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How to shorten your labour by eating dates!

So we've been talking about the importance of eating Dates in the last month of pregnancy for several months now at Calm Births. So I thought it about time to actually sit down and take a look at the evidence!

So what's all this about eating dates? You may or not have heard but eating 6 dates per day will:

Lessen your chances of needing induction and make your labour shorter.

Woah there! Stop the press! What?! This is incredible news! So there have been a few good studies on this in the last few years and they all reached the same conclusions.

Calm Births Hypnobirthing Berkshire

It is thought by Alkoran et al (2017) that date fruit 'probably influenced oxytocin receptors, caused more effective contractions, and better prepared the cervix for delivery'. Our ability to respond to Oxytocin (or, the 'hormone of love' as it's known) increases during pregnancy, and we produce more of it. All that lovely Oxytocin then encourages our uterine muscles to surge in order to ripen and open the cervix. So if dates are enhancing that process, then happy days! 

So as well as women being statistically more likely to go into spontaneous labour, they are also, according to these studies, going to be:

More dilated when arriving at a hospital/birth centre, more likely to have a vaginal birth and less likely to have a post-partum haemorrhage. 

Khadem et al (2007) found that 'date fruit has an oxytocin-like effect, leading to the increased sensitivity of the uterus, stimulating uterine contractions and reduces mean post partum haemorrhage'. 

The evidence is there, and reassuringly all studies conclude that Dates are beneficial for women during late pregnancy, as they reduce the need for intervention and there are no adverse effects on Mother or child. 

So - 6 dates a day from 36 weeks ladies! Ok, so admittedly dates aren't the most visually appealing fruit, and I know a lot of you are thinking yes but.. euughhh!!

 

Calm Births Hypnobirthing Berkshire

 

So here are a few ideas for you on how to jazz them up a bit to eat them!

1. You can chop them up on cereal for a quick dose in the morning

 2. Some of these smoothies sound delish

3. Sticky toffee date cake? Yes please! 

4. A date and walnut cake, yum.

5. This super healthy Mongolian Beef recipe. 

I'd love to know how you get on with the date eating, has it worked for you? Have you any great recipes for Dates? I'd love to read your comments! x 

 

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The Hospital Bag.

"What should I pack in my hospital bag? "

This is a question that looms in the minds of many Mums to be  - there is so much information out there about what you absolutely must have in your hospital bag. There are lists on Pinterest, there are pages on websites, there are helpful friends and family telling you what you MUST have - it can all feel a little overwhelming and can become quite a thing to fixate on and worry about.

The struggle is real..

The struggle is real..

In my years as a Midwife and after three babies of my own (who were born at home, but still all had a hospital bag packed from 37 weeks just in case) I have learnt what is actually essential in your bag - it's so easy to get carried away with this, with all the various lists out there on the interweb! So thought it might be helpful to share my basic hospital bag list - this is the stuff you need, everything else is just extras. Keep it basic, you're not going to Outer Mongolia. 

For Mum:

Your handheld notes - you will definitely need these.

Maternity Pads - these are the massive surf board ones - it's very important to use these and not the regular sanitary pads as they are designed for the Midwives (and you) to be able to monitor your blood loss after birth, if it's all absorbed in a pad it's more tricky. 

Comfy PJ's / Nightie that you can snuggle into after birth, preferably ones that you can snuggle baby into the front of too for some lovely skin to skin cuddles (and to breastfeed if you are choosing to)

MASSIVE comfy pants - literally buy a size or two bigger than usual of pants like you're Granny would wear. You'll appreciate it trust me. It also helps to house those massive pads!

Normal toiletries (shower gel, deodorant, toothbrush/paste, hairbrush/band) - even if you plan to go straight home after baby has been born (you'll be recommended to wait at least 6 hours), a shower and a teeth clean will feel like heaven afterwards.

Lip balm - it's really normal for your lips and mouth to get really dry if using gas & air.

Snackage - This should be the first priority in my mind!!!! But seriously, do take little snacks that might take your fancy during labour to keep your energy up, like jelly babies or snack bars, and also juice cartons or energy drinks. Don't forget, you're not planning on going to the Moon to have your baby, so there will always be a little shop/vending machine you can use if you need to! 

Nipple cream - obvs only if you're planning to breasfeed! But buy a good one like Lansinoh because in my experience nothing else even comes close.

An open mind - this is so important. To enter into labour and birth with an open mind and a 'go with the flow' attitude will serve you so well. Trust in the process and your body, trust in nature to take it's course and be open to however it all pans out. There is no right or wrong way to give birth. There is just birth. 

For Baby:

Nappies - obvs. Put a whole pack in. Trust me on that one.

Clothes - obvs again, but don't underestimate how many clothes a small thing can get through in a short space of time! To be totally safe take 5 or 6 of: vests, babygrows and hats.

Muslins - again you will not believe how many of these you might get through, put at least 5 in.

Baby wipes/Cotton wool - it is known to be better for baby's skin to use cotton wool and warm water to wipe their bottom and the hospital will have top and tail bowls for you to use for that. However the first few meconium poos are a nightmare to wipe, and in those instances baby wipes are much easier! 

Vaseline - if you cover baby's bottom and bits with vaseline after each clean, it makes the poo not stick to the skin and therefore much easier to clean. You're welcome.

A boob / A bottle - If you're not sure how you're planning to feed, you will already have a boob with you and you can always send someone out for formula! (This is where those muslins come in handy for dribbly feeders and also modesty)

Phone charger - to keep the juice on your phone for those all important calls & social media announcements!

Love - to give in abundance.

For Birth Partner:

Change - for car parks or vending machines

Toiletries - you might be there for a while and want to freshen up yourself, so pop in a spare toothbrush, deodorant etc.

Spare t-shirt - it gets REALLY hot in hospital, and you might feel a bit gross if you're there for a while!

Snacks - hell hath no fury like a pregnant woman when you've stolen her snacks. Keep your own stash!!

Phone charger - because you'll be taking a zillion photo's of your new baby!

Encouragement - telling your partner that they are loved, safe and doing an amazing thing will really spur her on and help her. You can't say these things too much in my opinion.

Just in case the thought of getting everything together is a bit stressful, I've put all the things you'll need for labour and the immediate postnatal period together in a convenient bag for you! You can read about your pre-packed birth bags here. x 

 

 

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Ask the Midwife

It is a sad but true fact, that in many NHS Trusts throughout England, maternity services are unable to offer women the continuity of care they need and deserve due to lack of staff and funding. I'm pretty sure I can speak for all Midwives when I say this hurts them as much as it hurts you, as they all know and understand the benefits of continuity of care, but for reasons beyond their control, are unable to offer it. I say this as a former Midwife, who loved nothing more than the picturesque ideal of 'Call the Midwife' where we could build a close relationship with the women in our care, and be with them at the births of their babies understanding their worries, needs and wants.  What happens now, in most areas (although there are a lucky few areas who have amazing community teams who can actually offer the ideal) is that women see a different Midwife at each antenatal appointment, and yet another one (or more) at the birth of their baby. 

Calm Births Hypnobirthing Berkshire

This could very easily turn into an essay on how damaging that is for a Woman's experience of birth, but I am not here to slate our NHS - our Midwives, support staff and Gynae staff do amazing jobs under really shit conditions.

There is a problem for our women though, in that due to that lack of a close relationship or easy access to a Midwife, many women are sitting at home fretting about what they deem to be 'silly' questions about their pregnancies. There are dedicated phone lines in the maternity units, but women often feel daunted by calling them as the lines are busy, or they feel that their question is too small. This can really ruin a woman's experience of pregnancy, particularly for those who are anxious. 

Something I have discovered recently though is the most amazing tool for women designed by Midwife Hannah Harvey. Her very clever app: 'Ask the Midwife' is designed to combat this - it is a tool for women to ask any question they need to about pregnancy to an actual Midwife and get a very quick and evidence based response. I had a chat with Hannah recently and this is what she said:

Can you describe the Ask the Midwife App to me Hannah?

"Ask The Midwife is the UK’s first health advice app designed and run be registered midwives for women and their families. You can download the app, ask any questions you have about pregnancy, birth and beyond and get a fast, professional and friendly response from a registered midwife."

Can you tell us a bit about you and how you came to do this?

"I have been a Midwife for 5 years, and have always had an interest in digital health and how it can benefit women and families. A study showed that 84% of women use the internet for health advice in pregnancy, and most of the time this isn’t from credible sources. I wanted to create a solution that would mean everyone had access to professional advice online, to dissuade people from using Google and parenting forums as a source of information. In my local trust I developed Facebook groups and a Twitter page to improve maternity user experience in our NHS Trust, and won an innovation award for it in 2014. Following on from that, I wanted to be able to offer digital health services to users across the whole of the UK, and hopefully internationally at some point as well. This is how Ask The Midwife was born!"

Why do you think this App is needed right now?

"We live in a time now where everyone has smart phones, and people use social media and digital services like apps and web sites all the time. Digital Health is a brand new phenomenon, but one that is taking off at a drastic rate, because it is fast, easily accessible and credible. We have already been able to offer reassurance and guidance to so many expectant parents, and it is becoming evident how much a service like this is needed, by how quickly the app has taken off and how many people are using it."

Is any question too small or silly?

"No question is too small or silly for us. We actually get lots of questions that I have never been asked as a Midwife in clinical practice, which suggests to me that there are questions that women feel are too silly/small to ask face to face, so it is really great to see them being asked via the app. It means we are providing a service that is really needed, and people are able to get their anxieties and worries out to a professional and have the reassurance they need. If you think your question is silly, it isn’t. We will always be at the other end of the app waiting to answer any questions you have, bog or small."
 

How can people get the App, and what will they pay for it?

"The app is free to download on iOS. We are planning to launch Ask The Midwife on Android and on our website in 2017. Once you have downloaded, you get one free question and then after that you can pay anything from £1.99 for an Ask - up to £24.99 for one months unlimited use."
 

You can find out more at the Ask The Midwife website - and take advantage of the January sale, with unlimited access for £17! 

 

 

 

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Midwifery vs HypnoBirthing.....

I was asked recently why I left Midwifery to take up HypnoBirthing teaching. It took me a while to formulate an answer if I'm honest.  And then Facebook reminded me this week that it's been two years since I left my job as a Midwife. This brought up very mixed emotions for me, as I looked at the image of my little send off with my amazing colleagues at the maternity unit.

Calm Births Hypnobirthing Berkshire

I love, love LOVED being a Midwife and still believe that it is one of the most challenging, rewarding, amazing jobs in the world. I loved being a part of peoples journey's into becoming a family, or extending their family. To share in one of the biggest experiences in someones life, and hopefully help to make it the best possible experience in their given situation, is an honour and a privilege.

However, sometimes it's just not enough.

Often as a Midwife the first time you meet a couple is when they are coming in to hospital in labour, or when you are called to their home when in labour. By this time the destiny of that birth is almost already written, the mother is already pre-programmed with how she is going to birth. And all you can do as a Midwife is make that journey the safest, calmest, best experience possible in that moment. And a lot of the time that is enough, the woman is able to trust you, trust her body and trust her baby, and she achieves a beautiful, calm birth.

But sometimes, a woman is entering into birth feeling anxious, frightened, and sure that this is going to be the most painful, horrific experience of her life and it's just something she's got to get through. 

And this is why Calm Births is so important to me, I can get in there from the start, before the birth process is even close usually. I can meet families and re-write the destiny of their birth story, I can re-programme the beliefs and dismiss the anxieties around labour and birth. I can do my utmost to ensure that women and their birth partners are entering into labour and birth with a skill set to help them relax, trust in the process and even enjoy the process. 

And yes, I miss out on the birth itself, but I can leave that to my wonderful beautiful Midwife friends who do such an amazing job, and trust that with a combination of awesome antenatal education and lovely Midwives, we can make a difference to women's birth stories.

And that, is why I do what I do.  

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5 tips for dealing with a heat wave when you're pregnant.

So, summer is well and truly here and It. Is. HOT. Fantastic! Or not.. if you are heavily pregnant, this heat is no joke at all and can be really really awful. Unless of course you are able to spend all of your time in an air conditioned room, with a lovely big pool and cold drinks on demand. No? In that case,  I have put together some (hopefully) helpful tips to keep you cool this summer:

Calm Births Hypnobirthing Berkshire

1) Sleeping. Or lack thereof. This is a big problem when it's hot and can leave you feeling exhausted. Try having a cold shower (as cold as you can stand it) as the last thing you do before going to bed, just lightly dry your body leaving it slightly damp and get yourself in front of a fan/ air-con unit/ window to dry off. It will drop your body temperature down nicely before getting in to bed.

Sleep with a cool flannel on your forehead, and just under a single sheet. Another trick whilst lying in bed is to visualise being somewhere reaaaaallly cold, and fool your body into thinking it's not hot - you have to really use your imagination but it can work! (Those of you who are HypnoBirthers will appreciate the strength of mind over matter)

2) Water spray - these are amazing, just a small bottle like this one from Boots for only £1.55 kept in your handbag during the day and by your bedside at night can offer wonderful instant relief.

3) Peppermint foot cooling gel - I found this one from Body Shop but they are sold in lots of places. I was gifted some by a friend when pregnant with my first, and it was hands down the best thing I was bought! Getting to sleep when pregnant can be tricky even when it's not hot, and lots of people suffer with restless leg syndrome - I found this stuff worked wonders.

4) Water, water and more water. Sorry, I know it's a boring one but the importance can't really be stressed enough. You need to have a good water intake when pregnant normally, and if you're losing moisture through perspiration in the sun then you and baby need even more. The trick to know whether you're getting enough is your pee - if it is clear and odourless then that's perfect, keep up the good work. If your pee is a bit on the yellow side and has an odour, then try drinking a bit more (spread the increase throughout the day, don't go and down a litre of water). 

5) Cankles anyone? Have your feet / ankles / calves all merged into one attractive lump in the heat? Upping your fluid intake actually helps with this too, as it works through your lymphatic system and helps to flush it all out. Keep your feet elevated whenever you can too, whilst watching TV or even at your desk, have your feet as raised as you can. 

Failing all that, fill a bath with iced water and settle in for the day! 

 

 

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Six things to know when considering a home birth.

Picture courtesy of homebirthaustralia.org

Picture courtesy of homebirthaustralia.org

In my years as a Midwife, I was very privileged to attend births in the homes of families, and to learn about exactly what happens, how it goes, and what happens in the (rare) event of an emergency. So when it came to be my turn to become a Mumma myself, I was 100% confident in my choice to birth my babies at home, and so I did. Three times. And I have to say that they were the three most wonderful, life altering, amazing experiences of my life. And if I had the choice (and the finances) then I would do it over and over again. THAT is how passionate I am about home birth. Don't get me wrong, I DO wax lyrical about it, but only when asked about it. I would never dare to presume anything about anyone's individual circumstances or situations, and push my ideas on them. That's just not cool, and I do also strongly believe that a woman will birth calmly and gently if she feels safe in her environment. To some that will mean hospital, others a birth centre, and others at home. Each to their own.

However, if home birth is something that you have on your radar and are wondering about, then I have collated a top six of things you need to know in order to feel informed in making a decision:

1) HypnoBirths do not have to be at home. I feel that that is an important point to make, as it is a common misconception. A woman can use her HypnoBirthing skill set no matter what the scenario or environment - that's kind of the point of HypnoBirthing really, that you are given the skills to be able to relax and calmly birth no matter where you are or what's going on around you. 

2) The stats! The idea of home birth without knowing much about it is quite scary. I get it. So let's look at the statistics, which speak for themselves. Statistics from NICE (the guidance of whom Midwives must legally follow) and the 2011 Birthplace study show:

  •  A woman is MORE likely to achieve a normal vaginal delivery at home than in an obstetric unit or birth centre (984 at home vs 927 in an obstetric unit)
  • A woman is a lot LESS likely to have an episiotomy at home than in a birth centre or obstetric led unit (15 at home vs 35 in a birth centre and 56 in an obstetric unit)
  • The incidence of instrumental delivery (forceps or ventouse) is MUCH lower at home too - this is just 9 at home vs 23 at a birth centre and 38 in an obstetric led unit.
  • The incidences of babies born without serious medical problems is exactly the same at home or at hospital (997) - and so, therefore, is the incidence of babies born with problems (3) - which leads me nicely to my next point.. 

3) A Midwife attending a home birth is equally able to deal with an emergency as a midwife in a hospital. Now, as you can see from the stats, an emergency scenario is very rare in a home birth. However, community midwives are trained up like ninja warriors. The merest whiff, suggestion or feeling that something is amiss and those ninja midwives will be stepping up and shipping you out. If something happens quickly and unexpectedly, those ninja community midwives have all the life saving equipment and skills that a midwife in hospital has. Trust me, they KNOW what they're doing - the same thing could happen up a mountain, in a hospital or at your house, they would deal with it in exactly the same professional, safe way. 

4) The house is not left in a mess. This is another understandable worry, but again, those ninja community midwives will clean up everything before they leave. You won't even notice they're doing it, as you will all be snuggled up safely in your own bed basking in the glory of cuddling your newborn baby. The midwives will quietly just clean up and take any rubbish away with them, and birth really isn't that messy - certainly not as it is so often portrayed in rubbish tv dramas. Having said that, it's easy to prepare, you can just buy a cheap 'value' shower curtain to lay on the floor if you have lovely cream carpets, and get out some old towels that you don't mind throwing away afterwards. 

5) Home births are ideal if you have a 'low risk' pregnancy. Now this is true, but if you are not sure if you are low risk, then a quick chat with your community midwife or the lovely people at AIMS will give you more of an idea. There is an increasing trend for women who have had a previous cesarean section to go on to have a vaginal birth (VBAC) at home. This is definitely worth investigating if this is you. It must always also be remembered that it is your birth, and your choice. 

5) You can still birth or just labour in water if you choose to. There are many wonderful local homebirth support groups who lend out birth pools for free, you just have to buy the disposable liner that goes inside it for approximately £15. These pools are like the most luxurious paddling pools in the world, with inflatable bases that make you feel as though you are floating in a cloud. They are just filled with a connection to your taps, easy. 

6) Once you make the decision you can change your mind. This is really important - a good mindset to have for labour and birth is to just go with the flow and see what happens. This includes your choice of place of birth - a good idea is to consider that you will start your labour at home and see how you go, with everything in place to have a home birth should you choose to. Have a hospital bag packed too, and if you decide along the way that you would prefer to be in a birth centre or hospital, then you can do that too, no problem.

So there we have it. It is a big decision, and it is YOUR decision. But there is loads of advice and support out there for women who choose to birth at home, and I defy you to find a woman who has done so who won't wax lyrical about it, just like I do. 

If you are considering home birth and would like to chat about HypnoBirthing in Berkshire then please don't hesitate to contact me. x

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When a calm birth hits the headlines

I have been really saddened today to see an article in the paper (not one that I am a fan of, admittedly) - with the headline:

'London woman claims her 5 hour labour was PLEASURABLE'

Now, I have several issues with this. Firstly, the use of the word 'claims' - the author is clearly implying that the mere suggestion that a labour can be pleasurable is absolutely preposterous, and is mocking the Mother. This author also emphasizes the point that the Mother didn't use drugs - as if this is something unheard of and ridiculous.

Whilst I'm happy that HypnoBirthing is in the news, and this Mum clearly had a wonderful birth, why one woman's beautiful, enjoyable, calm HypnoBirth should be headline news bewilders and saddens me. This is how birth can and should be for every woman, and a natural, 'normal' birth should exactly that, the norm, not a freak occurrence to be scorned.  I am also saddened that the author of this article is a woman, and although she hasn't written anything outwardly negative, she very clearly has an issue with the fact that a woman has enjoyed and is celebrating her baby's birth. Women should be supporting each other, and celebrating together when a baby is born. Whatever happened to the sisterhood?!

I would be really interested to hear your comments on this, the link to the article is here

 

 

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Why can't I just teach myself HypnoBirthing at home?

This seems to be a question I am hearing or reading more and more. And it's a fair question, and I respect that it's always good to challenge things - so I thought I would try to answer it as well as I can from my perspective as a HypnoBirthing Practitioner and experienced Midwife.

It is possible in this wonderful age of technology now to buy and listen to the course CD, download lots of birthing affirmations and watch lots of positive HypnoBirths on YouTube. So what else do you need right? Surely if you're doing all of these things then you've got it covered?

Well, yes - there will be some women for whom this is enough. But in all honesty, these women are pretty few and far between (and please comment if you are one such lucky lady!)

So what else are you getting from a course that you can't teach yourself? And why should you shell out all that money?

Well, the first, and to my mind the most important, thing is the support. Firstly the support for you as the woman who will be birthing the baby; it is so important to have the positive reinforcement of why HypnoBirthing works and how. The course practitioners are of varying backgrounds, but most (if not all) have birthed their own babies and many are Midwives or Doulas who have been with many women at the births of their babies. These practitioners are all passionate about one thing: HypnoBirthing. They all exude such confidence and passion on the subject that it is contagious. It is quite frankly impossible to attend the sessions and not to feel empowered, informed and supported in your personal journey. They won't just meet you in class and that be it, most will be available to you by phone or email before, during and after the birth of your baby to offer support and advice. That is something that you just can't get that from a CD or a book!! 

That support is equally important for your birth partner. The course is designed to teach the birth partner to understand exactly how important their role is (and man, is it important!) - and exactly what it is they can do for you during your pregnancy and birth to really help and support you. This cannot be overemphasised - you and your birth partner are a team, and you need to learn and be treated as such.

The practical elements of the course are very difficult to learn by reading or watching clips. I see many questions from women who are self-teaching asking forums if they are doing the breathing correctly, how perineal massage works and so on. In the classes we lead you into many wonderful relaxations to guide you in how it should be, including the fantastic Fear Release script which is very powerful and cannot be self taught. The light touch massage is another very powerful tool for the birth partner to use, we demonstrate this in class so that they really get it (and Mum gets a lovely treat as we practice on her!)

The cost is a common question - and again a fair one. However these classes are not just a few hours in a classroom with some lady talking about breathing. Your teacher will invest in you and your story, in your pregnancy and your birth. She will be there for you, tailor her care to you and become a part of your journey. It isn't really the 'cost' of the course, it's an investment in your life.

So, I hope that I've summed it up ok. I genuinely feel that my couples leave my classes floating on a cloud of relaxation and empowerment, and this gives them the tools to go ahead and have the wonderful HypnoBirth that they are capable of. And I just don't think you can read that in a book..

 

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Competition Time!

I am offering a FREE Mongan Method HypnoBirthing course, worth £375! Simply follow me on Twitter here, and tweet 'I want to win with #calmbirths' to be in with your chance to win! The winner will be chosen at random & notified via Twitter.

This offer is valid for Berkshire residents only, and the classes are to be held in the winners home as a set of five 2 1/2 hour classes. The course will include the book 'HypnoBirthing - The Mongan Method', and the accompanying CD to the course 'Rainbow Relaxation'. 

Offer finishes September 1st 2015

Good luck! xx

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One Born Every Minute's Natal Hypnotherapy Birth

Now, it must be said that I'm not always the biggest fan of OBEM, and most of my Midwife or Doula friends would say the same. Over the years working as a Midwife I would often meet women coming in to the hospital to have their babies, who were just plain terrified about childbirth and what was happening to them. And it was our jobs as Midwives to reassure them that it's a normal process and try to empower them to have a calm birthing experience.

However since OBEM appeared on our screens it must be said that there were suddenly a lot more of these very frightened women - and something that I heard all too often was that they'd been watching the series avidly whilst pregnant. 

Part of the HypnoBirthing ethos is that a woman should not have to listen to other's (usually grossly exaggerated) birth horror stories, in fact we often give women badges to wear saying 'Positive Birth Stories Only Please! My baby is listening'. A woman should be surrounded by positivity and reassurance that birth is natural, normal and wonderful.

Anyway this post was not intended to rant about the programme, but to commend them for showing the beautiful Natal Hypnobirth of Nadine and her husband - the most supportive birth partner in the world! It proved that HypnoBirthing really is an amazing tool for a woman who has had a less than ideal time with her first baby. It shows how a woman can empower herself to have the calm, gentle and beautiful birth just like Nadine, despite having been terrified to begin with. 

So bravo OBEM, you're finally showing what birth really should and CAN be like!

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