Previously a chartered physiotherapist on the NHS, Janet retrained in acupuncture following her recovery from an unsuccessful operation related to her osteoarthritis. She continued her training with specialist courses in pain relief, fertility, care in pregnancy and post partum and today speaks to BirthEssence why she loves what she does and how she supports the pregnant women that come through her door.
Q1. Tell us a little more about your own story. How did you discover acupuncture and what made you choose this as your career?
I was a physiotherapist for many years working in Obstetrics and gynaecology and paediatrics. In 2006 I had been having problems with sciatica and arthritis of the spine, also menstrual problems due to fibroids and endometriosis. I had 2 operations very close together, one gynae and a spinal op. The spinal op was unsuccessful and although the gynae problems improved the spinal problems progressed. After being told there was nothing more Western medicine could offer me, I searched for alternatives. This is when I found acupuncture.
At first it didn’t help with the pain I was experiencing, but other areas of my life improved; sleep, wellbeing. I decided that I would do a degree in acupuncture and started the course the same day one of my daughters went to university.
So at 51 I retrained in Acupuncture and have loved every minute since!
I now have a clinic offering private and Multi-bed treatments, depending on what clients prefer or can manage. I set up the multi-bed clinic to try and keep prices as low as possible for people because I found it difficult to pay for the treatments I needed myself.
Q2. Most people probably know that acupuncture involves needles but I would love to know a little more about what acupuncture is and how it works and how it can support pregnant women?
Acupuncture is an ‘holistic’ treatment which means it works with the ‘whole person’, supporting not only the physical but also emotional and even ‘spiritual’ aspects of our nature. With this is in view it can be used to aid relaxation, calm anxiety as well as treat the changes that occur in pregnancy that can cause problems.
I support women all the way through their pregnancies, but there are specific times when acupuncture can be really helpful:
Women giving birth are just phenomenal! Believing you can do it- with the trust that as an individual there is no right or wrong way- it can be transformative. There are certain points that we avoid during different stages of pregnancy but generally it is a very gentle and safe treatment when performed by specialist acupuncturists.
Q3. What do you love most about working with women on their journey to motherhood?
For me being able to give women space to talk openly about any problems and get the support they need is so important. Also a haven to come to and take ‘time out’ in a safe, comfortable environment.
Q4. What transformations do you see in women who use acupuncture?
Acupuncture gives them strength to choose their own way through pregnancy and birth. To feel they do not have to rush and meet everyone else’s expectations.
Acupuncture gives women relief from symptoms that they have been told cannot be supported by Western medicine at this time in their lives. Like nausea and vomiting; carpal tunnel syndrome; heartburn; backache.
It also gives women support and options when faced with difficult decisions, often at the end of pregnancy when pressure can be applied to go for induction.
Q5. What would you say to women to inspire them with confidence and joy about birth- either practical tips or suggestions for support?
Pregnancy is not always easy and there is no manual so try to listen to your body and if you feel there is a problem or you are not coping- talk to someone -use all the support around you.
Try not to let others fixate you on ‘dates’ – as long as your baby is moving and you are well, get out in nature as much as you can and let baby grow. Talk to your baby, play music, take time for yourself and pamper yourself. You are beautiful!
Q6. What do you find awe inspiring about women giving birth/birth itself?
Women giving birth are just phenomenal! Believing you can do it- with the trust that as an individual there is no right or wrong way- it can be transformative.
Q7. What breaks your heart that you would like to see change for women becoming mothers?
The lack of support now from the NHS. Midwives have such a difficult task with all the cuts and demands on their time. They can’t do the job they want to be able to do to support women at this very precious time. Especially after birth.
Q8. If there was one thing that you would like women listening to take away and take to heart today what would it be?
Get the support you need to trust in your own body to support and nurture this beautiful new life that is growing within you. You can do this. Go mama!
Gulara is a mother of two, a writer and a healer who specialises in helping women recover from deep childhood and sexual trauma. She talks to BirthEssence about the inner work she did on her journey to becoming a mother and how it has transformed how she shows up in the world.
(Photo Credit Khalid Zeynalov)
Notes: ( Scroll down to find links to the tools mentioned in the interview at the end of the notes)
Originally from Azerbajan, Gulara came to the UK over a decade ago and embarked on an epic healing journey from a traumatic childhood. Now a therapist herself she talks about the tools she used on her journey to health and well being and particularly how she transformed her experience of birth as she became a mother to her two children now 4 and 6.
2.50 Her first pregnancy was deemed to be high risk and was highly stressful. Gulara needed to release the ‘gunk’ from her system. Although she used three of her top healing tools to prepare, her first birth was still traumatic and she feels that she had no idea how much work there was for her to do. This led to more work to prepare for her second child to releasee the trauma from her first birth as well as going on a deeper journey of healing. One significant result was that Gulara was able to speak up for herself and her choices in her second birth e.g. no induction and eventually chose home birth. Despite this changing to an emergency c- section Gulara experienced this birth in a totally different and positive way, being well cared for throughout which was a huge turnaround just in itself.
5.25 How to choose from the plethora of tools? Gulara says trust your gut. Set an intention to find the tool that works for you. Sometimes it’s the tool you already know the best. Sometimes it’s new. Find something easy and simple. Gulara used tools that could excavate patterns that were set in the womb or before conscious memory. The openness of transition to motherhood brings up many unresolved traumas and Gulara encourages you to go deeper to clear this.
7.10 Some memories that are blocking you may not be seen as trauma by the adult you but were experienced as such to you as a child. Whatever has affected you and set a pattern down can be looked at. Trauma doesn’t have to be traumatic such as a pattern of not standing up to authority was a pattern Gulara developed in childhood that played out in her first birth and took some unpicking before she could speak up and ask for what she wanted in her second birth.
8.24 Gulara’s three top tools. Firstly, there is no ultimate one top tool for everyone. The one you find that works for you is the right one.
1 The Journey™ This is a process of uncovering buried memories that you are holding in your body that are creating imbalance or illness. You clear the emotional charge from your system so the world changes how it responds to you. For example, If you are holding anger under the surface, a doctor may respond to that anger inside you even if it is not expressed. Clear it and reconnect with the same consultant and you will notice a difference as there is not the charge to react to. Also described as a forgiveness-based mindfulness technique- a description of the process you undertake during ‘A Journey’
12.29 Tip: Take enough time in advance to invest in clearing work also so you can enjoy the pregnancy.
14.07 Tool 2. The Compassion Key® – a new technique with ancient origins. ‘Simply magic,’ this tool works to clear imprints and patterning from your system. You can as with The Journey , take your existing condition and clear right back to the root cause. It is highly flexible in its application including switching between timelines and your life can transform in ways that you couldn’t even imagine. We love tools that are deceptively simple with immense healing properties. Using the vibration of compassion energy to dissolve imprints is simple and powerful.
18.11 3.The NPA Process ( Non Personal Awareness) This tool turns healing on its head as you don’t always need to uncover the memory yet it will also clear the root cause. It is a 6 line spoken word process that stops you taking things personally. Gulara’s describes how when we have stuck energy in our mind or body and we tune into that energy and find a word or label to describe that which we run through the process and it unravels it beautifully. Absolutely magical tool she uses pretty much every day. Can be subtle and you don’t even realise how much you have changed over time as it can take 30 seconds then you show up differently.
20.29 A Prayer for everyone to be able to access this power of shifts so quickly.
NPA you can do any time anywhere. A tool that is with you in a critical moment such as in birth situation if you were panicking you could take the panic through the 6 line process and shift it. ( Here is a blog where I talk about doing exactly that as I shift my fear of not coping with the pain in just seconds)
A great tool that I would love Doulas and midwives to have and be able to support birthing women and this is part of Charlotte’s vision for the future.
22.10 Suggestions to a woman becoming a mother. Clear your imprints and do as much clearing as you can while pregnant, it will pay off. When Gulara is balanced and well in herself everyone in her family benefits as well as her. She notices her second child was much calmer as a baby and part of this is that she was in a much calmer place during the pregnancy. Before During and After! There is not an end it is a journey and it is worth doing.
23.43 Digging into these imprints and pain will not harm the baby as they are already there and so when you become free you set them free too. They are in your energy field so they carry what you hold in your body. They often take this on and by clearing it you are not passing it on. It will serve you and you will feel more resourced to look after your baby which is a big journey already and also it will serve your baby.
24.55 Gulara finds everything awe inspiring about birth. You have no idea until you have a baby how much it changes you. It is a beautiful journey. Her son was her messenger of love, arriving on Valentines day. This was not an external love but an invitation to love herself to become a better mother and this was a big gift.
26.58 Gulara absorbed the patterns from her childhood about giving too much to be a good mother and then she has been learning to receive and putting boundaries for ‘me time’ that recharges her and this has become an important part of being a mother.
27.53 What breaks Gulara’s heart is the way women are treated as she was in the hospital where her body and her autonomy was undermined. The casual language that is used is upsetting for example classing Gulara as ‘not normal.’
30.10 In contrast, Gulara’s home birth team was wonderful. A team of cheerleaders ( The Birmingham Women'sand children's home birth team)
32.01 Takeaway Number One: This is self-care. Not just a one off massage, though this is lovely but also how do you talk to yourself and treat yourself. If you notice something is a bit off don’t just say never mind this is just little, pay attention to how you treat yourself and particularly when it is hard or you are triggered. Be supported to overcome these patterns when you notice them. Make the self-care not just one off. Continuous support is so much more beneficial. Gulara didn’t want to leave a stone unturned after her first birth as she saw how much her internal patterning and programming was playing out in the birth experience and this is what made the difference in the second experience of pregnancy and birth. Her second baby also fed better, slept better, it was much more easeful and joyful and she thinks this is in part from the work she did on herself.
34.51 Offering hope to women who have had a poor birth experience. It is never too late to work on an experience. If a pattern shows up in birth, chances are it has been there a long time and will be showing up else where and the root is often in your own childhood and so the clearing work is always beneficial as it will be impacting in other areas of your life that are ongoing. It will also change how you feel about the birth that you already had. When you release in one area, other areas of your life improve too. Coming to peace with what happened is important.
There is no destination, it is a process of growing and we reach limits of each layer of growth and then reach further. I move faster and with more ease when I release what is holding me back.
Joel Young, the founder of NPA talks of this as growing like a tree with its rings and it is always still a tree as it grows through its formed and these tools make the process of growing more enjoyable
38.04 Finally, this journey is fun! And fascinating. Gulara remembers feeling skinned alive and raw from more traditional therapies where she had opened up something but not felt so much resolution from this. With the tools discussed here she knows that when she opens up something she feels healed afterwards not that she has just rehashed the old events, she has found some peace and resolution.
40.09 Thank you for paving this way for me as Gulara tells of her being my private client and says “Charlotte has been a tremendous support and that I have grown and then wanted to help others and you are a source of inspiration and your skills are magic and highly recommended and Charlotte changed my life.”
Links to the Tools and Resources mentioned:
Gulara Vincent, PhD, is a healer and writer, who helps women to heal from sexual trauma. In her 1:1 sessions, she truly listens to her client’s stories and lovingly helps them script a new path – one paved with deep healing and empowerment. Her natural warmth and compassion creates a safe space for women to express long-held feelings of unworthiness and negativity. Gulara's work aims to dissolve these limiting beliefs and inspire a life lived with freedom, ease and grace. Here's how you can connect with her:
Heidi Danaher has practiced Yoga for over 20 years and added hypnobirthing to further support the pregnant women in her yoga classes. She loves to work with pregnant women and follow their journey as a mother enjoying the transformation that her hypnobirthing and yoga classes bring. She speaks here of the power of this journey and how women 'discover themselves' through the process of giving birth.
Heidi has been a yoga teacher for over 20 years and in the early years pregnant women kept coming so Heidi followed the Universes hint and trained in pregnancy yoga to support them. Pregnant women still kept coming so Heidi kept going and found she loved it. She later added Hypnobirthing.
1.40 What is hypnobirthing? It is nothing like stage hypnotism on TV. Think more learning how to relax and release fears from your life experience and your own birth and become empowered and make decisions from a place of being informed. Good for people for whom even entering a hospital environment puts them on edge.
3.0 Using hypnobirthing as pain relief. There is no promise of pain free, but using hypnobirthing helps you manage the pain and the birth can be enjoyable.
4.10 A glimpse into how hypnobirthing can help you ride out any changes with confidence through the story of the birth of Heidi’s own son 4 years ago, when she had the opportunity to use her skills on herself.
Heidi used a variety of different hypnobirthing programmes ( see links at the end for suggestions of starting places to find one for you)
6.37 Who is hypnobirthing for and how do you know if its for you? There is lots of inspiration online and it's good to get your partner involved as it is not happening to their body so this gives them a tool kit to help and they can feel prepared, supportive and useful. Talk to others and have an open mind.
8.36- A group or private? Choose what works for you and remember in a group you often have reunions after and have a ready made community to connect with
9.20 The Key to success: Practice! Be flexible for example when you awake at night and can’t sleep. Practice little and often throughout the day which doesn’t take up much time but can make a huge difference. Heidi has heard many stories of women who have not done hypnobirthing with a first birth and with the second feel much more empowered and able to manage the medical professionals and know what they would like and get a different experience.
11.20 Charlotte's story of listening a lot to hypnobirthing tracks for her first child and then neglected this during her second pregnancy until she hit a bump in the road with some fear, tension and high blood pressure. Listening to her old hypnobirthing tracks took her right back and she was instantly relaxed and at peace.
13.02 What does a hypnobirthing birth like? It doesn’t have to be all OM and the baby just appears! Sound and noise is fine. If you are breathing and giving birth you ARE doing it. Partners can also be reassured about what is normal including noise and the more a partner is relaxed the more he can be supportive.
14.45 How to choose the right hypnobirthing for you. Tip- you need to like their voice! Check out what else the practitioner does and how she integrates those, For example Heidi mixes in some of her Yoga work. ( see some ideas at the end of notes)
16.04 There is some overlap in the breathing exercises in hypnobirthing and in the pranayama yogic breathing and so they complement each other well.
16.50 The anatomy of a pregnancy yoga class including the tea break time. A lovely experience to teach and take part in . Heidi took part in her own classes when pregnant as a colleague ran them for her and got to experience it that way which was so lovely.
18.30 The importance of relaxation and setting aside time to do this. Again short bursts are useful and in addition the collective vibe of a class is powerful.
19.11 It is awe inspiring when women discover themselves and find a sense of power they didn’t know they had. Heidi thinks it is amazing to create a baby and enjoys the lovely stories she has a privilege to be a part of.
20.20 Hypnobirthing can help you to know what you have to do and where you have choice such as knowing the mantra 'your body your choice' so you can choose a sweep or you can say no. This knowledge is powerful. Good to be informed.
22.18 Heidi would like women to know that there is tons of support out there and to go and find it. And to Know they can do it.
23.28 Finishing with more insights into Heidi’s birth and her supportive sisters who knew what she wanted.
Finally Enjoy the journey!
Heidi has practiced yoga since 1997 and is qualified as a yoga teacher with The British Wheel of Yoga and Ruth White's Karuna Yoga. Her interest in birth led her to further training to support pregnant mothers and children including becoming a Calm Birth School Hypnobirthing Teacher. She lives on the Isle of Man with her four year old son and you can find her contact information here
Links to Hypnobirthing Resources
Here are some links to different Hypnobirthing options. They are by no means exclusive and are just some of the resources Charlotte and Heidi have tried out themselves and are a good starting point. If you have locl knowledge or friends who have tried other programmes, use that and find the one you like the most.
The Calm Birth School ( video based home study course with also live teachers teaching classes) https://www.thecalmbirthschool.com/
Natal Hypnotherapy https://www.natalhypnotherapy.co.uk/
Katharine Graves https://www.kghypnobirthing.com/
Positive Birth Downloads https://www.positive-birth.com/index.htm
Some books - often these have an accompanying cd or download:
Arty Thukral is passionate about supporting women to restore balance and optimal health using a variety of tools including Reflexology, Bach Flower Remedies and Matrix Reimprinting. In this interview Arty discusses how these tools can help you throughout your journey as a mother including through loss and fertility journey as well as birth.
Arty starts with an over view of what is Reflexology revealing its origins in Ancient Egypt . The technique is based on the theory that body parts are maps that are mirrored throughout the body ad particularly the face, hands, ears and feet. These points and knowledge were used as local anaesthetic before anaesthetic was created
2.33 Quick nod to the legalities of what benefits you can claim – Stress reduction. Of course so many ailments can be linked back to stress. And beyond the legalities there are more benefits and wider applications than stress management including treating miscarriage and induction.
4.20 We discuss briefly that baby comes when baby is ready so help during pregnancy to assist baby to come is help with alignment to come when ready.
5.24 Arty shows us some reflexology points including the ovaries near the ankles, and points to help in labour and with common ailments such as back pain.
7.10 Reflexology is safe and natural so does not cause miscarriage and is not contra indicated in pregnancy during the first trimester and may help chances of embryo sticking. All reflexology helps you as mother to tune in and nurture baby.
Cause and correlation with miscarriage and similarties of massage that you can support a miscarriage and it will not cause it.
9.22 The respect and honour for the feet to be touched a historical factor and honouring aspect of the treatment. Also some of the power is in receiving the love and attention of a caring practitioner. this non juegmental support and love is very important in areas where there is stigma like miscarriage.
10.37 We talk a little of silent miscarriage where the baby dies but stays inside the body Arty uses her tools to support you to get back in touch with your body and facilitate the willingness to let go through.
13.01 The importance of a good bond with the practitioner you choose Someone who listens and can be supportive through challenges. For support with miscarriage contact: The Miscarriage Association
16.30 On bonding- and being with a woman through journey from conception to birth and beyond and the child has already bonded with her.
17.07 Arty shares some self help tips with pressure on the souls of feet and the pelvic bowl hold - for stability. Arty suggests that setting the time aside is most important and don’t worry about techniques, just touch with awareness. By holding the feet you will help her to feel held and supported throughout her body
19.46 Arty loves how the mother is ttwo in one and she loves the silent connection with baby through the mothers feet letting them know they are safe and supporting their first impression of the world. It is so rewarding as you feel you are making a difference to the future. Contributing to positive birth is so important as birth makes such a big impact on your life
21.30 Arty feels there are mutual benefits in giving and you are giving for two so its extra!
24.26 We talk about being both part of the physical world and part of someething more than this too. Plus the importance of choosing your practitioner and changing if they are not a good fit as establishing a relationship is so important.
25.50 Make sure you are choosing the best for you with discernment. Compare your attitude to shopping at the supermarket and making sure you get the right product and treatment with the attitude of doctor knows best. Arty likes to empower women over and above the treatment to have the inner strength to trust their own feelings. Question and ask for alternatives if not sure. Have ability to ask because one thing is sure if you don’t ask you wont get what you want.
28.45 Arty is in awe of birth itself, and in awe of women bringing new life and being still in that moment and to experience it. Holding baby after tuning in. She advises to trust your baby knows when is the best time to come and how to come. This is all about learning to allow as a woman.
31. All birth shapes how you are and all births are births- breech caesarean . all are births.
32.05 All about Bach Flower Remedies. There are 38 flowers relating to emotional states. These are safe in pregnancy and labour and even for baby. They can be used alongside allopathic medicine and are very subtle yet powerful. Rescue remedy is commonly known and as practitioner Arty can listen to your needs and recommend and make tailor made blends.
34.45 How healing is like peeling an onion, digging through the emotional layers which gives you an opportunity for you to realise yourself and deeper feelings and how the flowers promote a connection with the natural world and bringing us into alignment with that natural cycle in its slower speed. Which is super useful all the time and especally in pregnancy.
37 All about Matrix Reimprinting and EFT tapping where you tap along the meridian points/ The Matrix reimprinting works as you traceback to your younger self who has left echos in you and then you tap to recreate a new memory and neural pathway to reimprint beliefs. Similar to the layers on an onion.
41.58 Arty would like to encourage self awareness and knowledge of your inner world. Tune in to yourself and knowing what you and your baby wants and then going to get what you want out of resources and being strong to stand up for what you believe in. Arty suggests to do more yoga ( or other practice) and self awareness to empower you to support the changes that need to happen.
44 The importance of breathing. Breathing is life and can help you tune in with baby. Arty advocates using natural methods to support you through your birth whatever the method. ( You may like to read a 5 Simple ways to relax using your breath)
Arty calls for us all to get out of any victim mentality we notice sticking to us and calls for all women to find our strength as we are strong.
49 Enjoy.This is the final suggestion that Arty wishes you to takeaway.
Try journaling, take the time out and use yourself as a guide/ Take time with you to bond with baby, you are so close toyour baby physically at this time so take and make the time. Baby listens and this shapes the baby.
Whatever you can make sure you enjoy this time.
Arty is passionate about supporting you on your journey to discover about yourself and to restore optimum balance and health through her modalities of Reflexology, Bach Flowrer Remedies, EFT, Matrix Reimprinting, Aromatherapy, Fertility Massage and more! Connect with her http://amarisawellwoman.co.uk
From Real Estate Lawyer to Pregnancy Yoga Teacher, Mandy Rees changed her career to create the family life balance she needed as a mother of two daughters and to fulfill her passion to support new mums. Today she talks about why her work lights her up and helps instil confidence in mums.
Mandy's passion to help every woman have the birth she wants and to ease the transition to becoming a mother grew from the gap in support she experienced as she journeyd through PND after the birth of her own daughters now 16 and 12. She left her career as a lawyer and trained as a yoga teacher and now runs pregnancy and postnatal classes.
3.44 Mandy explains what pregnancy yoga is and how her classes are structured. There is inclusivity as every type of birth is as valid as another and the relaxation time after is an important and integral part of the sessions. The time after the session really builds confidence and community in a safe space in which anything can be shared.
6.50 Explaining why this is so much more than an exercise class - the importance of safety and switching off which gives a different quality of rest.
8.40 Mandy describes the journey she sees people go on in her classes as they drop preconceived ideas and relax over time. She sees women grow in trust and make different choices such as to choose a home birth or other avenues that they didn’t think possible at first as they lose the fear element and learn to trust.
10.38 Mandy describes how women sharing together in the classes supports women on a journey that changes fear to empowerment and feeling prepared.
12.12 Building ta ribe and a community and how this benefits women
13.42 The importance of asking more questions. Why your partner also needs to know and understand what you want and the reason why it is useful to make them your mouthpiece. Believing you can do it is key.
15.16 sBuilding confidence to choose what is important to you . this is your birth not one off TV. the importance of learning to say no when moving through an outdated and under pressure system. ( If you have trouble saying no or need to negotiate your birth plan you may also like this blog with tools and tips for getting the information you need to make your choice.)
17 It is helpful to understand what i happening to you- Often trauma is because they didn’t understand why such a procedure happened or date.
20 Postnatal yoga starts when you are ready. there is no rush. The classses a check in and a space to be held so women can step out of class feeling lighter and can practice it at home too. Breathing techniques are invauable skills to take into life as a mum.
22.50 More about how yoga is not just exercise and Mandy's mantra 'Less now.' Mandy also discusses how the classes support you to grow and value intuition saying that 'away from mr google you know the answers'
The babies also go through a journey in the class and relax as the mums do.
25.28 How to find a pregnancy yoga class and how to choose the right class and teacher for you.
27 Finding your cave woman instinct so you can birth anywhere
28 For the women who don't feel like that there is a need for support postnatally to hea.l System doesn’t allow everyone to find that instinct so they don’t think it is in them when it is just hidden. There is the possibility to heal and find it even if have experienced trauma.
29 You don’t have to suffer. If you have experienced trauma and are suffering take a step today to find support. Find someone who can realise how strong you were to go through that so can acknowledge that and own that.
32 What mandy learnt on her own journey as a mother- She didn’t go to classes and get support and went back to work when her daughter was 4 4 months old. She lost connection with her prebaby life and did not get enough help and it was awful for a long time and this has fueled her passin for making sure women get enough support.
34 The shifting identity in a culture where aging and mother hood are not valued means we can struggle to navigate so many changes to our body and being. Having women around gives you many of the important aspects of what you need and you no longer feel alone and isolated which helps you to cope. Mandy shares the message that it is ok to be where you are and it gets easier.
38 When just getting out of the house is a big win. Please come as you are, no need to act.
38.50 Learning confidence. Ask how can I be in a better feeling place and then let the answers come. Your plans have to be what feels right for you. Plan for how you want to feel. Transfer what matters to you to any birth situation. And don’t make your expectations low. Make sure birth is going with your flow even if it changes from your original plan. Women deserve to feel cherished and honoured. Learn to expect that.
42 Ask for it to be delivered just like pizza. Now is not the time to be a shrinking violet, ask for what you want and need. It is Ok to be anxious, dip your toe into pools until you find one right for you. So many empowering women in birth so go looking.
44- Check out your local area for what is available. If you don't feel confident for a class ask about 121and take little steps.
45 Takeaway - there are so many people out there to hold your hand you may need to seraach but they are out there, go and find them! We would love to support you.
Seren’s Birth Story really begins with her sister Clara’s, who was born two years earlier by emergency Caesarean section after a classic cascade of interventions; overdue induction, epidural, failure to progress, and ultimately surgery.
After three days and nights lying on my back being constantly monitored; feeling lonely, scared and isolated as my husband wasn’t allowed to stay with me at night; desparately hungry and weak because I'd been advised not to eat or drink… surgery seemed the only option. Through the numbness I felt terribly grateful to the hospital for saving my baby from her failed mother’s body. Yes, I felt I'd failed and I wasn't ready to process my disappointment, or the shock and trauma. I didn't even recognise that it was trauma for some time. It lay buried beneath the joy and relief of finally holding our beautiful baby daughter.
The surgeon found me on the ward afterwards to tell me that 75% of women who have Caesareans go on to give birth naturally - the first time I heard the term VBAC. “Why are you telling me this?” was all I could think. Reeling from major surgery and a mother for a matter of hours, another baby was not on my horizon, let alone her manner of birth.
But her words stayed with me and I became grateful for this snatched 20-second conversation that she had bothered to come back and have with me.
Fast forward a year and a half, and my husband and I are sitting in the hospital coffee shop after our 12 week scan. Seren is officially on the horizon. I am explaining to him with some force - people are looking - that I plan to do things differently this time. That there is no question I’ll be having a Caesarean or coming near this place again. He looks bewildered. His belief was, and to some extent remains, that the doctors saved our baby.
I am surprised myself by the force of my conviction. It is coming from deep inside me.
I get home and start Googling. I found an article about a beautiful home birth helping to heal the scars of a traumatic first birth and I just begin to cry and I don’t stop for some time. This is me beginning to understand. You see, I didn’t even realise I had experienced that hospitalisation as traumatic. It’s something I unpack over the six months that follow.
I throw myself into preparing for this birth in a very different way. I stand my ground when a consultant tells me “It would be safer if all babies were born by Caesarean”, that I am selfishly thinking of my own experience at the expense of my baby’s, and as a parting shot, “Well, I’m the one who sees women coming back with bladder problems in their fifties.” At the time I feel frightened to death that she might be right. She is the expert, isn’t she?
At this point, with terror dominating my experience I discover the work of Charlotte Kanyi whom I'd met recently at a baby signing class. I was inspired by how she birthed her two boys (three at the time of editing!) at home, the second without assistance as he came so fast and booked her Birth Confidence Package to unpick in depth what had gone wrong. She takes me on a deep dive and helps me to acknowledge and clear past experiences and welcome in new ones. I clear the all consuming fear, the trauma, and the underlying imprints and patterns that were actively preventing me from believing in myself and my body. I change my care providers, my birth place and I hire a doula, Jane Jennings. She listens with skill and without judgment to mine and my husbands very differing viewpoints. It helps - we’ve been at loggerheads for weeks with no progress. He now feels heard, and we realise we both want the same thing fundamentally.
On the advice of Charlotte and Jane, I surround myself with positive birth stories. I take up meditation. I read Ina May Gaskin. I eat healthily, borrow a birth pool, and arrange to go to the local midwife-led centre, Serenity, whose hands-off approach I am eternally grateful for.
On Seren’s due date, the day I expected her least, I laboured at home in the pool with the sunlight streaming in through the sunflowers on the table. Jane turned my occipital posterior baby with a Rebozo shawl in under a minute. I felt Seren turn, I could suddenly walk more easily, and the contractions changed. There was a pause while I breastfed my two year old in the pool - she still refers to this with a big smile.
Seren was keen to be born at home - I could feel her head before we embarked on the car journey to the midwife centre. I held her back till we got to Serenity and they filled a pool there. She was born seconds after I stepped in. The cord was wrapped twice around her neck, and was unhooked without drama. We were able to rest at Serenity before journeying home to be reunited with her sister, our now expanded family complete and feeling whole.
Seren’s birth has left me feeling not only healed but empowered. I hear and trust my instincts so much more. I realise that the meditation, breathing and being in the now exercises I used during birth, are vital to me in the daily challenge of parenting a toddler and newborn. I have tools including The NPA Process which I can use whenever I feel out of sorts, blocked or frightened. I feel less scared of dying. Some part of me has understood and confronted a place of inner strength where birth and death happens. This was without question the most wonderful experience of my life and taught me precious life lessons.
It makes me sad beyond words that this opportunity is becoming so hard to come by. As I reflect on why this is. I feel that our medical system is beyond wonderful when birth goes wrong, but it mostly runs on a model of intervention, and sometimes causes the emergencies it solves. I have seen so many women have similar experiences to me resulting in undermining of already fragile confidence; midwives measure bumps big, growth scans follow giving a “diagnosis” of a big baby. The seed of fear is sown, and often the woman is already well on her way to a Caesarean, believing she can’t possibly give birth to such a monster. Often there is much surprise when the enormous baby is born weighing a very average 7lb. Rather than encouragement and positivity at the moment she needs it most, a woman starts to encounter fear and an institution more concerned with covering its back than with helping her bring her baby into the world in the best possible way. “Safety” statistics don't even start to take into consideration effects on mother and baby, PND, delayed trauma, interrupted bonding, lack of transfer of beneficial bacteria and flora, and breastfeeding problems, caused by interfering with the process of birth.
For myself I needed a lot of support and education to overcome the fear and trauma from the first time, and to reassure me that it was safe to ignore the “experts” without being a potential baby murderer. I put a lot of resources into birth preparation, to clear the trauma and the roots of the imprinting and patterns that had led to me experiencing a very disemowering birth where I felt out of control and ignored, isolated and not able to voice my own desires. I also hired a doula. The healing experience of my second child has transformed me in a deep and long lasting way and I wish that all women would take heart and inspiration from this story and find their own inner strength and joyful place.
Zoe Challenor is a mother with many hats. She is also a workshop leader for Welsh National Opera, An Artist in Residence af Ark Schools, Founder and Director Of B'Opera Baby Opera which makes beautiful music for tiny ears.
You can catch up with her on Facebook at Zoe Challenor singing and Alexander Technique and B'opera.
Continuing the Passion and Possibilities Interview Series with Awen Clement an independent civil celebrant and Pagan Priest who blends the traditional with the spiritual to celebrate life and death and all the milestones in between.
Awen grew up in a Pagan community that rites of passage including menarche were celebrated and which has influencd her journey into offering celebrancy to the world as she feels it is much needed. Despite her own supportive upbringing she still experienced a gap between her belief that birth is sacred and special and the reality when she became a mother for the first time and part of her work now is to fill that gap for other women.
4.12 How motherhood intrinsically changes you and yet the expectations are to return to normal life quickly and skate over the change. More fuss is made of baby than mum and there is a craving for connection that is not met.
7.12 Awens experience with her 4th and final baby and how she learned to give spae and time for herself, permission for herself. Noting how women often have a pattern of being able to look after others and tell others what is best and then being slow to do that for yourself.
9,23 A summary - The journey of birth and motherhood for Awen leading her from 'the gap' to fulfilling her desire for connection and how this conversation aims to help women avoid suffering in a prolonged ‘gap’
11.48 All about Mother Blessings, why they are not the same as a blessingway and the benefits of a mother blessing over the more familiar baby shower. The power and healing of placing the mother to be at the centre of a circle of closest female friends and family – sending out the message that you matter and your birth matters
14.25 Some specific ideas of what a mother blessing can include and how you may create your own.
17.34 The family dynamic and how it changes over time and with each new child. The importance of marking this change each time and how it supports and eases the whole family with the transition and changes a new family member brings
19.34 How seemingly small acts of care can have big impacts. One ceremony such as mother blessing can ripple outwards each birth is an interconnected web that ripples outwards far beyond the immediate family. The positive impace of this loving attention just for being you with all done for you.
21.48 Creating memories for life. Give yourself permission to receive.
22.41 How activating activating your wishes and prayers with witnesses in a group enhances their impact.
23 A really passionate part of the discussion. We don’t know how birth is going to go and a mother blessing provides the space to hold the woman wherever she is in that without dismissing how she feels or diminishing her experience in any way. This gives her power.
24 Love love love- Love is the antidote to fear emotionally and biologically - oxytocin is what we want more of for birth to progress smoothly and adrenaline can impede or slow birth down. So create more oxytocin iducing situations more often.
25.45 Extend the love with practical gifts. These help you feel seen and give you time to spend with your baby and work out who you are now and how you fit in with this new person and your newness as a mother ( no matter how many times you have done it before)
26.55 The more kids we have the more help is needed and yet the inverse sometimes happens, at least in the acknowledgment of how special you and what you have done is. However it is new every time.
28.24 The importance of honouring the Journey at many steps along the way. Awen speaks of her personal journey and how she is poles apart from 1st to 4th child and needed different holding and celebrating each time. We need repetition, reassurance and celebrating again for each milestone and greater need to make more space with more children
30.30 What Awen finds inspiring about birth is witnessing the transformation of a woman into a mother and her sense of I did it. The shift from I don’t know if I can do it to I did it! - with special emphasis on 'I' .it was me that did it no one else can do it for you.
33.37 Have people around that believe in you without caveat or qualification. Who say I see you and believe in you and this makes miracles possible How we don’t say this directly often enough We still need unconditional love and support as adults that we did as children
35 It is ok to need help for that to be fun. This is the difference between a task being hard and horrible and it being difficult still not easy at all and yet incredibly rewarding. Separate hard from horrible.
37 Awen underlines the importance of our birth stories to us and urges you to avoid listening to the competition between women for who has the worst birth story and urges you to find and share positive stories instead. This shows also how important our birth stories are and the need for support in their telling. Do not tell a pregnant woman your horror story but seek help to have it heard and unpacked in an appropriate way. Unresolved trauma can be helped and supported and your story given a fresh meanging for you We crave for our stories to be heard.
42 It is never too late to unpack and heal from traumatic birth. Even if your children are grown up
43 Disscussing ceremonies from other cultures, including Mexico and Morrocco- Closing the Bones/post natal sealing ceremony. These ancient and healing traditions are now spreading back to the West where we lost many of our traditions and have a deep need and longing for this kind of work – a mother is wide open energetically for birth and needs to bring all that energy back into herself postnatally, physically and energetically.
45.49 Small steps = big shifts. You can hire a professsional or create your own ceremonies with friends. Awen wants women to claim back this knowledge and share for all to benefit
48 Land and the Village. We know is there something missing. A gap. Slow down with help of rhythm of the land. The mwww.awenclement.comove to fixed calendar clock and electric light played havoc with our natural rhtyhms creating disconnect and a fast pace whichfuels exhaustion. The remedy reconnec t with time outside
57 Finally, listen inside to yourself beyond the extensive noise of our modern lifestyle. Allow that which is rising in you and come back to the place where you trust yourself as your own best witness and guide.
Continuing the Passion and Possibilities Interview Series with a wonderful interview with Lorna Philip who is a Doula based in Birmingham. We discuss everything from what is a Doula and why you may choose to hire one, to how doulas can support you before during and after birth.
Watch the video or listen to the audio only version below the video. If you are limited for time use the notes underneath to skip to what most interests you.
Following 20+ years supporting mums, dads and children working in coordinating family health services, promoting and supporting breastfeeding, teaching infant massage, to name but a few of her previous roles, Lorna discovered her purpose and passion as a Doula
She supports all kinds of births and her heart particularly singswhen she supports women who are experiencing a VBAC ( vaginal birth after Caesaerean birth ) or who are creating positive births after a traumatic birth.
3.35 Defining a doula in a nutshell- a Doula is a lay person trained and experienced in birth offering practical and emotional care to the woman and her family.
4.16 We talk about what the role entails beyond ‘professional hand holding’ and how important these tasks are to the woman
6.00 We mention the research that shows benefits of a support person who is not a medic or a family member and discuss why- more objective and not emotionally tied to woman and situation.
7.28 why being a doula is not all about holding the babies cute though they are and what it is about instead.
8.55 Why it is not the mode of birth – vaginal versus caesarean for example that makes the birth special and the transition to motherhood smooth or traumatic. And how a doula supports a smoother transition to motherhood.
10.00 we talk about the miracle of birth and the role of a doula in influencing the calm trust atmosphere in the room
14.50 How to prepare for the postnatal period during pregnancy and tips to make sure you have enough support.
15.33 Dealing with resistance: I can’t afford a doula… Payment plans, gift vouchers and changing the mindset to give yourself what is priceless rather than pricey.
19.05 Mother burn out and how to avoid it
19.18 Who is a doula for- Hint if you are thinking its not for me its for x, y z, types of women you will be wrong.
20.15 Local support options:
Bethel Doula supporting vulnerable women with a free doula
And Cando-Doulas supporting women with learning difficulties.
For all nonlocal women there is likely other similar schemes in your area. If you would like a doula but don’t think you can afford one even with saving please ring a doula and ask what is available and what options exist in your area.
22.30 Addressing the results of the MBRRACE- UK (Mothers and babies reducing risk through audits and confidential enquiries) report 2018 which found Asian mothers twice as likely to die and black mothers 5 x as likely to die during childbirth than white women. We discuss the problem of viewing women as ‘other’ and the impact of true listening. With a plea to you watching to check inside to see if you are guilty of either fault so you can bring yourself gently back to open hearted listening to the human being in front of you
26.30 Brings us to cultural safety
28.40 The blind spot that assumes there is a level playing field that fuels defensive reactions when confronted by any women asking for more ( respect , time, etc) and in particular women of colour. We also talk of the importance of understanding the defensive reaction and moving beyond it back to the heart and humanity.
30.46 Takeaway wisdom - You don’t have to birth like they do on one born every minute! - or any other film or any other person.
32.19 Takeaway wisdom 2. Use your voice to insist on help. You matter and your voice matters. Take some time to enquire what you truly want and need and ask for it.
Find Lorna at Birmingham Doula where she offers Doula services including postnatal doula services, hypnobirthing and Mizan Therapy.
The Passion and Possibilities in Birth Interivew Series showcases the who's how's and why's of creating a community of support around you as you prepare and create your best birth experience. Intended to inspire you and open you to new and old ideas there are 11 different birth profesisonals sharing their passion and wisdom. We kick off here with experienced independent midwife Janie Al Alawi.
Watch the video or listen to the audio only version below the video. If you are limited for time use the notes underneath to skip to what most interests.
Janie Al Alawi discovered her passion for midwifery during a 4 week placement to the Jessop Hospital for Women during her nursing training that she completed in 1985. It was here she returned to become a 'Jessop girl' with 18 month training to become a midwife. She experienced labour ward and community midwifery before moving to Abu Dhabi in 1990 to the Corniche Hospital. 12 years, 4 different jobs including the busy delivery suite where 100,000 babies were born annually, Janie returned to the Uk to work as a community midwife. where she remained untili 2014. 2014 saw her creating acorn birth services as an independent midwife.
4.10 Janie describes why she loves midwifery so much -"Being a midwife for Janie is not a job it is something in you".
5.41 All about The Pinard.
This is the long trumpet that you see my husband using to listen into my baby's heartbeat, under supervision of Janie. Janie explains why she loves this traditional tool and why it is still useful today even though we have hand held dopplers and technological aids to listen in.
6.40 The difference between working for the NHS and working indpendently.
9.32 All about choice and the mantra " guidelines not tramlines" when arranging your birth plan with your care providers.
10.30 Why you are the expert in your own birth. The importance of communication especially listening to the woman, the mother. REmember 'The customer is always right' is the mindset to cultivate.
12.44 Billy the dog. A midwife's faithful companioni. He remained off screen but present so here is a little picture of the bundle of mischief.
13.30 Why the presentation and interpretation of data is a problem with induction research and what Janie would like to see change ( We mention Sophie Messager who as a scientist and birth educator has also written eloquently on this subject Check out this blog on induction )
15.31 Why sweeps are the bane of Janie's life and her water slide analogy to help you understand and choose.
20.15 As a population we are healthier than ever so why are we having so many more problems? Discussing the need to trust women and their bodies, with a special mention of big babies as an example of how planting fears that weren't there can affect you.
23.30 What Janie would like to see women doing to prepare for the birth of their child- including slowing down in the third trimester particularly. How she sees 'wired babies' when the mother hasn't slowed down, babies reflecting their mothers state of being.
26.40 Janie shares some tales from her travels to other cultures including the Emiratesand Angola where she witnessed the elder traditional midwives working alongside her in the hospital and mothers being looked after round the clockin the postnatal period.
31.44 Discussing easy to implement tips and techniques to support baby into the best position inlabour including using the stairs and the racing start.
33.30 A saddening tale of how quickly traditional skills and home birth/active birth preference were lost in the Emirates as an overmedicalised model took over in this nation which today sees 50% c sectoins. On her first visit she used 1 epidural in 12 years and very low c-section rates so the change is astonishing and quick. Janies mission and passion (one of many!) is to bring back home birth to th Emirates.
40.27 How you speak to a woman in pregnancy and birth will stay with her for life- so be mindful. And a reminder that YOU are superwoman! As Janie describes how she is still excited at every birth after 31 years as a midwife.
43 The heartbreak Janie feels when women are only given one option when there is almost always more choice than that. ( Check out this blog for more skills on how to get offered the choices available )
44 Mary Cronk Exclusive! Midwives on a mission of mercy. Janie shares a story from a trailblazing midwife who has done much to support women's choices in childbirth and to preserve skills such as birthing a breech baby.
You can read about her legacy here .
46 Some women need some help with some labours, BUT this help is the last line not first line as women can do this and have been for 1000s of years.