Archive for the ‘Yourbirthright – childbirth preparation service’ Category

Torturing new mothers and then wondering why they get mentally ill.

December 8, 2015

 

Woman SleepingTorturing new mothers? Who does that? Well, as a society, we all do. I’m not kidding, I’m perfectly serious, and I’m going to stop mincing my words and say it how it is. We torture mothers.

Sleep deprivation is a method of torture that has been used for at least 500 years, and is still used today. It was used extensively in Guantanamo Bay. The difference between sleep deprivation in Guantanamo bay and in new mothers is that no-one is systematically and intentionally hurting new mothers. But the effect is the same. Sleep torture is designed to create psychological changes, which are supposed to encourage the victim to submit, to lose their sense of reality, and to talk.

Chronic sleep deprivation is not good for you. It leads to cognitive impairment, anger and irritability, anxiety, and even psychosis.  Yes, you read that right. Chronic sleep deprivation is known to cause psychosis. Puerperal psychosis in new mothers is not common thankfully, but it is dangerous.  I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few study days on perinatal mental health recently, and they have all included really valuable talks by people who have recovered from severe postnatal depression, post traumatic stress disorder and psychosis. What I noticed was that they all had one thing in common . They all mentioned lack of sleep as a factor in their illness. The lovely Sinead Willis talked about “lack of sleep started to catch up with me….I couldn’t sleep more than an hour at night and I became very disorientated”. One of the effects of sleep deprivation is disorientation, or a feeling of “altered reality”. At another talk I was lucky enough to hear, the mother told us that she hadn’t slept at all for the first three days of her baby’s life, but no one noticed, because she was in a private hospital room on her own. She developed psychosis within a matter of days.  Elaine Hanzak, author of “Eyes without sparkle” talks about the fact that during her treatment, she would look forward to her Electro-Convulsive Therapy sessions, because “they have to put you to sleep first….bliss”.

Chronic sleep deprivation is when you have no opportunity to make up your sleep debt. You go on, night after night, suffering from not enough sleep. Acute sleep deprivation is when you lose sleep for one night, but you can then catch up. Even acute sleep deprivation has a marked effect on our mental health. In one study by Walker and colleagues, healthy young students were split into two groups. One group were sleep deprived, the other group slept normally.  The next day, both groups were shown disturbing, upsetting and gory pictures. The researchers found that there were significant differences in the brain activity of the two groups, as measured by MRI scans. The sleep deprived group showed reactions similar to anxiety reactions. Their amygdala lit up like an alarm bell to the disturbing images, firing off stress hormones, whilst the normal group’s brain showed a more balanced reaction, with the parts of the brain that “panic and worry” being balanced by the part of the brain that “reasons and rationalises”. In the sleep deprived group, their ability to process and mediate the anxiety was damaged.

People have always thought that anxiety and depression causes disturbed sleep. But this research suggests that lack of sleep can cause anxiety.  All on its own, and in only one night.  Whilst new mums aren’t shown disturbing images by scientists, they do have disturbing images all of their own. Worries and concerns about the baby, feelings of guilt, not being good enough, intrusions of hurting the baby, concerns about baby’s feeding, and so on. And of course, once anxiety sets in, it becomes more difficult to sleep, increasing the chances of depression setting in, and a vicious cycle begins with a force of its own.

With all this in mind, is it any wonder that we have such high rates of anxiety, depression, and psychosis postnatally? Women usually give birth overnight, sometimes over two or three nights. They are then put in a busy maternity ward with lights on, other women and babies crying, constant interruptions from staff and so on. Or they are sent home alone with just a very tired husband. Either way, they have a baby with them, who they need to keep alive, learn to feed, and look after. On no sleep.  Then, when the father goes back to work after his 2 weeks of paternity leave, it is perfectly acceptable in our society for her to say “I’ll do the night feeds, because you have to work all day”. She isn’t understanding the value, the necessity, of her sleep for her mental health. Neither is the father, or the health visitor, or society in general.   Her sleep debt builds, increasing the risk to her mental health.

In other cultures, mums are made to rest, recuperate, stay in bed, and do nothing but get to know baby. They are fed, washed, pampered with hot stone massages, and so on. Almost all non-westernised cultures have a ritual similar to this, which lasts about 40 days.  In the West, mums are not made to rest. They are expected to go on as normal, with the washing, the school run, losing baby weight, going shopping and so on.  Mums are told “sleep when baby sleeps”. However, this simply is not good enough. Because mum needs to eat, and she needs to shower, and she needs to get dressed sometimes, and she needs to go to see the health visitor and have baby weighed, and baby might only sleep for 20 minutes at a time. Then, when dad goes back to work, it gets even more chronic, because she offers to do the night feeds so that he can get up and work the next day. The importance of her physical and emotional health is ignored, at a high cost to the devastation that perinatal mental illness causes, and a high cost to the NHS.

Let’s stop torturing mothers. Let’s stop ignoring the problem of expecting new mums to get back to normal. They are not normal, they are super important, and we need to value them and treat them with the greatest respect, if we don’t want them to break into a million pieces, shattering the lives of all those around them. The NHS needs to prioritise maternal mental health, not just with adequate treatment facilities once the damage is done, but also with prevention in the first place. Proper paternity leave, decent postnatal wards with midwives who have time to care, regular home visits, continuity of care. Change needs to happen in attitudes as well. We need to start telling other people how important it is, to look after mum. Encourage partners to “put mum to sleep”. Tuck her up in bed with a chamomile tea (or a G and T) and tell her to stay there. Turn the lights off for her, bring her an extra pillow, tell visitors to go away because she is sleeping, bring the baby to her when he or she needs a feed. The cost of not doing so, could be her mental health.

Mia Scotland, Clinical Psychologist, Author of “Why Perinatal Depression Matters”

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Can a two year old be traumatised?

October 28, 2015

Can a two year old be traumatised?

I was asked recently how to help a two year old settle at night. The wonderful book “The Rabbit who Wants to Fall Asleep” wasn’t working, along with countless other things that the beleaguered parents had tried. This came up in conversation during a mindful hypnobirthing class, and myself and another CBT therapist both got completely side tracked, and set about trying to find the answer to the problem, by asking the parents (who are tired, sick of advice, and frankly, stuck), lots of questions about their troublesome two year old.

Given that I was supposed to be running a hypnobirthing class, I had to curb my curiosity, and my urge to help, and get the subject back to talking about birth and babies – which was the object of the day. However, my brain remembers that there was unfinished business, so I’m going to finish it in the form of this blog.

It got really interesting when they said that their little girl’s sleep patterns had been fine, until, during the summer, their cat had jumped in through the window, onto her bed, in the middle of the night, waking her up with an awful shock.

Since then, she fusses about going to bed, she imagines all sorts of things that are scary in her bedroom, and she waked up in the middle of the night, and can’t go back to sleep unless she gets into her parents bed. Sound familiar?  Of course it does. This is classic two year old behaviour. At the age of two, there is a strengthening of the child’s “attachment behaviour” (there is also one at about nine months old).  This means that she is more likely to get clingy and want to know that her parents are around, so they can keep her safe. It kind of makes sense, because at the age of two, a child becomes more independent physically (she can run much faster) but she is also becoming more independent psychologically, because her neocortex is developing at a very fast rate. This means she can plan ahead, be persuaded into things by others, she can plan exciting things like how to run away from home and have an adventure, and so on.  Thus, she is arguably a little more vulnerable to getting lost, or getting eaten by a wolf.  Nature protects her by providing an in-built mechanism to keep her parents close.  The attachment process is even stronger at night, because the child needs to be kept safe from the dark. Her imagination of “monsters” is formed at this age (tigers, wolves, strange men from warring tribes, etc.).  These monsters are as real to her, as dangers of heights, flying, spiders, or whatever your personal fear might be. She just does not feel safe, and she can’t explain why, just as we can’t explain why we don’t feel safe in the presence of a tiny cute spider that we know can’t harm us.

So, unfortunately, in the case of our little girl and her cat, this cat jumped on her bed at a critical point in her development. It fast tracked and heightened her need to know that her parents are close in the middle of the night, and made her needs for a strong attachment much stronger. However, I also think it traumatised her. This means, that the experience got “wedged” in the limbic system (the alarm signal of our brain) and hasn’t been processed as a memory. In other words, when she goes to bed at night, her alarm system triggers “oh no, this is where I’m not safe, this is where scary things happen to me”. Her alarm system is trying to protect her, but it has got it wrong. Her alarm system thinks that she is still in danger, when in fact, she is perfectly safe (the window is closed, and the cat cannot jump on her again).  However, with her amygdala firing off, she is struggling to settle at night, even when a lovely hypnotic cd is being played.

In therapy, when I help a person recover from trauma, the single most important thing is for the person to feel safe. You cannot recover from trauma while your alarm system is firing. It will listen to nothing else, no logic, no reason, no nothing. To get the brain to “listen” and process the memory, we have to calm the amygdala first and foremost.  I do this with relaxation and hypnotic techniques. But in the case of the little girl, the thing that helps her feel safe is the proximity of her parents. So, here is my advice for how to help this little girl settle at night, and how to help her parents get some much needed sleep.

  1. Go to bed with her (or sit in the room with her) and stay there silently, while she falls asleep. You can use this time to practice your meditation, or mindfulness techniques. You can use this time to notice her breathing near you, to notice the warmth of her body, to notice how jittery and lively your own mind is, and to learn to calm it. Do not focus on whether she is sleeping or not, as she will notice this tension. Just focus on your own wish to relax and be mindful. You might even get a power nap yourself. The need to do this will pass. It might take a few months to be honest, but a few weeks might be enough. At some point, she won’t care whether you are actually in the room or not, so long as she feels safe, and so long as she feels sleepy. The argument about whether you can “spoil” a child, or whether she might be attention seeking, or “playing you” is worthy of a whole other blog.  Just trust me for now, that if you meet her needs (for security) without additional gains (such as playing, or fun), then you will not make things worse.
  2. At other times in the day, talk to her about the cat incident that “happened when you were so little” or “that happened so long ago” or “that cannot not happen any-more”. Get her to tell the story, draw it, or act it out between the two of you. Make it a game, make it fun. Finish the “story” with a definitive “it’s over”. For example, if you are “playing” the cat game, and you are the cat, make a point of being thrown out of the room, and not ever being allowed back in. Or she can pretend to be “mummy” and cuddle her doll better, after the doll got a shock from the cat, and explain to her doll that the cat won’t do that again because the window is locked now.  (Being cuddled better might be important, because in my experience, a lot of trauma comes from a sense of having felt alone at the time of the trauma). You won’t need to do this more than a few times for it to have done the job of helping her brain to process the event as a “memory” rather than an ongoing “danger”.

I know that these parents have the wholehearted sympathy of so many parents who are tired, exhausted, confused, fed-up, worried, beyond caring, bewildered, all because they have the joys of a two year old in their lives.  Good luck with it, and know that it really does get an awful lot easier as they get older J

Happy mummy, happy baby

September 1, 2015

So, I’m eating a slice of toast while reading a blog from my facebook page this morning.  I can do that now, because my children are older.  I can even finish my cup of tea, and make sure that I am wearing appropriate clothes to walk the dog in. I no longer find myself rushing around to make sure my children have their hats and scarves on, and then to go out realising I am wearing no jacket.  Putting others first seems to be what mothers do, to the detriment of their own mental health. This is partly related to guilt.  Guilt is a big deal in new mothers.

So, as I read this blog about babies’ mental health, I am struck by how easy it would be for this blog to make mothers feel even more guilty.  It is littered with phrases such as “what parents do profoundly shapes who we will become” and “early experiences matter – a lot”. It tells us how our handling of our babies shapes their personality, their future mental health, their critical thinking skills and so on.

Then it goes on to say that the good news is that “nurturing strong mental health in young children is not a specific undertaking in which parents need to engage – as if it were a “job” or task.  It is how parents are with their babies that matters….delighting in the joy of young children’s daily discoveries”.  Well, frankly, that this is good news is debatable.  If it were “a task” it would be easier to complete.  You could have a checklist in the morning, and make sure you have done your jobs.

  1. Dress baby
  2. Feed baby
  3. Smile at baby and make eye contact

But no.  Now, we have to “delight in the joy of young children’s daily discoveries”.  Actually, if you have ever tried to get a toddler out of the house on your own, with a baby still in their jumpsuit, having to get to pre-school on time, not having eaten yourself, or finished your cup of tea, with baby sick still on your shirt, and your toddler says “look, a leaf on the ground”, you do not delight in this.  You do not feel like cooing, smiling and delighting in your toddler’s very slow progress along the pavement.  You grit your teeth and say “come on” in a voice that is far too squeaky, desperately wanting your toddler to move it, so that you won’t be late again.

The blog is correct. It is the delight and joy that people share with their babies, that helps the baby develop.  Mother and baby create a “dance” of interaction.  With each positive interaction, the baby’s brain fires more neurons, lays down the foundations for feeling loved, trusting and explorative.  Nature designed mothers to look into their baby’s eyes and feel joy, for this very reason.  But nature did not design us to be able to do this on our own in a rather large, otherwise empty, house.  It is not fair to tell a mother who is doing this job on her own, that she “just” needs to be joyful, if you expect her to do a job that is stressful, lonely, unsupported and practically impossible, and then ask them to be joyful while they are doing it.  Not only do we as a society do just that, but we then actually have the gall to suggest that if they aren’t joyful they are damaging their baby’s mental health!  You cannot feel guilty and joyful at the same time.   This is because stress hormones (associated with feelings of guilt, shame, depression, anxiety, worry) and very different to calm and joy hormones (associated with relaxation, mindfulness, connection, warmth, compassion, mutual joy and sharing).  Stress cuts across joyful feelings immediately because nature designed us to prioritise being alive over being happy.  So if a mother is stressed, she will find it harder to “delight in the joy of young children’s daily discoveries”.  When a mother has her baby, she is recovering from a birth physically and psychologically, she is learning to adapt to being a mother (being responsible for a little being, no longer able to put her needs first, no sleep and so on), she is  grieving her old life and adapting to her very different new life, she is having to manage the housework, cleaning, ironing, cooking, school runs, worrying about her weight, worrying that her husband still feels included and loved, and so on.  This is too much for a new mother.  She needs to rest.  She needs to be looked after.  She needs people around her.  She needs her privacy.  I have to say, a little part of me envies Mormon mothers (yes, I actually wrote that!). While some people think it dreadful that they should share a husband, I see it slightly differently, because in Mormon households, the mother is not alone. Imagine if you always had other “wives” around you in the house, to help with housework. Imagine if you only had to be responsible for feeding your children one or two days per week, because some-one else is cooking the other five days.  Imagine if, when you need a wee, but your child needs to put their shoes on because you are late, imagine some-one saying “I’ll do it, you pop to the loo”.  Imagine, when your child has had a dreadful tantrum, and you feel like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards, some-one says “you poor thing.  I’m going to make you a cup of tea, and settle your toddler down with a drawing for you”.  Imagine, when you are about to shout at your toddler because you are tired and wired, you can turn to some-one and say “I feel like screaming” and she can laugh and say “I know that feeling.  Off you go, I’ll spend 5 minutes with her”.  Imagine on a day when you have a cold and you feel wretched, a woman says firmly to you “go to bed and stay there.  I’ll do this”.

The point isn’t that we should become polygamous, the point is that society needs to look after mothers if we want mothers to look after babies.  The research shows us that mothers who feel the “joy” of parenting do a great job raising kids.  However, one cannot force “joyful” parenting on some-one, especially not by increasing guilt.  You create the conditions for joy.  In response to the research, society has to do a great job taking care of mothers. The flipside of joyful parenting is sad, scared parenting.  Perinatal mental health problems are on the rise, and we know that this is not good for babies.  The government is addressing this by increasing “identification” and “treatment”.  This is important, but we are putting sticking plasters on a bigger problem.  Isolating and burdening women is the problem.  And it’s affecting fathers too now, as they are increasingly expected to juggle full time work, house, children and looking after mum.  They are getting sick too.

Stop the guilt. Stop the scare mongering.  Prioritise taking care of our families, so they can thrive in joyful, relaxed interactions.  Simples.

Mia Scotland, Clinical Psychologist and Author of “Why Perinatal Depression Matters“.

Website:  www.yourbirthright.co.uk.

Compassion is for sissies, right?

April 29, 2015

Wrong.

Compassion is for strength.  After all, if you want to help people, you’ve got to have the strength to actually do so.

But can you be “tough” and “caring” at the same time?

Absolutely you can. There’s a stereotype that “soft” and “caring” are not compatible with “tough” and “resilient”. There’s also a view that being tough means not taking care of yourself, because only “softies” need to take regular breaks and rest up after a hard day’s work.

Well, psychology is making new ground in this area, and I find it all really exciting.  It seems to be the case that those of us who are kindest to ourselves, cope the best.  So, you don’t need to “have a word” with yourself, or mentally beat yourself up to get the best out of yourself.  On the contrary, you need to be a compassionate friend to yourself .  When you have been made to feel foolish, you don’t tell yourself “crikey, what on earth was I thinking, I can’t believe I made that mistake, others must think I’m an idiot” because that isn’t what a compassionate friend would do. A compassionate friend would sweep you up in her arms and tell you that we all make mistakes and that you’re amazing just the way you are.  Similarly, you are not more valuable to the NHS if you don’t take regular breaks, or if you work beyond your shift hours. This is because you are in danger of making yourself weaker, and of not keeping yourself strong enough to be a gem of a worker.  If you are not compassionate towards yourself, your compassion towards others will run on empty at some point.

So, you can stay tough and resilient at the same time as being kind and caring to yourself.  You can be tough and caring at the same time. This is what compassion is. Tough and caring.  And it is very good for our mental health, for the health of the nation, and for keeping us strong enough on the inside, so that we can help others on the outside.

Written two years ago. My tribute to Sheila Kitzinger. RIP Sheila.

April 25, 2015

Mia's Blog

  • Sheila.  Oh Sheila.  What can I say?  You brought me into a hypnotic state with your wonderful story telling approach to speaking. I watched and listened in awe.  My subconscious took it all in, and I was hooked. You were amazing.  It was so gripping, my conscious mind remembers nothing.  I  took away, that women matter. That birth matters. And we can all do something about it. I felt joy, empowered and excited. Thank you.  What I wrote down was that you are the first person to talk about something that should be talked about a lot more.  Drug companies.  You told us that you had approached the Advertising Standards Association, to complain about an advert that Bayer has produced, with dodgy statistical claims about maternal death in childbirth. The ASA upheld your claim. The advert was changed.  Go girl! You also said that Doulas protect birth.  And Doulas protect…

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It’s Mother’s Day

March 15, 2015

From many years ago – Happy Mother’s Day every-one.

Mia's Blog

It’s Mother’s Day.  For all those of you who are mothers for the first time this year, congratulations.  As you know, you have entered an incredible and crazy world – which makes you incredible (hopefully, it doesn’t make you crazy.  If it is doing so, get yourself some help).  For those of you soon to become mums for the first time, congratulations also.  What a very special time.  Three quotes come to mind when I think of being a mother.

1.  “I haven’t done anything all day, except for put the washing out”.  A distraught and frustrated mum said to me from her bed.  She had forgotten that she had been doing a job that no-one else could do, and one that is super important – being a mother to her baby, and bringing up this nation’s future generation.  She is the one that her baby knows by smell, sound…

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Why Birth is not like running a marathon part 2

July 5, 2014

Woman SleepingWhy Giving Birth is analogous to recovering from flu. In part 1, I said that when we run a marathon, we push ourselves to the limits. We make our body work more than it wants to, and we run through the pain. We use our minds to override what our body is telling us. Our body is telling us to “stop”, so we make sure our minds stay strong and override the urge to stop. To apply this analogy to labour and birth is not helpful. Yes, there are some attractive overlays, but on the whole, it is stepping on dangerous ground to say that birth is like running a marathon. Why? Because with birth, we do not make our bodies work more that it wants to. Birth is a physiological, involuntary process. We cannot “push” ourselves beyond our limits. To suggest to women that they can somehow push themselves through labour and birth is wrong, and can lead to a sense of failure when they end up needing medical help. Our bodies are in charge of the process, not us.

Birth is more analogous to recovering from flu than it is analogous to running a marathon. Imagine you have gastric flu. You are throwing up. You feel weak. You want to lie down. You can’t face work. Your body is telling you to stop. Your body is activating your physiological immune system. It might give you a temperature to kill off the virus, or it may keep you throwing up to eject the virus. There is a great deal happening in your body, and you are not in control of any of it. You cannot consciously control the process. You can try to “override” it by getting out of bed, and work, even though your body is telling you to “stop”. But if you carry on pushing yourself too hard and ignoring what your body is telling you, you may end up in hospital, needing medical intervention for pneumonia or dehydration. Going against what your body is telling you to do (“rest, lie down, sleep”) can interfere with your body’s natural process of recovery. You cannot directly control the activation of your immune system. However, you can help your body do its job of recovering, by making sure the conditions for recovery are right. Don’t stand in the rain waiting for a bus. Get yourself home. Get yourself warm and dry. Have water to hand. Cancel all engagements. Eat if you want to. Don’t eat if you don’t want to. Keep the room quiet so that you can sleep if you want to. Don’t let your boss come into your room to talk about work. Listen to your body. If, when you try to get up, you feel dreadful and need to lie down again, then lie down again. If it is too hot, and you want to throw the covers off, throw the covers off. If you want to get up and have some breakfast, get up and have some breakfast. Your body will tell you what it needs. If you know anything about birth, the analogy with birth will be obvious by now. We know, thanks to the work of Michel Odent, Sarah Buckley and Ina May Gaskin amongst others, that if you get the conditions right for labour (calm room, peace and quiet, familiarity, no people walking in and out with arbitrary or stressful conversation) then birth goes better. One reason is that you can “listen” more effectively to what your body needs you to do. Some women want to walk the corridor, eat and talk through their labours, rock their pelvis with their bottoms in the air, or sing through contractions. Others want to stay still and quiet, lying down on the bed throughout, not making a sound (yes, really!). Once you have got the conditions right for labour, there’s not much else you can do. You need to wait for nature to take its course. You can’t push your body to go faster or better. You just wait.

Along with creating the right conditions for childbirth, we also need to get our mind-set right for good birth. Taking the analogy with recovery from flu a little further, you don’t want to recover from gastric flu with the belief that your body can’t actually manage this, and you might die. Imagine that with every twinge of illness, you think something is wrong, and your body will flake out and die. With each vomit, you think your body is killing you, tearing up your stomach lining, and that you need medical help to save yourself. This will not help you recover, because the fear hormones suppress the immune system. Also, you might call the doctor too early, and have to get out of your lovely soothing bed to be admitted in the middle of the night into a stressful and busy hospital admission process, which is not conducive to natural recovery. (Unless, of course, your body does need medical help. Which is unlikely in the case of gastric flu, especially if you are a fit and healthy young woman). It is nonsense to talk about “failing” at recovering from flu, or that it was your fault because your mind-set wasn’t right, or that it was your fault because your expectations were too high, or you simply don’t cut it as a human being. It is also nonsense to suggest that you “failed” to birth your baby, or that it was your fault because your mind-set wasn’t right or that it was your fault because your expectations were too high, or you simply didn’t cut it as a woman. The responsibility starts with antenatal classes and birthing professionals, especially if you specialise in teaching about natural birth. We can start by stopping. Stop making the analogy that birth is like running a marathon.

Why Giving Birth is not like running a marathon, part one.

July 1, 2014

Image

When I was pregnant with my first baby, I knew I wanted a natural, drug free birth.  I had heard that giving birth hurts, and that it is hard work, so I prepared for my birth like I was preparing for battle.  I thought I needed to tough it out, be strong, brave, and prepared.  During my labour, I fought hard.  I puffed and fought my way through this thing that I had prepared for as if it would be an “ordeal”.  And it was.

I had kind of taken on board the idea that I often hear people still talk about 15 years later – that giving birth is a bit like running a marathon.  People say “you wouldn’t run a marathon without preparing properly would you?”  A marathon is hard work for your body, and you need to look after it.  People think it is the same for birth. You need to prepare for birth, train your mind and body, be strong, resilient and tough.

But I disagree.  Not only do I think it’s a bad analogy, but I think we are treading on dangerous ground. Let me explain. If we say that birth is like running a marathon, we are suggesting that you can “tough it out” and that you can push your body further than it actually wants to go.  We are suggesting that you can “fail” and that if you do “fail”, it’s because you did something wrong – you weren’t prepared enough, or strong enough.  You just didn’t cut it somehow. There is one thing that I have been thinking about for a long time, and that is: why do women feel like they have “failed” if they end up with intervention?  And what have they “failed” at?  Being a woman?  Toughing it out?  Preparing properly?  When things go wrong, and intervention happens, the marathon analogy puts the blame on the woman herself.  I’ve worked with enough women to know that this feeling of failure is so damaging, it runs very deep, and it can be devastating.   It is bad enough that she is grieving for the loss of her lovely oxytocin fuelled satisfying and fulfilling birth.  To then feel that you were some-how responsible is and unhelpful and unjust double whammy.

As well as being at risk of placing the blame for intervention at the woman’s feet, the marathon analogy is also a poor analogy for birth.  Giving birth is not like running a marathon.  It is more like recovering from flu.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  The process of giving birth is analogous to the process of recovering from flu.  How might that be?  Comments welcome below.  Part 2 of this blog, “why giving birth is like recovering from flu” will follow, but I’d love to hear your comments first. 

ImageMia Scotland, http://www.yourbirthright.co.uk. 

Blimey, I think I might be psychic……

December 15, 2013

ImageI have this dragging feeling in my chest. It kind of hurts, aches, pulls.  I have done yoga with a new teacher this morning, who tells me we were working on my solar plexus chakra, the green one. I wonder, as I’m stirring my tea, whether the dragging feeling is related to that. But it’s not that kind of ache.  Then I realise where I’ve felt it before.  What it is.  It is the ache I got when I had had my babies.  When my baby, waters, and placentas are gone, and the contents of my insides resettles themselves down again.  If I remember correctly, it only lasts a few hours, and it happens a few days after a birth. No one spoke about that feeling, so I don’t even know if it is normal.  But, eight years after my last baby was born, here it is again, in my chest.  Why?

The next day, I’m sat at the breakfast table.  I am talking to my husband about something mundane. It is Christmas party season, so it was probably something around that. And this well of tears forms in my eyes, and I just sit there and cry.  I don’t know why I’m crying. The tears just flow, out of nowhere, and it feels good.  It feels good, and bad at the same time.  It feels like I want to be picked up, be loved and looked after.  And I wonder why I feel like that?  And then I recognise this feeling.  It feels the same as day three baby blues.  And I realise, that it is day three since I left my most recent birth doula job. At first, I just remind myself to text her and see how she’s doing.  Then I remember how I felt the day before, with my chest.  And I wonder, am I feeling her feelings?  

And it seems obvious that I am.  But then my rational mind kicks in.  The one that was brought up in a skeptical, emotionally paralysed world, where science tells us its not possible to connect psychically with others, even though science knows that the world is made up of energy that we are only just realising how little we know about it. But I also remember back to my first pregnancy, when my husband experienced pregnancy symptoms and I didn’t. (Except for back ache.  It’s a real shame he didn’t get back ache!). And I remember the times I have sat with a woman in labour, feeling sympathy contractions.  I remember that only a few nights ago, I was woken with strong lower back sensations, and I thought to myself “she is going into labour”.  I remember how I used to know that my baby needed me, moments before he actually stirred. 

And I am torn two ways.  I am torn between the old and the new.  My old, black and white, pseudo-scientific way of reacting, and my new open minded, curious accepting, way of reacting.  The old part wants to question it, analyse it, work it out, talk to others about it, google it and blog about it (as you can see, it is creeping in here).  It is looking for answers, questioning and judging. But I don’t even have the words to use for the search engine! The new approach stays open to it.  Curious, but relaxed.  It doesn’t need to know.  It doesn’t need to question it and judge it.  It can just observe my excitement, and smile down at myself, like a mother watching her child discover snow for the first time.  This is a self-compassionate, meditative technique that I teach others in my work, to midwives, to hypnobirthing mums, and to anxious and depressed clients.  It’s good to find myself using it. And what is really lovely about this newer reaction, is that it will keep me open to new experiences.  I might find that I have more of these experiences that I can’t even find a name for.  Intuition?  Psychic connection?  Empathic resonance?  

I think I’ll just go onto my search engine and see if I can find the right word for it……. 

 

 

Split Personality Midwifery: who has the power?

November 30, 2013

Image“I’m in two different worlds.  Two completely different worlds.  It’s strange.  It’s hard”.  These words were uttered by a client of mine, over the phone.  She wants to work towards a home birth after caesarean section, an HBAC.  Did you know, that in the UK, there is the support to do this, unlike other countries, where you might have to go “underground” to get an HBAC, and then risk being imprisoned for doing so.  That, of course, means having to birth without the midwifery support that can be lifesaving.  But in Britain, women have a right to birth where they choose and how they choose.  Not only that, but there is a fantastic service in place for them.  They have top notch midwifery back up to birth at home, if that is what they want.  Not all people know this.  But my client did know this, because her midwife had told her.  Her midwife had supported her.  Also, she had booked a doula.  Her doula had told her too.  Her midwife and her doula didn’t bat an eyelid.  They supported her in her wishes and needs to birth at home.

Then, she had her doctor’s appointment at the hospital.  And she thought that she might share her thoughts with them.  She had asked me if that was a good idea.  We had talked about the pros and cons. Her midwife had said “don’t tell any-one, they will just put you off”.  As it turned out, at the appointment, she wasn’t  asked what she would like to do, she was told “you’re going to need a cannula, you’re going to need continual electronic foetal monitoring, you can’t have a home birth” and my client says she began to feel out of control again, anxious, as she did with the first birth. The very feelings she is trying to avoid by planning a home birth. She did not mention that she was wanting an HBAC, and she went home again.

Two completely different worlds.  The “normal birth” world of midwifery, that is moving forward fast, and is supported by evidence and  government  policies.  And the medical world of obstetrics that is cautious to save lives and eliminate all risk, at a cost of eliminating normal birth. * She is getting a right royal dose of both of these.  In our Mindful Mamma class, we do show people a diagram of these two  models of childbirth.  Midwifery is pro natural birth, trusts women’s bodies, understands the psychology, non-interventionist, views birth as amazing, hands control to the woman.  The medical model uses drugs, interventions, believes birth to be dangerous and unpleasant, takes control from the woman, and does not believe women can do it without help.  Sometimes I wonder if we are too black and white in class.  Nothing is ever that straightforward.  There are midwives who say “you can’t have a home birth” and there are doctors who say “of course you would be better off at home, reducing your risk of obstetric intervention when you don’t need it”. There are doctors who are promoting water birth after a caesarean, because they understand the psychological benefits of relaxation and a sense of control.  There’s doctor who have said;

The first intervention in birth, that a healthy woman takes, is when she walks out the front door of her home, in labour.”
Dr. Michael Rosenthal – Obstetrician 

And his is a very good point.  It is the woman beginning the intervention, because she is choosing to walk out of the door and go into a hospital.  My client has a choice.  She always has a choice.  In our classes, we often hear that women feel empowered.  That they didn’t realise they had so much choice. That they could say no.  That they could choose alternatives.  That they and their baby would still be looked after even if they declined some things.  This is something most people don’t know.  Not even doctors and midwives.  The woman has the choice.  The woman has the power.  My client is learning this, in her split personality experience of midwifery.  She is choosing to stay on the normality side of things, sticking to her home birth choices.  This is no easy choice. She tells me it is confusing, and difficult.  And I fear it will get more difficult for her.  Although she has a choice, she has to be very determined to keep the faith, because, once the “dead baby card” gets played only the strongest of us can stay rational about our choices.  But she has her midwife on her side.  And her doula.  And her hypnobirthing practitioner.  And the British midwifery system, supported by the NHS.  Good luck to her and her baby.

*this is not to deny that obstetrics can and does save lives.  The issue is about knowing when doctors are needed, and when they are not, to avoid doing more harm than good.