Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Let's talk about sleep, baby! zzzzz

So, today, one of my ZenMamas who I taught last year, emailed asking me about sleep trainers for her baby, now just over a year old and still breastfed (go mama!).  Baby hasn't slept uninterrupted through the night since birth.  Mama is obviously tired, like most parents of young children, so she and her partner tried a sleep trainer recently.  Despite getting professional help, baby is still not sleeping through.  So, what to do?
Here’s how I responded to this super lovely mama:

Re. sleeping:  What can I say… babies sleep when they want to, and they will eventually sleep, uninterrupted through the night.  My personal view with my ‘mummy-of-two hat on’ is that I don’t really go in for the whole sleep counsellor/sleep training thing. The reason for this is mainly down to my own personal exerience, but also based on things I have read since about how stressful sleep training can be for babies and the potential negative effects longer term.

We were sooo tired!

My first child was a terrible sleeper, or we believed he was, and we suffered.  I was exhausted. My husband was exhausted.  We didn’t expect to be woken so much and we felt like we would never sleep again.  We resisted the flow of baby’s rhythms.  We felt like we had to put him down, in his own cot, all the time, and that’s what we should do, right? And we knew people who told us, ‘oh our baby slept through from day one’, ‘we have a good baby who let’s us sleep’, etc.  Maybe we had too high expectations.  Maybe we had too much self-doubt and we didn’t trust our instincts. We felt like we were doing something wrong because our baby would only settle with us near him.  We were sooo tired.

When we hit about 8-9 months we tried sleep training. Not full-on abandon-your-child to let it ‘cry it out’, but a ‘gentler’ version, of putting him down awake, leaving him for 1 min, if he grizzled, we’d go back to settle him (no picking him up though), leave 2 mins, go back, 3 mins, go back, 5 mins, etc. Our son grizzled mainly, but also cried a bit in his cot during this.  And we cried in the next room.  It felt wrong and it was stressful.  He did fall asleep before we hit the 10 minute mark (10 minutes is a long time in the short little life of a baby though), and we did this for 3 nights. Our son probably settled himself and slept a bit ‘better’ for a short time after this, but then it was hit or miss again for a while after that.  We stopped leaving him to just settle himself because it felt wrong.  If he cried, we went to him, and eventually he slept. He probably reliably slept through the night, from 7:30pm until about 5:30/6am, from nearly age 2. 

Go with the flow...

My daughter seemed like a ‘better sleeper’ than our son from the beginning.  But she still woke up regularly through the night.  She definitley wasn’t a sleep-though-the-night-from-day-one baby though.  You’ve heard of such babies I’m sure, and have met their parents who tell you about their great little sleeper as you sip yet another coffee to get you through the day.

With our daughter, I decided not to fret about it, and instead to go with the flow and just have her in our bed as much as she wanted.  (We ensured we followed safe bed-sharing guidelines.) Her being in our bed, or in her co-sleeper bedside cot, did mean she was on my boob more and for longer than our son was. (I fed him up to 8 months, and fed her for two years. Go me!) From the experience of our first, I knew that eventually she would sleep and get in to her own bed.  Our approach with her meant that we got more sleep second time around.  And this was because we followed her rhythms, and also sharing our bed meant she was overall more settled.

She was in our bed until age two.  Not EVERY night, but most nights at some point she’d end up in our bed, from after she was about 8 months or so when she had a big cot in her brother’s room.

What was different wasn’t the two children though! Looking back, I am pretty sure they both woke up as much as each other. What was different was our approach.  I just tried to enjoy having our second baby next to me as much as possible.  I knew it wouldn’t last forever after the experience with our first.  And if it wasn’t possible to sleep well next to her, and if I was really tired, I would leave her in bed with my husband (we had bed rail on my side of the bed once she was too big for the bedside cot) and I would sleep elsewhere.  My husband and I would take it in turns when necessary.  Babies do eventually sleep.

Having a regular relaxing bedtime routine helps

If you haven’t already implemented a regular bedtime routine, it’s a good idea to do that.  So at the same time every evening, go up for ‘bath time’.  Even if it’s not a night when a full on bath is needed, just having a little mini splash with warm water and a few drops of lavender oil (no need to soap etc.) , brushing teeth etc.  You could try a little light massage with a gentle massage oil with chamomile or lavender (just a tiny amount suitable for babies , not too strong).  Then bed time feed, and a story book or two.  Keep screens and devices out of the room, dim the lights and make it all cosy and sleepy. Say ‘night night’ to any furry soft toys, night night mummy, daddy, etc.  And encourage baby to enjoy that winding down time, and then eventually falling asleep.  Over time we found these signals were getting through and the stretches of sleep got longer. 

Give love and comfort on demand

The more I have read about sleep training tactics the more I know in my heart and mind that it really is not the loving thing to do. Think about it… if, as an adult, you found yourself unsettled and crying in the night or as you were going to bed, for whatever reason, would you want the person/people who love you the most to come to you?  Or would you expect them to just shut the door and walk away? Giving love and comfort on demand helps babies and children feel more secure and more confident.  Gradually they become more and more independent, even at bedtime.

Our son needed us to hold his hand to fall asleep for a really long time.  We would sit in the dimly lit room and just hold hands.  My husband would recite a book or poem from memory in the dark with him whilst holding his hand.  Or I would sing a special song.  Our son is nearly 7.  I miss hold his little hand in the dark.

You will sleep again

Good luck to all you sleepless parents out there.  Don’t worry.  You will sleep again.  Enjoy those night time cuddles.  It won’t last forever.

Gina x

Gina Potts is Director of ZenBirth, a leading KG Hypnobirthing Practitioner in London and Kent, mother of two hypnobabies, Positive Birth Movement group facilitator, breastfeeding peer supporter, birth junky, feminist and dog-lover.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

It's not all about you now, is it?

So you're a new mama.  Congratulations!  You've probabaly had visitors come and go to admire your baby, to coo and cuddle.  And you've enjoyed, for the most part, their company and adoration for your gorgeous new baby.  You grew this wonderful little creature and gave birth to him or her. You feel proud.  You really do.   
But why do you feel like crying 'I want my mummy'? Maybe you're feeling a little bit blue? Tired and overwhelmed?  Like you just want someone to look after you? 
Did you know that in other cultures a period of a month or more is spent mothering the mother?  Did you know that you don't have to be superwoman and do everything and be everything to everyone? You certainly shouldn't be scurrying around making tea or lunch for visitors.  Hey, you've just spent the last 9-10 months growing a whole human being and then giving birth. You are allowed to have a period of rest, as far as you can rest with a newborn baby.  And certainly, no one is expecting you to to perform to your usual high standard of being superwoman.  Well, no one except you.  But you've gotta let go of your own high demands on yourself.  You are entitled to feel that you need some looking after, and to let them.
The best way to be a good mother, is to be and feel well-supported, to be looked after by those closest to you, and, yes, to look after yourself.  You see, it IS all about you.  You and your new baby.  
Most women learn to put themselves second, or last, to those around them.  Most of us have watched our own mothers, or grandmothers, or aunts do this.  Oh, it's just what women do.  And it's what leads us to feel that we shouldn't expect too much, we shouldn't demand too much, and that we should apologise for asking for help. But you can't do the mothering without being 'mothered' in some form or other.  So looking after you helps you to look after your baby.  Win-win!
And as your baby gets older, your child will look at you and see that you are looking after youself, respecting yourself by allowing yourself a little time to meditate, to exercise, to read that book you've been given for Christmas, to get your hair done, to just enjoy a little bit of time for you.  You can't run on empty and keep giving to everyone around you.  By taking time for yourself, you are giving both you and and child a gift: giving yourself and teaching your child self-love and self-respect. 
So, what are you going to do for you?  What can you ask for help with so you feel supported?  

If you have a tiny newborn, please don't scurry around making tea or lunch for your visitors. Welcome your guests and have them make you a cup of tea.  If they ask if they can bring anything, don't say, 'oh no, just yourself.' Say yes, please bring some lunch.  If they want to hold the baby, also get them to change the nappy for you while you go have a hot shower and put on fresh clothes that don't smell of breastmilk and spit up.  
How about organising a lovely a massage at home, while a friend cuddles baby for a bit. Or have a nice warm bath while daddy has baby for stories after work.  Whatever it is that you need, make sure you look after you, even for a short time everyday, because looking after you makes you a better mother and a happier person.  And we all know that happy mama means happy baby.
Good luck mama. You are doing an amazing job. 
- Gina Potts

Gina is Founder of ZenBirth, a KG Hypnobirthing instructor, Positive Birth Movement Group leader, Home Birth and Breastfeeding supporter, and mama to two smalls with boundless energy.  In her not-so-spare time, Gina attends mindfulness yoga, walks the dog on the beach and is working on carving out more time for herself, starting with reading that great novel she was given for Christmas last year.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Is your due date a deadline?

The question of due dates and mothers being pressured to be induced just because of dates is a big one. Have a look at this Vlog where I explore this question.

Please don't let yourself feel pressured. You do have options and it's up to you to choose the right birth for you and for your baby on the day.

Gina xx

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Where will I give birth?

Have you assumed that you'll just have baby in hospital?  Have you been thinking about alternatives?  Do you think that home birth sounds a bit out there?  

With so many interesting questions and discussions during my antenatal classes recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about birth place options, who attends women at births and how expectant parents feel about the choices they have available to them. I’ve also been thinking about the fact that, in the UK, we are really very lucky about the range of options available to us. Though not perfect, the NHS really does give expectant parents a good range of options in the maternity care they receive.

Midwife-led care is really beneficial
It's worth noting, that in the UK, all women have access to midwife-led care. Midwife-led care supports women to have better birth outcomes. In some countries, this is simply not available at all, or is a major exception to the rule. For example, in the US, the majority of women usually get cared for by an obstetrician as a matter of course, whereas, in the UK this is only deemed necessary if there is a health condition that requires that kind of specialist, medicalised care. I was shocked when I learned that the practice of midwifery is actually illegal in ten US States. Of course, I have the greatest respect for obstetricians, as their skills and knowledge save the lives of women and babies who have special medical circumstances. However, obstetrician-led care for low-risk, healthy women and babies, is more likely to increase unnecessary medical interventions. Advanced medical training, techniques and procedures all have their place, and should certainly be used when they are absolutely necessary to the well-being of mother and baby. 

Pregnancy is not a medical condition

Low-risk women don't strictly need care from an obstetrician. Because obstetric-led care tends to be more medicalised, there also tends to be less focus on ways those professionals can support women through the normal, natural rhythms of the birthing process. Birth is a process that does not need to rely on medical intervention (drugs, instruments and surgery) as standard, with routine intrusive checks and monitoring which can interrupt the natural, calm rhythm of labour. 

In the UK, we benefit from midwifery care in the first instance, with the support of obstetricians or other specialists when necessary. For that, we are very fortunate indeed. We have the best of both worlds available, although at varying levels in different areas of the country. Unfortunately, we do have a shortage of midwives in certain parts of the country.  And this puts real pressure on the system. Where there are shortages in staff, sometimes over management happens or birth doesn't always go as a woman would ideally like. But that is a large topic for a different blog post. The main thing is that at least we've got a choice, and midwives are available to every pregnant woman in the country.

Where will you give birth? 
Also, in the UK maternity care system, we are fortunate to have choice about where to give birth.  We have our standard maternity units, staffed by midwives, and with consultants always available should any medical intervention become necessary. We have birth centres, which offer a ‘home from home’ experience. These are entirely midwife-led and offer the opportunity for low-risk mothers to birth their babies in a calm environment which provides everything to support natural birthing.
In addition, women in the UK all have the right to be attended by NHS midwives at home to birth their babies. This is something unheard of in some countries. In some countries, midwives have been imprisoned for attending home births: Agnes Gereb's case in Hungary received much media attention. 

Home birth is a real option
Where a woman is low-risk, home birth is an attractive option as there is no need to change setting in the middle of labour, and disrupt the natural flow of things. Women don't have to be on an impersonal hospital ward after the birth, and dads aren't sent home after the birth and only allowed to see their partner and new baby during visiting hours. That means that mother, father and baby can enjoy their 'love in' together in the comfort of their own home.
Some women living in close vicinity to their local hospital feel assured that if anything should arise needing obstetric care, they can quickly transferred in if necessary. Despite some people’s apprehensions about risks, it is interesting to note that, according to NHS findings, ‘women who give birth in a unit run by midwives or at home are less likely to need assistance, for example through the use of forceps or ventouse (sometimes called instrumental delivery).’  

The choice is yours
Of course there are pros and cons to each option, and this depends on each couple’s personal feelings about the comfort and safety of each option. Feelings of calm vs. feelings of anxiety can really affect the birth experience; indeed, that is central to hypnobirthing's approach to child birth. The more relaxed one is during birth, the better things are for mother, father and baby. The main thing that seems to help couples in my classes when deciding for themselves, is to be well-informed and to use the knowledge they gain to make a choice they feel confident about.
By learning about the range of options provided by their local maternity services teams, parents get a better sense of what to expect once labour starts and baby is ready to arrive.  There is certainly greater support in many areas of the UK these days for women seeking to have a natural birth (in hospital, birth centre or at home), without being overly managed by medical staff. It does seem that birth centres and home birth are becoming more attractive options, which benefits not just parents and babies, but also the health care system as natural birth is a lot cheaper at the end of the day.
If you are interested in learning more about birth place options, have a look at the NHS page on choices for birth location. Also this website provides useful information about home birth as an option for low-risk women. 
Whatever you choose, I wish you a beautiful birthing day!  And remember, relax and breathe.

Gina xx

Gina Potts is Director of ZenBirth – Hypnobirthing UK. She comes from an academic research background, and since 2009 has spent much of her time researching into all aspects of maternity care, pregnancy, birth and women’s postnatal health. In 2011, she founded ZenBirth and has helped hundreds of couples have a positive birth experience. Gina now leads a growing team of ZenBirth instructors who provide antenatal hypnobirthing education courses across London and the South East of the UK.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Hormones in Labour and Birth

There are several hormones that play a significant role during pregnancy, labour and birth.
Oxytocin is a powerful hormone, which is known as the love hormone. The word oxytocin derives from Greek, and means ‘quick birth’.  Oxytocin is known for having a significant role in sexual reproduction, especially childbirth. It facilitates birth (cervical dilation and surges/contractions), maternal bonding and, due to stimulation of the nipples, breastfeeding (let-down reflex). Oxytocin is released when orgasm is experienced, and when one experiences various kinds of physical contact with others, including massage, hugging, kissing and even shaking hands. And, when we take a deep breath, oxytocin is released when we exhale, especially a slow, long exhalation. The body’s release of oxytocin helps to reduce anxiety and helps one feel more relaxed, content and secure. This is why it is key to your hypnobirthing practice, and you are taught on a hypnobirthing course various things to help your body’s ability to produce oxytocin: breathing, relaxation, light touch massage, etc.
Endorphins are another powerful hormone, and is known as a natural pain killer. Their chemical structure resembles that of opiates (morphine-based drugs) and endorphins therefore are the body’s own way of producing analgesic responses and feelings of well-being.  Endorphins are released when we take exercise, experience excitement, feel pain, consume spicy food and a variety of other ways.  In pregnancy, endorphin levels are raised, which is triggered by the presence of the placenta, and is said to assist in increasing the allocation of nutrients to the placenta to nourish the developing fetus.  In terms of pain relieving attributes, a release of endorphins prevents nerve cells from sending pain signals via nerve impulses up the spinal cord to the brain.  Techniques such as light touch massage and deep relaxation taught on the course help the body maximize its production of endorphins during labour and birth, thus minimizing any pain sensations.
The presence of the above hormones inhibits the body’s ability to produce adrenalin, which needs to be minimized during labour and birth. 
Adrenaline is responsible for the body’s instinctive fear responses. Adrenaline is, of course, useful to the body at appropriate times, for example, when we need to quickly get out of danger, if we are running a race or for a bus, or working to an important deadline.  However, the adrenaline rush that comes with a fear response has no place in birth.  The body’s instinctive fear response is often referred to ‘fight or flight’, and is actually ‘freeze, fight or flight’. 
During such a response, blood and oxygen will be diverted to the legs and arms in preparation to flee or defend oneself. In labour, that means that essential blood and oxygen is diverted away from the muscle that needs that energy:  the uterus.  Because a woman in labour is not in a position to flee or fight, the freeze response is triggered, often causing labour to slow down or stop.  Medical professionals will sometimes refer to such labours as ‘failing to progress’ (FTP).  In hypnobirthing, we refer to such labours as exhibiting the fear-tension-pain (FTP) scenario.  Where there is fear, the body experiences tension and that is when we feel pain. 
The human body and mind are very clever though.  It is impossible for adrenaline (and therefore the fear response) to be present when one has rising levels of oxytocin and endorphins. So by using the hypnobirthing techniques learned on a hypnobirthing course, which help to reduce fear, increase feelings of confidence and calm and bring a deep state of relaxation, women can manage labour and birth without experiencing fear-tension-pain.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Breech Delivery - you have options

I have been touched by the difficult decisions that go in to delivering breech babies.  And it's really really important to know that you do have options.

I taught two clients in close succession whose babies were in breech position; both 'frank breech' (bottom down, feet stretched up). Both women were healthy, fit, first-time mothers. Both couples took their hypnobirthing courses and went on to plan their home water births.  However, during routine antenatal checks, the babies were both determined to be in a frank breech position during the last few weeks of pregnancy. They both attempted the whole range to ways to try to get baby to turn, and both babies weren't for turning.  The decision both mums faced was c-section or attempt at vaginal delivery in hospital.  Both handled this very significant change in plan amazing well.

Before, I summarise the decision-making process of each: one had an elective c-section, the other a vaginal delivery, it's worth noting that breech presentation is a variation of normal.  And the significant reason why c-section is offered is simply due to loss of skilled midwives over time.  With more and more, and more, women accepting the option of c-section, fewer midwives put into practice the skills they were trained to use when baby is breech. That means maternity departments are unable to guarantee an adequately skilled midwife will be available at the time of delivery. 

Of the two mums mentioned above, the one that went for the vaginal delivery had to 'shop around' at 39 weeks for a hospital that could support her choice adequately. The hospital she was with originally couldn't promise a midwife experienced enough with breech vaginal delivery.  In the end, mum chose a great hospital in London that had a dedicated policy for supporting vaginal breech delivery.  At 39+1 she booked in with her new hospital, and at 39+3 spontaneous labour began.  Lucky timing!  Mum used hypnobirthing for a long labour, lasting nearly 2 days, the hospital supported all of her choices, using the pool for part of the labour.  When the baby was finally ready to come, mum was out of the pool.  The only time she used any drugs was when she had some gas and air for an episotomy so baby could be assisted out with forceps.  This mother was the 'talk of the maternity unit' according to her husband.  Her practice and effective use of hypnobirthing helped her to avoid hefty drugs and c-section, but also aided her decision process to ensure she got the birth of her choice.

The second mum made a very different decision based on reasons that were compelling, unique and important to her.  This mum was with a different, but equally good London hospital.  On exploring her options, she understood that there might be some uncertainty around vaginal delivery of a breech baby, which raised some personal concerns.  After meeting one-to-one with her for an additional relaxation and hypnosis session, it was revealed that the priority of guaranteed skin-to-skin with her newborn was way more important to her than delivering vaginally.  This mum herself never experienced the loving touch of her own biological mother, because she was adopted at birth.  So, for her, having a plan for a gentle 'natural c-section', where skin-to-skin, delayed cord clamping, softer lighting etc, were arranged, felt like a better option for her.  Afterwards, mum reported that the birth was a positive experience, a calm and joyful day.   

So , there were good reasons each mum came to their own, very different decisions. And for both, all that they learned during the hypnobirthing course helped them to make the right decision for them. 

The important thing about both situations is that both sets of parents explored all their available options, asking intelligent questions and making informed decisions.  And those decisions were based on not simply based on weighing up statistics, hospital policies and feasible care available, but more importantly how they felt emotionally about what they may or may not have wanted for their birth experience. 

Some people have strong feelings of fear regarding abdominal surgery, some people may have experienced previous emotional and/or physical trauma which leads them down one path or another, or there may be any number of other personal reasons coming in to play. All of these are valid and important, and parents-to-be must be supported through this process, without judgement and with the gentlest possible care. 

Sunday, 20 March 2016

What are my chances of a natural birth?

When teaching my hypnobirthing classes here in Greenwich, the likelihood of a natural birth is amongst the largest concerns.  Obviously this would be the case, and people come to learn about hypnobirthing because they'd like a natural birth.

People hear a lot of horror stories about birth from family, friends, TV and movies, and even perfect strangers. No wonder parents-to-be are often so fearful of birth, and hypnobirthing helps them get rid of that fear. 

Individuals and the media alike enjoy a dramatic tale. And often the stories that we hear exaggerate the birth process, turning it into a medical emergency in our minds. Indeed, some women attempt to outdo each other with their tales of enduring birth. 

However, for the majority of women, pregnancy and birth are not medical events.  These are natural processes that we've been doing this since the beginning of time. Not only is the female body perfectly designed for growing and birthing a baby, but the birth process is usually a gradual process with little drama, except the ultimate moment of finally meeting one's baby face-to-face.

A pregnant woman is usually at her best in terms of health during pregnancy: eating well for baby, looking after herself, getting checked out regularly by midwife, etc.  We are a healthy society, well-nourished, sheltered, with a good health care system, etc. We enjoy the best possible conditions for healthy pregnancies and good births.

So why the belief in the the possible negative outcomes of birth?  A culture of negative birth stories informs our thinking.  However, the facts and figures tell a very different story.  As  I tell parents-to-be every month in my hypnobirthing classes, the statistical likelihood is that you will have a normal natural birth; to which the chart below testifies. These figures are from a recent study, comparing birth outcomes of non-hypnobirthing parents and hypnobirthing parents:

So, you see, the greatest likelihood is indeed a normal, natural birth. With hypnobirthing, chances of that are 20% greater, and interventions (including instrumental delivery and c-section) are dramatically reduced. 

Thankfully, a cultural shift does seem to be happening, and many women are seeing  that they can take birth back and embrace it for the empowering and beautiful experience it is.  We do still have television programmes (including a very popular documentary series) which tend to show the most dramatic moments; and that does, of course, make for good TV. 

However, more and more women are speaking out about their positive birth experiences, including on the ZenBirth website:

If you'd like to tell your good birth story here, become a member of this blog and tell us your positive birth story by commenting below.  

Gina xx

Friday, 5 February 2016

How Dilated Am I?

I had a great hypnobirthing session today with a really lovely couple, who will soon become parents for the first time. As usual in my hypnobirthing classes, we discussed the matter of how one knows how dilated a woman is during labour? And whether an internal vaginal exam (VE) is the only way of knowing?

There are several external signs that indicate how far along a labouring mother is. Most experienced midwives should be able to observe these, so VEs are not always essential.  These external signs are nicely summarised with useful references, on this midwifery website, and copied below :

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The purple line
(Hobbs L (2007) 'Assessing Cervical Dilatation without VEs: watching the purple line revisited' IN The Practising Midwife 10 (1) 26 : 27)
A bluey/purpley line [or silvery on women with darker skin] creeps up between the woman's buttocks as labour progresses from the anus upwards. When it reachs the top of the buttocks the woman is normally fully dilated. This happens in 89% of women and is best observed when a woman is on all fours or kneeling.

The Rhombus of Michaelis
(Sutton J (2003) 'Birth without active pushing and a physiological second stage of labour' IN Wickham S ed Midwifery Best Practice Edinburgh: Books for Midwives)
The lowest three lumbar vertebrae and the sacrum move backwards and the ilia fan outwards increasing the pelvic capacity. Only happens in second stage if the woman is upright or on all fours. If naked you can see it, if clothed then you can feel a 'lump' (diamond shaped) on her lower back - around the area a lot of women with OP babies want pressure adminstered. [This provides a little bit of extra space for baby coming out, but not if the woman is on her back]
The Smell of Birth
(Wickham S, Roberts K, Howard J & Waters S (2004) 'body wisdom ~ smelling birth' IN The Practising Midwife 7 (1) 30 : 31)
As the woman enters transition smell in the room changes however not many people can smell it. To some it smells of sex, normally tend to notice it outside of hospitals though, maybe there are too many other smells in hospitals.
Angle of the body during a contraction
(Lemay G (2005) 'To push or not?' IN Midwifery Today 74 p 7)
As a woman progresses in labour she'll align her upper body with her pelvis and as her labour progresses if she is standing then she'll lean further forward than before (so by tranisition she'll be nearly bent in two at the waist.

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You can read more here, along with discussion amongst midwives about their observations of the above occuring:  Assessing Labour without VEs

For me, the above is further remarkable proof of how amazing and perfectly designed a woman's body is to birth a baby, without unnecessary interference and intervention. 

My hope is that as women learn more about how amazing and powerful their bodies are, they will be filled with the confidence to give birth without fear or anxiety.  And to approach birth with joyful anticipation, not just of meeting one's baby, but also of being able to fully experience this most empowering and beautiful experience.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Power of Positive Thinking

I’ve been doubting myself lately. Why?
Because my son’s birthday is approaching and I have set myself the task of making his birthday cake. Some of you may say, well, what’s the big deal with that?  But I have long defined myself as someone who doesn’t, or can’t, bake.  It’s a long-standing case of (minor) negative self-talk, but one that means that I very rarely bake anything.

My son wants a pirate birthday cake. So, at first, I found someone who could make it for me, and I also found online a few that I could simply buy from a shop. But then I thought about it. Loads of other mums make their children’s birthday cakes, why can’t I?  So, I decided to do it. Being a total novice, I am taking an easy route, and I ordered I pirate cake making kit, with all the ingredients and full instructions enclosed. It arrived a few days ago and when I looked through everything, the doubt set in again, especially after reading about how to do the icing, something I have never done before.

You see, my mother never made our birthday cakes - they were always lovely and yummy, and always from a supermarket or bakery. I did learn how to become a rather good cook (if I do say so myself) of all things savoury, which, I believe, is mainly down to being in the kitchen a lot with my mother. But baking was not a regular thing. And for as long as I can remember, I have always said, I am not a baker, so I couldn’t possibly bake and decorate a cake.  And these were just the words that tumbled from my mouth as I anticipated making my son’s birthday cake.  My mother never did it, so I don’t have the direct experience to know if I can do it myself.

As my husband listened to my quandary over the cake, he pointed out to me that I am not practicing what I preach to parents in my hypnobirthing classes. He meant the power of positive thinking!

‘Positive thinking is an attitude that anticipates happiness, health and successful results.’

Believing in oneself is most of the battle in achieving what one wants to achieve. He pointed out that I am positive in my approach to most things, especially creative things. So why is baking a birthday cake any different?  How right he is about this very important law of the mind, which is central to hypnobirthing and also to life in general:

The Law of Attraction:  the belief by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, one can bring about positive or negative results.

Others, especially our mothers, can have a lasting influence on us, from believing we can bake a cake, to believing in our abilities to birth our babies naturally.  Obviously, giving birth is not baking a cake. Birth is potentially the most empowering, life-changing and beautiful experience of one’s life. And the first step to achieving that is simple:  believing you can do it.

The birth stories we hear throughout our lives deeply inform and influence what we believe for ourselves when it comes to childbirth. If we do not hear about or see positive birth stories, it is harder to envisage a positive birth experience for oneself. It’s the power of positive thinking that can increase of chance of the positive outcome we desire.

For some who choose hypnobirthing, there is important unlearning of negative thoughts and expectations that needs to be done. And this is actually achieved in quite simple ways on the course.  During the course, couples also have a chance to view some beautifully calm and powerful births, which help inspire couples to visualise their own positive birth experience.  

Right… I’m off to bake that cake, armed with my kit and positive thoughts...

In the meantime, have a look at some positive birth stories for inspiration: