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

When you fall apart you know you’re in the right place

Here’s my daughter getting the Embercombe after party started. Rock N Roll kiddo. We just got back from an inspirational family camp there called ‘Grow the Grownups.’ I returned my kids to their dad filthy, covered in bites, scratches, blisters and bruises, itching, exhausted, sun-kissed and with matted hair, but with their hearts and imaginations swollen by an epic tsunami of love, friendship and connection. Sign of a good week I say. I realise I wasn’t quite prepared for what transpired, having naively anticipated a relaxing, gentle week of play and connection with my kids. I blogged here about the last time I took my kids away for a week and they delivered a textbook version of what we call ‘Spoiled Outing Syndrome.’ This is where you have a special outing or trip with children, lavish them with attention and they respond by screaming the place down. What is really happening is that when you have time to really be present and unhurried with your child, their brain senses the extra emotional safety available and makes use of it to offload feelings about times in their life where things have been harder. The body is a clever self-mending organism, which likes to dump out old hurts and recover its optimal ability to function. Except this time it was me who had the Spoiled Outing Syndrome. I totally melted down for the first couple of days. Finally after holding so much together in my family and for others week after week, I had reached a community of willing supporters, many of whom were highly skilled in listening. At first I... read more

Why does my kid lose it when we are having the loveliest time?

Hi from the beautiful sun drenched Algarve, where I have made an impromptu winter escape with my two kids. They are having a delightful time, splashing in rock pools, running about my aunt’s gorgeous villa, loving each other and… crying a LOT! This afternoon after a sweet morning of Special Time we set out for another adventure at the much adored local beach. Except my daughter did not set out; she stood naked outside the front door refusing to wear clothes, get into her buggy or walk with us. “I’m cold, I’m cold, I won’t go to the beach” she wailed on repeat. I listened “I hear you, I’m sorry you don’t like our plan right now.” And I listened. And about 40 minutes went by, by which point her brother was running out of patience. Now she was howling “I want a different Tshirt” and I was reminding her that the one on offer was just fine. “I’m dying of boredom, I don’t even want to go anymore” now my son was sobbing too. I was fairly under-resourced and getting fed up by this point and vented to no-one in particular “I’m just trying to take you guys for a picnic on the beach, nothing horrible ya know!” And then the penny dropped. Spoiled Outing Syndrome. That is the technical term at Hand in Hand Parenting for this kind of phenomenon where you are having a lovely time and your kid loses it for no apparent reason. And sure enough, the wailing about the Tshirt progressed into a quiet “If Daddy were here, you could take Zephyr to... read more

Imperfect is good enough

My co-parent walks through the door at dinner time, ready to take over on Daddy-duty. “Uh can you listen to me for 5? I can’t get through to any of my Listening Partners.” The kids are occupied so he takes me to the back garden and before I can get any words out, I just sob and sob about not keeping it together and not being good enough. “I’m not good, I’m not good” I wail over and over again. It had been one of those days… where your kid wakes you multiple times in the night because he’s freaking out with anxiety and can’t sleep. You forget to wee your little one and she wets the bed. She spends the morning shrieking about getting dressed and throwing cereal at you because she knows you are not right there with her. Somehow you feed them, clothe them, drive them, offload one at nursery, bring the other home, do just enough Special Time that he feels adequately connected to abstain from trashing the house, then you pass out for half an hour (guiltily abandoning him in Lego isolation). You scrape yourself outta bed in time to feed the big one and fetch the little one, but the nap hasn’t touched the sides. You know those days? In the midst of separating with the kids’ father, I’ve been in shock and hit by grief, so this additional blow of interrupted sleep tips me over the edge. After nursery pick up, I stagger disheveled into the park, letting the kids loose and (knowing how off track they are), pray they won’t get into scraps. I see a woman approaching who looks as though she... read more

Why I charge a reasonable rate for my services to parents

I just watched the Suffragette film and was re-inspired by the extreme measures women took, risking and even giving their lives for equality. And yet a hundred years later, inequality is so deeply ingrained that we women still collude in holding it in place. The other morning I was challenged by a woman over the price of our Sleep workshop (£30). She said “I believe if you truly wanted to help families, you wouldn’t be charging…especially as much as you are…disgusting!” This set me reflecting on this issue as I have many times. There seems to be an unwritten rule that if you provide services for women and families, particularly around birth, breastfeeding and parenting, you should do it as a voluntary service. I have heard Doulas discussing others who ‘overcharge’ in a somewhat scathing tone. In a breastfeeding group on Facebook when I shared a breastfeeding workshop I was offering, it was met with snarky comments about how women could access breastfeeding groups for free. I vehemently oppose this attitude as it completely devalues the great necessity of this invaluable work. In actual fact, this field should be prized more highly than anything. We are contributing towards societal well being, towards reduced rates of crime, mental health, illness. We are literally buying PEACE and sustainability. When we devalue services for women, we devalue a mother’s work and elevate patriarchy. And as Midwives, Doulas, Breastfeeding Counsellors, Antenatal Teachers, Parenting Instructors, generally WE are women. Why do we settle for being paid less in a society where monetary value reflects worth? Are feminine skills of empathy and body wisdom less... read more

Could connection improve your baby/young child’s sleep?

I see you mama. You waking multiple times in the night to lie contorted, feeding your babe. You dragged from a puddle of dribble each morning when your child wakes much earlier than you are ready for. You watching the minutes tick over painfully slowly, while you await naptime and a chance to lie down again. You spending hours each evening lying with your children as they go to sleep. I see you. And I know how hard it is. I’ve been there. So overwhelmed by exhaustion that it was all I could talk about. I can remember feeling like I was wishing away the time with my baby while simultaneously grieving for the lost moments. Lethargic, reaching for sugar and caffeine to fuel my day, I felt resentful of my partner, who did not have to breastfeed throughout the night. I don’t remember how often he fed, as we were cosleeping and it all blurred into one, but I know it was too much for me to feel rested by the morning. When I had my second baby, I had an instinct to withdraw the nipple when I knew she’d had enough milk, so she didn’t fall asleep with it in her mouth. She would squirm, eyes closed and cry for a few seconds, then roll over and go to sleep next to me. I always felt slightly guilty about that little cry, interpreting that she was protesting against me taking away something she wanted. What I now understand is that she was releasing emotion with those cries. Perhaps fears about me withdrawing from her and the pending... read more

Why African babies REALLY don’t cry… and why Western ones might need to!

*******This is a response to a previous article by a Kenyan author. I appreciate that Africa is a vast and diverse continent and that it is not appropriate to generalise. By using the term ‘African babies’ I am referencing and responding to Claire Niala’s description of parenting practices in Kenya.******* I read the original article ‘Why African Babies Don’t Cry’ some years ago and loved it. I even told folks about this article as a Breastfeeding Counsellor and had it linked on my website for some time. Yes! I thought, all babies need is for us to respond to them. And they do undoubtedly need that. There is still a very predominant cultural throwback to the Victorian era when it comes to parenting, which does not encourage responding to babies’ needs for fear of making them too dependent. This has thankfully been debunked by developments in recent neuroscience, however the paradigm shift will take some time. So I’m glad that someone is fighting the corner for babies. And, what I’ve discovered more recently is that quite likely, our babies DO need to cry sometimes. Now just to be clear, let me define exactly what I mean by this. Ideally, just like ‘African babies’, babies from anywhere else would get fed and held and their toileting needs responded to before they even need to cry. However, ONLY when these needs are all met it may be totally justified and even beneficial if they still cry. *** Edited to add – some babies may be crying due to undiagnosed medical conditions and these of course need to be addressed. *** Crying... read more