Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Birth Matters

I just read a blog post about why birth matters and some of the stories in the comments below.

I had a difficult first birth in hospital and a much more satisfying second birth experience at home with my good friend acting as a doula. The labour was really long and often arduous but I felt safe, nurtured and supported throughout by my husband, my friend and the midwife.

The two different birth experiences have turned me on to becoming a doula and a childbirth educator because I feel – like the author of that blog post – that birth matters and mothers matter.

Since the home birth of Lissy, I have started to blossom into a bit of a birth warrior. I want to change the way birth is viewed and managed in our culture. I want to let people know that it can be a positive experience. That home birth isn't weird or dangerous. That hypnobirthing and other birth techniques can be really effective. That the environment and even the well-meaning staff within a hospital need to be managed by the birthing woman's supporters so she can have the best, safest birth possible.

I have started to discover a whole community of like-minded souls and birthing experts at One World Birth

I enjoy my day job (freelance marketing consultant for a technology company) but have always felt the urge to make a difference, to do something special and important that makes the world a better place. It doesn't have to be on a grand scale. I just want to know that I'm adding to the sum total of happiness in the world.

The standard approach to birth in the UK is over medicalised and often at loggerheads with the emotional, psychological - and even spiritual - needs of the birthing woman. Routine interventions in labour can adversely affect otherwise normal births. See this short video clip by a Professor of Midwifery to find out how. 30% of births in my local hospital end in C-section. The World Health Organization recommends that the caesarean section rate should not be higher than 10% to 15%

Many pregnant women dread the birth process and aren't given the knowledge and the practical support they need to realise their bodies are designed to birth. After doing an NCT course with my first pregnancy (a total waste of time, I'd recommend a Natal Hypnotherapy course or similar instead). I came away with a lot of information on what drugs I could take in labour and exactly what could go wrong but no real tools I could use to have a safe, natural birth and to help manage pain without medical aid. I didn't realise that with the right conditions birth can be an empowering, calm, satisfying experience.

Yes it hurts, but pain without fear is easier to deal with. Simple things helped me immesaurably - like my birth partners pressing hard on my sacrum during a contraction, blowing out steady, long breaths and focusing on them, receiving light touch massage to calm me and boost my endorphins, and being encouraged throughout that I was doing well, that I could do it.

Also the Natal Hypnotherapy CD I listened to before bed from 32 weeks pregnant really helped to counteract my negative cultural conditioning around birth and allow me trust the process and let my body get on with it.

I think I would be honoured to give that support, emotional and physical, to a labouring woman. To help create the conditions that every birthing mammal needs to be able to birth without fear and difficulty: warmth, dark (or low light), privacy, safety. And for us humans, love and encouragement.

It's a big step for me. Even though I'm not planning to change careers, just include another one, having been a technology marketeer for most of my adult life it feels weird and scary to be contamplating something so different.

Is birth really the right area for me? Will I be good at guiding people through their birth journeys? Can I cope with the strange hours and complicated childcare needs that must arise when your committed to be a doula for someone whose birth could happen at any time three weeks either side of her "due date"?

Well, I'm going to start finding out. I've booked myself on the Introduction to the Work of a Doula Day in November.

A while back I sent off for a distance learning hypnobirthing course, thinking it would be easier to do around a small baby (who is now a small toddler!). I have enjoyed the reading but am disappointed with quite a few aspects of the course and keener than ever to be a childbirth educator but to do it my way.

I want to amalgamate the best techniques from all the different styles of hypnobirthing, and incorporate other tips and techniques from things like the Active Birth movement and the advice of respected childbirth experts such as Michel Odent and Ina May Gaskin.

I recently had the chance to make a difference to a friend, Jewels. She asked me to come over and teach her and her best friend and birth support partner some hypnobirthing basics. I went over for a few hours and over tea and cake talked about how to be a good birth partner and went through a few techniques for both mother and birthing partner.

She's had her baby and texted me to say she just kept thinking of the things we talked about and it really helped. Her friend texted me to say that Jewels had made birth look easy.

I can't wait to see her and find out more. I feel honoured to have been a small part of her beautiful birth, and only wish I could have been there physically for her too. She did invite me, but I was in France :-(

I am in the lucky position of having a good job that is part-time and so I can explore this avenue without having to leave the security of my job. I'm not sure how it will all pan out but I'm excited to be following a newly-discovered interest.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Les Bonnes Vacances

We've just got back from our first ever holiday park break, We LOVED it. It is so the way forward for families with young kids.

For £235 we enjoyed nine nights in a comfortable mobile home with:

+three swimming pools

+baby and bigger kids clubs

+nightly entertainment - OK it was pretty naff but Els loved it and I did find myself singing along and even doing some weird French 'Do the Macarena'-style dance on the last night.

Actually it wasn't £235 it was actually free. I'd been squirrelling away my Tesco Clubcard vouchers for ages (well over a year I think). I had £110 worth of vouchers and exchanged them before Christmas to get four times the value in my choice of experiences and goodies from the Rewards website. As of this year, you can now only get three times the value but that's not to be sniffed at.

So, Tescos covered our Eurotunnel and accommodation. Super bien!

We stayed at the Domain Du Kerlann Siblu resort in Brittany. The weather was good, the local beaches beautiful, the natives friendly and very accommodating of me practising my rusty, schoolgirl French.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Where Children Sleep

My one year old and eight year old girls share a very small bedroom.

Ella has a cabin bed, Lissy has a cot bed, there's a small wardrobe with drawers for Ella's clothes and Lissy's clothes are stored in our bedroom because there's nowhere else to put them. Both girls' toys and books are in the recess under Ella's bed.

I love where we live but the lack of space can sometimes get me down. My hubby and I go round in circles discussing the 'what ifs-maybes-but hows' of bringing up our family in a nice area (pretty, lots of green, safe, quiet), near to most of our friends and also to Ella's dad (due to our shared childcare arrangement) but with a more liveable amount of space. On one average income that's a tall order in Oxfordshire.

A documentary photographer from Oxford has a new book out that shows children from different cultures and their bedrooms. Where Children Sleep shows a 4 year old from Romania who sleeps outside on a mattress, an 8 year old who lives with his family on top of a large dump and a 15 year old trainee geisha who sleeps on the floor in a teahouse. Have a look and let me know what you think. I, for one, realise how hugely lucky both me and my girls are.