About YOU and ME
So, maybe you're pregnant? Should I offer congratulations and big smiles or is it complicated?
People often assume that everyone who is pregnant must be delighted on every level, but sometimes the picture isn't that straightforward. Mostly, if we're honest, it's a bit of a mixed bag. Yes, you might feel joyful, elated, excited, celebratory, but alongside that perhaps you feel worried, shocked, surprised, unsure? Maybe you even feel deeply worried, anxious or afraid? This might be due to a previous experience or maybe you've always felt that way about birth. You might understand where your feelings have come from or you might not.
For some, birth can seem like a huge, looming hurdle and it's hard to imagine how you'll clear it, let alone how you'll achieve a safe, secure, wobble-free landing on the other side as you make the life-changing transition to parenthood. For some people it's as if that birth-hurdle is surrounded by an obstacle course laced with traps and snares and it's going to take more than a leap of faith to get you through.
Over the years I've spoken to hundreds of pregnant women who find it hard to see beyond the birth-hurdle, and that includes those who are feeling more confident than their sisters.
Right now it might feel like you will never clear the hurdle, and as for caring for a baby...?!
That's where I come in. My job is to help you grow into a more confident, skilled, relaxed and positive version of you. *
If you're feeling scared, anxious, worried, or even traumatised about birth, I help you to feel confident and skilled.
If you're pregnant I help you to prepare positively for birth whether you're hoping for a vaginal birth or planning a caesarean.
If you're not yet pregnant because the prospect feels too scary but you'd love to have a family, I help you to feel more confident, informed and less fearful.
Whether or not you're pregnant I can help you to move beyond the impact of a previous challenging birth experience.
I do this by combining my professional training and expertise in a unique way that's tailored to each person I work with. More of that later. First, here's a bit of my story...
When I was pregnant with my eldest I had already experienced two early pregnancy losses. With the first I didn't know I was pregnant until I miscarried. Even so, I felt a deep sense of loss afterwards, like something was missing. The pregnancy had been unplanned. With the second one, a planned pregnancy, I had what's sometimes called a 'missed miscarriage' whilst on holiday in Spain. Unfortunately, I agreed to a procedure whilst out there. I didn't know what my options were. I felt too stressed and shocked to get my head together, it all happened so quickly and I went along with everything that was suggested to me. Afterwards I suffered flashbacks and memories that I would now describe as traumatic, for a very long time. When I was pregnant again, happily my baby stayed put for the full 9+ months. I went to classes on breathing and relaxation, I read about "natural birth" and that was sooo going to be me and my birth. My GP had even done some hypnobirthing-style stuff with me (and stabbed me in the wrist with a needle to prove it worked, but that's another story!). I was going to have a manageable, fulfilling, life-enhancing birth experience. Hah! The birth, on paper, was actually fine; nothing bad happened, but I utterly hated every moment of it. When my son was eventually born I wasn't very interested in him. I felt wrung-out and totally knackered. It was like everything had happened around me and to me but not really 'with' me. Our wish to be left alone as much as possible (I didn't want to be constantly examined, talked at, poked, prodded, etc) felt more like abandonment. Examinations and comments from some staff were clinical and one was rude and unkind. My partner didn't really know what to do so I don't remember him doing anything very much. I know he was overwhelmed, scared and thought me and/or the baby might die, even though nothing life-threatening was happening. I felt out of control and underprepared. Then I had postnatal depression that dragged on untreated for a good couple of years.
Scroll forward 4 years and my daughter was born, on my son's 4th birthday! (Yeah, I know, what are the odds?!) This time I'd taken control, had the benefit of hindsight and made very different choices. I booked an independent midwife and gave birth at her birth centre. I had a good relationship with my midwife; she understood me, my hopes and my fears. Birth was quick. I felt it, of course. Pain-free birth was never a goal but manageable birth with a sense of control was a goal, and this time I had it. It was such a positive experience that I wanted to do it all again! I felt cheated because it had been so quick! Imagine that - actually wishing that birth could have taken longer! I was still exhausted afterwards and had a baby and a 4-year old to look after so it was still hard work. I still had a few stitches so had some healing to do and the discomfort that comes with that.
But that birth changed my life.
It put me on a pathway that over the coming years led me to become qualified as a professional antenatal educator, hypnobirthing practitioner and a counsellor, with additional skills alongside. Birth became my passion because I want to provide for you what I didn't get back then - not just reliable knowledge, but also knowing what the evidence says, what all my options were and that I had an absolute right to choose. I also want to make sure you know the point of breathing and relaxation for labour and for life! If you're anything like me, if you can see the point of something you'll be more likely to actually use it!
So back to you! I can tailor antenatal classes for just about anyone, but what makes me different from most is that I can work with you safely if you feel anxious or scared, thanks to my experience as a counsellor as well as an antenatal educator. If you're feeling particularly anxious we can unravel that, and take steps to reduce the impact of anxiety, helping you regain a sense of control and calm. I can help you process a previous difficult birth experience as well as plan and prepare for your next birth. Depending on how you're feeling, what you've already experienced and how you'd like to feel, I can create a blend of counselling, psycho-education, physical skills and emotional preparation (and emotional recovery if appropriate). You can choose whether you want to do some or all of this alone or with your birth partner.
We can do this in a variety of ways. It may be that counselling is the way to begin so that you feel heard and validated and we can begin to unravel some of those anxious feelings. If you want to process a previous difficult experience we can include some direct trauma release work using Rewind Technique or Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), providing first that we know you can revert to 'calm' smoothly and easily. Emotional safety is really important. As the time feels right we can begin discussing the next birth and planning for a different kind of experience. Obviously we can't control everything so we look at what you can control, and learn to let go of what you can't. Sometimes some lateral 'outside the box' thinking is useful. Alongside everything, I help you with emotional self-regulation and grounding exercises so that you feel safer and better prepared to take control of your reactions and your life.
* If you suffer with complex and/or severe mental health needs I may not be able to work with you. I cannot give medical advice or advise you about the use of prescribed medication. You would need to liaise with your mental health team to devise a care-plan appropriate to your needs.