BRA Birth Experts TALK #5 – Jenny Gough, Midwife and Birth ROCKS Mentor

This week I am absolutely honoured to have been interviewed for the Birth ROCKS Academy (BRA) Birth Experts TALK series, amongst some very big names in Midwifery and Birth!
The series is running between November and January, and is set to publish 2 interviews per week with some inspirational people – I’m over the moon to have been asked.

Here’s what I had to say about all things pregnancy, birth and beyond (you can also click through to the website using the link at the bottom of this blog post):

Jenny Gough

London, UK

Name of your business/group/your role/job:
Qualified Midwife, Birth ROCKS & Baby ROCKS Mentor, Positive Birth ROCKS Forum Facilitator, Infant Feeding Support, Perinatal Mental Health Awareness & Advice

Why do you love all things pregnancy birth and baby?
I’ve been fascinated by science and nature since I can remember, and no matter how many people I meet in the childbirth period I still marvel at the fact 2 people can make a whole new unique one! We often find ourselves overwhelmed by technology and advancements in Medicine yet the childbirth process still cannot be matched; I think this deserves the utmost respect. I love the fact there is always something to learn, and also the relationships formed through supporting people at this time.

What brought you to this line of work?
I decided I wanted to train as a Midwife when I was in my early teens (after a fair few family experiences and watching many Midwifery related TV programmes!), and after working as a zoo keeper for a few years I commenced my degree. Unfortunately, I began to suffer from long term back problems which prevented me from performing my clinical role, so I decided to start looking for alternatives that allowed to me to continue working with women and families in the childbirth period.

I came across Birth ROCKS & Baby ROCKS and suddenly everything clicked – it was the way forward! Three areas of special interest for me as a Midwife were Preparation, Perinatal (Antenatal & Postnatal) Mental Health and Infant Feeding, and I now get to work in all of these areas, learning more every day! I have made some fantastic and unbelievable connections since deciding to ‘go it alone’, and have presented with opportunities I had never dreamed would be possible.

What does your work involve and why do you feel it’s so important?
I support expectant parents and their birth partners to prepare for, cope with and enjoy pregnancy, birth and parenthood. This is through Childbirth Preparation and Hypnobirthing courses (Birth ROCKS) and Parent Craft classes (Baby ROCKS). I also host free support groups for all those with an interest or experience in pregnancy, birth and beyond – these are twice a month (Positive Birth ROCKS Forums) and in association with The Positive Birth Movement. Early this year I became a member of a steering group too; we are working on a national campaign to raise awareness around Perinatal Mental Health – a health issue that is all too often overlooked and not given the attention it desperately needs.

There is a lot of stigma attached to both childbirth and mental health, and I want to provide people with a positive yet honest place to turn to and find support. Along with that, I am developing my interests in Infant Feeding, and will shortly be launching an antenatal and postnatal preparation and support package!

Although I firmly believe that as humans our bodies have evolved to successfully child-bear and child-birth, many people have unfortunately lost faith in their abilities. We are also continuing to ‘evolve’ by overcoming the laws of nature and surviving in situations we perhaps wouldn’t have previously. Many women are not given the opportunity to witness and assist pregnancy and birth as they would have a few generations ago as we now move further from our families, into areas where communities are not as strong as they once were.

Our transient lives mean for many the only experience we have of these times are passed on by friends, family, TV, films, magazines – sources other than reality. Stories are often tailored to entertain their audience, and rarely does a happy, non eventful pregnancy or birth make for good viewing and listening. In turn, this has lead to a culture of hearsay, horror stories and stigma attached to the childbirth process and can result in many expectant parents being misinformed prior to their own experiences.

It is for this reason that I do what I do. I want to provide people with the opportunity to prepare for their own experiences, make their own choices and be ready to face whatever may come. I am creating a local, supportive network, a ready made community so to speak, for people to turn to when they reach this time in their lives. I want there to be somewhere for people to turn to when they have a silly question, when they need a friend, when they are faced with judgemental attitudes, difficult situations or negativity – a home from home, a place to drink tea, eat cake and laugh! I also want them to have an individual source of support to guide them along their own journeys, to assist them in making the choices right for them and preparing them to cope with and enjoy whatever they experience. No two people have the same story to tell, and I want them to feel respected for the paths they choose.

What is the most important piece of advice you would give a pregnant woman?
Trust your instincts – you know your body and your baby best! Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself, and those around you, and don’t be afraid to ask questions – no matter how silly you think they are. Avoid the horror stories, and find an antenatal course that’s right for you. There are a wealth of choices out there, but pick one with a philosophy you agree with.

The childbirth period is traditionally an event that unites families and communities, but unfortunately these days many people have moved away and don’t have the relationships they once would have with family and friends. Seek out a local community of support and friendship – this may be a friend in a similar situation, or a new group for expectant parents, but one in which you feel comfortable. Don’t allow anyone to pressure you into doing something you don’t feel comfortable with, and don’t be afraid to ask if you are unsure – no matter what the situation, you ALWAYS have a choice!

What is the most important piece of advice you would give a new mum?
Accept any help you are offered, and sleep when your baby sleeps! The Midwives are NOT coming round to inspect your house… I have had so many women tell me how worried they are about the Midwife seeing a messy home, but that is honestly the last thing we are looking at when we visit new families! We are there for you and your baby, if we see an immaculate home we are probably more suspicious than when we see one covered in baby clothes with closed curtains…

Those first few days and weeks can be intense – so concentrate on the important things: your health and baby’s health. Babies will determine their own sleep patterns, and during this time the easiest thing to do is to follow theirs! You will feel a lot better to have had an hour’s sleep, than to have cleaned the house. You are all learning – whether it’s your first, second, third or 6th baby – and new skills take time for you both to develop. Whether it’s feeding, bathing, sleeping or just managing your time, be kind to yourself and know that you are not alone – it WILL get better! Your life will be different to how it was before baby arrived, and it is a good idea to talk about this before you have the baby.

You will most likely experience numerous sleepless nights and may be learning how to feed your baby – and the energy taken by these two factors are often underestimated by new parents. Your body and your baby’s body are built to survive the tricky times, but if there’s ever something you’re not sure of just ask. If it’s the middle of the night – call the Postnatal Ward at your hospital! You will be glad you did when you realise it may have prevented another sleepless night.

Do you have any great tips for childbirth or a ‘must have?’
The right birth partner! It is so easy to expect you partner or close friend/relative to be the one to accompany you in birth, but have you actually spoken about it or thought about whether they’re really the right person to support you? You may want to choose more than one, so that they can relieve each other or fulfil different roles. Or, if you would feel better knowing the people who will be caring for you in labour, consider a Doula (kind of like a professional birth partner) or Independent Midwife.

Remember you will want your birth partner to be with you throughout when you are feeling like you need support, and you will not know how long it will last until it happens! You need someone with mental and physical stamina, who can protect your environment and your choices, who knows you inside out and who doesn’t irritate you in stressful situations! If all you need is for someone to believe in you and support you, but they are too afraid or don’t think it is necessary, you will soon realise the effect it can have.

The ultimate birth partner will respect and advocate for you, protect and nurture your birthing environment, work alongside you to help you cope and relax, believe in you, and keep you calm if things deviate from the expected path. You both need to feel comfortable in the situation, and need to be honest with each other about your emotions, wishes and choices.

The events of the ‘big day’ will stay with you forever, and you will experience the entire journey as a team. Choosing the right person can make the difference between a positive or a negative experience, no matter what the outcome, so it worth getting it right!

What is your personal birth philosophy?
You can do it. Humans have been giving birth for long enough to get it right, and we have faith in the rest of the animal kingdom to do it, so why should we be any different?! Turn down your thoughts and allow your primal brain to take control – it knows what it’s doing.

What are your thoughts on preparing for childbirth?
I would definitely recommend doing an antenatal childbirth/parenting preparation course TOGETHER, as you you will both be needed as much as the other. A good course will give you the chance to think about the things you may not have been aware of otherwise, learn more about yourself, each other and how your body works with you, and develop coping and relaxation strategies that work for YOU. Feeling positive and confident before going into labour can greatly increase your chances of achieving the experiences you want – keep and open mind but be aware of the things that matter to you.

Your top tips for getting back to work after birth and working around your family?
Talk to your family, be honest about what you want from the situation. Develop a plan that will allow you to get a good balance between home and work, and only go back when you are ready. If you need to go back sooner than you would like to, make sure you are leaving baby with someone you trust and know they will have fun with. Think of all the things you can still do when you are not at work to continue nurturing your little one as you have been doing. If you feel that you need to go back to work sooner than you thought, make the decision that’s right for you. If you are happy, baby will be happy. They may appear upset the first time you leave, but they are very resilient and can understandably be nervous of new situations. With time you will both get used to the situation. If you don’t feel like you can go back to your previous role – don’t be afraid to look for something new. Many women start new ventures at this time, and if you want it to work it will. There are countless new opportunities out there – think about the things you enjoy doing and research roles in this area. Consider changing your working hours – perhaps part time or flexible working if it’s an option – or look into working for yourself. Set up is not as complicated as you think! Ultimately, make the decision that is right for you and your family, and concentrate on the positives.

You can also take a look at the official post here…

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