I am a big fan of marking milestones – those of my own, of my family and of my friends.
It is now ten years since I taught my first Calmbirth class, and as I take some time to reflect on what I have learned during my time as a Calmbirth Educator, I can see many parallels with the challenges and the personal growth that have come with motherhood.
Both Calmbirth and I have changed over the past 10 years.
My family have thrived from a tree change we made after moving from inner Sydney up to Maitland.
My little people who were 4 and 7 when I started are now a big 14 year old and a 17 year old young man who has just finished his HSC.
And after 15 years of attending births, last year I hung up my Doula boots and joined the nursing profession, which I absolutely love.
The Calmbirth program has continued to grow and develop, even with the well-earned retirement of founder Peter Jackson.
And it’s not just me who thinks that Calmbirth is a fantastic program. Calmbirth has earned its place as one of the most trusted and recommended evidence based birth education programs and is now taught all over Australia and New Zealand, and is expanding internationally. It is one of the few independent childbirth education programs to be taught in Australian hospitals (now in 5 Sydney hospitals and with more to come), and soon there’ll be a Calmbirth program for preparing for caesarean birth.
So, with much gratitude to the many, many couples who have attended my classes, and who have taught me so much – and the two (now not so small) people who once lived in my uterus – I would like to share the top ten things that I have learned.
We are all capable of doing things that we never thought we could do.
As Mothers, we often find ourselves doing things we never thought we could do.
Many mothers don’t even imagine themselves ever becoming a mother – for many, the thought of giving birth itself seems impossible!
Yet many mothers do give birth! …and they continue to accomplish the seemingly impossible tasks, such as juggling multiple children in and out of a car and completing a much wanted birthday cake from the Woman’s Weekly Birthday Cake Cookbook.
Prior to becoming a Calmbirth Educator, teaching anything was not something that I would have ever seen myself doing. After accepting a redundancy from my job in Sydney and taking the opportunity to make a ‘tree change’ and move with my family to Maitland, I was at a crossroads. With a passion for birth, and some experience as a Doula and a Breastfeeding Counsellor, the stars aligned, and I applied to train as a Calmbirth Educator. If someone had told me before my redundancy what my future held, I wouldn’t have believed them.
Fake it till you make it.
We’ve all seen people who seem to have it all under control. Observe these people very closely.
Try to work out what it is they are doing. Then pretend to be like them.
I’ve been lucky as a Mother and as a birth Educator to have had people in my life who had aspects of their life and work ‘under control’ who I could observe at numerous times when I didn’t.
I was surprised at how quickly I could get things under control after studiously observing those who did have it all under control – and you will be too!
Just breathe and pretend to be as calm as them.
Find mentors, but don’t compare yourself to them.
See previous point.
Do not compare yourself to your mentors, however.
Learn from them.
Listen to them.
Become friends with them.
And be grateful to have these role models in your life.
Be present, and listen, listen, listen. Different people need different things.
Everyone wants to be heard.
Everyone is on their own journey – whether it be my children, or the couples in my classes.
If I do nothing else, I have endeavoured to do my best to listen to their story, their fears, their goals, and their joys.
Some people will have questions, or seek advice, but many will find their own answers to their own questions if they can talk it all out to a genuine listener.
Be a genuine listener.
People make great decisions when they get all the information.
And in pregnancy and birth.
It takes a village.
Oh my, doesn’t it just?!
Sometimes we need a support team to be able to do everything that we need to do.
Try to find a village.
It might be that you allow yourself to accept offers of help, or it might be that you need to get out there and find ‘your people’.
You could try Mothers Groups, The ABA, Gymbaroo, Swimming lessons. You might even find another Mum at the park.
They are my team. My people. My village. When I run a Calmbirth weekend, my long-suffering family all have their jobs to do to help me set up and run my classes. They have been jumping into action, sweeping, printing, baking, filling hot water bottles, arranging cushions, lighting candles, & sorting out my IT problems, doing the housework/weekend chores quietly and efficiently in the background for ten years.
They are pretty awesome. They have always supported me, even when it has meant that I have not been there at events and celebrations. Or when they have needed me.
They are my team. My people. My village.
And I could not have done it without them. How lucky am I?
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Put your energy into trusting it will all be OK, rather than worrying that it won’t.
Mothers worry. Most problems are solvable. And most problems aren’t as big as they seem at the time.
Luckily, most children survive childhood. Even in spite of parental anxiety.
Everything happens for a reason
This one took me a while to learn. These days, my classes are usually full, but it hasn’t always been this way. Some classes just never filled, and there have been times where cancellations – often due to last-minute births (!) – have not been able to be filled in the time before the class.
There have even been occasions where I only had one couple in a class – but I cannot tell you how many times this happened when it seemed that the couple needed a private class.
Often in these cases there was an issue that needed time and space to work through.
And at the end of those weekends, I had a strong sense that everything happens for a reason.
The mind-body connection is at the core of what we teach in Calmbirth.
I have learned that being able to meditate, and switch off the thinking brain, is not just beneficial for birth, but also for the rest of my life!
It is restorative.
It helps us to be less reactive to stressors, and I believe it can help to make us better people.
You never stop learning
Birth, like life, is a mystery. Sometimes it seems that the more we learn, the less we know….
Nobody is an expert at doing something they have never done before.
Go easy on yourself and allow yourself space to learn as you go along.
When you do something that you love, it is not work
I love to teach Calmbirth. I love to see the transformations in the couples that I work with. I love to hear their birth stories afterwards.
This is not work. It is a joy.
Being a Mother and being a Calmbirth Educator have both forced me out of my comfort zone, many, many times. Both have forced me to grow and change but, the longer I do both these gigs, the easier they both flow. Nothing in life is perfect, and there will always be some days that will be harder than others. But I am grateful for the couples and the little people who have trusted in me over the past 10 years and have allowed me to learn my own lessons from them.