Go with the flow?

Just “go with the flow”?

It’s common advice given to pregnant women as they face the unknowns of childbirth. “Just go with the flow.” It is certainly a welcome and relieving strategy. But is it really helpful?

(I am sure it would work well, if you were in a cave with a fire, and one or two wise women).

BUT, women instead, often birth in a broken maternity system!

Personally… I was definitely in denial when I was pregnant about how hard childbirth can be. I’d heard the horror stories. and they terrified me. Denial was my only friend.

Consequently, I had no proper birth knowledge or plan worked out by the time I reached forty weeks gestation.

Rather than think too much about the possibilities – which led to fearful thoughts and images – I was just going to “go with the flow”!

I often hear that advice on mummy pages and the well-meaning women that give the advice probably had good births. “Trust your body” they say. “It knows what to do.” “Go with the flow.” It’s well-intentioned but it can easily be interpreted as “go along with whatever happens at the hospital”. Or “don’t bother planning , it’ll all go well”.

But, I’m not sure how well that advice could really work for women who birth like me – full of tension, panic and extreme pain!

Luckily I happened to enjoy a long gestation and by the time I had waited ten day past forty weeks, a good friend had emailed me a few birth stories and an Indie-Birth Plan and I began educating myself and even began planning my birth. I literally did it out of boredom and looking back, I am so lucky I did. I thank that friend’s input in those last two days, for my natural, vaginal birth.

By handing up a birth plan stating that I was “hoping not to have an epi or use drugs”, I ended up with midwives who stood by my plan, and even when I BEGGED for drugs, they carefully supported me and my ability to cope.

And I did it!!!

I coped and I birthed naturally! I didn’t need drugs.

(I just thought I did – for a while there)!

Now, when I hear a woman saying she is going to just “go with the flow” I feel terrified for her. I know how broken the maternity system is. It’s not shaped to be able to provide pregnant women with the time, patience and support they need.

I’ve seen women forced into uncomfortable positions on a bed, with CTG straps on her belly and the baby heart monitor alarming everyone. Mother and baby are in obvious distress, I can see something is very wrong with the position the mother is forced into. The mother is nauseous and in agony, she needs to move! But she is told to stay still for monitoring. And finally (with panic all around her) the mum insists on shifting to a new position – and the heart trace becomes perfect!

I know how quickly a low heart beat can be turned into a cascade of interventions and often the first, worst interference was the uncomfortable and unnatural position the mother was put in to get a heart trace in the first place.

How then does a woman “go with the flow”, but also, regain her ability to have a say?

How different would the advice be, if we just jiggled just one single word and advised her to follow “her” flow and not “the” flow?

As a birth educator, I want to encourage women to follow their instinct and not be passive in the face of procedures.

I want all women to know how valuable their instinct is.

A woman in an uncomfortable position with the monitor on, has the right to get up and move if she feels the instinctual urge to do so!

Following instinct is a safer birth!

During birth I encourage women to move in a way that feels good. Groan, moan, breathe, grunt and sigh – however they need to, however they want to.

That instinctual flow, that natural rhythm, that is birth!

Only the woman truly knows what it is needed.

The mothers’ body feels the baby with every cell of her brain and uterus.
(she knows what her baby needs, she knows it deep down).

Can a women in labour hear her flow?

Are supporters being quiet, allowing her to listen to herself?

That’s what I strive for as a doula, I ask her what she wants, and birthing women are so wise – they follow their flow and find the answers they seek.

Sincerely,
Natalie Meade
GradDipC, GradDipPsyc, GradDipEd, Bsc (Hons), CCE, CH

0406 934 645

NOTE: I am not suggesting that babies health should not be monitored. But there are less obstructive ways of doing it and the purpose of this blog is to raise the question of how often it could be done following the womans natural positioning and needs instead of limiting her natural flow?

go with the flow

go with the flow

Natalie Meade: Formally trained and highly experienced as a Childbirth Educator through the HypnoBirthing Institute, I now bring together all my wide and various birth wisdoms and birth education activities and techniques, demos and deliver my own private, independent Birth Education courses.

Curious mums, hundreds of clients

Dear fellow birth educators,

I feel so happy and excited when I hear a mum being curious about antenatal education!

I often hear: “I heard of HypnoBirthing and wondered if it was worth the money”,
or, “What is the difference between Calm Birth and HypnoBirthing? ”
or, “Have you heard of Lamaze, She Births, Birth Savvy, Birth from Within, Wise Hippo…?”

…the questions go on.

curious mums

I believe that these curious questions show us that a woman is in a state of being open to independent birth education and that as birth educators we have a great chance to give positive encouragement to these women!

We get a chance to assure her that the course she is curious about, is wonderful and worth doing (whether we teach it or not). This woman is right on the edge of enrolling if she is encouraged with positivity! And if she enrols, it could well be, one of the luckiest moments of her life!

The last thing she needs is a big lecture about “other courses” and all the “differences”. No pregnant woman wants to find herself feeling confused and unsure.

Discussing differences could suggest that some courses are “right”, and by default, that some courses are “wrong”.

Please don’t kill the mothers enthusiasm with tedious comparisons of available courses…

All Independent Birth Education courses are totally awesome!!!

I will say that again!

ALL INDEPENDENT Birth Education Courses are totally awesome and wonderful! They are all packed full of great quality information to prepare a woman for her birth.

Any woman, doing any independent birth preparation, will be guaranteed to have a more positive birth experience for having done it 🙂

curious mums

Tell yourself the truth! All the courses cover the exact same essentials and most of the identical tools and tips!

Surely we must admit to ourselves that topics like the following are just normal in a birth education course:
eg. hormones and physiology, trust in birth, birth as having normal physiological pain, reducing fear-tension-pain, relaxing and breathing into natural birth trance/zone, partner involvement eg acupressure, massage, positive words of encouragement, being active during birth, following gut instinct, working with gravity, pelvic opening positions, relaxing open the jaw, meeting the womans’ needs for privacy, safety, environment, choosing caregivers carefully, following evidence based research, humans rights in childbirth, ways to question medical care providers … blah, blah, blah… the list goes on.. these are really just standard for any current independent birth education program!).

Listening to tedious explanations of differences and competitive comments about other courses is just going to ruin her awesome birthing MOJO!

Is it to try and get clients? I am assuming this is why programs are doing this? Or is this just some human psychology thing where us humans want to convince ourselves that our course is original, special, better?

Yes, I say “us humans” because I have caught myself doing this in the past too! I sometimes still need to remind myself that birth education is not a competition, it is about improving birth for women and families!

Please take a moment to reflect on this next sentence…

There – is – NO – shortage – of – clients!

There are hundreds of thousands of clients being herded into the hospital courses every month in this country and these pregnant mums have no idea what they are missing out on.

Here is my idea, the next time a woman seems curious about an independent birth course, just say to her:

“That course is awesome – enrol now – go do it!”

And you could always add:

“It will change your life forever in a positive way.”

and, “Congratulations for having the open mindedness to explore something special for your birth”.

You could also share this link that really drives the point home… i.e. don’t waste your time and money on a run-of-the-mill, hospital course!

If we work together to keep women in a state of curiosity, we will change birth quicker and it will feel nicer 🙂

That’s my idea, I hope you like it.

Natalie Meade

Hunter Birth Education Centre,

Newcastle, NSW, Australia

0406 934 645

p.s. I have attempted to list and tag all birth courses available in Australia, I bet I missed tons, please email me to let me know about your program and I will add it to this blog post.

info@hunterbirtheducationcentre.com

Birth Story PND Mental Health

‘My birth story, speaking the truth’ – Shared by a local Newcastle Mum

(Although this mother wishes to remain anonymous for now, she is choosing to share to help normalise and speak out about Post natal depression and mental health struggles for women).

“My husband and I had been talking about starting a family for some time but struggled to find the ‘right’ time. I had started a new job and was throwing everything into my work. We had also just moved into a rental property and were looking to buy a house. With everything in flux, I was determined to get settled into work and a new house. But my body had been aching for a baby. Everyone seemed to be pregnant or holding small children.

When we found out we were expecting a baby we were in shock as it was our first month of trying. We expected, especially after my complications with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, to have to wait a long time to fall pregnant. We felt so lucky and relieved and nervous. It was the hardest secret to keep. I was very, very lucky to experience a wonderful pregnancy with little sickness or pain.

We decided to make a decision to change our birthing plan at about 22 weeks. Before then I had been seeing an obstetrician through the private hospital but I had been thinking about other options. Another woman I knew had a midwife and a natural birth and I had been reading into Hypnobirthing. I decided one day, just when I was about to book into the private hospital prenatal classes, that I would call a local Hypnobirthing specialist, and ask some questions. Our conversation was everything I was after. Natalie also pointed me in the direction of the Belmont Midwifery Group Practice, where natural, drug-free births take place at their birthing suites or at home. I called them and had a midwife arranged. Within a week or so, we had completely changed our plans and we couldn’t be happier.

I began devouring information on the birthing experience. I read and re-read ‘Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method’ (my husband read this one too, which was helpful). I fell in love with books by Ina May Gaskin and learnt about acupressure for birth (which we completely forgot to use). I watched Ted Talks and read blogs. I learnt all of the hypnobirthing terminology and knew about each phase of labour. I had become a complete birth nerd.

When I got to 38 weeks, I was sure labour would start soon. My mother had wonderful pregnancies and delivered three times at 38 weeks and I am just like her. But for two long weeks I bounced up and down on my yoga ball eating pineapple and curry.

At 40 weeks and 1 day, I started experiencing contractions (or surges, for the hypnobirthing folk out there) at around 10:30pm that came every ten minutes or so. I was able to get a couple of hours of sleep but woke up at about 4am. I drew a bath, diffused Clary Sage and told my sleeping husband that today would be the day.

Dinner time rolled around and I was still experiencing contractions every ten minutes. That night I got very little sleep as I was awoken every ten minutes- just as I’d start to doze off. I also reheated the wheat bag about twenty times! I made sure my husband slept through all of this because I knew I would need him when labour began.

By Sunday I was sick of being housebound and certain that I was never going to have a baby, so we decided to take our mind off things and keep me active with a little Christmas decoration shopping. I rested on seats at the shops and held on to reindeer or Christmas trees when the contractions were too strong. We decorated the tree when we got home and I took another bath.

That night, we went to a family birthday party as it was close to home and I was feeling up to it. When I was at the party, I noticed the contractions were getting closer together and I was struggling to hold conversations. I struggled to get through my lemon meringue pie (a sure indication that something was happening) and we decided to head home early.

Before bed, I had another bath to soothe my aching back. The moment I got into bed my waters broke, which I never expected to happen! My husband called the midwife and told her what had happened. There was no rush at this point- I was to wait until I had four contractions in ten minutes. But contractions started coming hard and fast so we were to head straight into the birthing suite.

When we reached the birthing suite, I got straight under a hot shower and then spent several hours in the bathtub. I found at this point that I could not focus on the meditation tracks but preferred soothing music. The midwives checked me routinely and wiped my forehead with a washer soaked in icy water. It was bliss! They left us to be on our own for most of my labour, which was exactly what we wanted. I was using the hypnobirthing balloon meditation through each contraction, focusing on a variety of colours which ended up following a particular pattern. This technique helped me to focus on my breath and an awareness of expansion rather than contraction.

belmont midwifery group practise

After several hours and position changes, I got out of the bath. My midwives recommended sitting on the toilet. I took whiffs of Clary Sage and held my husband tightly. I was finding labour incredible intense at this point and was losing energy.

I looked at the bed and knew in my gut that I had to lie down and rest. My contractions had slowed and lost intensity but my baby’s heart rate was strong. My midwives observed that I was dehydrated and would need to drink water or have a saline drip. I tried drinking a fair amount of water followed by a sip of my husband’s orange juice but ended up vomiting. I had the drip and focused on relaxing my body, which wouldn’t stop shaking.

I fell into this strange yet blissful state that lasted hours. I felt contractions coming and going, but also drifted in and out of consciousness. My husband, too, doesn’t know what happened between about 2:30 and 4:30am!

My contractions strengthened and a wave of energy came over me. After about 54 hours of regular contractions, I was on my last legs. I moved to the birthing seat and found the handles to be life savers. One of the midwives took some incredible, raw photos at this point, which I look back on sometimes to remind myself of my strength.

I definitely didn’t employ the gentle birth breathing I’d prepared for – I was pushing with all my might! The midwives were great at helping me channel my remaining energy into birthing. At 6:43am, our darling little boy made his way into the world and into the hands of his father. He was put up on my chest and made his first cries. I truly couldn’t believe what was happening and joined him in the crying!

He stayed on my chest for some time after that. I had learnt that newborns go searching for the nipple when they’re born and I wanted to see if he would too. He did, and with a little help we were breastfeeding.

After our first breastfeed, we phoned our parents and our midwives did all of their measuring and weighing. I also needed to have a few stitches. We were going to have our parents visit us at the birthing suite, but after a quick shower and another breastfeed we were ready to head off and decided to meet them at our house. They brought around morning tea and we settled in for a cuppa.

Belmont birth

My mum stayed for the whole day (and came over on many days after that!), allowing my husband and I to catch up on some sleep in the afternoon. Our midwives visited daily for a week or so to check in on all of us. And from then on, we were parents!

While I was very fortunate to experience such positive pregnancy and birthing experiences, I was one of the many women who struggled with mental illness following the birth of their first child.

I had always assumed that if I had a wonderful pregnancy and birth, the postpartum period would be wonderful too. If only life were that clear-cut!

What I haven’t included in my birth story is my mental health struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and anxiety that re-emerged a week before my baby was born.

OCD is an anxiety condition that affects about 3% of people. A common, well-known form is contamination OCD, such as the fear of germs or diseases, but OCD encapsulates any obsession that causes thoughts, images or doubts to loop in your mind, along with the resulting physical or mental compulsions (such as hand-washing or rumination).

I had previously dealt with what I believe now was OCD a few years prior. I had been travelling overseas on holidays with my husband during a frantic time in my career. A doubt that I would never sleep again came into my head somewhere between the jetlag and the work stress and I couldn’t let it go. I spent much of my ‘holiday’ awake, crying to my exhausted husband in bed, or on the phone to my mother, or avoiding caffeine and late nights and alcohol and anything that could interfere with sleep, fearing it from morning until night.

belmont birth mental health

It ebbed and flowed for months after out return home. I didn’t seek treatment other than the standard sleeping pills and vitamins. Eventually, life came back into the picture and the fear was buried.

This experience set the stage for what occurred before my son’s birth. A week or so before my son was born I woke up at 2am. I was used to waking up throughout pregnancy and my sleep had been overall excellent. But this time the doubt struck again. What if I can’t sleep when my baby arrives? This then spiralled into many other doubts- what if I can’t sleep well enough before the birth and I’m too exhausted to deliver? What if this causes postnatal depression? What if I can’t take care of my baby? What if I blame my baby for this? What if I then don’t love him/her?

I struggled with these doubts and with sleep for several months. Even when I’d have a good night of sleep (carefully added up first thing the following morning), I’d still spend the day gripped by anxiety and fear. Unfortunately you can’t rationalise with OCD! I sought therapy at this point, which helped a great deal. My anxiety decreased and sleep improved, but I still hadn’t addressed it to the extent I needed to and as such, a new obsession emerged. It was at this point that I was diagnosed with OCD.

My obsessions have changed several times in the past year and I am still tackling this condition one day at a time. Therapy, medication, exercise, meditation, yoga and supplementation have helped a great deal, as has sharing my struggles with friends and family and letting go of my perfectionist tendencies. 

For baby number two, I’ll make use of the techniques I’ve learnt through Natalie and her private Birth Education and hypnobirthing. I’ll also apply Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) strategies that I’ve developed in my mental health journey this year. While two differing practices, I believe they both have wonderful insights to offer and that it’s important to personalise your approach to birth, just as you do to your life.

If there’s anything I’ve learnt through my pregnancy, birthing and postpartum experience, it’s that life – just like birth – is often that bit messier than we expect it to be.

Although this author wishes to remain anonymous, she shares her very personal story to help normalise and speak out about mental illness struggles for mums.

Click here for more information about Belmont Midwifery Group Practise

Click here for more information about Natalie and her Birth Education Services

NOTE: If you are experiencing mental and/or emotional struggles, call PANDA, free phone counselling for pregnancy and beyond: PANDA National Helpline (Mon to Fri, 9am – 7.30pm AEST) Call 1300 726 306 https://www.panda.org.au/info-support/support/calling-panda-national-helpline

and read more here: https://www.panda.org.au/info-support/postnatal-psychosis

Natalie Meade, Manager HBEC

Hi, My name is Natalie Meade, Manager HBEC.

natalie meade HBEC

 

Who am I?

On the surface I am the creator and manager of the Hunter Birth Education Centre.

Deeper, I am a woman passionate about learning, education, womens’ birthing power and our amazing brains and bodies.

On the surface, I am highly educated and qualified.

Deeper, I am a questioner, a curious human, a challenger of the status quo.

On the surface, I am a mother and a partner.

Deeper, I am a consciously caring and nurturing person. I deeply value intimacy and trust in all my relationships.

On the surface, I am an active volunteer and fundraiser within local birth groups and birth education events.

Deeper, I am passionate about community connection and community mutual support.

On the surface, I offer birth education, birth support and counselling, hypnosis and mindfulness for birth and relationship/intimacy coaching.

Deeper, I bring people closer to themselves and to each other.

 

I hope we meet – some day soon,

Natalie Meade.

Creator and Manager, Hunter Birth Education Centre.

0406 934 645

Natalie Meade HBEC

 

For more detail on my qualifications please see below,

University Studies:

Bachelor of Advanced Science with Distinction Honours (1997) University of NSW 

Graduate Diploma of Psychology (2010) Sydney University

Diploma of Education (2007) University of NSW

 

Institute Studies:

Childbirth Educator Certification, HypnoBirthing Institute, 2009.

Graduate Diploma of Counselling within the Masters of Counselling and Psychotherapy Jansen Newman Institute, Sydney

Certificate of Advanced Clinical Hypnotherapy, Academy of Applied Hypnosis.

Hypnobirthing Antenatal Program and Birth Skills Training,  HypnoBirthing Institute, Gold Seal Mongan Method (2009-2017)

Couples ‘Love Works’ Educator, the Australian School of Tantra.

 

Organisation Involvement:

Admin leader and meetings facilitator of the “Positive Birth Movement Newcastle” Community group.

Clinical Member, Australian Hypnotherapists Association (AHA) (Member No: CM2015098)

Past Supervisor Co-ordinator and NSW Treasurer, Australian Hypnotherapists Association (NSW)(2010-2016)

Registered Practitioner and Ambassador, HypnoBirthing Institute.(2009-2017)

Lifeline Telephone Crisis Supporter (2007-2012)

Lifeline Training Facilitator (2013).

Auburn Council ‘Lifelong Learning’ HypnoBirthing Course Facilitator

 

Specialized Training:

Mental Health First Aid Certificate (2010)

Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training Certificate (2012) ASIST Living Works Training

NLP Training, Further Education Sydney University Courses.

Mindfulness Training, Further Education Sydney University Courses.

Dance for Birth, Level one practitioner training completed 2015, Embody Birth, Maha El Musa.

 

 

The perfect birth? No such thing!

 

But there sure is a difference between the “prepared, educated birth” and the “fly by the seat of your pants” kind!

Birth Preparation?

It must be true we are crazy with hormones because what I considered ‘preparing for birth’ consisted of:

*  over bleaching my hair (it was a knotted, tangled mess by the time my son emerged – see photo below! lol ),

*  finding a second hand nightie and cutting the sleeves with scissors to get the right fit,  and

*  not even remembering a maternity bra for the hospital (so that I was actually lectured by a nurse about modesty when my boobs grew to a massive size E).

perfect birth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that’s just fashion blunders…  that’s not even mentioning actual birthing mistakes!

Post birth I was just as crazy, messed up … Sitting in a park one day I found myself trying to decide whether to pull my t-shirt upwards for feeding (and show my flabby, post-birth tummy to the world), or pull the breast up (and over) the neckline and  feed my newborn at shoulder height?!

Crazy, ah yes!

I know now, with over seven years’ accumulated wisdom, that birth is a serious event.

It is as momentous as a wedding, it is as physically and mentally challenging as competing for Olympic gold and it is as delicate and as private as letting out a ‘number two’ (physiologically the same too – except the reward is much more beautiful when it’s a baby!).

I say ‘letting out’ because our solid waste really does gently glide out of the body when we are completely relaxed and we allow it to happen.

Next time you do a number 2, try breathing your energy downwards and learn how you can ‘relax your body empty’.  Literally put your chin down to your chest and breathe calmly down. No need for physical pushing.  Relax all muscles instead. It is important to time this with your body signals.

With the right preparation and practise women breathe babies out too!

No need to get carried away by a ‘cheerleader-type’ medico who yells “push” “push”*. We don’t have cheer squads in our toilets for a reason.

Yes, there is a reason your partner doesn’t yell “push” from outside the bathroom door. Sphincters are shy! Your cervix and vagina have circular bands that can be shy too.

Speaking of shy, Ill never forget my trip to Kathmandu where my system completely ‘shut up’.

Toilets with locks that don’t work and cracks in the walls! I felt so exposed. There was no way my body was relaxing out any ‘solid waste babies’!

As the days progressed I was glad I had learned and practised HypnoBirthing tools, which I was able to implement:

  1. I accepted and admitted my fears of my system not working.
  2. I replaced that fear with curiosity (hmm, will the poo be the colour of that red earth patch?… the colour of that cow dung?…)
  3. I established self-hypnosis which allowed a full body relaxation
  4. I breathed my energy down and out.

And guess what – I produced a poo! Yay!

We empty our body best when we deepen into a natural trance state and let our body do its thing unhindered by troublesome anxious thoughts. That’s why people often read in the toilet and why self-hypnosis works well for birthing.

In the case of a number two, the passage lubricates and the muscles and micro muscles move the waste out.

In the case of birth the passage lubricates, the uterus muscles contract and micro muscles move the baby out. The scientists call it the bodies ‘natural expulsive reflex’.

If you fight your automated muscle contractions, you tense up and cause pain. Imagine what a mess we would be in if we tried to fight our diaphragm muscle during the automated breathing process. Yet women do fight birth every day.

For birth (just like a number two) you need to find ways to achieve:

  1. Privacy
  2. Time, patience
  3. Relaxation of all muscle groups
  4. Trust in the bodys’ instinctual, automated functions
  5. Curiosity (afraid how big the head is? instead get curious about how the infants’ amazing soft skull presses into a cone for birth – natures design for passing through the pelvis!) Get curious about your baby’s sex, hair colour, nose shape… They are great, positive thoughts to keep your mind focused.

Yes, birth is private, it requires time and quiet… but it has a momentous side too… It’s a big event, it’s life changing.

So lets compare Birth to:

what you need for a special event in column one,

and column two, what you need at a wedding,

and column three, how it translates to what you need for birth!

wedding dress birth preparation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you need Wedding Birth
Essential skilled companions Bridesmaids and/or maid of honour Midwives, doulas
Love, trust Partner Chosen companions
Specialist on hand (only as required) Celebrant Occasionally an Obstetrician
Words to say and think Vows Birth plan/preferences, Positive affirmations audio
Preparation Wedding rehearsal Birth preparation course (relaxation based

eg. HypnoBirthing)

Place A beautiful venue that has personal meaning for you A place where you can be assured privacy, positive vibes, patience, relaxation and calm supporters
Something special for her Wedding dress, jewellery Clothes to feel good, positive, relaxed and comfortable.
Practical stuff Make up, tissues, etc. Maternity bras, Breast pads
Ceremony and mood

 

 

Wedding cake, rings, love songs, decorations, perfume, flowers. Hot water, dim lights, soothing hypnotic music, scents
Health Nutrition and Exercise to look your best Nutrition and Exercise to perform your best (pelvic floor and perineum muscles)
State of mind Slow deep abdomen breathes to remain calm and to ensure endorphins outweigh stress hormones Slow deep abdomen breathes to remain calm and to ensure endorphins outweigh stress hormones

 

*Pease note: The lack of body coordination and sensation caused by an epidural or pethidine administration often does lead to a situation requiring ‘coached pushing’.