How telling your story can help you recover from a difficult birth (Practicing Midwife July 2016)

When women are impacted by birth trauma it can stay with them for many years, influencing their mental health and sense of self. The work of Mary Main et al (2005) in their Adult Attachment Interview demonstrated that a child’s attachment status can be predicted with 85% accuracy by their mother’s state of mind. It is therefore vital that mothers be supported towards emotional health when their wellbeing has such a profound significance for the next generation. This article will look at the what we have learned from running workshops for postpartum mothers, using an approach we call ‘After Birth’ and how midwives might bring elements of it into their practice. We will always be grateful for the day we sat together at Binnie’s dinning table, drinking tea and co-creating After Birth, honouring and resolving the birth of your baby. Both of us had worked (Binnie for many years) with women who wanted to process their birth trauma on a 1:1 basis, but we were inspired by the concept of women coming together to support each other to release the feelings they had been carrying and being able to see their experiences in a new light. We created a structure that allows women to share their story in an environment of deep listening and total acceptance, by encouraging them to notice specific aspects of their story related to personal power, connection and fear. The workshop also includes psychospiritual processing work and visualisation and other techniques from hypnotherapy. Our experience has been that through this process, women have been able to release emotion, appreciate a new perspective and come away... read more

Receiving Love (JUNO Magazine Spring 2016)

Roma Norriss reflects on the basis for an ecstatic birth I’m all about receiving love when it comes to birth. Receiving love is a bold, rebellious act; as it counters deep-rooted feelings of not receiving enough during birth and infancy. Receiving all the love and support that is there for us, is what allows us to step out of any place that is victimised by the process and choose to be present and powerful instead. This is not an easy task; it goes against the very grain of our conditioning. Last week a mother did a beautiful thing. She let me love her so fully that she literally melted into my body as she laboured. She absorbed the support and safety I could offer and said the only thing she was aware of throughout the process was her dear husband and I. Amazingly, she remained oblivious to the chaos and fear emanating from the paramedics and midwives that piled into the bedroom. Despite being commanded many times to lie on her back, her insurgent body somehow neglected to take heed and she persisted, warrior-like, leaning into me or kneeling at times and relishing the tight hold I had on her pelvis. She filtered out all the support she didn’t need and instead spaciously focused on receiving what was safe and nourishing. It was an inspiration to see. Preparing to receive is a fundamental and unacknowledged part of birth preparation. If we learn to release blocks to letting others in, we can let go and surrender to the process and allow ourselves to be held. Binnie A. Dansby, pioneer of... read more

Cuts, bumps & scrapes

My daughter was playing with a gaggle of kids the other day and they decided it would be fun to all pile into our small sauna. In the scuffle, one of the other kids was closing the door and accidentally caught her finger quite badly. On hearing her shriek, I ran and lifted her out. She was screaming, very distressed and for a while I didn’t know what had happened so I took her to sit down and just held her. I could see she was holding up her finger and that it was squashed and bleeding. She was besides herself with heavy sobs and wailing and I just said simply “Your finger got trapped” as she heaved and tried to tell me the story. I stayed close as she shuddered and shrieked and told fragments of the story and just offered simple observations such as “That really hurts, your finger got caught” and letting her know “I’m with you, I’m so sorry that happened.” After about 10 minutes her crying started to die down and I suggested “Shall we have another look?” She looked again at her finger and once more started bawling. I wanted to help her stay with the feelings of upset so she could release them fully from her system and recover from this mishap. I continued encouraging her to keep looking at the finger and crying more. When children cry after small bumps, the intensity of emotion can often feel disproportionate to the level of injury. We tend to want to appease them with plasters or medicines or stop them crying through reassurance that... read more
Sometimes children seem to be so unreasonable, don’t they? They lose it over the most insignificant of things, such as which coloured cup you give them, or which flavour ice lolly they got. And it’s hard not to find that immensely frustrating when you are doing your best to be kind and help their lives go well. You did everything right and they are having a huge meltdown about nothing. Except, one thing you can guarantee is that it is never about nothing. We sometimes refer to this at Hand in Hand as the ‘broken cookie situation’; you give your child a cookie and the corner has broken. They scream and scream that they wanted a ‘whole one’ and refuse to eat the broken one, even if it’s the last in the pack. We see it that there is actually some wisdom in this. When humans are in optimal emotional health, we make use of the body’s inbuilt, self-mending mechanism; we release hurt, stress and tension through emotional release like laughter, crying and raging or trembling. By adulthood, most of us have inhibited this response after being shushed, or scolded from babyhood when we went into emotional release. We hold back tears, we stifle laughter, we try to stay calm when we are angry. But children tend to have their emotional release mechanism in full working order and make really good use of a small pretext like a broken cookie, to offload some stored up feelings. I recently had a ‘broken cookie’ moment myself and it has given me a greater understanding of how it feels for a child... read more

The rescue we all need sometimes

This scene is the aftermath of deep emotional work. Where all the lights… and eyes, were on me. An experience unparalleled except for in ceremonies where all my people showed up just for me – like our wedding or my beautiful blessingways. I have shared a fair bit on Facebook about how I have recently been going through an intensely emotional time. I have had to face several really hard things this year, culminating in an excruciating situation which triggered two core hurts from childhood. This pain I had spent my whole life avoiding finally found a way out in the shape of a breakdown where I spent four months unable to do much beyond feeling, shaking, crying, raging. I was deeply distressed most of the time, waking each night for several hours distraught, frozen in angst and horror. I was exhausted and out of my mind. My capacity to think has been very much inhibited, as well as my ability to parent or hold space. I have leaned on my community a lot. My listening partners have held me through this with such presence, patience, love and dedication. And somehow through the shame of being so needy, broken and unable to give back and feeling that this was all my own fault and I deserved it, I knew I needed to ask for even more. So I rallied my listening partners and asked if they would be willing to perform what Patty Wipfler has developed as a ‘Parent Rescue Squad’. This is where a parent in crisis summons support through one way extensive listening time. An intervention that... read more

Staylistening at Amma

I just took my kids on a slightly wild adventure to see Amma (the ‘hugging saint’) in London. They managed to hold it together throughout the 5 hour car journey, despite being sprung straight from school without any Special Time to top up connection levels. We scraped them through a quick dinner in a cafe, where they were pretty on the edge. They ADORED the Amma program; running about Alexandra Palace, making friends, playing, eating cake, sitting on the stage near Amma. And this went on for many hours. Until one passed out under a table of blessed water at 3.30am and the other was still going strong. I wondered how much more they could hold the crowds, the excitement, the lack of sleep. At 5.30am our tokens were called for ‘darshan’ (our chance to hug Amma). We moved through the queue before deciding to wake Arte up so that she had some time to acclimatise. Having only slept a couple of hours after staying up so late, she was understandably hysterical when I tried to scoop her sleeping body into my lap. And here it came, the tidal outpouring of emotion I had suspected might be on the cards. She threw herself off my lap, onto the ground and I sat by her as she screamed “I’m NOT going!” “You don’t want to go up” I validated and let her know she didn’t need to do anything she didn’t want to. Only she was still upset. “Get away from me! Leave me alone! Go AWAY!” screamed my fiesty 5 year old over and over again. I stayed close,... read more

The job of the Birthkeepers

“The job of the Birthkeepers is to pave the way for the Earthkeepers to come through. Get hooked up to the Earth Mother, connect with your intuition and trust it” Robin Lim Last weekend I returned from Findhorn, to where there was an unusual exodus of birthkeepers for the Healthy Birth Healthy Earth Conference. I had long yearned to visit this fairy founded enigma and once I got beyond the odd appearance of the village with its tarmac road and 70s bungalows, I fell in love with it. The energy was SO bright and I have never felt the unseen realms so strongly in a place. For additional magic factor there were dolphins, sunsets over the hot tub, enchanted gardens where pixies stole my shoe, shooting stars like cartoon rockets and one night, a freak appearance of phosphorescence in the bay. The conference was beautifully organised and held impeccably so that we built deep emotional safety and a collaborative vibe that allowed us all to ‘own it’ – a vital model for the new birthing paradigm. We were saturated with the generous presence of the elders of this field. True luminaries such as Michel Odent, Binnie A Dansby, Ray Castellino, Robie Davis Floyd, Elena Tonnetti-Vladimirova and Robin Grille. And also doulas and lay midwives, who brought indigenous wisdom learned from birthing women and passed down through generations. I was most blown away by Robin Lim and found myself shivering or welling up with her every word and gesture. This incredible woman has set up free midwifery care for women in Ubud, Acheh and in disaster zones and trains 7000 midwives a year.... read more

Healing is messy

Healing is messy. Sometimes it looks like chocolate coconut water on a plate, having snorted it out of your mouth and nose. I’ve not been OK at all recently, (which probably signifies being more OK than I’ve ever been). Ive lost my drive, run aground. In short I’m having a disproportionate reaction to a heartbreak, which is triggering the early trauma of not being met. Coincidentally, trauma they are working on my brain to release daily with the neurofeedback this month. Last weekend I wept and laughed hysterically for four hours. Thankfully two of my best women were with me and knew exactly how to keep me crying; one of the benefits of having trained everyone around me to listen really well. At one point I started speaking nonsense that I really believed at the time. “I shouldn’t be allowed to live in this house, they should keep me in one of those ‘safe houses’ for special people. I should have a warning sign on me” “What would that say” urged my sister “Keep upright. Handle with care.” I wailed. And then I pissed myself laughing and remembered all the times where being horizontal with a certain person recently has got me into this mess. The relevance of being kept upright on loving skin as a baby rather than horizontal in an incubator was not lost on me either. It was an epic release. Snotty tissues piled up. My tearstained tshirt became a beautiful piece of art that my friend Alice dubbed ‘Rainfall on heartache’. We continued with our ritual Sunday pancakes until someone said the words ‘fragile friends’... read more

Adventures in Neurofeedback

It has taken me a while to blog about our experiences of undertaking Neurofeedback for our boy. The whole thing has been huge, from all the research and deliberating it took to get there, the fundraising and immense support from our community. I got actual hate mail. People looked at me like I’m crazy (nothing new there then). My mother and I have fallen out over it. But most importantly… We have our Zephyr back! The REAL Zeph we knew was in there and got glimpses of sometimes. Which is basically miraculous and unbelievable. I think pictures say it better than words really. Here’s Zeph BEFORE Neurofeedback. Often stressed, high anxiety, extreme aggression:   The Neurofeedback We took Zephyr each day for 12 days over the Easter holidays to the Brainworks clinic in Bristol. It was phenomenal to see how it worked. He was hooked up to a computer via electrodes on his head and he could control a video game by his brainwaves. When he kept the targeted areas of his brain regulated, he won the game. You could see that when he got too stressed or excited the game would grind to a halt. He would get it going again by breathing deeply and relaxing. We saw our son transform over 12 days. Every day he totally zonked out on the drive home and then slept good long nights, so it was clearly hard work. This is him just after Neurofeedback for 12 days: Life after Neuro Literally from the first day back at school Zephyr has been able to just get ready in the morning like... read more

Help your child prepare for school

We’re really lucky that our daughter is getting the opportunity to start processing her feelings about starting Reception in September each time we drop her brother off at the school. Last week she started crying as we were leaving his classroom under the pretext of wanting me to pick her up. I was unhurried and relaxed in the warm sun and felt able to Staylisten. “I’m not going to pick you up Sweetheart, you can walk just fine.” She wailed that she couldn’t walk, her feet were cold, she needed me to carry her. I gave her my full focus and warmth and said simple things like “You wanted me to carry you.” I was worried the noise might disturb the classroom, so I scooped her into a corner of the playground and sat by her as she flailed and screamed on the ground. She was still crying about her feet being cold. Then she said quietly “Anyway, the teachers in my class aren’t nice.” I love that she was able to now work on the real upset. I responded that it is a big school with lots of new children and teachers and every time I said that it allowed her to sob heartily. She has been really excited and positive about starting this school so I know that these were feelings of fear moving through. She was able to offload all her doubt about not knowing where to go and not knowing the other kids. Then as the feelings died down she needed another pretext to keep offloading about. She became fixated with the play equipment that... read more