- March 19th, 20:27
My care from the NHS in general with my first pregnancy was utterly fantastic but when it came to my antenatal classes it really did leave a lot to be desired. While I’m not saying they can’t be good, mine were total rubbish and not worth going to. We had three one hour sessions which were so boring my friend’s partner actually fell asleep and they covered next to nothing. One hour was spent talking about what might go wrong, the next week we discussed breast feeding and what might go wrong and the final “class” was dedicated to telling everyone how important it was to have a car seat (as if we didn’t know)! I was also offered classes at the hospital but when I arrived for the first seminar and was thrown into a massive room with at least 50 women, realised I was sat behind three non English speakers so the only thing I could hear was their interpreters wittering away and giving them the information I couldn’t actually hear myself, I decided it was a non starter and made for home. As a result I think both Jonny and I were scared at various points of my labour; I had no idea what was happening, when to breath, push, relax etc and as I was sent into hospital last minute meaning I no longer had my one on one midwife at a home birth, I felt out of control. I had a good labour but I could have done with some more information and because you don’t get offered any classes on the NHS second time round I was a little disappointed that I had missed out on that opportunity.
I needn’t have feared because in stepped Nikki Khan, media midwife extraordinaire and probably the most qualified person I’ve ever met and my ante natal class dreams were about to come true!
My new favourite midwife, Nikki Khan!
Nikki, who has been practicing midwifery for over 20 years, is the expert midwife for brands such as ‘Infacol’, ‘Sudocrem’ and ‘Huggies’. She has also worked as the midwife expert for ‘Prima Baby’ magazine for the last decade among many other posts and to top it all off she’s a practicing lawyer specialising in clinical negligence with a special interest in ‘Birth Injury’. Told you she was pretty special didn’t I! As if Nikki hasn’t enough strings to her bow she has now started these weekend ante natal retreats with The West Bay Club in Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. Where she has the time is beyond me because she’s also a Mummy and I know only too well that that in itself I a full time job! Nikki and her family have been holidaying at The West Bay Club for years and it must have seemed like a natural step to have them as the hosts to her special weekends because the setting is perfectly suited to rest and relaxation. The venue is both suitable for those travelling with their children (the environment of the complex is safe and inviting) or those wanting a get away for two. The one bedroom cottages where we stayed are small but perfectly formed and with everything you could possibly want including a welcoming pack with basics such as milk, tea and coffee. They are sumptuously decorated, spotlessly clean, everything looks brand new and the bed was so comfortable I could have slept for a week!
We stayed in one of the Salt Box Cottages.
From the moment The West Bay Club reception team called me prior to our trip to organise our ferry crossings (with the ante natal package everything is included from food to travel), I felt looked after in their expert hands. We literally didn’t have to lift a finger and our only job was to make it to the port of our choice. We chose Lymington our end which has the fastest crossing time and The West Bay Club is a 2 minute drive the other side. Set by the sea, a short walk from the beautiful beaches and a 20 minute stroll from the town Centre, the complex is ideal for just about everyone no matter age or abilities. Because we arrived after hours the Country Club, home to the Swimming Pool, Spa, Brasserie and Fitness Centre held our keys for us and we were welcomed warmly. I’d been sent an itinerary of the weekend advising what time each class was and when to meet for dinner. I’d been a little sceptical at the prospect of joining the other couples on the first night and hadn’t relished the thought of dining with people I didn’t know but I was soon reassured. When we had freshened up and made our way to the Brasserie we met the others and found the atmosphere was jolly and everyone was full of anticipation with the same hopes. So we immediately bonded and made friends easily with the other couples in our group. There were four couples in total which was an ideal size group as it meant we could all chat and get to know each other without getting lost in who was who but it was a big enough group to make it fun and give a party feel. We stayed up late eating glorious food and chatting; it really got the weekend off to a flying start! As with all the meals we ate in the Brasserie, it was delicious and cooked to perfection while being in an informal yet inviting setting.
Next morning and we were up early for a breakfast which could have been healthy had I had enough will power but was (as it was each morning) the full West Bay fry up – delicious! And at 9.30am the antenatal programme began. We all made our way to one of the larger cottages on the complex and Nikki and Jo (The resident physiotherapist) met us at the door and invited us in to sit on comfy bean bags, birthing balls, sofas, whatever suited. We began with a cup of tea and right from the start of the course it felt like I was in a friend’s house chatting with people I trusted and it was just so easy. The first “class” which had seemed like it was going to last forever when I’d seen 3 and a half hours on the itinerary, flew by and I couldn’t quite believe it was over when the time came. Nikki had established certain structures this and all the classes making sure we touched on topics most relevant but she also deviated where necessary and delivered something bespoke to our group. As we got to know more and more about each other everything just flowed and I found I had already learnt so much more in one sitting than I had anticipated for the whole weekend. I was astonished at how beneficial I was finding it. I knew I was going to like it but I was loving it and more to the point, my non willing to ‘buddy up’ and talk to anyone on holidays husband was also really enjoying himself! What totally surprised me was that two out of the other three couples were also on their second pregnancies. I had expected that I would be in the minority wanting to go to something like this second time round but it proved to be just the opposite. Every single one of us brought something new to the table and I think we all gained from each other’s stories be they twin births with multiple complications or first time non complicated pregnancy! It didn’t feel like a class, it didn’t feel like I was out of my depth and it didn’t feel odd to be part of a group, it felt just right. We broke for lunch and went our separate ways until the next item on the agenda and I felt refreshed and full of positivity as Jonny and I went for a walk on the sunny beach near by.
The rest of the afternoon was jam packed and we literally couldn’t talk enough. Nikki was so enthusiastic and with the help of her and Jo we went over more topics that we individually needed to talk about as well as things on a more ‘everyone’ level. Somehow it felt completely natural to talk about unsavoury topics like haemorrhoids, something I’m particularly worried about as you will know if you read my previous blog post and no one seemed to bat an eyelid when I very comfortably felt able to bring the subject up! It was so interesting to hear about other people’s worries and I found that not only did that help ease worries I has also thought about but made me much more reassured for things I feel would have popped into my mind at some point along this journey. It was with reluctance that I left the ante natal workshops on that first day and dragged myself away to the spa to have the pregnancy treatment included in the package. As there is also an additional £50 as part of the weekend for each couple to spend on treatments or products in the spa, I decided to be lovely to Jonny and let him have a treatment too! He loves all that sort of thing more than me if truth be told and we both came away from the ESPA spa feeling like a million dollars! By this point we’d had a full uninterrupted nights sleep, plenty of yummy food, made new friends, had the most delicious day finding out about all things pregnancy and birth from one of the most knowledgeable people we could have hoped to have to hand and now we were feeling pampered from our spa treatments. My pregnancy treatment was so soothing, mild and indulgent that I almost fell asleep which is exactly what Jonny did during his facial and massage! The whole of the spa was closed to everyone else apart from the ‘ante natal weekenders’ and we thoroughly made the most of it. The staff, as with everywhere at The West Bay Club, were top notch and catered to our every need; I certainly felt like I was having a treat! Afterwards we went for a relaxing dip in the pool, my second of the day (my first being an early morning swim to try to cancel the guilt of the fry up to follow). Afterwards we returned to our cottage to relax and get ready for supper, another gastronomic delight!
I woke late the next morning at around 7 am (believe me, for me that’s a lie in) and hot footed it to the gym for a mild work out and another swim. Swimming is one of my favourite things to do and I can’t help myself but take every opportunity to utilise the pool when I have one close. I also love to sauna and steam but being pregnant I didn’t allow myself more than a few minutes just to take a look inside them and feel very jealous that I couldn’t sit and heat for hours! It was so nice to have all those facilities on tap as part of the weekend and really made it special for me, I wasn’t going to waste a minute! After breakfast it was straight into physiotherapy with Jo and Nikki joining us a little later. This was a class just for us ladies and Jonny took the opportunity to sit in the sun and work on his degree, some time for himself without a toddler and it was so needed. I loved the class, I’ve often heard other people talking about ‘physio’ and going for private consultations but it’s never been something I’ve thought about doing myself for some reason. I guess I thought I didn’t need it but now having had a class of special exercises during pregnancy, showing ways to alleviate strains and stresses to the body during this time, I can’t think why everyone doesn’t do it? I just came away feeling like I’d been given such invaluable information as well as feeling suddenly better physically just by the way I was taught to sit, stand and lie down. I never knew we shouldn’t sleep on our backs during pregnancy but it makes so much sense, I’ve a lot to thank Jo for! At the end of the session she gave us a relaxation therapy talk and as I lay on the floor amongst many strategically placed pillows with spa towels keeping me warm I yet again got that feeling of being looked after, pretty much the way I think the whole weekend made me feel!
The boys then joined us and we embarked on the last part of the course before Sunday lunch in the brasserie, more spa treatments and more time to explore the Isle of Wight. This weekend was busy and fully packed but at no point did it feel frantic and pushed. I could have done with a months worth of Nikki’s time and couldn’t have ever got bored of hearing her talk, I know all the other couples felt exactly the same way. She was worried that we hadn’t talked about everything but we all got the opportunity after the last class to speak with her individually and we all came away with exactly what we had wanted from the weekend. For me, hearing her talk about home birth, which is my birthing style of choice, was absolutely reassuring. Jonny has been worrying for years about me wanting to give birth in my own home and I never realised that it was because he was scared. Being in these classes gave us both the opportunity to talk about our feelings and have advice and reassurance. Jonny is so not a ‘talk about your feelings with people you don’t know’ kind of guy but it just isn’t like that, you have to be there to understand and you have to be there because, well… I just think everyone deserves it! We have both come away with a far more positive outlook towards the birth and with far more knowledge we feel confident and relaxed. Ok so you won’t meet people in your area to be friends with after the baby is born but you’ll do that at play groups anyway and I’ve definitely come away with new friends whom I’ve already been in contact with despite them not living near me. It was the most wonderful weekend and I couldn’t recommend it enough, for every aspect. I’ve come away wanting more and luckily, in my super duper goody bag given to me by Nikki was the book ‘My Pregnancy’ of which she is one of the authors. It’s written by leading experts in the field and the best bit about it is that unlike some books, all of the authors are mum’s themselves. I’ve been reading it non stop and it’s brilliant. Buy the book and book the weekend, you won’t regret any of it!
‘My Pregnancy’ by leading experts including Nikki Khan. Priced at £22
Four day/three night antenatal breaks at The West Bay Club which include the entire package start at just £270 per couple per night. Please see their website www.westbayclub.co.uk for more information. Alternatively, call 01983 760355 for available dates in 2012 or e-mail: [email protected]. For further information about the course and to become more acquainted with Nikki Khan, her website is www.nikkikhan.co.uk (where you can also download the ‘ante natal weekend’ flyer).
Finally and before I leave you, you might be thinking what on earth does a pregnant woman wear to such a thing as a pregnancy retreat? Going away somewhere where I might need a swimming costume and things to wear for exercise classes is a challenge at the best of times but when it comes to doing that while in the final trimester of pregnancy it felt like a really big headache to me… It needn’t have done because I found some really great pieces which served me very well indeed!
For most of the antenatal classes which were just sitting on bean bags and being comfortable I just really needed to be in something loose fitting and easy. Pyjamas would have been ideal in the sense that we were just in a little cottage and snuggled up on bean bags but I still had to be in front of other human beings so couldn’t really slip down that road could I! Or could I?! Well no not really but I absolutely lived in the next best thing which was my Black Fold Down Jersey Trousers (£48) from ‘Crave Maternity’. I’m a big fan of their range for every area of pregnancy and their lounge wear didn’t let me down either! I walked to and from the Gym, spent the day at antenatal classes lounging around and walked on the beach in them. They’re super comfy and fit really well. Because of the super high waist band which you roll down over your bump and bottom they give you a really good shape too and are actually very flattering! They come in sizes 8 – 20 and although I am a 10/12 I found their size 10 to be on the big side which is always a great feel good factor but realistically I think I’m gonna have to say they just come up a bit big! Anyway, I’ve been wearing them ever since I got home too so they’ve been great for a whole lot more than just the trip!
Another ‘Crave Maternity’ product which was brilliant for this trip away was the Amoralia Fuschia Ruched Tankini (£59, in sizes S – XL). Being a bright vibrant colour and not quite a swimsuit but still not as revealing as a bikini it made me feel really great in the pool. I went swimming loads and wore the tankini every time, it fitted really well, held me in in all the right places and wasn’t at all frumpy or unfashionable. I think this’d be the perfect costume for a beach holiday when pregnant too because you could still tan your tummy without revealing too much. I suspect that I’ll wear it even after I’ve given birth to be perfectly honest and I doubt you’d notice that it was a specific ‘maternity’ item! I’m going to be going on holiday when the baby is just four months old and I can imagine my tummy won’t be exactly as I want it so the tankini will be great news for me then too!
For these and all Crave Maternity products including their wonderful hire service please see their website www.cravematernity.co.uk.
Going to the gym and having a run was an interesting prospect with a 32 week old bump! For this I knew I’d have to be a little choosy when it came to clobber and I’d need something that was supportive, practical, covering and most of all comfortable. I tried out a range from a company called ‘Sporty Bump’ and all the clothes did the trick so I take my hat off to them for not making me feel too frumpy or idiotically dressed for such a pregnant lady! I tried the following and here’s what I thought:
Cross Over Top, £22, Sizes Small – Extra Large
Loved this top! Loved it, loved it, loved it! It has an inner breast support which made it possible for me to walk around (not exercise) without the added need for support from a bra! I hate wearing a bra and before I had a baby I hardly ever used to wear one so it felt great to be able to wear this around the complex without one and feel entirely secure. It’s also super flattering with it’s neckline and you’d never know it was the only thing keeping your boobies up! When I went for a run wearing it I did wear a bra but it felt great to not have to put it on until the last minute! It washed really well and I will definitely be wearing it again.
Racer Back Maternity Vest, £22, Sizes Small – Extra Large
This top, as with the cross over top, also has an inner breast support but I found that with the style of this one it just didn’t look right without a bra. I wasn’t as keen on this one for that reason and felt the other style suited me better but I still found it to be a great top for jogging in and doing my mild work out in the gym.
On the Bump Maternity Shorts, £15, Sizes Small – Extra Large
I always like it when an item comes over the bump rather than under it but I’m not terribly keen on shorts for myself (have a major knee complex you see). However, I found these to be fairly flattering and very comfortable! They really aren’t very tight but somehow make you feel as if they are secure regardless of that fact! Such a bargain at the price as well and I would happily wear these for little runs on the green space near my house! A perfect pair of exercise shorts for pregnancy and very good quality!
Under the Bump Maternity Capri Trousers, £18, Sizes Small – Extra Large
Even though I’m not a massive fan of under the bump clothes I did like these Capri trousers and I wore them far more than the shorts. They covered my knees which is what I usually look for in any clothes and they were super comfortable. Perhaps when exercising you don’t need something covering your bump as you get hot and sweaty? I thought I might not feel secure in them but in actual fact my fears were unfounded and as with the other ‘Sporty Bump’ products, because they are such good quality, they felt great on!
For more information on all of the ‘Sporty Bump’ range please see their website www.sportybump.co.uk.
Two of the other activities which come as part of the weekend package are the physiotherapy session and yoga class. Both of which were, as I said before, very calming and tranquil but I needed to be wearing something I could move in and I found these two items from ‘Bumps on the Move’ were ideal:
The Black Leggings (£25, sizes S, M & L) which actually come FREE with all on line orders at the moment were amazingly comfortable and came over the bump and below the knee, perfect for me and my body issues! What I especially liked was the cuff below the knee which really drew away from how puffy I think mine are at the moment and made me feel a lot more confident wearing them during the yoga class in particular, as there were mirrors meaning I couldn’t get away from my own image! I find leggings, as with tights, are really difficult to get right during pregnancy and you end up with maternity ones which are far too big or normal ones which are definitely too small with a bump but these ones really were just great! I’d even wear these with a summer dress just normally so comfortable and well fitting were they!
I teamed the leggings with the Long Top (£32.50, sizes S, M & L, pink or black). On first impressions I wasn’t keen, the material is a new fabric called Nano Silver (antibacterial moisture-wicking silky soft fabric) which feels a bit odd to the touch but actually once I’d worn it for the yoga class I really saw the benefits. It kept me nice and cool and moved with my body easily. I’m a big fan of yoga and this is just the sort of top which suits the activity well. It was extremely comfortable with just the right amount of fabric. It covered me up nicely without making me feel like I was in a tent! I’m not sure my figure would suit the pink option but black was very flattering and I felt great wearing it!
For more information on the entire ‘Bumps on the Move’ range please see their website www.bumpsonthemove.co.uk.
Wonderful retreat, wonderful clothes, what more could a gal ask for? Wish I was doing it all over again next month!
(Don’t forget to enter my competition to WIN a family ticket to Shrek the Musical on my previous post)!
(All opinions and words are my own. I have not been paid for this article although I did receive some products to keep after I had reviewed them and for the purpose of the ante natal weekend review I was provided with a complimentary trip.)