I’ve had it with Positive Birth! – I wanna quit – but I WILL NOT!

It was around December 2012 myself and my friend and colleague were inspired to set up Tell me a good birth story, East Cambs. Following our Doula training course, full of motivation We found out about the wonderful website http://www.tellmeagoodbirthstory.com/ – founded by Natalie Meddings that was to link mums to be with mamas that had a positive birth experience, and in particular if faced with challenges during pregnancy or making birth plans, to link ladies up with someone that had been through a similar experience. Our motivation was actually wanting to find ways in which we could reach those that had perhaps experienced negative birth experiences. We weren’t sure in which format to present it. Then we decided we would run with a positive birth group, hoping we could also reach mums that had experienced difficult situations. We loved the idea! We both felt so passionate about offering this support.

Beginning my journey as Doula had been very profound for me. It sounds a cliché but from this point in my life, I had begun to learn more about my true self than I ever had before. Birth had changed me, I had finally begun to accept my 1st birth experience. How valuable it had been to de-brief my 1st birth experience and understand the areas in which I hadn’t felt in control and the knock on effect – leading me to feeling so many mixed emotions, distress, failure, disappointment and less than positive about the experience. To have someone listen to me, to take me on a journey that allowed me to feel those feelings and then put them away, for that wonderful person to see my raw emotion and then to hold me afterwards. Not once did this lovely lady mention those words: ‘At least you and your baby survived’ – I had not once stated I weren’t grateful that we were both alive. Meeting Maddie McMahon of Developing Doulas and de-briefing my difficult birth experience had changed me forever too.

Of course this experience then lead me to feeling fired up with anger which later lead to passion. Why had I not received pregnancy and birth support that had educated me about what was actually happening to my body when I laboured?  Why had my midwives and free antenatal classes focussed on how to know when I was in labour and pain relief? Rather than how my body works. What my hormones would be doing to support me through birth. The environment my hormones needed to support me well.  Why had I not had breast-feeding support from someone that had great breast-feeding knowledge, to reassure me through all of those times of doubt………

I had so desperately wanted to get everything right, I listened to conflicting advice, I tried things that didn’t sit well with me, but I felt that I had to do them – otherwise I would get things dreadfully wrong. I am now truly at peace with the start of my parenting journey, but it has taken me 7 years to get here.

My anger turned to passion. I wanted every woman to know how their body can work with them in labour and how it can work against them too. I wanted to share with woman how they too could have a positive birth experience. I understood that every woman’s thoughts about a ‘positive’ experience could be incredibly different. I wanted to create a safe space for woman to explore their thoughts about positive birth – be it in hospital, at home or in a field somewhere, with or without pain relief, but mainly – about how they could be in control of their birth experience. I reflected on what positive birth had meant to me when I was pregnant – and if I’m honest it probably conjured up all kinds of images of stereotypical hippy types, meditating and talking about orgasmic birth.

I was so excited when the Bottisham Sure Start Centre agreed to host our group. I was sure I was going to reach those woman, that perhaps thought positive birth was for others, a stereotypical earth mother – like I perhaps had.

I have met so many lovely woman, and I am truly lucky to have a group of wonderful birth junkie friends that continue to support the group, some gorgeous and lovely regulars that also continue to support the group. Doulas, Midwives, Retired Midwives and Independent Midwives have popped in to offer their support. All volunteering their time for free, valuing the space and wanting to offer their support. Some of us have had negative birth experiences, others have had positive, some of us have had a mixture of both. We all have something in common. We are all passionate about all woman having access to choice, informed choice – between us we hold so much knowledge about birth, we all have the ability to empathise and the ability to truly listen…..We also all like eating cake 🙂

During the 16 months or so that we have been running we have supported a few handfuls of woman, most of them already knowledgeable about positive birth – looking to surround themselves with positivity towards the end of their pregnancy or to vent about their frustrations with the ‘system’. I am truly glad to have been able to offer support to each and every one of them – BUT where are all of those other woman that I wanted to reach?!!! You know – the one’s that watch ‘One Born Every Minute’ only to be mostly frightened by it!! And why do I continue to de-brief so many negative experiences at the post-natal meetings I attend? It honestly breaks my heart – every 6 weeks I am honoured to go and meet a room full of beautiful, powerful woman, all desperately needing to talk about their birth experience. Sometimes I am lucky enough to listen to 2 or 3 positive experiences and around 10 negative experiences…….Sometimes I cry with the woman that share their stories. I can’t believe what some woman go through.  Most of these stories are surrounded with phrases such as: ‘I had to’ and decisions being made for them.

These powerful woman, unfortunately being asked questions in labour, facing situations they aren’t possibly capable of considering while in their labouring world – they have their partner there to support them – He is often feeling over-whelmed and protective but also just wants everything to be ok. They may have a midwife that phrases things ‘We are just going to’ instead of ‘Is it ok if we?’ The twists and turns their stories take are sometimes, sadly predictable but unfortunate and sometimes unbelievable. Those woman, those couples are doing the best they can with the information and support they have at the time – but often blame themselves if things didn’t go as they’d hoped for. Of course, the hospitals vital role in birth is to ensure a physically healthy mama and baby at the end of the experience. The heart-breaking fact is that of course, everyone is grateful to be alive, no-one considered they wouldn’t be at the end of birthing a baby but the emotional journey is huge. Feeling in control, feeling included in the decision making process is huge. It is the difference between feeling positive or negative about the experience.  Thankfully we have many midwives that actively support informed choice.  There are many that thankfully don’t use phrases like ‘we are just going to’ and instead ask ‘Is it okay if we’ and do you have enough information to make a decision?  Those midwives are worth their weight in gold 🙂

It is those powerful and incredibly strong woman that experience a challenging and tricky birth that inspire me to continue with the group.

I have so many wonderful ladies contact me to tell me they have a positive birth experience to share. Volunteering their time and efforts to come along and chatter. Most of them report to me that they are immensely proud of their birth experiences, they long to share them with others, to share their decision making process, what they did to support their choices, which classes they recommend – but often don’t – for fear of being misunderstood, for fear that others may consider they are bragging or gloating. When you are surrounded by a lot of mamas that need, want, long to tell their birth stories – and most woman need the space to do this – however the majority you hear are challenging, tricky, heart-breaking, scary – you are highly unlikely to share your positive story on the back of those truly difficult stories – it just seems a little disrespectful. Woman feel truly uncomfortable to not sit with the woman that have had a difficult experience. We stand side by side. We imagine what it was like. We don’t want to appear disrespectful to that woman’s experience. But of course, what often does end up happening is a story of who had the more difficult experience and how bad it was, For any expectant mama witnessing this – it can feel hugely over-whelming and real and fills them with fear for their pending birth.  For the mum that had a positive experience it usually means they sit quietly and don’t say much at all.

Of course every woman deserves to tell their story – the opportunities to do this with someone that can offer a listening ear, the ability to understand, to suggest and to signpost don’t always present themselves. Every woman should be given the opportunity to de-brief their birth experience with an experienced birth educator/supporter if they wish to. Someone that can truly listen, guide, support and empower. That can give the time and space for the mum to put things into place.

I have plans to create space for those mums that have experienced a difficult experience too.

I desperately want our positive birth space to be well established and attended before embarking on my next project!

For a trial period of 6 months – Tell me a good birth story /Positive Birth – East Cambs will run on a Saturday, 10-11.30am – We are hoping to reach more mums to be by offering the group on a weekend.

The first session will be on Saturday 28th June, 10-11.30am at The Fassage Hall in Lode (nr Bottisham)

To take your place at Tell me a good birth story, East Cambs, please sign up to the attached Doodle Poll:-

Doodle Poll for Tell me a good birth story

By signing up you are not committing to anything, it is just to get an idea of numbers wishing to attend to help me gauge interest and whether we can cover venue costs to enable us to go ahead with the Group.

So where are all of you expectant mamas? Are you interested in receiving support from ‘normal’ ‘lovely’ and ‘inspiring’ woman. All with one thing in common. We want to support you to finding what your idea of ‘positive birth’ is……..

How can we reach and support more of the expectant mamas in Cambridgeshire? I am truly interested to hear your thoughts? Please email: katieolliffe@babycalm.co.uk if you would like to share any thoughts with me.

I am really hoping more midwives, student midwives and other birth workers can come along. I would love for more midwives and birth workers to share information about the group. I have leaflets, posters and cards that can be distributed. I want mums to know of this valuable resource that is available to them. I would also love to meet lots of mums to be and for those that do come along and find the group useful, to share this with other expectant mums. The ever-changing landscape of expectant mamas mean that the group changes a lot from month to month. We hope to invite those that we have supported back to share their stories on, to share how the group has supported them with the new mums to be in attendance.

If you think you can offer time and help with the group, with the admin, with marketing and information sharing – no matter how big or small a contribution it all really helps.

We will be asking for a small contribution to cover venue costs (suggested donation will be around £1 but anything you can afford will be gratefully received)

There will be cake, refreshments and a few snacks to share.

There is a fab park and a big green area for children to run around, right outside The Fassage Hall – We are also very close to Anglesey Abbey – so if you would like to bring siblings and Daddy along there is plenty to do on the doorstep!

p.s I have nothing against ‘hippy types, earth mothers, meditation or orgasmic birth 🙂 –

Tell Me a Good Birth Story – East Cambs is not about pushing opinions. It is just about supporting and listening – oh – and eating cake!

 

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