I stare at the computer screen biting back the tears. Telling myself to hold it together, that maybe it will work this time…. But No. My plugins won’t update and until they do I can’t write anything on my website.
The dam bursts and I can’t hold it in anymore. I am gulping with enormous sobs as I break down completely. I have been trying fruitlessly for two hours to update my plugins. The ‘idiots guide’ my brother created for me is not idiot enough for me I think despairingly. I am trying to cry and not wake the baby at the same time, I sound like a strangled pig and even if I don’t wake him I have 15 minutes left until the school run anyway.
My brother comes to the rescue and fixes what took me two hours to fail at in about ten minutes. His kindness overwhelms me further. My heart is breaking. My mind is in overdrive telling me how I’ve wasted this precious time. The precious time I have precious little of these days. A blip like this derails my whole schedule.
I must look crazy from the outside I think, getting this upset over such a small detail that is now fixed. I try to reassure myself that it will be ok. Tomorrow is another day. But the less kind inner critic is having a field day. Perhaps she hopes to solve my problems by demoralizing me further but it just adds to the overwhelm bearing down on me from all sides.
Right now, in the thick of it the pain is all consuming. Acute and raw. I cry and I cry. I can’t do anything else but cry. And this is how it is. A small seemingly trivial event that has even been resolved has the power to tip me over the edge into despair. A pit from which I can see no solutions only hardship. A dark place of sadness where I secretly believe myself to be completely useless and no good to anyone. The way I am feeling bears no resemblance to the size of the fairly ordinary event.
I feel trapped. No way out, nothing I can do, panicking as time ticking loudly and ominously away reminding me of all I’ve not done yet.
Except there is one thing I can do. One thing I know to do. The NPA Process.
So I take overwhelm through the words to the NPA Process ( a simple 6 line spoken word process that you can find here)
I say the words and I sit allowing my experience of the energy of overwhelm to unfold with the gentle support of the NPA energy.
Relief floods my body. “It’s not just the computer” I say out loud and I start laughing. In a nice way.
Somehow the simple statement that it is not just the computer that is causing me to feel overwhelm has the power to unlock the whole thing. I feel the tension and stress flowing out of me. I see myself at the centre of a misty landscape surrounded by all the important people and jobs in my life. I can clearly see how much I have going on and why I have ended up in such a state of overwhelm. Anyone would. It is not because I am more useless than anyone else. It is because I have so much going on and I fell into the trap of pushing relentlessly to get it all done. Telling myself it had to be now and this way caused me to feel like the world was ending when life had other ideas. Too much self induced pressure. Rigidity.
As I continued to watch space began to open up around me. The events had space around them and from me. I could breathe again and felt myself relax. Somehow this simple process has caused me to see I am overwhelmed and I am still ok.
I sit some more. Witnessing the experience.
Then it is gone. Just like that. I am no longer overwhelmed.
I have just as much to do and no idea how I will make it work but it no longer has the power to crush me. I am OK, I know everything is going to be ok and its time to pick my kids up.
So I gather up my son, dirty nappy no shoes and all and leave overwhelm behind. I let the relief carry me up the hill instead. I feel free, clean, empty. Even though my son yanks my hair hard and continuously yelling goal each time I am ok, Tomorrow really is another day and for today I am ok. This is the simple power of NPA.
So what does this story have to do with pregnancy and preparing for birth?
Well the last time and on a few occasions previously that I got to this point of overwhelm, where the slightest issue could trigger a complete break down, I was pregnant.
Now you are pregnant you have just added a whole new level of activity to your daily life, that goes on under the surface 24/7. As it carries on without your conscious input it is easy to be slightly less than conscious with how we treat our hard working bodies. We keep going. We push our bodies and our selves to keep going at the same pace we did before we were pregnant. We try to be superwoman.
But creating a new human being takes some serious energy expenditure and as with our financial budgets what goes out has to be balanced with what comes in. When we don’t do that, when we don’t take extra time and space for self care, overwhelm and exhaustion are soon to be found tagging along at our heels.
When we are pregnant we are different in other ways too. More emotional. More vulnerable. More intuitive. These are all qualities that enrich our connection in pregnancy and support us to grow our baby. And they are all the qualities that are not particularly valued in a world that prioritises the masculine experience. A paradigm that expects constant output in a steady rhythm regardless. A paradigm that does not take account of our fluctuating rhythms. That shames our emotionality and vulnerability. That does not understand intuitive knowing and prefers scientific facts that can be measured.
So we succumb to the status quo and to the ancient, unconscious conditioning that our lives run on. We accept the pressure to keep going and not complain. We hold it together like we have been doing for centuries. Too often we leave ourselves and our needs to last or even out of the equation altogether. Until we reach breaking point as I did at the computer.
My question to you is do you recognise yourself in my story? Do any parts of it hit you on some level?
Perhaps you have been getting into a state over what your inner critic says are just small events that you should just get over and get on with it.
Perhaps you are finding yourself arriving home from work too exhausted to do more than put your (swollen) ankles up on the sofa? Falling asleep to wake ( if you are lucky enough to get unbroken sleep) to start the whole cycle over again. But you have not had the time to reflect on the craziness of this and make a change and in the mean time is flying by.
Perhaps you are shy to admit you are struggling, Perhaps you have not noticed as you keep going relentlessly, feeling guilty to ask for more breaks or rest time ‘just’ because you are pregnant.
These are all signs. Hints by your body, by the universe, by your soul that you need to make a change. If you have not noticed that you are running on empty and you are still running, running running…. It is time to stop and re-evaluate your priorities.
My invitation to you today is to stop. Take a little time to enquire of yourself? Am I looking after myself, am I honouring this body and this pregnancy? Ask your body how she is doing and what she needs. Then take her advice. Take some time this week to do something different, something restful and regenerative just for you. Just because.
Please feel free to comment and tell me what you choose to do. I would love to hear and celebrate with you.
If this story has awoken your curiosity in NPA , (the incredibly useful and versatile tool that helped me shift quickly out of overwhelm mode into a kinder, gentler state in which ironically much more is getting done with less effort) then please check out this ( affiliate) link where you can download the NPA Process sheet for free and have a go yourself.
Feeling stressed, overwhelmed or burnt out and want to take some direct action with personalised support?
My mother Nurture Massage Treatments are the perfect antidote to overwhelm and are a very enjoyable way to create space and time for you in your life.
My birth confidence Sessions are best for you if know your life is too busy and you are suffering from overwhelm or burn out but you can't bring yourself to make the changes you need on your own. Deep transformation awaits for you if you choose to invest in this option.
I will be back next week with more on the theme of overwhelm and what to do if you recognise you are either in overwhelm or fast heading towards breaking point.
This post was originally published as part of the story behind the story series for writers by Gulara Vincent.
I had a great form teacher in sixth form at school. He was cool. He was full of energy and not afraid to do things differently. He really cared and encouraged us to choose meaningful life paths. “If you don’t you will end up just drifting aimlessly,” he cautioned.
His words struck a chord and I reflected on what I could contribute to the world. In vain. I had no clue or direction at all. In the absence of a cohesive vision I followed the soft whispers of my heart wherever they led, always seeking, searching for meaning.
I wandered long and far, spending years travelling in an outwardly carefree manner. But despite the beautiful patterns my meandering river left in my landscape it felt increasingly empty and meaningless without some deeper purpose to guide the flow. Direction and purpose were a long time coming to me. This dissatisfaction and unfulfilled longing for a deeper meaning eventually drew me into an exploration of my inner world, as varied and full of adventure as my outer wanderings had been. Inspired by the difference in myself I trained as a Journey practitioner and a massage therapist and became passionate helping others heal too.
The threads of my life began to come together like tributaries joining the main branch. My river began to pick up tempo and I met my future husband, who though neither he nor I knew it at the time, was very much part of the answer to my prayer to find my specific calling in life.
“Am I going too fast for you?” He asked as in a fluster I answered “What for?” to his simple request for my number. “thing is I’ve only got till Birmingham.” It was true. He left the National Express Coach at Birmingham with my number whilst I continued to Gatwick. Life had decided I had done enough meandering and it was time for a faster flow downstream.
Things continued to happen fast which is a little ironic as my husband is from Africa and has taught me to move to a more slow and gentle rhythm than the frenetic rushing I used to do. I became pregnant quickly. I was just beginning to joyfully get my head around this new development when I miscarried. As an accredited Journey Practitioner* I knew what to do with the emotional pain that this brought up and I surrendered to waves of deep pain, grief and loss. The physical pain took me by surprise though. My then boyfriend and I held each other through the turbulence of grief and we planted a rose bush in honour of our unborn child.
Our child in her brief visit had awakened my interest in birth. Faced with a negative attitude from my doctor towards a local birth centre I remained quiet about the tentative hints from my womb about choosing a home birth instead. Although I was no longer pregnant and we had decided to wait at least six months so I could finish a massage practitioner course I was on I began almost obsessively to research about pregnancy and birth.
Six months later I was pregnant again. This time I knew my child was staying and I threw myself into preparing for his arrival. Not with shopping for possessions but with a renewed inner exploration. I dug into and changed negative beliefs and fears I had about birth. I cleared imprints from my own birth experience and released old cellular memories that were being held in my womb and in my body. I addressed my fears of my desired birth experience being interfered with in some way by the medical profession and became quietly confident and joyfully excited about giving birth. We birthed at home in the dark, in water. My heart exploded in love as we lifted him to my chest, his features glistening in the torchlight, his serene expression reflected in our eyes and hearts.
Even then I didn’t twig that this was the ultimate direction of my business which was still nameless. It seems so obvious now looking back at the clues. So often I had spontaneously accessed memories of my time in the womb and my own birth, although I have no conscious memory of this time ordinarily. I noticed that many of the women I worked with were able to do the same and heal aspects of their own entrance to the world. It was many months before I had the actual lightbulb moment where I finally caught up with my soul’s desires and everything fell into place.
The words came on a golden shaft of light pouring into my head. “I can help women do what I did, I can help women transform their experience of birth”
I paused and let it sink in. I felt the ramifications of my realisation and it felt good. My heart skipped in excitement. The river was paused, poised at the top of the cliff admiring the grand vista before plunging down into the depths, droplets of water catching the light and erupting into glorious mini rainbows as it went.
In these last eight years I feel incredibly privileged to have been a part of many women’s journeys to motherhood. The feedback from those whose lives I have just the fuel I need to feed my passion and continue my work to transform the birthing experience of women and babies.
*For more information about The Journey by Brandon Bays follow the link
If you liked this post they you may like to read a little more about my birth stories here. Healing Birth Trauma: Reflections on the Meaning of My Diffferent Stories.
I spent a lot of time preparing for the birth of my first child. Trawling the internet, ordering books to read and in-depth emotional clearing work. Somehow I still managed to leave some gaps. Some of these gaps are quite funny now- New born poo colour for example…! I actually thought as the thick treacly meconium gave way to bright yellow mush that it was all due to the lovely meal cooked by my husband I’d eaten the night before coming out somehow in my milk. (His African sauce was made with Palm Oil which is bright orange and solid at room temperature, liquid when heated and permanently stains everything it comes into contact with bright yellow.)
Some of the gaps in my knowledge caused me some temporary concern and added stress and I hope that this post will save some of you from the same needless worries that I experienced.
So here goes, in no particular order, I wish that I had known:-
I did kind of know that due dates are just an indication and that there is some question over the accuracy of the 40 week marker in the first place. ( See bottom of post for useful links on gestation length and EDD calculation.) I also knew that most first time mothers give birth at around 41 weeks. I just thought that would be the same for me. So at 38 plus 5 and contemplating the mammoth task of mounting the stairs I felt a wave of despair at the thought I could have another four weeks and how would I cope. It never occurred to me that this – plus the furious house cleaning- could be an indication that I wouldn’t have to wait that long...
At 39 weeks exactly, I waved my parents out of the door on Good Friday Evening and we all joked how they would be back soon enough. I shut the door and felt the first cramps. Oh…! I nearly called them back in but thought, "It’s probably Braxton Hicks, I’ve not had any of those yet…."
Takeaway Number 1: Listen to your body and be prepared.
Those first ‘Braxton Hicks’ were very low down, dull aches across where my uterus would be were I not pregnant. They felt like period pains. I watched the wild thought fly across my awareness that maybe something was wrong. I was expecting big waves of contractions right across my lovely big belly. I think I was forgetting about a gradual progression of labour and expecting to be thrown right into the most intense labour sensations from the get go.
Still I did at least do something right here. I checked out the panicked thoughts, reassured myself that I was all good and as it was nearly 11pm, I went to bed. It was a restless night that felt like one big contraction but I got a decent amount of sleep in between. I woke at 9 am when I could not ignore that I was in labour any longer as they were now close to 5 minutes apart.
Takeaway Number 2: Connect with the sensations in your body and enjoy the knowledge your body is working for you and get rest while you can.
Another one of those fleeting thoughts that had my heart rate racing. I knew to expect a plug shaped piece of tissue. And there was no mistaking the plug when it arrived. It was, well like my bathroom plug same shape and size and quite solid. Despite the name I wasn’t expecting it to be so pluglike. But somehow I hadn't expected a little gush of blood.
I breathed through the panic and my fears of looking stupid and rang my midwife. She was wonderful and suggested I put a pad on and check the amount of blood then call her back. Great advice and as I put the phone down I realised I was not bleeding any more beyond the couple of drops that had spread out on my clothes and looked much more than they actually were. Thanking my mind once more for its extreme caution in wanting to keep me safe I relaxed again.
I will quickly add that you may not get an obvious plug like I did. Some women lose the plug weeks before labour starts and some like me during my second son's birth, never know if they lost it down the toilet without realising or some time in labour as they never see it and there are all kinds of variations in between.
Takeaway Number 3: Slow down and breathe. Ring your midwife and ask even if you feel stupid.
So useful to know! It really does feel like that. Another unexpected surprise. The pressure of the baby taking up the space in your body causes you both to feel like the baby is coming out of your bottom and for you to actually evacuate your bowels for real. So yes both these are great signs that your baby is on the way and good things to know in advance.
Takeaway Number 4: Expect to poo, and know it's a good sign.
I believed that I needed to be examined at least once, found to be the magic ten cm and given permission to push. I knew I was going to follow my body regardless of numbers, I just thought that was the system and I would have to go along with it. I have since learned that I could have said no to the one examination I did have. It was so clear to all around that I was in labour and doing well, an examination wasn’t necessary. I didn't really want one, I just thought I had to.
Here I have to say my midwife was wonderful. She asked permission, asked if I had had one before ( I hadn’t) and was totally gentle so I could hardly feel it. She then pronounced me 8 cm. Although I would have refused had it been clear to me this was an optional intervention, this announcement actually helped dispel the worry that I had called her out too early and was going to look stupid when she said sorry you are not in labour yet!
Finally I want to really stress that vaginal examinations are a choice and you are the one with the power to choose what is right for you. I was aware that they only tell you what is going on in that moment and that can change. I knew that birth is not linear despite the (mostly male created (charts that imply a certain progression per hour. I had heard many anecdotes of women I know personally and their friends or family who had nearly given birth in triage as labour progressed so quickly. I knew all this but at the time did not know I could make my own choice. Some women find them reassuring as I did in this example. Others prefer not to know and there is a danger of feeling discouraged if you have laboured for a while without any corresponding increase in openness. This seeming lack of change on its own does not mean that nothing is happening. Again listening and communicating with your own body will help you decide what you need.
As for me in this birth story, the official confirmation that I was truly in labour and pretty far on was like a load lifted. I got back up and onto my knees on the floor, for the final stages of opening my body. For that 8 cm was moving pretty fast now, I was not on any arbitrary linear timescale. I had no idea what timescale I was on as I was moving deep into the labour trance world and nothing made much sense any more. There was just one more hesitation on my part.
Takeaway Number 5: You have the power to choose what support you need. You can say no to vaginal examinations.
Not if your body is spontaneously pushing even as you concentrate on relaxing deeply and going with the flow of the birthing energy. Try stopping that life force. That kind of pushing is impossible to stop.
Sometimes women are told they must wait until they get to ten centimetres, whereas in some cultures women are told to start pushing from the first contractions and push all the way through labour. I have always been confused by these seeming contradictions and the lack of trust implied in the process and the woman and baby giving birth. (Check the end of the post for more information on pushing before 10 cm) i
In the mean time there I was on my knees, head buried in the couch, swaying, when I felt my body begin to push. "Oh," I thought, "I am only 8 cm? Will I be in trouble? Should I tell her?" I lifted my head just long enough to say tentatively, "my body wants to push now." "You just go with what your body wants to do," my midwife replied gently. AAhh so good. The last worry smoothed away with just those few words. I dropped my head into the sofa again and let everything go.
Takeaway Number 6: Spontaneous Pushing is impossible to stop or control but can feel fantastic. Trust your body.
(A small aside- if you are a community midwife who attended a home birth on Easter Saturday in Handsworth and you recognise this story. Thank you. You were so lovely. You always asked permission, explained and exuded a quiet confidence and respect that was catching. I would love to hear from you if you ever read this- I cannot remember your name.)
I felt my son come right up between my legs during the contraction. As I relaxed into the quiet space I felt him move straight back again. With the next contraction, he surged forwards enthusiastically, then fell back again as it subsided. Now as I write and remember this rhythm I am reminded of the sea, gentle waves that lap the shore and the water trickling back to the ocean. It was exactly like that. It serves a purpose, I believe, to soften and prepare your body. Your baby is also an active partner in the birth and needs to rotate himself into position as he comes out.
My son was gearing up for his final exit where he would shoot accross the pool as I sat up to see him. What I would do differently if I could go back would be to have more patience and really enjoy this part. There was no pain as I floated in my pool. It was a fabulous opportunity to connect with my son, reassure him all was well and to take his time rather than question in my head if that was normal or not.
Takeaway Number 7: Be patient and take your time as you start to crown. A bit of to and fro is normal and may help.
We were so in love with our new son that we didn’t get out of the pool. Unfortunately, the room was colder than we would have liked due to an unforeseen heating problem and I started to feel chilly. The midwives had been filling in their paperwork and hadn’t realised we were getting cold. It was easily rectified with some warm towels, dressing gown and blanket but we came close to needing a transfer for a cold baby.
What I did learn with this experience is just how amazing we women are. I may have been blissfully unaware of the temperature of my serene baby but my body knew differently. As my husband and midwives wrapped us in a bundle I started to sweat. The only comparable heat I have experienced is during a fever. My body became a furnace and heated my baby so fast that my lovely midwife wondered if she had made a mistake taking his temperature. I know, as did my body that she didn’t and my birthing story ended happily with the midwives leaving to sleep as my husband and I remained resting on our sofa enjoying our baby as he took his first feed.
So there you have it. 8 tips from the birth story of my first son. I hope you find them useful. If you have any of your own to share, please comment and let me know.
If you enjoyed a quick glimpse into the birth story of my son you can read the complete story along with 12 other wonderful water birth tales in this book. Click image to buy from Amazon.
Below are links to some articles that you may find useful related to the points raised in this post.
Women's gestation can vary by up to 5 weeks-Article in the Independent
Article on pushing with an anterior cervical lip by Midwife Thinking.
I breathe in deeply. The cold blast of air on this frosty winter morning is stimulating and I feel alive. I am reminded of the power of the breath and I stand for a few moments longer just breathing and taking in the view before I set off home, back to my day and to work.
Those few moments of breath made all the difference and I wonder. How have you been breathing this week? How are you breathing now?
Take a few moments to just breathe right now then come back and join me as we explore some simple ways to incorporate breathing exercises into your day.
Welcome back. I feel calmer, more connected and ready to act. How do you feel?
Sometimes, just remembering to take the time for a few simple breaths, without even any particular practice, is half the trick. Of course, a regular practice is beneficial, hugely so. Your body remembers your regular routine and the relaxed state it produces. Practice on ordinary days and when you really need the tools they will be right there waiting for you. Your body will respond more quickly than you may you expect, dropping you back into relax mode.
1. Make each breath count.
My favourite way is to count as you breathe in and again as you breathe out. Make your out-breath longer than your in-breath. This promotes relaxation and helps shift your body from the sympathetic nervous system – fight/flight mode to the parasympathetic mode in which your body is at rest. You can use any number that feels comfortable to you. Try counting in for 4 and out for 8 or in for 7 and out for 11. As you practice try and lengthen your breath without forcing it. Experiment with what feels good to you.
A variation on this is to count each complete breath. Congratulate yourself on each completed breath. Let each breath be one step on a staircase to deep relaxation. In labour each completed breath, just like each contraction, is one more step towards meeting your baby.
2. Follow your breath.
If numbers aren’t your thing you may prefer to journey with your breath round your body. Imagine you are the air that is coming into your nostrils and down into your lungs. Notice how it feels to fly in and down to your lungs. Experience the expansion as more air fills the lungs and the gas exchange takes place and oxygen is gifted to your system. Allow yourself to be propelled back gently to the outside airon your out-breath.
Repeat and take your journey further. Follow the oxygen into your muscles, your womb, to your baby. Notice how your body feels to receive you in this way. You may see images of how your body looks inside or you may simply get a sense of where you are. Feel grateful as you return on the out-breath carrying unwanted toxins and carbon dioxide back out of the body and into the air.
Be playful and curious. Let your mind get interested and your body relax. I have always loved the story of Aladdin and was captivated by the magic carpet. Have fun imagining journeying on your own magic carpet, powered by your breath.
3. Charge your breath.
Ever felt a charged atmosphere during an argument? Could cut it with a knife? Consciously change this dynamic by charging your out breath with what is no longer useful to you. You can invite your fears and worries or tension and stress to leave for example. Nature abhors a vacuum so make sure you then charge your in-breath with what you do want instead. Choose a useful resource such as confidence, trust or peace and let it move into your body with the breath.
4. Point of focus.
My favourite is a candle. The flame has an instant calming effect on me, my heart expands in peace and I feel comforted and connected to something pure and sacred. It awakens memories in me of times around the campfire sharing stories and wisdom.
Breathe steadily in and out as you gaze on the flame. Imagine the warmth and light of the flame enters you on your in-breath. Feel it connect to the fire in your own belly, illuminating you from within.
Fire is also purifying. Try gently blowing out your fears with your out breath into the candle flame. As the candle flickers with your breath imagine that the flame is transmuting and purifying those fears, allowing confidence to come in their place.
When you finish you may either allow the flame to burn itself out in its own time, or you may blow it out with an accompanying wish or intention.
5. Let your heart lead.
Without the heart there is no breath yet even before the breath our heart was beating for us. Earlier still, before even our own heart developed there was the steady rhythmic beating of our mother’s heart guiding our development. Listening to a pulsing heart beat has the power to calm and soothe both babies and adults. It is a gateway into the great love and compassion of heart energy.
Use that energy to guide you as you breathe. Place your hand over your heart and feel it beating. If this is hard try placing your fingers on your neck or wrist where you can feel your pulse easily. Begin to connect to your heart beating and allow the love of your heart guide you to release and relax. Let the gentle loving energy of your heart be the leader as you hand over the reins and take long, slow breaths in alignment with your heart .
The inspiration for this invitation comes from the wonderful Indra Singh of Silent Moon Imaginarium. You can listen to her guide you in an emotional breath meditation on periscope here -perfect for those times when you feel you just can’t relax or meditate. (highly recommended , her meditations are powerful.) and she has a wealth of meditations and resources on her You tube channel here.
Aaah, I feel more relaxed just writing this post and will be off to practice breathing as soon as I press publish. I invite you to choose one of these techniques and schedule in a few minutes a day at a time convenient to you and have a go.
Then let me know how you go I would love to hear.
One of the questions I commonly get asked is, "What do I do when things aren’t going to plan? Is there anything I can do really?"
It’s a challenging question right?
Usually well meaning people try to reassure us with instructions to relax and stop worrying, like it is that easy. "Don’t worry," say our worried partners, in an attempt to console both of us. "Just relax, you are doing great."
Does this work? Do we instantly relax and stop worrying in the face of problems just because someone who cares about us tells us to?
Of course not. Certainly not when that person is worried too. Sometimes we even erupt in anger right back at them, our fear and frustration spilling over in desperation.
Sometimes, if the person reassuring us is truly embodying a truth that all is well, then that will be transmitted to you and you will feel calmer. More often it is the fear that is catching.
In this post I would like to share with you two positive stories that illustrate this and point to a better way of initiating that relaxation and letting go than the direct instruction to do what you really would already be doing if you could!
“Don’t worry,” my grandad said to me with his slow gentle energy. He sighed and paused. “You will worry of course, but you don’t need to.”
I continued sitting with my grandad in silence, just breathing. Feeling emotions run through me. I had chosen to be the one to tell him of our bad news, the serious illness in another family member. I hadn’t expected him to be so calm. He was like a strong tree in a storm.
Oh the wisdom of our elders, so often overlooked. Having lived through way more than I, including a World War, he was more comfortable with shock news. He knew he couldn’t take my worry away. He didn’t even try. Yet I could feel his love and caring in the silence. I was reassured by his calm presence as I am when I sit under a tree in the woods and the energy under his words pierced through my bubble of worry. His honest assessment that neither he nor I could prevent me worrying gave me permission to be where I was and let the feelings flow.
We sat in silence a little while more just breathing together. His slower pace influenced me and I slowed and softened myself.
There was something timeless and healing in just breathing. Taking space together. Letting the space heal. So powerful. So useful. So often neglected in the rush and panic of the pain.
“Just breathe,” he smiled to an appreciate audience who let out a wave of laughter in recognition. I could feel the whole room relax as they followed his instructions. In seconds the energy of the room had shifted from a higher, nervous energy to a softer more expansive feel. And he invited us to feel the changes quite literally by waving our hands in the air in front of us to sense the environment. Before we applied focus to our breath we had all been unconsciously held in the sway of our thoughts, and the habitual busy energy we often reside in. He didn’t change our state by teaching us some complicated breathing process that would take years to master. He led me swiftly to a peaceful place quite simply with a little focus, an engaging down to earth manner and plenty of humour.
The first is a negative instruction and the brain will happily imagine the worry, then work out how to cancel it. Too late! Your super-fast nervous system and subconscious has already responded to the first part and you are having to work harder to get back to relaxation. It also just tells you to stop something but doesn’t give a clear instruction of what else to do instead. When we are fearful and panicked we don’t have full access to time and reasoned thought. We need simple clear instructions we can get behind that will lead us through to a better space. Just breathe fits that bill.
Of course breathing is something that gets talked about a lot when you are preparing to give birth. Lots of different breathing exercises are taught, all with the aim of supporting you to relax. (Re)learning to relax is an invaluable tool to enjoy your pregnancy, support the optimal development of your baby and help you labour with ease. In my next post I will go into more detail as to why breathing is so effective and share some suggestions of techniques you can use.
Today I wish to keep it simple and leave you with three points I learnt from my grandfather and Jason Chan.
This last one is key. Learning and practicing techniques is empowering and useful. If in the moment you can’t remember a thing and your mind is blank with panic, just come back to your breath and start there. Focus on your breath and then make the out breath longer. Nothing fancy, just bring yourself back to your body and your breath and keep breathing. Let the breath do the work.
I invite you to try this now. Imagine a scenario in which you are usually worried. Perhaps you usually tell yourself not to worry? Instead invite yourself to breathe. Spend a few moments breathing and reflecting on how you are today. Then take a moment to let me know how you found it. I would love to hear.
P.S. If you enjoyed this then try it out with your loved ones too. Next time someone close to you comes to you with a problem, replace 'don't worry' with 'just breathe' and spend some time sitting and breathing together and see what happens.
As the world reels with yet another shock decision that so many didn’t really believe would ever actually happen, is it enough yet?
What will it take to propel us out of the victim energy where we recirculate the same old stories- that we are too small to be able to make a difference, the system is too strong, nothing every changes, history repeats itself…
If history continues to repeat itself there will not be anything left for our future generation. And it is the younger generation who overwhelmingly voted for change, fairness, respect and equality.
Sadly it was not to be so just yet.
There were warnings. Comparisons with how Hitler came to power were made. The folly and risks of complacency were called out along with the call to vote, which ever view you supported. Can it really be true over 40% of the population of Britain and the USA, (that’s the % who didn’t vote for both referendum and recent US election) just didn’t care either way.
I don’t believe that is true.
We care. We are just a bit jaded and disillusioned with those in power who are supposed to be taking care of us all. But we care all right.
So many people are grappling with despair, depression and hopelessness right now, so many are terrified for their safety in these uncertain times, and so many feel powerless and speechless in the wake of this years events,( in which Trump as president is just the latest unbelievable result.) Oh We do care.
But we are also still stuck in the old story that we are powerless to make a difference. We are still living in fear of persecution if we risk sticking our neck out. It seems that even the dire warnings of climate change, the most recent of which suggest an accelerated global warming effect that could result in Earth resembling Venus within our lifetime have not yet been enough to shake us into action.
Yet, even in this climate of disbelief and fear I also feel something different happening. Something else is at play beneath what on the surface looks like a resurgence of dark power. A great love holding us and moving us forwards.
Ok so you do have to dig deep right now. The surface is pretty turbulent and it is not pretty. But get in deep and the turbulence feels more like the final desperate fight for life as the old way succumbs to death. Unfortunately It’s not going without a fight..
I am deeply sad that the transition to the new age happening this way but the deeper movement is soothing loving and is propelling us slowly but surely forwards.
I feel the collective terror too, I can understand the resistance and backlash to this change. After all we have lived through centuries of a patriarchal power imbalance and suppression of the feminine in pretty much all her guises and that wasn’t pretty either. I can feel your disappointment that we appear to be moving backwards.
Despite all of this and my sadness, I feel this deeper, grander love and it gives me strength to carry on when all is madness around me. When I would rather stick my head in the sand pretend it’s not happening.
These recent events have rekindled the fire that can’t ever be quite put out no matter how bad it gets or how futile my efforts seem in the short term. I have reached my tipping point and I am listening to that fire, that deeper love. I am moved to speak up and act. To stick my neck out and speak my truth with my message and my business – that in healing birth we can heal the world.
I am committed.
I’m not about to take on the political behemoths directly in a David versus Goliath fight. I am not stepping out of my zone of influence so far as to be lost, confused and ineffectual. I will not be perpetuating the fighting by judging, condemning and taking sides.
For there are no winners when we continue to place blame on the other, on the external. When we sit in victim energy and bemoan what is and what could have been, should have been or ought to be.
For this ugliness that has surfaced. It is not new; it is just more visible where it was hidden before. It has not come out of nowhere though it may seem like it. What has been suppressed is coming up and out to be healed and this is the key to the future.
Despite my own fears born of the centuries of suppression and persecution that have weighed particularly heavily on women and women’s wisdom that is where I am going for my answers. Healing within then stepping into my feminine power that has lain dormant for so long and longs for action. It can stay quiet no longer. It is time.
I am calling on my own inner power and reaching out to those closest to me, and that includes you, my dear reader, one of the women I serve. And I invite you to join me.
That is all.
The ripple effect of us coming into our own truth and power will do the rest.
Oh and the next generation of course. They are coming, not despite the chaos, but because of it. Not from fear of what could happen if they don’t act, but from love of humanity, the natural world and life itself.
You may be feeling right now that this is no world to bring children into. You may worry what the future holds for your children, or if there will even be one. Some of you may be delaying your children through fear. Your misgivings may even be leading you to consider whether to have children at all. This new, love-filled paradigm is the environment the future generation will be creating. It seems so hard right now, so far away, like an impossible dream you don’t even dare voice.
They are coming into a world that seems rife with violence and so much darkness. But that is not the whole story. Nor is it the whole of you.
We have a choice, One choice is to get mired down in the fear and continue as we are, perpetuating the myths, the misogyny, and the greed. This looks like whinging and moaning about the external world without clearing your own inner world. The one world you are sure to always live in and have some control over. This looks like sticking your head in the sand pretending its not happening.
Not too appealing?
The other choice is to hold the higher ground and be the new paradigm we are moving into.
Your child is coming for love. He/she has chosen you as the perfect vessel to mould their soul and take the world forwards in love not fear. You matter. You count. You are important.
The first environment your child knows is your womb. Your child will be cocooned in your womb for 9 months, a formative time in which your child learns all about the outside world they will inhabit by the state of your inner world as their mother. You are their whole universe for that time. The growing child has little sense of personal boundaries or distinct sense of self. He/she is absorbing your emotions, your patterning, and your belief systems.
So I ask, "What is the energy of your womb right now? Is it alive with the fire of the new way, whole, warm, loving and clear?" If so this dark, cosy, first home will feel warm, loving and safe and your child will be born confident and ready to take on the world.
You may sense instead there are old unaddressed wounds that need taking care of. You might worry how these and your state of being are affecting your unborn child. You may doubt that you are good enough for this job.
But your own inner world is the one world you can definitely do something about. You can take positive action to clear out old stories, out of date programming, your fears and trauma. The old stories of oppression passed down over centuries are ready to go now. Clear these fears, discover the joys of being alive, being a woman, being a mother. As you transform your inner world, so you transform the first home for your unborn child. As you clear your own fears and doubts about giving birth and move towards a confident, empowered birth, so you transform the way your child will be able to show up in the world. In easing your child’s passage to the physical world, you will be making a significant contribution to the shift this world needs right now.
Feel her energy. Feel deeper. Ask her to show you the future, the possibility that is waiting for you and your unborn child when you have released the old and stuck in you.
To support you I am hosting a womb healing and meditation session on Facebook Live on Monday 14th November 2016 at 1pm Uk time.
Please join me to support yourself to feel uplifted and strong in these challenging times and know you are making a positive difference to your unborn child,
P.S. This may not feel comfortable at first. And I understand. I too stepped right out of my comfort zone by claiming my purpose behind my business publicly. It is not the first time I got brave and pushed the boundaries of comfort. But comfort zones only offer a fleeting and false safety that can be stripped away at any time. Still, you may have got used to comfort. You may not feel in the least bit ready to step out. If so know I too have been there. You may like to read about my un-readiness in starting a blog here and then again the same pattern as the birth of my second son drew near which you can read about here.
What I learnt is there is not some magical right time in the future when you won’t feel any discomfort. The only time that counts is now. You are ready. And I would love the company!
If these words move you please comment and share your feelings as we move forwards creating this new world together.
Today I welcome writer and law lecturer Dr Gulara Vincent to the BirthEssence Blog with a guest post about how completing unfinished business helped her transform her birth experience.
‘Unfinished business’ from the past can block your dreams. I learnt this lesson the hard-way through childbirth, and here’s how my journey began.
In November 2012, I was attending a Journey reunion in Birmingham. I was really into the Journey, a method of cellular healing developed by Brandon Bays, and these meetings gave me an opportunity to meet other people who knew this method too. We took turns to swap and give each other some free support. Each meeting had a practitioner who told us about their Journey path: what brought them here and how the Journey transformed their lives. As I sat on a chair listening to the speaker that day, I stroked my belly feeling slight movements of my baby. I was 18 weeks pregnant with a long-awaited baby. The speaker’s voice soothed me, and watching her face framed with long dark hair, I softened in response.
That speaker was Charlotte Kanyi.
I am not going to recount her story here because it’s hers to tell, but it touched me so much that I approached her during the break and started talking about her business. I had seen her business cards on the stalls during every re-union, and even took it home on one or two occasions, but never dared to speak to her before.
‘I have some anxiety around childbirth,’ I said. By then I’d been attending workshops in Stroud to do some ‘birth works’, a process which explored our own birth experience and also explained how birth impacts the child. It was in one of those workshops that the facilitator explained that women who have past sexual trauma may struggle giving birth naturally. The cells remember the invasion and may clamp up in response to the pain caused by a child trying to exit. To me, this was not the time to deal with past sexual trauma. My focus was on delivering my baby into the world, not dwelling on painful memories. It was better left untouched for now, I told myself, even though deep down I was still worried that past trauma can impact my chances of giving birth as naturally as possible.
‘I’d like to have a session before I give birth,’ I said to Charlotte tentatively.
‘If there’s anxiety, it’s best to clear it sooner than later. You don’t want to carry it throughout your pregnancy because the baby is aware of it too,’ she said.
Her words made sense, but I didn’t follow her advice on that day.
Soon enough though, life presented me with plenty more worries. I was classed as ‘high risk’ and a consultant at the Women’s Hospital saw me every two weeks. Each time, he looked for what was wrong. And of course, if you look hard enough, there’s always something to find.
‘Your baby’s head is quite big, and this is a big baby,’ the consultant said every time I met him. ‘You may need to deliver via C-section. And there seems to be too much liquid around the baby. We may need to pass tubes through his nose to make sure that his lungs are free and he can breathe properly.’
The idea of tubes being passed through the nose of my new-born baby was so distressing that I found Charlotte’s card and gave her a call. A few days later, I was sitting on a couch in her front room shaking uncontrollably as an avalanche of memories overwhelmed me. By the end of the session, I felt calmer and more at peace. Miraculously, the next time I saw the consultant, he said that the liquid levels around the baby were normal and there was no need for intervention.
I started seeing Charlotte regularly. Life kept throwing at me opportunities for
distress growth. I was severely traumatised by the intervention of midwives during the induction, and the emergency C-section left me reeling with disappointment. I cried for days after the birth, and all the stress and tension culminated in two painful episodes of mastitis. I worried about everything all the time. The more I worked with Charlotte, the lighter I felt.
A little over a year later, I was pregnant again. This time, I had no second thoughts about diving in at the deep end to clear any ‘unfinished business’ which could impact my pregnancy and delivery. We worked to clear my past sexual trauma; the trauma caused by my son’s birth; fears around speaking up and standing up for myself when I was at the Women’s Hospital – the list went on and on. I remember vividly the first time Charlotte suggested that I could refuse to follow medical advice and even have a homebirth. Horrified at the idea, I gawked at her ready to run for my life. It took one session to clear that fear, and I came to realise that a home birth was the best option for me. I hired a doula and the home birth team at the Women’s Hospital transformed my experience of the last pregnancy and childbirth – there were no invasive scans with consultants looking for faults. Instead, there was a team of gentle loving women who saw natural birth after C-section as absolutely normal and even desirable. I felt like I had a personal cheering squad and their love and support were healing and nourishing.
When the big day arrived and I went into labour on the due date, I had a birthing pool in my front room. The birth team came to support me and my husband was there to hold me in the water. My labour was beautiful, almost ecstatic, and although I ended up having another emergency C-section, the birth experience itself was at the opposite end of the spectrum to my son’s birth; I was calm, confident, supported and in control.
In short, I’m living testament that when we shed off our emotional baggage, our experiences transform. Childbirth is no exception.
Dr Gulara Vincent is a writer, university law lecturer and a Momentum Mentor for Writers. When not writing or teaching, she helps women writers to release their inner fears and emotional blocks so that they can have a successful writing career.
That’s a pretty big statement, right? One that I was not willing to see, hear or claim for myself… until now.
It popped out of me as I searched for the words to describe the energetic underpinnings of my business, rather than just what I do. I immediately dismissed it. Not the right words. Something like that but not quite that…
Except that when I spoke with two women who had been through my Birth confidence package and so who knew me and my work intimately, didn’t feel the same. They loved it. They both got goosebumps hearing me say it.
You know that feeling when you are onto something special. When something touches deeply to the core of your being and that part of you cries out in recognition. Your hair stands on end. You are quite literally electrified. Inside you this knowing part of you says YES. THIS. NOW.
Reacting from my instant resistance I said, Oh it’s too cheesy, it’s too much, and didn’t Bob Geldoff sing about healing the world once? Who am I to compare with that? Who on earth do you think you are? This is too much arrogance. I cringed with embarrassment at the thought of telling anyone that this was my message.
Then I saw it. My strong reaction matched the strength of the energy behind the message and I was scared to claim it. Scared of rejection, of ridicule and of committing professional suicide.
As I felt into the words I heard myself saying out loud. "This is dangerous. This is the kind of loving powerful transformation that Jesus Christ got crucified for. If I claim it I will become visible and that is too dangerous."
Now I’d seen it I had a choice, To let it slide on by and continue playing safe, helping a few women here and there in a nice beige kind of existence.
As the guiding force behind what I do at BirthEssence. The principle that fires me up and really gets my passion flowing.
Well you can probably guess which one I chose. The words are currently plastered all over my facebook page. Once I decide to act I am all in.
So yes, I chose to stand up, right there in the heart and soul of the message and experience its full power. I felt my energy shift up a gear. I felt the vague unrest I had felt for a few weeks now dissolve as everything clicked into place. Despite some lingering echoes of the criticism and doubt what stands out most strongly is exhilaration and freedom. I am transformed and I can already feel how this will add to the transformation and freedom I bring to you, my readers and clients. How it will thread its way into the offerings I make and inform the various ways I support you to transform your birth experience.
As I sit with that I will leave you with a couple of questions.
What fires you up that you have resisted? What birth experience is waiting for you to claim? What transformation awaits you when you claim it?
These are not empty questions by the way. I am inviting you to take out a pen and paper or your journal and see what flows onto the paper. Acknowledge resistance if it is there as this will help to set it and you free.
Finally, in line with my current theme on visibility I invite you to be brave and share what you uncover on the Facebook Page.
Then all that’s left is to follow where it leads you. I look forward to seeing you there.
I was so touched by the personal messages of thanks that many of you posted in response to my last blog post (about my recent miscarriage and my journey through grief.) I was nervous before posting such a personal post but felt that sharing my story may help others because miscarriage is so common. I hardly know anyone with children who has not experienced at least one, and if they haven’t, someone close to them has.
Common it is, yet it can nevertheless be a devastating experience and one that is not talked about so much. People can feel uncomfortable, wanting to offer support but not knowing what to say. Sometimes the wrong thing gets said. We may hear statements like, 'at least it happened early, you will be ok, you can try again and have another.' We may take longer to recover than those around us expect. We may not even have told anyone we were pregnant and so people and employers may not realise what we are going through.
And when we don’t have a chance to voice and release our pain and disappointment it can linger. It can be stored in our bodies and affect future pregnancies. We can carry those fears of loss right through as we prepare to welcome a new baby. A new baby learning about the world they are coming to through immersion in our inner-world and learning about the world they are coming to. Growing in an atmosphere of fear and grief is not what we want for the souls we wish to welcome to the world.
So today I am offering something a little different from my normal posts. A short compassion exercise using one of my healing tools called The Compassion Key. This exercise is for you if you are going through or have ever experienced a miscarriage and are still experiencing sadness and grief even many years later.
Make yourself comfortable and place your feet on the floor. You can be either seated with your back straight or standing, whichever feels best to you. Take a few deep breaths into your belly and let your focus drop down into your heart and solar plexus area. Imagine sending a bright beam of loving compassion inwards to your own heart and womb as you repeat the following phrases out loud.
Pause slightly after each phrase and allow any feelings to rise and pass through then move onto the next. Some may feel stronger than others, some may not feel so true for you but this is ok. The loving compassion energy will dissolve what needs to be healed and pass through if it does not apply to you.
I am so sorry your baby died inside you.
I am so sorry your baby was only here for such a short time.
I am so sorry it wasn't their time.
I am so sorry you miss them.
I am so sorry you didn’t want them to go.
I am so sorry you don’t know if you will see them again.
I am so sorry it hurts so much.
I am so sorry your grief is unbearable.
I am so sorry your grief is never-ending.
I am so sorry you worry it may have been your fault somehow.
I am so sorry you wonder if there was something you could have done differently.
I am so sorry you feel so alone.
I am so sorry no one understands how much pain you are in.
I am so sorry you can’t tell anyone.
I am so sorry you are taking a long time to heal.
I am so sorry you are sad.
I am so sorry you can’t move on.
I am so sorry you had to push your grief down to carry on.
I am so sorry you kept your sadness hidden inside.
I am so sorry you didn’t have time to grieve properly.
I am so sorry you had to be strong for your family.
Take a few more deep breaths and allow yourself to integrate the shifts. When you are ready feel your feet on the ground again, take a few sips of water and thank yourself for taking this time to support and nurture yourself.
So my lovely readers. How did you find this compassion exercise? I would love to hear from you about what challenges you face going through miscarriage and how this exercise has helped you.