Just passing through…

A friend of mine once told me ‘I never felt any pain when I was having my babies. With every contraction I just said to myself ‘you’re giving a baby to the world’ and that thought helped me just open up and let my baby pass through me.’

I always remember that story. I’ve always thought that transformational thing this woman had realised was that the ‘pain’ associated with childbirth, for her at least, was associated with a focus on her own body and her own experiences. When she shifted her focus and instead accepted the more cosmic role that she was playing at that moment in time, connecting with a spirit of enormous generosity and giving, the pain just wasn’t there.

That’s the power of thought.

How I hope I can connect with that too, should I ever have a child.

Here’s a song that reminds us that parents are a channel for their children… Not owning them, not controlling them, not dictating to them, but being a vessel to allow them to pass through them and on into the world.

Make your own birth and baby medicine magic

On Saturday 26th Jan herbalist Jill Schnabel will be running a
make-your-own herbal remedy workshop for new and pregnant mamas in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

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Jill will be bringing along a variety of herbs that can help in a variety
of ways during pregnancy, birth and postnatally, and you get to choose
which you’d like to make your very own hand-made personalised remedies
from.

Herbs can help in anything from helping a woman release her placenta,
to helping her open up to birth her baby, to helping deal with pain or
fear, to helping postnatal recovery, breastmilk abundance and help with all
sorts of baby things. You name it,herbs can help with it! Choosing and
making your own remedy means you get the perfect medicine for you and your
baby.

love bottles

New mums are welcome to bring their babies with them.

The cost of the session is £10, or up £20 including herbs (the exact cost
will depend on what herbs and how many you want)

Please bring:

–  your own vodka/brandy for making the tincture
– a jam jar for the herbs to infuse into the alcohol. Bring one jar for
each remedy you think you might make
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Jill will supply bottles for straining your remedy into once ready.

The session will start at 10.30 and last between two and three hours.

Please get in touch if you’d like to come

new in…

hypnotherapy

we have a new addition… to the library

The Natal Hyypnotherapy ‘Effective home birth preparation’ CD and booklet

available for loan now 😉

Get in touch if you’d like to borrow it

Ooh, even better…

I know I’ve already posted a NYE blog post, but I’ve just found something out I really want to share with you.

ailm

It’s 2330 hours on the 31st December, and I’m cleaning my room. What better way to see out the old year, and in the new?

Opening a beautiful round velvet box I haven’t looked in in a while, I come across a hand-embroidered card given to me some time back by a friend who wanted to wish me a Happy New Year.

Entitled ‘Pine: The Celtic Birth Tree’, it has the following fascinating  information:

Pine trees symbolise the Birth of the King of the Waxing Year

The pine tree rune, from the Ogham alphabet (Celtic tree alphabet) is pronounced Ailm

Ailm is also a sound of the loudest of groans, whether pleasure or pain, sounded in lovemaking and childbirth

In Greece Pine is sacred to Artemis, moon goddesss who presided over childbirth

What a timely find. And how beautiful, and how true – the same word for the moans and groans of lovemaking and birth… Reminds me of the wonderful film Orgasmic Birth, where a labour scene is overdubbed with a voiceover of the woman explaining her recollections of what was going on at the time. She explains that the groans and moans she’s making may sound like they come from pain, but that making those noises felt great and really helped her.

I wonder what fascinating discoveries and rediscoveries 2013 will bring…

Can I say it again?! Happy new year, once again, one and all

…and a happy new year

Yes indeed, goodbye and fare-thee-well to everything and everyone that was 2012, and come on in 2013, you’re more than welcome.

welcome

In many cultures, new year has always been associated with new life. In the Persian calendar, new year is on the Spring equinox – the time when life is showing itself in all its awakening splendour. One of the seven items on display in every Persian household at this time is a painted egg, symbolising fertility. The egg, featured of course in Easter celebrations, is a universal symbol of life and creation. Many people believe that the Easter symbols of eggs and bunnies are taken from pre-Christian beliefs. Golly, doesn’t it make 100% more sense to celebrate new year in the spring than in the dead of winter?

eggs

What does 2013 hold for you? I’ve got some exciting plans, including setting up my Holistic Pregnancy Clinics, taking the Mamakind Antenatal Group to a new venue, expanding the library and working as a doula. Oh, and I’m getting married too.

Here’s an amazing piece of music – once again by Edinburgh-based singer-songwriter Amy Duncan. It’s called A New Life, and the sounds involved in it make me think of both a mother in labour, and the first cries of a babe. It’s a complex piece of music – as is life – and seems like a fitting song to ring in the new year.

Wishing you and your kin a bliss-tastic, bounteous and brave 2013

The Singing Midwife’s first ever annual Christmas video montage

Earlier this week I was working with the group of pregnant women who come to my weekly antenatal group. We’d done some lying down, some stretching and breathing, some making funny noises, and some telling each other how we were. We’d connected with the babies inside us and the earth beneath us.

So then we wrote a song.

I asked the women what, if anything, they would like for their pregnancies, births and beyond… What, if they could be handed their deepest dreams and desires for this stage of their life, those dreams and desires would be. We got out a big piece of flipchart paper and wrote them  down.

It being Christmas, it only felt right to channel this deep reflection into  something festive, and something we could share – so we wrote a parody  of that favourite Yuletide hymn, The 12 Days of Christmas, and recorded it.

Little did we know that by the time I put the video together, we’d have photos of a beautiful home birth to add to the other gorgeous photos of the women I’ve worked with over the year.

So here it is, thesingingmidwife.net’s first ever annual end-of-year video montage…

Thanks to everyone who has enriched my life this year, and wishing you all a gorgeous festive period and a peaceful, prosperous and pleasurable new year

Not all songs are happy songs

So far, the songs posted here have been happy, silly, triumpant, empowering, good-time, sing-a-long, tra la laa kinds of songs.

These are the songs we all love – the number ones, the catchy tunes…

But not all songs are happy songs. Yes, thesingingmidwife.net is aimed at turning the tide of our real downer birth culture. But it isn’t aimed at denying the fact sad things can happen, or silencing those voices.

Sad things happen, and sometimes sad and happy things happen to the same person, in quick succession. How many times is a new mum left thinking ‘but no-one told me about this part?!’, even when’s she’s had a wonderful birth experience? Months and months of birth preparation and then….Hang on, what’s one supposed to do with this small bawling bundle of strength and neediness?

Motherhood is supposed to be wonderful, right?!

This song is a powerful and straight-from-the heart-account of a mother who is suffering. Some may say she’s got postnatal depression. Perhaps that’s true – I don’t know her or her personal history, so I’m not going to use that label. That’s not for me to say. But it’s certainly a song that will touch the hearts of many… Click on the play button to listen.

A New Beginning?

Feminists aren’t usually credited with being much fun.

Which is a shame, really. Cos they are. Or, should I say, we are.

I’ve just had a wonderful weekend. Fun, uplifting, inspiring, exciting, dynamic, soulful, spiritual and intense. I stitched buttons onto old pants and turned them into knicker bunting, I flailed my arms around and practised making strange faces whilst pretending to be Kate Bush, and, most moving of all for me, I witnessed women young and old gather together to share their stories of birth. We cried. You couldn’t not, when your heard the stories the women were brave enough to share.

Where was I? In the heart of Newcastle Upon Tyne, at the  North East Feminist Gathering 2012.

Birth is a feminist issue, and as far as I’m concerned, midwifery is a feminist occupation, or undertaking.


As a midwife, I’ve spent a lot of time in women-only spaces, and I make sure I get my fill of supportive sisterhood in my private life too. But for some women being in a woman-only space is a rare occurence. And not always a good thing – unsupportive women spaces aren’t necessarily pleasant, and can be really nasty. Supportive women-only space, on the other hand, is delicious.

Different sides of women come out when they’re all together, different nuances, different stories.

Here’s a story, in song form, which I sang  at the cabaret on Saturday night. I am the singing midwife, afterall. It seemed only right that I sang…

Imagine – if  our society had a  creation myth like this, would women doubt their abilities to give birth?

If for any reason you can’t see the video, following this link should get you there: http://youtu.be/6IwRJ5p-l5A

What is the essence of birth?

What is the essence of birth? Does it even make sense to ask such a question? Is it simply different for every woman and every baby birthing together? Or is t mainly the mother? Or is it mainly the baby?

It’s certainly true that for some women, giving birth is an almighty cosmic spiritual connection with the universe.

At the moment, I think it’s about connection. Patience. Trust. Nature. Respect. Intuition. Allowing. Opening. Responding to the needs of the body and mind in each moment, as they arise.

As a birth attendant, I find it necessary to think and feel about how to facilitate that connection between a mother, her child, and the universe. And sometimes it’s really hard, especially when I haven’t connected with myself. With my inner voice of knowing. With my feet on the earth.

Sometimes I need to take time out and nurture myself. To recharge my batteries. I think all birth attendants and practioners need to do this. Sometimes what we do is lonely work, and we need to take time to remember why we do it. To feel the joy again, to express the grief. To allow things to move.

A group of birth workers I’ve been part of have just spent a week doing just that – connecting with ourselves and each other and the essence of birth. We sat, listened, stretched, toned, did yoga, swam in the river, ate and feasted, sang and danced, cried and laughed, slept and dreamed. We learned about herbs, our own fertility, using rebozos, supporting women, supporting men. We listened, we listened, and we listened some more. Some gave hair cuts. We looked after each other’s children. We fell in love. I pranced about with a model pelvis on my head compering the cabaret of wonders, which included a rather fantastic role play of the birth story book The Princess and the Poo.

We did one particular exercise which I want to share with you, brought to us by a lay midwife called Vanessa Brooks, who works in Spain with the groundbreaking Da A Luz group of midwives, doulas, practitioners and birth educators. The exercise itself called the Essence of Birth, which was also the name of our six day gathering.

This is how it goes:

Make a comfy space for someone to lie down on the floor, and surround it with cushions and nice things to sit on. Maybe a blanket too.

Have nearby some small stones or gems, or anything lovely that will feel calm and still when carefuly placed on someone’s body. It also helps to have a watch or clock.

One person lies in the middle, surrounded by everyone else who’s sitting down. Carefully place the lovely objects on points of their body which will feel good – we often use the spot between the eyebrows, the centre of the breast bone, the solar plexus and the centre of the pelvis.

Someone has their eye on the time, while everyone lays their hands on the person in the middle (who perhaps is covered in a blanket by this point) and simply does whatever works for them to connect with the person they’re touching. Some people close their eyes, others don’t. Some visualise, some simply look at the person lying down and thinks about how great they are, some people imagine channelling the energy of the earth or the universe. Some people massage and stroke the person. Whatever feels right and works for you…

After an agreed amount of time (three minutes works quite well) the timekeeper gently lets everyone know it’s time to respectfully take their hands away. (Actually, it’s not always hands. I quite often end up resting my head on people).

And there you go. On many levels it’s so simple. On other levels it’s so difficult. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. It’s restful and nourishing. It can make people glow.

If you have any lovely ways you use to connect with yourself, your colleagues, the women you work with, please leave a comment and let me know (to leave a comment, hover your mouse above the number to the far right of the title at the top of this post).

Another way we explored for connecting with ourselves and each other is through dancing – something women have always done together. Think about belly dancing – originally a dance that women did together. And absolutely fantastic for women’s health. Or the sacred dancing that Hawaiian women do together, introduced to me by the full on and fantastic Traditional CPM midwife from Hawai’i Clare Loprinzi, who runs a distance midwifery training course and is part of the great organisation Motherhealth International.

Although not of Hawaiian heritage herself, Clare dances the traditional Hawaiian  and native women’s dance, and when she was teaching a course in Newcastle she had us all up and dancing every 30 minutes. What a way to teach..

At the gathering of women I was part of this week, we danced a variety of dances. We danced Samba Reggae, a devotional dance to the AfroBrazilian birth deity Oshum, and we danced around to the fab take-off of the Beyonce song ‘All the Single Ladies’, the video for which you’ll find a few posts down.

And we also just danced about, happy as Larry. My particular favourite tune that week was this…

Now imagine, if every woman giving birth had that confidence in her body. A new anthem for pregnant women everywhere? Not just pregnant women – all women.
All together now…!