A Midwife & Mum's perspective on pregnancy wellness including how to prepare for labour, birth and the fourth trimester

Romany; Midwife, Doula, Writer for her blog Bondi Midwife, Yoga Teacher, Mother to Sofia and life traveller with best friend and partner David.

When Romany and I first met as baby midwives in training, I was soon drawn to her natural abilities in caring for women and their families. During our busy rotations we would find ourselves pulling up a seat in the tea room where we soon discovered that we shared more than a mutual passion for midwifery and women’s health. We learnt that we both grew up in the wide open spaces of neighbouring country towns, whilst sharing a deep appreciation for nature, a love for travel and life by the ocean.

Romany continues her dedication to midwifery working for NSW Health within a team of midwives (MGP) in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. A trained doula, yoga teacher and private consulting educator, Romany advocates for natural and active births, community building and self empowerment. Outside her clinical roles you will find Romany writing for her blog “Bondi Midwife” sharing insight into the circle of life, discovery and community. Romany’s love of nature continues with precious family time spent exploring Sydney's beaches and many amazing coastal walks and parks. Learning about the Rudolph Steiner way of parenting, with its reverence for creativity, for life’s rhythms, ritual and play is also something Romany greatly enjoys as a new Mother to her ever-inquisitive Sofia.

Several laps around the sun later, we graduated with our degrees and met in yet another tea room in a new Hospital. Now as new mums ourselves we reconnected to talk about the importance of pregnancy wellness and preparing for childbirth and the fourth trimester.


How do you approach nurturing a healthy body and mind during this transformative time? 

For me the greatest place to start is within. Pregnancy really is such a transformative journey with many hormones playing their role in bringing up all sorts of feelings. These feelings are purposeful in helping us slow down and look at ways to best support ourselves. Emotional hygiene is key and then the rest follows. I also highly rate spending time in nature, keeping active with 1-2 brisk 30-minute walks each day alongside slowing down, eating lots of veggies and staying really hydrated.

Yoga, dance and singing is also really wonderful for the body and soul. I also personally found meditation and visualisation really helpful in preparing for birth and also working with some serious pregnancy insomnia!

How has your time abroad shaped you and the way you care for your women and their families? 

My travels exposed me to many different ways of living, it opened my mind up to the realisation that warmth and love and community is the most important thing for a new mother and baby. Very little “stuff” is essential and I often suggest to mother and fathers-to-be that the best gifts from friends and family are nourishing meals, and helping hands from visitors who do the dishes and fold the washing whilst letting the parents parent their precious new baby. It’s about feeding the families bellies and souls. 

Also being culturally appropriate, open minded and always aiming for a room full of acceptance is the result of seeing great diversity across the world.

How do you recommend expecting mums to practice ‘self care’? 

Really listen to your needs. Understand it is ok to feel tired and to ask for support. Slowing down is so incredibly important and I often hear myself saying to new mum’s and mothers to be, “the best way to learn how to nurture a baby is to start by learning how to nurture yourself”.

 What are some essential tools to encourage an active labour and birth? 

First and foremost I would suggest having a doula present. Someone that you and your partner have had a few sessions with during  your pregnancy. A doula is the most powerful labour and birth support, particularly if they are aware of your preferences, your fears and your desires. We know all the evidence suggests having a known care provider/support person in labour improves outcomes for mum and baby. 

Secondly, I absolutely advocate for: TENS machine, a well prepared mind and a partner who is on board with your vision (this means classes are a must for first time parents), birth ball (assists position changes and weary legs), birth mat (all fours can mean sore knees!), shower for heat and soothing of the nervous system and for the finale- the bath (water immersion is an incredible form of pain relief).

 What essentials do you see mums benefit from in their fourth trimester?

I love this question because the fourth trimester is often overlooked and in some ways is the most important. In some cultures, for the first forty days following birth a new mother's role is to care for her baby whilst everyone else cares for them. I love this premise as it really is essential for new mothers to feel that they are loved and nurtured and therefore can overflow with love and nurturance for their baby. In turn they feel, on a visceral level, that their role as mother is deeply revered and honoured.

From a practical perspective, some tips I would recommend include: filling up your freezer with lots of delicious wholesome meals, having bottles of water all of over the house as a reminder to hydrate, have on stock a handful of padsicles (chamomile infused maternity pads stored in the freezer to soothe your perineum...look online for all sorts of recipes for padsicles) and yummy fresh fruit to keep the bowels regular.  Overarching all of this, I strongly encourage you to ensure there is AT LEAST 20 minutes a day where you take time for yourself. For me this was a lovely warm shower to wash the night away, followed by a rich body moisturiser and gentle facial rose spray. This was my little uninterrupted ritual. Sofia was fed and resting with my partner at arms reach which meant I could really gift myself that slow, present mindful time.

 The Hospital bag..what do you think mums REALLY need?  

- A couple of pairs of lovely, comfortable pyjamas that make you feel nice as you will spend A LOT of time in them. Add in some nice warm socks too. Strangely, feet can get very cold in labour, even if the rest of you is sweating. (If you’re having a caesarean, warm socks are lovely postnatally too).

- Shampoo and body wash for that delicious post-birth shower. There are some suggestions that unscented is better so as to ensure your baby can smell and bond with you. I must say I do love a little, natural essence.

- Lovely, soft maternity pads (I personally found the TOM organic maternity pads really soft and gentle).

- Incontinence pants aka “pull-ups”. It sounds very unglamourous but prevents any blood leaks and spills that are generally a guarantee the first few nights post-birth.

- Nappies for baby, a few onesies, some wraps and a blanket (some wards get really cold at night).

- Snacks- mainly for your partner as most women in labour aren't hungry.

- Water/coconut water/some form of healthy hydration is absolutely essential for keeping your body and your baby well, both during labour and if breastfeeding.

- A warm wrap or blanket that makes you feel like a queen. Something you can throw on and off in labour or can drape over you when breastfeeding your little one at 3am. Choose something that reminds you of home or somewhere safe and peaceful.

 Sifting through the extensive choices for written information, What is your ‘go to’ reading material you recommend women make time for? 

Books: Birthing from within, Pam England

Birth with Confidence, Rhea Dempsey

Websites: Evidence based birth (evidencebasedbirth.com

Sarah Buckley (sarahbuckley.com)

Spinning babies (spinningbabies.com)

 You also offer post birth support in private debriefing. How beneficial is this for women and families? 

Even before we are mothers we carry a story about birth. It may be a story we have inherited from our mothers about our birth, or a story from a well-meaning friend who may have been traumatised and in need of a trusted ear. There are also a great deal of collective stories from society framing birth as dangerous and to be feared. 

Debriefing offers women and their partner the opportunity to better understand these stories and work with them so they don’t appear as a big barrier in labour and birth. Debriefing is also a service offered to women who have had a traumatic birth experience and want to better understand the experience, their role in it and a way to move forward with an intent on healing.

 During your interchanging time from midwife & doula to mum, what has been the most surprising lesson you have learnt? 

That women are deeply powerful. From the strength they carry through labour and birth to the consistent conscientious mothering of a tiny, ever-relying human is beyond incredible. I always knew women were amazing yet I feel like I get it on a whole other level. Stepping through the fire of labour to be re-born a mother with a whole new identity, one that revisits all sorts of vulnerabilities whilst keeping the most precious gem shining bright is a mind-blowing trip. 

Deep, DEEP respect for women.

 Lastly, what words of wisdom have you learnt along the way? 

A dear midwife mentor of mine shared many wonderful pearls of wisdom with me as I entered motherhood, one of which really stayed with me. She voiced how important it is for us as mothers to really know the true significance of this role, to know our lives are not on hold whilst we mother, that our role as mother is to be held with the highest esteem. Our responsibility as a mother is to let the world know that this is not a lesser role. 

Society in general places so much attention on how well we return to our “former selves”, to how quickly our bodies return to our pre-pregnant state. This is wrong.  The way to change this perspective is to stand proud as a mother and when asked what is it that we do say “ I am a mother, who also is a midwife, or a lawyer, or accountant or gardener, teacher etc etc” but first and foremost, “I am a mother”.

To find out more about Romany and her support services you can visit her blog https://bondimidwife.wordpress.com Thank You Romany X