Discussing everything from massage as pain relief for birth through the challenges of working in pregnancy and how to rest with restless children to entertain the Positive Birth Movement North Birmingham decamped to Sutton Park in Sutton Coldfield to inspire and support each other with positivity around birth. In this article I provide some background about the growing Positive Birth Movement and how you may get involved.
The story of the birth of their children is often the one memory that stays vivid until the end of a woman’s life. These birth stories matter so much to women and need to be told. At the same time the stories most often shared via media are drama fuelled and often less than positive. Fear is sticky. Misinformation from televised dramas can be sticky too. How many people instantly think of a woman on her back screaming for mercy when they think of birth? Far too many I would hazard a guess. Yet this is far from the reality of how birth happens and from how it can be, Yet still, all too often people gather and share horror stories about what went wrong with their next door neighbour’s sister in law. As a pregnant woman it can be hard to avoid this kind of unintended reinforcement of negativity. It is an example of just what you do not need more of in pregnancy when emotions often run high skipping along with the pregnancy hormones. But where to go when you want to air your hopes and dreams in an atmosphere of encouragement and support without being regaled with the latest cautionary tale?
In steps the Positive Birth Movement and its rapidly swelling numbers of Free Positive Birth Groups. The movement aims to challenge and change the epidemic of negativity around childbirth and groups meet monthly all around the world to encourage the spread of positivity and support and empower women to approach birth differently.
In the words of Milli Hill, the founder of the Positive Birth Movement,’these groups are a place for ALL pregnant women – regardless of their background, experience or choices – to come together and share experiences, thoughts, feelings and insight about childbirth. There is often also tea and cake! Positive Birth Groups aim to be a helpful part of your pregnancy; a warm and welcoming place to hear stories and ideas, to consider what you really want from your childbirth experience, and to challenge any fears or negative expectations you might have.’
Following the birth of my first son I began to realise that it was not so common to reply with positive delight and a big grin when describing labour. A strong desire arose to make a difference to other women and support them to enjoy their birth experience. As part of this mission I set up the Positive Birth Movement North Birmingham Group. Usually run from my home in Erdington we decided to take a leap of faith with the weather and opted for the park this month.
It was a great option. The British Summer might be a bit hit and miss at times but it was kind to us as we took the Positive Birth Movement North Birmingham out to play in the park. Letting the children run wild round the playground as we got on with the serious business of three hours of nattering and laughing was the perfect solution to the childcare dilemma in the summer holidays. Both children and women had a fantastic time. We started with the theme of the month : Pain and let the discussion unfold from there. We were so lucky this month to have Kim come along. With her gentle candid honesty and inspiring passion for birth she shared elements of the birth stories of her four children. It was equally inspiring to hear about her volunteer work as a Doula with Bethel Doulas, supporting vulnerable women many of them asylum seekers on their journey to motherhood.
To follow the Positive Birth Movement North Birmingham Group and come along to our group click here.
For more information about the Bethel Doula Service and the work they do with supporting refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable and isolated women in Birmingham and to donate click here
I love Christmas time and especially the family festivities and sharing of gifts. It is a time that really warms my heart. This year my heart is warmed and positively thrilled to bits with one of my Christmas presents to myself: the new book edited by Milli Hill just published called Water Birth: Stories to inspire and inform. I am ever so excited because the birth of my first child is one of the featured stories. To celebrate my first published piece of writing I have written a post about my personal experience of water birth including some of the details of the birth story that is found in full in the book. I do hope you enjoy reading.
I have always loved water. Holidaying in France as a young child I learnt to swim with the help of my mum in the shallows of a serene lake. I remember feeling so proud, brave and free as I let my feet lift off the sand and float and began to move through the water unaided.
Growing up many happy days were spent playing with my brother and friends in rivers and oceans. We would leap and dive under crashing waves in Wales, daring the surf to catch us as we ran away. We would shout with raucous laughter, racing, chasing and splashing. We would spend hours making damns, creating pools to soak in. We would alternate pushing against the rivers’ currents with allowing ourselves to be carried tranquilly downstream to the sound of accompanying birdsong.
As an adult I am still instantly soothed and relaxed by the trickling sound of a river meandering along its path and the regular rhythm of crashing surf followed by its gentle tinkling return through shells and shingle.
I continued to swim regularly throughout this pregnancy, getting a taste of how I might feel during a water birth. I enjoyed the weightlessness and ease of movement in the water. I even enjoyed the contrast as I climbed back out onto land, the sudden heaviness pulling me down into the earth, solid and stable beneath my feet. I appreciated the strong grounded feeling with a secret inner glee at the delightful memory of the floating freedom, a sense of power and possibility and the connection with my baby, whom I sensed enjoyed these sensations as much as I did.
My reading revealed fascinating history and surprising facts and ultimately allayed any concerns I may have had over safety.
I read of petroglyphs in Egypt depicting births of Pharaohs approximately 8000 years ago and accounts from the oral traditions of indigenous people who gave birth in shallow sea water or pools. There are examples both old and in modern day times right across the globe, from the Maoris to the Indians of Central America to the Hawaiian islands. These are glorious tales of women supporting women using the warm water to aid relaxation and for pain relief, that really warmed my heart.
In the Western world documented water birth is much more recent and until the latter part of the last century very sporadic. Water birth remained largely unknown until the 1970’s and the pioneering work of two obstetricians, Michel Odent in France and Igor Tjarkovsky in Russia.
Igor’s initial interest in water was sparked by a desire to help his premature daughter by immersing her in warm water in order to create an environment akin to the womb that she’d departed two months early. Seeing her rapid progress he went onto develop glass tanks and to experiment with the use of water during childbirth itself.
Michel Odent set up a Birthing Centre in Pithviers which focused on creating a home like environment with minimal intervention. The birthing rooms included baths for relaxation and pain relief. Inevitably as women enjoyed the benefits of the soothing warm water some women didn’t want to get out again and babies started to be born in the water. By 1983 he had attended over 100 of these water births and was able to publish a medical research paper.
From here on in the popularity of water birth blossomed and bloomed. Supportive studies were published demonstrating the safety, women and midwives were vocal supporters and the opportunity to experience a water birth became more accessible and common as word spread. Today most maternity units in the UK are able to offer water birth to their women.
I was also inspired by positive stories on the internet and the birth of a friend’s baby, nearly 10lbs in water with ease and grace and no tearing.
I bit the bullet and bought my own pool that took up the whole of my living room.
And I was also a little bit nervous. And sometimes just a tiny little bit impatient…
But, eventually my turn came. In my living room, gently into the dark waters of my birth pool, my baby boy was born. The atmosphere was serene and still, apart from some urgent clamouring from the midwives to get my husband back in the room before he missed it! He shot out across the pool like a shooting star across the night sky. His body, dimly lit by the head torch carried by the midwife, could be seen curled and glistening through the ripples caused by my undulating body as it arced into position. Lifted out by myself and my husband together in calm tranquillity, he appeared to be still sleep. The only noise was his sudden, surprising intake of breath followed by a deep satisfied sigh of happiness as he nestled against my chest, legs still floating in the water.
This story, my first birth experience is etched into my heart and transformed me deeply. I have loved telling and retelling my story hoping to inspire other women the way I was helped by hearing their positive stories. The telling of personal stories is a weaving of magic that transforms and teaches. The sharing of positive and empowering stories is a powerful support especially in our culture which tends to share the horror stories far too often. Giving birth awakened a passion in me to support other women on their journeys to mother hood and I am delighted and touched that the story of my first son’s birth will be available to more women than I could personally reach with the publication of the book Water Birth: Stories to inspire and inform
This delightful book is a compilation of women’s birth stories covering a wide range of situations – hospital, home, birthcentre, twins… All with the use of water. All the stories are intended, as the title implies, to inspire and inform of the wonderful possibilities of using water in childbirth. It is packed full of information within the stories themselves and in the commentary by Milli Hill who has herself experienced the delights of water birth and whose story also features.
It is my hope that women reading these stories are uplifted and guided into their own power to choose and create their own positive and transformative birth experience. I hope you have enjoyed reading this and would love to hear from you in the comments below.
You can buy ‘Water Birth: Stories to inspire and inform’ from Amazon here:
Water Birth: Stories to inspire and inform
The definitive book on water birth and the source of the historical data quoted is called The Waterbirth Book and is by Janet Balaskas.
For more about water birth and a taste of Milli Hill’s excellent writing click here to read one of her articles for Best Daily . Milli Hill is a freelance writer and weekly columnist for BestDaily.co.uk. She is the founder of the The Positive Birth Movement You can follow her on Twitter: @millihill
The book is also available to buy from wordery and direct from Milli Hill here