Saturday 24th March 2018, 10am-4pm (one day workshop)
The Happiness Centre, Shepherds Bush, London W12
Are you wanting to take relaxed, mindful control of your own birthing process?
During this one-day intensive, you will learn specific mindfulness and hypnotherapy techniques to help you navigate the birthing process. You’ll better understand the birthing roadmap and how to overcome apprehensions along the way. These practical techniques are demonstrated then practised during the workshop.
This hands-on approach encourages both you and your partner to feel more calm, deeply relaxed and confident. You will be more fully-prepared to ride the waves of your birthing journey on the actual day your miracle occurs. Over my years as a Hypnotherapist and Meditation Teacher at The Happiness Centre I have seen many positive, heart-warming birthing stories following these workshops and look forward to hopefully supporting yours too.
Any questions? Email email@example.com
I’m writing this article on hypnosis birth preparation when I should be doing the final edits on my book . But I’ve been reading a thread on hypnosis birth preparation on Facebook that has pressed a few buttons. It’s 7am and the children are STILL asleep, so I thought I’d use this small window of time to write about what hypnosis birth preparation is and isn’t.
Thankfully hypnosis birth preparation is becoming more mainstream, but at the same time its true potency as a tool to prepare for birth is in danger of being diluted by people who are jumping on the hypnosis birth preparation bandwagon.
Hypnosis is a serious therapy, I’ve been a hypnotherapist for 8 years, I’m a Fellow of the National Council for Hypnotherapy, and I’ve have always taught hypnosis birth preparation.
Hypnotherapists have used hypnosis for years as birth preparation, in fact I have a book sitting on my desk right now from the 1950’s which extolls the value of hypnosis birth preparation. My interest is in the psychological process of birth – what happens to us as women beneath the surface – and the impact of social cultural conditioning in how we automatically behave towards birth. I have a Masters in European Culture, specializing in symbolism and individuation (okay that’s a bit too academic for a blog) and am a slightly obsessed with how our bodies and minds respond automatically to external symbols at birth. Sheela Na Gigs – bring it on!
I’m really excited about my book “Mindful Hypnobirthing” being published by Random House, as the more I read, the more I realise that the real value of hypnosis birth preparation is forgotten or buried beneath hearsay. I really want to shout about it. Bringing people’s attention to the fact that it does work and is important, but also why it works and when it’s a good tool to use. At Mindful Mamma we work with the women who are frightened of losing control (I talk about the different guises of control in the book in detail), or just want some additional techniques to keep them focused during the birth, through to women who have been under psychiatric care for anxiety and women who are booked for a caesarean birth because they are too scared to have a normal birth.
Here are common myths about hypnosis birth preparation
Hypnosis Birth Preparation is the same as relaxation
No it’s not! When you are using hypnosis birth preparation you are entering into a brain state called an alpha (light hypnosis) or theta (deep hypnosis) state. It feels a bit like going to sleep. You choose to enter that state, usually with someone trained in hypnosis. Messages (positive suggestions) are sent to your limbic system in your brain. This is the old part of your brain that holds all your automatic responses, from making a cup of tea while chatting to your friend, to driving your car on a familiar journey while thinking about something else. We are conditioned to respond to the world around us through repetitive action. This is also where automatic responses we don’t like so much are stored. Have a phobia? Think it’s entirely irrational and feel an idiot when your body jumps up and down, screams, freezes and cries when you see a spider/beetle/get on a plane? That’s your limbic system saying “hey, we don’t like this, we saw your loving mum, the person that keeps you alive, run away from a spider when you were 6 months old, so it’s dangerous”. The limbic system overrides rational and logical thought when it’s about survival.
Many women are pre-conditioned to be frightened about birth by what they have heard and seen. Imagine your mind as the British Library, every experience you’ve ever had is stored there under its own reference section. So when your body needs to know how to respond it goes to your birth section; if your birth section is filled with negative stories, about trauma, pain and loss of control, your body doesn’t want to do it – it’s dangerous and the automatic response is similar to a phobia – flight, flight or freeze. Hypnosis changes that response by working with that part of your brain. I’ve seen people overcome severe phobias in as little as an hour or two hours.
Relaxation exercises are not the same. The SHIP trial on hypnosis for birth found they had more uptake when they described hypnosis as ‘deep relaxation’, which misinforms women and perpetuates the myth that deep relaxation is the same. If you learn relaxation for birth, it doesn’t stop that unconscious fear rearing up whenever your feel threatened or something unfamiliar happens during your birth and triggering fight or flight.
You are keeping your neo-cortex active when it should be shutting down
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Well you shouldn’t anyway. I do know some ways of teaching hypnosis birth preparation where women have so many techniques they haven’t had the time to condition them properly and, during the birth are actively thinking about which technique to use and when. This defeats the whole purpose of how I believe women should be using hypnosis birth preparation. I’m not saying my way is the right way, but my view is from teaching hundreds of women and being a doula.
The aim is to prepare a women using hypnosis, so when she goes into birth her reference section in her unconscious library is full of positive images/messages about birth and her body relaxes into it rather than fighting it and thinking it’s something she doesn’t want to do. Her neo-cortex should be resting; women naturally go into a theta or alpha state during birth when they are unconsciously accepting of the process. Hypnosis birth preparation should be about giving women the confidence to birth. When they are confident at deep level, then all they have to be is be mindfully aware. Following their breath and turning within.
It disassociates a woman from her birth
See above myth #2; good effective hypnosis birth preparation means the opposite. It helps a women become more aware and more accepting of what is happening during the birth. I’ve seen women who have used hypnosis birth preparation really turning within, using mindfulness techniques during the birth. It brings attention to the physical process but also the psychological process; women are more able to observe feelings that arise as part of the birth, such as fear of letting go or fear of death.
(I’ve heard the disassociation one often and it’s such a shame that some famous birth advocates still have this belief)
With hypnosis birth preparation you are calm and quiet
There are a lot of women I have on my classes because they want hypnosis to keep them calm, quiet and in control. For me this often tells me what her fear is; women are driven to hypnosis birth preparation because of the fear of losing control, a result of cultural conditioning. ‘It’s not socially acceptable to ‘lose it’ in front of strangers.’ In fact hypnosis birth preparation should give a woman the confidence to express herself, in any way she chooses, and for her support/partner to support her unconditionally in that. I’ve been at births where you couldn’t tell a mum was having a contraction, and I’ve been at births where mums have screamed “get me an epidural” at transition.
I’ve even heard midwives say when a woman had made a lot of noise, “that’s not proper hypnobirthing”. A woman shouldn’t have to suppress that natural expression during labour, it’s part of the process and sometimes it feels good.
The birth partners attending our class are taught to let go of their own judgment around pain and fear and to know that if she roars like a lion, it’s ok and you don’t have to offer her gas and air.
A hypnobirth is pain free
Now this is an interesting one. I talk a lot about sensations of birth and how our brain interprets them. A lot of our experience is perception, but also anxiety. Personally I feel that if a woman is birthing normally she can feel very strong sensations, but not label them as pain. Hypnosis can also change sensations and it can dampen them completely, based on the skill of the practitioner and the work the mother has done in her birth preparation. People have operations under hypnosis – need I say more.
The Mongan approach that women should not feel any pain if they are free of fear, I was unable to subscribe to, not because I don’t believe it’s possible, I understand the principles and the concept. The theory is sound, but I think that women are faced with too many challenges in some units and that also a woman’s own pathology and belief system contribute to their physical experience of birth. I get very upset by women feeling that they’ve ‘failed’ because it hurt.
BUT what is very interesting about this is whether women CHOOSE to have a pain free birth. (hypnosis is about choice – I can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do). When working with couples privately I always say to mothers, on a scale of 0-10 with 10 being the strongest and 0 being nothing, how do you want to experience birth? It always ends up at 4/5 – these women at some level want to embrace birth and see those sensations as important. Hypnosis allows them to be, just be with those sensations, and to be able to embrace and surrender to them.
Women who have done hypnobirthing would have had a great birth anyway
Maybe, maybe not. But to be honest 4 out of 5 women have anxiety about birth and are focusing on intervention and pain relief before the birth. If you can work with them and help then tap into their own coping mechanisms, reframe their belief around birth it creates a shift. Where focus goes, energy flows.
The women we work with are not always already converted to normal birth. As a doula I’ve been at births where I could see the trajectory of the birth if they weren’t using hypnosis for birth preparation.
And this brings me on to my next point…..
Hypnosis birth preparation is just for normal birth
This is the one that saddens me the most. I work with a lot of women who have medical complications, for some reason as a doula I seem to attract them. I have only had three homebirths, the rest in high risk obstetric units. I have had doctors with their jaws on the floor watching a mother contract on a syntocinon drip while she has a conversation with him in early stages, I’ve seen consultants thank me for ‘whatever I’ve done’ with women who have collapsed veins so they can get a cannula in first time. I even had one midwife at a home birth, disbelieving at first, ask me to do a hypnosis visualisation whenever she did my client’s blood pressure, as it stopped a transfer.
I have been at caesarean births, prepared women for them, and I know that hypnosis works amazingly at many different types of births by giving women the confidence to make a choice that is right for them. I don’t judge them, I don’t steer them, I allow them the space to find their own informed birth journey and it’s always amazing when they meet their baby – whatever birth they have they know that they made choices with a clear head and that they had their best birth.
The truth about hypnosis for birth is that hypnosis birth preparation is about a positive birth experience, not just a normal birth experience.
We have had several mums who have come on our class and have done HypnoBirthing before but have had a sense of failure as they didn’t have the birth they they expected. Our focus is very much on allowing birth to take its course, but also being prepared for whichever course it takes. Birth is a normal natural process the large majority of the time, but sometimes it can take a different course for a multitude of reasons. Giving a mum the tools to be able to emotionally a mentally prepare for that if it were to happen without creating a fear of it is incredibly important and a skill we’ve learned over the years. We have 9% unplanned caesarean rate, the national average is around 24%, but we also have a 100% positive feedback, that the techniques they learned made sure that their experience was positive one.
This is Cath’s story of Michael’s birth. This was Cath’s second baby, Hannah her first baby had been born by caesarean section, Cath was ready to give this birth all she had and prepared very well emotionally and physically. Although it didn’t go they route they would have chosen, I remember Cath just gushing with the excitement of Michael’s arrival and her experience which is just as it should be.
Michael’s birth story
10th September 2011.
Nottingham City Hospital.
Friday 9th September.
I suddenly really wanted to eat carby food so got sausage and chips at the chipper and was so hungry could barely wait to get in front door. Managed to make Hannah her lunch and then ate about as much food as I could fit in. I felt completely exhausted and when Hannah went for her nap, I went flat out on the sofa and woke up an hour and a half later. I felt much better for the sleep and lots of food but it is fairly unusual of me to go to sleep without thinking about it especially in the afternoon.
Saturday 10th September.
Woke up to a pop and a gushing feeling at 6:45. Managed to hot foot it round the bed and get to the toilet as quickly as I could. By which point I knew it was my waters. We left for the hospital just after 8, by which time I had had started having regular contractions.
When we went in to the labour suite, it took a while to get going but we soon had the antibiotics while they were doing the monitoring. This needed doing initially to see where we were at with baby and check all was ok. Unfortunately the only position we could get a trace in was on the bed, anything else would lose the heart beat – even though we tried every possible way. By now I was still losing good bits of waters, and also having stronger contractions. While we were waiting, we thought we would try the ‘kiss’ that is alleged to get contractions moving – it definitely got them moving, so I can highly recommend it.
I used the yoga camel walk and scooping walk and found it really helped, it definitely made a change to the contractions. When they bought the mat down, we put the mindful mamma cd on, and after that I just have memories of being really chilled out and going with the feelings and sensations. That really helped me get into the zone and again , noticed a difference in contractions stepping up as I was relaxing into the cd. I ended up on the mat using the cat poses and lizard as it just felt comfortable and helpful.
We also got the photos out of my special memories, and that definitely made a big difference – sitting looking at them just made my heart feel full. Shortly after that I found that as well as tens I needed to use the golden thread breath which really helped me concentrate on taking the right breaths. I felt quite spacy from the extra breathing and definitely relaxed. It sounds odd probably to most, but I wasn’t bothered – if anything I was enjoying it, which I am sure is why then helped the contractions get stronger again and I found that I needed to hum my way through the out breaths to help – gave me something really great to concentrate on but felt quite meditative under my blanket, with beach noises and nice head strokes. I had a bath. It was definitely a good thing to do, and I really enjoyed the sensations of the water
And then suddenly I wanted to get out of the bath. I went from feeling really relaxed to just needing to get out but even getting out of the bath was hard. We put the tens machine back on which helped, but somehow it felt different, I definitely didn’t feel relaxed and was becoming aware of it not feeling right. I didn’t know what position I wanted to be in but settled on being on the mat with the yoga ball to lean on and rock with. It all changed a lot and the tens machine wasn’t helping and I found I just could not breath through the contractions. It felt like something was wrong. In my head, I was saying ‘trust that intuition’ which was something two of my yoga friends had said in the previous few days. It was definitely a different sensation, and instead of being a pleasure to experience the sensations of labour that somehow I felt familiar with.
I later found out from Dave, that I had dilated really quickly from 3-8 cm – I was 3 at 12pm and was at 8 by 5 so had all been looking good – but then I had got to 8.5 and not moved, and they were starting to get a bit concerned by the fact I had changed from being calm and coping to wild and out of control. I also didn’t know at the time, that when I had got off the bed in a strop, I had lost a large amount of blood, and they were worried about this because even though baby appeared to be well and coping, they couldn’t tell where it had come from. I’d not had the sensation of pain for the majority of the labour, and it suddenly changed, like a switch. That intuition in my head kept knocking until I thought about it. I had this overwhelming sensation that I needed to call it a day and go for the C-section, that there was no point in waiting for more hours to become more exhausted, that the pain was telling me things were wrong somehow.
There were some emergencies so theatre was backed up. As baby was ok, and I was ok, they were in no rush. They had hoped that it might allow time for me to continue to progress, but they found baby’s position was really awkward and hadn’t come down far enough to allow me to fully dilate. With it being unrushed, they were able to explain everything, and it was a really relaxed and helpful conversation. I definitely felt well looked after and that time was taken.
They put only a very small amount of epidural in so I still had some sensation of contractions, but it meant I was able to have calm moments to sit with Dave and prepare myself mentally for knowing baby was going to be there that day, in less than an hour. We carried on listening to the cd, and I just felt relief that I had tried, given baby the best chance but that I had done all I was able to.
I requested that I was given my antacid before being laid down which made a difference this time and I wasn’t sick. Again, because there was no rush, they were able to take their time in getting me ready. It really was quite an odd sensation while I could feel them move my legs, I had no recognition of pain or cold. I could feel the surgeon on my belly but there was no pain, just pushing and movement.
Dave suddenly noticed the music that was playing was ‘Doctor Doctor’ and commented on it. Lynyrd Skynyrd ‘Freebird’ was playing when she was making the final cuts to deliver baby, which seemed pretty fitting. It made for a bit of a light atmosphere and connection also, having two babies who came to see iron maiden in utero, and now the surgeon playing great music, kind of made the day.
So at 2147, she pulled baby out, and held him up so that Daddy could see he was most definitely a boy. As I was lying waiting for him to arrive in the outside world, I wondered about names, and it popped into my head that I knew what the name would be. As I heard him crying, and Dave told me it was a boy, I knew we had to use the name Michael. I had him as much skin to skin on my chest as I could expose. It felt like the perfect moment again, eye to eye, him looking at me and having little shouts, but hushing when I talked to him, like he knew me. The same moment of excitement when Dave told me what we had, and we both cried a lot, tears of pure joy, and that feeling of exploding heart happiness.
We also had a good try to get breast feeding going – Michael was sucking really well from the moment he came out, and nearly took the nurses’ finger off. He wanted to go straight on to me so it made life a lot easier when we got up to the ward. We had some lovely skin to skin and again, as we rode through the corridors, I just felt amazing that I had my baby with me
It could not have been a more wonderful experience. Admittedly, it would have been preferable to have the delivery I was trying for – but as labouring experiences go, I feel like it was as I wanted it to be.
The experience of labour was perfect. The things we learned on the mindful mamma course, stood me in such good stead – the cd not only gave me a fabulously relaxed pregnancy but also allowed me to enter into the labouring experience in such a relaxed way and until he turned himself, I was managing so well and so calmly, it was the empowering, emotional, perfect feeling that I knew it could be – which is also how I knew when things had changed.
All the tips and postures I have been using in yoga were great for helping me keep mobile and find that comfortable and relaxed position. Each of the ‘props’ we took, helped improve my contractions, and I can’t recommend the experience more highly.
As it turned out, the surgeon felt there was no way he was going to come out or move down because he was head back again, and that was why he had not been coming down. The consultants suggested that it was related to the shape of my pelvic bone, that baby got into a certain point and could not move into the right position – how true that is I don’t know.
I had no awareness of anything that was going on at the time, they were fully respectful of what I wanted as far as they safely could be – but at no point was I offered any pain relief, or told any information I didn’t want to know. One of the doctors later commented on how detailed and organised my birth plans were – like it was a really positive thing – which it was! I felt totally looked after, that I was treated like an individual and with respect. They just seemed interested in the plan, not at all judgemental and really, really flexible. Again, the information we gathered on the Mindful Mamma course gave us all the tools we needed and gave us the confidence to ask for it.
The real star of the show – was Dave. Not just on the day, but for the last 9 months. He asked the right questions when we visited the hospital, he remembered several things I had wanted to know but then forgot to ask on the day! It was so freeing during the labour just to be under a blanket and focusing on my baby, while things I needed were sorted out and given to me.Once again, he showed his true strength, and for the millionth time, I wonder how I managed to find that person who could be that strong and supportive and could come through for me in all the moments of my life that have needed that support. I know that I could not have imagined a more amazing partner for me – or father for our children and I feel blessed every single day.
So many people also helped and supported us throughout the pregnancy, I feel so lucky.
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.
Sophie Fletcher is a founding member of Mindful Mamma, Doula, Clinical Hypnotherapist and specialist advisor for the National Council for Hypnotherapy on Pregnancy and birth. Her book “Mindful Hypnobirthing” will be published by Vermillion in 2014. Classes are run across the UK, it’s a one day class to hypnosis and mindfulness for birth. Sophie also does private classes for couple in London and the East Midlands. www.mindfulmamma.co.uk, www.sophiefletcher.co.uk, firstname.lastname@example.org
A friend this week asked if I could signpost them to some articles on confidently birth and that could help some people they knew feel a little less afraid of birth and to prepare for a confident birth. So I searched all my resources for an appropriate article, something that was an overview and that inspired confidence. Importantly something that made them think, “yes I can do this and it’s going to be ok, actually better than ok!”.
So I searched, and I couldn’t believe it. A simple comprehensive blog entry on confident birth, that was an overview totally eluded me. Don’t get me wrong, there are hundreds of fantastic blogs on confident birth, hypnobirthing, home birth, normal birth but they’re a patchwork quilt of specific articles about one tiny part of birth.
If I were considering a normal birth, a confident birth, that made me think about the birth with calm excitement, and helped me to think that it could be different and better than I had imagined, with some basic resources to get me started, I would be unlikely to stumble upon it. I would just feel overwhelmed with all the information. I needed to write something on confident birth for the beginner!
Seasoned bloggers and natural birth advocates know where to look, but to a mum just beginning her journey who is frightened or apprehensive, and just come across the term normal birth, or confident birth, it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack. A haystack that is stuffed full of comments and threads from pregnancy forums, compounding most fears about birth.
So for my Mindful Mamma clients and others who are interested in a normal confident birth I thought I’d write a condensed resource, a beginner’s guide to a confident birth and a springboard into the vast network of information on the internet about how birth can be powerful and amazing.
There are some bullet points to get you thinking about confident birth, a couple of videos that show you what you can do, and links to blogs and birth stories of mothers that have done it.
Your body is designed to birth, you CAN do it and do it well. You can have a confident calm birth. Women birth every moment all over the world about 49,000 babies are born every day and the large majority of those babies are born healthy and well.
You have choice every step of the way, you can change your midwife, you can choose any hospital you wish, you can choose a homebirth, you can have as many birthing partners as you wish, you can choose to have a vaginal examination or you can choose not to have a vaginal examination, you can choose to have more time, you can choose the birth you want.
Birth is not the worst pain ever, but fear of pain can make it worse. Some women say they don’t experience pain, others do and find it very intense. I broke my elbow a few years back it was awful, it was constant and it lasted for weeks. If you are contracting over a period of 8 hours 4 mins apart you are perhaps only having contractions for 2 hours. The trick is to remain focused and do a class that teaches you great coping strategies. Many second time mums find it easier, not because their physiology has changed or they ‘know how to do it’, it’s because they lose the fear and they know that they can do it. It’s amazing what we can do when we are in the right mind set.
Stop watching anything like One Born Every Minute, I find that programme incredibly upsetting sometimes, and find it difficult to get rid of some of those images in my head. I can’t imagine watching it a few weeks before I’m due to deliver.
Understand the truth about any fears you have during pregnancy, concerns about a big baby, concerns about tearing, or being out of control. Do some research so you can really understand how your body works and take preventative measures or do some good reading. Odds are that you’ll find research that contradicts common pregnancy myths and you’ll feel more confident.
Learn about how your hormones work, and what your body is designed to do. You’ll learn that the more you let go of your fear, the easier it is to focus and to be in control of your birth.
Do a good class, hypnosis for birth or yoga or even one of our Mindful Mamma classes. This will build your confidence and help you to see birth in a different way to how it’s generally portrayed in western society, a medial event and helping you stay in control. Even some confidence building Mp3s will help.
Don’t always believe what you are told, if you don’t want what you are offered there is always an alternative. It’s up to you to ask.
A cliche I know, but listen to your instincts. We are animals at the end of the day. Animals don’t come with manuals, they instinctively know how to birth.
Focus on your baby, often forgotten, this is baby’s journey and your journey into motherhood. It’s a labour a love, bringing your baby into the world and into your arms. A good friend recently who is mother to two young boys said “there is too much focus on the birth, when becoming a mother is so much more”.
Links for a confident birth
If you are worried about having a big baby visit this Big Babies myth busting website.
If you are worried about malposition visit this site Spinning Babies which is a great resource.
Essential reading. I would urge every mum-to-be to read this. Learn the truth about pain during labour, this article Ecstatic Birth, by Dr Sarah J Buckley is a must and helps you understand what your body is doing.
This site has been going for years and hasn’t changed either! It’s called Home Birth UK but is a superb resource for all things around natural birth. I refer all my clients to this site.
Favourite blogs on normal birth
This blog, The Midwife Thinking Blog written by a midwife in Australia, gives you great insight into common interventions and why they are not always necessary.
Milli Hill is a doula and founder of the positive birth movement. Her blog The Mule is a great insight into how to have a normal confident birth within the UK.
Favourite articles on normal confident birth
These are articles around specific fears linked to birth that often crop up in classes or common interventions that can change the course of your layout.
“You’re going to think I’m a terrible mother….” is one of the most frequently heard phrases in my consulting room. I always think “yup you are a terrible mother, a terribly wonderful mother that the thought and instinct to do the best you can for your child is always there and that you are looking for ways to manage your frustration and anger”.
The guilt that women feel for snapping or shouting at their child is a cruel thing, perhaps there are some of you out there who have never yelled at their child, wished they would just shut up, or wanted to lock yourself in a room with noise cancelling headphones on. If you’re a mum like that I salute you, because you’re better than me.
The truth of the matter is, things are harder for new mothers than they ever have been. Two generations ago, or even a generation ago, we lived much closer to our families. We had trusted support networks that gave us a well needed break and the opportunity to find the space to care for our own wellbeing. It is hard to be mindful of ourselves and our actions as a parent, when we are so busy with interruptions and the spaces between time seem to get smaller. Thich Nhat Hanh a Buddhist monk who has done a lot of work on mindfulness in Western culture, said that children create one of the most beautiful but the most challenging lessons in mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn speaks of your time with the children as a meditation and an opportunity to become more self aware. This great blog by Myla and Jon gives wonderful guidance on how to tune into yourself.
These types of approaches are still on the fringes of our culture however and the overwhelming sense is that women are quite far removed from the opportunity offered through parenthood to become more self-aware, to adjust, to enjoy and to learn. We don’t have the networks we need to support us in that journey and often our sense of self as a parent is obscured by thoughts and feelings of what is expected of us as a mother.
Historically, as women moved more and more into higher education, several things happened, we migrated away from our families to university, we became independent, we got jobs, and we stayed away.Then we got married and had children but we held onto that independence, onto our jobs and onto our children, our right to have it all. The right to be equal to men was something our mothers and their mothers before them had worked hard for, the suffragettes, the 60’s feminist movement sacrificed much to bring equality in the home and in the workplace and there is an inherent responsibility to honour that fight.
I grew up on Virginia Woolf, Mary Wollstonecraft, Germaine Greer and many more but now as a mother and career women I’ve come to realize that I can’t do both and give them 100%, it’s a cruel fallacy. Apparently Nicola Horlicks, Karren Brady and other women are proof that you can have it all, but Karren was back at work 6 weeks after the birth of her son. 6 weeks! It was the right choice for her and that’s fine, but it shouldn’t be sold as having it all, it’s being a full time businesswoman and part time mother.
My instinct is to be at home with my children, making sure that the home is running smoothly (If I’d said that to my 19 year old self, I’d have had a good talking to) but there is also my job which I love, but which I squeeze in around my children, rather than my children squeezing in around my job. That’s my choice and that’s fine too, but I’m a full-time mother and a part-time businesswoman.
When you first become a mother, balancing all these demands is tiring, it’s exhausting, often mums can become brittle and then snap.Most of us are awfully British, even when help is offered we say “no no no, don’t worry I’m fine”, when it may be abundantly clear that you are not.
So when people come and see me saying they’re a terrible mum or that they can’t cope, I remind them of how important their network is, how important that ‘holding’ has been to women throughout time, from the ancient Greeks up to the present day. When you are challenged, be mindful of the feelings and thoughts that arise in you, observe them, understand where they are coming from. Sometimes the fear you have of your child hurting itself while exploring the world around it, may have been learned by you as a child by your mother, awareness of that emotion gives you the chance to know yourself more deeply than before and to let go of obstructive thoughts.
Don’t be afraid of emotions however strong or upsetting they may be, find space to explore those feelings and above all remember that as your child learns its way in the world, you are still learning to. Be kind to yourself.
Here are some quick ideas to create space to breath, focus and tap into your inner strength.
Say yes to offers of help. If you are away from friends or family consider a postnatal doula or a night nanny. If you haven’t heard of a night nanny have a look at this site by Elizabeth Stokes who is based in Nottingham.http://www.eastmidlandsnightnanny.co.uk/
Use a talking meditation with your baby: Describe, the sunset, or a tree in the park, or a beautiful view in as vivid detail as you possibly can to
If you ever feel at breaking point or feel you are going to snap, put your baby in safe place and go into the garden. Getting in touch with nature can be very calming, and you can use a simple walking mediation in a circle, breathing in and breathing out until you are aware of that emotion subsiding.
Make yourself a cup of tea (even better get someone else to make it for you) tea has magical properties!
…..Think that you can manage on your own all the time, it’s ok to ask for help and if you do ask you will probably get it!
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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