My Birthlight experiences
Almost 10 years ago now, as I was happily expecting our first child, I remember excitedly asking my amazing community midwife if there were any active birth classes in our area. I had read about these in a baby magazine and understood it was a good thing to do to help the birth go smoothly. This was a much wanted baby and we wanted to do everything right. I was feeling pressured from work to ignore my pregnant state and press on with life as normal, but I wanted to carve out some time to focus on the miracle that was growing inside me. My midwife looked me in the eye and said, “you need to go to Birthlight”.
So, we looked up details and eagerly booked onto the antenatal course along with pregnancy yoga. I went to my first yoga session slightly nervous. What would it be like? Would I be out of my depth and would they be all weird hippie types? But I came back uplifted and rejuvenated and was determined to get back from work in time to go each week. It was a rush on many weeks but oh so worth it. I felt so nurtured and learnt so much during those discussions and yoga classes. It was wonderful to connect with other mothers at similar stages of pregnancy to me and to see others further along. Hearing the birth stories gave me courage that I could walk across this bridge and bring our baby into the world. Seeing the little babies at the end of some of the classes made it feel more real. Having that special time to focus on my baby really helped with bonding to our baby before he was born. I would come home and show my husband some of the poses and stretches we had learnt and tell him of the birth stories and other bits of information I had learnt from both the teacher and the other mothers. It is true to say it was the highlight of my week going to those yoga classes.
The antenatal classes were really eye opening and enriching. My husband and I went to the same room where I had yoga classes and, along with a handful of other couples, we learnt about giving birth in a very gentle and relaxed yet informative way. Sally was so accepting of the whole process and we learnt so much about birth and how to have a positive birth experience. We covered both emotional aspects and practically what could happen or what things might be like. We learnt about how to make informed choices and to keep an open mind during labour. We were lucky enough to also book onto a weekend workshop during that pregnancy where we were able to gain more practical experience of different ways to cope in labour and different positions. This was particularly valuable for my husband who was to be my birth partner because it gave him practical things he could do before, during and after the birth.
When I went on maternity leave I also did the Aqua yoga which was heavenly to be in the water at this more tiring, heavier stage of pregnancy. The stretches we learnt were fantastic for those late pregnancy aches and niggles. It was also another opportunity to deepen friendships that had begun in the yoga classes. We often had a chat and drink after the pool. I am lucky enough to be friends with one of these mums many years later.
As I approached my due date I was both excited and anxious about the unknown, yet also strangely calm. From the yoga and classes I had learnt that passing over the actual given due date was not such a big deal and I was relaxed as that day came and went. I didn’t have long after that to wait for our beautiful baby boy to start making is way from my womb into my arms. It was indeed a positive experience although a long labour that resulted in the planned water birth in hospital. He was born to the same music that we listened to during the relaxation part of our yoga classes. It was almost everything I had hoped for. But unfortunately I had a very bad tear that took months to heal. The friends I had made from the yoga and antenatal classes were towers of support to me during this difficult time as I struggled with soreness from the stitches and difficulties in breastfeeding for many months after the birth.
As is so often the case, the baby who was born was not the baby I imagined. He would not be put down without screaming and slowly showed me a new way to parent that I had not imagined. I went to baby yoga with my new friends and gradually learnt more about different ways of handling babies. I watched both bottle feeding and breast feeding, listened to different ways to get babies to sleep or get more rest myself. I watched more experienced mothers than myself settle babies. I experimented with these new ideas and finally found what worked for my baby. Doing the baby yoga helped me to gain confidence in dealing with my windy baby who was quick to cry. I learnt new ways of handling him, to soothe him and learnt to understand him better. It was a relief to be able to go somewhere where it didn’t matter if I was late, or turned up wearing odd things and in a state because leaving the house with a small baby proved to be so much more difficult than any of the challenges I had faced in my career to date.
We also took him to the Birthlight baby swim classes at the weekend so my husband could join in the fun. These classes showed us how to handle babies safely in the water and how to have fun with them and deeper our bond with our gorgeous baby. It was amazing to see our little one happily dive under the water, something we would never have tried without these classes.
3 years later we were thrilled to be expecting our second child. This was a very different pregnancy with a toddler to look after. We were not able to go to the antenatal classes but I felt very strongly that I wanted to go to the yoga classes. I had read and learnt even more about birth and the importance of nurturing the emotional state of the mother-to-be. I was consolidating much of what I learnt from the classes during the pregnancy of my son. I wanted to surround myself with emotional support and going to the yoga classes was a big part of that. I went early this time, from the earliest you could start at 16 weeks and I was so glad that I did. It gave me time to focus on our new baby and the changes to come. This time we planned a home birth as, having done lots of research, we felt it was the safest and best option for us. Once again these classes were a real anchor for me and provided huge emotional support. There was something very special sitting in a circle with other expecting mothers and listening to their stories and practicing gentle nourishing yoga together. This time I would come home and show my son some of the stretches we did in the mornings after the class. I remember feeling totally calm and at ease as my due date neared and not at all anxious or worried. This was in no small part due to coming to these classes and taking home a little bit of nurturing each week.
We were lucky enough to have another positive birth experience and our daughter was born as planned at home in the water to candle light. This time I only had a small tear and a couple of stitches. It was such an empowering experience. It was wonderful to go back to yoga and tell our story with my little baby. It helped to give a sense of closure to that part of my life and readiness to move on to the next.
And finally almost a decade later, we wanted to have another baby. We felt truly overjoyed when I was expecting again. This was surprisingly my easiest pregnancy when I was expecting it to be the hardest given my age. I had so much energy throughout the pregnancy and very little nausea at the start. I was so busy with the other 2 children I marvelled at my body for being able to do the things we were doing while also growing a new life. Once again though I really felt it important to get a little bit of nurturing for myself. It was a real struggle this time to make the yoga classes as my husband had changed jobs and it was tricky for him to be back in time to look after the other 2 children so I could go out. We don’t have any family or help nearby so I was relying on him. I did not start the classes until 30 weeks pregnant. That is something I now regret – I wish We had found away so that I could have started sooner as I did with my second child. It goes by so very quickly and I hold those classes in my mind which such fondness as the special time to celebrate each individual pregnancy. Because I was so busy I feel it was even more important to go to the classes for both myself and my unborn baby. I was lucky that it was the same teacher, the lovely Sally whom I now felt a special connection with. Her classes feel so nurturing and accepting of everyone and every birth as well as joyful and mindful with lots of practical tips. I cherished every moment I had in those classes even more the third time around. At the classes I had a much deeper awareness of the baby in my womb and this awareness continued during the birthing of our second daughter. The time really flew by for these classes and it felt like the blink of an eye that I was going back to tell my empowering and wonderfully positive home water birth experience to a lovely group of ladies.
Birthlight do a very special kind of work helping families to have the best start possible through all the various stages – from pregnancy to the “fourth trimester” that is the early baby months. The teachers are gentle yet enthusiastic and passionate about their work. I feel lucky and honoured to have had these opportunities of support open to us at this precious time in our lives. I would like to thank all those involved in Birthlight for the wonderful support and work they do and give special thanks to Sally who has become a dear friend to me.