On 13th September, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, who surprised us all by arriving eleven days early! I’ll be writing more about Dylan’s birth in due course, but I was extremely fortunate to experience a natural birth with no interventions or pain relief. The labour itself was spontaneous and lasted ten hours from my waters breaking to his arrival, which I’m led to believe is pretty good for a first baby!
I was lucky enough to have a fairly straight forward pregnancy despite now being the grand ‘old’ age of 37, and I credit a lot of this to remaining active and focusing on the physical and emotional preparation needed, just as I would if I was preparing for a running event. I ran the Boston Marathon at 17 weeks and continued run/walking despite the Dubai summer heat until about 32 weeks.
After that, I walked 5km most mornings (including the day I went into labour) and enjoyed not ‘having’ to train through the summer months! I generally felt well throughout and gained between 10 and 11kg, all mainly around my bump, although I did feel quite a bit of water retention towards the end. Mentally, I felt positive about the birth, whilst also having realistic expectations that things rarely go to plan. Just like on marathon day, unexpected things can happen and it’s about dealing with these things as and when they arise.
A lot of people have been asking me about what I did to stay so well (and of course, there was a huge amount of luck involved too), so I thought I’d share a couple of the people and/or businesses I sought advice and knowledge from over the past nine months. I should point out that all of this came out of our own pockets and is not sponsored in any way – I just genuinely feel that without the help of the people below, my pregnancy journey and Dylan’s birth would have been a lot different, and so I wanted to give a shout out to the people below and hopefully help any new mamas-to-be out there!
Keeping Physically Active – Prenatal Pilates with Hannah Bennett at Optimal Fitness
As most people know, I’m a keen runner and was just beginning my training for the Boston Marathon when I discovered I was pregnant. My season had been going well, so I decided to still run the marathon but without the time goal I had originally been aiming for. Once I returned to the UAE at about 18 weeks pregnant, I reduced my running and began attending the pilates classes held by Hannah Bennett at Optimal Fitness in Studio City.
I love these classes for so many reasons. Firstly, Hannah is a physiotherapist with a vast amount of knowledge, especially when it comes to women’s health. She takes time to explain each exercise, both in terms of how to perform it correctly and why it is so important. This is a huge deal for me as I love to know why I’m doing something and how the body works. I come out of each class not only feeling so much better physically, but also having learned something new, be it about the pelvic floor, different muscle groups and how they’re affected by pregnancy, and how I can take small steps every day to begin my road to recovery after birth.
I call them prenatal classes, but they are actually designed for post-natal ladies too with small variations depending on what stage you’re at. What’s more, you’re able to bring your baby with you once you return to exercise, which is something I’ll definitely be doing, as it allows me to exercise twice a week without having to worry about childcare.Once I stopped running at about 32 weeks, I made sure I went to Pilates ideally twice a week (although sometimes life got in the way), and tried to walk 5km most mornings.
Pre & Postnatal Pilates is held at Optimal Fitness, Studio City, on Sundays at 18:00-19:00 and Wednesdays 10:30-11:30. Call 04 457 2048 for more information or see the website here.You can also follow Hannah on Instagram here for lots of tips and advice.
Getting Emotionally Ready and Mentally Prepared – Hypnobirthing Course With Jasmine Collin at Love Birthing
I’m a huge believer in mental as well as physical preparation, and my experiences running ultra-marathons have really made me believe in the power of the mind, visualisations and affirmations. It was because of this that I felt hypnoborthing would be a good fit, and thankfully my husband was on board!
A quick Google search lead me to Jasmine Collin and Love Birthing. Jasmine is a Hypnotherapist and Hypnobirthing Specialist, as well as the co-founder of Love Parenting UAE. We enrolled on the four week course, which for us was on Friday mornings from 10am-2pm.
What I particularly enjoyed about the course was how it taught you the importance of making informed decisions when it comes to medical care, as well as looking at the biology of birth and all the various hormones and muscles involved. As I have already said above, I’m a big fan of learning ‘why’ and the reasons behind something that it happening. It’s so helpful, particularly when you’re experiencing such a potentially scary (yet completely natural!) event such as birth, to know what’s going on in your body in order to understand what is happening. We were also given lots of resources that hopefully allow us to make decisions alongside medical practitioners, rather than being clueless and not knowing to ask about benefits and risks of different interventions.
There were also several practical elements to the course, such as hypnobirthing techniques including different types of breathing, positions, massage from the birth partner and other resources that will hopefully make the experience and environment as relaxing and natural as possible. Having said this, a huge part of our learning was that birth is completely unpredictable, and things may not necessarily follow the path that you are imagining. In this case, it’s all about accepting what happens and still focusing on the techniques, as well as doing everything possible to get that precious time with your baby immediately after birth. We watched a video of a C Section where the mother used her breathing and the dad supported her. It was so beautiful, it moved most of us to tears!
I genuinely believe that the techniques I have learned via Jasmine can be applied to a whole range of situations in life, and I felt empowered and ready to welcome our baby with confidence and trust in myself, my husband and our little one.
For more information on the various courses held by Love Parenting, see the website here.
Support Before, During & After the Big Day – Louise Atkinson, Doula
As my husband travels a lot for work, I was really concerned that should I go into labour early or late, he might not be around for the actual birth (spoiler: thankfully, that didn’t happen!). The fact that he would miss the birth of his first child would be awful enough in itself, and the thought that I would be on my own without any support was even worse! I knew that I wanted a Doula so that this worst case scenario could be made better, and even if my husband was able to be present, I thought that having a Doula would provide some much needed support to us both.
I met a couple of Doulas at various events but felt like they were not a good fit for me personally. I was looking for someone who believed in me and didn’t try to force the fact that I “needed” a Doula, as if I was completely incapable on my own, both during and after birth. It was then that a friend recommended Louise Atkinson, so I got in touch with her hoping that she would be the perfect fit.
From the moment I met Louise over coffee, I immediately felt at ease. She was friendly, positive, and, most of all, reinforced my sense of self-belief. Her passion for helping women was evident, and I knew from our conversation that for her it wasn’t just a case of ticking births off her list. She genuinely cared about each and every one. It’s the only time I’ve been in a meeting with someone and not been bothered about them having their phone on, because she was on call! Moreover, Louise was very familiar with Jasmine’s hypnobirthing classes and the two ladies stay in regular contact. This really made me feel that I had a team behind me and that we all have the same thoughts about birth.
Louise met my husband and (most importantly!) my dogs, as it was my intention to labour at home for as long as possible before heading to the hospital. We had great conversations over WhatsApp and Louise has shared valuable resources and advice without telling me what to do. I changed my mind about some things so many times, and yet it was never an issue as she understands that this whole process can be incredibly overwhelming, especially in the UAE where we are almost spoilt for choice over things such as hospitals.
When I had a small scare shortly before Dylan’s birth when my husband was away, I felt reassured that things would be ok after speaking with Louise, and I know she would have been by my side if anything was to happen. Thankfully, I was allowed to go home and was even able to chat through the experience after, which helped me to relax and process everything.
I had no doubts that with my husband and Louise by my side, that I would be in the best of hands when the big day finally arrived, and as it turned out, my birth was a wonderful experience thanks to their support.