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You pass your due date and it’s “have you had the baby yet?”.

Due date
Clock watching can slow labour down.

The due date countdown and friends who can’t help asking is the baby is here yet.

by Sophie Fletcher

“Have you had the baby yet?” is a question that you may here more and more as you approach your due date. As much as they love their friends and family this text or call can be one of the biggest irritants to mums-to-be as when they go past their due date.  Ironically, the worst culprits are often other women who, without thinking, feel they are being attentive to their friends and bombard them with texts, saying “just checking that you’re ok”, “oh so you haven’t had the baby yet”.   An acute example is my own mother, who phoned the hospital and was buzzed through by reception to the intercom in my room, during labour, at least twice to ask if I’d had my baby!

Most people automatically send a text round when baby is born; I’ve received numerous texts at 2, 3 or 4 am.  So the rule of thumb is if you haven’t received a text then baby hasn’t arrived into the world yet and if baby is on their way, and mum knows, she’s unlikely to want to text you back or chat to you.

Friends and family should fight the urge to call the mum when she is reaching her due date, she may be at the receiving end of dozens of texts from well meaning people.  At the same time mum-to-be may be under pressure for induction because she’s gone over her due date – the texts or phone calls  may become  a reminder that she’s over her due date and cause even more stress.

You may think, “I’ll switch my phone off” when I get close to my due date.  But the sound of an answer message  can just stir up the excitement even more, because if your phone is switched off everyone who calls assumes that you are in labour.

I know and you may know that you are not at term until you reach 42 weeks, and that the majority of women birth their babies before this date, but very often over their 40 week due date.  Only around 3-4% of babies come on their due date.

We also know that any stress or apprehension can stop labour from starting, as it releases stress hormones that can slow labour down, so it’s incredibly important that mum doesn’t have these reminders everywhere around her due date, and that she is able to go, stress free, into labour when she and her baby are ready.

Tips to help you minimise this disturbance as you approach your due date:

  1. Don’t tell people your due date.  Tell them an approximate time, eg. The end of August, middle of September.
  2. Tell your friends that you will message them straight away when baby is born.
  3. Ask them not to text you, to ask “how you are”, or “if baby has arrived” after your due date but maybe a “I’m nipping to the supermarket, do you want anything” text is fine.
  4. Get some lovely relaxation music to reduce stress after your due date when you may be getting anxious. Try the Mindful Mamma Mp3 on itunes.

 

 

 

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Why the Fuss About Birth and not about the baby?

Babies need to be water with love and patience.

 Why the fuss about birth and not the baby? 

By Sophie Fletcher

“Whatever the present moment contains, accept is as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.” 

Eckhart Tolle

Recently I was reminded by a friend about the bigger picture.  She said birth is just a small part of the journey we experience as pregnant women. The much bigger part of the experience is what comes after – motherhood. She wondered why women are so focused on the actual birth rather than their baby and suggested that this preoccupation with birth prevents a woman from wholly preparing to be a mother, connecting with her baby on their journey.

There is no doubt that the focus has shifted from having a baby, and the baby themselves, to how the women are going to manage the birth, get the right pushchair, finish the nursery, perhaps moving house (surprisingly common!) or how long their maternity leave is going to be.   In our Mindful Mamma classes at the beginning we ask everyone to spontaneously write on a note the first word that springs to mind when you think of birth, very often baby isn’t in the mix, instead words like pain, control, blood, long and hard work float to the surface from fears harbored in the unconscious.

But the truth of it is that from conception to birth to motherhood is a life creating, life changing, daunting, challenging and absobloodylutely incredible journey. Birth is just a moment, an intense moment, of a period in your life that will bring you highs and lows, tears and laughter, fear and joy.   There is nothing more frightening than a baby making their first wobbly steps near your mother-in-law’s granite fireplace and nothing more wonderful than your baby’s chubby arms loosely clasped around your neck as they fall asleep rhythmically breathing into your ear.   But we don’t dwell on any of these before they happen, we experience those moments as they happen and enjoy them or manage them skillfully in the moment.

Imagine conception as the planting of a seed, the seed growing beneath the surface nurtured by the soil, out of sight but watched expectantly until it breaks through the surface.  The plant continues to grow but from this moment is reliant on the water and sunlight to grow and blossom.   Just as this plant needs water and sunlight your baby needs your love, care and gentle compassion to nourish their emotional well-being and growth.

Motherhood can be a wonderful thing and it can also be a mirror of birth in terms of the emotions.  There is fear, there is sometimes that sense of losing control, and there is joy, happiness, the worry of not knowing what is the right way and wrong way to do it.

Birth is just the beginning, and just like motherhood you can choose to get on and do it and do it your way, intuitively with love, strength and patience.   Your baby’s journey into this world begins at birth, just as your journey into motherhood begins and your partner’s journey into fatherhood begins.

So allow yourself to become aware in this moment of your baby, the core of your being, your connection with each other and how you are moving forward together hand in hand on a new, exciting and eventful journey that will last long after the birth.

Prior to the birth, allow yourself the time to reflect on what type of teacher you want to be, how you want your baby to learn. Being mindful of that responsibility, reflecting and welcoming that role will in turn strengthen and prepare you the birth – the moment that your journey begin and the moment that your flower nudges through the soil and begins to grow into a beautiful blossom cared for and loved by you.

 

 

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Birth Time, Magical Time. Finding depth and space to birth in timelessness.

Birth Time, Magical Time

By Sophie Fletcher

There is a reason why I say no clocks or watches in the birth room, it’s birth time not day time. Focussing on the passing of time can actually slow it down, doesn’t time go faster when you are not fixated on a clock or watch?

Birth time

I recently came across the word Kairos, which is an ancient Greek word meaning opportune or supreme moment. The Greeks had two words for time chronos and Kairos. Chronos is about sequential time, but Kairos is time in between time, moments when we are displaced from time as we know it and when something special can happen, something out of the ordinary.  This is where I think birth time is.

It struck me that this is how it is at birth, a time between time when something transcendental happens.

Could we access this place, this birth time through intentional techniques like hypnosis or meditation, or do we do it naturally? It can be either I think. When working with hypnosis in our classes we do a very deep relaxation, it only lasts about 20 minutes, but inevitably people always assume that it was 5 or 10 minutes. This is what’s known as time distortion; when we are in an altered state like hypnosis it’s as if we tumble out of physical time, and have the opportunity to roam freely in a timeless state. It’s a great experience and is incredibly energizing, it’s as if your inner psyche somehow refocuses its lens on life.

It’s very similar with mindfulness, though they way we access and experience that state can be different. During birth time, mindfulness is about being in the moment, being aware of those sensations in the right now, accepting them in that moment, without experiences from the past or expectations of the future leaking into that moment. It’s a state of clarity and of connection with your body and your baby. If you are in the moment during birth, you just experience a sensation and you manage it whether it is pain or anything else. However, if you become afraid of that sensation, projecting things you have read, seen and heard onto that sensation it becomes worse and you can lose your sense of perception.

Using hypnosis during birth can be about accessing a deep state of relaxation but can also be about adapting the current situation through subconscious change,  or it can be for disassociation, separating ourselves from things we do not wish to experience, such as pain.

When we are in the moment or deeply relaxed hypnotic state we are not thinking of the past or the future, those are where our fears or apprehensions lie. We are between time when we are in birth time. Both meditation and hypnosis correspond with a theta brain state, the state when you brain waves slow down to a rate that is comparable to the stage when you are just slipping into sleep – you know that state, just as you are drifting off.

Being deeply relaxed whether you are using mediation or hypnosis can help your body to do what it does naturally, allowing your muscles to work optimally.

When I teach my classes, I say to couples I believe that whilst sometimes hypnosis can be useful during the birth, for example to get you back in your birthing zone, you can do it perfectly well without. I’ve met enough midwives, watched enough women birthing, and spoken to women who have birthed without hypnosis to know that women automatically enter into an altered state, a theta state during birth. As a hypnotherapist I see people in that state all the time. Some women say it was as if they weren’t actually in their body but were observing what was happening.

The trick is to train yourself to let go of the fear that stops you from being in that moment, and to change how your subconscious reacts to birth. This allows you to automatically switch into a comfortable birthing zone. Hypnosis is a brilliant way of doing this. Preparation is vital, listening to our Mindful Mamma mp3s, going to a class or seeing a hypnotherapist can help you prepare your mind and your body so that when you birth you are able to be in that moment, free of worry or fear and able to experience something extraordinary.

Trust me and trust yourself; what a remarkable gift, to be given access to a space between time, where something magical happens that will bring you one of the greatest gifts you’ll ever receive.

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Gentle birth and Sarah Buckley

Last week I had the absolute privilege of attending a workshop with Dr Sarah Buckley.As luck would have it Annie a colleague had forwarded an email about it a few months back, and I booked it within minutes.Someone like Sarah is rare gem and a shining light in the gloom of medicalised birth, so I was sure that once word spread it would be booked up.

I give out Sarah’s article on ecstatic birth after all of my classes as I view it as essential reading for mothers to be. Her articles also pop up rather frequently on the Mindful Mamma facebook page! Our Mindful Mamma classes focus on the mind body connection, the need for mums to understand why they have to dampen down their neo-cortex during birth, and how to do it.Sarah’s work is crucial to this and this workshop a great opportunity to sharpen our message to mothers.

Sarah’s take home message was that a woman during birth needs to feel

  • Private
  • Safe
  • Unobserved

A simple message, but one that gets lost in the morass of information that women are subjected to during their prenatal period.This message was the golden thread that bound her three sections together, ‘the safety and logic of normal birth’ ‘the impact to interventions’ and ‘the hour after birth and postnatal period’.

Her comparisons with animals, and her references to our mammalian instincts and old brain reminded me of the book that I sometimes share in classes by Desmond Morris, some may not be aware that he wrote a book called ‘Babywatching’, many years ago after observing human and animal behaviours during birth and early parenthood. Fortunately this accessible book has been republished.

His view was there are two p’s that are important for birth, not pain and pushing but position and place! He talks of horses, 90% of which give birth in the dead of night, when they know that they are unobserved.It was the place aspect, which came across so strongly in Sarah’s presentation, not just the physical space, what’s in it, how it looks, is it light, dark, but also a sense of the sanctity of that space.

Sarah spent a lot of time discussing the role of hormones – this is something we also spend time teaching, specifically in relation to our unconscious responses to the environment.These unconscious responses are triggered by instinctual reactions to our environment and our very basic survival functions that rest within our old brain.

When birthing we are actually more alert because we are more vulnerable, and so it is crucial that the sounds, voices, lights are kept to a minimum, so mum feels totally private, safe and unobserved.

The section on intervention, made me feel overwhelmed with sadness.The evidence to support normal birth and the benefits of uninterrupted birth to our children as well as to humanity is so compelling that, when weighed up with the incredible risks of some pharmaceutical and physiological interventions, I for one find it hard to believe that we are still having to shout so loudly about normal birth and its link to the psychological and physical wellbeing of mother and baby.

Sarah twice put up this quote by the Dutch obstetrician G. Loosterman and invited reflection on the last words, “do no harm” which of course are fundamental to any doctors commitment to care.

“Spontaneous labour in a normal woman is an event marked by a number of processes so complicated and so perfectly attuned to each other that any interference will only detract from the optimal character. The only thing required from the bystanders is that they show respect for this awe-inspiring process by complying with the first rule of medicine–nil nocere [do no harm].”

Her final section on post-birth was longer than I expected but which gave her the time to emphasis how important this period is. She spent a lot of time focusing on the cord and why it is so important to leave the cord until it has stopped pulsating. In fact Sarah had what’s known as a Lotus Birth with her children where you leave the cord attached to the placenta, even after the placenta has birthed, until it drops off naturally. I would urge anyone who is thinking of their options after birth to read the chapter in her book ‘Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering’ or her article on lotus birth. It makes complete sense, and dispels any concerns about the purported ‘risks’, that mothers sometimes ask me about, such as it increases jaundice.

I cannot even begin to go into the detail or do Sarah’s observations justice in this blog, but I would urge anyone expecting a baby to read her book, it is an important book, a very important book as she is a thoughtful and enquiring physician whose aim is to do no harm.We are at a tipping point with birth and Sarah describes birth how it’s meant to be.Babies should be born into this world with love not violence.Our attachment to each other, to our baby, the absolute joy of birth is important, it’s natures design.This complex exchange of hormones isn’t accidental these hormones actually have, paradoxically, a very simple purpose, which is to anchor the fundamental requirements of life and successful evolution – attachment and love – deeply in our brains.

Many thanks to Patrick Houser at Fathers to Be for organizing this wonderful event and to Janet Balaskas and her team at The Active Birth Centre for hosting it.Especially thanks to Sarah for coming over to the UK and her incredibly patient daughter Maia (who sat quietly and played the whole afternoon!) to share her work with us all.

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The womb is where it all begins…

I’ve been playing den’s with my children this week – a lot. They love den’s, but don’t all children and even adults? I have to admit I’m a bit claustrophobic but I do love curling up in a den every now and again.

This week we had a new fluffy red blanket which we draped over the den – it gave off a warm red glow inside. Rory my son, refused to come out and curled up into the corner, comfortable and calm. I too felt very at peace sitting in there with the sounds outside muffled and tucked up, cosily next to him.

The symbolism may be obvious, but what is so interesting is that after years of being born that I still now get that sense of peace and security when I’m in that den. Certainly I have no recollection of being in the womb, but I have a sense of it.

Often you will hear of people talk about birth memories, memories of being in the womb, or of a birth imprint or body memory. As adults we very seldom have a cognitive memory of being in the womb, rather we may have a sense of what that may have been like through games such as building, hiding out in dens or even listening to the muffled beat of a heart.

The unborn child is just like the newborn in that it is permanently learning and coming to terms with everything new in its environment. Things learned in the womb remain influential later in life. So hiding in dens, listening to the sound of the mother’s heartbeat can have a calming effect even after birth.

On the other hand research looking into prenatal stress indicates that babies who that have suffered from stress in the womb have shown increased heart rates later in their lives. A study by Gerhard Rottmann (1974) suggested that the more conflict, ambivalence and rejection the mother demonstrated in her relationship with the unborn child, the more the child was affected after the birth.

In a study by Theodor Hau some of the things that were shown to be connected to the above were : less sleep, irritability, excessive screaming, apathy, underweight and gastrointestinal problems.

So what am I trying to say with this post? I suppose I want to get more to grips with this idea of body memory, of the feelings imprinted upon us in the womb and at birth and how that affects us as children and adults.

I have absolutely no doubt that the baby feels what the mother feels, and that’s not just while they are in the womb. My children are acutely sensitive, they know when I am upset or down even if I hide it really really well. Being mindful of this and being present enables a mother to spend time with her child and to be calm and at peace. Benefiting not just herself but her child as well.

During pregnancy by remaining calm and relaxed, you are giving your baby the benefit of all those feel good hormones which we know affect them positively in the longer term. Babies that are born to mothers we have worked with are extraordinarily calm. In the longer term we are beginning to see the toddlers with remarkable focus and patience.

Here are 4 simple things that you can do everyday during your pregnancy to slow yourself down, relax and focus on the baby – If you are too busy then prioritise – ask yourself what is important in your life.

  • Take 10 minutes out of the day to meditate or reflect on your baby.

  • Practice slow belly breathing while listening to music

  • Talk to and play with your baby

  • Listen to the Mindful Mamma relaxation cd or some other relaxing music