a sticky black mess. You’ll be there with your cotton wool balls and water, and all it will do is smear it around and make a bigger mess! Don’t worry, after that first one it gets easier!

 

2. Boredom

No one will tell you this. It’s not something people like to admit to. But babies don’t really do much. They eat, cry, sleep and poo. And they look adorable. They will run you ragged, and sleep deprivation is an absolute killer and makes you feel like you are constantly on the go in those early days. But when the novelty, for want of a better word, passes, you will find yourself suffering from periods of boredom. They are beautiful, fascinating, wonderful little people. But the days can very easily all run into each other. Like Groundhog Day, except with less sleep and a snuffling, rooting baby instead of an alarm clock. Go out, see old friends or make new ones at Mummy groups. Or just go for a walk. Break up the monotony. You will both feel better for it.

 

3. Cluster feeding

You may have read a hundred parenting books, perused a thousand breastfeeding forums. But nothing can prepare you for the reality of cluster feeding. Most breastfed babies will do this in the evenings. Some can start as early as 3 in the afternoon. But you can pretty much guarantee that you will end up sat on a chair, or on the sofa, with a baby who just feeds and feeds, maybe naps for 5 minutes, and then feeds again. On repeat. For hours. This isn’t a sign that you have no milk. It isn’t a sign that your milk is “no good”, as well meaning friends or relatives will tell you. This is completely normal newborn behaviour. It’s basically baby signalling your body to make more milk, putting in an order for later if you like. It’s tiring, and can be frustrating at times. But it’s a necessary part of most breastfeeding journeys. So just make yourself comfy, get a good supply of snacks and drinks and grab the tv remote. Now would be a good time to catch up on all those favourites you’ve recorded, or start binge watching a new show on Netflix.

Oh, and just when you think you’re past the cluster feeding hell, bam! Growth spurt. The first 6 weeks are pretty much one big growth spurt, but they don’t stop there. Buy new cushions. You’ll be spending plenty of time on that sofa 🙂
4. Flashing the postman

Or the Amazon delivery man. Or the Myhermes courier. We’ve all done it. You’re feeding baby, boob out as you’re at home right? No need for discreet feeding here! Baby falls asleep. You sit, enjoying the brief respite, or just finishing up watching that episode of NCIS you’d started. Then there’s a knock at the door. You quickly but carefully lay baby down, and hurry to answer before they decide you’re not in and leave you the dreaded “While you were out” card. You just make it, opening the door just as they’re reaching for their pen. They look up, their eyes widen and then they hurriedly look away, shoving your parcel at you whilst mumbling something incoherent and then practically running back to their van. You close the door, wondering what had got into them, how rude! Then you feel the draft. In the rush to answer the door you’ve forgotten to put your boob away. You’ve treated Postman Pat to a view he’d have to pay good money for at Spearmint rhino. The shame. Next time he knocks at your door, assuming you haven’t scared him away for good, he will probably make some half-hearted attempt at humour, telling you he didn’t recognize you with your clothes on or suchlike. Thus cementing your embarrassment, and you vow never to order anything again, ever. Until you see that new sling that you have to have. And then you pray for a different courier.

 

5. They sleep through. You don’t.

You pray for sleep every night. You reach a point where you would literally give anything for a full nights sleep, or even a few hours more than you’re getting. But then it happens. Your body wakes you from a deep sleep, telling you it’s time baby was awake for a feed. You sit up abruptly, your heart pounding. Baby hasn’t woken. Your boobs feel like they’re about to explode. Why hasn’t baby woken? You look over to where they lie. You can’t just about make out their little profile. You watch them for a minute, trying to see the rise and fall of their little chest. It’s too dark, you can’t see! You reach over, rest your hand on their chest. Hold your breath so you can better detect any movement. You feel their little heart beating under your fingers, feel the reassuring up and down movement of their breathing. You breathe a sigh of relief, try and slow the beating of your own heart as you lie down and try to make the most of this unexpected turn of events.

But one of two things happen. Either you get comfy and start to doze off, but you have disturbed the baby! Soon that familiar snuffling sound and fist chewing start. You were so close to getting more sleep! But you had to ruin it. Now you’re awake for the next two hours as baby makes up for the missed feed, and you curse yourself. Or baby sleeps on soundly, but you just can’t get back to sleep. You lie awake, expecting baby to wake at any moment. You could have had two extra hours. Instead you have a headache, and you’re hungry, and damn it, now you have to pee. Sigh.

 

6. Snoring husbands make you homicidal

You’re sleep deprived. You’re awake for the 5th time, feeding the baby. Your nerves are frayed, and you just want to sleep for goodness sake! And what is that noise coming from the other side of the bed?! It sounds like a warthog has escaped from the zoo and found its way into your bed! The longer you lie there, the louder the sound gets. You give his leg a little tap with your foot, hoping to get him to turn over. He snorts like a pig hunting truffles, and then settles back into his rhythm. Resentful thoughts start to enter your head. Why does he get to sleep, when you’re awake for hours on end? Look at him, all peaceful and shit! How dare he even breathe, let alone snore! You contemplate putting the pillow over his head, just to muffle the noise a bit of course 😉 But you content yourself with shoving your elbow into his ribs instead. He wakes with a start, gives you a hurt look. “What was that for?!”, “You were snoring.” “I don’t snore!”

Then he turns over, goes back to sleep. And for a little while there is blissful silence. But now you think about it, even his breathing is annoying……….

 

7. Bottom sniffing

Before having a baby you would have turned your nose up at the thought of sniffing another human being’s backside. Its something dogs do, not people. But when you have a baby you find yourself doing it far more regularly than you care to admit. There is a suspicious smell in the air. You pick the baby up and sniff their bum. Baby passes wind. You pick them up and sniff their bum (to check for follow through). Butt sniffing is your new reality.

 

8. Hot drinks? Don’t make me laugh!

Pre-baby you probably liked nothing better than to sit down with a nice hot cup of tea or coffee. You took it for granted. But when you have a baby, drinking or eating anything whilst its hot is an almost unobtainable luxury. Baby is sleeping peacefully. You put the kettle on. You pour the water into your cup, and at this point you start to think that maybe, just maybe, you’ll get to enjoy this while its hot. You finish making your drink. You sit on the sofa with a sigh of contentment. And baby wakes up. Your drink is put down whilst you settle your precious little one. By the time you get back to it its cold. You play out a variation of this scenario every single time. Its like your baby has a sixth sense and knows just when you are sitting down with something hot. Steam radar. You learn to eat quickly, one handed. Sometimes whilst feeding. Sometimes dropping food on baby’s head. But thats ok. Mama got to eat!

 

9. A towel is your best friend in the middle of the night

Picture the scene. Its 2am. You are awoken by the sound of retching. Your baby or child is liberally painting their cot, or your bed, with vomit. You comfort them, clean them up. Change the sheets and trudge downstairs to put them in soak, or straight into the machine. 2.30am, and you finally settle back down to go to sleep. 3am the cycle is repeated. This time, you throw a towel over the sheets and go back to sleep. Towels are easier to change than sheets. You tend to have more of them too. They work great for vomit, pee, middle of the night water spillages. They save your sanity, and your sleep. Non-parents will sneer, think its disgusting. Even other parents may try to act horrified. But we’ve all done it. Long live the midnight towels!

 

10. You won’t remember your name half the time. But you’ll know every word of the Peppa Pig theme tune

Pregnancy kills brain cells. This is a fact. Baby brain is a very real phenomenon. Add sleep deprivation into the mix, and you’re basically a zombie (or a “mombie”, as its now known). Putting the milk in the cupboard and your car keys in the fridge will become second nature. You essentially turn into Dory, suffering from short term me-memory loss. But that damn Peppa theme tune just keeps getting stuck in your head! You find yourself singing it to yourself. In fact, kid’s tv theme tunes in general seem to be made to be as catchy and irritating as possible. Even if you limit screen time, and they only watch once in a blue moon, you will still find yourself humming along to Thomas and friends as you cook dinner.

“Darling, where did you put that important letter?”

“I’ve no idea Dear. But I can tell you what Nanny Plum and the Grand Old Elf have been up to and how to make Easy Peasey Pasta like Bing!”

 

Parenting is a roller coaster ride for sure. But those early days pass in such a blur. Thats why what I do is so important. Capturing those memories, so you can look back on them and remember those days with fondness.

Kelly.x

 

Little Pandas Photography – Providing a bespoke home photography service in Hythe and SE Kent.

 

 

 

Birth trauma – its ok to not be ok

“Well at least you have a healthy baby, thats all that matters!”

How many of us have heard that sentence when our baby’s birth hasn’t gone as we planned? People mean well. They have a point of course, having that precious little bundle here safe and sound is important! But it means that its hard to tell people how you really feel. Because then you seem ungrateful. Like maybe you’re being selfish for feeling the way you do, for not just sucking it up and being happy that your baby is alive and well.

Its an odd feeling really. Because you are happy. You are grateful. You shudder to think of how things could have gone, and you hug your baby a little bit tighter. But there is this nagging voice at the back of your mind, saying “What about me?

I know there are people who have had it worse than me. People who have been left physically disabled from how badly their birth experience went, people who have lived through the worst possible outcome. People who just barely came through the whole thing. But that doesn’t make how I felt, how I still feel to a certain extent, any less valid. My experience was traumatic, for me. And I wanted to share my story, which I touched on in my last post. Hopefully it will make people think twice before they utter that dreaded sentence to someone after a bad birth.

My first child was born in hospital. It was a horrific experience from start to finish. I was admitted with contractions and leaking waters. I was ignored, belittled, lied to by midwives. My family were told differing things whenever they phoned to check up on me. I was 19, single and wholly unprepared for labour and birth. The ward was understaffed, and I was looked after predominantly by a brand new student midwife, who hadn’t attended a birth yet. She was lovely, but as you can imagine, I didn’t feel particularly looked after! When I was ready to push, everyone was in a room down the hall with a lady having twins! I was told I had to wait, as the student wasn’t allowed to attend to me unsupervised. When the midwife eventually arrived she was impatient and grumpy. It was nearing midnight, and I got the sense that she wanted to be anywhere but there. I had had an epidural, which meant I couldn’t feel contractions, only pressure. But she allowed me to keep pushing and pushing, even whilst baby’s head was crowning. As a result I tore, badly. On my birth notes it says 2nd degree tear, but I have since been told that another 2mm would have meant 3rd degree, and surgery. As it happens, I think that may have been a better option! The same grumpy midwife gave me local anaesthetic and stitched me up. I was then sent for a bath. I felt very very swollen “down there”, it didn’t feel normal. It also felt alien to me that I was separated from my newborn baby. I was exhausted (3 nights of no sleep, and then giving birth. It was gone midnight by this time), barely awake. But I was left alone. When I came out of the bathroom I found the room I had delivered in in darkness, and my baby all alone, sleeping in the goldfish bowl cot. I had no idea what I was supposed to do next, so I just stood and gazed at my baby girl, stroking her cheek. I must have stood there for a good 10 minutes in the dark before someone found me. I was then told I should be on the ward, and ordered to get in a wheelchair, had my bags dumped on my lap. I mentioned to the (same, grumpy) midwife how swollen I was, to be told “You would be dear, you’ve just given birth”, in the most patronising way possible.

Things didn’t improve once on the ward. I was repeatedly looked down on, shouted at for daring to doze off  during a demonstration on how to bath a baby (told “You, especially, need to watch this!”), even though I was beyond exhausted. The whole experience was just horrific. When it came for the Dr to check me over before discharging me, I was found to have a massive hematoma. The midwife had failed to cut off a major blood vessel when she did my stitches, and it had bled heavily into the surrounding tissue. I essentially had a balloon of blood between my legs. Not just “normal” swelling at all. But no-one had found out for 24 hours, despite me keep telling the midwives it didn’t feel right. No-one had checked. It took weeks for me to heal. I had to have ultrasound treatment in the end to disperse the blood.

Fast forward 7 years, and I planned to give birth in the closest MLU (midwife led unit) with my next baby. Everything went brilliantly. The moment of his actual birth was scary, but the midwives were wonderful and I felt in control and empowered throughout.

So when, 2 years on, I fell pregnant again I decided to plan a homebirth. Lots of things contributed to this decision. The fact my husband didn’t drive and the MLU was half an hour away (my Dad took us before, but he was due a hip replacement so we didn’t know if he’d be available), the fact that we had a toddler and a 9 year old at home and it would be easier all round. And obviously, the fact that I wanted to avoid hospital if I could help it!

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Everything was going well. At 20 weeks we were told our baby was probably a girl. We booked a 4d scan for 28 weeks to find out for sure. But at 27 weeks I awoke to niggling pains in my stomach and back. When I went to the toilet and wiped, the tissue was streaked with blood. I was due at work, had already been threatened with disciplinary action due to absences with morning sickness and sciatica, so I struggled in. But by mid morning the pain was worse, and I phoned my midwife for advice. She told me to go home, and to go to the hospital to be checked if it didn’t stop. I burst into tears telling my boss that I had to go home because I may be in early labour.

By that afternoon the pain was worse, and we headed to the hospital. I was asked to give a urine sample, which I did. It looked like pure blood. I was given antibiotics for a suspected kidney infection, and sent back home.

Later that day I took a turn for the worse. I was literally rolling around the floor in agony and throwing up. My husband got our neighbour to drive us back to the hospital, where I was immediately admitted, and given intravenous morphine and anti-emetics. It didn’t even touch the pain, I was in agony. Worse than anything I’d ever felt before.

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But by the following night the pain had abated, and I was told I was being discharged. By 10pm I’d still not seen a Dr. I wanted to get home, was told that because the Dr had already said I could go home I could just sign a form and not have to wait. I missed my babies, I was exhausted. So of course, I signed the form.

I got home and got in the bath, the pain starting to come back again. I went to bed soon after. In the early hours I was awake again, the pain worse than it had been before. My husband called an ambulance.

I kept being told it was like I had kidney stones, but that was impossible, because pregnant women don’t get them. I was put on a ward with women who had just given birth, due to a lack of beds. I was in so much pain, I felt exposed, vulnerable. I couldn’t stop crying. I just wanted to be in pain privately, not worrying about how my screams of agony were affecting these other poor women. But I was treated badly, because apparently the form I signed meant I had discharged myself against medical advice. I had either been lied to, or a new shift meant there had been no communication about what had actually happened. I was treated like an inconvenience who had shunned their services previously and they were now reluctant to treat me. Until a consultant came to see me, and actually looked at me properly. She stood at the end of my bed and just observed. Then she said “You’re in a lot of pain aren’t you?” I could barely grunt a reply. She asked if it was worse than labour. I nodded. She said she really was convinced I was suffering from renal colic, caused by kidney stones. She went away to speak to a specialist at a different hospital for advice.

Meanwhile my husband helped me struggle to the toilet. Whilst there I passed two stones. The relief! I was still in pain, but nowhere near the amount I had been. I was discharged the next day.

A week later our 4d scan confirmed we were expecting a little girl. We were over the moon. I ordered my birth pool in a box, and was so excited when it arrived. I couldn’t wait to meet my little bundle.

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Then at 33 weeks I started being sick. A bug, we thought. But it didn’t pass. 24 hours, then 48 hours passed. I still couldn’t even keep water down. My midwife visited, and sent us straight to the hospital. I was severely dehydrated, and obviously this could have had an effect on my still-not-healed kidney.

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I was put on a drip to re-hydrate me, given anti-emetics. Eventually I stopped vomiting. I was kept overnight for observation, but told I’d be able to go home the next day.

But when the Dr came to see me she was concerned, she had noticed I was jaundiced around my eyes. She started asking me questions like had I noticed itching on my hands and feet. I hadn’t, and said so. But I had a sinking feeling. My sister had developed a liver condition called Obstetric Cholestasis (OC) in her first pregnancy. The prodominant, and often only, symptom is an intense itch, worse on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Only my sister hadn’t had any itching. It was only found when she was in hospital for something unrelated. My Dr dismissed it, because without the itch it was unlikely to be OC. But I knew.

I stayed in hospital for another two days, whilst they took my blood and I waited for a scan. I was ignored for the most part, forgotten about. I was finally allowed home, but told to visit the maternity day unit the following day for my blood test results.

My husband was at work, so my best friend took me to the hospital. There I was given the news that yes, I did have OC. A diary was produced straight away and I was initially booked for induction later that week. I was 34 weeks pregnant. I was monitored, had more blood taken and was given my first injection of steroids, to help my baby girl’s lungs to develop. I was told that my bile acid results were more than 4 times a normal level. I was told to prepare for a premature baby. I was warned to be ultra aware of her movements, that if I didn’t feel her for an hour I was to go in to be monitored. OC can lead to stillbirth. No-one knows why. It just happens, suddenly and unpreventably.

I went home and cried. I looked through the drawers and wardrobe of clothes I had bought for my little girl and realised that I had nothing that would even come close to fitting a tiny baby. I sobbed into her baby clothes.

Worst of all, my birth pool was just sitting there, still in its box. Every time I looked at it I was reminded. Not only that I could lose my baby at any minute, but that I would have to give birth to her in the one place I didn’t want to. The place where I had been treated so terribly just weeks ago, and almost 10 years previously. The idea petrified me. My husband sold the birth pool on ebay, I just couldn’t have it in the house.

My life became a cycle of trekking to the hospital for daily monitoring, bloods every other day. I felt like a pincushion. My arms were all bruised where my veins were collapsing and they were struggling to get a needle in. Thankfully, after the first few days my bile acid results reduced, so induction was put back until I was 36 weeks and 6 days.

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A week before that date, my husband had an operation on his foot. He was in pain, wearing a protective boot, when we went in for the induction. We must have looked a funny sight walking around the hospital, desperately trying to get things started. Me waddling, him on crutches.

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But ultimately the induction failed. I awoke on the 3rd day and just burst into tears. I had been told I would need to be monitored for 15 minutes out of every hour, because I was such high risk. A midwife had told me that if they monitored me and couldn’t find a heartbeat they would do a crash section, but it would be pointless as thats the way OC works.

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On this morning, when I woke around 7, it had been 14 hours since I had been monitored. I had been forgotten, neglected, again. And my baby’s life had been put at risk. I told my husband I was going home, got up and dressed and started to pack my things. It seemed pointless to stay somewhere where I felt unsafe. I had a doppler at home, I would just sit with it strapped to me and listen to my baby myself.

Obviously this concerned my husband. He went to find a midwife. When he eventually found one, and told her what was happening, she sneered at him and said “Well I can’t stop her!”, then turned her back on him. He came back to me and told me he agreed with me, we needed to go.

Thankfully the shift changed, and a wonderful midwife who had looked after me on my first day came to see me. She apologised profusely, told us to make a complaint about the midwife when we got home. From my husband’s description she gave us a name. I couldn’t believe it. It was the same midwife who had treated me so badly all those years earlier. The same one who let me tear, who messed up my stitches. Who patronised me and failed in her duty of care by not even checking me over when I reported an issue. That same midwife was the one who was supposedly looking after me through the night, who had snapped at my husband! I was furious. It was honestly, looking back, just as well she hadn’t come to monitor me. As had I seen her I would have sent her away, and I would have been in even more of a state than I already was. Patsy, the lovely midwife, told me the consultant was on his way to see me. He arrived shortly after, and laid out my options (such as they were). My body needed a break from the induction process. I had made no progress, wasn’t even close to going into labour. Despite two previous deliveries, my cervix wasn’t even open enough to break my waters. So I could stay in hospital for 3 days, being monitored and awaiting another cycle of induction. With each day that passed my baby would be at more risk. Or I could have a c-section that day. Baby would be delivered safe and sound, just as son as they could get the correct staff together and get me into theatre.

What would you choose, if confronted with that same choice? They call it a semi-elective caesarean. But its not elective, not really. Given a choice between putting my baby at more risk, or getting her out safe of course I would choose the latter! I signed the forms, and we let our families know. I was so scared. I’d never had an operation, let alone major abdominal surgery. But Patsy took me down to theatre and showed me the room, she reassured me and said she would stay with me.

The actual operation was fine. Even the recovery wasn’t too bad. I bled alot, needed a pressure bandage to stop it. And passed out in the shower when I was told to wet it and try and remove it, which entertained everyone briefly! Once I came home getting around was a pain, and getting the other children to school and nursery was almost impossible. But it was ok.

But I just couldn’t bear to hear those words, “At least she is here, safe and well. That the most important thing!”. I was relieved, grateful, so so happy that she was here. I didn’t have to worry any more. She was safe, my body couldn’t poison her any more. But I mourned my perfect homebirth. I was traumatised by what had happened, what could have happened. The consultant had told me that he thought my induction had failed because my body entered fight or flight mode. I didn’t feel safe, so it refused to send me into labour. I felt guilty for feeling this way. And every time I was told that she was healthy and thats what matters, I felt like I was doing something wrong. Like I shouldn’t feel this way and it somehow meant I didn’t love my baby as much as I should do. I felt cheated. This was supposed to be my last baby. It was supposed to be perfect. Instead, my body had let us both down. It wasn’t meant to be this way.

As time went on I started to feel a burning need to do it again. I talked to my husband, he didn’t take me seriously. He thought we were done. He didn’t want to see me go through that again. He took some convincing, but eventually he agreed we could try again. A month later, when my little girl was 10 months old, I was pregnant again.

Of course I was scared. I had fortnightly bloods taken, to check for signs of OC. But by some miracle I remained clear. I didn’t buy a birth pool, didn’t dare. The trauma of watching my husband package it up and sell it had just been too much to bear. When I got my final blood results at 38 weeks, and it showed no sign of OC, I could finally relax and start to plan for the birth. A wonderful local lady loaned me her pool. I just bought a new liner for it. I still had all the other things packed away from the last time.

Then finally, the day before my due date, my waters broke. Contractions started, and I thought this was it. But all day the contractions stayed the same. Even my fantastic community midwife, who had been so supportive throughout, was starting to gently try and broach the subject of going to hospital, as we approached 24 hours since my waters had broken. I was demoralised, devastated. I could feel it all slipping away again. Inconsolable, I went to bed. But awoke a few hours later to strong, real contractions.

4 hours later, in the pool in our front room, with my 10 year old daughter looking on, I caught my baby as I gave birth to her, and brought her to the surface of the pool. She had her eyes open the whole time, gazing up at me. She was covered in vernix, so slippery and messy. But she was beautiful. And not only that, she was healing. Her birth showed me that I could do it. That I could give birth naturally, without stitches, without issues. I felt so empowered, so at peace. She saved me. I could finally begin to heal.

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Birth trauma doesn’t have to be blood and tears and almost losing your life. Everyone reacts differently to challenges. We need to be kind to each other. And we need to stop trivialising other women’s feelings. Because yes, baby is here and healthy. And that is a fantastic thing, the absolute best outcome without any shadow of a doubt. But your feelings matter. Its ok to not be ok with how things turned out. Don’t be afraid to talk it through. Talk to your husband, your friends, your Mum. Ask your midwife, health visitor or GP about accessing a birth debriefing, (often called Birth Afterthoughts). This is where someone takes you through your notes, so you can identify exactly what went wrong, and why, and try to come up with a plan for what could be different if you were to have another baby.

In severe cases, birth trauma can lead to post natal depression, or even to PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Its important to seek help if you feel you are not coping, even if you feel like you should be. Don’t minimise your feelings. They are yours. They are valid. Be kind to yourself. Its ok to not be ok.

To my middle child

To my beautiful, crazy middle child,

People talk about “middle child syndrome”. They say the youngest and the oldest get all the attention, and the middle just plods along. At best, just quietly going about their business. At worst, ignored and not thought about.

You, my darling middle child, are no different. I’m not proud of it. I try my best to make it not so. But you are quiet, polite, hard working and eager to please. Your elder sister and brother, and your younger sister and brother, are hard work. They command attention, for various reasons. They are beautiful too, inside and out. But because of being a teenager/toddler, or because of having their own (suspected but undiagnosed) issues, they take more effort. You are none of those things. You’re just you.

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You were never supposed to be the middle child. You were meant to be the youngest. We were stopping at three. But you made your presence well and truly felt, before you were even born.

27 weeks – kidney stones. I thought I was in early labour. Then the real pain hit, and I thought I was dying. Even morphine didn’t touch it. I’ve never known pain like it. Even giving birth didn’t come close. The relief when I passed those two little bits of gravel was immense. But I was left with a dilated kidney, and was on strong painkillers for the rest of my pregnancy.

33 weeks – Severe vomiting, resulting in dehydration and hospital admission. They sorted me out, were ready to let me go. But then they noticed my eyes were jaundiced.

34 weeks – My fears were confirmed, Obstetric cholestasis. My wonderful planned homebirth, gone. Induction and resulting c-section at 37 weeks.

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Then at 6 weeks we could have lost you. Bronchilitis meant you spent 4 days, the scariest 4 days of my life, in high dependency.

Your pregnancy and birth haunted me. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. My last experience of pregnancy couldn’t be my body failing me, failing you. I couldn’t get over it. So we decided to have your sister. Then your brother surprised us all, almost 5 years later. So here you are, the middle child.

But I want to reassure you my darling, you are not forgotten. You are not any less loved, or any less appreciated. We adore your quirky ways, the way your eyes twinkle when you laugh. Your odd sense of humour and those expressions you pull when you’re telling a story or having a rant.

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We see you. You are part of us, our family. And we wouldn’t change you for anything.

All my love,

Mummy.x

 

Homebirth – Frequently asked questions

Homebirth. Its a subject that divides opinion. Some see it as the worst thing possible, going against science and medicine and all the progress that has been made to make birth “safe”. Some see it as the ideal, a calm and peaceful way to bring their baby into the world with minimal intervention (and in some cases, without even medical personnel present).

The reality is that both opinions are right, and wrong. Homebirth isn’t right for everyone. But neither is hospital birth. Having had both (and a birth at a midwife-led unit too!) I can hand on heart say that I am in the latter camp. Hospital birth, with all its restrictions and medicalisation, just isn’t for me. I made a choice to have two homebirths after my 3rd pregnancy ended in a caesarean section (hbacs). I didn’t make this decision lightly, I researched extensively and weighed up all the pros and cons. In the end I felt the benefits for myself, my baby and our family far outweighed any risk. I will touch more on hbac at the end of the blog, so if you’re here for that then just skip to the end 😉

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Before my 3rd pregnancy all went wrong, I was planning to have my baby at home. With a previous (horrendous) hospital birth and a (lovely, but fraught) MLU birth. It felt like a natural progression for me. Plus my circumstances had changed somewhat. My childcare options were more limited. My husband didn’t drive at the time, and my Dad (my only real emergency transport option) was awaiting a hip replacement. Being at home seemed to be the obvious choice. But I still had questions.

So I wanted to cover some questions I had myself, and some of those I’ve seen and heard asked many times in various parent groups and forums.

Is it safe?

The NHS Choices website states that for women having normal, healthy second or more pregnancies and with no previous obstetric history that could pose a risk, homebirth is as safe as hospital birth. For first time mothers there is a slight increase in risk to baby (from 5 in 1000 to 9 in 1000). Its important to bear in mind though that this increase still adds up to less than 1% of cases.

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Will I be allowed a homebirth?

Some women may have had a previous pregnancy or birth that makes them automatically “high risk”, even if they are having a perfect pregnancy next time around. Some women may have some issues with their pregnancy, or suffer from a medical condition that puts a question mark over whether they should be in hospital or not.The general consensus amongst consultants, and even some midwives, in this case is that homebirth is not recommended. But each woman should be treated as an individual, and each woman is entitled to make her own choice about where to give birth. No-one can tell you you’re not “allowed”, although believe me, some consultants will try! They can only inform you of any risks, and give you the information to make an informed decision.

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Is it messy?

In my experience, no. Not at all. I had a birthing pool for both of my homebirths. I also had some cheap shower curtains (Asda do great quality ones in their basics range) and puppy training pads (Home bargains!) in strategic places (for me that was the floor between the pool and the sofa, and on the sofa itself). Once I’d given birth and was sat snuggling my new little bundle, my wonderful midwives just scooped thee up and put them in the bin. My husband set up the pump to empty the pool, and once it was empty he washed it out and sterilised it with Milton sterilising fluid. It took around an hour in total. Apart from some towels that needed a wash, all was back to normal!

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What pain relief can I have?

Not much. You can’t have an epidural at home. If you reach a point where you are really not coping and really feel you need one, your midwife will discuss transferring to hospital with you. Pethadine is available in some areas, but would need to be prescribed by a Dr beforehand for the midwives to administer. Gas and air is available, although you are limited to what the midwives carry. This is usually two or three canisters. You are free to use a TENS machine and water, be that the bath or a dedicated birthing pool (although obviously the TENS would need to be removed before you entered the water! Hypnobirthing  is also popular.

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For those local to me I will include some links to hypnobirthing practitioners. Its definitely worth it, even if you birth in hospital!

The good news is that many women find they need less pain relief than they would have in hospital. Being in their own surroundings, with less medical interference and able to move freely, eat and drink when they feel like it and have their own things around them is often enough to help a woman get into a place mentally where she copes better with the pain. This leads to less interventions and a calmer, happier birth.

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What will i need?

As mentioned above, shower curtains or tarpaulins, puppy training pads (or potty training/maternity bed mats, although these tend to be more expensive), old towels. A large bowl or bucket for the placenta (although they will bring a tub to take it away in if you don’t want to keep it, they will need to examine it to ensure it is intact at delivery). A pool if you are wanting a waterbirth, and accessories to go with it such as a clean hose to fill/empty it, a water thermometer, a mirror.

The midwives will provide everything else you need from a medical point of view, either bringing it with them on the day or dropping off a homebirth kit in the weeks before.

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What about my other children?

If you want them there, then there is no reason for them not to be there! With my first homebirth my younger children were both in bed upstairs, whilst I laboured and gave birth downstairs with their Daddy and their big sister watching and supporting me. I’ll never forget their little faces when they woke and came down to us cuddling up to their new baby sister 🙂 With my second homebirth, all the other children were awake before he was born. I ended up sending them to my neighbour for the last half an hour or so, as I found myself focusing on them and worrying about scaring them, instead of focusing on my breathing and birthing. They were fetched back within minutes of my son being born. My older daughter was my birth photographer!

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What if no midwife is available when I go into labour?

Sadly for some women, home birth isn’t that well supported. Sometimes you will ring and be told you will have to come in, as no-one is free to attend you at home. This can be an upsetting and stressful time. Labour can be stressful enough, without having your plans changed at the last minute. No-one can make you go to hospital. You are free to give birth where you want, and you have a right to be supported in that choice. If there are genuinely not enough midwives available then an ambulance may be called, and paramedics on hand to deliver your baby. But often the case is that when you make it clear you will be staying at home, a midwife is made available to you. Of course you don’t have to stay at home. If you aren’t invested in a homebirth and don’t mind hospital then you can go in. Your body, your birth, your choice 🙂

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What if something goes wrong?

Midwives are trained to spot problems. When you labour and birth at home you will have one, in most cases two, midwives present. These midwives are there solely to make sure you and your baby are safe. Unlike in hospital, where you may be sharing your midwife with other labouring women, they are entirely focused on you. In the majority of cases they will spot any potential issues very quickly, and transfer to hospital can be arranged. In the event of something unforeseen, such as shoulder dystocia at birth, they are trained in methods to deliver baby safely. They carry the same equipment as a MLU should baby need some help to breathe, and carry medication to help slow bleeding in the case of maternal haemorrhage.

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What happens afterwards?

Bliss! Total and utter babymoon heaven 🙂 The midwives will do yours and the baby’s checks when you are ready.They are really inobtrusive. Baby’s APGAR score is observed at one minute and five minutes after birth (it is also sometimes done at 10 minutes, if needed). You probably won’t even notice the midwife doing this. You are free to cuddle your baby, have skin to skin, cuddle your partner, whatever you want. You can drink champagne, eat a full 3 course meal or just have a cup of tea and beans on toast, all in the comfort of your own bed, chair, sofa or wherever you fancy! At some point the mdwife will want to weigh baby, but theres no rush. Usually one of the midwives will stay for an hour or two after the birth, to help with the clean up and just observe yourself and baby. But you have no restrictions. If you want your whole family to visit straight away, thats fine! If you want no interruptions and just to cuddle up as a family and enjoy your new addition, thats fine too! You can sleep when you want, with no other babies or ladies (or their partners, if your hospital stay was anything like mine!) keeping you awake, no Drs coming to poke or prod you. This is where homebirth really comes into its own 🙂

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A special note about HBAC (homebirth after caesarean), and other high risk pregnancies

As I mentioned above, both my homebirths were hbacs. Both were technically against medical advice. But I was confident in my own ability to birth my babies, and I had 100% trust in the midwives’ ability to spot any problems early.

So lets look at the specific risk factors for HBAC. The biggest “fact” you will have thrown at you is the risk of uterine rupture. You will probably be told that your risk doubles once you have had a c-section, and technically this is true. What they don’t tell you is how small that risk still is. In a normal pregnancy, with no history of c-section or other scarring, the risk of uterine rupture is less than 1%. In a VBAC that risk can increase to up to 2%. But looking closer into these figures, they have actually included all scar disruptions, even those that caused no problems. The risk of a true scar rupture during VBAC is actually closer to 0.35%. Interestingly, the risk after a repeat caesarean is 0.12%. But that of course is only one risk factor of repeat c-section, infection being the biggest.

I saw a consultant before my first homebirth. He told me a horror story about a woman who’s scar ruptured during a homebirth and she lost the baby, very nearly losing her life. A horrifying situation for sure. After further questioning though, it transpired that this lady lived quite some distance from the hospital, and it took around half an hour for her to arrive there. I asked how long it takes them to perform an emergency c/s once the need has been identified. I was told 10-15 minutes. I know that I can drive from my house to the hospital in 10 minutes (I have sadly had to do so when my son had an accident as a baby), and thats without blue lights and sirens. I asked the consultant what difference it would make if I were to be en-route by ambulance whilst they were prepping theatre and paging staff, rather than in a hospital bed in the delivery suite. He admitted it would make none, as the paramedics and midwife would be suitably trained to look after me in that situation and they would be preparing for my arrival so I could be taken straight into surgery.

With these concerns assuaged I was able to address the more mundane aspects of hospital VBAC vs HBAC. I was told I would need continual monitoring, so wouldn’t be able to have an active labour. But further research showed me that there are many other signs to show that a rupture may happen. Pain in the area of the scar and/or between contractions, rapid maternal pulse and possibly shock, excessive vaginal bleeding and slowing of labour. By having two midwives in attendance at home, regularly taking my pulse and temperature and observing my demeanor, I felt I would be safer than just being stuck on a monitor in a hospital room, with midwives popping in and out. Midwives are also able to listen to baby’s heartrate at home, even underwater.

My other main concern was the fact that my c-section had been performed due to failed induction, which was largely put down to my previous bad hospital birth experience. In simple terms, my body had entered it’s fight or flight response. I was petrified, I didn’t feel safe, and so my body refused to go into labour. I didn’t see any reason why this wouldn’t happen again, were I to attempt a VBAC in hospital. So my choice came down to a repeat caesarean, which isn’t to be taken lightly, and carries its own risks just like any other major surgery, or a HBAC. Being in my own home, with my children and my husband allowed to stay with me and all the other positives, won out for me. My homebirths were both magical experiences. I delivered both of them myself (with midwives present), shared precious moments in the pool with them whilst waiting for the cord to stop pulsating so it could be cut. Being able to sleep in my own bed, with all my children with me, was bliss. I found breastfeeding easier in a less distracting and pressured environment, and my recovery was much much quicker (36 hours after my first homebirth I attended my eldest daughter’s last primary school May day celebration. My baby girl even got a special mention as the youngest audience member!).

Thats not to say it would be the right choice for everyone. If you are considering a HBAC then you should do your own research, and decide what is right for you 🙂

Here are some links to start you off 🙂

Caesarean.org

NCT-VBAC

Heathline.com – Uterine rupture

Babycenter – uterine rupture

Good sites for general homebirth questions are Homebirth.org and NCT – Homebirth, and AIMS is great if you are experiencing unfair resistance to your homebirth plans 🙂

As promised, here are some local (Kent, UK) hypnobirthing links:

Hypnobirthing in Kent (clinic in Hythe)

JMHypnotherapy Folkestone

Kent Hypnobirthing

I hope I’ve provided information that is useful to you! I loved my homebirths, and I am always happy to take enquiries for anyone wanting someone to capture theirs on camera 🙂 The photos on this post are from my own last homebirth, taken by my then-16 year old in very challenging conditions (I like to labour with the light really REALLY low). I treasure them.

Kelly.x

 

 

 

Christmas mini sessions – James

My Christmas mini sessions were so much fun! It was a busy day, a busy few weeks, but Sasha (my eldest daughter, and assistant) and I had a lovely time. Getting to wear a Santa hat and play Christmas music at the beginning of November particularly pleased Sasha!

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Little James was a star. He is such a smiley baby, his whole face lights up and it is beautiful to see. I had such a hard time narrowing down the photos for his gallery!

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I’m so excited for Christmas now. And I really can’t wait to plan next year’s Christmas minis! Bigger and better next year!!!

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Meanwhile, sessions are available as usual. Sessions or print package make great Christmas gifts 🙂

Just use the contact form or message me on Facebook to enquire or book.

Magali and Miles – Breastfeeding mini session

I love babies. I love everything about them. Small ones, big ones, ones with hair, ones without. I am a baby person 🙂 I find them equally as cute no matter how they are fed. But there is just something about seeing a mother breastfeeding her child that speaks to me deeply. It is something I feel passionate about, something that I truly believe is special. Not in a “breastfed babies are better” way, not at all. But in a primal way.

I am so honoured every time someone hires me to capture these moments for them. Often I am asked not to share, and obviously I completely respect that. For some feeding is a private thing that they want to record just for themselves, and that is absolutely ok 🙂 But that just makes it even more special when I am allowed to share!

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Magali is one of those few who have consented to sharing. From the moment she told me she would prefer a public shoot to a home session I knew we were on the same wavelength! I think we were both overjoyed that the weather was kind on the day of the shoot, so we were able to head to the park.

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The autumn colours were out in force and gave the location such a beautiful palette!

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Miles was just adorable, giving me lots of smiles. Such a happy baby! Thankfully he was hungry too, so we were able to maximise the variety from the session.

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I am so happy to have been able to capture these memories for Magali and Miles. The photos make me smile, and hopefully by sharing them we are doing our bit to help breastfeeding be seen as the natural, biological, “normal” act that it is.

#normalisebreastfeeding

Kelly.x

 

Breastfeeding mini sessions are just £45*, bookings available for home or public sessions.

*A 50p per mile surcharge is payable for sessions taking place 15 miles or over outside the Hythe area.