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. 

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Siblings attending birth

Having my child at the birth.

Is it for us? And if so how can I prepare?

by Sophie Fletcher

I get asked this question a lot, “what are my views on having siblings at a birth”.  An answer to that question is almost impossible for anyone apart from a mother to answer, as only a mother knows her own child and how they may respond to the experience.  Equally important, how she will feel about having her son or daughter there? Will it relax her or will she be anxious about how they are processing the experience?

 

Siblings at birth
Credit: Dancia Donnelly. Birth Photographer, Minneapolis

There is little research, but of the research that exists the majority show that children respond positively to birth and even that there is a sensitive bonding period for sibling and newborn at this stage. This bonding period may be very important for longer term relationships as there is some indication that the initial reaction of older siblings to their baby sibling is a good indicator of what will transpire a year on or may even set the course of a life-long relationship.

I know many women who have had siblings at a birth and the reports are largely positive. Women say that the contractions eased and some of the most intense emotional experiences where when they were holding hands and smiling at their child.

Having your child at the birth can really help releases oxytocin. I love this quote from Danica Donnelly.

I didn’t know you could have a “favorite” contraction but my favorite one was when my 3 year old son climbed up on the bed and held my hand during the contraction and looked into my eyes and smiled at me. I can’t remember if he said anything to me but just looking at his sweet face and knowing that he was loving and supporting me and that he wasn’t scared, but rather excited for baby brother, it made that contraction so easy to get through it almost dissapeared when I looked upon that sweet face.” Danica Donnelly

You can read more about her experience here, but I love the photo above!

I also hear women say that they had planned for their child to be involved but in fact their child slept through and woke up in the morning to climb into bed with them and the new baby, or were woken up just after, or before, baby was born.   What seems to be very consistent is that the child is in the house, with a dedicated carer, grandmother/friend, and carries on with their day in a very normal way, perhaps wandering in for short periods of time, but nearly always being there at the last moments or just after baby is born.

This makes a lot of sense to me.  From a psychological perspective having a sole carer for a sibling takes any what if anxiety away from the mother, but it also maintains a consistent routine for a child during a very transitional moment for them, a time of great upheaval and change.  It also ensures that the child is still close to their mother and conveys the message “there is space for all of us”.   Imagine as a young child being an integral part of the preparation and day that your brother and sister is born, rather than your mother being taken away and then suddenly she’s in hospital with a tiny baby which everybody is cooing over.

If you are having a homebirth you can of course have as many partners as you wish, however children attending in a hospital or birth centre setting is much less common and varies significantly from country to country, hospital to hospital.

Presence at a siblings birth can normalise birth for children, something that lasts a lifetime. I hear lots of women say that being present at their sister or brothers birth created a powerful bond with their sibling, but also helped them see birth as something very normal; a powerful gift for any woman.

Here are some suggestions for preparing, but if you have any suggestions or something that you want to share please do, I’d love to hear your stories! 

Your preparations

Talk to your child and other women who have had a child at the birth

Do your research and make sure you are making the right decision for you and your child

Find a trusted friend or relative who is a dedicated carer for your child during the birth

There are several things that you can do to prepare a sibling for birth

  • Read books about the arrival of a baby brother or sister
  • Talk about birth being hard work and effort
  • Find some videos you can watch together
  • Prepare them for sounds etc

Things that they can do before the birth

  • Listen to baby’s heartbeat during midwife visits
  • Help blow the pool up and fill it up on trial run
  • Help get snacks together for the mum, maybe baking granola bars
  • Design an affirmation board (hypnobirthing mums)
  • Do yoga positions with mum (if they are doing yoga)
  • Spend time shortly before the birth making a birthday card for the baby
  • Involve them in a blessingway (dependent on age)
  • Help decorate the baby’s room

On the day (these are dependent on age)

  • Go for a walk in early labour
  • In early labour make a birthday cake with them
  • They can help fill your drink bottle
  • Perhaps be a photographer
  • Help get cold cloths
  • Hold your hand
  • Cut the cord
  • Help weigh baby
  • Snuggle up with parents and baby afterwards

Websites

http://www.lalecheleague.org/nb/nbsepoct04p178.html

https://www.bellybelly.com.au/birth/siblings-at-birth/

Books

Hello Baby

What Baby Needs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How I fell in love with homebirth.

HomebirthHow I fell in love with homebirth.

By Sophie Fletcher

Homebirth wasn’t even on my radar when I had my two boys. It wasn’t given as an option, neither my midwife or my friends had mentioned it; it wasn’t something my mother or any of my 5 aunts had done. I just had no thoughts about it, bad or good.

Predictably I had both my children in hospital, and it wasn’t until my path took an unexpected turn that I found myself at a homebirth. At that time I was still training as a doula and it was only the second birth I’d attended.

Stepping into a home where a baby is to be born is a wonder and the first home birth I attended was an awakening of sorts. Here is how it was, on that night.

When I arrive at their home, at 10pm, it is dark. I am struck by the normality of this quiet cul-de-sac in a small town, where everyone is preparing to go to bed, as they do every day, while in the home in front of me I know a baby is coming.  A pocket of something extraordinary amongst all the ordinariness. I feel as if I’ve been let in on a miraculous secret.

I am welcomed in – it feels like stepping into my grandfather’s home when I was a child, on Christmas Eve, when everyone was full of joy. When, us children would be upstairs, quietly listening out for the magic in the air, knowing that someone long awaited would soon arrive.

The mother is upstairs in a dim room, candles lit, just quietly swaying. A smile, a hand squeeze, whispers, a hug. Then a flurry as the pool is put up, the midwife on her way, a father and mother to be – without disturbance – together in their home. Their faces shine in the dim light, a sense of purpose behind the father’s movements as he makes sure everything is ready.

The midwife arrives, the kettle is on, the cake the mother baked earlier in anticipation is shared out. Baby is quietly checked, the steady pattern of the baby’s heart punctuating the stillness, whispering  “I am here, I am here”. The mother gets in the pool, she moves, sways and moans quietly.  No one tells her what to do, no one examines her.  They listen and wait as her contractions rise and fall in her body. The room, her home, her partner, her energy holds her.

She moves out of time – journeys to the stars and back – and collects her baby, embraced by the universe, and returns. Her little girl small, perfect, quietly curled against her body in the dim soft candlelight.

The placenta is born, baby is on her breast, she is snuggled up with her partner in the comfort of her own bed, cup of tea nearby in her favourite mug, radiantly bathed in a birth afterglow. A takeaway has been ordered. Everything has been cleared up, the washing machine is on.  Home life momentarily eclipsed by something extraordinary.

Three years later she will tell her little girl about her birth, and will say,” that is where you where you were born”.  And every time she looks in that room she is reminded that there is magic in the everyday, and that in a home like hers, right now, there is another woman having her baby.”

This is why I love home birth and the wonderful homebirth group I attend. Every time I go I am reminded of women, of what they can do, how they can support each other, lovingly. As time rolls on, babies are born, women move on, but the energy of the room where we hold the group still contains all their experiences and emotions. The group holds us all – whether we have a homebirth or not, we are reminded of what we are capable of, and how we are held with love.

Warm, dark, hushed, timeless, loving, graceful, powerful, comfort, family, home.  These are the words that mean birth to me.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sarah, Dave and Sophie’s Homebirth

Home Birth Hypnobirth Mindful Mamma
Sarah and Dave Welcome baby Sophie

Sophie’s Birth

Sophie Faith Banks was born in water at home on Monday 4 February 2013 at 5.50pm, weighing 8lb 7oz, this is the story of her amazing birth.

I woke at around 3am on Monday 4 February and felt wet, I went to the bathroom and I believed my waters had gone.  I tried to go back to sleep but was getting contractions on and off and wasn’t comfy in bed, so I got up and came downstairs and watched telly whilst sitting on my birth ball.  By about 6.30am I felt that the contractions were getting a bit closer so I woke Dave up and asked him to start timing them and they were about 20 minutes apart.

We pottered around with Molly and had some breakfast and I spent most of my time on the ball as it was the most comfortable place to be.

We rang Stephanie (our doula) and she arrived about 10am, by which point I was baking cakes with Molly as she was getting bored as we’d decided to keep her off nursery.  I was still contracting regularly and using the breathing techniques I’d learnt at the Mindful Mamma class to relax through them.

By about 12noon my contractions were coming every three minutes and I was sat on a chair with Stephanie massaging my back. As they were getting closer and longer Dave started to get the birth pool ready with Molly before taking her over to her friend’s house whilst Stephanie and I had some lunch.  Things slowed down a little while I ate but went back to every three minutes after so we decided to call the midwife at about 2pm.

The midwife arrived just after 3pm and I was in the dining room breathing through my contractions whilst Stephanie continued to massage my back.  Everything was going well and I was well into my birthing zone.  The midwife spoke to Dave and wanted to examine me, so reluctantly I came out of my zone and went into the living room – by this point it was 3.45pm.  I was a little disheartened as despite my birth clearly stating that I didn’t want to be told of my progress she informed me I was 4cm whilst she was still examining me and that my waters hadn’t actually gone.  As the shift was due to change at 4pm she said that the hospital wouldn’t send another midwife as it would be a while but could I provide a urine sample before she left.

Dave and I went up to the bathroom – I was feeling quite disheartened after the ‘progress report’ and we spent about  half an hour up there so that I could restablish my breathing and get back into my zone – I didn’t even try to provide a sample!  During this time the new shift of midwives arrived as they had been sent straight here at the start of their shift.

After our time in the bathroom I could feel pressure building and said that I felt the baby wouldn’t be long – so as with our last birth the magic time in the bathroom helped things progress quickly.

I came back to the dining room and Dave spoke to the midwives who were very happy to leave me to get on with things.  I wasn’t really aware of time but I’m told that I only got into the pool at about 5.20pm as both Stephanie and Dave felt I was in transition.

I remember being totally relaxed in the pool, breathing through the contractions and visualising my baby moving down.

Dave was sat at the side of the pool talking to me, and Stephanie asked me if I could feel babies head, I could but she was still a few cms inside.  The midwives came in and checked the pool and Stephanie went to get some more hot water as they said it was too cold.

Whilst Stephanie was in the kitchen I looked down and Sophie was floating in the water in front of me!  I had obviously breathed her out and she had taken everyone by surprise, I wish we had a video so we could see what had happened but she must have swam up to me.

I lifted her out of the water and was passed my glasses so that Dave and I could see her sex for ourselves. She was a perfectly healthy little girl, covered in vernix. There had been no shouting, no pushing and no drugs.

I left the pool for the third stage and after about half an hour of being fed cake and tea, my placenta was delivered naturally, still attached to Sophie.

Just over an hour after Sophie’s birth I had a lovely bath, Molly came home briefly to meet her new sister before going back to her friends for a sleepover and by 9pm, Dave, Sophie and I were tucked up on the sofa eating egg and chips.

 

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Beginner’s Guide to a Confident Birth

Confident Birth
Birthing Confidently

By Sophie Fletcher, Mindful Mamma

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, sophie@mindfulmamma.co.uk

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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

Find a group near you to connect with others in a positive way and inspire you to have a confident birth:

The positive birth movement have classes all over the UK run by Midwives, doulas and mums. This a great place to meet others before you have your baby and to become more informed.

Two videos of normal birth

 

Please feel free to add your blog or any other resources that I have missed in the comments section.  Or even some reassuring comments for first time mums who may be frightened of birth. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Maternity State We’re In.

I can’t write this New Year blog without mentioning the intense media coverage over Christmas and New Year, not just on the state of maternity care in the UK but also the reporting on homebirth options. I love that fact that the canny press team at The Royal College of Midwives use this typically quiet news time to raise the profile of the plight of maternity services in the UK.

It started with Cathy Warwick the giving this interview on the BBC and followed with headline coverage in the papers.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12070665

Cathy Warwick quite rightly advocates the importance of women being able to make choices about where and how they wish to birth based on unbiased information.However, according to Cathy this isn’t happening and women are being frightened into having hospital births without fully understanding their options.

She says that increasing numbers of midwives are being drawn into the hospital system, not into the communities where they are needed and where they can support normal homebirths. So by default midwives are being herded into the medicalisation of their profession not just the the medicalisation of the women they care for.

Midwives are being trained, but are not finding jobs easily, so although the Government appears to be honoring its pledge to train more midwives there seems to be a discrepancy between the number of midwives being trained and the number of jobs available.I personally know of very good midwives struggling to find work.

This was followed up by an article in the BBC and in the Guardian that examined, in more depth, the reality of the state of maternity services in the UK which reiterates the point I often try to make – that women are unaware of just how safe it is to homebirth if they are low risk.Do women properly weigh up the risks of a homebirth, if they are low risk, with the risks associated with intervention if they go into a hospital?

We know statistically that if you stay at home, you are at a lower risk of intervention.One thing we always say to women in classes is, even if you are going into hospital, stay at home until the last minute.Do not be tempted to go in to early.Trust your instincts.

Homebirth is not the right option for everyone, but when you look psychologically at the impact of the environment on a birthing mother it is without doubt the most appropriate place to birth for the majority of women. Thankfully money is being invested in some hospitals to create a more homely environment and I was recently told excitedly of the new birth rooms, complete with mood lighting, at Epsom and St Helier Hospital in Surrey. However, compare that to the new plans for a “planned caesarean theatre” at another large county hospital, not so far from where I live, and you have to question the consistency of policy supporting investments in maternity services.

In classes I ask mums to become more aware of things in their environment that pose a threat and which can have a negative physical impact on a mother during her birth.Simple things can be unconsciously processed as a threat by a birthing mother, who is more acutely aware and alert to her surroundings.Her threat system is very easily aroused and labour can stall or slow down with the slightest ‘threat’- just seeing the incubator in the room triggers an unconscious train of thought that is related to the baby not being healthy.If you are pregnant just close your eyes for a moment, be aware of walking into a labour room and seeing the incubator in the room.Be very aware of what happens in your body as you see the incubator.In classes women describe feeling a flicker of tension, a physical tightening, which is triggered by that stimulus.

This is one of the reasons why a homebirth is so much more conducive to birth, hospital doesn’t just increase the possibility of a physical intervention it is a psychological intervention.

The debates about maternity care in the media were then usefully followed by a fantastic special on the Today Programme by the artist Sam Taylor-Wood who had two complicated hospital births and then a homebirth. She interviews Sheila Kitzinger amongst others and looks at the history of birth and shift towards more medical birth – nudged into medicalisation by the Peel Report published in 1970 which, although not evidence based, called for women to birth in hospitals.

Sam also looked at a project in Bridgend in Wales where the homebirth rate has risen to 4%.But they had to retrain midwives to support homebirth!It reminded me once of a midwife who said she thought hypnobirthing deskilled her and another community midwife that only had one birth a month but was desperate for more – is there a very real possibility that midwives are actually in danger of being deskilled not by hypnobirthing, doulas, or normal birth advocates, but by the fact that hospital births and intervention are increasing?

Sam talks about her decision with James Naughtie to make it here.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9325000/9325793.stm

There is no doubt that birth is becoming more medicalised, at detriment to mothers and their babies.If you are low risk, examine the evidence, to your research (do you book a holiday without researching destinations and hotels in detail?) read other women’s stories, become aware of what birth really is and what it can be.Become aware of what you want for your baby, how you want your baby to enter the world.

Do not offer up your maternal intuition or your instincts in exchange for what someone else thinks.The first rule of motherhood is not to abdicate that responsibility.

I hope that this year, collectively women in communities everywhere begin to regroup, to begin, as mothers did in Bridgend, to talk about the experience of birth, the magic of birth, how manageable birth actually is and how capable we are of birthing our babies.Perhaps if women started speaking up more, encouraging and supporting other women the tide may begin to turn.

Happy 2011.