Yoga, Mama…

I’m often asked why yoga is good for women during pregnancy…it is a hard question to answer, because yoga in pregnancy has so many benefits & can enhance a woman’s experience in myriad ways…#

pregnancy-8-web

So I was thinking about some stereotypes (you might feel you fit one or you might feel they all apply…this is just an excuse to tell you why yoga is good for YOU ;D…)

Mama #1 – In Control…keep busy & carry on…you are always busy, life is scheduled in your diary & you’ve synced Google with Outlook & Out of Milk…nothing happens without a plan…you research every option…you know your rights…you don’t want to feel out of control in labour…you won’t make a fuss or moan or scream…you want to stay *in control*…Labour can be a shock to you, unexpected events, sensations & emotions can throw you off your meticulous birth plan…Birth & babies don’t do schedules…yoga will help you surrender and feel your way through, getting you in touch with your instincts & your ancient brain…yoga will help you simply be…and allow you to experience your pregnancy, labour, birth & beyond instead of striving to *do* everything…

Mama #2 – Go with the flow…take the path of least resistance…you may not need to learn the art of surrender but instead yoga can give you a sense of purpose & ownership of your body & your pregnancy…Don’t feel you must go with the flow just because…this is your baby, your body, your experience…Instead of going along with what you are *allowed* to do realise that those around you are honoured to be with you…let them support you but ask for what you need, for what you want…go with the flow from a place of peace rather than be left feeling like a pushover…Yoga will allow you to remain mindful and retain your easy nature so that if things do not always go to plan, then you can feel calm and accepting knowing that you have made decisions, been involved, that you have been respected & treated with dignity and that you have consented in awareness rather than from habit…

Mama #3 – Scared and afraid…can’t do this, can’t stand pain…Yoga can help you connect with your body, your breath and your baby in a way that little else will…Feel the beauty & miracle of your changing body, appreciate your innate strength, grace & power…as Ina May would say, you will realise that your body is not a lemon…You will begin to feel comfortable in your skin, confident that your body was born for this journey…you will begin to feel calm as you learn how mindful breath and simple pain coping practices will allow you to experience the powerful combination of oxytocin and your other mothering hormones to guide & soothe your labour & birth experience…You will understand how birthing actively will mean that you can exploit the incredible design of the female pelvis to make more space for your baby to move through your bones…You will know that this is a great pure effort that you can make…

Yoga in pregnancy is about strength, stability and sanctuary….calm, connection, community…it is about trial, truth and trust…

In pregnancy, Yoga is about it is about your breath, your body, your birth, your baby…

And if you still don’t know whether it’s for you…come try it out, let the Yoga speak for itself, it’s much better than my blogging…

Bright blessings

OMx

Rest & Relaxation … Anu Loma Viloma Kriya

Begin by lying in Savasana (supine relaxation pose) if you are in your first trimester & still comfortable like this or Matsya Kridasana (lying on your left side, with left arm supporting your head, left leg stretched out to relax and right knee bent and supporting you on floor) if you are not comfortable on your back or especially during your third trimester ~ you can support either position with pillows, blankets & cushions to feel more comfortable. 

Keeping your face relaxed and soft, close your eyes.  Watch your breath for a few moments: note the rhythm and nature of your natural breathing without trying to change it in any way.  If your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath.  Stay mindful of your breathing and without any stress or strain, begin to gently deepen and slow your breathing until the inhalation and exhalation are as deep and slow as they can comfortably be.  You are aiming for a wavelike, rhythmic feeling to your breathing.  As you inhale be aware of drawing in prana, life energy, to nourish and nurture yourself & your baby, bringing with it new strength, stamina, fresh energy and healing.  With your exhalation, feel a release, allow your body to soften, as you surrender to gravity, sinking into your mat, the earth beneath you embracing and supporting you.  Let the outward breath cleanse you.  Breathe out and let go…

 

Once you feel you have begun to relax, you can start to visualise an oval of light surrounding your body, reaching above the crown of your head and below the soles of your feet.  Imagine the oval is split into two halves down the centre line of your spine.  Light flows upwards through the right side and down through the left side.  As you breathe, flow your breath with the light, so that your inhalation flows up the right side and your exhalation flows down the left side…

 

Now work with 9 complete breaths visualising this oval that extends around your whole body.  Let the oval of light wrap you in protection so that you feel that the negative attitudes and emotions of others cannot penetrate the light around you.  Feel safe and secure,feel this light creating sanctuary…

 

When you are ready, bring the oval of light to touch the crown of your head and soles of your feet.  With the next 9 breaths feel that you are self-contained, self-reliant and able to take care of yourself.  As you breathe feel a deepening sense of well-being…

 Once you feel that you have established your feeling of well-being, bring the oval of light in to touch the centre of your brain and the root of your spine and with the next 9 breaths settle into deep rest and relaxation…

 

Finally bring the oval of light to your baby and as you breathe you can surround your baby with protection, gifting well-being and relaxation to your little one, knowing that as you nourish and nurture yourself, so you nourish and nurture your baby with every breath…

 

You can stay here, simply breathing into deeper relaxation with your baby for as long as you wish, or you may like to bring the oval of light back out to surround your body and work your way back in again…

 

When you are ready to close the practice, gently release the visualisation of the light, remaining mindful of your breathing as you allow it to settle back to its own natural rhythm ~ here you may like to notice whether your natural breathing has changed in any way since the outset of your relaxation.  When you feel ready, if you are on your back, roll onto one side for a moment and bend your knees up towards your chest, then making small movements before you push slowly back up to sitting, rolling to all fours to feel fully supported and using a deep breath in to avoid feeling light headed as you rise…Or simply rest where you are & let yourself relax, even falling asleep if now is a good time…

OMx 

CHILDBIRTH PREPARATION 

for Mothers & their Birth Partners

NEXT WORKSHOP 
SATURDAY 9th NOVEMBER 2013
10-1pm
includes light refreshments
 Image
 

 ♥  A relaxed approach to preparing for labour & childbirth  ♥

Explore positions for active birth, positive interventions & comfort measures, pain coping techniques and find a calm, positive, solution-focused attitude as you move towards the most transformational experience of your life. 

 We will look at the symphony of hormones, the beautiful design of your body for birthing lightly, and the ways in which your birth partner can advocate for you and support you as you bring your baby into the world. 

Birthing From Within methods are also included in all my childbirth preparation classes & workshops.

♥  Please note that this workshop is ideal from around 34 weeks, and not suitable prior to 30 weeks.

​♥  The total cost of the workshop is £30 for you & your birth partner, if you would like to bring an additional birth partner, the extra place will be charged at £10.  Refreshments provided & materials included.

​♥  HOW TO BOOK
Please email Lucy to book your place – max. 6 mothers & their birth partners in each session.

 

Quiet Life…

Pran Mudra by Portsmouth Yoga

Pran Mudra
Life Mudra

Pregnancy is an amazing time…our bodies change, and grow, our minds open, our hearts widen…we are transformed from the inside out…and in the beginning, there is that quiet life…

Deep in your belly…dark, warm, bathed in the rhythms of your breath and body…a quiet life begins to grow…

In those early weeks, it can be hard to know that there is a new life budding in your belly…you may not want to share your delicious secret with the world at large just yet…and even if those closest to you know the outward signs are yet to blossom and so it can feel like you shouldn’t talk about your state of budding motherhood…

Yoga teachers and antenatal teachers alike will tell you to wait…not until 12 weeks…not until 30 weeks…wait, there will be time…and they are right…be patient…relish this quiet life…let your baby bud gently unfurl as it grows into arms and legs, fingers, toes…as it takes on the recognisable shape of your baby as yet unborn…

But you might want to celebrate, to acknowledge, to connect…there are myriad ways, sing, chant, dance, cry…doodle or paint, or crochet…create…or simply be…sit and marvel at the quiet life inside you…

As your baby grows, as your body blooms in round-bellied beauty, you will feel your baby dance and wriggle, hiccup and squirm…until then you can only imagine…create a window on your womb in your mind’s eye and see that quiet life taking form…

As you sit, you might like to use this hand gesture…Pran Mudra…Life Mudra…

Sit somewhere quiet, somewhere safe, secure, secluded…make this a time to honour your own body and the quiet life rising within…

Fold your ring finger & little finger under your thumb so that you cover the finger nails, and let your middle & index fingers remain extended…rest your hands where they are comfortable…

This mudra connects you to the nurturing, nourishing energy of your pelvic floor…that nurturing power within your own body…

Be still…connect with the quiet life within…

OMx

A little privacy please…

I cannot be other than delighted for anyone about to have a baby…I still envy mothers to be their adventures in the labyrinth of birth…nothing quite brings you into the moment, every moment, like the life and death, breathe and pray, soften and let go, groan and sigh, sensation by sensation pure effort of labour…nothing prepares you for that single second when life changes forever as your little soul comes earthside and you see their face, can touch their fingers, toes, belly, nose…

Nothing compares to that moment of pure anticipation…this is it, this is labour, this is the beginning of my baby’s journey into the world…

And for millennia, mothers’ instincts have told them to find some place that is quiet, wtih subdued light, private, intimate…

Ina May Gaskin tells it better than I ever will…a woman’s cervix is shy, not made for the limelight…read all about it & smile for your sphincter

And so, the press are in place, the hospital surrounded, the consultants are debating how long they are prepared to wait…Let Kate decide…trust her motherly instincts to want to preserve her own life and that of her precious babe…

Why do doctors think that women need to be told they are in danger…I know so many women intent on *natural* birth or home birth who suddenly decide that hospital is the place to be on a gut feeling only to discover a baby lying transverse or losing its heartbeat on a trace, or choose that ahead of time based on sound understanding of risk factors that they cannot accept as reasonable…Women want to give birth to healthy babies, it is in our nature!

And a word to the doting grandparents/aunts/uncles/Godparent-to-be…don’t text daily from 37 weeks asking if there is any sign…don’t text hourly from one minute past midnight on the *due date* (for those of you who like to know, around 5% of babies arrive on the EDD) … when the new parents are ready, when their little one is safely arrived & they have had seconds or minutes to savour that intense joy, they will let you know…

So how about we back off…Will & Kate are having a baby, it is no more important that the millions of other babies that will be born in that same moment all over the world…It may prove to be a revolutionary ruler in the long-distant future, or a wise and compassionate soul who will provide guidance for a troubled nation…and so might the babies of the women who come to my pregnancy yoga classes…

Will & Kate are human beings, they need to be able to celebrate the joy of their baby, but they will be urged to appear smiling & proud for the cameras as soon as possible…to emerge from what should be a protected, sacred space celebrating the emergence of their new family to satisfy the baying crowd of paparazzi & reporters…

It will still be a baby tomorrow people, it will still be the *first* picture of the royal baby if you back off & wait a few days or a few weeks…

My deepest wish for Kate is that she gets a birth that she feels positive about…one that is not dictated by policy & the whim of an impatient consultant eager to gain his bragging rights about *delivering* a future monarch…I wish her a gentle labour, a beautiful birth…but I am realistic too…and if intervention becomes necessary then I hope it is offered with humility & compassion and that Kate is made to feel like a goddess (as should every birthing mother be) and that she brings her child into this world knowing that every mother around the world sees her as just that, a mother…

Bright blessings Kate, may your baby’s birth be peaceful & your babymoon be blissful 

OMx

Lotus Image from Dribble.com

Back to normal…

I am delighted that my postnatal yoga classes have been featured in the “Heart of the Community” pages of The News, our local paper…

Not quite so delighted about the innocent enough misquotes…paraphrasing is a dangerous game…

“I don’t think you can ever fully get back to yourself after birth but everyone can definitely feel good in their own skin…”  Not quite what I said…the essence of what I said is lost in the omission of just one word *old*…

In recent years, women have been bombarded with celebrity pregnancy and post natal stories, complete with glamorous images and tales of *getting back to normal* or *getting back to being myself* or *feeling like my old self again*…

Why would any woman want to go through the phenomenal transformation of pregnancy, labour, birth and becoming a mother only to become her *old* self again a few weeks or months down the line?

I wouldn’t trade one second of my *old* self for a million pounds…she was neurotic, fearful…she thought she had all the time in the world and she was drifting…

Getting pregnant and giving birth, becoming a mother taught me so much…I learned to put someone else before myself at every waking thought…I manage on hours less sleep a night than I (or my husband) ever imagined I could tolerate…I have purpose every moment…I feel more feminine, more shapely and more beautiful than I ever did before my children…

The thought of giving birth terrified my *old* self, and she thought she would want all the drugs the hospital could offer…my pregnant self heard “homebirth” and thought, “YES!!! I can do that!” …and my pregnant self was brave and courageous and I discovered that warrior-woman that we hear whispers of…I became a warrior myself…

lightworker-graphic

Sometimes, my warrior self gets wounded…at times I am tired, sometimes I ache and there were days after the birth of my second son in particular when I wondered how I would survive the lack of sleep and the pain in my hips and the soul-sucking darkness that was my post-natal depression…

But I had a reason to survive, a reason to heal my wounds…my two beautiful boys blessed me when they came to me…of all the millions of women in the world, I get to be their mother…the darkest shadows are created by the brightest sunlight…through the darkness of depression, what kept me going was a haphazard yoga practice underpinned by a mindfulness practice of reminding myself moment to moment how lucky I was to have these two souls in my life…I kept a gratitude journal; writing down a few things each day that had made me smile or lifted my heart, and without fail that list was about my sons, it was about being a mother…I still keep that journal on dark days…

My *old* self would have completely succumbed to self-pity and let everything slide, hiding away to lick at her wounds and refusing to let them close…as a mother, I just about keep it together…because my sons have given me myriad reasons to be whole again, to find a way through the labyrinth and I thank God every day for the gift of my children…and they taught me the real value of Yoga…

Yoga was a hobby before I had my children, now it is the lynch pin of my sanity and the core of my mothering, as well as being my living…I adore yoga, it keeps me loving my body and living my life…

As I breathe in pranayama, I marvel at how my body breathes all day, every day, with no conscious control or effort…and I notice when I spend a moment connected with my breath how much calmer, taller, lighter I feel and that fascinates me still…

My body will never look like it did before pregnancy, no matter how much I get on my Yoga mat, no matter how much I diet or lift weights or swim or run or cycle…that’s ok with me…I love my body…I have a new *normal*…

I am stronger of mind & body than ever before my children came Earthside…I have a strength hewn from lifting my babies, from carrying them in slings and pushing them in prams and swings, it comes from climbing imaginary mountains and swimming imagined oceans…from jogging to keep up with scooter-mad kids and climbing ladders and slides and scrambling over the beach and through the woods…it comes from doing “aeroplane Yoga” and “cuddle cat” and from wrapping my arms around my babies, my boys and from loving them so much it hurts my heart and I have to take a deeper breath to survive the next explosion of love and joy that threatens to rip me apart as I watch them grow and learn and smile and love…

My mind will never work the way it did before my children came to me…but it is my new *normal* and it is improved, although I may be a little scattier, and some of the useful things I used to know have been lost to amateur paleontology for my six year old and Peppa Pig characters for my three year old…but as I calm my sons with quiet breathing & Sanskrit chanting, or as I do yoga on the beach with Joe,  I know that my mind works just fine because it puts my children first and foremost and finds the things they need buried deep or has the good sense to go seeking new knowledge from trusted mother-friends…

I love my body not because I sprang back to *myself* after the birth of my children, but because yoga reminds me to appreciate the miracle of the human body…it is so strong, and when I move into a pose, I remain amazed by how this body of mine also grew and stretched and transformed to be home to my babies and then to bring them into this world…My stretched marked belly will never be taut again, and my stretch marked breasts will never be polite & pert as they once were…But I am proud of those changes, they mark me as a mother…

I treasure my *battle scars* to stick with warrior analogies…why do women want to come out of the process of becoming a mother unchanged, what then is the point of having children?  I don’t need to thread feathers or bells into my hair to mark the victories of my motherhood…my body has marked itself in honour of its lifebringing and its lifegiving…I celebrate my scarred skin…I wish that all women would do the same…show me your body marked by love, your belly sagging and your breasts drooping…show me your stooped shoulders from loving so completely, so heavily…and together let’s lift our shoulders back to open our hearts ever wider and show the world what we have done, proud and fierce and beautiful…

I am more *myself* today than I have ever been, and I owe that to being a mother…and so, in essence, I supposed that quote was spot on, I don’t think you can ever fully “get back” to yourself…mostly because I hope, like me, you dragged your self along for every delicious, dirty, inspiring, exhausting, joyful, messed-up, mind-blowing, magical moment of the journey to where you are now…

Enjoy it, this moment, it will be gone soon, and you can never get back to that old self, back to normal…but why would you want to?  *Normal* is overrated…

OMx

motherhood, belly button, stretchmarks,

My Belly Button
Tree of Life

THINK…an open letter…

Physiological 3rd stage, breastfeeding the pla...

Physiological 3rd stage, breastfeeding the placenta out. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Maternity Care Provider…(Obstetrician, Midwife, Maternity Nurse, Health Care Support Worker, Lactation Consultant, Doula, Antenatal Educator…And to myself, not just to you…)

You have knowledge, experience and skills that support women daily and those of you in the medical maternity services save the lives of thousands and millions of mothers and babies across the world…thank you…

You have knowledge, experience and skills that you are educated to use and perhaps scared into believing are always essential, whether through pressure from insurance companies and policy makers or simply too long on the ward and not enough time in the community experiencing natural, joyful pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding…isn’t it time that you went out from your clinical space to sit on your hands quietly and watch a mother birth her baby without your help…?

Pregnancy, labour, birth and breastfeeding may not always be easy, may not always run to a timetable…but before you step in with those life-saving essentials, take a breath…

Please THINK…why do you work in maternity care…what drew you to this profession…to this vocation…?

Please THINK…what does this woman, this mother, in front of you, need?  Right now.  What is it that will best serve this mother in this moment?

Please THINK…I know that I talk too much, and therefore I must listen too little…it is habit, learned behaviour…I am working on THINKing more before I speak…LISTENING before I THINK…Join me in breaking the habit…Please THINK…Please LISTEN…

THINK…

T… is it true?  A mother came to class recently and told me that her doctor measured her height and the distance between her hip bones and pronounced a concern that she may be too small to birth her baby vaginally…This mother is not of white Caucasian descent and tells me that she is in fact taller & wider of hips than many of the women in her own country…Her husband is of the same ethnic group and the men too, she assures me, are shorter and slighter of build than men in the UK…But *it is a hospital measurement*…apparently she was told British women average 5’4″ and this mother is just 5’1″…But women in her country give birth vaginally all the time she tells me hopefully…And I try to reassure her, to tell her to keep faith in that knowledge, because measurements based on a predominantly white Caucasian cohort will not reflect the facts of her own heritage…This mother has a little over 6 months of pregnancy left and now one of her main tasks will be to unlearn that comment…To ignore the medical need to measure & compare at 20 weeks…perhaps again at 34 weeks…Is it TRUE?  Can you show me hard facts that account for all other variables and indicate that smaller women find it hard to birth their babies vaginally?  Can you show me hard facts that indicate that her baby, with her genes and those of the father with the same ethnic origin is likely to be too large for her pelvis and prevent vaginal birth…does the birth rate in her own country support your fearful comment on her stature?  Is it TRUE…?

H…is it Helpful?  A friend of mine had her baby, all went pretty well, and then came breastfeeding…it wasn’t instant, like lots of mothers she needed to learn the art, and so did her baby…but someone working (and they did not make their role clear, which itself is unhelpful) in the post natal room told her that she would not be able to breastfeed properly because her nipples were too big…Fortunately, my friend had been to some positive about birth and breastfeeding groups and asked me to visit as a breastfeeding mum for some mother-to-mother support…Luckily, she went on to breastfeed successfully, but the damage had been done, her confidence was rock-bottom and her breastfeeding journey had a bumpier start than it needed to be…THINK…before you speak…is it HELPFUL…?

I…is it Interesting?  And if it is, interesting to you…or to this mother?   Why is it interesting?  Does it appeal to morbid curiosity…and so could it be scary or even terrifying to a woman carrying a baby in her belly right now?  Is it drama filled?  Could it stress out this hopeful mother?  Most of us know a story about a mother who went into labour and had contractions for 3 days and then had her waters broken and then was induced and then had to have a caesarean birth after all…What sort of birth is this mother hoping for?  Do you have any concrete evidence that she won’t be physically or mentally capable of achieving that birth?  Do you have an irrefutable reason to suspect that her labour will last for days instead of hours?  Still need to tell her this story…?  Is it INTERESTING…?

N…is it Necessary?  Does this woman NEED this test, this vaccination, this vaginal examination…?  Or is it policy?  Is it recommended but not mandatory?  Did you make it clear this mother has a choice about the care you are offering her?  Recently, many women have willingly received the Whooping Cough vaccination…and yet shockingly, some of them were not offered the injection but simply told they *needed* to book in for it to be done, and many of those and others who chose it remained ignorant that they were in fact receiving a triple vaccine…and was it necessary?  Or could they have chosen…?   In labour, a woman moves & moans rhythmically in her birthing pool and you can see the purple line creeping up the natal cleft and hear her vocalisations deepening and intensifying…you’ve listened in to the baby between rushes and all is well but you haven’t checked her dilation yet…you ask her to leave the pool (her sanctuary) because you *need* to do an internal examination…Do you?  Does she want to leave her water?  Does she want you to examine her?  Does she know that she can refuse you?  Is it NECESSARY…?

K…is it Kind?  A mother I know had a long labour, not excessively so, but long all the same and through the night…and a full 2 hours of pushing…so she was a little tired but still elated & smiling as her baby came earthside at last  and into her arms…her birth plan asked for a natural third stage (physiological third stage  & delayed cord clamping)… the midwife practically whispered “You’re very tired, let’s just manage this stage…” as she slipped the syringe into her thigh…No doubt the midwife was acting out of perceived kindness to save the mother some time and shorten the process…but did early cord clamping for that injection of syntocinon reduce the blood transferred to her baby and affect its iron stores?  Did the management of her third stage increase or prolong lochia? Will she always wonder if she could have finished what she started naturally…?  Is it KIND…?

I promise to LISTEN more and to THINK before I speak…will you join me?

Will you commit to THINKing more about the mother in front of you and what she needs right now, not what protocol & policy state, but what is true for her, helpful at this time, interesting to her ear & her heart, necessary for her health or that of her baby, and what is kind to this woman, to this mother…?

Can you THINK…?

I believe you can…I believe you will…

Blessings & Prem

OMx

Travelling the Labyrinth…

What surprised me about Birthing From Within…?

What surprised me most was that it provoked so may questions!  What did I learn?  Am in a labyrinth or leaving one?  Am I being called to enter or called to return?  Do I want another journey?   Will there ever not be a labyrinth to travel?

Turns out that there are myriad labyrinths in my life…I am slowly exiting the one that was the birth of my second son…I believe I have just stopped resisting the call to take the next step and journey into a new labyrinth…

Birthing From Within Labyrinth Art

Birthing From Within Labyrinth Art

I am about to embark on the full BFW Mentor & Doula Program…I do feel called, but I have been questioning myself…am I ready…is now the right time for my family…is this really my path…?

I do feel called…after a week surrounded by the beauty of Galstonbury, bathed in the spirit & character of the town, precious days spent amid a circle of incredible, inspiring, good hearted women, I know that I was not the only one being called, not the only one searching my soul…I know that I am ready to step on to this path, and to release the resistance, begin the letting go of some old ideas, to allow some part-known truths to crystalise…

I am called…Fresh from the 3 day introductory course…trying to make sense of it all, slowly integrating the experience, practising some of the skills I began to learn…

My Birthing From Within journey really began when I was pregnant with my second son, when I was still hurt, disappointed, frustrated by elements of my first son’s birth…and it had been a *good* birth, a *natural* birth, so I questioned my *right* to feel that way, but I acknowledged that I did…

Ina May Gaskin’s book “Spiritual Midwifery” had been my bible in my previous pregnancy, and I read it cover to cover again…her assertion that “This is not pain, this is an interesting sensations that requires all of my attention” had become my personal mantra, and it worked for me in both labours…Thanks to Finn for reminding me that this too is non-focussed awareness…I loved her attitude of putting out positive energy during labour, to love those caring for us & to feel that returned as sustaining love & strength…I loved that Ina May was resolutely positive about birth…And I knew that I had some issues to resolve before this next birth, or they may cause me to lose my way in labour or to slow down & resist as Ina May had raised…

I am not sure where I came across Birthing From Within, only that it was likely through a wise woman friend…And it felt right, so I read it, and I explored aspects of my pregnancy, labour & birth experience through creating art…but I drew the line at practising the pain coping techniques…Those I avoided, I coped in my first labour, I figured that I could cope this time…and it turns out I did, happily, luckily!  And whilst I (thought) I got what Pam England was saying about not writing a birth plan, I couldn’t shake off the need to clarify what it was about my first son’s birth that I did not want to repeat…I felt slightly indignant at the notion I was not preparing *properly* if I wrote a plan…so I wrote one…I’m not sure anyone but my husband & best-friend-come-doula ever read it…

My first son was born in hospital, after transferring in from home to the labour ward, no intervention, a forward-flesh-tear…My second son was born at home, in water, with his brother smiling at me as he watched *our* new baby arrive, no tear…It was the birth I had dreamed of, I was elated, I was passionate, I was determined to help other women to prepare so that more of them could labour & birth their babies *naturally*…

Even before Glastonbury, the BFW introductory recordings had me challenging my mindset, here are the musings that I drafted just before heading off to Glastonbury:

Childbirth Preparation is sometimes an odd phrase, since it implies that preparation is necessary and therefore can influence the outcome…

In reality, whilst we association preparation with control, *control* has little place in childbirth…

I am about to undertake the Birthing From Within training in Glastonbury and I am aware that in her book of the same name Pam England does not advocate making a birth plan.  She feels it can distract a woman from real preparation for birth…I understand this, and yet…it seems to me that for many women it is about exploring their options, becoming informed, communicating their emotions, hopes and expectations with their birth companions and care-givers…for some it may even feel a sacred ritual…

So, if women in my classes ask me about birth plans, I suggest that they keep it brief and that they start it with a request to their caregiver to help them achieve the birth they want…avoiding lists of “dos & don’ts” that may irk a tired midwife or ruffle the feathers of a proud consultant…

I suggest they communicate their preferred place of birth and to make it clear they expect to be supported in their choice; I emphasise the need to plan to birth in the place where they feel most safe, not the place where they think they should, or where a loved one would have them be, or where they have been told they are “allowed” to be because of policy or staffing levels…I aim not to be contentious but to encourage because we women need to speak with loud, clear voices so that our needs are heard and met, not sidelined in the name of saving money or easing logistics, so that we and our babies are as safe as we can be as we birth as we should and not as we are told…

And whatever their intentions,  I remind them is that there is very little that can be controlled in labour & birth, and that their breath is the one thing over which they alone can always have control, so we do a lot of work on connecting to the breath and exploring ways of breathing that may be useful, comforting, and calming in labour & birth…but which ultimately I hope will allow them to be so familiar with their breath that they will instinctively breathe in the way optimum for their stage of labour on the day…

Birthing From Within - Finger Labyrinth Glastonbury

Finger Labyrinth Magdalene Chapel Glastonbury

…Back to the present…I feel a little silly!  I had misunderstood all this time…Pam England was not telling women not to plan for birth, but to plan in a deeper, more meaningful way…a piece of paper is no more than a talisman if there is not some effort & experience behind it to strengthen & sustain the birthing woman…

I use the words “surrender” and “breathe your baby into the world” a lot…although perhaps that is shifting already…Virginia Bobro cautioned against “bumper sticker” birth…In the beginning, I resisted strongly…Harumph, arrogance…she is wrong, surrender is a powerful word…Slow dawning realisation, I am so arrogant…ask myself, have I truly offered women the opportunity to learn what surrender actually is, what it means…

I resisted…asking questions, more, deeper, what is behind the statement, the fear, the need to avoid…I resisted the shift in language I will need to fully integrate…

And I felt horribly fearful that I have been letting women down all this time…Have I unwittingly given promises of something not mine to give…have I implied that their birth choices are not valid…that their births were to be scorned…

I do hope not, and I cannot cling to those fears because they are only manifesting from a place of love in any case…they reflect my desire for every woman to feel elated at the birth of her baby…to be proud of her journey through the labyrinth…to feel she can celebrate her immense strength, her complete selflessness, her own birth as a mother…these fears provoke my own inner enquiry, demanding that I seek answers, that I move forward, that I act each moment from a place of love…

And so, I journey on, letting love guide me and opening my heart in the name of service to all women…

In Prem,

OMx

 

Surrender…

Surrender...Pregnancy Yoga in Southsea

….where the wind blows…

The flower does not know where the seed will take root…The wind carries the seed surrendered to it…

As mothers there is so much that we cannot control…we can make the right choices, take the good birth classes, the informative parentcraft classes, carry our babies, breastfeed our babies, use a pram, mix feed or formula feed, we can take the *easy* route, we can co-sleep or cry it out…what we cannot predict, what we cannot control, is the outcome…

Pregnancy is your first lesson in surrender…you can be an olympic athlete & be floored by hyeremesis, or a binge-drinking chain smoker and not suffer a day of sickness or fatigue…You can walk and swim and yoga for all the right reasons in all the *right* ways, but your baby may resolutely stay spine to spine…You can slouch and slob and eat junk and find yourself in labour for short hours and pushing 1-2-3 “It’s a boy!”…

We cannot decide our lot in pregnancy.  We cannot dictate the nature of our labour or the birth of our baby…

Good birth preparation is about knowing how to manage labour, comfort measures, positive intervention, support, love and communication…and it is about knowing when to surrender…to the waves, to gravity, and also when the need arises to the medical intervention that may save the life of your baby…

Learn what you can, take the classes that mean that you feel calm & positive approaching the birth of your child…but be prepared to surrender to Nature, to accept that the birth you want may not be the birth Fate has designated for you…

Pam England holds fast that Fate decides the birth you will experience…that if her first had not been hard, and ended in caesarean, she would have remained in her own words *arrogant* and would have kept on lying to women & their birth companions about the reality of birth…

And if I had enjoyed the home water birth I planned with my first, perhaps I would remain arrogant…I consider myself lucky, the bumpy ambulance ride in case my son was *stuck* did the trick, and due to lack of labour ward staff, my midwives remained with me and a natural delivery followed, but it was on my back, in hospital, not what I wanted, not what I planned…and it stung that I hadn’t *achieved* my home birth…

But it taught me lessons…that we have to surrender sometimes to the experience & knowledge of those caring for us…that finding the right support gets you in a frame of mind that means you can accept that things may not be as you wished but will follow their own course…That babies have their own journey in mind…That motherhood is not about control…That birth is transformative & empowering no matter how it unfolds…it matters how we perceive it and talk about it, but the transformation, the power, the courage, the beauty ~ they are in every birth…

So, I say to the women in my pregnancy yoga – I do not guarantee you a pain free natural birth…I do not suggest that you opt for home birth…I suggest that you choose a birth place where you will feel safest, most secure, most supported…I suggest that you do what you can to communicate to those who will be with you your ideal of birth if you get to choose as it unfolds…I suggest that you surround yourself with love & positive stories so that you know  that birth can be natural…But too, you should know the medical interventions and what they involve, but that means risk as well as benefit…Learn to ask questions that will keep you empowered and involved as the most important person in the room as you exert that great pure effort to bring your child earthside…And then I suggest that you begin the work of surrendering…

Surrender to gravity…spend time on all fours, keep your posture upright to encourage your baby head down, in labour be upright, forward leaning, legs open…UFO…

Surrender to your breath…connect with your breath…if all else spirals away from you, if you have to surrender your *dream* birth to be safe, for your child to be safe, then breathe through it all…Stay connected, stay present, know every inhalation & exhalation, let it bring you to each moment, awake, aware, and let the outward breath be a release, a letting go, as you soften into the birth of your baby, however it may unfold…

Beautiful Mama…breathe as the wind blows…surrender…

OMx

“False” Positive…

Lotus Blossom Visualisation of Dilating Cervix

The language of pregnancy, labour & birth is so powerful, and yet it is often so negative, or even misleading.  

Braxton Hicks are sometimes made out to be something other than preparation for the birth of a baby, a “false” sign of labour, and some sources cite that they have nothing to do with “real” labour and do not in any way prepare the uterus or cervix for labour & birth…

Braxton Hicks are also sometimes called “practice” contractions.  Whatever you call them, they help to tone the uterus & get your birthing muscles tuned in ready for the main event…

Think of BH, or prodromal labour, as trailers for the forthcoming attraction…frustratingly short lived, they tease & tantalise so that you look forward to the moment when you get the full show on the road, these non-progressing contractions are in no way false; they help to prepare your body to birth your baby…

In the latest days of your pregnancy, this prodromal labour is every bit as real as you, the mother, experience it to be: if you are told that is it “false” labour, turn that on its head – this is very real, it may simply mean that your cervix is not yet dilating…

So, if you have had a VE (vaginal examination) and been told that there is nothing doing, and this is *false* labour, ask your midwife (or other caregiver) whether they simply mean that you have not begun to dilate.  Has your cervix moved forward?  Is it softening?  Has it started to efface?  Has your cervix opened at all?  Some caregivers will not really *judge* labour to have started until you are dilating over 2cm…and that is one of last things that happens to the cervix…

Knowing that the cervix moving into position, softening (ripening) and effacing (thinning) are signs of real progress can help you move into a much more positive frame of mind as you approach the birth of your baby…

Moving into position?  Through most of pregnancy, a woman’s cervix points somewhat to her back, it gradually moves forward and during VE can be assessed to be posterior (pointing back), midline or anterior (pointing toward the front of your body)…

Effacing?  Your cervix is usually about 3-4 centimeters long and if you feel it, not dissimilar in touch to the end of your nose!  As it effaces, it thins to paper-thin and shortens – ask your midwife or caregiver to explain how they measure effacement & to describe yours to you if you have a VE…

Dilation?  This is the bit that we get all hung up on…the dilation or opening of your cervix is measured in centimeters with that magic number 10 being the goal…Opening of the cervix can begin before *positive* signs of labour are felt, and you may be 1-3cm dilated before it is *confirmed* that you are in labour…

Not one contraction is wasted, whether it is *just* Braxton Hicks, or *just* prodromal labour…each one is a wave that carries you closer to the birth of your baby…each one will be playing its part to help bring about the changes to your cervix and to prepare your uterus & other birthing muscles…

Think of these early sensations of your uterus contracting as the gentle lapping of the waves on the shore…in their own time, according to a rhythm only Nature can set, these gentle waves will start to roll and roil and then to crash and crescendo…And time & waves work wonders when you simply breathe…your breath keeps you calm, it keeps you buoyant so that with even the most stormy seas & the biggest breakers, you can keep your head above the water, knowing that each wave carries your baby closer to being in your arms earthside…anchor to your breath, luxuriate in the ebb & flow and when the time is right, your body will know its work, until then, float along on the tide and let Nature’s rhythms lull you…

OMx