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

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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

Just a mother…

I just knew I was pregnant…

The first time, I was lying in bed on a boat on the Norfolk broads; my first ever boating holiday.  I’m a vegetarian.  I like late nights and late mornings.  I had been craving fish.  I was waking at 6am, bright & alert.  I had this feeling.  I’d been through over a year of heart ache about not being able to conceive.  We’d set limits on how long we would try, how invasive we would allow the treatment to be, planned an alternative if parenthood was denied us…And I waited a whole week with my secret.  Delicious and delicate, I couldn’t bear to tell anyone, just in case…And when we returned home, on my birthday, I made excuses, rushed to the chemist, hid in the toilet…And that little pee-stick confirmed my secret joy.

Second time around, sure it wasn’t long after Christmas, and we’d only just decided this was the year to see if we could conceive again.  But there it was, that feeling…And sure enough, on the day one of my dearest friends gave birth to her second child, I peed on another stick to confirm the budding joy in my belly.

I just knew…

I just grew a placenta, and I just grew a baby…

Nature is an ordinary, every day miracle.  My instincts told me I was to become a mother.  My body just knew what to do…

I just laboured,I just breathed, I just made this great, pure effort…

I just gave birth to my babies, breathed them out into my arms, welcomed them earthside, kissed their bemused faces, gazed into their open, curious, loving eyes…

I just breastfed my babies…I trusted nature, and my body nourished & nurtured my babies…

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Tandem style ;D

I just changed around 12,000 nappies…

I just woke hourly to my first born for over a week, who could not sleep in his moses basket alone.  So I just brought him into our bed, which has become our family bed…I just brought my second newborn straight into our family bed…I just nursed and comforted, sand to and soothed, my babies, keeping them close…I just welcomed my three year old into our family bed once more, wakeful and anxious will illness or bad dreams or both, he sleeps with one arm around my neck and I just about get the odd hour of sleep and I just managed to wake in the morning and I just still pack lunch, walk the school run, persuade my reluctant eldest once more to walk into school, I just manage to do it without crying at the relief that today a teacher did not have to drag him sobbing, peeling his arms from my neck…I just manage to admit that I cannot meet a commitment made and I just acknowledge that I need someone to soothe my soul…and I just find that in friends I can be nurtured and understood…and we just take our sons to the beach and swim in the sea and feel cleansed & revived and we just sit in the sunshine and make names in seaside stones and dig for buried treasure with magic sticks…and we just dream that we can mothers and make a living doing something we love and something worthwhile and something that other mothers like us will love too…

I just let my babies begin to wean themselves.  I just noticed that tiny hands grabbed at morsels on my plate, that little bodies were strong enough to support the sitter unaided, that little tongue did not thrust curious mouthfuls floorward…I just noticed, my almost 6 year old eats nearly as much as me…

I just rolled out the roll of second-hand shop wallpaper in the garden, filled the plastic plates with paint, stripped my baby naked and let him revel in the rainbow and spread his hand and foot prints all over the blank sheet and my heart…

I just washed the millionth load of family laundry…I just cleaned the loo…I just changed the bedsheets…I just cooked hearty soup for lunch and mouthwatering mascarpone & tomato pasta for tea…I just grew some veg in my back garden patch and watched my child eat sweet raw corn on the cob with eyes wide with glee…I just tidied away the same toys I tidied this morning, and yesterday, and the day before, and last week…I just hoovered up couscous…was it from the mini treasure hunt game or dried from spilled dinner two days ago?…I just sorted out small clothes that once swamped the tiny frame of my little person but that his little brother has even outgrown…I just played hide & seek and was told every time where to hide and where I could find my toddler even as his feet stuck out from under the coffee table…I just read the book I read every day for a month last year, and will read again and again and again until I can recite it sleepily without having to see the pages over the head that is gradually resting higher and higher against my chest as my smallest child grows in my lap…I just sang the songs that I have sung nightly for 6 years and will sing until I am told “Mum…I’m too old for lullabies…” because I just know that one day those words will almost break my heart…

I just abseiled, and ran into the New Year’s Day waves, and picked up a spider with my bare hands, and walked smiling and laughing through dark woods with my child in a sling held close to my heart so that my son will see a brave woman, a strong woman, and will know there is nothing to fear…

I just lost my temper and used harsh words and a cross voice and then tearfully held my child close and apologised for just being human and would he forgive me…And I just got a hug that only my child could give that knows that I am unconditionally in love with him…And I just know that he loves me that way too…And he won’t always like me, nor I him…But we will always have these moments of kisses and cuddles and stories and songs…

I just know that I will never regret a moment spent in the company of my babies, my toddlers, my children…I just love them, heart and soul, with every fibre of my body and every breath I take…

I’m just a mother…

OMx

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I am just a mother, and these are the lights of my soul & the songs of my heart

Amnesty for Agnes…Freedom for Birth

TODAY I AM AGNES GEREB

TODAY I AM AGNES GEREB

 

Want to know more? Free Agnes

 

I light a candle

I say a prayer

I take a deep breath

I dare to hope

There will be freedom for this woman

There will be freedom for all women

There will be freedom for birth

OMx

Bless your blooming body…

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As your body blossoms and you bloom into labour, remember that the astonishing arrangement of oxytocin-adrenaline-endorpin release is like a delicate flower, for full effect let it open in its own time. Your own endorphins are 20 times more powerful than morphine. Give them a little time, release your fear and feel them flow as your blooming beauty brings forth your baby

Of stones & bones

Hagstones hold such fascination for me. Stones hewn smooth by rolling waves…holes and channels worn by micromovements…the smallest grain of sand can create its free passage through given waves and time…

Water through stones…Babies through bones…the everday ordinary miracles brought into being by waves and time…

Give a birthing woman time and her body’s waves will do the rest…

Let her breathe…feel her breath ebb & flow…let her move…feel the rolling of her hips, her spine…let her vocalise…feel her true voice flow with the building energies…let her rest…feel the quiet power of deep currents beneath her calm surface…