Do you really need a birth plan?

Do you really need a birth plan?

One time at a party, chatting with a few parenting folks and admiring a couple newly arrived cherubs, the topic unsurprisingly shifted to our birth experiences.

Damn straight I am writing a birth plan!

Damn straight I am writing a birth plan!

I had a twinge of jealousy when one of the mums spoke of her twins’ vaginal birth, the second little nugget being footling breech, just like my Turd Bird was. Despite a happily anticipated home birth, the end result for me was a caesarean.

So I fessed up a couple of my hurts after the girl’s arrival when one of the mothers laughed, “There’s no point having a birth plan, it never goes to plan.”

I became a reluctant expert in drafting a birth plan with our child’s pending arrival, and knew well in advance that little one was in a less than ideal position. I had all kinds of time, to not only try every method known to woman-kind to turn the baby, but to also think about what I wanted in a variety of scenarios.

Oh yeah, we had a plan, a few in fact.

Plan A: The ultimate dream as the days trudged towards and then trotted along past the due date, baby would miraculously flip around and I’d get my home water birth. Voila.

Plan B: So baby was stubborn, but would lift up those little feet and go bum down, vaginal hospital birth with intervention if needed, but not necessary, I would rock it.

Plan C: Alas, bub decides to stay put, and we go ahead with a footling breech vaginal. We watched A Breech in the System. My heart rate increased as the days crept on and it felt as though nothing had changed, but I held faith, prayed, visualised, you name it.

Plan D: If surgical intervention became advisable then at minimum I wanted to be the first person to touch my child, so I requested a MAC.

In the operating theatre hubby got woozy and overwhelmed, and in my newfound delerium of painkillers I said it was no problem forgoing my participation. I’d realise months later that it wasn’t so. I was the fourth person to feel my daughter’s sweet skin against mine. The baby I grew, danced with, fed and loved in my body for nine months, came to me after being admired and held by others.

Looking back it still feels so inherently wrong. I was in shock and a part of me left the room that day. So while my heart was opened with this beautiful child another part of my world crumbled. It took a long time for me to realise this and start putting myself back together, emotionally and spiritually.

Back to Ms. No-Birth-Plan: do I believe in drafting a Birth Plan? Absolutely! Did I get everything I wanted from mine (the A, B, C, or D version)? Uh no. Did I get other things? Absolutely!

At 42 weeks my darling finally decided it was time to make her entrance, and despite increasing pressure from hospital staff, I stayed with what my heart wanted and experienced a slow-building, spontaneous labour. Once we arrived at hospital later in the day, the head obstetrician made sure everyone had read my birth plan; this buoyed me as I faced the unknown. Beautiful, kind, strong midwives held my hands while I groaned through contractions for over twelve hours. My husband barely left my side, encouraging me as each powerful wave rushed through me. And lastly, I will never forget the look on my darling private midwife’s face after bub was in my arms post-op, “Angie I am so proud of you.”

By putting my intentions in black and white and making my wishes clear to medical staff, my midwife and partner I believe I was eventually able to look back fondly and heal from the experience more quickly.

The point of a plan is to use it as a guiding document, not the final word or decree. Plans go astray for thousands of people and companies everyday. Do we then imply that they were silly for writing one in the first place?

Please mamma, have a plan. Here are some ideas from my experience that warrant consideration:

  • Share your bottom line acceptable behaviours with your support team so they can advocate for you. If there are words you know you don’t want to hear, or approaches that you don’t think will work for your personality, let it be known.
  • Consider contingencies, but don’t dwell there. Planning a home birth? Excellent – maybe have a quick tour through the hospital you’d hopefully not transfer to, so the environment isn’t completely foreign if it does happen. Planning for a vaginal delivery? Have a quick read of what a caesarean entails.
  • Educate yourself on what interventions you feel comfortable with, what the impact may be on your baby and you; and think about how you would like you, your baby and family to be treated afterwards. For example bub sleeping in your room or bed at the hospital, or minimal visitations until you give the all clear.
  • Nominate who you want present. Clarify the level of privacy you expect; unwished for visitors whilst you’re in labour can be upsetting. Designate an assertive gatekeeper.
  • Most importantly, make a promise to yourself that no matter what happens, you will accept that you have done your best at that specific moment on that specific day with those specific circumstances that were presented to just you, and you alone.

I hope these suggestions are helpful ones. If a birth plan is important to you and your provider doesn’t take this discussion seriously, maybe it’s time to look elsewhere. If your needs and desires are not of paramount importance, you’ve got yourself a red flag that your wishes will more likely be brushed aside when it comes to the big day.

Whether it’s your first, second or fifth child, walking yourself through this process can help in the long run.

I’m keen to hear from you. Have you had a birth plan in the past? Did you feel it was a helpful part of your experience? Please share your respectful thoughts below.

I wish the very best for you and your baby, and hope that your experience contains the most divine love, respect and reverence that you, dear mamma, deserve.

Creating Space, In Pregnancy and Beyond

Creating Space, In Pregnancy and Beyond

Without hesitation I could relive the moment of seeing the double line on my pregnancy test stick. No drug could replicate the sheer rush of excitement that a baby was joining us; I giggle thinking back to my husband’s expression when I shared the news.

It was with a fluttering heartbeat that the realisation sunk in: a little soul has decided and is most certainly on the way. I’ve found the transition from conception to parenthood and beyond is one of the biggest chasms to cross, and it’s one I’ll be navigating for awhile yet.

As much as we like to focus on the joyous aspects of the mamma journey there will be times we’ll feel as though we’re being pushed to our edge physically, psychologically and emotionally. pregnant woman making heart shape with hands

From the disappointment of a negative pregnancy test to coping with nausea, the various physical discomforts of accommodating our darlings in the womb, to the devastation of losing a longed-for soul too soon, and to the moment of the journey through the birth canal or incision right to the merging of our lives as a family and what lies beyond, the dance of motherhood is a long, complex and beautiful one.

Mothering (and fathering, and creating anything really…) requires a very personal and attuned level of faith, trust and loving compassion to be receptive to our evolving roles as parents and women (and artists, leaders, ethical professionals, human beings, etc).

Caring for a completely dependent – and later on a very independent – being is about making space in our bodies, minds, lives and most importantly hearts. As mothers we come to the mat to remind ourselves that there is more space, we can return to the sense of ease in a moment, with a breath or a thought. The easiest way to get that freedom comes not from a reckless forcing or pushing, but from connecting with our breath, feeling into the tight spots, taking a moment and trusting that if we approach life with a soft awareness, that things will free up precisely as and when they need to.

In tomorrow’s prenatal class at the Nest on Silas I’ll be drawing your attention to this idea with some exploration in our asana, relaxation and meditation practices. We’ll play and welcome softness in when things might start to feel compressed, be it in your body, heart or mind. I’ll share some personal practices I’ve enjoyed that remind me to be gentle and create space with ease and acceptance.

My intention is that you will walk out of the class knowing that whatever pregnancy, birth and motherhood has in store for you and bubba, that you will find your way. And your beautiful little babies, whether they’re in the ether or your womb, can feel this gentle support from your before the earth-side day arrives.

I can assure you, this whole parenting gig, it is a delightful, lovely, challenging ride. And I wish you the best wherever you are in your adventure.

For those of you not attending or not pregnant, or perhaps without vaginas, how can you safely soften in your practice and in your life? And how might this serve you more adequately than the common default position in our hectic society of specific exertion. Have a play in the days ahead. When you have what I like to call a “tight moment” – most typically defined by something that you feel in your body in a day to day incident or discussion, how can you open up, find space and just trust that what happens next just will?

Yoga love to all,

x
Ange

The C-word

The C-word

I remember the first time I taught prenatal yoga. It was during my training in an Advanced Diploma of Yoga Teaching at the CAE in Melbourne. The ladies in class weren’t actually pregnant, but just pretending to be for the sake of a practice session in prenatal instruction. The energy in the room was palpable and otherworldly, despite only one of my classmates actually being pregnant. It dawned on me as I walked amongst the ladies and felt a tender wave of love rush over me; this was a direct way to connect with the future, creating a nurturing, loving space for women and their babies before more formal introductions took place.

That was about five years ago, and reflecting on both my yoga practice and experience of bringing our first child into the world, my approach and philosophy on prenatal yoga teaching has evolved in a way that I would not have expected.

Our baby’s pending arrival over two years ago was one that I was positively relishing. I had a fabulous, complication-free pregnancy and could not wait to give birth and experience what my body was capable of. We had a lovely team of midwives and had planned for a home birth, where I was hoping for a water birth.

And then plans were thrown way off axis. In short, bub was eventually discovered to be footling breech. Nothing much about the dream for welcoming baby into our lives happened; at the end of it I was left with a beautiful critter whom I’m grateful to call my daughter and a five-inch scar along my lower abdomen.

The weeks leading up to darling’s birth were the most upsetting, disorienting and miserable in my life and something I would never wish upon anyone. I was heartbroken, felt like a failure and illogically at times wondered if I had done something to bring what I at the time viewed as a horrendous experience upon myself.

I’ve contemplated this and looked deeply as both an instructor and student in pre-natal yoga classes, where the full realities of the birth experience, at least in my humble opinion, are not always addressed. I’ve attended yoga classes where the instructor’s sole messaging and instructional cues were skewed to the vaginal birth experience. I wondered, both before and after our girl’s arrival, where that left all of the other mums out there who, for whatever reason, birthed surgically.

Well hello.

Well hello.

You see I was a great believer, and still very much am, in the body’s ability to bring baby into the world. But I believe not giving space to the caesarean experience, as well as other interventions that mums might need or choose for whatever reason, is a disservice to some prenatal yoga students who I’d argue need just as much support, caring, recognition and space as those who have the privilege of experiencing a natural birth.

Meeting your baby under the theatre lights can be so very different, but equally as beautiful, as those who get acquainted in the labour ward, birthing centre or home. I am committed to addressing as many facets of the birth experience as possible when I commence my new class offering tomorrow at The Nest on Silas.

Whether a caesarean is scheduled or not, I believe discussing the process candidly and positively can help alleviate a lot of the fear, apprehension and potential aftermath. My intention isn’t to create complacency towards the increasing and sometimes alarming c-section rates, but rather, to give new mammas a few more tools in the treasure chest before delivery day arrives. Having a bit of knowledge can set your mind at ease before, during and after.

My hope is that all mums experience a beautiful, empowered, informed and supported birth. That mamma and baby pass through the fires of initiation with grace and strength; that if medical assistance in any form at any stage in a pregnancy or birth is logically deemed necessary and made clear from a place of respect and honesty that the mother can be at peace with the process and have faith that all is well while holding gratitude for modern medicine.

I will never forget the moment I first laid eyes on our girl, or the weight of her perfect tiny body as it was laid upon me; for that slice of time I am forever grateful. I hope all mothers are able to look back on their birthing experiences with that indescribable spark of indelible, delicious recollection, whatever path leads them to the first moment of connection with babe outside the womb.

So if you’re pregnant or practicing to be, I would be honoured to meet you in class soon, as we explore the myriad ways we can embrace our own unique journeys, support our bodies and spirits and prepare to welcome the little souls into our families.
X, Ange

Laying a Fit Foundation

Laying a Fit Foundation

Apologies for the delay in posting. Her Royal Turd Bird-ness has been ill and I’ve been a bit preoccupied changing the site, which I could not have done without the help of a very smart and kind lady. More changes on the way as I play with the new layout.

Anyhooo, I finally got brave the other morning. Chiclet woke up in the middle of my early morning yoga routine, and I figured it was time. Once she was sorted with her baby and blankie I made my way back to the mat. I was impressed, and would call it a success, we made it 20 minutes! She even tried a couple of the poses (down dog and half moon) which was beyond cute. Even though it was a bit abbreviated, I felt ready for the day despite the staggered, scattered and lop-sided at times routine with a toddler running in between my legs and under my body.

Yep, mums and bugs yoga might just be up your alley.

Yep, mums and bubs yoga might just be up your alley.

I was never big into the mums and bubs yoga. I did try a few times but it just didn’t work for us, and I found I got much more enjoyment out of the yoga if I could do it by myself while she slept. If we have another I’d like to see if he or she would be game, maybe the second time around I would be in a different frame of mind for it, but I liked keeping practice as part of “me” time. It was what I needed during my first foray into motherhood, though I may need to get more creative if I’ve two little souls about.

There’s a common comment I hear from many fabulous and busy mums. One of the first things to fall or diminish with the new addition is the fitness routine. I get it, I definitely am not as free as I was to zip to the gym, or go for a run when the whim strikes, so I’ve had to work harder than usual to carve out time. Here are a few suggestions for getting and keeping your fitness regime going:

  • Get started as soon as you can
    Yes, six weeks post birth, in the haze of breastfeeding, sleeplessness, recovery and dealing with the myriad visitors who stop by to meet your little blessing, find time, if only ten minutes at first, to get back into it. Maybe it’s gentle yoga or a quick walk, but despite how tired you are you will feel recharged with a bit of physical activity. Gradually increase until you’re back to a pre-pregnancy duration. You will get there.
  • Don’t look to exercise as something to get back your pre-baby body
    A lot of mum’s worry about the changes post birth, but everyone is different, and if you’re feeding a little squawker, it’d be dangerous to deprive yourself (your baby) of much-needed nutrients. For the first few months of getting your groove back, view it as a mental health break as well as a practice towards re-establishing your life-long commitment to health. So maybe delay the marathon training for post-weaning and savour the time you can enjoy some walks in the fresh air.
  • Get babe involved early on and talk about it
    I’ve only just let the girl in on the yoga routine but from very early days I’ve kept up a walking and eventually running habit with her in the pram. I talk to her about this, and tell her that mummy is getting some exercise, we walk by the park and she points and I tell her that her turn will come when mummy’s walk or run is finished. And yes, this is a regular family outing too, it’s a nice way for our family to reconnect
  • Daddy special time
    Once you’ve sorted out the nap and feeding schedule, or as soon as you’ve put your little soul down for a rest, let hubby(or another family member) take over for an hour or more and head out the door, guilt free for a yoga class, gym session, or other physical activity. Having some true alone time, out of the house will have you coming back in a better frame of mind, which will benefit your whole family.
  • Use the creche
    A lot of community centres and gyms have affordable childcare that gives you both a great time out. Your kids get to play with some cool toys and new friends, and you take care of yourself. I felt more comfortable with this once my daughter was independently mobile.
  • Re-adjust your girlie session
    Made some cool mum friends? Great, catch up over a walk. Find a nice trail in your ‘hood and have a goss session while getting your blood pumping. As the kids get older stopping at a playground post walk rewards good pram behaviour.

We all know how important regular physical activity is, and regardless of how active your little cherubs are, running around after them should not constitute your fitness routine alone. For me, it’s important that my girl understands from an early age that daily exercise is just something that we do. It’s important you find something that you love, and share this enthusiasm with your kids; in time this will rub off and you’ll be glad you committed to this from the start.

I guarantee a good walk or work out session has put me in a better space on those challenging days when I wanted to call time-out on the whole mum deal. But I’m in it for at least a couple decades, and I believe in addition to eating nutritious food that regular physical activity is the best thing for everyone. I hope you’re inspired by this post, and would love to hear what other tips and tricks  mums have managed to work into the routine.

 

Re-finding the centre

Re-finding the centre

Untitled design-2Ok so perhaps I’m not feeling banished, maybe a li’l? A failure? Yes, somewhat. I’ve had to cancel my Tuesday classes. Despite my enthusiasm to find a teaching groove, supposedly the winter is not the best time to try and cajole Western Australians from their homes for a yoga session?

I’ve sat many a Tuesday evening alone in the studio, waiting for one or two students to join, to be mildly disappointed when no one showed up. I’d buoy myself and say that just being there was enough, so I’d practice solo, go through the class I had spent the week crafting, and settle into a meditation, enjoying the warmth blowing from the heaters as light traffic whirred by, imagining my new future students walking into the space, sharing the yoga goodness.

And then, life changed, again. Hubby has a new demanding job that starts soon, meaning I’m hunkering down at home for the next year or so while our family readjusts to new working situations and I try and figure out how to navigate the new scenario. The thought of continuing with the current arrangement no longer felt right, though I’d only been there for a few months. Even if a few more months might have seen a turnaround, I needed to reassess.

It seems the yoga class is not in the cards right now. I was anxious ringing the studio manager. And when she understood and told me to just let it go, graciously freeing me from obligations, I felt relief, lightness and freedom. And that was all I needed to know. The right decision has been made for now.

Do I wish I was teaching a yoga class right now? Yes. Do I think it’s actually going to work out with my life at the moment? No. Thems the breaks when you have small kids and a part time job that requires attention as well, and something has to give. Heartbreakingly for me it feels slightly like I’m letting go of a small personal salvation.

What do we do when our dreams don’t go the way we planned? For now, for me, it’s taking a small step back, refocusing my efforts on getting the website spiffed up a bit, and reassessing what my next focus will be. I have some ideas, ok lots, so I know this is not the finite end. Despite a hollowness that fills my chest and the doubts about my own abilities and worth as a teacher, I’m trying to take the broad view. I believe I have something to offer and know when the time is right that the opportunity will unfold. Living through this heartache and maintaining self-belief is my work at the moment.

I’m back to purely enjoying yoga for what it is and for what I need each day. Each time I’m on the mat, I’m enlivened; though things aren’t quite fitting together how I’d hope at the moment I look forward to seeing you on the mat, one day.

So I’m finding my centre, a constant challenge as a mother who is trying to hold down a job whilst at the same time nurturing the passions that bring a fullness to my own existence. For you moms out there, I’m interested to learn how you navigated this time in your life. For me, to simply say, oh I’m a mom and that’s what I am going to do goes against every grain in my body. I need my own “stuff” to keep me happy and attentive towards turd bird. I wonder when one finds the natural groove, where things fit and flow together, if not perfectly, at least reasonably.

Well yoga on dear friends, and do stay tuned, I shall continue with my blog and add new yummy things for you to try in your home practice in the weeks and months ahead. I would be so very honoured if you stuck with me in cyberland.

X
Ange