Seren’s Birth Story really begins with her sister Clara’s, who was born two years earlier by emergency Caesarean section after a classic cascade of interventions; overdue induction, epidural, failure to progress, and ultimately surgery.
After three days and nights lying on my back being constantly monitored; feeling lonely, scared and isolated as my husband wasn’t allowed to stay with me at night; desparately hungry and weak because I'd been advised not to eat or drink… surgery seemed the only option. Through the numbness I felt terribly grateful to the hospital for saving my baby from her failed mother’s body. Yes, I felt I'd failed and I wasn't ready to process my disappointment, or the shock and trauma. I didn't even recognise that it was trauma for some time. It lay buried beneath the joy and relief of finally holding our beautiful baby daughter.
The surgeon found me on the ward afterwards to tell me that 75% of women who have Caesareans go on to give birth naturally - the first time I heard the term VBAC. “Why are you telling me this?” was all I could think. Reeling from major surgery and a mother for a matter of hours, another baby was not on my horizon, let alone her manner of birth.
But her words stayed with me and I became grateful for this snatched 20-second conversation that she had bothered to come back and have with me.
Fast forward a year and a half, and my husband and I are sitting in the hospital coffee shop after our 12 week scan. Seren is officially on the horizon. I am explaining to him with some force - people are looking - that I plan to do things differently this time. That there is no question I’ll be having a Caesarean or coming near this place again. He looks bewildered. His belief was, and to some extent remains, that the doctors saved our baby.
I am surprised myself by the force of my conviction. It is coming from deep inside me.
I get home and start Googling. I found an article about a beautiful home birth helping to heal the scars of a traumatic first birth and I just begin to cry and I don’t stop for some time. This is me beginning to understand. You see, I didn’t even realise I had experienced that hospitalisation as traumatic. It’s something I unpack over the six months that follow.
I throw myself into preparing for this birth in a very different way. I stand my ground when a consultant tells me “It would be safer if all babies were born by Caesarean”, that I am selfishly thinking of my own experience at the expense of my baby’s, and as a parting shot, “Well, I’m the one who sees women coming back with bladder problems in their fifties.” At the time I feel frightened to death that she might be right. She is the expert, isn’t she?
At this point, with terror dominating my experience I discover the work of Charlotte Kanyi whom I'd met recently at a baby signing class. I was inspired by how she birthed her two boys (three at the time of editing!) at home, the second without assistance as he came so fast and booked her Birth Confidence Package to unpick in depth what had gone wrong. She takes me on a deep dive and helps me to acknowledge and clear past experiences and welcome in new ones. I clear the all consuming fear, the trauma, and the underlying imprints and patterns that were actively preventing me from believing in myself and my body. I change my care providers, my birth place and I hire a doula, Jane Jennings. She listens with skill and without judgment to mine and my husbands very differing viewpoints. It helps - we’ve been at loggerheads for weeks with no progress. He now feels heard, and we realise we both want the same thing fundamentally.
On the advice of Charlotte and Jane, I surround myself with positive birth stories. I take up meditation. I read Ina May Gaskin. I eat healthily, borrow a birth pool, and arrange to go to the local midwife-led centre, Serenity, whose hands-off approach I am eternally grateful for.
On Seren’s due date, the day I expected her least, I laboured at home in the pool with the sunlight streaming in through the sunflowers on the table. Jane turned my occipital posterior baby with a Rebozo shawl in under a minute. I felt Seren turn, I could suddenly walk more easily, and the contractions changed. There was a pause while I breastfed my two year old in the pool - she still refers to this with a big smile.
Seren was keen to be born at home - I could feel her head before we embarked on the car journey to the midwife centre. I held her back till we got to Serenity and they filled a pool there. She was born seconds after I stepped in. The cord was wrapped twice around her neck, and was unhooked without drama. We were able to rest at Serenity before journeying home to be reunited with her sister, our now expanded family complete and feeling whole.
Seren’s birth has left me feeling not only healed but empowered. I hear and trust my instincts so much more. I realise that the meditation, breathing and being in the now exercises I used during birth, are vital to me in the daily challenge of parenting a toddler and newborn. I have tools including The NPA Process which I can use whenever I feel out of sorts, blocked or frightened. I feel less scared of dying. Some part of me has understood and confronted a place of inner strength where birth and death happens. This was without question the most wonderful experience of my life and taught me precious life lessons.
It makes me sad beyond words that this opportunity is becoming so hard to come by. As I reflect on why this is. I feel that our medical system is beyond wonderful when birth goes wrong, but it mostly runs on a model of intervention, and sometimes causes the emergencies it solves. I have seen so many women have similar experiences to me resulting in undermining of already fragile confidence; midwives measure bumps big, growth scans follow giving a “diagnosis” of a big baby. The seed of fear is sown, and often the woman is already well on her way to a Caesarean, believing she can’t possibly give birth to such a monster. Often there is much surprise when the enormous baby is born weighing a very average 7lb. Rather than encouragement and positivity at the moment she needs it most, a woman starts to encounter fear and an institution more concerned with covering its back than with helping her bring her baby into the world in the best possible way. “Safety” statistics don't even start to take into consideration effects on mother and baby, PND, delayed trauma, interrupted bonding, lack of transfer of beneficial bacteria and flora, and breastfeeding problems, caused by interfering with the process of birth.
For myself I needed a lot of support and education to overcome the fear and trauma from the first time, and to reassure me that it was safe to ignore the “experts” without being a potential baby murderer. I put a lot of resources into birth preparation, to clear the trauma and the roots of the imprinting and patterns that had led to me experiencing a very disemowering birth where I felt out of control and ignored, isolated and not able to voice my own desires. I also hired a doula. The healing experience of my second child has transformed me in a deep and long lasting way and I wish that all women would take heart and inspiration from this story and find their own inner strength and joyful place.
Zoe Challenor is a mother with many hats. She is also a workshop leader for Welsh National Opera, An Artist in Residence af Ark Schools, Founder and Director Of B'Opera Baby Opera which makes beautiful music for tiny ears.
You can catch up with her on Facebook at Zoe Challenor singing and Alexander Technique and B'opera.
The Whos, Hows and Whys of creating a community of support around you as you create your best birth experience.
Back when I was first pregnant I was a fairly typical first time mother to be; anxious and excited in equal meassures yet simultaneiously overwhelmed with all the changes to my body and new information to absorb. I did pretty well, discovering hypnobirthing, and pregnancy yoga and utilising my skills as a therpaist to release fears and old cellular memories.
Still with the wisdom of hindsight I thought it could have been so much easier if I had known more what to even look for and include as self care and birth prepraration. Time is precious and I wasted plenty of it on fruitless, frustrating searches in googleland.
In a bid to help you avoid wasting those hours, I have gathered together 11 different birth professionals to chat and share their wisdom. It is my hope that you will feel inspired and confident to ask for what you need to create your best birth experience. I hope that listening to these passionate voices you will find your own voice and joy as you become a mother.
Full Interview List:
Week 3: Awen Clement. Sacred Celebrant
Week 4:( Coming Soon)
Week 5:( Coming Soon)
Week 6:( Coming Soon)
Week 7:( Coming Soon)
Week 8:( Coming Soon)
Week 9:( Coming Soon)
Week 10:( Coming Soon)
Week 11:( Coming Soon)
My youngest boy with his wit, his clear direct communication, and outrageous laughter, surprises me every day. Perhaps this should be no surprise to me, given his birth story which was full of surprise. Here is the story in full for you to enjoy.
For this, my third pregnancy and third home birth, I determined to really take care of me, honouring myself in the most thorough and joyful ways possible. I hired an independent midwife, booked massage, a mother blessing ceremony and carried on with my usual practice of clearing out fears and conditioning if and as they arose
I had the happiest, most relaxed pregnancy of all three. Antenatal appointments were a joy. All my wishes were heard and supported, my questions answered fully. It was all such fun, relaxing in the warm summer sunshine, connecting with my baby and imagining the calm cosy corner of my bedroom, lit only by candles, labour starting in the night whilst others were asleep, my husband joining me first in an atmosphere or quiet sacredness to be joined by my awestruck children and midwife.
HA. I imagine his cheeky grin in the womb as he considered my ideas then went about things his own way. He was on board with the general energy of my vision but not so much the finer (imagined) details.
Surprise number one was the timing. I woke in the early hours of the night with contractions. Knowing I wasn’t in full labour I slept on between the sporadic but insistent tightenings.
However, in the morning a question formed as I shuffled my way through breakfast and getting my two older children ready for school. Will this be a super long labour then because it’s a long time until dark comes back…? As my kids disappeared off to school with my husband I knew different but wasn’t ready to admit it just then.
I felt excited and curious. I think my son was trying to tell me ‘wake up mum, I’m coming now, in the day and sunshine.’ My head was trying to fit this into the dark night time, cosy corner image and largely failing. My minds habit of trying to work things out, to pin everything down was thwarted by the growing energy of labour. I was fading from this rational ordered world and entering the fluid organic energy of birth where the ordinary timing no longer made sense..
Kids safely in school courtesy of my husband I decided lying down resting in bed as he stroked my back would be a good idea. Surprise number two. Enjoyable though it was, it did not work as I thought it would and had in the past, Although good advice from my thinking self it was not what my inner midwife was prescribing for me at that moment. Which was to fulfil my restlessness and head for the toilet…
I threw back the covers and strode, slightly agitated. to the toilet. I had hoped to reexperience the comfort and total pain relief I had from his touch during the birth of my first child… I should know better of course than to try and recreate the past rather than live in the moment.
The toilet was just the job. The toilet was fun. I could hear my mind thinking this is kind of crazy but it felt right. Labouring in our small bathroom I could hold onto the sink with one hand and the bath with the other and focus all my attention on relaxing my body through the now powerful contractions with gentle sighs. Using the sink and bath as counter pressure and letting the instinctive loosening and letting go of being on the toilet happen, really worked for me. Still my mind kept popping in with the suggestion that lying down for a bit would take less effort and be even more restful.
Cue what felt like hours, but was probably like fifteen minutes or even less, (time was totally kooky by now.) of me trying to leave the bathroom. I would get half way down the approximately 5 metre corridor to our bedroom only to go, ‘oh here comes another one’ and to turn round and sit back on the toilet where I felt most comfortable and drawn despite myself. It was as if my feet and body had a mind and consciousness of their own.
Frustrating until I got the message and gave up and succumbed to the toilet position. During one of these contractions I found myself gazing at the bath. Yes, I though,t lets try that. A part of me really did want to lie down just not in the bed. I ran the bath and got in and yes this was good. Warm, cosy, and safe. I felt light and free, peaceful here.
My husband at this point called my midwife, for him he said even if I didn’t want her yet. Though I think he knew it was time even if I wasn’t admitting it still. I was too busy enjoying the water and noticing with interest that I could feel every muscle as it moved inside my body. I breathed and floated and felt my side muscles pulling my cervix up and away. The contractions were strong, powerful and purposeful. (just like my son is now) I was home and relaxed and still slightly in denial that it was day time.
My midwife came, smiling at me she listened silently to my contractions. I felt a change. I felt the end of the contraction change. It went from an outward, expanding pull up of the muscles to a slight bearing down and tucking of my tummy on the very last second of my outbreath.
Now I am a birthworker and my midwife is highly experienced. We both knew where I was up to and what was shortly going to happen. I could feel it beyond the words or rational ideas. My boundaries with normal reality were fluid. I could sense the timeline of where I was and had come through and what was to come in my labour. If I had been asked and capable of answering I could have told you how dilated I was and where I was up to as if I could see with x-ray eyes. My lovely midwife just smiled and listened. Then said ‘Would you like me to go to Tesco and come back in a bit?’’ We sat in silence for a few moments me gazing at her. My slightly vacant smile almost became a giggle. My mind was thinking something like – ‘She knows… She knows if she does that she will miss it. I am sure she knows? why is she saying that? –(She told me later she it was a kind of test to see my response- we know each other well after all our antenatal appointments so strange question though it may sound she knew just what to do and say that was prefect for me to know what I wanted.)
My verbal answer as far as I can remember was to say I want to get out of the bath now. I need the toilet.
I needed it because I was ready to push.
I now realised I was pretty much going to do it all on the toilet, a place I had hardly visited with the other two except for its actual intended use. I sat on the toilet and roared my way through my contractions, surprised by the location I found myself comfortable in, surprised by the volume and pitch of my voice and surprised by the sheer power running through my body. My body responded to this energy. It shuddered, and shook. I hardly knew who or where I was, all that was real was this raw, untamed energy rising and falling within me, coming and going from deep inside, or from some place else. A place known and not known, strange and new yet familiar. A place of pure wordless experience. I knew not if I was it or it was me. I opened up and allowed it in, and through and on. I felt the energy bearing down, pushing my baby down. It thundered. Then it would disappear for a short eternity. To return with even greater intensity. Excitement was growing. I couldn’t have controlled this even if I wanted to but in trust of my body and the process I surrendered totally focused only on relaxing, particularly as I felt so much strong pressure in my bottom, more than ever before. I was astonished by myself in a kind of excited way. Emotions rolled through me. I cried weeping and whimpering like a small child. I allowed myself to do this even as my mind wondered at this oddness. I wanted to laugh too. To throw back my head and howl. And I know I roared at the height of each contraction.
Once my husband tried to touch me to massage me or comfort me and I pushed him away. My midwife understood my needs and gently patted the floor beside her. ‘Come and sit with me.’ She smiled calmly and reassuringly. They sat at arm’s length from me just outside the bathroom smiling their love and encouragement towards me. I loved that they were there, just enjoying with me. My midwife I could tell was happy and in her element.
My midwife gently wondered if it might be time to get off the toilet. I agreed and knelt in front of it instead. Resting my forearms on a stool I was able to drop my head and relax in a new position. The pressure on my bottom was incredible. The contractions were the strongest I had ever felt. My baby felt powerful, a larger than life purposeful presence, yet kind and sweet too.
I felt more emotions coming through. Anger was one. My mind was a little bit in judgment of this as not the correct emotion to be feeling at such a wonderful time. Rather than argue with my mind and try and explain that this judgment is just a story that doesn’t make the anger go away , or try to work out what it meant, I took the anger through a quick NPA process. The anger passed. Impatience came. In an intense moment I shouted out ‘ I want this baby out now’ whilst simultaneously instructing my body to remain relaxed, to have patience. I didn’t add any conscious pushing on top of the work my body was aready doing, though I was tempted at times. My impatience was tempered by my desire to allow him to come in his own time, with the flow of energy.
He and my body responded to my call of ‘NOW please.’ I felt the most amazing sensation of opening in one big flow around his head. I sat upright and held his head as he slipped smoothly out in one go as all of my children have. I was overjoyed, I had done it!
This moment of opening and him flowing through was just the biggest thrill. I can’t really do justice to the sensations with any words. I just opened up effortlessly like magic. My midwife commented too that she saw this happen. It was totally amazing to feel. I sat back laughing, as my husband and midwife wrapped me in our best towels warmed by the radiator.
A quick peek and a knowing grin exchanged with my midwife- A boy!
My 4th or is it 5h or even 6th surprise was a messy one that I was ill prepared for. My other two showed no signs of meconium for a full 24 hours after birth, whereas he came out pooing and popped out more poo every time there was a quiet or clean moment for a few hours to come!
I wanted to move to my bed to rest. We must have been a merry little procession, me the tiger mother holding tightly to her new baby, my husband supporting me, my midwife holding the bowl in case the placenta made an appearance as we trotted down our narrow little corridor to the bed.
This time the bed was bliss. Warm, cosy and filled with morning light. I love my bedroom. When the sun shines it reflects off a throw with sequins on and makes glitter sparkles all over the ceiling and walls. I felt so happy as I laid back and let everyone look after me. My midwife cleaned up the bathroom –I rested and gazed at his puffy newborn eyes, his soft movements of hands and legs grasping at me, as he made cute suckling noises. He fed and slept as we all continued to enjoy his presence.
After an hour or two I felt I might stand up to see if the placenta wanted to come.
In another surprise the placenta wanted me back on the toilet- maybe it didn’t want to be left out of the bathroom party. So off our merry little procession went in reverse. Husband supporting the mother carrying the child. Midwife bringing up the rear with the bowl, supporting us all.
I sat on the toilet and they left me and baby alone for a while. I didn’t actually need the toilet. Instead out of nowhere came an enormous roar and another shuddering, shaking contraction of the same intensity I had experienced giving birth. I didn’t expect that. I could not have controlled or suppressed this if I had wanted to. Whoosh out came my placenta, almost an anti-climax after the energy of the contraction. It slithered, easily out, landed on the toilet rim, even though I had anticipated its arrival and stood up, teetered for a moment and yes you guessed it- plop into the (luckily clean) toilet!
My midwife came to the rescue again. She hauled the placenta with both hands round the cord back over the rim into its rightful new home of my baking bowl. I was extremely impressed at the strength of my cord and size of my placenta.
Back we all went to the bed for the final time where I made us comfortable and my husband finally got to cut the cord. I arranged the limp white and surprisingly small cord in a spiral on his stomach, and entrusted the placenta to the care of my friend who had come to make me smoothies.
My final surprise of the day was his size. Matching his personality, he was a larger than life or than expected 9 lb 6. I should say larger than I expected as my midwife confided in me that she had on her final antenatal appointment a few days earlier predicted 9lb7 which he may well have been if we had been able to weigh him with the meconium inside…
There ends the main story but not the joy. Revelling in my newest baby boy and all his surprises, my heart full, my body spent yet still buzzing with energy I drank in the love of my family and my home. These first few hours meeting a newborn baby are something quite sacred and special and lying in my luxurious bed in the quiet peace, my son draped contentedly over my belly and chest I felt more alive, loved and at home than ever.
See my Birth Confidence page for in formation on my practice for clearing fears.
My independent midwife, Janie Al Alawi, can be found here along with nformation about her services.
For information about The NPA Process and a free Process sheet click here. Its a superb way to stay in flow and let things pass through.
For information on my independent celebrant, Awen Clement for a mother blessing, click here
Since my first post a couple of weeks ago on overwhelm it seems that every other person I meet is going through their own version of meeting overwhelm in their lives. Whether they are blaming it on the recent mercury retrograde or Christmas on top of an over full schedule, there seems to be a theme. Too much to do in too little time and a sense of you drowning in the onslaught.
I’ve also been asked a number of times how I manage to stay afloat, how I manage with my three children and a business and all that I do. Truthfully, everything has stepped up a gear now that I have three children and sometimes I feel my head is only just above water. Pregnancy is also a game changer that can cause everything to seem more intense and challenging. But what has changed for me is that I am now enjoying the swimming.
Steps I have been taking over and over since becoming a mother. Steps that you can use with other repeating patterns you may notice in your life that you would like to change. Steps that work in an emergency breakdown situation such as I described in my last post and are also useful as longer term preventative and transformative medicine.
1. Catch yourself and Stop.
So let’s say this talk of overwhelm is striking a chord in you. Your daily duties, however small seem to loom large and impossible over you. And you have less energy than before because you are growing a baby, remember? Tears are bubbling under the surface, beneath which a simmering cauldron of emotions looking for a way out threatens to boil over willy nillly at the slightest trigger.
Awareness in this kind of situation is key and usually at least half the battle. If you are running in ‘overwhelm mode’ then you are invariably either thinking or doing too much. Or both. You are likely guilty of carrying the larger than necessary ‘mental load’ that women tend to carry- planning and managing the whole family’s needs whilst simultaneously undertaking more than your fair share of the actual workload.
This pattern is so normalised that it often slips under the radar but can be a significant contributing factor in overwhelm and burn out.
Once you see your patterns you have a choice. Change becomes possible.
Catching yourself is pretty straight forwards to understand if tricky to do but what do I mean by stop?
Well I do mean just that. Perhaps you need to literally stop, sit down, take a break and breathe deeply. Even for five minutes. When you need to be active again consciously relax the parts of the body you are not using and be relaxed in motion. How exactly you continue to stop depends partly on your individual path and relationship with overwhelm. Emotions may come up. Let them. And this is where you can move on to step 2.
2. Assessment and re-evaluation.
My invitation is to get cosy with a cuppa, sit back and ask yourself how you are really. let yourself cry if that’s what’s here. Treat yourself the way you would your best friend or small child who was struggling. Show yourself the kindness and love you would them. ( See step 3 for more on kindness) Listen and mentally give yourself a hug. Validate yourself and your experience this way. Make this a regular check in ritual for yourself over medium and long term and make sure you schedule it into your regular schedule.
You may hit up against a good dose of denial or resistance when you try to stop and be kind to you in this way. Objections like who else will do it if I don’t or I don’t have time for this now…Don’t let these get in your way. Listen genuinely–and then go deeper. Behind or under this resistance is usually fear. Your old cherished identity is being threatened by the changes you are proposing. It wants to keep you safe, even if that safety comes at the cost of rest and self-care. Under observation its logic often makes no sense at all, hence the complete sense in taking a little time with yourself to enquire where you are at and what you want and need right now.
3. Be Kind to You
The kindness mantra ‘Be kind to you’ was taught to me by Joel Young, the Creator and Custodian of NPA. The benchmark to test your decisions against is to ask ‘is this kind to me?’ You are worth the kindness and time you give to others. Already just catching yourself and resolving to stop is huge. Massive. Ginormous. Give yourself some credit for this already and follow it up with cutting yourself some slack with kindness. In the process of change please be super kind to yourself.
Changing your relationship to the world and yourself gives your cherished identity a big shake up. Not always easy, so go easy on yourself.
I think I am stressing this point a little extra due to my own history of being anything but kind to myself in complete contrast to how I treated others in my life. Extending patience, compassion and understanding to myself has been transforming in how I feel on a daily basis and how I manage with my three young children.
Just to be clear if the judger rears her head with commentary on you about being overwhelmed and not coping when your sister/mother/ next door neighbour did or so and so has more on their plate but they are doing ok.
No, that kind of comparison is a way heaping more weight on your overburdened load.
Telling yourself to pull yourself together, that you are being ridiculous, hold it in and rest later.
Nope, more judgement.
Honestly if it is unkind to you stop. If things fall apart because you stop and rest then that is a serious confirmation you were doing too much alone.
As I mentioned earlier, awareness is key and once you’ve let the big emotions out, released the immediate tension from your body and jumped off the routine treadmill, now the next level of awareness becomes available and it is time to take action.
It may be all you need to do is tweak your schedule, or it may need a rewrite with you at the heart and on every page. You may choose to book a massage, go out for dinner with friends, or schedule evenings curled on the sofa with a good book.
Perhaps the action you take is a pruning of any more actual doing activities because you need deep rest and some long periods of doing very little.
When you have been overactive doing nothing is a positive proactive and sometimes incredibly tough next step. Yet, sometimes the kindest action you can take may be to schedule doing nothing at all.
Remember the action you ultimately take to support you will always tick the box of being kind to you. If it doesn’t pass the test- bin it.
Whatever you choose it will not add more to the burden you have been carrying. You just put that down. The invitation here is not take a night off to tick a box and then next morning pick up the old burden. If necessary, unpack that burden with some inner work to be free of limiting beliefs about why you don’t deserve to rest or why it has to be you doing all the work. Then see what is yours to pick up at the end. It will be lighter.
You may need practical support which brings me to next step.
5. Ask for help/delegate
If in the previous steps you really see you have too much on and there are important needs you have that are currently not being met like resting, then do ask for help and do delegate tasks. Try writing a list of everything you do. Then consider who could I ask to help? To whom can I delegate? What can be done later or not at all? If this feels too much then get help with this too.
Seriously. I see far too many women (me included) struggling to go it all alone when we thrive on cooperation and company.
If you felt drawn to needing inner work in step 2, consider whether you will work though this more swiftlly and easily - a kindness to busy you - with some professional support such as I offer in my birth confidence sessions.
Be open to new and novel ways to do things and be supported. Ask around for ideas and inspiration.
Finally, I would like to say let this be fun. Even if moving out of overwhelm is uncomfortable look for ways to make it fun. Breathe some lightness and laughter into your day. This is perhaps the best medicine of all.
I invite you to take at least one of these steps and try it out this week.
See what happens. Do drop me a line I would love to hear your experiences.
If you would like to learn more about how to be kind to yourself using The NPA Process please follow this affiliate link to download you FREE copy of the process.
If you would like some personalised support to help you drop overwhelm for good and feel comfortable and confident as you approach your 'birth date' check out my birth confidence sessions and get in touch
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.
'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.
In Part 1 I spoke of my journey from unreadiness to readiness, from worry to inner calm, and from obsession over my long, long list of ‘absolute essentials’ to complete before birth should happen, to no worry and no list.
I spoke of my growing ability to rest, relax and allow readiness to be.
I spoke of learning surrender to the unknown and trust as I birthed my child and dropping my to do lists in favour of actually doing, with ease and flow.
In part 2 I am sharing with you how I made this significant transition with relative ease using NPA, a tool I also use in my 1:1 sessions to facilitate powerful transformation. The shift that evening from feeling distinctly NOT ready and worried about how to get everything sorted in time, to going into labour and giving birth from a place of being ready was almost instantaneous, quite surprising and has had long lasting deepening effects on me and my ability to take action.
NPA stands for Non Personal Awareness, a deceptively simple yet enormously effective tool that brings you into harmony and flow with what truly matters to you. It is a short six line process that effortlessly aligns the energy of your experience, releasing blocks and stuckness and allowing into your experience that which you’ve been keeping at bay. Alternatively as Joel Young, the creator and custodian of NPA, taught it to me, “letting the yucky stuff out and letting the yummy stuff in.” He describes non personal awareness as a living, breathing perspective says,
For those intrigued and eager to try it out click here to read more about NPA and download a free worksheet. For those remaining keep reading to discover some of the possibilities of NPA in action with my story of clearing needless worry about being ready and another glimpse into some of the intimate details of the birth of my second child.
On the evening in question having cleaned the bathroom, (Job 1 on the endless list of essential preparations according to the worried, time pressured and desperately nesting version of me.) I’d settled in to a conference call evening of NPA sharing with the NPA Community. The Theme that evening was birth!
During the call I spent an enjoyable hour bringing in the energies of confidence and trust. Throughout my pregnancy these two themes were pretty constant companions and the focus of much of the inner clearing work I was doing to prepare for the arrival of my child. By the night of the 24th June I was feeling confident in my body, I trusted my ability to birth. I had negotiated numerous hurdles and challenges along the way that had all served to help me to consciously choose the circumstances of my birth from an empowered grounded inner strength and to trust in these decisions.
Yet I still wasn’t fully relaxed and enjoying that in-between time of a fully formed baby inside an expectant mother enjoying the last twilight hours of their shared physical existence before the next chapter begins. I was aware of a persistent niggling worry about what I still had to do in order to be ready. Accompanied by an equally insistent murmur in the recesses of my mind about the potential pitfalls of not knowing my midwife. These unhelpful thoughts battled with the deeper sense of trust and confidence I felt when I tuned in. Try as I might, I couldn’t banish them completely and I was restless. I was worried about unknown factors I couldn’t fathom or plan for by their very nebulous unfounded nature, even as I was aware of trust in the universe and in my body.
This background noise and tension was not so loud but was real nonetheless and resided just under the surface of my day to day awareness. I had been doing what most of us have a tendency to do from time to time, pushing it to one side and ignoring it, telling myself I was being daft. As usual the universe had my back and was bringing me answers to my deep prayers almost before I was aware of what I needed.
In this case it brought me help in the form of two NPA ‘cookie cutters’ borrowed from a friend. That’s right, they weren’t even mine initially. Another thing I have learnt. I don’t have to be the one to know or come up with all the answers. The answers will come and will be available if I am listening and remain open. Back to the current story though. As I heard my friend share her experience with the energy of ‘The Unknown’ and ‘Being Ready’ I knew with a strong intuitive hit in my gut that these were ‘mine’ too.
I put the phone down and took both phrases through the NPA words.
First up ‘The Unknown.’
All my fears about not knowing which midwife would be on duty and that something untoward may occur and endanger my birth choices surfaced. Crazy thoughts that giving birth the first time was just a fluke and I would totally fail at it this time. Panic and terror at not knowing what was coming next and whether I could handle it overwhelmed me.
I sat still.
I felt it would last forever. I nearly despaired.
I sat still some more.
I smiled as joy bubbled through the mist. I relaxed as inner peace dispersed the mist. I was at peace with not knowing, not knowing what would happen in my birth experience, when it would start, who would be there, content to wait out the future. It had been perhaps 5 minutes but it could have been hours or a lifetime. I didn’t care.
This shift is simple to write in just a few line. Easy to read fast, gloss over and keep reading. I invite you to read it again and let it sink in. Imagine how it would feel to be living with fear as the backdrop and then imagine the contrast of living from a peaceful place. Really, I invite you to take some time to appreciate the depth of this through my words as I can’t begin to do justice with how transformative for me this change in perspective was at this time. This kind of shift has been my repeated experience with taking time to do inner work with tools such as NPA.
With a greater sense of ease in myself I moved onto NPA cookie cutter number 2 ‘Being Ready.’ This was quieter and more subtle yet with immediate measurable effect.
I stopped thinking about the list.
It was not today’s concern.
This was totally unexpected.
Ironic really. I know how effective this tool is. It was a cookie cutter on ‘being ready’ right?
So I shift into a place of being ready and what happens? Yes, straight into labour.
I was ready.
I tried to tell myself it might be Braxton Hicks and it might stop and start and I had a few days or even weeks left yet.
But no, my body knew differently.
Just four hours later my baby popped out (quite literally with a popping sound and a big splash!) into my waiting hands, slippery and warm to my fingers, crying already as I brought him in close to my heart. Quickly soothed by enthusiastic suckling, we gazed at each other. My delighted and euphoric laughter echoed round the bathroom as my husband stared in astonishment. ( He thought I needed water or something when I shouted for him to come.)
Very shortly, I was ready again; this time for some well deserved rest as I dropped off to sleep cradling my newborn in a warm cosy after-birth glow, deeply satisfied and powerfully transformed by the surprising turn of events that evening.
Further information about Joel Young NPA can be found here.
Click here to download The NPA Process Sheet for FREE and see for yourself what is possible.
The links in this article for Joel Young are affiliate links. The NPA technique is so powerful and deserves to be more widely known and used.
For assistance on your own journey to birth with confidence and trust click here to learn about working with me in BirthEssence Mother Nurture 1:1 sessions.
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