Boy 3 – Callum’s birth

Siobhán McGonigle, founder of the village, has three boys, all born in Belgium. This is story of Callum, her third son, born in April 2012.


[bws_google_captcha]

How had this pregnancy gone?

This pregnancy had been tougher than the first two, and I ended up on bed rest around 5 months in, as my cervix was thinning faster than it should, and I was having contractions. I arranged with my work to work from home almost exclusively, to avoid the stresses and strains of a daily commute, so that made a big difference!

For a long time towards the end of the pregnancy, Callum had insisted on staying in breech position, with apparently not *that* much amniotic fluid which meant he wouldn’t be able to turn easily. So for around two months, I was preparing myself for a breech birth, doing a lot of reading! At the time I was training to be an antenatal teacher myself, so I found it all quite fascinating learning about ‘hands-off’ breech births.

My gynaecologist had confirmed that was happy that I try a vaginal breech birth (if the baby would stay breech), so that was already a relief, as some would not be happy to try. However, my gynae did say that they typically give an epidural to all women who attempt a vaginal breech birth, in case they have to use forceps … and this made me really angry as one of the main reasons why forceps (and vacuums) end up being used, is for that very reason, BECAUSE the woman has an epidural and can’t push properly. So for a while I was even considering contacting the gynaecologist who had seen me for Eamon and Jack, so get her opinion.

In the end, I had moxibustion (a type of Chinese medicine that can be helpful in turning a breech baby, which involves burning a herb close to the skin at an acupuncture point on the little toe to produce a warming sensation) performed by my physiotherapist, and who knows if it was that that did the trick, but he turned in time!!!

Were you having your baby when you expected? If not, was it earlier or later than your estimated due date? How did the timing affect your feelings leading up to the day? Were you more than ready to meet your baby, or did the whole event take you by surprise?

Callum was due on Monday 16 April, and since my first two labours had to be induced, I imagined that he wouldn’t turn up around his due date. And indeed, his due date came and went, and with my gynaecologist we agreed to schedule an induction 9 days later, on 25 April, in case he hadn’t come by then.

How did the birth unfold?

Anyway, after a great night’s sleep I woke at 5.30am to a contraction. Didn’t think *too* much of it as it wasn’t so bad, and I’d had a fair few like that over the past two weeks.

Fell back asleep, only to wake up 10 minutes later to another, and for the next hour or so, I stayed in bed, and the contractions kept coming, but weren’t getting any worse. I was actually really ‘enjoying’ them, observing them. With my first two sons, I never had any natural contractions – only those provoked by sintocinon during the inductions – and so this was such a novelty!

As I suspected, once I actually got up to get dressed they started getting more intense, but still manageable (i.e. not bad enough to freak out Eamon and Jack), and so the whole family got ready as on any other Monday morning. My husband dropped 2 year-old Jack at the creche (2 minutes walk away) as soon as it opened, and then we all hopped in the car to drop 4 year-old Eamon to school on the way to the hospital.

We parked the car at the hospital at 07:45, and the walk to the front door took quite a while as I was having contractions along the way, and would have to stop to breathe through them. We even bumped into a midwife I’d seen towards the end of pregnancy, and I could tell she was happy to see me actually in labour!

We got to the delivery ward 5 minutes later, my waters broke 10 minutes after that, just after I’d changed out of my regular clothes. After regretting having laboured in a hospital gown for my first two sons, I’d bought a proper maternity nightdress this time, and felt at least in control of what I was wearing … even if I didn’t need it for long!

The midwife examined me and told me I was already fully dilated (and could actually have started pushing if I felt like it – but I didn’t feel the need yet), and then 30 minutes and two pushes later, my baby was there. My gynaecologist just happened to be passing at that moment to see how things were going, and literally only had the time to get his gloves on and get ready to help me catch Callum. I can still remember feeling that strong, slippy body for the first time, totally in awe of the experience of actually birthing my own baby with no need for drugs or coaching.

After Callum was born, the midwife had to check who exactly I was … in the rush, we hadn’t actually had time to give any details when we arrived!

Overall, was your birth experience different from what you imagined it to be? If yes, how was it different? 

I was SO happy to avoid being induced this time, and was amazing to know that my body can actually manage to birth a baby by itself.

I felt so ready to enjoy this birth, that (although I was of course thrilled to meet my healthy baby) I was actually disappointed that it had all gone so fast.

Had you done anything to prepare for labour and birth, e.g. prenatal classes, yoga, hypnobirthing, doula support? If yes, what did you do? Do you think it helped? Looking back, would you have made any different decisions about your care or birth preparation?

In the run-up to Callum’s birth, I was actually training to become a prenatal teacher (UK university diploma with the University of Worcester, supported by the BCT). So I knew more about birth, what to expect, coping techniques, etc than I ever had in the past. I understood the mechanics of what was happening, and had developed such a respect for my body and the delicate hormone balance that can allow birth to progress as smoothly as mine had.

I had read many, MANY birth stories, of all kinds, which had helped me feel more connected with this process, and helped me feel more accepting of whatever would happen.

How were the first hours and days after your baby’s birth?

We left hospital two days after Callum was born. I’d originally planned to milk the ‘hotel services’ for as long as possible (and providing my husband was managing with the other two at home), as there’s a lot to be said for being somewhere where you really can’t do much other than rest.

But alas there was noisy renovation work, which I’d barely noticed on the Monday or Tuesday, but which was very irritating on the Wednesday. It was planned that I would have visits from a midwife the next three days, so I felt confident in leaving the hospital.

When Callum was born, we still hadn’t decided on a name, so his hospital bracelent just read ‘garçon’. But later that day, his dad and I finally agreed on the name Owen, and so started announcing the birth to family and friends. Then, in a rather shocking turn of events, the Belgian side of the family’s reaction to this Irish name was so extreme that we agreed to revoke the name and reconsider. A few days later, Callum was chosen … Callum Patrick Owen 😉

Littlest Sprout’s birth story

Sandra Amorim is mum to two beautiful, active boys born in 2009 and 2012 in Brussels. Sandra is Portuguese-American and lived in Brussels from August 2006 to August 2013. She now lives in the U.S.

This birth story, of Sandra’s second son (read about her first son’s birth here), was originally published on her blog BXL Sprout and is republished here with Sandra’s kind permission.


Wow, it’s been over 3 months already!!! Is it really possible it’s been so long? Seems like just the other day I was dragging my enormous belly around Brussels!

Well, I have been busy, that’s for sure. Two kids are a whole other dynamic, especially when one is always keeping the other up (and no, I’m not referring to the baby not letting Sprout 1 sleep – it’s actually been the other way around, but that’s a whole other story).

I figure it’s high time I write down Sprout 2’s birth story, before the details get completely blurred in my mind…

The night before I was having what I thought were Braxton Hick contractions since it wasn’t another 2 weeks until my due date. Just in case, I decided to pick out the baby outfits and such I wanted to take to hospital.

I woke pretty normally the next morning, went to take Sprout 1 to school, and came back home to pack my bag. I kept having contractions all morning and it was really beginning to sink in that this was it. My Mom was staying with us, and she wasn’t quite sure if I was in labour either because she said it didn’t really look like I was in pain, but started to agree I might be when my contractions were about 10 min. apart.

I was still a bit doubtful, however, because I didn’t have a “show” like I did with Sprout 1. Otherwise, it felt like the first phase of labour was well on the way. R was at work, so I called to let him know he might have to come home at some point during the day. I still felt ok, and contractions were short and spaced enough that I felt ok to pick Sprout up from his half-day at maternelle. I did have to slow down a few times on the way due to mild contractions.

Once I was at maternelle, contractions were closer together and I had to stop a few times on the way to the gate, which attracted some attention from passers-by, some of who stopped to ask if I was ok. Sprout was finally out and his teacher was explaining how he had a good morning that day and I had to hurry her along saying, sorry but I think I’m in labour so really must go! Her face was priceless, slightly panicky. But all was well and off we headed to the car. A couple of friends checked up on me to make sure I was ok to drive, and I really still was.

On the way home I called R to say he better come home so I could go to the clinic and he asked if I could stop by his office on my way to pick him up! Ha! he wasn’t fully aware of how far along I was. Of course I said no. He caught a taxi and met me at home. After getting my bags and explaining to Sprout he was going to stay with his grandma while we went to the clinic for his brother to come out of the belly, off we went in midday traffic.

When we got to the maternity at St. Michel, I saw my doctor was there (yay! at least he wouldn’t be late). We explained how we thought I was in labour, but no one really took us seriously. They sent us into one of the rooms with an intern midwife to determine if I really was in labour and if I would be admitted. The intern clearly still had a lot of training to do, especially bedside manners! Luckily I’m not one to freak out or anything. Mostly I just wanted her to shut up because she was consistently talking and asking questions.

She hooked me up to the monitors, finally getting it sort of right after a few attempts and proceeded to tell me she was going to monitor me for a while and then, in her words (well, her words were French, but you get it) “we’ll decide if you are in labour”, said in a most skeptical voice. Well, um, no YOU won’t decide… but I kept my mouth shut.

After finally deciding I indeed was in labour, I was admitted and asked tons of info for filling out some forms (through contractions – really? I had to keep interrupting her) and get hooked up to the IV drip thingy (without the actual drip – don’t know the technical terms!). Anyway, while trying to insert the thing, she totally went through my vein and I was bleeding. Oh, and did I mention I have a slight fear of needles… fun indeed! She had to ask a colleague to get my other arm. No problems there, thankfully.

At this point she wanted to give me an enema!!!! Which I didn’t want and so I proceeded to lock myself in the bathroom until I didn’t need one! Ha! Finally my little birthing room was cleared of all people (R went to register me and get a bite to eat) so I turned on my Natal Hypnotherapy Labour Companion tracks on my iPhone and began to relax. I used this book and cd for preparation this time since I had lent my Mongan Method Hypnobirthing book to a friend and hadn’t gotten it back yet. I liked the Mongan method, but didn’t want to get the same book I already had so I tried Natal Hypnotherapy this time. It was a tremendous help! I won’t say I actually went into self-hypnosis as I’m not quite sure I did, but it really did help through contractions without any medication and I’m pretty sure I could attribute being so calm and nobody believing I was in labour to having used this. Totally recommend it!

I did use the birthing ball this time, since Sprout 2 was in an awkward position and it was soothing. Things progressed fairly quick. I went in at about 13h30 and Sprout 2 was out by 16h30 I breathed through the contractions like the cd recommends and was fine talking in between.

The room was very hot though and I was feeling quite tired near the end and thought I wouldn’t have the energy for pushing. This is normal though, it’s the transition period when you don’t really think you can keep up anymore and then… you muster up some superhuman strength and out came little Sprout in the most beautiful moment ever.

Thankfully no episiotimy this time, only some small tears which were stitched up. Healing was sooo much better! Oh, and at the end, the doc told me he never thought he would be helping to deliver my baby that day, he really was expecting to send me back on my merry way for false labour.

Another interesting tidbit, I spoke French to everyone the whole time, and everyone spoke it back to me (except R of course, we do Portuguese between us). As soon as Sprout 2 was born and I said something along the lines of “hello there beautiful!”, everyone switched to speaking to me in English, despite my answering in French. This happens all the time soon as people hear me speak English. Why, oh why? It’s nice people want to be helpful, but it makes speaking better French that much harder.

So, we were off to a good start and he most definitely did not look like 2 weeks early (Sprout 1 also came 2 weeks before the first estimated due date, so just goes to show…). He was a plump 3kg250 and a short 49cm. This one most definitely takes after me… HA!

For those of you wondering how long you have to stay in hospital for a second child here, they generally tell you 3 to 4 days (5 to 7 for first). However, with Sprout 1 at home, and not having particularly enjoyed staying in hospital the first time around, I wanted to be home as soon as possible, where I would have more loving help, a familiar environment and my oldest son.

A sweet friend of mine told was only in for 24h because she got a midwife to go home to take care of her and baby and perform all the necessary tests (the reason they really don’t want you out before).

I used the same service she did (http://www.zwangerinbrussel.be/) and both of us have only good things to say.  They speak EN, FR and NL and are super sweet and helpful. Plus, it’s covered by the mutuelle! All you have to pay is their dislocation fee (about €5)! I was so happy for this and really believe it was an incredible aid to our good start to breastfeeding and to him not having developed jaundice.

But I’ll leave the breastfeeding story for another day.

My Birth Story

Sandra Amorim is mum to two beautiful, active boys born in 2009 and 2012 in Brussels. Sandra is Portuguese-American and lived in Brussels from August 2006 to August 2013. She now lives in the U.S.

This birth story, of Sandra’s first son, was originally published on her blog BXL Sprout and is republished here with Sandra’s kind permission.


I had gone out to dinner on Sunday 12 April feeling huge, but appearing to still be carrying quite high. Everyone was absolutely convinced I was going to go over my due date.

Later that night, I woke up at around 4.30am with what I thought was painful trapped wind, so off I went to the bathroom. I then realised I had started bleeding slightly and woke R up to let him know.

I wasn’t sure what it was because I imagined I had to lose my mucous plug before going into labour and thought it would be different. He became a bit worried and wanted to go to the hospital immediately, but I was quite calm and didn’t want to get there and just get turned away so I asked him to draw me a bath and wait.

I was quite calm and didn’t want to get there and just get turned away so I asked him to draw me a bath and wait.

I spent most of the time in the toilet and started to think my bowel movements were probably the start of labour. Still not entirely convinced, I began to prepare for my bath when Rodrigo insisted we go to the hospital (my trapped wind was coming at regular intervals by then!) and I agreed.

Once we arrived at 6.30am, the midwife checked me and we discovered I was already 6cm dilated! I was offered an epidural because the window for it was almost over and when she realised I was thinking about not having one, she was very supportive in saying the worst was over so I’d be fine.

I must say the pain became much more bearable once I had confirmation that it was almost time. I didn’t really use any of the equipment (birth  ball, tub, ropes, etc.) and the position I felt was most comfortable in was sitting cross legged on the bed with my eyes shut during contractions and breathing deeply.

… the position I felt was most comfortable in was sitting cross legged on the bed with my eyes shut during contractions and breathing deeply.

R said you could really tell that yoga had been a great help in relaxing and breathing. I didn’t scream like in the movies or even talk much at all for that matter.

When the midwife came in to monitor me again, I was already 9cm dilated and they had to call my gynae again so she would hurry up!

By that time my water still hadn’t broken so the midwife ruptured my sac. That was the most pain I felt during labour (besides the iv drip and episiotomy)! Still, it was quite bearable. I wanted to breathe my baby down instead of pushing, but I wasn’t able to so I had to push. I had to have an episiotomy because things were going so quickly and I was beginning to tear.

I have to say that the most painful bits were the IV (they hooked me up shortly after being admitted, even though they didn’t run the drip) and the cut and stitches.

Luckily, by the time I was being stitched, little Sprout was already on my tummy so I didn’t really care! He was beautiful! I was asked if I wanted to touch his head as he came out or have a look, but I just felt the need to push and couldn’t really keep my eyes open! I ended up feeling more comfortable doing this in the gynaecological position, despite what I thought beforehand!

It just goes to show that not everything you plan is actually what you may want at the time and how important it is to be flexible.

Sprout was born at 9am a healthy, alert and very calm baby.

Clickin’ mom – Nicole from Bear & Dragon Photography


Please tell us a little bit about yourself: where are you and your partner from? How did you end up living in Belgium? How many children do you have? What ages are they?

My name is Nicole and I am an American expat living here in Belgium for nearly 10 years.

I was born and raised in San Francisco and began my career there until I fell for a charismatic, goofy and unfortunately Stockholm-based Swede. Feeling that it would surely be better to co-locate on one continent, we moved to Brussels in 2009.

Since then we have added three little ones, a daughter (7 going on 16) and two boys (5 and 2.5).

Tell us about your company / business / activity / service: where did the idea for your business come from? how long have you been running it? what were you doing before you started it / what do you do alongside it?

I began working as a photographer around six years ago, when our first baby was about a year old.

I always loved photography, somehow managing to take three semesters of the same photography class in secondary school, just to gain access to the dark room. 🙂

I went on to study business and finance and worked for about eight years as a business consultant. I loved this time with its high demands, long hours and exciting international travel but after starting our family, I wanted a different lifestyle.

Luckily I was able to grow my passion for photography into a full time second career that still lets me collect my kids at 15:30 each day though I do miss out on some Saturdays!

Did you find it difficult to set up your activity in Belgium? Who did you turn to for advice and support?

To get started, I reached out to the lovely local community to offer free photo sessions. Anything to get in there and practice!

Along with additional studies, taking thousands of photos and a lot of hard work, Bear & Dragon has grown into an enterprise I can be proud of.

On the business side, I worked with Louise Hilditch at Local Knowledge to do the official registration of the business. 

What are the best and worst things about being your own boss?

Best is that I can take the business in any direction I like and am always working to improve and refine what I am offering.

The worst is I am somewhat of a workaholic and it is always difficult to set limits. Especially when you truly love what you do. 

Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?

Yes, I think so. The consultancy I worked for was extremely entrepreneurial and in a lot of ways, your success there was defined by how you grew your own business along the way.

I am a person with a lot of energy and often see opportunities I wish I could grab but there are only so many hours in the day! 

Was your family (parents, partner) supportive of you setting up your company / business / activity / service? Would you encourage your own children to be their own bosses? (when they grow up, that is ;))

My parents never quite grasped what I did in my consulting career (creating behavioral change to align organisations around their strategy through experiential learning).

So when I said I wanted to pursue a second career in photography there was probably some relief. 🙂 Also concerned through, because in a lot of ways I was defined through my work and did love that time. But overall they have been very supportive.

I would encourage my children to follow their dreams. My husband and I differ on that somewhat as he wants to make sure they make practical career choices. If they have an idea and want to start their own company I would be more than supportive.

Do you feel that being a parent has any influence on how you do what you do? e.g. your own boundaries, or how you handle employees who have children

Being a parent influences every aspect of my life and work. Especially since I work with families!

I take a very relaxed approach to reading the mood and feeling with each family, to try to create an environment where they can relax, have fun and enjoy each session.

You just can’t fake it with children, they know when you are genuinely happy to play and be around them.

To me, without this level of connection and engagement, you cannot capture beautiful and real moments. Without my own little people around to teach me these things, I would be lost!

What are your top tips on balancing home and work life? How do you stay organised throughout the day and get time for everyone and everything?

I wish I knew the magic trick here.

I think it is important to be realistic about what you can achieve and even when you want to do more, you have to pace your incoming work.

Identify your more productive times, for me it is first thing in the morning, so I wake up early to answer emails and prepare for the day.

I live by my calendar. If it is not scheduled then it does not happen!

To maximise your time with family, hide your phone and be present!

Can you recollect any funny child-work balancing stories?

When children and work collide, it is rarely funny! But I can confirm that as soon as I get a work call, my children instantly turn up their volume by 100%.

Do you have any tips for parents who dream of becoming entrepreneurs / becoming their own boss, but just can’t get started?

If you really want to get started on a new venture, set a budget and time period you are willing to devote to the enterprise and jump in!

Reach out to others in the field to ask for support or mentorship. Look for innovative ways to get your work in front of people and believe in yourself!

The first village baby – Eamon’s birth

Siobhán McGonigle, founder of the village, has three boys, all born in Belgium. This is story of Eamon, her first son, born in September 2007.


Were you having your baby when you expected? If not, was it earlier or later than your estimated due date? How did the timing affect your feelings leading up to the day? Were you more than ready to meet your baby, or did the whole event take you by surprise?

Eamon was due on Tuesday 11 September, but as the date approached, there was no sign of much movement. I was doing my best to keep as active as possible, walking lots, in the hope that he would come by himself and that I wouldn’t have to be induced. But we’d fixed the date of Thursday 20 September in case he hadn’t come before.

38 weeks 5 days

I wasn’t exactly feeling confident about my body’s ability to safely birth a baby – I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome which made it difficult to get pregnant; before this pregnancy I’d had an early miscarriage; I’d had a nerve-wracking amniocentesis at 16 weeks to rule out Down Syndrome after concerning blood test results at 12 weeks – so I was doing my best to keep busy and not think about it too much.

By the time the induction date came around, I started to feel a sense of relief that someone would at least have control over how and when my labour would start. I was just so eager to meet my baby, that it didn’t bother me anymore that he wouldn’t come in his own time.

How did the birth unfold?

My (then) husband and I arrived at the hospital at 08:00, and announced ourselves at the entrance to the labour ward. We were promptly shown into an examination room, where, once I’d changed into the hospital gown, the midwife performed an internal exam, then a pubic shave and finally gave me the little tube that was to be my self-administered enema.

I accepted these procedures without question or concern, as I did felt comfortable with both. Once the enema had taken effect, the midwife came back and placed the IV line – as I had tested positive for Group B Strep towards the end of the pregnancy, I was receiving both antibiotics and syntocinon.

For the first two hours or so, I wasn’t having any (recognisable) contractions, though the cardiotocograph (CTG) was showing some small ones. And so, the midwife would increase the dosage from time to time until they were happy with how the drug was working.

I was keen to keep walking up and down the corridor or moving on the birth ball as much as possible to help dilatation, and next time they checked dilation, I’d gone from just under 3cm to 5cm. Soon after, the contractions started to pick up and I really had to focus to get through them, either squatting or leaning over and holding onto the railings in the corridor.

I have trouble remembering the sequence of events around when my waters broke and when they measured and found I was at 7cm – I remember that we were told it was time to move me to the delivery room, and also vaguely remember someone asking me if I wanted them to call my physiotherapist yet, and me saying I thought it was surely too early (though looking back I was already quite far and in a lot of pain then).

I’m guessing that my physiotherapist must have arrived around 14:00. Though at one point, I’d been unsure if I wanted her there for the birth, I was very grateful to have her there as she immediately helped me find good positions to labour in, and knew just where to massage or apply pressure.

In the middle of a heavy contraction I remember looking up from my squat to see my own gynaecologist … which I took as a sign that the end was in sight. A few big contractions later, they measured me again and found I was fully dilated. The only problem with dilating fast was that Eamon was still quite ‘high’ so still had a fair but of work to make his way through the birth canal.

At one point, my physiotherapist and gynaecologist asked what position I wanted to be in to push, and, despite my initial plans to stay upright, I suddenly decided I wanted to be on my back with my legs in stirrups.

As my physiotherapist warned me, my contractions were getting weaker in that position, so they had to increase the dose of syntocinon to keep up the momentum. I have no idea how long I ended up pushing for, but I remember hearing the encouragement and advice of my physiotherapist, gynaecologist and the midwife present.

Although they were giving great advice with each contraction, I still ended up pushing ‘badly’, and could almost feel my eyes popping out of my head. Then someone asked if I wanted to see Eamon’s head crowning in a mirror and though I said I didn’t (no idea why I didn’t), they showed me anyway.

On the next push (or perhaps the one after), they took my hands and got me to feel Eamon’s head, and with the next one, I had a warm, slippery, squirming baby in my hands. They helped me bring him up onto my chest, and I think they gave my husband the choice of cutting the cord. He refused. After all the excitement of the birth, Eamon released meconium all over my belly once they put him on my chest.

We stayed in the delivery room for about an hour after the birth, with Eamon skin-to-skin on my chest. He tried to suckle a little, but our first attempt at breastfeeding didn’t amount to much.

Overall, was your birth experience different from what you imagined it to be? If yes, how was it different?

From about half-way through the pregnancy, I was adamant that I wouldn’t have an epidural, but this was more a result of my being stubborn than any deep-seated belief in my own body’s ability to do it without one.

My physiotherapist had also pointed out, during a birth preparation class, that when a mother receives such pain relief, the baby does not benefit from the mothers natural endorphins, and so I didn’t want my baby to experience any pain that I wasn’t prepared to experience. And I stuck to my guns on that!

One thing that was different to how I imagined was my wish to have music during active labour. I’d created a rather upbeat soundtrack, with the kind of songs more suited to a 20km run. And actually, in the intensity of active labour the music was really bothering me, but no-one in the room but me actually knew how to turn down the speaker, and with short gaps between contractions I wasn’t able to turn it off.

Had you done anything to prepare for labour and birth, e.g. prenatal classes, yoga, hypnobirthing, doula support? If yes, what did you do? Do you think it helped? Looking back, would you have made any different decisions about your care or birth preparation?

Apart from my prenatal physiotherapy classes from about six months onwards, I didn’t do any other preparation. I would have like to have done prenatal classes with the BCT but my husband wasn’t confident enough of his English to do such a class in English.

And I didn’t feel confortable enough in French to do something similar in French. So apart from one group session where my physio showed some massage techniques to partners, we didn’t do any joint preparation.

I think it would have helped to have talked more about what we were both expecting from the experience and from each other.

I also wish that I had read more birth stories. I saw that with my later pregnancies that it really helped me to have read about other people’s experiences, both the good and the less good. People often think that pregnant women shouldn’t hear ‘real’ birth stories, but actually, the unknown can be a lot scarier than hearing how a labouring mother coped with a difficult birth, or how health care professionals reacted etc.

How were the first hours and days after your baby’s birth?

Eamon was born around 16:00 and we were back in our room at about 17:30. We had both sets of grandparents come to visit us in hospital that same evening. Looking back, I didn’t feel up to having visitors, but I didn’t have the heart to ask them to wait until the next day, especially my own parents who were about to meet their first grandchild.

Eamon’s first night was not good. He hadn’t fed well since the birth, and was extremely agitated. Some time in the early hours of the morning, nurses took his temperature, and found it to be worryingly high. Although I had had antibiotics during labour to prevent Eamon catching the Group B strep infection from me, they worried that he could be infected and sure enough, results of a blood test quickly showed that this was indeed the case. So he was whisked off to NICU, where he stayed for a few days.

How would you describe your recovery? What support did you have during the first weeks after the birth? Is there anything you wish you had done differently / known about the early weeks?

I definitely wasn’t prepared for the bleeding after the birth – there’s where prenatal classes would surely have helped!! I remember being very scared to see clots of blood the day after the birth, and the nurses reassuring me that it was normal.

Once home, I had my parents come to visit every day for a few days – they’d come over from Ireland, but as Eamon was ten days late, they didn’t have much time to be with us after his birth.

My husband was self-employed, but managed to be quite present in the early weeks, so I felt well supported.

How was your experience of feeding your baby? Did you breastfeed? If yes, did you have the support you needed to get breastfeeding well established?

Because Eamon was in NICU for a few days after his birth, our breastfeeding relationship got off to a rocky start.

During that time – when I would go to the NICU every two hours or so, or more often if they called me because he was awakes – the neonatal nurses gave me a tremendous amount of support to properly initiate breastfeeding and encouraged me to express what little milk I had, especially after ‘feeds’ when Eamon didn’t appear to have taken much.

Eamon also had to battle against a short frenulum (i.e. ‘tongue-tie’), which the hospital paediatrician was reluctant to cut. In hindsight, I wish I had sought a second opinion about the tongue-tie, as it took us a long time to establish good breastfeeding, partly (I believe) due to this.

Once discharged from hospital, our breastfeeding journey continued well until Eamon was about six weeks old. At the point, I had a violent vomiting bug, and couldn’t keep any food or fluids down. I saw my milk supply plummet and was distraught to let my husband give Eamon his first bottle of formula milk. Determined not to give up, I contacted the BCT breastfeeding counsellors, who provided wonderful support and advice, and within days, Eamon was back to (almost) exclusive breastfeeding.

          

Dad’s eye view – the births of F and C

We love hearing about dads’ experiences of birth and parenting, especially since there is often so more focus on the mum’s experience. Here, Stephen, a father-of-two tells us about the births of his two children.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself:

I’m Irish, my wife is French. I’ve been living in Belgium since 1989 when at the age of 13 my family moved here and apart from 4 years at University in the UK I’ve not lived anywhere else.

My wife moved here in 2005 having lived previously in France.

We have two children F. aged 3 ¾ and C. aged 19 months old. Both pregnancies were planned and both were born in Edith Cavell.

Was your baby arriving when you expected? If not, was it earlier or later than the estimated due date? How did the timing affect your feelings and your partner’s feelings leading up to the day? Were you more than ready to meet your baby, or did the whole event take you (both) by surprise?

F. more or less arrived on her due date. C. was 10 days overdue.

We were very clear that neither of us wanted to know the sex of the child in advance so for every doctor’s appointment we had we made sure to say clearly that we didn’t know and didn’t want to know in case they let the cat out of the bag.

It was very easy to do this with F. the temptation to find out for C. in advance was much greater. We had no idea what whether F. was going to be a boy or a girl but were convinced that C. was going to be a girl.

The result of this was we didn’t name him until 24 hours after because we hadn’t really settled on a name for a boy but were sure for a girl. So although we weren’t surprised to meet them we were surprised to meet him as we thought we’d be meeting a her.

Please tell us in as much detail as you like how the birth unfolded.

My wife’s gynaecologist was due to go on holiday and although a replacement had been found she decided she would try one last trick to see if she could get labour to start before she left.

Initially it seemed like it hadn’t worked but as the evening progressed it became clearer that she was in labour.

I didn’t want to head to the hospital unless we were totally sure that she was in labour but was told in no uncertain terms that no we weren’t going to wait until tomorrow to see.

We headed off to the hospital at around 22h and I was more concerned about trying to find parking at that time especially as the hospital car park was now closed.

We discussed on the drive that she would go in without me and I would find a parking spot and then join her. As it turned out we found a spot relatively easily and so “checked-in” at 22h30.

The midwife and all concerned could not have been nicer and were very kind to us. We were shown to a room where my wife was hooked up to a monitor etc. As the contractions came I performed the haptonomy massage moves that were supposed to encourage F. to engage and descend into the birth canal.

In effect the opposite was happening – she must have sensed that she wasn’t going to fit and in effect was doing everything in her power to stay as far away as she could with each contraction. There was a kine who was on call who stayed with us the whole time and again was so nice – her shift had ended but she stayed and was really a great support to my wife.

At around 07h00 our gynaecologist arrived and asked for a scan and when the results came back it was obvious that a normal birth was not going to happen and so a caesarean was planned. At that point I was told to go get something to eat in the hospital canteen and to come back for around 13h00 when the caesarean would start.

When we went into theatre I stayed at my wife’s head – I wasn’t asked if I wanted to see the operation but I also didn’t really want to see her being cut open so was fine with this.

The anaesthetist offered to take my phone to take pictures and so he took some as F. emerged. When they announced it was a girl, I got very emotional and couldn’t speak to tell my wife that it was a girl.

I stayed by F.’s side as she was weighed and checked over. My wife was feeling quite ill and felt she was going to pass out, probably from the anaesthetic so didn’t feel comfort with F. on her so I was installed on a lazyboy style hospital chair and had her on my chest skin to skin as they finished with my wife.

It was an amazing feeling and even then, I got very emotional. When she was ready F. was placed on my wife and they were wheeled from the operating theatre to our room. I don’t remember much after that. I know I went home and slept a bit and came back and stayed with them both until quite late.

Overall, was the labour birth experience different from what you imagined it to be? If yes, how was it different?

I thought I would get emotional but I didn’t realise how much of an impact the birth would actually have. I cried at both births but was particularly in bits for F.’s birth which was an unplanned caesarean but one which went flawlessly and without any issues. I started crying when the doctor told me it was a girl.

Had you and your partner done anything to prepare for labour and birth, e.g. prenatal classes? Had your partner done anything by herself, e.g. yoga, hypnobirthing, doula sessions? If yes, do you think it helped you / do you think it helped your partner?

We took a BCT class which was very useful in preparing for what was to come and also nice to meet others who were preparing for the same thing, and as a group we met up several times after the children had been born.

We also did haptonomy which to be perfectly honest I thought was mumbo jumbo cod science but actually turned out to be an amazing experience which I would encourage wholeheartedly.

It I believe gave me a connection with both children before I got to know them and helped make me have more of a role in the birth.

Unfortunately due to both children being bigger than my wife’s hips would allow I wasn’t able to use the delivery part haptonomy.

Looking back, would you and your partner have made any different decisions about your choice of care provider, place of birth or birth preparation?

We didn’t do anything different for the birth of my son, so no.

How were the first hours and days after your baby’s birth? Did you take some time off work? What support did you have during the first weeks after the birth? Is there anything you wish you had done differently / known about the early weeks?

I took the day of the birth off for F. but went back to work for the remaining 3 days she was in hospital so I could use the days off better when they came back from the hospital.

For C. I took the time off from the birth onwards as F. had to be looked after.

My wife’s parents came to stay with us which was a help especially after the caesarean.

One thing I was not aware of until the birth of my second was I never actually got paid for the days that were supposed to be paid by the mutuelle this was due to some days being taken in August, some in Sept and the last few in November so I didn’t really notice.

This happened because my wife and I were with different mutuelles and I didn’t know that I had to submit a paper to get paid paternity leave it was only with the second one that I realised and by then the two-year cut off had elapsed.

How was your experience of feeding your baby? Did your partner breastfeed? If yes, did she have the support you needed to get breastfeeding well established? What was your particular way of bonding with your baby, e.g. skin to skin, massage, bath times.

Prior to the birth we had discussed that although my wife would breast feed we would also bottle feed them. However, we were told that it’s best not to mix the two especially initially when breastfeeding so in the end it was not for many months later that I was able to help with bottle feeds.

When I would bottle feed F. she would demand that I massage her feet and this I am convinced is a throwback to when I would do haptonomy on her before she was born and she would stretch her feet out to be massaged.

F. was a very slow feeder and my wife had great difficulty initially.

I remember talking about this with a friend from Uni who told me she had exactly the same issue and she felt that breastfeeding was a hell but that no one talks about the pain and the initial problems but always talks about it in retrospect with rose tinted glasses.

It seemed the more people we talked to the truer this was. My wife did get support from the Midwife/Lactation Consultant who did several home visits and this was very useful as I think she was very close in the early stages of stopping feeding due to the pain etc.

She breastfed F. for roughly 8 months. C. is still being breastfed but is a much quicker feeder – 15 minutes versus an hour and I think that is why she still breastfeeds him, had he been as slow as his sister he also would have been switched to bottles after 8 months.

If you and your partner have also had a child in another country, how was your experience different than in Belgium? If you haven’t had a baby in your home country, do you have any opinion of how things may have been different in your home country (in terms of choices, attitudes towards pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period)?

I can only compare the experience I had with that of my sisters and friends who all had children in the UK. I am shocked at how quickly they send them home.

For my sister’s case she was in the hospital for maybe 14 hours all told before being discharged with the baby. For my other sister I think it was 24 hours maximum and she had a caesarean!

I don’t agree with the shortening of the hospital stay time and can see the government looking at the UK etc. and thinking well if it works there it can work here. I think that time in the hospital is important and unless you want to leave early, I think it should stay as is.

Any closing thoughts:

It’s not exactly news for me to say that children change your life completely and that no matter how prepared and ready you think you are – you aren’t – it is the end of your life as you knew it and a whole new chapter starts.

My wife also joined a great support group for new mothers and this was a huge help to her as there were various talks etc. and a very active Facebook group/community that helped a lot – http://www.antenatalandbaby.org/

Just Jack – Siobhán’s birth story

Siobhán McGonigle, founder of the village, has three boys, all born in Belgium. This is story of Jack, her second son, born in December 2009.


Tell us a little bit about the pregnancy …

I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and needed to take Clomid to help me get conceive, so we felt extremely lucky that I fell pregnant so quickly, and that there would only be a gap of just over two years between Jack and his older brother, Eamon.

I loved being pregnant, and had been able to stay very active for the whole pregnancy.

We’d been renovating a house and moved in about three months before Jack was due. As with many renovations, we were well behind schedule, and even by the time Jack’s due date came around, we were still missing some key elements … like the sliding doors across the back of the whole house! And it was a COLD winter!!

Were you having your baby when you expected? If not, was it earlier or later than your estimated due date? How did the timing affect your feelings leading up to the day? Were you more than ready to meet your baby, or did the whole event take you by surprise?

39 weeks 3 days

Like his brother before him, two years earlier, Jack was in no hurry to be born. His due date came and went with not even a Braxton Hicks contraction.

I’d already come to believe that my body didn’t really understand how to conceive and birth a baby without help, and had resigned myself to the fact that I would probably need to be induced.

But since his big brother’s birth, after being induced, had been such an overall positive experience, it didn’t scare or sadden me. I was just eager to meet my little boy!!

How did the birth unfold?

As Jack showed no sign of coming by himself, my gynaecologist had scheduled by induction for Friday, 11 December, ten days after the estimated due date.

I was confident that by mid-afternoon we’d have met our little Jack … something I shouldn’t have taken for granted!!

We left home in plenty of time for our 08:30 ‘appointment’ at the hospital, and had even stopped off at Pain Quotidien at the Cimitière d’Ixelles on the way to pick up a ‘merveilleux’, which was to be my post-birth treat.

I was confident that by mid-afternoon we’d have met our little Jack (his big brother Eamon was born at 16:30 on the day I was induced, and I knew it’d go faster this time) … something I shouldn’t have taken for granted!!

We rang the buzzer at the entrance to the ward, and were told that all the labour/delivery rooms were busy at that moment, but that they’d come and get me as soon as one was free. and so we went to the waiting room … already a little nervous, but not overly so.

Half an hour or so later, we heard movement in the corridor, and a couple arrived at the door to the ward … the man buzzed, and explained that his wife was in labour and was having contractions every five minutes. Still no rooms free, so they came and sat in the waiting room with us for another 20 minutes or so. It’s obviously completely normal that she got priority over me, so when the midwife came to take her in, we just sat tight and hoped there’d be another room free soon.

…we’d started to come to terms with the fact that I would most likely not be having a baby that day

But after another half and hour or so, same story, another couple arrived at the door, buzzed and were taken in after about half an hour (I was surprised how long they left these labouring women alone before even coming out to check on how they were doing, but I think it was because they were literally thrown off balance by the sheer number of labour going on!).

And an hour or so later, same again … by which time we’d started to come to terms with the fact that I would most likely not be having a baby that day.

Our fear then was that they’d have to reschedule for Monday as I didn’t think they’d schedule inductions over the weekend. However, at about 11:30, a midwife ran over to us, still in bloody surgery garbs, apologised that they hadn’t been able to take me in and suggested that she call my gynaecologist and see if she could reschedule for the next day.

Much to our relief, she came back 10 minutes later to confirm that my doctor was fine with that, and that we should be there the next morning at 8:00. Apparently there were already two other inductions scheduled, but she said that under the circumstances, they’d fit one more in … at which point my (then) husband and I made a mental note to be there at 7:00 😉

Next morning, a little later than planned, we arrived at 7:00. And I almost couldn’t believe it, but the first woman who’s ‘skipped’ in front of me the previous day was sitting there in the waiting room!!! I couldn’t help but think to myself “if you’d just let me in front of you yesterday I could have guaranteed that I’d deliver within a few hours … and because of you I had to go home and re-psych myself up for this delivery” … but of course I just smiled and politely asked how she was doing.

Turned out that her labour stalled on the Friday (or maybe she never actually made it to being fully in labour … and they prefer not to give the syntocin/pitocin unless labour has to be completely induced), and they sent her home, but that he waters broke early on Saturday morning. Anyway, she of course got the next free labour room, and DH were sitting on tenterhooks just praying that they’d admit me before the next woman in labour would waddle up the corridor.

But admit me, they did. And I can tell you that I ran into that admission room, and closed the door behind me as fast as I could ; )

The midwife confirmed that my cervix was a good 4cm dilated, and soft and long, and once I was in my lovely hospital gown, got me hooked up to some machines to monitor Jack’s heartbeat and my contractions … or lack of.

As I tested positive for Group B strep infection a few weeks previously, I knew I’d receive antibiotics during the delivery, and was a bit worried that they weren’t giving them to me straight away (they give a dose of antibiotics every four hours, and despite receiving one and a bit doses during Eamon’s birth, he still caught the infection and was quite poorly for the first week of his life. And this time, I imagined things going even faster, so was worried I wouldn’t receive enough antibiotics).

I was having a few contractions [from the syntocinon], but to be honest, sometimes even had to check the reading on the monitor to be sure it was a contraction.

But they seemed determined to monitor Jack’s heartbeat and (lack of contractions) for a good 45 minutes first.

Anyway, they finally started the IV antibiotics and syntocin at around 10am, and despite regularly upping the dose, not a lot was happening. I was having a few contractions, but to be honest, sometimes even had to check the reading on the monitor to be sure it was a contraction.

And so they increased the dose, and increased it again, and still not a lot. At about 13:00 the midwife (having admitted to me that the amount of syntocinon I was received was already considered high) phoned my gynaecologist and they agreed to break my waters at 14:00 if nothing much was happening by then.

To try to get things going, the midwife swept my membranes and that helped a little (I’d gotten to 6cm at this stage, despite crappy contractions, which must still have been helping a bit), but I still only had about two moderately painful contractions in the following hour.

No sooner had she broken the waters than I was having some ‘oh my god I can’t move / breathe / think’ contractions…

And so, there was nothing left to do but break my waters. And then, boy did things get going!!!

No sooner had she broken the waters (when he was born, you could still see two little marks on Jack’s head where the hook scraped his head) than I was having some ‘oh my god I can’t move/breathe/think’ contractions, and they continued to come very very regularly.

I started pacing up and down the corridor (dragging the horrible IV sacks and all with me), but soon realised that the contractions were coming too fast and that I’d be better back in the comfort/privacy of the delivery room.

I found a comfortable position leaning over some cupboards at the side of the room and basically didn’t move from there.

At about 14:30 (or maybe it was even later) I was starting to panic because I really felt like I needed to push, but I was worried that I surely wasn’t fully dilated yet and should be trying to hold on.

So my husband ran to get a midwife, and when she examined me (standing up, because I couldn’t even contemplate moving over to the bed) she confirmed that I was already at 10cm, and so could in theory start pushing.

I’d hoped to give birth standing up, taking advantage of the wonderful force that is gravity, and all that, so I was in exactly the position I wanted to be in.

Right then, my physio arrived, and a few minutes later my gynaecologist (who basically jumped into her garbs as fast as she could).

To be honest, I’d hoped to give birth standing up, taking advantage of the wonderful force that is gravity, and all that, so I was in exactly the position I wanted to be in. And I knew my physio would be all for that, and that my gynae wouldn’t object.

And so, after three big pushes (I remember that I was sipping on a carton of orange juice the whole time!), Jack was born! I’m not sure any of the people present deal with many standing births, as there was a little bit of confusion as to (1) how to hand Jack to me and (2) how to get me back on the bed, which was on the other side of the room.

I think it took everyone present (husband, gynae, physio, midwife, and trainee midwife) to help me waddle backwards to the bed, me kind of cradling Jack between my legs.

Once the cord was cut, they put Jack right on my chest, and we just lay like that while I was given an injection to deliver the placenta, and get a few stitches (just a small tear, nothing serious), and after about 10 minutes he started breastfeeding like a little champion.

Overall, was your birth experience different from what you imagined it to be? If yes, how was it different?

The overall experience was even better than I had imagined. While most of the labour felt frustratingly long, with little happening (since the syntocinon wasn’t giving me strong contractions), the active labour and Jack’s actual birth was just as I’d hoped.

All in all, I only had a good hour of full-on pain so was feeling great after the birth (i.e. not physically exhausted). Even my husband couldn’t believe it … after my first son’s birth, I looked like my eyes were literally going to pop out of my head and I was all puffy from holding my breath to push. But this one was a walk in the park compared to that!

I’d stayed upright, felt assertive, in control and in tune with my own needs. I wasn’t wondering ‘how should I be doing this’? I was just listening to my own body, and it was such a great feeling to have that confidence and trust.

Had you done anything to prepare for labour and birth, e.g. prenatal classes, yoga, hypnobirthing, doula support? If yes, what did you do? Do you think it helped? Looking back, would you have made any different decisions about your care or birth preparation?

The only preparation I’d done was going to regular prenatal physiotherapy classes in the last three months or so before the birth.

My physio had inspired such confidence in me when I was pregnant with baby #1 (it was actually she who helped me entertain the idea of birth without epidural), and by the time of Jack’s birth, I was feeling even more confident in my own coping skills and mental and physical strength.

Even though my physio only arrived just before Jack was born, just knowing (during labour) that she was coming helped me feel confident and supported.

How were the first hours and days after your baby’s birth? How would you describe your recovery? What support did you have during the first weeks after the birth? Is there anything you wish you had done differently / known about the early weeks?

My husband’s parents had looked after our first son, Eamon, on the day of the induction, so they brought Eamon (and his cousin, Eloise) to visit us the same evening.

Eamon looked like a giant compared to his baby brother – I guess it kind of made him grow up overnight.

My parents came to visit from Ireland a few days later, eager to meet the new addition, and help me as best they could.

How was your experience of feeding your baby? Did you breastfeed? If yes, did you have the support you needed to get breastfeeding well established?

Breastfeeding Jack was really straightforward. From right after his birth he breastfed like a champion!

But the experience made me realise that both mum and baby need to establish that unique feeding relationship and discover what works – just because you breastfed one baby does not mean it will be effortless to breastfeed their sibling!

Any closing thoughts: S

Towards the end of the pregnancy I’d been getting a little worried about how I could possibly love another little being as much as I loved my first son Eamon. But once Jack was born I could see that there wouldn’t be any issue there.

I remember a friend telling me not to worry. She said your heart doesn’t split in two when you have a new baby, but rather doubles in size … and it was true!!

London calling

Please tell us a little bit about yourself:

My name is Freya I left Belgium ten years ago to join my boyfriend in London. I got married (and divorced) in London, had my two children here and build up a career even though I am about to take a gap year right now.

What felt like the biggest cultural difference between Belgium where you live now?

To start with the obvious one, the attitude towards Europe is different: the British talk about Europe as “they” whereas the Belgians talk about Europe as “us”. This emotional connection explains in my opinion a lot of the current situation we are in.

Apart from this I think Belgians and British people are quite similar, I grew up watching a lot of British television in Belgium, for example Faulty Towers, Blackadder, Chef, etcetera so I have always appreciated the British sense of humour!

How did your kids react to the move? (if relevant) How do you try to ensure your children’s connection with Belgium and feeling Belgian? What language(s) do you speak at home?

My daughters who are 6 and 10 now were both born here and go to a French school so they feel partly French partly British.

I do try to speak with them in Flemish to keep the connection with Belgium and to make sure they can communicate with their cousins.

I also try to make them watch television in Flemish (thank you Netflix) so that they associate the language with fun activities rather than “mama” imposing this language on them that nobody else speaks.

What do you miss most about Belgium?

I miss Antwerp the city I grew up in, I miss being able to speak my mother tongue and I miss not having to spell my last three times before people get it, “Van Onckelen”, it really is not that difficult, or is it?

What opportunities do you have now that you didn’t have when you were living in Belgium?

London is super multi-cultural and it attracts the most driven and interesting people from around the world, so I am very grateful for the people I have met here and the friends I have made.

It has definitely enlarged my view of the world and increased my self awareness as living in a foreign country always does.

Have you made friends with many ‘locals’ where you’re living now, or do you find yourself socialising mainly with other expats? Do you remain close to friends and family in Belgium? How often do you come back?

I have made lots of new friendships here, be it neighbours, parents of other children in my daughters’ school or through a book club I joined.

I do try to keep in touch with my “old” friends as well though, there is something special about having grown up together that you cannot replace with some of the newer friendships.

What about food: do you still crave food from Belgium or have you ‘gone local’? What are some of your favourite Belgian food or drinks?

I do crave Belgian food but you can find most of it here, London has a couple of Belgian restaurants and recently I discovered a Belgian “frituur” in Brighton where they cook the fries the Belgian way and they even got all the equipment from Belgium as well!

Do you feel that living outside your home country has been enriching? If yes, how has it shaped you and your family?

Yes absolutely, it makes you so much more open minded, and even though I think it is important to keep in touch with your roots and be proud of them it also teaches you how relative everything is.

I have started adopting London as home now and I have applied for British citizenship because I genuinely feel part of society here.

What tips would you give to people who may be thinking of moving / planning to move country with a family in tow? How do you give yourself the best chances of a smooth transition?

People make the difference so if you can try to get in touch with as many local people as you can and ask them for advice in terms of housing, schooling, jobs etcetera.

Have an open mind, there will be lots of differences and change but in the end that is usually a good thing!

Chou&Chou – the mom behind the brand

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: where are you and your partner from? How many children do you have? What ages are they?

I was born in the States but grew up in Taiwan. My husband is from Belgium, and we met at school in the U.K. I lived in Belgium from 2008 till 2017. Our family then relocated to Singapore, and it has been great!

We are moving back to Belgium this summer (2019), and we are pretty excited about it as that means we will get to hang out with our family and friends there a lot more!

Both my husband and I work in the banking sector. We have two boys: Lucas aged 8 and Oliver aged 6. They have been such a blessing, bringing much blissful chaos to our life!

Tell us about your company / business / activity / service! Where did the idea come from? How long have you been running it? What were you doing before you started it / what do you do alongside it?

My product is the CHOU & CHOU 8-in-1 Maternity and Nursing Cardigan. It’s convertible as a nursing cover, maternity top, cardigan, scarf, shawl, baby blanket, baby carseat cover and shopping cart cover.

It’s made of silky soft premium bamboo fabric which is antibacterial, hypoallergenic, environmental friendly – and offers awesome UV protection!

The idea sprung from my own need. I breastfed both of my boys for a prolonged period of time. Personally I didn’t feel comfortable being exposed in public, so I always had a nursing cover with me when I was out and about with my babies.

I used three different kinds of nursing covers, but none of them was right. They were either too big that made you feel you were sitting under a tent or too small that didn’t provide enough coverage. The material wasn’t so comfortable either.

So I decided to create my own brand of nursing covers. I wanted it to provide great coverage, be made of really nice material and, last but not least, being multipurpose. This way you just get so much more use out of the product.

Did you find it difficult to set up your activity in Belgium? Who did you turn to for advice and support?

It took some time and efforts, but I’m grateful that my husband actually had experiences in this area so he helped a lot. He was amazingly supportive.

What are the best and worst things about running your own company / business / activity / service?

The best thing for me is that it’s creatively fulfilling (hello, I work in a bank..!). When you see your idea turns in to a product – a product that other moms love and are willing to use their hard earned cash to pay for…it just makes you so happy!

The worst thing for me is the sourcing and supplier management. The process is draining.  

Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit? Or is this something that came later in life?

Being a mom made me want to push myself to achieve something outside of my day job and family.

It came after I become a mom actually. Being a mom made me want to push myself to achieve something outside of my day job and family. It’s almost like you want a brand new identity.

Was your family (partner, parents, siblings, as relevant) supportive of your venture? Would you encourage your own children to be their own bosses? (when they grow up, that is ;))

My husband was very supportive. In general he is supportive of any ambition of mine. I love him for that.

I would definitely be supportive of my children’s entrepreneurial pursuit provided that it wouldn’t impact their family’s financial stability. 

Do you feel that being a parent has any influence on how you do what you do? e.g. your own boundaries, or how you handle employees who have children

It really does. Being a full time working mom with a side business means I have to set clear priorities over the different elements in my life. Otherwise I could end up working on the brand when I should be putting the kids to bed.

Sometimes you just have to let things go if they take too much of your energy and attention away from the more important things.  

What are your top tips on balancing home and work life? How do you stay organised throughout the day and get time for everyone and everything?

In addition to setting clear priorities as mentioned above, I find it really helpful to have some quiet time everyday.

Seeing yourself getting things done consistently is motivating in itself. 

I usually spend some time in the morning doing a daily Bible devotional. It has really helped me be more at peace with the daily challenges instead of blindly running from task to task to tick off the checklist.

Another thing I find helpful is to set clear and small tasks that can be accomplished within 30 minutes or an hour. Setting aside 30 minutes or an hour is much easier than setting aside 4 hours of your time.

It then becomes easier to get things done on a consistent basis. Seeing yourself getting things done consistently is motivating in itself. 

Can you recollect any funny child-work balancing stories?

Not funny as such, but I involved my kids in the first photoshoot I had for the nursing cover. It was lots of fun. Looking at those photos and the video always puts a smile on my face.

Do you have any tips for parents who dream of becoming entrepreneurs / starting their own company / business / activity / service, but just can’t get started?

I find it easier to start the business in the area you love. For instance, food, baby products, fashion.

Going from there, find a niche and create something different whether it’s the product or the service it offers. It doesn’t have to be something completely different and new. It can simply be a better and more creative version.

New Little Life doula services – Allison Tolman

Allison Tolman is an American birth doula, living and working in the Mons area. Through her company New Little Life, she also offers childbirth education, breastfeeding support. She also has a birth-related blog, a family travel blog, a YouTube channel, and an Etsy shop. What a busy woman!!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: where are you (and your partner, if relevant) from? if you are not Belgian, how long have you been living here? if relevant, what does your partner does (as much or little detail as you want)? how many children do you have? what ages are they?

Hello! My name is Allison Tolman and my husband and I are from the state of Idaho in the United States. I have 2 little boys ages 5 & 2 and we’ve been living in Belgium for about 7 months. Being a military family, we move around a lot but have enjoyed our time in Belgium so far!

Please tell us about your company / business / activity / service: where did the idea for your business come from? how long have you been running it? what were you doing before you started it / what do you do alongside it?

After the birth of my first son, I knew I wanted to pursue Doula work. I had worked as a nurse for 6 years and while I enjoyed that, I always enjoyed the patient education and learning part of my job. Once I found out that I could work as a Birth Doula and Lactation Counselor and stay home with my baby I was hooked! All the things I loved in one package.

I chose a business name that encompassed many aspects of pregnancy, motherhood, and life with a new baby to keep my options open. I knew I liked to do a lot of different things and I’m glad I did. “New Little Life” has grown into a board business offering services in Hypnobirthing, Birth and Bereavement, Rebozo care, Lactation Counseling, Bengkung Belly Binding, an Etsy Shop and more!

Now as we’re located in Belgium, I’ve started a blog and YouTube channel to continue to reach new mothers from all over the world. This has been a great avenue for me and my business. Currently, I take a few doula clients a year, assist with the childbirth classes in my community, and volunteer as the Community Outreach Director at our local Mom2Mom Chapter as well as actively post weekly new content on my blog and YouTube.

Did you find it difficult to set up your activity in Belgium? Who did you turn to for advice and support?

Moving to a new place is always challenging to restart a business, but Belgium had its own unique challenges. The language barrier has been the most difficult to navigate. While I’m actively studying French through classes and private lessons, it’s been difficult to find the help I need in my native English language. There are a couple of other local doulas who have been quite helpful and I’m learning the area and hospitals quite quickly. I’m not afraid of a challenge and have enjoyed business in Belgium! Thankfully, there is a nice English speaking community here with the military which has made the transition much easier.

What are the best and worst things about running your own company / business / activity / service?

I LOVE making my own schedule! Nobody telling me what to do, how to do it, or when to do it. This is also one of the worst things about running my own business. There’s no one to tell me how to start a blog, no time schedule for projects which means some go undone, and the only direction I have is one I set myself. If I fail, it’s all on me, and that’s a hard pill to swallow. However, if there is a success, I can feel proud of what I’ve accomplished and that’s a great feeling. I love to be home with my children while they’re still little and to me, that’s worth all the difficult things about starting a business alone.

Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit? Or is this something that came later in life?

I’ve never been afraid to do what I want to do, but it was never a dream of mine to run my own business. When I realized the path I wanted to take would require me to do things on my own from nothing, I did jump right in. What is scary? You bet. Overwhelming? Absolutely. But one thing at a time lead to another and another. I’ll find a strong focus one day, but for now, I’m enjoying learning many different aspects of business on many different platforms.

Was your family (partner, parents) supportive of you setting up your company / business / activity / service? Would you encourage your own children to be their own bosses? (when they grow up, that is ;))

Without family support, it’s difficult to make anything work for long. Thankfully, my parents have always let me make my own decisions and do my own thing. I was already married by the time I started my business and my husband was also very supportive. It’s easy to show positivity when someone is passionate about what they’re doing, and I always have been. There’s no question this is what I was meant to do. I hope to instill in my children the same idea that ANYTHING is possible.

Do you feel that being a parent has any influence on how you do what you do? e.g. your own boundaries, or how you handle employees who have children

Balancing mom and home life with work is always challenging, but especially for work at home moms. I’m always trying to balance work time with mom time and other household chores. Sometimes I envy a full-time job away from home because I miss the separation of the 2 worlds, but I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else than with my young children. If I want my own career in addition to being home with them, I’ll do what it takes to make it work!

What are your top tips on balancing home and work life? How do you stay organized throughout the day and get time for everyone and everything?

Creating realistic priorities is an important first step. If I spend the whole day working, things like laundry and cleaning may have to lapse a little. Learning to be ok with just doing what you can do and deciding what’s really important to you that day, week, year, can be freeing. For everyone it’s different, but no one can do everything. Choose what’s most important to you and your family, and don’t be ashamed of what can’t get done whether that’s regarding business, home, family, etc.

For my I find time blocking the most effective way to organize my time. I have a planner that helps me to plan my days and weeks into time chunks. For example, a typical day may look like: 600-730 personal time (study, exercise, hygiene) 900-1100 grocery shopping or other chores, 1300-1500 work time, 1500-1700 after school play/work if needed, 1700-1930 family time/dinner, 1930-2130 adult time or extra work if needed. Having a rough schedule allows me to know what tasks are most important at a specific time. Straying from a loose schedule leads to feelings of frustration or unproductivity.

Can you recollect any funny child-work balancing stories?

Thank goodness for great editing tools, especially when making YouTube videos! It’s so hard for little ones to be quiet and I often edit out funny noises or unexpected appearances from my little ones.

Do you have any tips for parents who dream of becoming entrepreneurs / starting their own company / business / activity / service, but just can’t get started?

The VERY hardest step is the first one. Uploading that first video. Publishing that first post. Hitting the “Live” button on your website. After that, the steps get easier. If starting your own business, no matter how small, is something you want to do, do it! Take the leap of faith and make the first step. It’s a slow process and give yourself some time and grace to make mistakes and learn as you go. It’s all part of the journey to find where you fit into this world and how you can share your gifts and talents with others.

Focus on the growth, not the gap. Comparing yourself to others who have already been through the lessons and difficult times will only make you feel bad. Do it for you and don’t be afraid to start small with big goals. The harder it is, the more rewarding it will be when you succeed. Good luck!

If you’d like to include any links to my places here is a list! Choose what you’d like 🙂

www.newlittlelifeblog.com

www.youtube.com/c/newlittlelifebyallison

www.etsy.com/shop/newlittlelife

www.newlittlelife.be

www.newlittlelife.com

www.instagram.com/newlittlelife.doula

www.facebook.com/newlittlelife

www.pinterest.com/newlittlelife