Brighton – one day workshop

A one day, workshop.

To book your space, pay your deposit £30 now. And the balance is to be paid any time up until 7 days prior to the event.

Confirmation will be sent once you have booked your space.

 

Brighton 1-day Workshop

This really useful birth preparation workshop is suitable for ALL parents, whether this is your first baby or not, VBAC, IVF, hospital, or homebirth.

Come and overcome your fears and anxiety about birth. Discover how to feel more confident and leave feeling empowered as you get ready to meet your baby.

Dads and birth partners – find out how important your role is, and what you’re meant to do!!

Mums – learn how to work with your body and your baby, and how amazing you both are.

Learn Hypnobirthing and Mindful techniques. Practise them. And use them. To experience a better birth.

The workshop is delivered by a local doula with home, hospital and birthing centre experience, and knowledge of local services and protocols, and how to navigate your way through them.

For more information about our other services, go to www.calmbirth-uk.com.

We look forward to meeting you and changing the way you see birth – for the better. For you, and your baby.

To reserve your space, please pay the £30 deposit here. You will then receive confirmation of your booking. The balance of £100 will be payable  within 7 days of the event. 

Brighton Hypnobirthing

A fantastic one-day birth prep workshop.

Encompassing eye-opening, penny-dropping birth education, simple and effective hypnobirthing techniques, local birth-setting and hospital protocol knowledge, and a “how to” navigate your way through it confidently section!

Whether you are first-time parents or not; whether you want a VBAC; whether you are a single-mum, an “old” mum, an IVF mum; whether you want your birth at home or hospital – whatever your circumstances or preferences, you will be pleased you did this workshop.

What better way to start heading towards your empowered birth, and to start growing your “village” with other like-minded people? As the old African proverb says “It takes a village to raise a child.”

The full price of the workshop is £130. The deposit of £30 payable online when you book your space. The balance to be paid at least 7 days before the event.

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Walking the Path, are you a Fixer or a Facilitator?

Walking the Path. Are you a Fixer or a Facilitator?

 

By Sophie Fletcher

Sophie Fletcher is the author of ‘Mindful Hypnobirthing‘, a clinical hypnotherapist and a doula. you can follow her @mindfulmamma or find her on Facebook

Are you a fixer? Most of us are, when someone seems to be struggling, we all want to jump in and rescue them, we never want to see people we love in pain or suffering.  Isn’t it our role to help those we love share burdens, to take as much of their load as we possibly can?

letitgobyleunigThis is especially true when that burden may seem greater than we know, or is something new and different. The terrain is unfamiliar not only to them, but also to us; the path ahead hugged by a forest, or darkness, the path meandering between hills and mountains. Just as they can’t see where that path is heading, we too cannot see or know where that path will go.  The unknown may hold unimaginable fear;  even the benign promise of an exciting adventure into the unknown may hold fragments of apprehension.

When in this place, we must always remember that it is not our path, it is theirs.  If we crowd them, they cannot have the space to focus on their steps, to make firm solid, steady steps that keep them centred and present. If they are crowded and distracted by too many interruptions, their focus may shift, they may become unsteady and they cannot connect deeply with their path.  Not doing things but being there, allows someone the space for their own feelings, for their thoughts to come to surface, for them to feel safe and held in that process of transformation.

Our role as family or friend in times of transformation and change should be not be as fixers, but as facilitators. We can lay a chair quietly by the path so they can rest, if they choose, walk silently beside them in the darkness, carry nourishment so, if they need it, it is there. Our role is to listen, to be beside them, to show loving kindness and warmth but not to carry them or walk the path for them.  We cannot do that however much we may wish to.

imagesBirth is a journey, an unfamiliar path, we do not know where that route will go, how our journey will pan out. A birth partner cannot fix things, but they can facilitate. Being present doesn’t mean doing, it means being.  Being there without judgment and without allowing our own fears to overwhelm them or us.

Learn from your own responses. Are you trying to fix the situation, to ‘fix’ the unfixable? Or are you trying to make yourself feel better by doing something. These are challenging questions. Do you need to look deeper at your own fears and feelings? Be curious, look beneath the reasons why you feel the urge to fix, is it because you cannot bear to see the person you love in pain? Are there other reasons?  Sometimes fixing is about making ourselves feel better rather than actually helping the person. Look beneath your surface and learn about yourself, be interested, do not judge, this journey can also teach you many things about yourself.

As a partner you can only interpret what you see, based on your own fears and experiences. You cannot know fully, what that person is really feeling, what they really need, and what you don’t know you can’t fix.

As a woman walking the path of birth, comfort arises from the sense that someone is beside you, knowing that people you love are there if you need them,  but also that you are discovering something extraordinary about yourself. However challenging that may be, it is transformative.   As a partner you can facilitate this experience.  It’s like Jung’s hero myth, the hero sets out on a journey that is tough and challenging yet the journey ends in a form of consolidation, a reunification of the person, in which wholeness is re-established on a higher level.

 “On a deeper level…….the pregnant woman is undergoing an archetypal experience. She is undertaking a rite of passage, an initiation. Like the Hero in myth.”  – Benig Mauer

One of my favourite quotes from a mother is this quote taken from Mindful Hypnobirthing:

“It was most amazing experience I have ever been through.  It took me to a deep place and made me realise who I really am and what I am capable of .  I now know that I have spent the last 37 years working at 75% of my true potential  but giving birth has shown me what I and truly capable of.”

So what can you do as a partner to facilitate not fix?

  • Statements such as “I love you, I care for you, I am here for you” can be much more powerful then “do you want pain relief”
  • Being gentle and quiet, set aside chatter
  • Be present, not distracted with electronic equipment
  • Be mindful, learn mindfulness techniques that can help you observe your own feelings
  • Instead of moving around restlessly e.g. pacing be still
  • Try not to suggest things. Instead, listen and reflect
  • Be kind and loving, a warm hug and a smile give strength and reassurance
  • If you feel anxious or upset, ask someone to stay with your partner while you leave the room and re-centre yourself. Fear is contagious, far better that you nip out for a ‘drink’, or to the ‘loo’ than allow adrenaline to mount.

 

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What’s it like to be a birth partner?

My first experience as  a Doula really taught me how it is to be a birth partner.

By Sophie Fletcher

Birth Partner
How does a birthing partner quickly fix a hospital room?

I’ve been teaching antenatal hypnosis classes for nearly 7 years now, and designed the Mindful Mamma class with my friend and colleague Mia Scotland.  So I’ve learned a lot, read a lot, worked with hundreds of couples, but my first birth as a doula was a new experience and taught me much more than I could ever read from a book. It taught me what it’s really like for the birth partner.

For the weeks running up to my first birth there was a mixture of excitement and apprehension. I didn’t sleep much for the 4 weeks I was on call (my client had her baby at 42 +2), jumping at every moment thinking it was my phone.  At one point I thought ‘what have I done?  Do I really know what I have to do, how to be?’. Then it suddenly occurred to me this is how the birth partners must feel – the first experience of the responsibility of being a birth partner and being there for her in a moment had suddenly dawned on me.  In fact is was exhausting and by week 42 I had already learned to just trust that I would wake up, even in the deepest sleep, and with relief had 10 hours of sleep!

For a dad it must be even harder – at least I knew theoretically what was happening and I knew that birth is safe and normal and I trusted that the mother would know what to do.  What must it be like for a birthing partner who hasn’t attended the ante-natal classes, or who doesn’t feel connected with the intuitive and unconscious process that a mother is going through?  It can also affect those around supporting the couple. A grandmother I knew, who was going to look after her grandson when her daughter went to labour, confided in me that she was unable to sleep properly and had her phone under the pillow.

Towards the end of the pregnancy, we watched for signs like hawks, me second-guessing, is this it, there were twinges and changes my mother reported reminding me to keep glued to my phone. In my step class I even had it under my box, ring on extra loud!

Then as she went in to labour, at 4 am, I woke up on the first ring and I tried to trust my instincts and let go of everything I had learned and read.   Yet couldn’t help, while I drove to the hospital, playing over in my mind everything I know and teach about environment, the birth space, the role of the birthing partner.

Having only been in that hospital myself as a birthing mum, not as a birth partner, I couldn’t quite remember it and trying to go through it in my mind was very difficult.  I was going into an unfamiliar environment, I couldn’t really prepare for that sense of unease I felt about going into a space controlled by someone else.   I used the hypnosis techniques I teach to keep myself calm as I went into the hospital, knowing that my adrenaline needed to be near zero, passing through reception, another reception and the room with my client and her husband in.  All of these gateways to the unknown and gateways owned by and controlled by someone else.  I began to imagine what that’s like for the parents, especially the birthing partner whose job is to look after and support their wife or partner whilst at the same time adapting themselves to new and unfamiliar surroundings.

I’ve always taught couples to make the space their own, the job of the birth partner for example is moving the room around a bit and getting the bed up against the wall.  A bed in the middle of the room screams “lie on me, go on lie down…” even though it’s midday and you’re not ill. Yet faced with the act of moving the bed to create more space to move around, I felt paralysed. How do you do it?  The Midwife was in and out and was obviously busy so it was hard to interrupt her.

I felt like a naughty child that wasn’t allowed to move the bed or had to put my hand up to ask a question! I’m not backward at coming forward, and am friends with many midwives. She was a lovely midwife too, so this was interesting for me from a psychological perspective.  There was an inbuilt sense of proprietary being in someone else’s space and a nod to the authority of the system that we inadvertently are taught to be deferential to.

I asked for a diffuser with lavender oil in it, it never materisalised, the midwife forgot, she was busy with another couple, the CD player wasn’t in the room, and didn’t seem to be forthcoming. The light from the resus unit in the room was glowing like a beacon of distress with all the other lights turned off and amidst it all was my client, over a ball that didn’t move (health and safety reasons).

As this moment I realised how difficult it can be for the birth partner make that room your own, especially if you have followed my advice and stayed at home as long as possible.  If you have waited and left it until the last minute, mum is likely to be at the end of the first stage of labour or moving into second stage (as my client was, but who told me she “had ages and ages to go”) and not to be thinking consciously about the room.

I dropped some lavender oil on her pillow (it had been anchored), turned all the lights out including the resus unit, put the background music to our cd on via my iphone, and starting counting her down with each tightening – interweaving the numbers with some positive suggestion, with no intent for conversation. The room changed instantly, dad said it was as if I had waved a magic wand over it. Baby was born smoothly in around 2.5 hours.

So my first birth.  I learned so much about what it’s like for the birth partner, and had a great experience, in fact it was a amazing to see the techniques we teach work so well. The most important thing I learned was keep it simple, don’t create too much work for yourself, prepare well using hypnosis so you react unconsciously in a positive way to triggers such as aromatherapy and music.  You don’t have to rearrange the furniture if it makes you feel awkward (or if you feel your partner needs you more than she needs the room being moved around), and you won’t always get what you ask for straight away if the unit is busy – but do ask.

Tips for a birth partner

These are the three things that I now always do straight away on walking into a hospital room that mum and dad are unfamiliar with.

. Turn all the lights out, perhaps apart from a little lamp/reading light turned towards the wall

. anchor a smell such as lavender to feeling calm, confident and focused, just drop them on the pillow if hot rocks or diffusers aren’t forthcoming. You don’t need to have to buy equipment.

. make sure that your music or hypnosis mp3s are on your phone or your own equipment to play. Put this music on straight away.

These three things, provided mum has practiced her hypnosis techniques, everyday, will mean that she will very quickly respond physically and emotionally going into a calmer space. Giving the birthing partner time to get on with other things or to just be there with her, whispering words of encouragement.  It really is as simple as that to create the right space for birth.

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Men around birth, is it ok? Do they help or hinder?

Men at birth
Men and birth

Men around birth, is this ok, and does it help or hinder?

This is a thinking out loud blog about something that has been bothering me since I attended the Paramana Doula training with Michel Odent about men around birth . The information from the day has settled and has started to trickle down into my practice. As the information took root I found myself questioning one of my firmest beliefs, that if a man was prepared and knew what to expect at the birth he was probably one of the best people so support his partner.  However, I found myself returning to Odent’s well-debated view more and more that a man should not be at a birth as he upsets the natural course of events.

Now anyone who knows me and knows the class, knows that I agree and disagree. I think that if the birthing partner is male, he wants to be there, his partner wants to be there and is prepared that he is probably the right person for the job. If  he doesn’t want to be there he shouldn’t.  Our classes have a big section on building confidence of men at birth, and the role of men at births and we get great feedback because of this.

Curiously over the past few weeks I’ve been much more alert to fathers and their reactions to birth and their emotions in influencing their partner’s choices around birth.  What I’ve sensed has begun to change my view and although I’m not firmly in Odent’s camp, I’m much closer to it.

The first image that really struck me was a clip on One Born Every Minute where the mum had a doula to support her and her husband. And boy I’m glad she did have a doula. The husband was of Turkish origin, men around birth isn’t culturally accepted, it’s a woman’s domain and the men stay well away. His discomfort at having to be there seemed apparent, he found it difficult to stay in the room, but thankfully because he had a doula, he was able to leave without feeling he was abandoning his wife.   Even at the end as baby was being born, the midwife called him to watch his baby emerging into the world, he declined – three times – before he was virtually dragged from where he stood, near the mother’s head, to watch baby being born.

We know that men at birth have choices too. They can choose not be there, or they can choose to be there and that choice should be respected too. They should be free to make this choice, without influence from mother, midwife or even cultural expectations.

The following week on a class I must have been subconsciously observing male reactions, some obviously felt uncomfortable watching the beautiful hypnobirth we show.  Then in an exercise I traditionally get the class to do together, I instinctively separated the men and the women to see how they responded to different environments in labour in relation to oxytocin and adrenaline – the birth hormones. I wanted to explore more closely how men around birth are hormonly influenced by their environment. Usually when we do it as a group there is majority oxytocin in the home, and majority adrenaline in hospital, but it’s always a little mixed.   The exercise aims to demonstrate where oxytocin, our labour hormone, is naturally switched on, with the familiar and the comfortable. We then teach how to make a hospital environment more oxytocin rich if that’s where you’ve chosen to go.

When I separated the groups I found that at home it was 100% oxytocin in the home for women and nearly all adrenaline for men.  The opposite happened in the hospital environment and the car, the men felt safe in control and principally oxytocin rich, whereas the women were adrenaline rich.

This made me feel uncomfortable as although I probably always knew it, the penny really started to drop and I became more consciously aware of how male partners may be influencing where women were birthing as much as the patriarchal medical system was often deciding how.

Despite the fact that they had their partner’s best interests at heart and that they wanted to protect and support their partners, they were governed by fear and their instinct was often to be in the hospital in order to protect. The mother’s instinct is often to be at home.   It may also be that the fear of the mother giving birth at home or in the car, meant, quite literally, that their partners, were often driving women into hospital too early.  We know that one of the best ways to avoid intervention is not to go into hospital too early.

I too am in the very difficult position of knowing instinctively that I would want to birth at home if I were to have any more children.  The decision was taken out of my hands with my first and my second, which was a VBAC at 32 weeks, I chose to be in hospital. But if we were to have a third despite me instinctively wanting a homebirth my choice would again to be to go into hospital, not because I want to, but because I know that my husband would be so consumed with fear that his anxiety would be contagious – so I would compromise.

This week I asked myself “why should I have to compromise?”.  As far as I am concerned the best thing for me would be to birth at home. I am the one birthing.   And suddenly I felt angry at myself for being subservient to this cultural shift of partners having to be there and frustrated that men seemed to be indirectly pushing their partners into hospital.  This quickly turned to softened to sadness that this is an unspoken and uncomfortable situation, often for men and women and I felt real empathy for both.  Men don’t want to be there all the time although society suggests that they should be, but is it really better that they are not?  Equally if a woman instinctively doesn’t want her partner there, how can she say to the person she loves “I don’t want you there”, if he does want to be there?

Setting aside their judgment and going with the birth as it is can be difficult for some men.  Very often they automatically assume their partner is in unmanageable pain and that she has to be rescued from if she makes screams, rants or groans that seem out of character.   They may feel edgy, may pace up and down (inside the room rather than outside!), feel at a loose end, try and talk her out of it, glance helplessly at the midwife.

Sometimes if I’m working privately with a client I’ll show a video of quite a powerful birth where a woman makes noise, facial gestures, is vocal and writhing in the water.  Then I say to the dad, “what did you think of that?” their response is, “she’s in so much pain”, it’s then I tell them that it’s an organismic birth.  We must learn not to judge and to impose our own fears on how we perceive a partners birth.

So all of this leaves me questioning the shift in my own thinking about men around birth.  I know that there are a great deal of men that will be and have been a real pillar of strength and security at the birth, able to set their own fears aside, recognize that their state of mind can also play a role, learning to be calm, mindful and present.   Ultimately I don’t know what I would have done without my husband at the birth, I felt I could totally rely on him on the day.

What can a birthing partner do? Listening to what the mum-to-be instinctively wants to do is so important. Yes, it’s your baby, yes it can be a shared experience, but how she feels will impact the type of birth she has and in turn how it affects your baby. If she feels frightened of going into hospital and you are frightened of being at home, what should a partner do?  If the mother feels it’s too early to go to hospital, but you are getting edgy what should you do? Can a partner find a way of facing his own fears and coming to terms with them prior to the birth? What would help him do that?  Or should he not be there at all?

Answers mammas! I’d be interested to hear people comments on this.

 

 

 

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The Importance of Being Dad

How can I write a blog this month without mentioning the current series on Channel 4, ‘One Born Every Minute’?

I missed the bulk of the first two, as my internet connection is so slow, but after watching the 3rd I’m grateful to Talk Talk for sparing me the ignominy of some of the husbands that I watched as they ‘supported’ their wives giving birth.

Watching the 3rd episode of this programme, I watched aghast as a husband bullied his wife while she was in labour. She was squatting on the floor, while he berated her for wanting a natural birth over a section (she was a VBAC – Vaginal Birth Following Caesarean) and he wanted to know what she was going to do as he didn’t want to be there all night. Not to mention the dad who locked his wife in the toilet while she was having a contraction.

It really was a sight to behold and my heart goes out to both the mum and the midwife, Dominique, who was fantastic, calm and encouraging in the face of a real challenge. That the mum achieved a VBAC was I think down to her and the fact that she was caseloading midwife (the same midwife that followed the mother through antenatal care and the birth), giving the mum a sense of stability and familiarity.

However, despite me wanting to the throw my remote control at that dad, I also felt sorry for him, as his reaction to the situation was likely to have been driven by helplessness, fear and lack of knowledge.

My only experience of dads to be and birthing partners are those who choose to come on the course – those that want to understand what is happening so they can respectfully and knowledgeably support their partner. But who also realise that the opportunity to find more is out there, that there are classes that help him to understand what is happening and what he can do to help.

Last year, Michel Odent, a French Obstetrician renowned for his work on normal birth, wrote a provocative article where he categorically stated that men should not be in the birthing room. Lots of debate ensued online, with people agreeing or vehemently opposed- we sit somewhere in the middle and believe that men should be there, but only, if they want to be there and if they are free of anxiety and fear. Let’s face it, we’ve done a 360° turn in the last 40 years, from men down the pub or outside awaiting the news, to being absolutely expected to be in the birthing room – that’s a big shift and a big ask of men, who are excluded from the majority of antenatal care, with at the most access to an NHS or NCT class.

So it’s no surprise that some men who feel in the dark and disassociated from the pregnancy, and the birth suddenly find themselves into the uniquely intense experience of the birth itself without really knowing how to help. In fact many men on our classes say that the lack of knowledge or understanding of what is going on is what worries them as well as “seeing their partner in pain, and not being able to do anything about it.”

We turn this statement totally on its head in our classes, and teach the dad to be that he too has an important role, more than he might ever imagine, and that the birth can be empowering, and life changing for him as well. We also give them knowledge and techniques to support mum so he does know what to do.

We address the issue of fear in the birthing partner and enable couples to see that fear and anxiety are contagious. If dad is pacing up and down, biting his nails, or is restless it demonstrates to the mum that he is outwardly anxious, but there are also small ideomotor signals, small unconscious movements and gestures, driven by the subconscious, that the birthing mother can pick up subconsciously which can effect her birth.

We help the dad to make positive shifts in his confidence and belief that his wife or partner knows what to do instinctively and that she doesn’t need rescuing from the situation. Most importantly he knows what is happening, why is is happening and what to do about it.

Remember always that at the birth, it’s not just a baby being born, but a mother and a father too. Come on dads, do your bit, learn how to support your partner, and give her a strong shoulder to lean on physically and spiritually during birth and perhaps you’ll find hidden depths that you never knew you had.

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Can a man comment on birth?

 

Men and Birth. What really matters?
I was having a cup of tea and chat with my friend and neighbour last week, when he asked if I had read the piece on Sunday about drug free birth. I said “yes, I had”, in a rather tired way! To be honest, some of the debate it had stirred up had irritated me somewhat. Basically, Denis Walsh had been quoted as saying that natural, drug free childbirth has distinct advantages over epidural deliveries.

A lot of the responses (including my neighbour’s) was that Denis Walsh has no right to comment on women’s experiences. Apparently, it is a woman’s domain, and men aren’t qualified to comment. So how come they are qualified to intervene, into delicate womanly parts with needles, tongs, machines, and all sorts of other paraphernalia. We don’t question that! Is that because they are “rescuing” women from the drama and pain of this cursed condition called childbirth?

I don’t know, but I totally support what Denis apparently said in the media. I am guessing that he was more likely to be quoted because he is a man, but ironically, then shouted down because he is a man. While birthing is most certainly a feminist issue – it is not whether you are a man or a woman that makes a difference – it is what your culture is saying about it that makes it a gender issue.

Both men and women can believe that childbirth is something we should feel slightly uneasy or disgusted about, very fearful about, that we should work to numb the experience as far as possible, and that it is yet another example of how a woman’s body basically lets her down! (along with hormones, periods, breastfeeding and the menopause). She cannot birth without extreme pain or danger of death.

On the flip side, both men and women can believe that childbirth is something we should celebrate and admire, be proud of and in awe of. Isn’t the ability to create a perfect new life something quite amazing? Shouldn’t women be empowered and revered for that? And it doesn’t stop there. As well as bring forth new life, women can sustain it, with their ability to produce life-sustaining milk, which is in fact perfect nutrition, comfort, medicine, vitamins, in a way which nothing else can!

If we were to adopt the latter viewpoint in our society, this might sit slightly uncomfortably for some people. I have had a few fathers in our classes come to me after and say “do you know what? It almost makes me feel a little like I’m missing out”. To be able to celebrate womanhood and the wonder of birthing with due respect and admiration, rather than pity and mistrust, is, I believe, not easy for men or women in our society.

So, to be a man who can celebrate and see the wonder of being a birthing woman, in my eyes, makes him all the more worth listening to, not less. Hooray for Denis. He is not the only one of course – there are some great advocates out there – male and female. Michel Odent – my personal favourite, Ina Mae Gaskin, Sarah J Buckley to name a few. So, to summarise my reaction to the media coverage and reactions, I could write a long essay about the relevance of breaking a leg and needing anaesthesia, and the advantages of drug free birth etc, or i could just express my irritation with a quick comment that to chastise some body’s professional opinion because he is a man is daft. Stop it!

Mia and Sophie
Hypnobirthing Practitioners
BA Hons, MSc Clin Psych, C.Psych, BABCP
Tel: 0845 508 2539


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