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.
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.
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.
'What are you doing? Come back to bed.' I dimly register the plaintive plea from my sleepy and confused son, but replying is difficult.
“I can’t, it hurts.” I manage in reply.
In fact, ‘it hurts’ is a massive understatement. Lying next to him was excruciating and it is barely better now I am standing by the bed. It was some time past 11pm and he’d woken twice already sensing something unusual. Each time I lay down he closed his eyes, instantly soothed. I meanwhile gritted my teeth and willed myself, against all my instincts, to stay still just a little longer, in the hope he would sleep deeply enough not to be disturbed when I got back up.
The third time I couldn’t do it. I got up and started walking, pacing the room with giant strides back and forth, back and forth as fast as I could.
It helped. I breathed more easily.
Then another wave of pain swept over and through me. I kept breathing. But I felt myself tense, involuntarily bending forwards to meet the rising sensations and hearing panic give voice to suddenly fearful thoughts.
‘I can’t not cope,’ the internal dialogue continued, ‘This is what I do for a living, helping other women find inner confidence and trust in their body so they have amazing birth experiences. I have to succeed. Otherwise I will be a total fraud.’
With the panic, came guilt shame and crashing realisations. ‘Now I get it. Now I understand why some women beg for epidurals, caesareans, anything to take the pain away.’ I felt myself tumbling down from my superiority into humility, appreciation and empathy.
But still the fear and panic persisted with the refrain, ‘What if I can’t cope, what if I really can’t do this?’
There is a brief pause between contractions and in the respite I resume walking but a little slower. I have remembered what I forgot during my first birth- The NPA Process. NPA stands for Non Personal Awareness and it’s a simple 6 line process that can facilitate huge shifts quickly and easily.
‘This scared I can’t cope, I say out loud . This energy of Scared I can’t cope…’
My son watched silently, slightly perplexed as I completed the sixth line and my walking slowed to some moments of stillness. I felt myself falling into the centre of myself. Around me the energy swirled and eddied. Reality rearranged itself.
A new wave of contractions starts.
Physically it is exactly as before. I am half doubled over in pain equally as intense as before.
This time though I emerge grinning in delight. For the next few contractions, although nothing at all about the level of pain has changed I am practically skipping for joy around my room. I no longer need to frantically pace either. Time has slowed and I have slowed with it.
In just a few moments my whole perspective on what was happening changed. The fear left me as my question was answered. I now knew that I could cope. I knew. Not hoped, or guessed, or rationalised or tried to talk myself into a state of positivity or self belief that I wasn't feeling. I knew from the depths of my being, from the marrow in my bone. From my heart and soul and back again I knew I could do it.
This was a true knowing that could only be experienced. It was not forced or rationalised. I did not have to give myself pep talks and remind myself of the historical statistics of successful births and the biological normality of what I was doing. I did not need to engage my neocortex and rational brain for support.
In this simplicity all the head talk and pressure evaporated along with the fear and I moved into the experience. Like in my previous post on experiencing fear in the context of trust I was now held in the context of knowing I would cope and all was well. Note: not could cope but would cope. It was a done deal that I couldn't argue with. So I didn't argue or question. All drama in the situation had left along with my doubts.
This whole doubting, worrying, panicking consciousness in fact left with as little drama as you might move from one room to another in your house. Which is in fact exactly what I did.
I moved to the bathroom and although I didn’t register it at the time the pain did finally diminish.
By the time I was pushing it was gone completely.
Although the pain left, the best gift was precisely that the pain didn't disappear immediately. That was my big agenda right. That was what I thought I needed to happen in order for all to be well. That would be success. I wanted to be proud of my pain free achievement and paint some credibility over my insecurities and self-doubts as a birth worker.
That the level of pain had become largely irrelevant and didn't matter to me any more was pure freedom. That I'm writing about it now, 2 years and 9 months on feels apt as Freedom is my word of the year for 2016.
There was another shift that happened in that moment too. Surrendering fully to the energy shift of that one NPA Process, (the only one I did in my whole labour,) paved the way for me to let go of all my remaining ideas of how the birth should go and allow the labour dance to unfold in its own way. Which was a good thing as I was plugged into the strongest most exhilarating flow of life force energy I have ever experienced. Like being wired up to the National Grid or perhaps holding a lightning rod as the lightning strikes. I would not have liked to have been trying to control or manage that against its will.
This surrender and letting go of the need to control how my life experiences and feelings show up is also part of my journey in freedom. Just thinking about that brings joy singing to the surface. It sounds like the song of my soul. And I hope you hear her song in my words and in her song you hear your own song and that this post sets off some inspirational shifts in your own journey.
Do let me know in the comments.
Curious to know more about The NPA Process and how it could help you? Please click here.
( Links to NPA Process are Affiliate Links)
I am on the toilet. Time is meaningless to me. I have danced too far along the path to meet my baby to be completely rational. Only thing is, neither me nor my husband have quite caught up to fast pace of my baby’s arrival…He is about to trot off to try and put the pool up. I am about to have the baby in the timeless eternity that has inserted itself into about 15 or 20 ordinary minutes.
As I said I am on the toilet. I won’t go into detail but to say that it is an intense experience is an understatement.
For a moment I begin to panic. What is happening to my body? Is this normal? How can so much power be coming through this small person? Will I cope? My mind was worried for me and the concerned thoughts were triggering more layers of anxiety… Oh OK then, more like terror, that hovered just on the edge of my awareness threatening to take over.
But wait there was something else too. I changed focus to my body. Instead of floating terror there was a grounded peace. It was pale yellow and surrounded me on all sides, present both inside and out. My body actually wasn't touched by the fearful thought, it was just getting on with its job and was completely confident. All was well.
Now I had a choice. Did I reside in the terror and let it take me, or did I allow the peace to breathe me. For a few minutes there was a bit of to and fro movement.
Then I made the choice. Or the choice made me. My heart opened up in gratitude and softened in the peaceful energy. My body began to push and I started roaring like a lion.
I realized as I journalled later that it didn't matter that I felt terror because I was bathing in a different energy that was so strong and confident that it could hold the terror. This was my fear being held in the energy of confidence and peace. As long as I tuned into this greater awareness that was holding me I was OK. It was more than OK. It was liberating. I could allow all of my experience to flow through, even the tricky, so called negative emotions.
This gift of being held in a wider perspective that could hold my less desirable emotions was revealed to me through a tool called The NPA Process. The NPA Process is a deceptively simple 6 line spoken-word transformational tool created by Joel Young that helps you let go of blocks and powerfully shift your consciousness.
It was during a practice session on an NPA Community Call that I first experienced the power of accessing a different context in which to allow something challenging to be fully met. Fear rose up strongly in me during the call and I thought I wanted the fear to go. To disappear and leave me alone so I could experience something more fun, more pleasant, like say peace or joy and also get the satisfaction of feeling, Yes I've cracked it and got rid of my fear… Nope. Like mist lingering in the lower reaches of a valley untouched by the rising sun the fear persisted, heavy in my stomach, rubbing up against my shoulders, gripping me by the chest.
I was about to be disappointed and frustrated when the shift happened. I suddenly felt trust. A deep powerful trust in life and in the process. I trusted that I would be OK even with fear present. It felt like angels whispering in my ear that all was well. It felt like a reassurance I could believe in, that I could depend on and.,. well that I could trust. This was fear in the context of trust.
It was slightly surreal to feel both simultaneously, but was a greater gift in the long term than getting rid of the fear would have been. It meant I no longer had to be so scared of feeling fear. It meant I didn’t have to wipe out every last drop of fear from my being to be sure I would be successful. It meant I could live in peace with fear and hear her gentle messages and the wisdom she was paradoxically guiding me towards.
It also gave me choice when fear came up and this certainly served me giving birth. No matter how much emotional preparation we do for birth, (and I did lots), it is impossible to predict what may happen and to what depths of your soul the labour dance may take you. Knowing I was held at every moment and could choose where to put my attention was reassuring to the doubting, worried parts of me that weren't up to speed with the all is well nature of my birth experience.
Back to the toilet. Fear and terror didn't stay there for long in the end and neither did I. As I focused on trust and peace, the space opened up around me and I opened up with it. Gradually the fear dissipated on her own and I moved to the shower.
Somewhere along the three steps it took, (we have a small bathroom,) another shift happened. Those three steps danced me too far along the labour dance to listen to my mind anymore and I just kind of got on with it with no more drama or story. I finally accepted what was happening and quietly dropped down into my womb and went to meet my baby.
This post is a follow on to last week's post on reflections on the meaning of my birth stories. It details some of the deeper meaning for me behind my encounters with the breech position. I won't give any more away. I invite you instead to read on to discover how my son and his playful positioning supported me on my path to healing and growth.
Were you ready to give birth? I was asked gently, kindly.
The answer came in a flood of tears. 'No!' I wailed.
My heart felt it would burst against my ribcage. The long suppressed pain now released was overwhelming in its intensity. I stayed with it. Waves of grief, loss, anger followed each other. I surrendered fully and lived the emotions as they poured through me. For a few long minutes the painful emotions were all I knew. They were all of my existence as I heard and experienced them fully. Then as they had come they subsided, spent at last.
I was 34 weeks pregnant and at my last antenatal appointment, a week earlier, my baby was lying breech. As I walked home I felt the red warning flags flying and alarm bells sounding.
What was I worried for?
Not as you may think because his choice of position was threatening my natural home birth plans. No! I knew that breech was a variation of normal, I had read Mary Cronk’s paper- Hands off the breech and devoured Ina May’s book Guide to childbirth several times over. I was determined to birth the way I wanted, it just felt so right.
I had time too. I mistakenly thought at the time that I had only 4 weeks for him to turn to a more favourable position.
I don’t quite know where I got the idea from but I was under the false impression that babies could no longer physically turn after 37 weeks due to their growing size. I have since heard all kinds of stories of babies turning just before and during labour. This was yet another myth that underestimates the capabilities of us women. Still I thought 4 weeks was a good amount of time in the grand scheme of things.
I did have a vague sense that I may have a job of persuasion to convince my midwife of that my choice was the right one. I think the way she rolled her eyes, bit her lip and pushed her unspoken words back down into her paperwork when I casually, unthinkingly mentioned that I would not automatically have a caesarean if I was breech that gave me some clue to her view of the subject…! But even this was not what was bothering me.
So why was I worried given that I knew it was ok for babies to be born topsy turvy, I had a month to turn, and wasn’t too daunted by the difference of opinion with my midwife?
‘He is lying breech and I was born breech… I was breech and now he is too…’
The phrases kept repeating themselves over and over in my mind. On the one hand part of my confidence that he could be born breech came from my own direct experience.
I totally knew it was possible to be born breech just fine because that was my experience.
I don’t remember my birth on the conscious every day level of reality but I knew that the memory of my lived experience was informing my confidence as it came to my turn to give birth. Which leads us neatly over to the other hand.
Had I inadvertently imprinted a bottom first approach and was now repeating history?
It was slightly confusing and contradictory. I knew it was possible but still wanted to try and change his position to a more usual head down position that I believed would be easier for him, me and my midwives. I didn't really want a fight with the system but I didn't want to push or force my baby if he was happy. The only way to resolve such conundrums for me is to go within. I needed to go within to find out and clear the imprinting. Free of the imprinting I would then be able to see clearly along the path of this birth. Then if he chose to be born breech I would know it was a free choice that was beneficial to him in some way.
Which brings us back to the question at the start of this post. I was half way through the kind of 1:1 session I take my BirthEssence clients through and this question was the breakthrough moment of that process.
My friend and colleague gently guided me through the process of discovering the cellular memories that were stored in my body and I spontaneously accessed the memory of my birth quite easily. It popped up in my awareness, strong and real. Some details were hazy but the general gist was crystal clear. I was not ready to be born when the doctors assisted my stuck head. I was resisting life with all my might but got pulled out anyway against my will.
These moments of heightened emotions at such a vulnerable time caused significant imprinting that affected how I related to the world. I saw all the times since that I didn’t feel ready for my life experiences. I saw how often I felt caught in a ‘tug of war’ over which direction to choose; How often I felt frustrated over outside circumstances that seemed to dictate what I should do that I had no control over; How often I felt pressured by others to do things a certain way or by a certain time.
I also saw the gifts in this birth experience. I had chosen a less common route to be born, one that was not so easy. I wanted to experience things my way, do things differently and explore how that felt. I was learning to be myself no matter what circumstances came my way. I was learning to stand tall and true to me no matter how unconventional that looked and no matter what obstacles I needed to overcome.
Did I have to experience disempowerment and separation during a birth I found deeply traumatic before I could feel empowered and connected?
I don’t know all the answers to that but I do know that I found peace that day with my choice and timing of birth circumstances. I healed the pain of not being ready or in control and in so doing two more gifts were revealed to me.
It is my hope that those reading this will be inspired to make peace with and heal the challenging aspects of their own birth. I hope that even as you realise that a difficult birth experience does indeed shape you just as a peaceful experience does, that it does not have to scar you for life. I hope to offer a pathway for you to appreciate all parts of your birth story and know that even the painful parts bring you gifts. Gifts that offer you comfort, peace and ultimately deep insights and wisdom that will serve you, your children and the long term future of humanity.
In case you are wondering, shortly after that process my son turned. I don’t even know when, it was almost an anti-climax. No drama of fanfare, but at my next appointment the midwife announced he was in the perfect position and there he stayed. You can read more about his birth story here
Resources for Breech Birth and texts mentioned in the post.
Here is a list of the resources I mention in the post plus a few extras. If you would like personalised support to clear energetic blocks to helping your baby into an optimal position for birth or to clear trauma from a previous birth experience including your own then please check out my 1:1 Transformation page. Thank you and enjoy your pregnancy and baby.
Mary Cronk's wisdom about Breech Birth: http://www.aims.org.uk/Journal/Vol10No3/handOffbreech.htm and
Some Beautiful photographs of Breech Birth: http://londonbirthpractice.co.uk/index.php/educational-info/36-home-breech-birth-photo-series.html?start=1
For optimal positioning: http://spinningbabies.com/
Uk based Facebook Support Group for Breech Birth: https://www.facebook.com/groups/371624862918154/
Inspirational Reading, the book I started with:
Today I am sharing a small but significant part of my second pregnancy in which I feared my preferred choice of birth place would be taken away from me. I went through stages of denial, panic and terror but I came out the other side with a deeper confidence that shaped the remainder of my pregnancy and ultimately my business.
“Where would you like to give birth?” asked the consultant who was reviewing my blood pressure results.
“Well,” I ventured hesitantly, “I think my baby would like to be born at home.”
“It’s not about where your baby wants to be born,” she replied, looking slightly surprised as I had guessed she might. I was aware that considering the child’s views about his birth place may seem a bit off the wall to some, but it felt important to me and I was already experiencing the fierce mother tiger desire to protect his wishes.
“It’s about where YOU want to give birth,” she continued.
With that something in me finally took root. Some energy powered up through those roots, through my body and out of my mouth.
Just two words. Spoken with utter conviction. Not of the kind where I am trying to convince myself and wondering why the other person is not buying it. Just a simple statement of unconvertible fact.
She responded immediately to my shift in energy. She accepted my answer without further question. Now the discussion was against the backdrop of home birth. I started to breathe again.
Even though I had known all along that was what I really wanted. I had been hesitant as I had been listening too closely to my mind and worrying about getting into conflict with the medical establishment. I was there only to have my home birth plan confirmed, in writing rather than the verbal assurance I already had so as to put my midwives at ease. Having been on a blood pressure cuff for 24 hours that revealed my blood pressure to be entirely normal and even quite good at home and to spike only when the midwives tried to take it, it should have been a formality. But it was not turning out that way. I was so nervous waiting that when they did take my resting pulse it was 134, my bp was 156/107. I knew it was simply irrational panic, I wasn’t in danger and I knew that my birth plan wasn’t in danger either really. But try telling that to my body which was running to the tune of some other programme.
Despite all that, when it counted I found inner strength and confidence was coursing through my veins and speaking through me.
The paper I eventually signed with the Supervisor of midwives described me as a nervous lady. This also surprised me although I could understand on reflection that this was how I had presented myself to them. I was bigging up the whole white coat syndrome to try and appear reasonable and therefore get them on side- (see this great blog that discusses the ways in which reasonable woman syndrome shows up in the maternity care system.)
It surprised me because that was not how I felt inside. This was my second child and second home birth and I was feeling on top of the world. Then with one random high BP reading that refused to come down my world turned temporarily upside down.
Several days of inner work, monitoring, and questioning later and I was back, more confident than ever. And just two weeks later I gave birth at home as planned in the wonderful but definitely unplanned setting of my shower cubicle.
As a child I was not confident. I looked at my peers and thought they had it all together whilst I reddened at any attention and altered my opinions to match what I thought the group would want to hear or would appear cool. As an adult I made some inroads into this but still looked to the more extrovert types for a template of confidence. Then I watched this Ted talk by Brené Brown on Vulnerability and this interview with Sera Beak. I realised that I had confidence all wrong. It wasn’t about eliminating all fear and sailing along permanently sure of yourself. It wasn’t about knowing all the answers in advance. It wasn’t about how I was presenting my outer self to the world either. I didn’t have to look, act or speak any particular way. In fact doing so was no guarantee that I would be feeling confident about myself inside, where it really mattered.
I realised that true confidence was about having the courage to show up as I was in that moment, all of me and my emotions present, whether they be fearful or fantastic. My confidence lay in complete self acceptance and self love, including the nervous, shy and introverted parts of me. It blossomed in my growing trust of the inherent safety of the universe. A universe that was delighted I had found the confidence and inner strength to allow vulnerable and scared if that was my experience.
It wasn’t necessarily any easier. Those last two weeks of my pregnancy were a roller coaster of emotions. But my determination to remain open and surrender to what showed up, along with my equally powerful determination to be true to my soul’s desires and own my truth (which in this case was to birth in a tent decorated with fairly lights and flowers in my garden) meant I got something better than easy. Better even than the tent which didn’t in fact happen! I got what I truly desired; empowered confidence in myself as a woman.
This consciousness I call confidence is not dependent on a particular set of circumstances and external support. It runs deep and allows panic, terror and doubt to run through my system yet remains unchanged below the surface. It is not affected by any stories I may tell myself about my less desirable emotions or challenging situations. And it goes far beyond any external behaviour I may dress myself in.
It shines out from deep inside, its clothes are simply the truth of who I am. All I am doing is lifting the covers off and tuning in to my essence as a woman. This essence trusts in life, for it is life and as such it takes change in its stride. And that is a good thing as we are living in a time of change. And the changes that are needed in the birth arena can only happen when we as women change from the inside out. Or to put it another way when we rediscover and live our inner strength and power as women. This is the journey that was encapsulated in those two simple words, ‘at home,’ and it is the journey of my business.
For more information about how BirthEssence can support you to find your inner confidence and to birth with ease and joy check out the services I offer including 1:1 sessions and luxurious pregnancy massage. I also offer a comprehensive Birth Confidence Package yet to be featured on my website. To be among the first to experience this and for more information drop me a line or call me. I look forward to working with you. x
The ability to uncover surprising and often unconventional solutions to challenges has been a big part of my path to enjoying a life of freedom and fulfilment. However impossible or insurmountable the problem first appears I have found that solutions are always available, accessible and usually strongly signposted. I have learnt to trust in these signs from the universe as to my right path, to the next step and confirmation my current choices are the correct ones. I now work to support others to feel intuitively into their next step and to heed the signs showing up in their own life
In a 1:1 session I listen deeply. I listen for clues and guidance for you and I encourage you to notice what’s in front of you in your own life. The trick is in noticing the signs, which don’t always seem immediately obvious at first. Once we’ve noticed then we can choose to follow or not. But noticing is the first step and I have in the past missed many helpful hints, even as I was tripping right over them, as they were just not what I was expecting or looking for.
I have always liked penguins. From fascinating visits to remote penguin colonies in New Zealand to more recent documentaries and films I kept noticing penguins. But not even the very recently invented game by my children – where I am attacked by two fluffy squeaking toy penguins was enough to alert me to a deeper penguin message waiting for me.
It wasn’t until I accidentally stumbled across the distinctive font of my logo during a search for fonts for my new look website to be launched in coming months that the penny dropped and I finally stopped to listen to the penguins.
Unbelievably I had never bothered to find out what this font was and here it was, the decorative curls of Penguin Attack were leaping out of the page at me.
As I downloaded the font, I felt mildly disappointed. Feeling that this was more than a coincidence and loving symbolism my mind was quick to wish that it could have been called something more overtly meaningful, like liberating freedom for example…
I apologised mentally to my penguin support for my critical judgment and opened up to the message.
Penguins may not be able to fly but they are masters of adaptation and genius at unconventional solutions to survive and thrive in some of the most inhospitable conditions on Earth and are loyal partners and devoted parents to boot. I was reminded I don’t have to comply with convention, that I can find my own way however unorthodox and that I can adapt to any situation.
I felt the relevance of their strength, resilience and originality in harsh environments to the current birthing paradigm in the Western world where so many women still give birth on their backs in a medicalised and risk averse environment and need to find courage to go against this grain, calling on their inner strength and intuition to birth their own way.
This unconventional solution that brings freedom into their salty environment in which they would otherwise perish really caught my attention.
I realized that filtering out impurities is a large part of the work I do at BirthEssence. The toxic salt water environment in our lives is our exposure to negative beliefs and stories around pregnancy and birth which we unconsciously soak up and internalise. In 1:1 sessions I work with women to process any unhelpful information they may have absorbed and imprinted and to release the detrimental consciousness stored in the cells. (The salt water.) We then drink in the energy and resources revealed in the gift from the experience. ( The purified water.)
Yet another relevant symbol of their transformative power. The shed feathers for the women I work with are all the unhelpful beliefs and stories that are holding us back. The feathers we grow at BirthEssence are feathers of courage, inner strength, and freedom. The freedom that comes when we trust in our bodies and babies. The freedom that we experience when we are confident to be fully ourselves and follow our own path however unconventional.
They huddle together for warmth and take it in turns to be coccooned in the heat and safety of the centre and to brave the cold in a protective role at the outside of the circle. Despite the size of the penguin colony they retain a distinctive personal call that is instantly recognizable by the penguin’s mate and offspring even after months apart.
This warm community support whilst honouring and strengthening our unique voice is a key feature of the work I do. We work together for the good of ourselves, our unborn child and for the future of humanity. There is an urgent call for strong women to stand up in their powerful essence and follow their inner blueprint for birth and so transform the world.
Believing the world to be a safe and friendly place they will make waves and transform the future of our planet. When we have done the inner work to clear out our secret fears, the impossible becomes possible and birth is returned to its rightful place as an empowering, transformational and enjoyable rite of passage.
I was delighted to find all of this and more in the message of the penguin, neatly embedded into the heart of my business through the name of my logo. Each time I see my logo I am reminded of the determination, and love of the penguin facing Antarctic storms and extreme cold whilst lovingly caring for its offspring in the centre of a supportive community. I feel renewed in me the determination to make a difference in the experience of women as they lovingly bring their children into the world and I feel supported as I do so.
The penguins and my children seem to be in cahoots, reminding me of their message with each throw of the toy penguins. I laugh and dodge and appreciate each ‘Penguin Attack’ message unwittingly bestowed on me by my amazing children.
And this is how it is. Otherworldly wisdom concealed in the everyday. We don’t always need to do long pilgrimages to holy sites to gain wisdom and insights in our lives. We don’t need to look so far at all for answers. All we need to know is laid out before us and all the strength we need is inside. Sometimes the clues are plain to see and sometimes it takes a little digging or a little imagination. Sometimes we need a little help to believe in ourselves. But we are always supported.
It is with fresh eyes I contemplate my logo and work and I am grateful. I am grateful for my hidden helpers the penguins, and I am grateful for the power of intuition, persistence, and the rewards of following the seemingly unconventional path when that is what is calling to my soul. The strength and joy that comes with being me. I am reminded again to watch out for the signs and then to follow them.
And so I invite you to consider your own life. I wonder what messages are waiting to be discovered in your everyday activities? How are unconventional signs leading you to freeing, inspirational choices in your lives? I would love to hear what signs and confirmations are showing up in your life so drop me a line below or post on the facebook page and let me know!
Looking for some support to ‘filter out the salt’ and regain trust in your body? Click here for information on how my 1:1 MotherNurture Sessions can assist you to feel amazing and strong on your journey to motherhood.
More about penguin symbology and other animal signs can be found here
And a short You Tube video my children enjoyed here