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.
My first experience as a Doula really taught me how it is to be a birth partner.
By Sophie Fletcher
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.
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.
Mindful Hypnobirthing is a bestselling book on hypnosis and mindfulness for birth. Written by Sophie Fletcher one of the UK's leading hypnotherapists for pregnancy and birth, it will help you to prepare your mind and your body for a positive experience of birth.
The downloads on this site are written and recorded by Sophie and are designed to be flexible. Whether you are doing hypnobirthing or wanting to try out some relaxation for pregnancy you will find something here for you.
If you have bought the book you can download the mp3s from the publishers website mindful-hypnobirthing.co.uk or by contacting us directly.
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