Advice to cope with new parenting

Mothers and babies at one of my recent birth and baby classes

When grappling with pregnancy or a small baby, many of us reach for ‘how to’ books. They are obviously helpful when it comes to new parenting but I believe caution is needed, as they can generate a sense of ‘a right way’.

So it is interesting to read Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian writing in a lively and ultimately cynical way about the value of self-help books when becoming a father. Women in my classes often report they relax and enjoy pregnancy and parenthood much more once they stop looking everything up online or in books.

Even though I have taught for many years, I hope I am never seen as a source of all wisdom, or a so-called birth guru. I prefer to use my experience to introduce ideas and possibilities, to encourage class members to make their own choices and to build trust in their own minds and bodies. Exploring these topics together helps groups bond and avoids the isolation that leads to insecurity and reliance on experts.

In a letter responding to the article, Sebastian Kraemer describes how parents need the help of others as an evolutionary imperative.

Bringing new life into this world can be an amazing period of change and creativity, but also brings pressures. Not everyone has an ecstatic birth or a calm happy baby, but we can look to what is shared during this intense time of life.

I find it sad to say good bye to new parents and babies after being closely involved during the months of yoga, birth and baby classes. But it’s also rewarding when I know strong group bonds have formed and will be sustained into the future.

You can find out more about my classes and packages here. Or read more of my blog here.

Choosing antental classes in Hackney: What’s the difference between my package and NCT?

Potential clients, pregnant women and their partners often ask me what my yoga birth and baby classes in Hackney offer and how it is different to traditional NCT. If you are pregnant for the first time, you may have been told about various types of antenatal and post natal courses on offer so I appreciate it can be confusing!

I think the best way to explain what I do is to ask my students, who benefit. So I asked one recent group how my yoga birth and baby classes differed from NCT. One class member had recently been to NCT and others knew details from friends.

They said:

Intimate and consistant

My classes are personal, homely and relaxed. NCT classes are held in institutions and you don’t get to know who is teaching beforehand.

Practice over theory

We practice breathing and birth positions each week in my classes. In many NCT classes the emphasis is on knowledge and choices, with birthing positions shown in diagrams rather than  practice.

Partners role

During the couples classes we put a focus on the role of the partner too. This is possible because we go through breathing techniques and active birth procedures in the yoga classes. With NCT there is less time for exploration and practice.

Learn from real people

I regularly invite new parents from previous courses to come to tell their stories and give a real life personal view of birth and baby. People in my classes find this heartening and useful.

Access to breastfeeding expert

I have a connection with a local experienced counsellor who runs a couples’ class for breastfeeding. We work together so she can give support in the early days.

Longer time span

My classes start with yoga and continue beyond birth, so over time and with structured support strong bonds build between everyone.  NCT classes start later and end at the birth.  

I trained with NCT and taught through NCT for many years so I incorporate many of these skills I learned on the job. But I left because I wanted more freedom in how I run my classes. I wanted to offer a more integrated and personal approach. 

NCT is a fantastic organisation, continuing to campaign and improve services for childbirth in the UK. Their classes are professionally monitored, but there is also a need for a more personal, intimate and flexible approach.

A word of warning – my package requires greater commitment of time and energy because of its holistic approach, whichI appreciate is not possible for everyone.I hope I can welcome you to my classes!

You can read more of my blogs here.

Quick fix NCT or hypnobirthing may leave you unprepared for real birth and parenting

I was saddened to read that the editor of Grazia blames her traumatic birth experience on NCT. But after reading more about her story, it’s clear that her negative experience stems from the sort of ‘quick-fix’ approach to pregnancy classes, that rarely work.

Her polemic rant focusses on how her NCT classes led her to fear medical intervention and to feel a sense of failure, that has taken her years to get over. 

I was sent the article by one of my recent class members (also picked up by other media outlets here). Luckily, she did not share the same negative experiences: “I did feel misled by my hypnobirthing course but found your classes much more balanced/honest and open to different birthing options. I did initially feel pretty traumatised by birth though (luckily it disappeared quickly).”

Editor of Grazia Magazine, Natasha Pearlman gave an interview about her traumatic birth 

I too sometimes worry about what I hear about NCT and also about hypnobirthing. Especially when people report learning that if you breath and get into a positive frame of mind, birth won’t be painful. This is too simplistic.

I bring up the subject of pain to think about its meaning in relation to birth. Rather than to be feared, its something to anticipate as an inevitable part of becoming a parent and helping babies with too. Hopefully birth isn’t a bland experience and pain is accompanied by joy, perhaps even extremes of agony and ecstasy.  As I understand it, birth becomes traumatic when we feel out of control. disempowered and lacking in understanding and sensitive care.

I hope to prepare pregnant women and partners to take an active part in their births, to do the best they can, but not to be fixed on a particular kind of birth, nor expectations that there are better or worse kinds.  Over many years of teaching I have come to the conclusion that all births have highs and lows, whether they involve drugs and medical interventions or not.

I responded to the woman who sent the article about the Grazia journalist, to say that it was probably her emotionally present partner who helped her stay focussed and be less passive/more active than the journalist in the article. Also, going to classes, which provided a context for sharing the ups and downs and acknowledging that it could be tough, traumatic and painful at times, would have helped eased her birthing experience.

My postnatal classes hopefully helped too. They are held with others whom you have been with from early pregnancy, in a context where no-one has to pretend everything is straightforward and ‘natural’.

Many NCT and Hypnobirthing courses are short weekend workshops that are convenient, perhaps  quick fixes for busy lives. Whilst inspirational at the time, they can’t provide regular opportunities over a longer time for practicing breathing, birth positions and building relationships in a trusting environment where experiences are shared.

I like to think people emerge less traumatised from their births having attended my full package of yoga, birth and baby classes.

Please leave your comments to let us know what you think. Or email me confidentially if you prefer.

How Important is The Role of Dads To Be

In my antenatal and birthing classes, I see all sorts of dads-to-be. From the super-enthusiastic, wanting to learn everything they possibly can to help their partner at birth and avoid being a spare part. To the reluctant ones, who worry they may be more of a hinderance than a help during birth. And then there are those who are not apprehensive about the birth, but about my classes.

In recent years antenatal classes have become part of the ritual of becoming a dad (or co-parent with same sex couples). But still there are many who come to their first one, clearly not at all sure why they are even there.

Common Fears for Dads To Be

Perhaps it seems like they are going back to school?  Or they are afraid of the pressure to be touchy-feely with other parents, who have nothing in common other than having a baby. Or, perhaps they are nervous of being exposed as ignorant or even ambivalent about having a baby in the first place?

How antenatal classes help men

I like to think these uncertainties are eased by the way my classes are run in a package.

By embarking on the full package of pregnancy yoga, birth classes and parenting classes, it means the mums-to-be are already comfortable with each other before the couples course begins because they’ve done the yoga first.

I hope to create a fun atmosphere where no one has to get everything right. The partner’s role is crucial in birth and preparing for birth. In the classes we practice and talk about strategies for providing the kind of support that a labouring woman and new mother needs, as well as ways to relate with babies in their own right. 

The men in the classes feed back to me that they come away feeling they have got something for themselves. Not just because they are being helpful to their partner, but in their own right.

As well as becoming fully prepared for birth and parenting you will make great friends too. Groups go out for supper or form their own What’s app groups. Dads bring their babies for yoga together before a celebratory reunion with everyone. So you never know what you will get out of it.

For more information on booking classes please contact me.

Antenatal Classes and Birth Classes: How can they help prepare me for my baby?

A happy student from one of my birth classes

Antenatal classes, birth classes, NCT, pregnancy yoga. How do you know which is best for you? And what can you expect in a class. I offer a holistic package from pregnancy to early parenthood and here I explain all you need to know about these classes.

Antenatal classes are often criticised because they focus on birth, when actually the hardest bit is coping with a new baby.

Parents feel let down, because there was so much support before the big day but now, after all the excitement dies down, they are literally left holding the baby not knowing what to do.

I have thought long and hard about this over the years and how to address this in my pregnancy and birth classes in Hackney.

I try to bring in lots about parents and babies, for instance. Or couples who’ve taken my classes in the past come to visit with their babies, which everyone loves. I show short videos of baths and meeting your baby. We practice with dolls and I give out a printed guide for early parenting with advice and top tips.

But still, I notice people find it easier to concentrate on ‘what are the signs of labour?’ or ‘what positions are good for transition?’  than the nitty gritty of parenting.

Why is this? There are plenty of factors at work.

  1. It’s difficult to imagine you will actually have a baby.  Perhaps you can’t allow yourself to believe you and/or your baby will survive, so you focus on getting it out.
  2. You are learning more than you realise about looking after babies when preparing for birth.  It’s all about being in a zone, being timeless, allowing yourself to be instinctive, being confident in your partner that they are not rushing to sort things out last-minute, breathing and relaxing, moving and finding new positions to rock your baby as you do during birth.  And so on.
  3. Like birth, babies can’t be fixed and you can never be fully prepared, so it’s about being prepared for not being prepared.

This is why my birth class package includes mother and baby classes after birth as well as the antenatal stuff. That way you can share the highs and lows with the other mums you got close to during pregnancy and get some expert advice as well.

Believe me, these will be invaluable as you navigate through the early days!

For details on all my Hackney classes and advice on pregnancy and beyond. Please contact me.