Tag Archives for " Labour Tips "

Are your emotions charged with excess baggage? Try this.

Sometimes when I name my emotions I feel like the wheelbarrow in the picture above. Loaded down with the  years, lifetimes perhaps of what that feeling means to me and has meant in the past.  This post shares a simple exercise you can try to get under the accumulated weight of meaning attached to  your words.

Words have power.

The way we use these words makes a difference to our experience.  We can make positive affirmations to support our intentions. We can explore and name our emotions and journal our thoughts to help ourselves move through challenging situations. Or we can use them to metaphorically beat ourselves up with a stick.

Even the very words themselves have a strong energetic field.  Some words can feel uplifting and strengthening, others may feel heavy and pull us down. Some words may feel heavier than lugging excess luggage around an airport on a trolley with a dodgy wheel. 

When the gargantuan reality of the luggage is totally belied by the innocently light label it is attached to, I have often wished I could wave a magic wand and magic away the luggage entirely.

Whilst I am thinking figuratively this also brings to mind our family holidays to my husband’s native home, The Gambia...

...I brace myself, bend my knees keep my back straight and pull swiftly upwards swinging yet another bag onto the conveyor belt to be weighed. I am nervous. Will we be over the limit? We are getting some curious stares. Most people on this flight to The Gambia are English tourists. They have the lightest of bags suitable for a winter sun destination. Some look like they only have hand luggage.

We on the other hand have not one but two trolleys piled high with bags of every size that have been carefully weighed at home to get as close to the maximum limit as possible. We have something like 85 kilos of luggage wobbling around on the overloaded trolleys. I am also carrying a toddler in my arms and a baby in my belly. I can barely be seen beneath all this stuff.

Fast forward thousands of miles and a couple of days later the hot and dusty baggage makes it to its destination having survived the aeroplane, taxi, boat, bus roof and even  wheel barrow rides. A knife rather than a magic wand cuts loose the tattered luggage labels but it nevertheless magically seems to release more than the kilos and kilometres our aching muscles have endured. Minus the extra luggage we had brought for the local school and for my husband’s extended family I feel free and light as a bird.

Whereas on holiday we had to physically carry heavy bags attached to our luggage labels, in life we are not beholden to the past history of the words we use to describe our emotional state. As we journey through life our brains attempt to make sense and categorise our varied experiences. When we encounter new situations it tries to work out if we are safe or not based on previous experience. Sometimes that’s ok. Sometimes it’s a bind.

Sometimes our words can be concealing heavy excess baggage that we may have been lugging around for years. The weight of the word may be like trying to lift a Mary Poppins bag of just in case items.

When we say we feel fear, do we mean the kind of fear that we get when we are nearly run over by a bus? Do we mean the kind of fear we feel when under pressure in an exam? Do we mean the kind of fear we feel when we are about to jump from an aeroplane for our first parachute jump? Are we responding to the current fear or to all the times we ever felt fear, particularly if we squashed it down and forced it to be stored in our cells?

Whenever the emotion is out of proportion to the situation in hand there is an invitation to do some inner healing work. If you sense that the label you have assigned to your emotion is part of the problem; If you feel that underbelly of consciousness that has got tangled up in the word is getting in your way and muddying the waters, here is a simple exercise to support you to open freshly in the experience.

It’s called “Take the label off.” It’s kind of self-explanatory and it goes like this.

1. Name your experience or emotion and notice how you feel as you do.

2. Take the label for your experience right off and throw it away. It may help to imagine getting a big pair of scissors and to cut the cord that attaches the label to the body of energy consciousness.

3. Tune in again and notice how your experience differs when you are simply experiencing what is arising without and reference points. It may help you to make sure your feet are firmly planted on the floor and you are breathing deeply and steadily into your body as you do. Have an intention to allow whatever arises and stay still in the centre of that. Be open and curious.

Without the label I experience a pure connection with the energy of the situation, a little like the connection I can feel to a stranger when participating in silent meditation together.

This exercise works well on emotions such as fear and it also works very well with concepts like Pain. Pain is one of the most quoted worries of labour- Will I be able to cope with the pain? I feel like I am splitting in two? I am not good with pain… are common refrains.

Pain in labour is not the same as pain from an injury but we use the same word to describe very different experiences and we may trigger our body into reacting as if we were in danger rather than in labour.

What happens when you take the label off and just feel what is actually happening? For me that was totally freeing. I could feel each muscle in my body working, I questioned what each sensation meant to me now I was not using the word pain. I got very interested in what I was actually experiencing in the here and now. My body felt heard and appreciated. I felt freedom even as I was feeling what in ordinary direct language pain is still the closest adjective I can find to communicate. The full story of how I was able to cope with intense pain and move smoothly through transition is the subject of a whole other post.

For now I will leave you with a quote from Ina May Gaskin that illustrates this exercise very well. In response to a woman’s question about labour she replies;

“Don’t think of it as pain, think of it as an interesting sensation that requires all your attention.” *

This quote could also expand into a whole post on the nature of life and the freedom of focusing on present moment awareness but I think you probably get it so I’d rather leave you to go off and play with the idea.

Let me know in the comments how you get on and I will be back soon with some more discussion about how to manage fear and other tricky emotions that may come up in labour.

From the book Spiritual Midwifery, by Ina May Gaskin, page 43.

Three simple tips to ease your pregnancy and labour. Part Three: Rest and 13 ideas to get more of it.

Rest is much underrated in our society and is crucial to our health even when we are not pregnant. Our bodies love balance and we need to balance action with rest. It is during rest that our body regenerates and creates new cells. During pregnancy we need more rest as our bodies are working hard behind the scenes to grow our babies. In this post I share a little of my story towards a healthy balance of rest and action and 12 ideas to get more rest in your everyday life.

20130710_232551In my first pregnancy, luxurious lie-ins with my husband (who works shifts) were the norm. I could stay in bed as long as I liked and especially in the first few months I did. I got plenty of rest.

With my second it was a different story. This time I had a toddler to look after and a busier business. A lie in now lasted five minutes until 7.05am. If I was lucky it would be a gentle wake up with soft pat and a sloppy kiss. If I was unlucky it would be feet in the head and shouting in my ears.

My toddler son no longer napped and loved action. Lots of action. I did my best to keep up with the housework, my business and his energy levels but I started to feel more and more tired. I usually pushed on through the tiredness. ‘Pregnancy is not an illness’, I read, and ‘moderate exercise is good’. So I was slightly annoyed when swollen ankles, a sore coccyx, and general lethargy suggested I should rest up. I couldn’t keep up with my pre pregnancy schedule but I felt a subtle fear I may be missing out as life went on as usual for everyone else around me whilst I was feeling exhausted.20130709_121145

I noticed I was not giving myself permission to stop and rest. Instead I was frittering away what spare time I did have with various excuses about what a lot there was to do. . I didn’t want to slow down or rest up in case someone thought I wasn’t coping. I was accidentally going along with a common pattern in our society. One that values multi tasking, working as long as possible during your pregnancy and puts self care pretty low on the list. Particularly if the self care looks like ‘doing nothing’.

I was running just to keep up with the treadmill and had forgotten to appreciate just how much hidden work our bodies are doing as they conceive, grow and then birth our babies. Our bodies do all of this without our conscious input, automatically without us thinking or checking in, ‘oh did you remember to grow that arm?’ But although creating a whole human whilst we carry on with our daily lives happens automatically we and our bodies are not automatons.   We are organic systems that need input to get this output. The input I was missing out on was rest. I was looking like the Duracell bunny.

Even when I was looking restful, reading to my son for example. My mind would continue its frenetic hopping fixing planning running. I held tension as I worried about what I hadn’t done that needed doing and tried to balance that with staying awake. I worried what kind of mother I was if I couldn’t even stay awake to read my son a story.

Not useful or kind to myself right?photo-1421338443272-0dde2463976a

I couldn’t even see that.   I just kept on trying to get everything done so I could finally rest at the end of the day. By which time all I could do was slump in an exhausted funk. I would drop off to sleep with my son carrying the tension with me. Only to wake up the next day still running and feeling like I hadn’t even slept.

Recognising the pattern of running myself into the ground in an attempt to meet everyone else’s needs without considering my own took a while to dawn. But that crucial first step taken the second and third quickly followed. Step 2 for me was the inner work to clear out the hidden issues that were driving the energy draining behaviours that were leading to exhaustion. Step 3 was rebuilding a healthy balanced schedule that included me time. Soon I was up and running again to a completely different and slower tune. Ironically the more I rested, the more energy I had, the more I got done with less effort and the more time I had for me including to rest and the more energy I had for play and so on.

Here are 13 great ideas I picked up along the way on how to incorporate the rest you need into your day without compromising on all the other jobs you have to do.

1 Yoga Nidra. This is my number 1 tip and number 1 rescue remedy. Both prevention and cure it is simply wonderful. If you are new to the practice you are in for a treat. Sometimes referred to as ‘yogic sleep’ it is a simple way of entering a deep restorative, relaxing state. The beauty is that you can do it lying down and although the intent is to remain awake, alert but rested, there is no harm if you do drift off. The quality of accidental sleep during yoga nidra is so different as you will have released tension you were carrying and you awake refreshed. Check out the free resources listed at the end of this blog post.IMG_0998

2. Yoga Nidra, Ok so I know this was point 1. But it is so helpful, versatile and transformative that I thought it deserved a mention again, Just to drive the point home. Try it just after you wake up to ease yourself into the day. Just before you go to sleep then drift off gently after. Or any time of day, carve a slot of quiet time out for yourself lie down and off you go. 25 minutes of the deep relaxation reached in the resulting meditative state has been compared to 2 hours of ordinary sleep. So often I would wake after half an hour and feel like I’d had a nights sleep the difference was so striking. It is not called yogic sleep for nothing.

3.Yoga Nidra. Can I really do that? Make it point 3 as well? It really was that good for me. I never got bored, I had a playlist with several different tracks. I sometimes used non yoga nidra guided visualisations and applied the practice to those instead and got great results. To get started I share at the bottom of this post some of my favourites. I also gave it a go with my son as a way of getting him to sleep as I rested next to him. With some tracks as short as ten minutes with others up to half an hour with some imagination you will find so many places and ways of using it in your day.

4. Yoga ni… just kidding. There are ways of resting without having to lie down and sleep.  Which of course is not aways possible especially if you ahve an older child. For this tip you definitely want to stay awake. Tip 4. Take a bath – alone, with your kids, with your partner; morning, afternoon, night; before tea, after tea. for the same reasons water is so effective as pain relief in labour it is also great for relaxation whilst pregnant. This is also an opportunity to create an association with the water and a deep relaxation state which is useful if you are planning a water birth. Run the bath, Light some candles and put on a hypnobirthing cd or other beautiful music that you love.

Exhausted with lively kids who aren’t interested in soothing music? Don’t worry and don’t wait till bedtime. Throw away the rule book. This is serious survival. Many an afternoon has been whiled away in the bath in our house. Shrivelled wrinkled feet are a fair price for an hour plus of sitting more or less still. Happy children with minimal effort and extra rest time. Everyone wins. Plus the baby weight is relieved by the buoyancy of the water. There are so many great things about a bath. If you have older children who are too large to fit with you, put them in the bath then see points 1-3 above. Extra tip: Cover the floor with many towels so you can let go of water damage worries.

duck bath5. Take a bath even if you are having a shower. Letting the hot water run over your body feels absolutely wonderful and is way more restful than standing. Watch out for any resistance that shows up as you read this idea. (e.g. I don’t have time, I don’t have a bath, the shower hose is too short.) Usually the objections are groundless or easily resolved – ( you do, sit in the shower, buy a longer one) It is not about the bath itself, it is the sitting and resting.   Sometimes the 5 minutes in the shower in the morning is the only me time I am getting for most of the day and I value it strongly. Make those five/ten minutes count. Sit down play some restful music and follow point 6…

6.  Take 5 deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and slowly out through your mouth, Make the out breath longer than the in breath and focus on releasing tension. Use this at any time, especially when points 1-3 are not possible. Try anchoring the practice to activities you do every day such as going to the toilet. Another one of the few times you may get a moment to yourself if you have other children! Use those precious moments well. Try Including your children and make a game of it. You will be teaching them valuable skills for themselves as you model this. This is also something that you can all do to help with strong emotions such as anger giving everyone a chance to calm down and take a more restful approach. Another win for everyone.

7.  Extend point 6. Take a breath for each part of your body in turn and blow out the tension from each area on the out breath. When you have gone through your whole body use the next breath to set an intention for your next task. Let your breath carry you through to your next activity. Aim to remain relaxed as you do. So much tiredness is created when we hold tension in muscles that are not required for that job. Use only the muscles that are needed for the task in hand and send the rest on holiday bringing me to point 8.

photo-1427097829427-56a905bf70048. Go on holiday Yes you heard right, I am recommending a holiday as a top easy tip to incorporate into your every day… Before you dismiss this out of hand as impractical, expensive delusion and hopeless wishful thinking or point out that holidays can be stressful too, hear me out. Holidays are so memorable as they are a break from the routine. We do things differently on holiday. We go to new places, often places we have dreamed about for years. We do things we would never dare or would not give ourselves permission for at home. It is this adventurous carefree mindset that I am suggesting you borrow. Grab it and take a holiday from your regular day. Take a two hour holiday and do something special for you that you wouldn’t normally. Imagine you are on your dream holiday. What would you treat yourself to? Go ahead and find a way to do that for yourself today or tomorrow. Go to a spa, Book a massage. Really indulge yourself, Gotoes resize on , you deserve it, your body and your baby will love it too.

9. Get support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You may need some childcare while you go on ‘holiday.’ Perhaps you are getting nesting instincts and it feels imperative to deep clean the whole house but the idea feels overwhelming. Perhaps it’s just the everyday housework and you can’t face hovering up for the third time that day. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness but of strength and honouring of the mother that you are and the amazing body that is growing your baby. Ask for help then accept it and enjoy yourself.

10. Get creative and make it fun. Think outside the box as you look for ways to relax and incorporate point 8 and 9 as you do. Throw a house cleaning party with a potluck dinner to share. You are then in charge of delegating all the tasks from your armchair/ sunlounger as you sip your holiday cocktail…

11. Make it even more fun. Laughter is the best medicine so the saying goes and it certainly knows how to release tension. Everything feels better with a good bout of laughter, so much so that there are entire therapies devoted to the practice. Get some friends together and play some comedy films. ( Steer clear of comedy films about birth, they are usually awfully inaccurate and dramatic) Tell each other jokes. Make funny faces at your children, spouse, or yourself at the mirror and laugh until you cry.

12. Take a tea break. Buy some special luxurious herbal tea bags just for you. Sip slowly and iTea-Timendulgently and mindfully. Feel the nutrients being absorbed into your body. Enjoy the warmth soothing your throat. Switch off from the world and put your feet up for the time it takes to drink your cup. This is another one you can involve the children if you can’t get away. My children love sipping ‘tea’ from a teaspoon from their own cup. (often honey and lemon in water or mint tea)I don’t know why a teaspoon but it takes ages so extra minutes for me to rest.

13. Finally back to the holiday theme. What do you think of when you imagine your perfect holiday? Relaxing by the beach? Soaking up the warm sunshine? We often have deep positive associations even with just the word. Check in how you feel as you say the word holiday and notice how it affects your mood if you imagine you are on holiday. Our brain sends out the same signals as it does when we are actually experiencing the holiday for real and we benefit from the flow of feel good hormones which are just the same ones that you want to have flowing for a smooth labour,

So now that summer is over and the rain seems determined to make us forget what the sun looks like and if escape on a real winter sun holiday is not an option for you, what do you do?

Well combining a few of the above tips I would recreate my own holiday retreat from my own home following the instructions of Nicole Harlow in this post. In fact I am so inspired by her description of how she transforms her winter apartment to the beach in summer I am shortly off to crank up the heating and get out my beach mat.

What if your dream holiday is skiing and winter snow? Actually It doesn’t matter what your dream hphoto-1422207134147-65fb81f59e38oliday is. Whatever it is, take those elements that you love the most and find a way to recreate them. Want a chilly autumn holiday? Turn off your heating, leave the doors and windows open then cocoon yourself in front of a fire in your sleeping bag toasting marshmallows and cooking sausages on a stick. Wish you were up the mountains skiing. Put your skiing out fit on inside the sleeping bag, make homemade snowflakes to hang round the room, play some snow action films and follow point 10 without caring how ridiculous you look. Older kids will love the idea and join in enthusiastically and come up with even better ideas. Feeling social? Invite friends round and bring out the inner child in us all.

A quick summary:

We need rest and lots more than we usually give ourselves in our fast paced society. Rest is underrated and neglected but we can easily build it back into our lives and have a lot of fun as we do. Give yourself permission and get creative. Once you start the opportunities and ideas come flooding. Build those ideas into what you are already doing each day as I talked about in Part 1.

Those extra moments of rest although they may seem short will very quickly make a difference to your energy levels. As a mother of two rambunctious gorgeous boys with never ending energy who I have had a steep learning curve over the last five years on how to look after myself with enough rest. I would love to hear how you find these tips.

What is your favourite? Do you have any great tips of your own to share?

I will be your willing guinea pig to try them out so let me know in the comments or on facebook page.

Here are some links to some of the Yoga Nidra Tracks I used:

A Yoga Nidra to release resistance by Samantha Nolan Smith

A ten minute track Radical Love 10 by Nicole Harlow

A Yoga Nidra information site with many free downloadable tracks

Another free resource by the Journey relaxing and healing- 3 guided visualisations *

Photo Credit: foot massage photograph  is by Margaret Klepacka of DarSan Photography

*Affiliate Link


Three simple tips to ease your pregnancy and labour plus ideas to effortlessly implement them into your life: Part Two – Dates

Part two of my favourite tips to ease pregnancy and labour is all about dates. I have a long love affair with dates and here I share some insights into why dates are beneficial during pregnancy (or at any time) along with a recipe you may like to try out.

raw datesAs a child, dates were a mysterious and luxurious sticky fruit I only ever saw at Christmas. I somehow had the idea that they were mainly for adults, visitors and important people. I used to look at them and marvel without touching, feeling their specialness that wasn’t yet for me. Somewhere along the way my views changed. Probably helped along by my husband. When I moved to Birmingham to live with him I was surprised to find those ‘special’ boxes of dates were pretty ubiquitous in his house and to be consumed at all times of year.   I began to eat a lot more dates. As gloriously sticky as ever I now love them and they are always a staple in our cupboard.   Dried or fresh they have still retained a sense of mystery and luxury that enriches me as I consume along with the more everyday nutrients they contain. I chop them into my homemade muesli, eat them alone as a snack when my energy levels were low, pack them as energy boosters on long wilderness walks and recently revisited my favourite biscuit recipe from my university years.

Throughout both my pregnancies I ate them constantly, usually straight out of the kilo box kept on the sideboard. I had no idea that my instinctive choice to nourish my body had led me to a perfect power pack of nutrients and minerals for the needs of my pregnant body nor that this was backed up both with some solid research and by ancient religious texts.

In the Qur’an, surah 19, Mary is instructed to eat Date fruit:

  • 23.  And the pangs of childbirth drove her to the trunk of the palm-tree. She said: Oh, would that I had died before this and had become a thing of nothing, forgotten.
  • 24.  Then one) called to her from below her, saying: Grieve not! Your Lord has placed a stream beneath you.
  • 25.  And shake the trunk of the palm-tree towards you, you will cause ripe dates to fall upon you.
  • 26.  So eat and drink and be consoled.

(Qur’an 19:23-26, An Explanatory Translation by Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall I.D.C.L.)

This short passage also alludes to the benefits of water during labour, both to drink and bathe in, and hints at the relief to be gained from an upright birthing position hanging off the branches of the tree. It also indicates the altered trance like state of deep inner awareness that is experienced in deep labour. In this case Mary is guided by a voice that is either attributed to the Angel Gabriel of Jesus himself. In fact, there is so much to be inferred from these simple few lines that it could fill a whole other post at least…

…Coming back instead to the point of this post- the benefits of eating dates. dates pan

Each delicious mouthful of dates provides you with a veritable powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and amino acids, including but not limited to:

  • Iron– important in the manufacture of red blood cells generated energy and so proper intake helps to prevent anaemia and relieve excessive fatigue. Iron needs increase in pregnancy due to the increase in blood volume so it’s good to eat plenty of iron rich foods.
  • Magnesium– Acts with calcium to support baby’s bone formation and replaces your spinal bone mineral density after birth. Magnesium deficiency is often linked with muscle cramps, a common complaint in pregnancy. for those who have experienced this, anything that relieves this has got to be good!
  • Potassium-a kind of electrolyte that is important to maintain balance of fluids and to regulate healthy heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Calcium– is important in the development of bones and teeth for the baby and the developing foetus takes up calcium at a rate of 350 mg per day. Also indicated in the prevention of pre-eclampsia and raised blood pressure
  • Vitamin K– Important in blood clotting and supporting healthy bones
  • Selenium– helpful for brain development in your baby
  • Folate-a B vitamin used for cell division and red blood cell formation as well as development of baby’s neural system
  • Copper– required for production of red blood cells
  • Tannins– (flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants) These have anti haemorrhagic properties.

(Sources of information quoted above found at end of post.)dates in progress

Investigating the benefits of date consumption for labour this study from 2011 found a significant reduction in the need for induction and a more favourable delivery outcome. The study compared 69 women consumed 6 dates daily for 4 weeks and were compared to 45 women who ate none at all. The women in the date eating group showed higher cervical dilation, significantly higher proportion or intact membranes, higher incidence of spontaneous labour ( 96% versus 79%) They also found the mean latent stage of labour to be shorter in this group of women ( 510 minutes versus 906 minutes) –

(Side note: I am not a big fan of rigid delineation of labour into structured phases nor the use of the word delivery but that is the terminology used in the study from which I am quoting.)

As if energy boosts, delicious tastes and shorter labour wasn’t enough, I came across this study that compared dates against intramuscular oxytocin administered immediately after birth. The dates again came out top with significantly reduced bleeding compared with the use of synthetic oxytocin and were recommended as an alternative in normal delivery. ( sorry for the terminology again, it’s a direct quote.) Yet another reason to keep dates a supply of dates handy. for eating dates.

Do I wish I had known all this prior to my pregnancies?

Perhaps. I would have eaten them with more conscious awareness, savouring the historical link to Mary and her Divine Birth, celebrating her intuition that brought her exactly where she needed to be at the foot of the date tree and her surrender to the Divine wisdom she received there. I would invite this appreciation awaken and anchor that knowledge and ability in me for my own birth experience. Perhaps I would also have visualised those super nutrients travelling on their journey to the muscles of my uterus, nutritional support to honouring the work they would do during labour.

Either way I am glad I ate those dates.

Did it help me in labour? I certainly had an amazing time in labour but it would be difficult to retrospectively split myself in two and have one of me abstain whilst the other avidly devours dates to see how much influence the dates had in that…

Nevertheless, providing you like dates, this is one of those simple, easy to implement actions that can’t hurt and is totally delicious along the way. Yummy snacks with no guilt whatsoever!

I hope the photos of our own family ‘date consumption research’ have tempted you and here is the recipe we were making – my favourite recipe for date slices for you to try out.finished date slices

Recipe for Date and Oat Slices
  • 8oz dates roughly chopped
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
  • 6oz butter
  • 2oz demerara /soft brown sugar
  • 4oz oats
  • 4oz wholemeal flour
  1. Grease 8in/20cm sandwich tin
  2. Put dates,  water, cinnamon and honey in pan and cook gently for 5mins until, soft and spreadable.
  3. Put butter and sugar in clean pan and heat until butter melts. Take off heat.
  4. Sprinkle in oats and flour and mix
  5. Spread half oat mixture on base of tin, cover with dates and spread remaining oat mixture on top.
  6. Bake in the oven at 180°C/ 350°F/ Gas Mark 4 for 30 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool for 10 minutes then cut into  pieces.

Variation – Replace oats with semolina.

I would also love to hear from you. What are your favourite ways to eat dates? Do share any tips or recipes and we ( I and my two enthusiastic young cooking assistants ) will test them out!

Sources of nutritional information in this post:


Zita West, Natural Pregnancy
Dorling Kindersley 2005



Dr Yehudi Gordon, Birth And Beyond: The Definitive Guide to Your Pregnancy, Your Birth, Your Family – From Minus 9 to Plus 9 Months Vermilion 2002

Three simple tips to ease your pregnancy and labour, plus ideas to effortlessly implement them into your life: Part one- Squatting

This is the first part of a three part series on three tips for ease during pregnancy and labour that can be easily integrated into your every day activities and suggestions on how to do that. Today I am writing about squatting and how I found an effortless way to integrate the practice into my ordinary life to the benefit of my pregnancy and birth experience.

Bang! Crash! Ball after ball whizzes past my ears. I swerve matrix style keeping my eyes on my target, a foot above my son’s head, just out of reach of his fingertips. I take a deep breath in and throw with all my might watching in satisfaction as the ball sails easily past my son, down the corridor and with excited glee he trots away, out of sight after it.

Enjoying my brief respite I smile in satisfaction too. My hands fall to my belly and I gently stroke my now quite large bump and wonder what my baby thinks of this new game. As my son’s smile lights up the top of the stairs once more and balls renew their relentless downpour I reflect that my children are indeed, as the saying goes, my best teachers. Thanks to my son’s delight in the ‘stairball’ game I now have a regular squatting practice, cardiovascular work out and am getting toned arms to boot.

BallsI was already aware that gentle exercise in pregnancy was beneficial, particularly given our overly sedentary lifestyle. I knew being fit was useful as labour can be a pretty intense experience that has been compared to the energetic output of running a marathon. I felt fairly fit and active. I had to be looking after my young son. I had been active in his pregnancy too, swimming, pregnancy yoga and lots of walking. I continued with these as they were all enjoyable activities I could do with my son. But I wondered about my core strength. I wondered if I was doing enough.

The words of Ina May Gaskin echoed in my mind, “Squat 300 times and you are going to give birth quickly.” Ina May is pretty cool and her results speak for themselves (Only 1.4% Caesareans and 68.8% Intact Perineum from 2028 births for example*) so taking her advice on squatting seemed like a good plan. But despite a strong, strong desire to ensure I was doing everything I could to promote a smooth labour and birth my resistance to actually squatting on a regular basis was huge. I bet there are many who struggled as much as I did to implement this simple, useful, and easily accessible piece of advice. I tried a few times but quickly got bored and found an excuse to do something else. On other occasions I simply forgot and would be reminded later with a twinge of guilt, not enough of a twinge to get me off the sofa though, Until the game…

Suddenly I was squatting for between 20 minutes and 2 hours a day. Not continuously for 2 hours, I cried off for breathers and I listened to my body, building up my stamina for this new activity gradually.   But each time the balls came flying down the stairs I carefully bent my knees in a squat until I could reach the ball.

The barrier to squatting successfully broken I began to find other ways to incorporate squatting into my daily life. Where I’d been going wrong was to doggedly persist in the one solid session approach which just wasn’t working for me.

I found that on the rare days when ‘stairball’ game was not part of the curriculum I could use the stairs as a reminder and squat once at the bottom and top of the stairs each time I went up or down them. Which was fairly often given the state of my memory and the needs of my bladder during later pregnancy. I used the stool bought to help my son access the toilet so I could adopt a squatting position there too. I also replaced bending over with squatting whenever I needed to pick something off the floor. The repetition gradually sunk into my mind and body and I found I was creating a habit.  I was remembering more easily that I was intending to do lots of squatting and each time I was reinforcing the habit some more. Not that I needed too much internal reinforcement when my son was around…

The key ingredients to my new success as taught by my son: 1. Make it fun, 2. integrate it into what I was already doing and 3. build it up gradually.

Since then I have applied these principles to other areas of resistance in my life to great effect. Such as my impromptu yoga sessions : I no longer wait to find a full hour slot. I do what I can where I can, shorter and more often. I add in random moves such as cat stretch whilst playing horses with my children, or even deliberate poses when the music stops in musical statues.

Thinking up innovative ways to maintain connection with much loved yoga practice and other facets of my former life has been lots of fun, once I broke out of my box. Just as the brainstorming exercise of finding 50 uses for a particular object helps break us out of creative stupor by forcing us to get creative in limiting circumstances, so I am no longer am I confined to my box of how I have always done it, now the box is a boat, a rocket, a hat, and suddenly a world of possibilities is opening up in seemingly unconnected areas.

Back to the squatting, did all this effort pay off in the way Ina May intimated? Well it was certainly not the only factor but my son was born easily at home in approximately 3 1/2 hours from start to finish, and my arms still look great. So I would count that as a resounding Yes!


Incorporating exercise into pregnancy in the context of our often sedentary modern lifestyle is a great and healthy thing but must be done appropriately to your individual fitness and health. When starting anything new and particularly during pregnancy be mindful of your body and start small and gently. Be kind to yourself, listen to your body.

Here are a three posts with more detailed information on how to squat safely and effectively and why it is useful in pregnancy. http://www.katysays.com/the-hunting-and-gathering-mama/



The suggestions in this post for exercise are not intended to replace advice by your midwife, doctor or other health professional. If in any doubt as to the suitability of any exercise please consult your doctor of other qualified health or fitness professional for advice. BirthEssence is not to be held liable for any injury or misadventure from following advice in this post and appropriate supervision and/or medical advice should always be sought.

* Information from Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Ina May Gaskin, 2003 Vermilion Appendix.

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