Why you need to train your “puppy” so you can birth freely!


Years ago when I was pregnant for the first time in Luxembourg in 2010, I spent a lot of time preparing for the arrival of my little one.

Expecting my 1st baby

I was not a spring-chicken and was well-established in my demanding career as Chartered Accountant & Auditor at one of the Big 4 audit firms. I knew very well how to manage several multi-cultural teams from different offices to work together and produce neatly filed audit evidence for complex hedge and investment funds. My rational thinking brain was operating like a well-oiled machine. Yet at night, highly overstimulated I was sobbing on my pillow for the toll this career was taking on me, thinking I am not tough enough, there must be something wrong with me.

Planning for baby

I am a Highly Sensitive Person (“HSP”) and back then didn’t know it but today I believe it was this innate trait of mine that led me to meticulously plan and set myself up for a well-prepared postpartum period. I knew I was very sensitive to a lack of sleep, so I also spent a lot of time and energy to prepare for and optimise the change in sleep coming our way. And when it came to baby’s development, needs and sensory world – I was on top of it too!

Seeking meaning and connection (a typical HSP trait) but also in an attempt to live out my unfulfilled, deeper, creative side, each night before bed, I wrote poems in a tiny blue notebook to my baby in the womb, dreaming about how I would be mothering her and what she will be like, knowing I would keep it as souvenir for my child. Fast forward 9 years later, a drastic career change after my second daughter was born, I now know that prenatal bonding in any shape or form is highly beneficial to the development of baby and that babies are deeply conscious and aware beings, super keen to connect to the outside world.

“We are not surprised that the baby after birth has a remarkable degree of self-esteem and a secure access to its personal potential.” says Dr. Gerhard Schroth from the Association of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health (“APPAH) on the topic of prenatal bonding.

As organised and conscientious mama-to-be I did my prenatal fitness, ate well, cut alcohol and other nasty habits, didn’t eat too much sugar and decorated a dream nursery with my hubby after we successfully managed to search for, buy and move in to a bigger apartment during pregnancy. Everything so well planned!

Gosh and all that planning paid off. Big time. Our baby was happy, content and I found it natural to coo with her (leaving pauses so she feels seen, heard and has time to respond which builds her brain through “serve and return” I now know), massage her little body, protect her sleep and tune into her needs, even with some initial breastfeeding struggles and frustration, but we made it! All the meal prep, freezer-stocking, online grocery practice rounds, cleaning services outsourced, my hubby off with me for 3 weeks and distinguishing helpers from visitors so we can focus on bonding, resting and breastfeeding was well worth it. We were over the moon and in love.

Empowered Birthing

Except for 1 little thing. Well actually a massive thing. The birth. I mistakenly relied only on the prenatal training at the hospital to prepare for birth, which was great if you want to train how to be a good patient (at that time). Coupled with the book “What to expect when you’re expecting” I completely missed out on really understanding what’s needed if you’re interested in a natural birth, which I realised was best for my baby.

I didn’t know then that the thinking brain is not in charge of giving birth. That it needs to be trained, like one would train a puppy, with love, tons of patience and without judgement, again and again to chill out, sit back and let the ancient reptilian brain (responsible for our physiology and instincts) instinctively facilitate birth (like all mammals do) along with input from the limbic brain system (responsible for emotions, feelings, sensations).

You see, my thinking brain was in overdrive. And when you have an anxious and fearful mind the body is full of tension and the experience of birth sensations will be extra intense, leaning towards suffering. As an HSP in disguise, I was even more vulnerable to this and at that point had not yet discovered mindfulness, meditation or any personal development tool for that matter. Numbing was my only coping tool in life and so of course in birth when the epidural was presented to me by the health care system on a platter it was only “natural” (pun intended) to accept it with open arms.

I also didn’t know that I needed to practice a variety of different comfort measures for labour to help myself be comfortable, how to set up a birth-conducive environment in the delivery room (dim lighting, homey feeling etc), how to truly connect to and be fully in my body to welcome and work with sensations with feel-good movement and gravity to make more space in the pelvis for baby, how to work with my natural endorphins and birth hormones (think oxytocin, the love hormone through skin-to-skin touch, kissing and feeling loved up by my partner), how to navigate the maternity care system and interpret medical “orders” by fully understanding their impact and my rights and to ask the BRAINS questions (benefits, risks, alternatives, intuition, need time, scientific evidence).

Nope, I knew none of that. Only that I was trained culturally to see my body as faulty and that Eve bit the apple so women deserve to suffer in labour, like my mom and aunty did and like all women in movies did, so I just had to obey whatever I was told to do. Then induction via drip (for no specific clear medical reason) was what put me in the cascade of interventions that followed each other as my body could not anymore produce it’s own symphony of hormones when the artificial spanner got in the wheel so to speak. Long story short, one thing led to another and an emergency C-section later that left me baffled and secretly traumatised (I wasn’t able to admit it then) thinking that my body failed and the medical establishment saved me and my baby as we couldn’t do it.

I now know that my 2nd daughter’s birth 17 months later also went the same way because I still didn’t know what I didn’t know and suppressing the emotional reality on what really went down…

That all changed when I switched careers after my 2nd daughter went off to creche. I knew I wanted to help expecting parents plan for the life change. I realised I was good at the practical and organisational planning aspects and others were looking for help in this area. I started my training as Perinatal Coach/educator initially thinking I only need to know about the practical, rational stuff. But in the required reading curriculum of my training, there were some books that completely shattered the limited paradigm I was operating from.

The “Thinking women’s guide to a better birth” by Hency Goer shook me up. I started realising what really happened. And so my fascination with Birth Empowerment started.

I now also know that my emotional closet was full of painful & unresolved emotional imprints starting from conception, which has the tendency to show up uninvited in times of intensity, especially giving birth, increasing the likelihood of complications. And that it can even prevent some from falling pregnant in the 1st place.

Subsequently, I went on to learn more about birth from all angles and certified as Holistic Childbirth Educator, Dancing for Birth Instructor, Fearless Birthing Professional (clearing fears for birth rapidly and effectively with reflective repatterning on the subconscious and emotional brain), Calm Birth® Teacher. And perhaps the biggest impact on me as a human being and woman was becoming a Birth into Being Facilitator, through which I was able to heal my own limiting formative imprints (including my own conception, birth and early years) as well as my trauma of giving birth, allowing me now to hold sacred and safe space for women from all walks of life towards healing and empowerment in life and birth. After healing I could fully own my experience, appreciate the gifts it did bring me without blaming the medical system.

As for my daughters, I now know that prenatal bonding, baby massage, sensitive, gentle and responsive parenting, early somatic therapies (like osteopathy), clean & microbiome boosting nutrition from the go, working with them on their own births with the Birth into Being Method once they were articulate and ready as well as my own healing helped them thrive emotionally and physically despite their difficult entry to life. And I don’t blame myself for what I didn’t know back then. I spend my energy more constructive in educating those that want to learn how have an empowered birth and standing up to a less-than-perfect maternity care system and birth culture.

I now know how to work with my puppy, my mind. One of my wise meditation teachers taught me this valuable metaphor. And I am careful to not let it run away with me. I understand the shift between mind and awareness and that it’s a muscle to train, to constantly and patiently shift out of the mind, back into awareness into the present moment. And it is deeply satisfying for me to help expecting families through the beautiful Calm Birth® meditation method, train their puppies with love and patience so they can access our greater potential in birth. It is never too early in pregnancy to start training your puppy and learn to get your calm on.

In 4 x 1.5h sessions during pregnancy you can learn the method yourself and access a greater potential in birth as well as bond with your baby prenatally as a positive start to your parenting journey. Calm Birth® birth prep classes, a recognised and evidence-based meditation & breathing program for pregnancy, birth and postpartum are currently available in group sessions via Luxmama here and are for any type of birth desired.

And I promise that no animals or puppies are harmed in the making of a calm you 😉

What others say:

Christiane Northrup, MD says “Calm Birth is a sublime gift to all of us. It contains the blueprint for reconnecting with birth wisdom on all levels…. Doing the practices will transform the birth process and imprint a peaceful beginning in both mother and child. The positive impact of this on society can’t be overestimated.”

Thomas Verny, MD, co-founder of APPPAH, sees Calm Birth as, “an empowering alternative to the medicalization of birth,” and feels that the techniques “liberate women to channel their innate wisdom into welcoming their newborn child in a truly life affirming way.”

David Chamberlain, PhD, co-founder of APPPAH, states, “Calm Birth is arriving at the opportune time in the early years of the 21st century. Calm Birth works with both physical anatomy, energy body anatomy and meditation science to access energies that are invisible but very much present. The prospect of reducing complications while increasing maternal feelings of dignity and triumph should warm the hearts of all birth attendants

Jeannine Parvati-Baker, author of Prenatal Yoga and Natural Childbirth and Conscious Conception, “Calm Birth is the childbirth method that society and I have waited for…. It heals the Earth by healing birth.”


More about the author:

Mother of 2 children born in Lux, Preconception, Prenatal & Parenthood Doula, Marise Hyman provides worldwide coaching, healing and education in preparing for an empowered conception, pregnancy, birth, life and parenthood journey. She is an IMPI Perinatal Coach/Educator, IMPI Holistic Pregnancy & Child Sleep Practitioner, Happiest Baby on the Block Educator, “Becoming Us” Facilitator, Dancing for Birth™ Instructor, Holistic Childbirth Educator, Reiki Practitioner, Head-trash Clearance + Fearless Birthing Professional, “Birth into Being” Facilitator (level 1-3) and Calm Birth® Teacher.

She understands that we need to “heal birth to heal the earth” and is therefore also a passionate Birth Advocate and founder of Luxmama.

Celebrating midwives!


Photo by F&G Photography at Luxmama’s Birth Culture Brunch 2019 for #choice2haveamidwife

Globally every year, International day of the Midwife (“IDM”) is celebrated on May 5th, giving thanks to this age-old profession lovingly ushering in new generations.

IDM began in 1951 out of a global need to recognise the life-saving work performed by midwives around the world and to bring more attention to maternal and newborn health issues. Today, the event is observed each year more than 50 nations and co-ordinated by the International Confederation of Midwives (“ICM”) in partnership with its member organisations.

In addition, the World Health Organisation’s (“WHO”) landmark announcement that 2020 will be the International Year of the Midwife and the Nurse (“IYM”) provides an important opportunity to continue advocating for strengthening of the role of midwives and the midwifery profession.

The ICM says: “Midwives play a vital role in the gender equality movement: Everyday, midwives, in every part of the work are upholding women’s rights to quality, and midwife-led care throughout the childbirth continuum. They can and do play an active role in driving progress towards gender equality in their communities and countries. Midwives around the world stand with women. They are by their sides during their most vulnerable moments, and fight daily for the recognition of their rights to choose a normal birth under the care of a Midwife. But they can’t fight this battle alone. In many communities and countries, midwives have lost their power of agency and face the same common challenges as women globally – such as lack of pay, disrespect, harassment and discrimination.”

“Midwives and women can be allies in the global gender movement. Together we can bring focus to the issues that women face, and together we can demand changes for a gender-equal world where all our rights are respected and upheld.”

The IDM further explains how this can be done by women and women-led organisations:

  • Demand your rights to make informed choices about your pregnancies and childbirth.
  • Demand your right to midwife-led care
  • Highlight the work of midwives in your communities and countries as a feminist profession.
  • Campaign for respectful maternity care as the right of every woman globally.
  • Demand an enabling environment to ensure midwives can deliver quality care for pregnant women
  • Defend the rights of midwives to practice their profession as a separate profession.
  • Advocate to governments that midwife-led care should be the first choice for women.

And to recognise the importance of strengthening the midwifery profession, we’re looking back at Luxmama’s Birth Culture Brunch held around this same time in 2019 in collaboration with the midwives association in Luxembourg – Association Luxembourgeouise de Sages-Femmes (“ALSF”). The theme was around Luxmama’s Human Rights in Childbirth Campaign #choice2haveamidwife, raising awareness for the importance for consumers to actually HAVE A CHOICE in their maternity care around the primary care provider and framework, which is not currently the case in Luxembourg, currently offering the medical/obstetrical model as default to high AND low risk women.

Photo by F&G Photography. From right: Nadine Barthel, president of ALSF, Anne Dahm, secretary of ALSF at Birth Culture Brunch 2019 in collaboration with Luxmama

With a free organic spring brunch and live music, we tried to create a fertile atmosphere for honest conversations between birth workers, families and concerned citizens.

It is well evidenced (Sandall et al. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013) that a well-staffed continuity midwifery model of care is the gold standard for healthy birthing persons (the vast majority of the population) and has significantly different philosophy and outcomes on how birth is approached. We’re talking fewer medical interventions, fewer preterm births, fewer pregnancy losses, more spontaneous births and no increase in risk to the newborn.

Furthermore, it is known that the midwifery model as primary care provider in pregnancy and birth, especially for low risk women is a more sustainable model, cost-wise and resource-wise and rather than spending those costs on unneeded medical costs leading to further risks, interventions and yet further costs, can be used to offer families further choice in their maternity care, for instance birth centers! And with maternity care costs in Luxembourg skyrocketing, one wonders why this is not a priority since all our neighbouring countries do offer these options which results in Luxembourg families opting for a birth center birth having to leave the country in order to do so.

The lack of a birth center as birth setting in Luxembourg further limits women’s choices. These homelike settings, run by midwives are designed to respect and fully support, not disturb naturally laboring women and are consistently rated highly in surveys of patient satisfaction. Yet there are none in the entire duchy. State support for birth centers run by midwives would meet a growing demand for such care and would also provide more freedom of choice in birth, since a birth center birth is a valid choice and it is the responsibility of the State, according to universal human rights in childbirth to provide all birth choices, since women are all different.

Read more here about the Birth Rights Awareness Campaign, #choice2haveamidwife at Luxmama.

If you are interested to get involved and be part of the change, do join the discussion in the FB group Birth Culture Luxembourg as well as join any of Luxmama’s monthly Positive Birth Movement Luxembourg coffee gatherings (as part of the global Positive Birth Movement), open to anybody wanting to hear, share or discuss more about positive births and birth rights.


More about the author:

Mother of 2 children born in Lux, Preconception, Prenatal & Parenthood Doula, Marise Hyman provides worldwide coaching, healing and education in preparing for an empowered conception, pregnancy, birth, life and parenthood journey. She is an IMPI Perinatal Coach/Educator, IMPI Holistic Pregnancy & Child Sleep Practitioner, Happiest Baby on the Block Educator, “Becoming Us” Facilitator, Dancing for Birth™ Instructor, Holistic Childbirth Educator, Reiki Practitioner, Head-trash Clearance + Fearless Birthing Professional, “Birth into Being” Facilitator (level 1-3) and Calm Birth® Teacher.

She understands that we need to “heal birth to heal the earth” and is therefore also a passionate Birth Advocate and founder of the Luxmama Club & ParentPrep asbl, an NGO raising awareness for birth rights, perinatal mental health and green parenting through social and educational events.

Women need time and patience in maternity care: an interview with legendary midwife Martine Welter


In the context of Luxmama Club & ParentPrep asbl’s “#choicetohaveamidwife” campaign, a Luxmama blog contributor met with Martine Welter one of the most experienced midwives in Luxembourg, who has actively worked for the upgrade of the midwives role in Maternity and birth for many years.

In 2019, during the 100 Celebration of the Association Luxembourgeoise Sages-Femmes (“ALSF”) Prime Minister Xavier Bettel announced some great news for midwives in Luxembourg, so we asked Martine to explain a bit more about these changes and also to talk about her philosophy around birth and home birth, as she is the only midwife currently
accompanying home-births in Luxembourg.

Martine Welter (left) at Luxmama’s 2019 Birth Culture Brunch

Question: We heard some good news regarding the midwives profession in Luxembourg
lately? Would you like to tell us more about that? What will be the effect in the
future? Also, how long have Luxembourg midwives been trying actively to
achieve this change?

Martine: It’s our new midwifery “Reglementation” (regulation) concerning the competencies
and “techniques” we are or are not allowed to do. As the “old” one from 1981, even
though quite good and coherent for our profession and adapted to the European
Directives issued in 1980, needed a “lifting”, adapting to new techniques and
situation. Since at least 2006, we started with a working group at the ministry of health, that’s
just to say what time and energy it takes. We wanted to have the law for the new
curriculum for midwifery education that switched in 2012, but discussions were very
difficult and we needed to be very attentive and take care not to lose from our
responsibilities and autonomy, like being able to prescribe different medications.

Why do you think if birth is the same in humans do we have such very
different maternity care systems over the world?

Martine: You have different maternity care systems in different countries because in general
the health care system is different. In the United States for instance, you have
private care systems whereas in Luxembourg If you work you are supposed to have
your Social Security and then a lot of things are paid back by Social Security. There
is no difference between private and public system, this can create limitations in

Do you know the history of midwives here in Luxembourg? By which country
was the Luxembourgish system influence/resembles?

Martine: The first maternity was at the end of the 19th century and they had also the maternity
and midwifery school because before that the midwives were trained in France or in
Germany and the system here in Luxembourg is somehow based on these different
systems in the countries all along the road in Luxembourg. In 1967 the midwives were
no longer a medical profession, but they turned it to para-medical profession. This
situation resulted in midwives losing their autonomy and it is part of what we are
complaining about for a long time. This situation means we can mostly work if a
doctor gives a prescription.

What is your impression of the midwifery training in Luxembourg and how can
it be improved? Where did you do your training?

Martine: Only in 2012 it has become a direct entry profession. That means after a Bac
technique or classic you go into three years of midwifery before that it used to be
based on the nursing diploma. That means you had to do the nursing training and
then spend two more years to become a midwife. So, we were supposed to be a
specialized nurse, which is not the case. So we got the direct entry system for
midwifery but it has to become a four years Bachelors diploma, like in other
countries, because in three years getting to know what midwives really needs to
know is very concentrated and according to European standards, we are supposed
to conduct autonomously 40 deliveries which is again not very easy to have these
amounts of deliveries.

What do you think about the quality of maternity care in Luxembourg and how
it can be improved upon?

Martine: I would not say that the quality is bad but it often has very high rates of interventions.
The idea is to go into bigger and bigger maternity units and to close smaller units.
Before, there were seven Maternities here in the country and they closed the smaller
ones because they were not financially viable. As a midwife I think of course that
birth should not be looked only as a profit making business. With maternity care a
woman giving birth needs time and patience. So in Luxembourg there is not much place for these things. For me the opportunity would be now to put on a system, similar to other countries, called an ABC (Alternative Birth Center) system. In this system a Birth center (free-standing or an alongside midwifery unit) is the place where women with a normal non-complicated pregnancy are going and there, midwives have the responsibility for the pregnancies. Only if some problem arises and they need medical care the doctor will come into
this unit and see what is necessary.

Also, currently there is high use of synthetic oxytocin. Doctors are not taking into account that
sometimes a woman goes into labor and then labour stops and she might go back into labor
tomorrow. She simply needs to rest and not be given oxytocin to accelerate labour, however it’s understandable that in the hospital setting and organization there is a push not to occupy a bed too long… So, a good alternative would be to let the women that is having a normal pregnancy taken over by a midwifery-led-unit and doctors to only take over when a problem exists or arises. Also, for midwives and doctors to cooperate. A good example would be a Birth Center.

As a midwife I think of course that birth should not be looked only as a profit making business. With maternity care a woman giving birth needs time and patience. So in Luxembourg there is not much place for these things.

Martine Welter

How would you describe equality between the midwifery and obstetric profession? Does it exist?

Martine: There is no equality between the midwives and doctors, they are two different
professions. We are supposed to take care of everything that’s physiological and the doctors are mostly trained to deal with pathology. And I always say it’s like a
train, you know a train runs on two rails and you need the two rails. So, in maternity
care we need them both. I know it’s a different job. So equality for me is respect for
every one’s profession. We need both to go on. So it’s not necessary to have equality but is is absolutely necessary to have respect!

What is your birth philosophy? Do you see birth as important in the context of
the larger society?

Martine: In Luxembourg there was a discussion about choosing how you die but there is none
around birth rights and how you would like to be born! These are both situations that
will only happen only once in everyone’s life. You will only be born once and you will only die once! So, I believe it’s important to carefully consider these two issues and why it is important how you are born.

Like some others said already before me, my philosophy around birth is also that being pregnant and giving birth is not an illness. Up to 90 percent of pregnancies are with no complications and that should also be with births. Birth should not be something that that there is some economical thinking about. In the past, the hospitals in general were run by a
congregation and the nuns were not paid much. Nowadays a hospital is an enterprise, a business with priority on “rentability” and not so much what would be the best for the mother and child: patience, time and to intervene as least as possible. But that brings no money….

It’s always the woman who does the work in birth and for me again what matters in supporting birth is patience, respect and plenty of time.

Martine Welter

The European Convention of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right
to respect for his private and family life…” and observed that “…the
circumstances of giving birth incontestably form part of one’s private life”. Do
you believe birthing families here in Luxembourg have freedom of choice in birth? Will this now change?

Martine: While it’s true that, in some ways, in Luxembourg until now, a woman cannot
choose, because when she is pregnant, she has to give birth in the Maternity that the
doctor who follows her pregnancy works with.

Also, we only have 4 Maternities so there is not much choice in type of facility. In
other countries she follows a doctor during pregnancy and then she decides which
system she is going to give birth at, public or private or at home, in a small unit or in a
university hospital. As women rise up more, things might change, but … things change veeery slowly and don’t forget, they have already changed over all these years, in the 80’s for
example, a water-birth was not possible!

What is you role in pregnancy, birth or post-natally currently and in the past?

Martine: I was trained in Belgium, it was not a direct entry, I first became a nurse. Then I
came here and did a higher nurse degree and trained as head nurse. I was trained
also as a midwife and learned that midwives take care of pregnant women, women
giving birth and post-natally. When I came here I saw that I could only work in a
Maternity and I started quite early to do prenatal education courses with Initiative
Liewensufank because this was the only way to see pregnant couples and talk about
birth before meeting them in the Maternity during labor. The fact that in Luxembourg
midwifes were not very involved in pregnancy was not how I was trained and saw my
way of working as a midwife. I worked in Maternity at the delivery unit and then at the
Postnatal unit as a head midwife. I worked there during the rooming-in
implementation in the 80s it was hard to implement at the beginning.
I worked with the ALSF to get the right for women to get an early
discharge and for midwives to visit at home and get reimbursed by CNS which we
achieved in 1993!

Then I left the Maternity and worked as an independent midwife. At that time, I decided to learn more about home deliveries and I therefore stayed in The Netherlands with a Dutch midwife and learned about their system, how they take care of pregnant women and accompany them to give birth at home. In The Netherlands pregnant women go to the midwife first and if she sees a problem, she will send her to the doctor. Once a week they meet and discuss which
women should go to the hospital and which will remain under the midwives care. In the Netherlands, I attended my first home birth and realized what birth actually was all about! The midwife just stood and waited, and the woman did all the work. There were some midwives in the 90s doing that in Luxembourg, then I took over with some other colleagues and now actually I have about 3 to 12 home births per year. I do have exclusion criteria, like for instance first time mothers I just do a couple if someone asks me to. For me it is not “The” thing to do. You need to discuss with your partner with the midwife and prepare for it. If there are Birth centers or midwifery led units
available and function well the home birth is not that necessary.

In the Netherlands, I attended my first home birth and realized what birth actually was all about! The midwife just stood and waited, and the woman did all the work.

Martine Welter

Do you think the rate of medical interventions in pregnancy and birth in
Luxembourg is satisfactory? Seeing the c-section rate of over 30% how do you
think it can be reduced?

Martine: Yes the rate is quite high here in Luxembourg compared to other European
countries. You know the Germans have what it’s called “Geburtshilfe” and we do a
lot of what is called “Geburtsmedezin”. OK so if you would go back to “Geburtshilfe”
and leave more time and have more midwives working at the units (because
currently in the hospitals, midwives need to support too many birthing women at once) then you might be able to reduce all these interventions. Of course, this comes again to the bottom line and how uneconomical natural birth is. But all is a matter of choosing where to spend money, were to invest! And investing in the way babies are born and a woman’s right to choose how she will give birth is the right thing to do.

Investing in the way babies are born and a woman’s right to choose how she will give birth is the right thing to do.

Martine Welter

More about the contributor

Christina Anyfanti is a Certified Postpartum Professional & part of the Newborn Mothers Collective as well as a Birthlight™ Motherhood & Baby Yoga Teacher.

She also has a Diploma in Counseling Psychology among others. happynewmama.lu

My story of hope… to conceive

My story of hope that make dreams come true.

My name is Virginie Vast – my story which I will share with you today is a story of hope for all women going through fertility issues.  I have myself been through 6 years of infertility treatment to finally have the joy to hold my little girl in my arms. Having openly talked about my story at work after the birth of my daughter, I realised how many women were going through the same journey… in silence. This is probably the worst thing we do to ourselves as women, to carry on in silence, feeling ashamed, not asking for help… and I am hoping through sharing my story and offering my support will make women fertility journey a little easier to cope with.

So here is my story…

As a child, I grew up in a very loving family, my mum was my dad’ first love, they got married in their 20’s and right away became parents. Few years later, three girls came to complete our family and my mum made the choice to dedicate her life to us. My parents were so strong together, at team no matter what the circumstances of life were. I grew up with this very idyllic family picture… you fall in love, you marry the love of your life, you have children and you live happily ever after.

6 years ago, it felt like destiny repeating; I saw him, his name is Laurens. At first sight, I knew he was the one and he will be the father of my children. One year later we said ‘yes’ to each other in this most beautiful wedding day, so excited to make our dream of having our own family come true…but then the story didn’t go on like in my childhood dreams as we faced fertility issues. 

Nothing prepared us, as a couple, to this infertility journey and the thought that our dream of being parents might never be.  We realised we were not alone on that journey as infertility is becoming an increasingly common issue. Did you know that 1 of 6 couples are facing fertility issues and to date, more than 8 million babies were born from in vitro fertilisation (IVF) since the world’s first in 1978.

We stood up strong as a team, more determined and positive than ever to make it happen, however the journey undeniably put relationships into pressure. Our couple life became a calendar of medical events, punctuated by periods of wait, hope and deep grief. And as infertility hits you hard as a couple, it either makes you stronger together or it pulls you apart – in our case, it made us stronger than ever, even if the outcome of that journey was to turn towards adoption.  

Every day I woke up with the same thought ‘Will I be a mum one day? Will our dream ever come true?’, and carried on in silence. People would keep asking us ‘Don’t you want to have children?’, if only they knew and after 6 years of restlessly trying to be parents, we came out of excuses to be able to answer. The norm is to get married and to have children. People have expectations and we did not want to let them down. 

Every day was a challenge – torn between growing my career, fighting to become a mum, dealing with deep grief of battles lost on the way and at the same time, protecting my couple and myself. To plan my days, I had to take into consideration so many variables, depending on workload, priority changes, last minute travel required and the planning of all medical appointments. Both of us having demanding jobs, some IVF cycles were real puzzle of logistical tricks to make it happen while at the same time ensuring we perform at work and we remain happy as a couple. Hope gave us the strength to carry on.

In life, I am a very passionate person; I love to drive initiatives that can make a difference. I have the chance to have new challenges at work that really excited me, and this passion and excitement without any doubt kept me going. I put a smile on my face, I put all my energy in what I love doing as I did not want people to find out or worse to feel sorry. One day, one of my colleague asked me ‘Don’t you want to start a family, you are now married and you would be a fantastic mother?’, this sentence was too much to handle to remain silent so I told her my story, the same story I am telling you today. I felt so relief and touched how understanding and supportive she was. 

If I was not so worried about what people would think and the impact it may have on my career, I would have actually talked about it openly much earlier to create awareness on fertility issues, on what it takes and on ways to get the support and space to persevere. I would have advised younger women at work not to wait to start a family over their career, I would have shared my experience to support those turning towards adoption.  

After 6 years of battle against infertility, my story is one of hope. The journey might be long, frustrating and painful but my message to all of women is to not give up, to be strong, to seek for help and to try over and over again because it is worth it… today, my dream of having a family with the man I love became reality and I am the luckiest mum of a little girl Chloe, she is 14 months today. 

Good luck everyone and please feel free to reach out to me. As women, we are here to support for each other. 

Virginie Vast 

About the author

Virginie Vast is a citizen of the world, she studied in the USA and Sweden, worked across 7 countries in Germany, France, Spain… to end up 10 years ago in beautiful Luxembourg – the place she calls home. This is where she met and married the love of her life, Laurens and after many years of trying to be parents, they are now a family with little Chloe who just turned 1 year. Virginie comes from Normandy in France, and she is a senior business executive in Supply Chain at Vodafone.

Virginie is passionate in life and loves to do things that make a difference to the world. Last year, she has created and is now heading the Vodafone Foundation in Luxembourg where she has the ambition to change the life of 5,000 people per year in the Grand Duche. She focuses on inclusion on disfavored communities, STEM education for girls and integration of disable people through sport…  a partnership with Ministry of Education, Script and the sponsorship from Princess Tessy De Nassau.

To help women going through the same challenges of infertility, she has created a support group in her workplace where she offers her support and advice to other women on the same journey or about to embark on it..share experience or simply offer a shoulder to lie on in tough times. The group now counts 7 women, they are no alone anymore and can hold on each other to go through this journey. She is also an active member on Luxmama.

Mothering the mother, or the job of a Postpartum Doula

History of birth & postpartum

Mary Cassatt, Maternite 1890

Historically birth & postpartum were home-based. Up until the 19th century women gave birth in their home with the help of an elder experienced woman from there village at first and a midwife in more recent years.

The strenuous nature of birth along with the fact that breastfeeding was the only way to keep a baby alive mandated the great care new mothers received from the people close to them and from their village. Most people used to live in small communities and after birth the mother was supposed to stay in bed and learn to breastfeed her baby. The older women were there with valuable guidance and advice and the community was there to provide food and help with older kids and housework.

The modern era

Medical advances combined with the urbanization of societies meant that Postpartum care declined greatly in quality in the 20th century! Now we know that mum is safe, there are doctors that take care of her for 3 days at the hospital, midwives that teach her the basics and then off she goes…alone to the house with no one to help!

And then we are sad about low-breastfeeding rates and high rates of Postpartum depression in most developed countries! What we need to understand is that this should not surprise us. Breastfeeding is a learned skill and requires a lot of support from other women that have the knowledge to share in order to be successful! Dana Rafael, US Anthropologist and Breastfeeding advocate that studied birth & postpartum of around 200 traditional societies, said that:

breastfeeding was a physiological process that needed to have something in place in the culture or else the lactation function would not work. Breastfeeding needs support”

Also, birth and breastfeeding are energy draining activities and the new mother needs nutritious meals and help with all the tasks she previously undertook with ease. And foremost she needs psychological support, confirmation that she is doing ok, that things are going to get better, that she is a good mum! A new mum needs to be mothered also and in modern societies we have forgotten that…

In Luxembourg a recent survey conducted by Happy New Mama  showed that 65% say they were not prepared for life after birth & especially for the postpartum period, although 74% amongst them had received a Prenatal education course. When asked to describe this period the majority (66%) is on the negative side, with 27% responding “Very Hard” or “Not Good” and another 39% said “Average” which is amazing if we think that this is the period were we finally meet the person that was growing inside us for 9 months! When it comes to negative feelings, “Tired”, “Exhausted” and “Overwhelmed” were naturally on top but some other not so obvious were highlighted. 1/3 of respondents reported feeling “Isolated” or “Lonely” and 27% “Scared”. Finally, around 25% felt “Depressed” and experienced the “Baby Blues” with 11% reporting  “Postpartum Anxiety” and 6% “Postpartum Depression”. The majority of the population that took part on the survey relied on help from their partners mainly, 46% had an independent midwife visiting and 40% had one of their parents helping.
However, these numbers are only an indication) as Luxembourg does not publish data on Postpartum Mental Health!

Factors associated with a negative experience seem to be C-sections, especially emergency ones. And consequences involved lower rates of long -term breastfeeding (39% breastfed their baby over 6 months vs 80% for women with a ‘very good’ postpartum period).

Moving finally on what would help during that period, top answer were more sleep, a warm cooked meal or help with housework but “company, someone to talk to” was also chosen by 42%, which is in line with the loneliness of that period!

In Luxembourg the state provides some visits after birth from an independent midwife (sage-femme liberale). They visit at home, check baby’s weight, check the breastfeeding and if there are any medical or other issues with the new mom (e.g. excess bleeding, any infection, pain etc) and this is a valuable service for new mums. They visit in the first 15-21 days postpartum and reimbursed by CNS. However, the visit lasts 45 min and often there are not enough midwives in Luxembourg to cover the demand. Many midwives also offer other services in private and are an invaluable resource.

For sure the postpartum experience of women giving birth in Luxembourg is a topic that needs to be explored further and official authorities should start paying more attention to it as this period affects women’s well-being and is probably the most fragile period of their lives, mentally and physically.

Role of doulas

This is the point where, in many modern societies, a Postpartum Professional (or Doula) comes. The role of a postpartum doula is NON-medical and it’s focus is Mothering the mother, it is to give space to the new mum to recover from birth and to get to know her new baby. They offer practical help and emotional support to the new mum until she is confident and strong enough to take care of her new family. A Postpartum Doula will prepare nutritious meals, will give a massage to increase oxytocin, will take care of older kids, support and encourage mums with breastfeeding and give them time to have a nice bath or show some exercises to help recover from birth. But most of all she will be there to listen! Listen to her birth story, her worries and anxieties of being a new mama and to celebrate the most intense transition they will go through, the transition to Motherhood.   A postpartum doula is the village we have lost!

Because postpartum care should be given again the position and value it once had and because..

It is not enough to keep new mamas alive, we need new mamas to thrive!

More about the contributor

Christina Anyfanti is a Certified Postpartum Professional & part of the Newborn Mothers Collective as well as a Birthlight™ Motherhood & Baby Yoga Teacher.

She also has a Diploma in Counseling Psychology among others. happynewmama.lu