The Secrets of Birth – interview with author Kicki Hansard
I’m introducing my wonderful, extremely talented friend, colleague, doula, birth educator and author Kicki Hansard. Originally from Sweden, Kicki now lives in Hertfordshire, England with her family, running her business Birth Bliss Academy.
R: You were an inspiring part of my doula journey back in England Kicki! I remember sitting in your living room during the very early stages of pregnancy and knowing that having the opportunity to work so closely with you as a mentor would have a huge impact on my drive and inspiration to support women through one of the most vulnerable and magical stages of their lives.
Tell me about your journey into the world of all things birth and babies…
K: Thank you so much Rachel for that introduction! I’m so honoured and happy to be here and to connect with you again. My journey into the world of birth and babies happened after the birth of my children. I found becoming a mum, especially the first time around, incredibly challenging and having a ‘high maintenance’ baby made those first few months less enjoyable than they could have been. When I read about doulas a few years later, I thought that this was what I wanted to do! It would have been so great to have known about doulas when I had my babies. Someone to come and look after you, tell you that you’re doing a great job as a new mum and simply tell you what is normal and what is not. I became a doula initially to support women postnatally but found that it all starts with the birth! I’ve now been working as a doula since 2002 and I still love what I do! Supporting women to have positive birth experiences and a happy postnatal period.
R: I had the pleasure of learning from some amazing authors and pioneers in the birth world, we were incredibly lucky to bring some fabulous, inspiring people to our home town (or I should say village!)…how has working with such leading professionals such as Michel Odent, Sheila Kitzinger and Kerstin Uvnäs Moberg impacted your philosophy and outlook?
K: My philosophy is quite simple! It is also my vision statement for the Birth Bliss Academy and it goes like this: I imagine a world where women are encouraged to trust their bodies and where all myths around pregnancy, childbirth, parenthood and breastfeeding are banished.
I imagine a world where all women will have the tools they need to make intuitive and informed choices for themselves and their baby without guilt or judgement.
I imagine a world where couples are well equipped to listen to their hearts and apply a holistic approach to parenting.
I imagine a world where all women and their families have kind, compassionate and respectful support during the childbearing years.
I imagine a world where women and their families are in the centre of the care they receive and where caregivers work as a team to make it a positive memory for each family.
R: Being a birth doula is truly a vocation. What are the highs and lows of your work?
K: The absolute highs of my work are seeing women have positive birth experiences, whatever happens during the birth! Postnatally it’s seeing women grow into confident and happy mothers who understand that ‘good enough’ is the new perfect! My lows are working in a system that is sometimes far from women-centred. For example, institutional rules, like only one birth partner in theatre if a client needs an assisted or caesarean birth. In many cases, hospitals also breach simple human rights when women are coerced and scared into making choices which they wouldn’t perhaps make if they were given non-biased and evidence based information. That makes me really sad!
R: Please describe your thoughts about our modern birth culture in 2017.
K: My thoughts are that childbirth is far too often portrayed as the worst thing a woman can experience; that it is highly dangerous and painful. This just isn’t the truth and giving birth can be the most transformative experience a woman can have! Birth physiology is a secret to many or not very well explained and not enough emphasis is placed on how birth actually works! The majority of women, if in a good environment which protects and supports the physiology of birth, will give birth with no interventions and they will also manage the intensity of childbirth. BUT instead, women give birth in hospitals, with bright lights, beeping machines and having to follow strict rules.
R: So, you’ve written and published a book! How did this come about? Tell me about it!
K: Yes, I wanted to leave something for my two daughters to have when it’s their time to have children. I started writing down stuff and one of my friends who read it said that the information I was sharing with my daughters should be shared with all women. So, it ended up being a book written differently to all the other 1000s of books on childbirth and pregnancy. My book doesn’t tell anyone what to do or is in any way prescriptive. It simply provides information that I think all women need to make informed choices and it’s all based on the research that is available to us.
R: If you were to offer a few words of wisdom to our awesome mamas over here in Australia, what would they be?
K: It would be pretty much the same as to all awesome mamas! Biologically, you have evolved to know what is best for you and your baby, even though someone who is an expert might be telling you different! Listen to your instinct and look at what proof there is out there for the kind of birth you would like. Also, don’t write a ‘birth plan’, instead call it a ‘care plan’. Tell the staff how you would like to be cared for, how you would like to be spoken to and also how you would like your baby to be looked after. This is essentially what most birth plans contain anyway.
Thank you so much for your time and contribution. I sincerely wish you all the very best moving forward into new ventures.
If you would like to order a copy of Kicki’s book, please click here!
Birth Dancing – dance with your baby!
First publication Bellydance Oasis Magazine, Issue 55, 2016
Happy Mums, Happy Little Ones
This is so true! Don’t ever forget how important you are!
Taking a Moment – live the moment!
WOMEN: We make decisions every minute! Life can be a constant roller coaster, juggling responsibility for others; for work, as a partner, as a daughter, as a lover. We are intuitive creatures, however, time doesn’t always allow us the space to enjoy precious moments and create memories.
It is important to take time to breathe, to live the moment, to revel in the happy times. Our children change and grow so quickly! Soak up the precious times, for they balance the struggles, the ups and downs that come with daily life and motherhood.
Have a listen to this beautiful song, that was sent to me by one of my wonderful students:
This is one of my favourite poems:
Slow Dance – David L. Weatherford
Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round?
Or listened to the rain slapping on the ground?
Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight?
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?
You’d better slow down, don’t dance so fast.
Time is short, the music won’t last.
Do you run through each day on the fly?
When you ask “How are you?” do you hear the reply?
When the day is done do you lie in your bed,
with the next hundred chores running through your head?
You’d better slow down, don’t dance so fast.
Time is short, the music won’t last.
Ever told your child, we’ll do it tomorrow?
And in your haste, not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch, let a good friendship die,
‘cause you never had time to call and say “Hi”?
You’d better slow down, don’t dance so fast.
Time is short, the music won’t last.
When you run so fast to get somewhere,
you miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day,
it’s like an unopened gift thrown away.
Life isn’t a race, so do take it slower.
Hear the music, before the song is over.
Am I Allowed? – considering your options and making decisions in childbirth
Why is it that women feel the need to ask permission at the time they are most vulnerable?
We have, through the decades, created a system for childbirth ‘delivery’ that screams passivity and compliance. In Western society the majority of births take place in a hospital setting. Home birth is the exceedingly short fringe sister.
In reality, it doesn’t really matter where you give birth; what matters is that you are creating happy memories, making decisions that you feel in control of, being treated with dignity and respect; ultimately that you feel that your opinions, feelings and individual needs are being acted upon.
You are bringing a child of the next generation into the world. Every time a woman births a baby, she makes a difference. What an amazing power womankind holds; being able to grow a new human being.
From the onset of pregnancy, there is advice about health and wellbeing, lifestyle and birth choices. However, when it comes to labour and often beforehand, conflicting suggestions may become apparent.
Nobody wants to make your birth unhappy; nonetheless, birth is a big business and with business comes profit, power and protocol. These factors may inadvertently affect your choices in the moment or previous chosen path, so it is imperative that you recognise and understand your OPTIONS. This isn’t to say that you must not choose a medical intervention or surgical procedure, it is simply to say that in order to make the happy memories, YOU need to be in control of your choices. Making decisions that suit your individual needs and situation will equate to your knowing and acceptance of the progress of your labour.
Glean unbiased information and facts for your personal circumstances, pros, cons and your rights. Become informed and comfortable, not saturated with ideals. Above all, remain open-minded, because birth can never be planned, instead choose ‘preferences’ that feel right for you.
Your support team is key, for fear is highly contagious. Talk to your birth partner(s) about your wishes, write a short, clear list for your birth carers, to include the points that matter the most to you and your family. Remember that this is a wish list, not a plan.
Most importantly, please know that you are growing your baby, therefore, you are ultimately in control of your birth. Nobody can predict nature’s path, however, you are ALLOWED to make the relevant decision as to your care. If there is a real emergency, you will know; you will be taken care of. If there is no emergency, allow yourself time, ask for space, privacy and options.
What are the Benefits?
What are the Risks?
Are there Alternatives?
What if I do Nothing?
I will Decide.
Giving birth is one of life’s huge markers and today we rarely each birth more than a few babies in our lives. Make each and every experience yours, don’t settle, trust your gut and allow the process to build your strength and give you the wings you need to move forward as a mother, nurturer and powerful woman in your own right.
There are many fantastic resources online, helping you feel empowered to make your decisions wisely, with informed consent and inner peace that you are allowed to voice your opinions and expect that they are respectfully heard.
Here are a few articles:
Home Birthing – interview with Melissa (mama to Matilda & Otis)
For my third interview I am featuring a beautiful Birth Dancing mama of two, Matilda (3) and Otis (4 months), who recently birthed at home. I would like to introduce you to Melissa, her smile lit up each class…I hope this story inspires you as much as she inspired us!
Rachel: How did your second pregnancy differ from your first?
Melissa: With my first pregnancy I had so much more time to rest, relax and focus on the growing baby inside of me – I always made that little person a priority; she was constantly in my thoughts and I rubbed my belly often to make sure everyone knew that I was the luckiest woman in the world – I was having a baby! I religiously attended my prenatal yoga class every week and continued cycling to work right up until 38 weeks to ensure I was physically prepared for the labour. I also had regular sessions with an acupuncturist and reflexologist.
With this second pregnancy, I had a 2 year old that had given up her day naps long before I even fell pregnant again, so there was absolutely no chance of having those much craved for afternoon naps! Throughout the entire pregnancy I continued to lift and carry my toddler without hesitation – towards the end of the pregnancy I would even feel my growing baby move away from the side I was carrying my toddler on; it’s like baby was already learning how life was going to be ‘on the outside’ – big sister is boss!
Rachel: What made you decide to focus on home birthing?
Melissa: A close friend who shared her beautiful home birth experience with me initially inspired me; she was so fearless and confident in her own body and its natural ability to birth that she infected me with that same self-assuredness. I also had a beautiful doula encouraging and inspiring me, as well as the knowledge, skills and support from the amazing midwives at the Community Midwife Program that I had no other option than to feel completely safe in my choice to birth at home.
Rachel: What was important to you during this pregnancy?
Melissa: Although I feel I had a really empowered and beautiful birth with my first child I did experience moments of unnecessary doubts and pressures towards the end of the pregnancy because she hadn’t arrived close to her due date. Therefore, I was determined this time around to avoid all that stress on my baby and myself; I made the decision to listen to my inner voice and make rational, informed choices based on what was most right for me and my baby.
Rachel: How did you prepare for the birth you wished for?
Melissa: Definitely by surrounding myself with friends and family that supported and encouraged my decision to birth at home. I also attended Rachel’s Birth Dancing classes; I loved these classes for so many reasons – Rachel creates such a warm, feminine and encouraging space that I would leave each class feeling really strong and confident as a woman and grateful for the truly amazing gift of carrying and birthing a baby. Rachel’s classes were also wonderful for keeping me physically fit, as well as relieving those general aches and pains associated with pregnancy – I often floated out of class feeling as if I’d had a full body massage!
My husband and I also had a couple of fantastic Hypnobirthing refresher sessions with my doula; I found the techniques really useful in my first birth, so I wanted to draw on them for this birth too.
Rachel: Tell me about your experience?
Melissa: My first child arrived two weeks after her due date and as week 40 went by in this pregnancy I began to think it might be a repeat experience. However, the day before I reached 41 weeks I began experiencing some sensations that told me my body was preparing for the big event. That evening, I called my sister, midwife and doula to let them know there was something happening and to expect a phone call during the night. My husband inflated the birth pool and I set up our lounge room with candles, decorative lights and birth music to create the perfect atmosphere in which to meet my baby for the first time. After going through some Birth Dancing sequences to stimulate labour, I decided my bed was actually where I wanted to be, so I went off to sleep whilst listening to Hypnobirthing affirmations. During the night I was awoken a few times by some stronger sensations and got out of bed to stretch out and carry out some more Birth Dancing moves, but continued returning to bed to get as much sleep as possible.
My sister had stayed overnight ready to help greet our baby and she awoke at 5.30am to the sounds of me shimmying along to Arabic dance tunes; she took one look at me and decided that nothing was going to happen anytime soon and went home to catch up on some chores. I said goodbye and hopped in the shower; as soon as I felt the warm water spreading over me, at once the action started. The contractions grew stronger and more regular in timing and I began to focus on my breathing to work through them. Very quickly I realized I was experiencing 2 surges to every song I listened to; I tip-toed through the house to alert my husband to my progress, trying not to wake our 3 year old.
Even though we were unsure as to how far along I was, my husband made the necessary calls to gather my amazing support team. At approximately 6.30am my beautiful 3-year-old daughter awoke to her mummy singing and dancing in the shower, her daddy filling a birth pool, a doula, 2 midwives and an Aunty! At approximately 6.45am, I entered the birth pool. With my husband and daughter pouring jugs of warm water over my back and my support team quietly observing and encouraging in the background I began to feel the urge to push and at 7.23am surrounded with the love of my husband, daughter and sister we welcomed our beautiful baby boy, Otis William King, into our lives.
Melissa: Leading up to this birth I had many concerns as to how I was going to keep up with the demands of a three year old and a new born. Fortunately though, these were totally unnecessary, as the transition happened really easily. Initially we did have a few moments of non-compliance, as my daughter worked through the excitement of both the arrival of a new brother and two days later a visit from Father Christmas! But pretty quickly, our new baby felt like he had always been in our lives and my daughter settled back into her routine.
In terms of nurturing my new baby, however, it was as if my body remembered exactly what it had to do, I had a good supply of milk and my baby latched on like a trained professional. Reflecting back on the differences between this ‘fourth trimester’ and my first child’s, I’ve come to the conclusion that the difference lies in each child’s individual personality and a more relaxed approach on my part. My new baby boy has a very relaxed and gentle nature, whereas my daughter has always had a strong nature that caused me to question everything I did.
This time around, I also have an inner confidence; I have living proof in my three year old that I can raise a child through good days and bad, through ups and downs and without ever really knowing if I was making the right choices for her. I feel so much more balanced this time around, and I love watching the relationship grow between my children.
Birthing Twins – interview with Cat (mama to Leo, Jack & Jasper)
My second interview takes me to a family who will always have a special place in my heart. I was fortunate enough to work for them as a birth doula, the added blessing being that they were expecting twins! Cat is mum to a yummy little boy (3) and two more extremely cute, cheeky identical twin boys (1). Read her wonderful story and words of wisdom…
Rachel: Second and third babies! Amazing! How did this pregnancy differ from carrying a single baby?
Cat: It was completely different! My first (single) pregnancy was really cruisy; I did yoga twice a week, went for big walks around the park, socialised, studied full time and rested when I needed to. With the twins it was a really hard pregnancy! I had horrendous morning sickness for the early months and I couldn’t even get out of bed for 3 weeks. Once I got to 29 weeks I was the size of a full term pregnant lady carrying a single baby. I never had any energy, did one yoga session during the whole pregnancy and I think I made it once to the park but couldn’t manage to walk around it. It was really frustrating but I just had to listen to my body and take it really easy. All the unpleasant pregnancy symptoms are doubled with twins! Then there are all the ‘risks’ involved in a twin pregnancy. I spent so much time in the hospital being monitored and scanned every couple of weeks. However, on a good note I enjoyed feeling two babies moving around inside me, kicking me and each other; totally surreal!
Rachel: How did you cope with the extra weight and your desire to stay healthy?
Cat: The extra weight was really hard to cope with, I had two heavy boys! I spent a lot of time laying down, weekly adjustments at the chiro to keep everything in place and help with the pelvic pain. Bellydancing with you always helped the back & pelvic pain and got me moving! I wanted to stay really healthy for my boys so that I could have the birth I wanted; I continued to eat healthily as always, with regular naturopath & acupuncture appointments.
Rachel: What were your concerns about the birth?
Cat: With a twin birth there are so many ‘what if’s’; you never really know what will happen. Early on in the pregnancy I went through these issues, acknowledged that they may happen and then put them to the back of my mind to focus on the birth I wanted. My biggest concern was not being able to birth them naturally and having an emergency caesarean. I was really lucky to have the birth I dreamt of!
Rachel: The birth…You were absolutely amazing! Tell me about your feelings in the run up to and during labour?
Cat: Leading up to the birth I was just so excited to meet these little people! I was really over the pregnancy; I just wanted to get on with it. I felt relaxed about the birth; I had a great team at the hospital and medically everything was looking good. When I arrived at the hospital to have my membranes ruptured at 37 weeks there were a series of events that occurred.
Good omens maybe, we just felt like everything was going to go well. We met the midwife; she was holding my notes that dated back to when I was born. Looking back through the notes she realised the midwife who had delivered me, she was still working at this hospital and wanted to come and meet me! We had a chat and she wished us well for the birth. Then we ran into the midwife who had delivered my son at the birth centre. We still had pictures from his birth on our camera so we sat down and reminisced! Lastly both the doctors who had looked after me during the pregnancy were tag-teaming shifts, so I would have them both there with me; I was really lucky!
The membranes were ruptured and the labour was fast and intense! I was a little petrified at the strength of the contractions; they lasted one and a half minutes from the start. I had 3 monitors and there was no opportunity to use water for comfort in the form of a shower or bath. Then my guardian angel arrived 😉 and you calmed my nerves; a couple of pelvic circles and I was fully dilated only a couple of hours after the membranes were first ruptured!
Rachel: After an incredible natural hands-off birth, what was your reaction holding your twins for the first time?
Cat: Oh my goodness, I can’t even explain it. Just totally incredible and surreal!!! A shock! I couldn’t believe they were both here and everything went so smoothly and that they were so big and healthy!
Rachel: Now, looking back, what would you say to mummies of twins and those wanting to birth naturally?
Cat: I joined a ‘Birthing Multiples Naturally’ Facebook page, which was great for support and positive birth stories. I became informed and confident. If you have a doctor who isn’t supportive of your wants/needs then get a second opinion! It is your body and your babies; you have the right to try birthing them naturally.
Rachel: What has this experience and life change brought to you and your husband?
Cat: It has brought us so much joy, laughter, chaos, mess, strength, patience, exhaustion, endless cuddles & so, so much LOVE!
International Women’s Day 2016
On International Women’s Day, I think it’s apt to say women rock…We grow new life inside us, we give birth to the next generation, we love, we protect, we nurture, we shelter.
Here’s to solidarity and supporting each other. To every woman everywhere being treated with dignity, respect and honesty. And to never giving up fighting for those women who have no freedom in their lives.
Birth Dancing: Birthing Your Way – interview with Janelle (mama to Olivia, 7 months)
At the beginning of 2016, my heart feels full with love and admiration of the wonderful transitions I have witnessed from teaching expectant mamas and meeting their babes, as they continue to dance their journey. One inspirational student of mine was kind enough to share her thoughts and experiences during the course of last year. Janelle is mum to Olivia, 7 months, her first-born.
Rachel: Did you have any expectations before birth?
Janelle: Some people have a clear vision of how they wish to bring a baby into the world, perhaps even before they are pregnant. I was not one of those people. My husband and I decided to try to become parents when we thought we could picture a child in our lives, as for how the baby would arrive, I think I gave it about as much thought as I generally put towards my next dentist appointment; I just had to get it over with.
As my pregnancy progressed I naturally thought more about birth and I was extremely fortunate to have access to sound information and experience from The Birth Lady, Rachel. My perception of birth had been largely formed by what I had seen on TV; generally a somewhat out of control scene with a woman lying down and a crowd of people working around her, managing her birth. The more I became educated about the birth process, the more this seemed to be far from what I wanted. I went into my birth with an open mind; I had a list of pain management techniques and interventions and I wished to move to the next item on the list only when I absolutely had to. I didn’t want to focus on a specific definition of a ‘successful’ birth. Under Rachel’s guidance my husband and I focused on ensuring that we remained informed and empowered to stay in control and ask for what we wanted.
Rachel: What were your fears surrounding labour as a first time mum?
Janelle: I had two main concerns that would frequently surface in my mind when thinking about birthing my baby. The first was back labour and the second was the length of labour. Early in pregnancy I was informed I had an anterior placenta, which I immediately did some internet research on and read many accounts of the anecdotal increased chance of my baby being posterior positioned, therefore having to endure back labour. My other concern was the length of a first time labour; this came from the many stories that people shared with me. Anyone who has been pregnant will be familiar with the experience; you are in the checkout line at the supermarket, about to start a meeting at work, or in a doctor’s waiting room and someone notices you are pregnant and wants to share their birth story with you. This is generous and immensely personal for the individual involved, however, somehow for me these stories always seemed to involve numbers like ‘38 hrs of labour’, they left me worried I would not have the stamina required.
Rachel: How do you feel you prepared for your individual birth wishes?
Janelle: I knew I wanted to remain healthy, active and fit during pregnancy, both for my wellbeing and to prepare for the birth. I was walking every day, working full time and continuing various hobbies. I was keen to start a pregnancy specific exercise that I could continue right through my pregnancy and it was for this reason I started Birth Dancing at around 20 weeks. I can happily say that I have never felt healthier or physically better than I did though my pregnancy (well, once morning sickness passed!). Birth Dancing was key to help stretch and release muscles that were holding tension or that needed to grow with my belly and to build strength in core muscles to support my changing shape. After each dance session I felt looser, relaxed and energised at the same time. Towards the end of my pregnancy I found myself dancing daily at home as my primary form of exercise and meditation. Having never danced before in my life this was a major change for me! My other preparation was my frame of mind and knowledge of the birth experience. During the weekly discussions at Birth Dancing I heard birth stories, support and information on all aspects of birth. I was recommended reading material that I might find helpful, I was able to ask questions, express fears and learn from others’ experiences. This part of my preparation was invaluable to me.
Rachel: What were your partner’s feelings towards the birth?
Janelle: The one comment that I heard my husband say repeatedly regarding birth was “there is going to be nothing I can do”. The more I learnt about birth, the more I realised this was not true; the primary support person of a labouring woman is key and has such an important role to play. My husband and I decided to have a Partner Preparation session with The Birth Lady. It was in this session that I heard my husband ask many questions for the first time, all things that had been on his mind. It was clear that during this session he gained so much knowledge and confidence in his role.
Rachel: Tell me about your birth experience…
Janelle: Like many women I initially doubted that what I was feeling was actually labour, but soon I put the signs together and called my husband with the news. I put on a CD from Birth Dancing and started to experiment with moves to see what felt best. I was starting to feel the sensations strongly in my lower back, so initially I focused on moves that would help the baby get into a good position and stretch out the muscles in my back. I remember my husband arriving home, he walked in during a contraction and as it was ending he came up behind me and put his arms around me. I felt such a rush of love and relief that he was there and that this was now really happening. Immediately my contractions increased in intensity and I started to use other movements to work with my body. I could, however, still feel I was holding tension in my shoulders, like my shoulders were creeping up towards my ears during each contraction. Acting largely on instinct I retrieved my largest scarf from my closet. I had always loved dancing with scarves in Birth Dancing, I found it feminine and graceful, but I also associated it with a feeling of relaxation. Later in my labour I used it to wrap around myself at times I felt I needed warmth and security. I found the dance moves I used were helpful in controlling my fears of a prolonged or back labour.
I danced from about 3:30 in the afternoon until sometime after dark, when my husband suggested I take a shower. The sensations changed and we decided to go to the hospital. On arrival I remember passing two groups of women leaving the hospital who offered quick words of encouragement which meant so much to me, I felt like I was entering a safe supportive female environment. I was assessed on arrival and I will never forget those words, “ok you are 9cm, you are going to have this baby soon”, I was elated! My husband and I grinned at each other. I hated being confined on the bed so I declined the offer to be wheeled to the delivery room and walked, having contractions on the way. Things in the delivery room were initially busy, but I remember my husband stepping in using some of the advice from Rachel, he dimmed the lights and I heard him moving people away from me. Through the pushing phase I felt like my body largely took over and I just focused on breathing. My waters broke during one of my last pushes and my daughter arrived with me still on my knees. It was such a surreal moment, after so long of focusing all my energy inwards I felt like I was waking up from a dream. My daughter was born less than two hours after we arrived at hospital, and approximately 6 hrs after I realised I was in labour.
Rachel: Looking back, how do you feel your birth has shaped you as a mother?
Janelle: Before I gave birth I read many quotes and affirmations, but one in particular has stuck with me; “it is through birth that we find the strength to become a mother”. My experience so far of mothering is that it is part instinct/biology, part knowledge/training and part sheer will-power and emotional strength. It is when I have to call on the latter that I frequently reflect on my birth story. Times when I doubted myself, times when I was frustrated, times when I felt lonely in my struggle and when I doubted I was cut out to make it through the next hour, I would read over the words I had written in my birth story. Each time I did I could literally feel my chest swell with pride, I remembered the surge of power and euphoria that I had felt at my achievement, I remembered the amazement at my body and what it can do, I remembered the new connection I felt with my husband. These are the feelings that have carried me through my toughest times so far.
I have remained part of the dance community by now participating in Mums and Little Ones. This class has been a great way to get back into exercise post birth, but it is also a caring environment to help you transition into motherhood. Being a part of a supportive community of women as you start this phase of life has long been recognised, but by sharing the experience with the same women I knew when I was pregnant has increased the intimacy and level of trust I feel.
Transition, the ‘last 10’ and counting…
There comes a space during birth that wakes and shakes our senses. It can pass over as subtly as a fluffy cloud in the breeze, but, it can also be as bold as a raging bull, leaving you fragile and hesitant as to your destiny.
Doulas often witness this powerful phase following what I often describe as the ‘big 7’; those last almighty power surges that leave you winded. There’s no time to think, instinct kicks in and the primal feminine roars in answer to the invasion that will win the battle. Remember, please, that this is a trickle that fills a puddle, not a stream. It will pass through you, it will allow you to arrive safely at your destination; it will bring your most sacred gift if you stay strong and surrender. No woman has yet broken in half from this intensity, but many, many women have revelled in the awe of its ability to make them feel indestructible.
When we are fully opening in preparation to nudge the gift of new life out into the world, we may experience a myriad of sentiments that question this natural process. If there is ever a time that we ponder our ability to birth our baby, this is it. It may manifest amongst shivers and uncertainty, it may leave you nauseated or begging for a new way to cope with the sensations you are experiencing. It is ‘the’ time we blurt out the word ‘epidural’, for our inner body is somersaulting. Yet, if you take a moment to breathe, to re-focus, to ride the highest wave, it will roll you to shore quicker than any other. Look for the white sand and visualise the finale. For it is the reason, the pinnacle; the everything.
For those who have a moment to ‘rest and be thankful’ enjoy and savour. Revel in the time to just ‘be’. This may be a silent flash, but it can also be a lengthier period in which you have time to re-balance, re-focus and catch your breath. Sync it; believe in your body, it is exquisitely designed to birth. Trust in it…Then go forth and push the miracle you grew for 9 months into your arms.
The ‘Why’ – the end to a beautiful year
When I made the transition into the birth world, I knew I had found my vocation.
The birth of my daughter was the defining moment that made me realise I had so much more to give. I wanted to help women feel like they were the most important part of their birth experience; that they mattered, that someone would stand by them unconditionally. I wanted to work with my heart and soul, rather than my business head.
Working with dance now, is wholly fulfilling. I am truly living my passion. I can see what it brings to the people I work with, the community building is where I am touched. Hearing, witnessing and working with empowered women who have learnt to trust in themselves is the pinnacle that drives me to create and move forward with my work.
Doulas only need ‘be’. We do not rescue or save; we want to leave your space gently, knowing you are growing your family your way. The female strength and resilience is mind-blowing. Once the spark is ignited, it will glow. It is not about providing a service that is always required. For me, it is about working with women for a part of their journey that they need and enjoy; for them to take as little or as much as they need, knowing they are always able to reach out for love and support.
After the Baby Moon – light in the cracks of post-natal anxiety and sleep deprivation
Life is a box of chocolates…
Grab it, if not only to know that it exists to savour and enjoy, for in its current form it flies by us before we often feel able to chew and digest the times we wish to savour. If we deliberate, analyse and question too much we lose our ability to be spontaneous and spark, to focus on the present moment and revel in what happiness it can bring.
…For tomorrow is a new day, who knows what the tide will bring in.
Throw aside all expectations; those made of us and those made by us. The box isn’t always full, there are times we will crave an alternative. You may happen upon a quick ‘fix’, but if you hesitate to open the box, you will never taste what is on offer. Try something new, just for you.
Sometimes life’s waves crash harder than we would anticipate and we have to fight to keep our head just above water. It is beneficial to recognise that the society we live in can be challenging, we all struggle in our own way. Modern culture offers us information and opinion overload, trust from within, for this is where you find happiness just for you; cherish being unique.
Be kind to yourself, always. Open up to look through the other side of the glass, to dream, to love, to laugh, to share.
Each smile counts. You are wiser than you know and stronger than you feel.
The light will shine brighter than the darkness that may creep in and envelop us when we least expect. Know that if you can’t see it or feel its presence; it is there, waiting to greet you and you will find it. Embrace these times as you move forward and live, for there is a little human in your life who only knows the world as you. Time never halters, nor does unconditional love.
The one thing that we, as women, have as a ‘superpower’ is the gift to grow a child inside our belly. We nurture, we sustain, we support and we shelter. We are pretty darn awesome.
So when it comes to giving birth, it matters.
And so it should…
Pushing a baby out of our nether regions is a big deal. It rips open our heart, our soul and our ability to mother future generations. It exposes our inner most fears and tests our strength in ways we would never have previously imagined.
Every birth is different; each birth teaches a lesson. Women rock! And roll…we know how to move, our bodies are hard-wired to birth babies.
The issue with modern society is that birth has become business, therefore profit dictates our evolving technology-driven culture and we can lose sight of our own inherent ability to bring a new life into the world. We may be saturated with stories that lead us to question; how will we cope with the pain? How can we possibly have the strength? What if something goes wrong?
Bellydance is not a term I particularly favour for the common misconception and image it conjures up to many people in the West. However, for all intents and purposes, I feel that ‘bellydance’ is apt in its description for this form of Birth Dancing. In essence, it is a dance centered in the belly, the source of human life. To cut a very long story short, Raqs Orientale (Oriental Dance) and all its variations and forms across the Near and Middle East is a dance primarily and historically shared by women; to celebrate, to communicate, to enjoy and to mark important rites of passage. It represents community, solidarity, femininity and self-expression. Wisdom and tradition seep liberally through generations, becoming an integral part of women’s lives and well-being. Childbirth is viewed as a normal life event and from childhood girls learn how to use the muscles in their hips, abdomen and pelvis; they are loose and flexible.
In comparison women in the West rarely use all the muscles required during birth and with our ever increasing sedentary lifestyle, we replace this body confidence and flexibility in the pelvis with fear. By learning to embrace and appreciate a growing belly, strengthen the core muscles and move instinctively to the rhythm of birth, we are reclaiming our ability to birth our babies as nature intended. Pregnancy is a joyous occasion and should be celebrated. It is absolutely the perfect time to dance and even more so, to dance with your baby. These ancient moves and gentle motions serve to tone the body, strengthen and engage the muscles used during birth, relax the mind and enliven the soul. Movements that form the essence of Oriental Dance can bring an array of benefits for women pre-conception, during pregnancy, labour, in the post-natal period and beyond.
“Believe In Your Inner Strength.” An interview with Rachel, Birth Doula & Birth Dancing Teacher
Rachel takes her ‘soft heart and open ears’ into her work, helping to empower and nurture Perth women through all stages of motherhood. ‘The Birth Lady’ shares her thoughts, advice and her personal story of why she loves what she does. Read more