I offered to run the group for two sessions for one of the midwifery teams . The last time I’d “led” a group was in the late 90s since those years have slipped by I’ve gained courage knowledge and insight into how normal birth can actually be .
I agreed to be there with a student and was told there’d be about 8 couples so approx 16 people. I arrived with lots of things to handout and felt nervous but excited as I love meeting new people. In fact there were 14 couples
The staff at the children’s centre where the group was held were amazing – they’d set up drinks and snacks in the middle of the room and it was a friendly relaxed atmosphere.
The people arrived- “future parents” all excited about learning but at the same time doubting their own abilities – my job was to make them leave the group feeling and thinking differently than when they came. I really wanted to give them a thirst to seek out more information .
I promised them all I’d do my best to give evidence based advice and that I’d back it up with written evidence so they could read about it afterwards . I also gave out mum and baby care plans that have information in about signs and symptoms of illness , postnatal recovery , investigations , discharge planning and what midwives check for after the birth – I did this as sometimes these documents are rarely looked at by parents until they go home and I wanted them to see in advance their packages of care to make it all more real and current.
I put my phone on silent and on the table upside down the first thing someone said to me was “Skin To Skin Switches on babies brains?”
– so I then launched into the benefits of skin to skin and they were hooked.
I made sure I stopped every 8-10 minutes to allow questions and gave out post-it notes for questions – we laughed together practising breathing techniques and we also became emotional when we all discussed mental health issues and I talked about my own experience of post-natal depression . Putting myself in the spotlight was quite tough but I just knew that if I said it they’d accept it’s existence- in some small way this might just break the stigma around mental health.
The group were soon bonding and the characters surfaced – “Jenny you do realise next week England are playing ?” …..but hang on this is your first baby ? but then I said let’s have a plan and make the class earlier – I kept thinking that it’s good to be flexible in all matters around birth so why not times of the group?
We all chatted and laughed -I learnt about their hopes for birth. My aspiration was that in some way I had helped to dissolve their fears and turn them into courage for labour and an ability to believe in their bodies – my parting quote for week one was “no-one knows how any of you will give birth but we don’t worry about other mammals giving birth – you need to read up what I’ve given you, feel your own strength by recognising how amazing the human body is and give yourselves the best chance for a normal birth . A positive mind is a true gift ”
Week two -arrived and I was so thrilled that everyone had arrived- in the back of my mind perhaps my conscience was telling me that only half the group would arrive – they wanted more – and so did I .
We recapped on the first week and they all excitedly told me how nice it was to read the care plans and think about their babies – we then talked about One Born Every Minute as there was a Hypnobirth on this particular week and they were all really amazed but also said that the birth had backed up what I talked about the week before i.e. believing in their abilities (never thought I’d be discussing OBEM ! Then skin to skin came up and some had asked their parents about it and really researched the subject (proud!) – we staged a mini production called “I need skin to skin” in which another health professional enters the room after the woman has given birth and tries to move the baby – I really felt amazed by their power and passion for skin to skin – my little signs around the place on post it notes, my phone cover and even mini stickers had worked !
We revisited breathing and all had a huge attack of hysterical laughter – but I liked this very much as I imagined them breathing in labour and recalling the laughs they had with me.
Eventually it was time to prepare to close the group – I asked for post-it notes with anything on they felt relevant and this was the result
The best part was at the end when they all came to hug me and tell me that they were ready – I felt like a proud mother hen sending her chicks out into the world – and I knew they’d all be fine
I’d like to thank Student Midwife Gemma Whiteside for coming to the first group with me and being such a great student ( she was off that week and revising for exams = commitment!) Also the staff at The Children’s Centre – you know who you are ( turns out one of these lovely ladies is pregnant and she only told me at the end of the second week !)
Thank you to all the nameless couples who I laughed with, learnt from and bonded with – I know you are all going to be amazing in labour and even more wonderful as parents