Liz and Will
I’ve been meaning to write and say thank you and to tell you how invaluable your techniques were for our birthing experience. With the breathing, mental outlook and different positions we were happy at home, perhaps nearly too long(!), for most of the labour. Having Jamie born in water was very special, he arrived so calm and lay on my chest for a few minutes, no crying, just enjoying my warmth. Anyway I just wanted to tell you I started your course thinking I’d head straight for an epidural and ended with a natural birth that was a very special and positive experience for us. Thank you for the big part you played in preparing us for that!
Both my husband and I found the refresher class extremely useful. Having already a young child we found ourselves spending little time thinking about the new addition coming to our family and still less thinking about the second birth.
To have a chance to sit together quietly with other couples and discuss some of the fears, concerns and hopes for the arrival of our second child was very useful – it gave us a chance to focus on the new life coming to join the family.
Pregnancy yoga was a gentle and relaxing opportunity to stretch and concentrate on my body and the baby. The positions helped with my back problems and also helped to orientate me to the changes in my body as my baby grew.
The yoga was also really helpful in bonding with the other women in the class. Some experiences were done in pairs, providing a way for us to get to know each other at first without having to talk.
I loved the weekly yoga classes. It was a special time each week to fully focus on my body and my unborn baby.
It was good to learn positions and breathing techniques that relaxed and soothed my body and helped me feel connected to my baby.
I also loved the tea drinking and chats each week.
I was initially dreading the classes and refused to believe I needed to come to so many. But i found the whole course really beneficial. K said that she couldn’t have coped nearly so well without me there for every contraction.
I read about 20 pregnancy and birth books and my partner didn’t read any so it was great to have him come to the classes to talk things through in a non-rushed way and with opportunity to talk to other couples about it too.
It also helped to hear new parents’ birth stories in such detail so fresh in their minds and to get the opportunity to ask questions.
Jessica did a good job of being non-judgemental and at including the men, not patronising them and talking about things from their point of view and including them.
The best for me from all the classes had to be the postnatal group. We are still such good friends – this has been invaluable and kept me sane.
I suffered from postnatal depression and Jessica really seemed to care. She helped me find support to get through the really difficult first few weeks. This went well beyond the call of duty and was so much appreciated by me and P.
The postnatal group was fundamental for me to be able to talk about the first weeks/months – the exhaustion, confusion, guilt, anger, sadness, helplessness – in a safe space with other mothers, but also with someone who took the lead and was ‘external’.
The feeling of connection and safety with everyone in the group definitely stemmed from having gotten to know each other during both the yoga and couples’ classes. I don’t think the same kind of connection could have happened without those two parts.
It was great to get to know other prospective mums at a fairly early stage in our pregnancies, and compare notes as we went along. By the time our babies arrived we already felt like a pretty close-knit group and that feeling has only increased. Now seven months into being a mother I really cannot imagine life without my group of ‘mum friends’ from Jessica’s classes. We see each other several times a week, both at baby activities around Stoke Newington, and just to meet up at each other’s houses and cafes. I am certain that long-standing friendships will form. The support, fun and empathy that has come from our group has been amazing, much more than I could have imagined.
In terms of the content of the parenting classes – a big highlight for me was hearing couples’ birth stories and chatting to the parents afterwards. It was very helpful to hear real life stories to back up all the theory we were learning about. Charlie and I found this so valuable that we were very keen to give back by visiting a class after our baby was born, it was rather a surreal but enjoyable experience to suddenly be a couple on the sofa with a baby, rather than sitting on the floor with a bump!
In practical terms, the breathing we practised during yoga and the active birth positions really came into their own during my labour. I’m sure we would have found the experience far more scary if we hadn’t had the various positions to try out; for me they were useful both in terms of focussing my mind during contractions and offering relief from the intensity.
We also did a hypnobirthing course and whilst I think that the meditation exercises from this were probably useful in a way which was hard to quantify – if you are trying to choose between a hypnobirthing course and Jessica’s yoga plus active birthing parenting classes I’d very much recommend the latter.
Why did you choose the package, starting with yoga, then partner’s course and yoga?
We were recommended active birth classes by a friend and also my aunt who had three active births in the 80s. As a couple we decided that it would be good to be as prepared as possible and this class gave us the opportunity we were looking for to really learn about the birth process. Initially I was wary of going to the yoga as I’m not into all that stuff and am quite body awkward (!) But decided i should just commit as it was highly recommended and I was glad I did!
Did it feel like a lot of commitment, what was it like in reality?
It didn’t feel like a lot of commitment as you quickly felt at home with the other mums and it was nice to experience the pregnancy alongside women at roughly the same stage of pregnancy as you. We had all decided to make that commitment – to have a natural a birth as possible – which to me meant that we all had something in common both emotionally and intellectually and the commitment just came with that decision.
How did partners feel about this?
It was my partner that really encouraged me at the beginning to sign up. My partner really got into the classes and I think it helped him bond more with the baby and the idea of him arriving.
What was it like to start with – then later and afterwards (and still if you get on with your baby group etc)
Initially I was a bit sceptical of meeting with other mums. I started with the yoga at just 5 months pregnant and my individual identity was still strong and I hadn’t at that point fully come to terms with becoming a mother. But once I had done the yoga for a few weeks it helped us all to get to know each other better and I felt more comfortable once I realised the other mums-to-be felt similar. It also helped that the classes were structured so that you really got to make friends and develop the support group properly as everyone attended every week.
The births were quite exciting waiting for each of us in turn and guessing who would be next but the real support and friendships blossomed once the babies were born and we all helped each other through our initial weeks and still now, over one year later.
The cost – was it good value? Did it feel concessions were readily available?
I think the classes were worth every penny (in saying that i don’t mean to imply that they were over-priced) as both my partner and i immediately and instinctively reverted to what we had learnt in the classes. [We knew that concessions were available but to be honest Jessica, it’s a hard one to gauge. People don’t want to offend by asking to pay less but then it is up to them to take you for your word if you do offer the concession]
What did you use from the classes that was helpful (or not) for pregnancy/birth/early parenting?
We used almost everything!! And both of us absorbed different aspects of the classes so it’s really important that the partners are there. I think for me the weekly catch up after the yoga was invaluable for support, laughter and fear allaying… But the yoga felt more amazing every week to stretch out at a slow and big-bellied pace and then the classes were good to have the dads-to-be around and together learning and practicing breathing techniques and birth positions.
What were other class members like?
I love them all!! What a lovely bunch of crazy wonderful ladies! And we have formed real friendships and have our own Facebook support group between the nine of us which is a daily source of love, laughter and venting of course!
Anything about the content and structure of the classes.
I specifically chose Jessica’s class as i felt it would ease me towards the birth starting with the yoga and talking, before the mums-and-dads sessions. Some of the exercises that Jessica does seem so simple – such as the word association game or the task priority game – but it surprising when you realise that actually it’s not something you have discussed as a couple but need to or even something that didn’t occur to you. It’s an intimate group and you find that people are quite open about their feelings allowing everyone to benefit from advice or support.
The yoga classes are overlapped with ladies who are in the group before us which is great as you get a real sense of where you’re heading along with words of wisdom from them… Then when they give birth they visit to tell their birth story and introduce their babies which is simply magical – very moving.