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

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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.”


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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.

Top 10 tips to Green your Family

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“Greening” is the process of transforming a space or lifestyle into a more environmentally friendly version. The act of greening involves incorporating “green” products and processes into an environment.

Now why on earth would we bother, this sounds tedious?!

Reasons that may resonate with you could be:

  • To preserve the earth for future generations
  • Out of pure respect to Mother Earth and realising our responsibility as inhabitants
  • Sustainability just makes sense

and/or

For the HEALTH of your growing baby in your belly, your children, yourself, your partner…

You see, these days we are exposed to environmental toxins on a daily basis that increase our toxic load and as a result our risks for chronic diseases. Many of these toxins are a by-product of an industrialized world. Some even go as far as saying that the daily toxic load we encounter in 1 month, is more than your great-grandparents encountered in their whole lifetimes..

If you’d like to explore these thoughts a bit further, take a look below:

The good news is that in your home, YOU are in control (unless you have toddlers/teenagers!), so making a few small changes can have a significant impact on your family’s daily toxic load intake.

Really.

In your home, YOU are in control.

Ideally, becoming mindful of environmental toxins you are exposed to and aiming to decrease your intake is important for everybody’s health. On the other hand, it is also never too late to start your Greener journey. Babies are particularly vulnerable to environmental toxins and that is exactly why expecting families can only benefit from a decrease in toxin exposure. And then once baby is born, continuing Green practices and being realistic yet not obsessive to the point where it stresses you out (yet another toxin!) will be beneficial for your whole family as well as Mother Earth.

So it’s really a win-win!

There are many ways to do this. You do not have to rebuild your home. Just make some easy changes, bit by bit and you’ll be amazed at where you’ll be a few months down the line. Each time you run out of something, simply replace this product with a Greener more natural/non-toxic option.

Before we shoot with the actual Greening Strategies, it’s important to understand how we absorb toxins:

Anything you:

  • Put in your mouth (foods and drinks)
  • Put on your skin (your largest organ and highly porous – absorbs what you put on it)
  • Inhale

As simple as that.

Go Green with Cleaning Products

Gradually replace the cleaning products you use at home with more natural options. Luckily in Luxembourg, more natural versions are readily available in commercial stores and in particular, Naturata. The laundry detergent you use can be replaced with a 100% natural, economical and bio-degradable miracle of life – soap nuts! (Available at Naturata).soap nuts

Another fun thing to do, is to make your own products. With basic ingredients like vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and essential oils, you’ll be amazed at how far you can go.

For more inspiration check out:

Go Green with Personal Care and Baby Products

Now do exactly the same with your Personal Care Products. From deodorant to face wash to each and every product you use on your baby. You will be surprised at how many unpronounceable chemicals are contained in mass-marketed and well-cherised baby brands. Product ranges like Weleda, Aveda and others found at Naturata are a better bet. Coconut oil is also a staple here. Limit the use of wipes at home (replace with a washcloth and water) and when you do use wipes, go for the most natural versions as opposed to the most baby-friendly-marketed versions. Water wipes are great.

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Go easy on the plastic

Plastic is nobody’s friend. Once in touch with food, toxins can leach into foods and drinks, even more so when put in the microwave. Plastic toys for babies and children are also something to consider avoiding. They all do eventually end up in their mouths and the phthalates making plastic soft and flexible is a major contributor to indoor air pollution as they are not chemically bound to products, which makes them easy to migrate and off-gas into the air we breathe. That “new car” or “new toy” smell is the smell of phthalates off-gasing…  Furthermore, plastic doesn’t biodegrade. Animals can ingest it, with sometimes fatal consequences. And there is a toxic soup of plastic swirling around in the ocean. Most plastic is made from fossil fuels like oil and natural gas, which release toxic emissions when extracted from the earth. So what to do? The next time you buy something, choose a non-plastic alternative. Material and wooden toys (from sustainable sources with non-toxic finishing), ceramic, stainless steel and glass sippy cups, bottles and eating utensils. Bio-degradable vegetable fibers are also now being used more and more.

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Eat Organic

Not taxing your digestive system with additional toxins ingested from foods will also go a long way. Yes, it is more expensive, but for a reason. Pay the farmer now or pay the doctor later. Yes, not everything you encounter outside of your home will be organic. But opting for locally grown, organic food at home will be a game-changer for your whole family.

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Open windows!

Indoor air pollution is a reality, especially now that we live in highly insulated homes. Open the windows, especially the sleeping environment at least 1 hour per day.

Invest in Indoor plants

Indoor plants can assist with filtering polluted air. “The air cleaning capability of plants maintained within a closed living environment goes far and beyond simple removal of carbon dioxide (which humans and animals exhale) and replacing it with clean oxygen. House plants also have the remarkable ability to remove toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air, which can be a particular health hazard for those living or working in newly built residential homes, apartments, and commercial office space.”

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Read more here:

Say no to Toxic Wall Paint

Wall paint is one of the leading causes of air pollution.  Paints and finishes release low level toxic emissions into the air for years after application.  THe source of these toxins is a variety of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) which, until recently, were essential to the performance of the paint. Thankfully, new environmental regulations and consumer demand, have led to the development of low-VOC and zero-VOC paints and finishes. Most paint manufacturers now produce one of more non-VOC variety of paint, durable, cost-effective and less harmful to human and environmental health.

Green baby’s Nursery

Baby’s Nursery deserve a whole blog post on its own. As explained above, VOC paints are not what we want in here.  Opt for the most natural mattress you can find. This is more important than anything else. Select natural (organic if possible) fabrics for bedding.

Choose furniture made from natural materials and finishing. Blinds, shades, and curtains gather dust mites, so minimise these and wash frequently. In humid conditions, carpeting may harbor mold and mildew. Synthetic carpeting, backing and pads contain so many chemicals they are often referred to as a “toxic soup” that can cause headaches, fatigue and breathing difficulties.

Consider EMF’s

While Electro Magnetic Field Radiation (“EMF”) is dangerous for adults, they can be life threatening for babies so it is a good idea to minimise electronics and especially wi-fi devices where baby will sleep and spend a lot of time.

Here’s why…

  • Babies skulls are thin.  This allows for radiation to penetrate deep into the brain.
  • Babies are growing fast. This means their cells are dividing really fast. Every time a cell divides, it makes a replica of itself. Stuff like radiation can cause the new cell to be mutated. Mutated cells are also known as cancer.
  • EMF exposure weakens the immune system. Babies don’t yet have fully formed immune systems. This is why babies are so susceptible to colds and infections. Expose them to EMF’S, and they become even less able to fight off bacteria, viruses or fungi.emf

Banish Toxic Thoughts

We often don’t realise how our thoughts shape our world. In fact, everything starts with thoughts. So being more mindful of them will shape a better world, simply put. If this intrigues you, read the beautifully written little book by Sandra Ingerman, How to Heal Toxic Thoughts.

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OK, so reading this may trigger some overwhelming feelings. Don’t sweat it. This is not an overnight process. Take it step-by-step. One small change at a time. Finished with a product? Simply substitute it with a more conscious choice next time. It ALL adds up.

Here is a guided relaxation to help you relax about it all. When you are in a relaxed frame of mind, you will be better equipped to think consciously going forward.

And each conscious decision you make, will not only benefit your own family but also Mother Earth, none of us can live without…


More about the Author

Mother of two, holistic maternity coach/educator, Marise Hyman provides worldwide coaching, healing and education in preparing for an empowered conception, pregnancy, birth, life and parenthood journey.
She is an IMPI Peri-natal Coach/Educator, IMPI Holistic Pregnancy & Child Sleep Practitioner, Happiest Baby on the Block Educator, “Becoming Us” Facilitator, Dancing for Birth™ Instructor, Birth Advocate, Holistic Childbirth Educator, Reiki Practitioner, Head-trash Clearance + Fearless Birthing Professional and “Birth into Being” Facilitator (level 1-3)
She is also the founder of the Luxmama Club & ParentPrep asbl, an edgy non-profit organisation raising awareness for green, natural & holistic parenting alternatives, birth rights and postnatal mood disorders by offering a variety of inspiring social and educational events in Luxembourg.

Come Fly With Me! (Pregnancy Edit)

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Escaping with your other half for one last holiday before your baby arrives, or a babymoon, is becoming more and more common. Having recently returned from my own babymoon, I’ve come up with some hints and tips on how to make to most of your time away.

(Please note, I am not a medical professional, always seek the advice of your doctor/midwife before traveling)

Timing

According to medical advice, the safest time to fly is during your 2nd trimester, with most airlines accepting pregnant passengers up until 35 weeks (check with each airlines individual policies).

Not only is this safer, it is also the period when you should be finished with morning sickness, and not so big that you’re feeling huge and uncomfortable. Especially when squeezing into your tiny airplane seat! I traveled between 29 and 31 weeks. While I still physically felt good, being a month or even two earlier would have been perfect. I wasn’t exactly huge at this time, but the tight airplane rows made getting into my bag on the floor almost impossible. Luckily we were given aisle seats so I could push my bag with my feet into the aisle and bend over enough that way to get into it. But it was near impossible to get in and out of my seat when the considerate passenger in front decided to recline their seat….

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The airport & flight

Try to get to the airport nice and early to have a better chance of choosing your seat (if you haven’t already checked in online). Having an aisle seat means you’re more likely to get up and move around, and also you won’t feel so guilty disturbing your neighbour as you get up to use the bathroom for the millionth time. Pregnant women are more prone to problems such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) so make sure you get up regularly and go for walks, curl and uncurl your toes, stand up and down on your toes (you can do this one in the bathroom if you’re afraid of getting too many weird looks).

We are all constantly being told to stay nice and hydrated during pregnancy, so buying a big bottle of water once you’re through security should get you through the duration of the flight – also drinking plenty of water will mean you’ll need to make regular bathroom visits, therefore helping you move around, win win!

Make sure you keep any pregnancy notes, papers, medical certificates etc close at hand in case of any problems or queries from airline staff. I had a rather scary moment boarding the plane to come home, the air steward after congratulating me, asked how far along I was….31 weeks at this point. Cue a long pause then “Ah I’m sorry but you’re not actually allowed to fly”. WHAT?! Luckily, I’d printed an email confirmation from the company stating up until 35 weeks I could safely fly without medical certificate. Being prepared helped us stay calm and rectify the situation. Although being stuck in the Canary Islands wouldn’t have been such a terrible situation 😉

How to stay comfortable

Ok, flight over and you’ve now arrived at the hotel. Unless you’re really lucky to live in a warm climate year-long, you’re probably feeling rather hot and bothered. Making sure you’ve packed lots of light, breezy clothes made of natural fabrics for the duration of your trip will help keep you cool.

Most hotel rooms provide spare pillows as standard anyway, if not, it’s worth asking for a couple more at reception. After a long day exploring your surroundings, or just lounging by the pool, making sure you still get a good nights sleep, with extra support for bump if needed, is still very important.

Make the most of being able to swim outdoors in the pool or sea, as being weightless will be such a surreal but pretty awesome feeling. It’s also important not to overheat so a quick dip will help keep you cool as well as active.

If the beach is your scene, you will find that lying on the sand is not as comfortable as it once was…plus you’re more limited for positions as you can’t lie on your belly anymore. Unless of course, you dig yourself a big hole in the sand and place your belly inside. Tried and tested, this was such a blessing after 8 months of not being able to lie face down. However, you will not look graceful getting out of your pit.

I also packed some towels from the hotel (I know, I know, but rules don’t apply to pregnant ladies!). I rolled up a large towel and 2 smaller hand towels to create a raised pillow, then it just felt the same as lying in bed. Just don’t spend too long dozing on one side, unless you want an uneven tan! This make-shift bed also works well during picnics in the park!

Depending on the stage of your pregnancy, overindulging on food could make you feel bloated and unwell so don’t just stuff your face because you’re away. While we enjoy treating ourselves on holiday, you are still feeding a growing baby, so eating well is still important. At least being in a warmer climate tends to mean you’ll better access to more exciting fruits. But an ice cream is always an excellent way to help keep you cool and once in a while is a lovely treat!

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How to look good

Looking good may be way down your list of priorities, but I always feel better when I look better, and I enjoy making an effort in the evenings to make up for being sweaty/sandy/sun creamy during the day. Maxi dresses are a godsend while pregnant, light, comfortable and flattering for bump! Cinch in under your bust with a belt if need to avoid looking too tent-like and help show off that beautiful bump of yours.

Getting a lovely golden tan will help you feel more radiant and less like a zombie – however be warned your skin could be more sensitive and more prone to burns than before. In my case, I went the opposite way and found I took so long to take colour. With all the extra hormones floating around you right now, be careful and stay safe in the sun. A tan is gorgeous, a burn is not.

Bikini, swimsuit, tankini, au natural….your choice of swimwear is just as overwhelming when pregnant than before. Go with whatever makes you the most comfortable and sexy. Personally, I fully embraced a bikini – in fact, it was probably the 1st time I’ve felt truly confident in a bikini because I love my belly. However, I’ve been blessed with some very good genes and I’ve only put on weight on my belly (which looks slightly like I’ve eaten a balloon!). I only decided the week before going that I felt good enough in a bikini to not need to cover up. A tankini would have been a good option to let baby see some beautiful sunshine while sunbathing but also be able to cover up if feeling a little shy. When I traveled (May), I couldn’t find any maternity bathing options in regular high street shops, such as H&M. From looking online, asos have a fab collection (free delivery over 25€), as do New Look (free EU delivery over 65€) and the range at Next is ok (they deliver free to Luxembourg, their kidswear range is amazing!). I was surprised to find a maternity swimsuit in Decathlon for only 15€ which would be perfect for anyone taking part in prenatal swimming classes.

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Each person is different, and each pregnancy is different. I felt amazing during my entire pregnancy, and the sun gave me so much more energy than usual so we spent our days walking and exploring the island. Before going, we didn’t book any trips or set ourselves any expectations as you just never know how you’re going to feel or react to being in a warmer climate. Just bring comfortable shoes incase you feel great, and several great books incase you don’t. Enjoy some alone time with your other half, away from the stresses of daily life, baby preparations and interfering relatives – as well-meaning as they may be…..enjoy your break & bon voyage!

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More about the Author:

973280_978470308aaa4fa19eb7ca935a940b1dEmmy is a soon-to-be first time mama who has been living near  Luxembourg for almost 2 years. A few years ago, Emmy began exploring a much more ‘back to nature’ and holistic approach to health, diet and life in general, and is now passionate about having a more natural maternity journey and empowering other women to do the same. She is also part of the Luxmama Club & ParentPrep asbl Team and a Maternity Coach Trainee.

Trust. Breathe. Wait.

A ravishing rendition of her birth story in Luxembourg, by Anna Chieppa from Barcelona…


It is mid-August, 10 pm and Greg and I step out into the street, dragging a little bag.  I have thrown in some books, my laptop, pink baby pajamas, organic cotton bodies and my journal.

The starry night is cool and clear.  The moon is pale and flat as a coin.  At the Maternité Grande-Duchess Charlotte hospital, Sophie the midwife speaks French and we look at her with hope.  But after a quick visit she shakes her head and tells me that I am only 3 cm dilated, maybe 4.  I cannot hide my disappointment.

“Go have a walk”, she says.  “Take the stairs.  Come back in two hours”.

We go up to the terrace and watch the silent night, the stars cut in ice, the dark shapes of the cars abandoned in the parking lot.  Over the last few days I have been scared, but tonight I feel strong and I trust my body.  The contractions are becoming painful and when they surge, I grab Greg’s shoulders and breathe deeply while shutting my eyes.  What proved impossible during my first labor, is coming much easier today.

Trust.  Breathe.  Wait.

Greg and I make a joke and a man appears at a window, hissing at us to be quiet.  We leave and go to “climb the stairs” as instructed.  We return two hours later.  The pain is now sharp and I can’t believe it when Sophie says that I’m now only 5 cm dilated.

Your baby will be here within five to six hours, she says.  I feel like swearing.  I can not imagine spending another six hours feeling like this.  I’m going to ask for an epidural, and sink into the oblivion of anesthesia, like I did with the first baby.

But Sophie knows better.  She asks me about my first labor and my ideal birth.  I tell her about my wishes to have a home birth that I missed out on the previous time due to my lack of pain management.  I tell her about all the reading and meditation I’ve been doing, as well as the hypnosis classes I’ve attended in Barcelona.

She listens without a word and then says: “I have a good CD, do you want to listen to it”?

Before I can even object, she turns off all the lights except a salt lamp casting pink shadows.  She leaves with Greg after popping in a CD.  I quickly enter a deep state of relaxation.  The pain disappears like foam.  Waves and waves of pain lift me up and drop me off on the seashore of peace that widens between contractions.  I have to surf those waves each time they come, I rise and rise and when the contraction stops I return to water level, floating in a sea of peace.  I do it once and then again and again, I lose any sense of time until the pressure makes me so sick that I start to vomit When Sophie enters the room my legs are soaked.  My waters have broken and the trance is suddenly over. Sophie bends over me and announces that I am seven cm dilated.

Only seven centimeter!  Still three to go!  The pain grabs at my throat and I am about to ask for anesthesia.  I’ve lost my strength and my trust.  But Sophie just smiles again.  She is a small woman, with ashy hair and a bony face, pale blue eyes behind the glasses.  Her face, I will never forget as I will always remember what she did for me that night.

She turns over and says, with her soft voice and firm smile: “Now you can go to the bathtub”.

There is a round bathtub in the room next to us, with a rope hanging from the ceiling, above the water.  Sophie tells me to grab the rope each time a contraction kicks off.

I enter the water.  It is warm.  I sit down letting the water rise up to my neck.  I let the warmth and the pleasure fill me up.  It is bliss.  I shut my eyes and float in another state of peace.  The pain arrives.  By now, I can sense it long before it comes.  It’s so strong, I cannot cry or move.  I pull the rope and wait and the entire time Sophie’s voice whispers in my ear:  “Laisse le bébé descendre.”  (Let the baby descend).

The pain stops.  Again, there is peace… and water.  I hear Greg asking something, and then Sophie’s voice:  “She’s high on endorphins”.

Time becomes water, and silence.  The world is reduced to the warm water that embraces me, to the soaked hair that somebody is brushing, the blue water, the hard bottom of the bathtub, the sound of my breathing broken by the pain, Sophie’s face next to mine and her soft voice, “Laisse le bébé descendre”.  Then it comes again, so I grab the rope, my body rises with all its heaviness and there is more whispering, more moaning, my body up and down.  Then I leave the rope, go back to the water, breathe.  It feels so good to float like this.  With each contraction this little girl is coming closer but when will this finish?

A lot of time has passed and my resistance becomes weak.  Each time that I now sense a contraction coming, panic fills my throat.  I can hardly breathe, my body is stiff from pain.  No words come out of my cracked lips.

Suddenly it is cold.  A yellow light is covering the tiles of the walls.  It is five in the morning and Sophie says. “That’s it, we are there, almost ten cm.  Only half an hour more and then your baby will be here.”  And then it hits me that there will be no epidural.  There is no going back and my body is at its limit. Now what?  I turn to Greg, I want to cry, what am am I going to do?  Sophie calmly says: “Get up and walk back to the room.  Can you do that?”

They drag me outside.  “Do you feel like pushing?” she asks.  I don’t feel like freaking pushing.  I feel like screaming.

I am lying on a bed.  For a very long time the pressure stops and I look at myself.  At the big mirror attached to the ceiling I see a fat woman.  She is naked, with wet hair, black rimmed glasses and a tired man by her side.  Outside it’s still dark, and quiet.  Then it comes.  I hear the woman howl.

I expected to feel more contractions but this new feeling is far more powerful – an intense pressure against my behind, a tension to the point of breaking.  I am clinging to Greg’s shirt, wailing.

A doctor rushes to my side.

The pressure stops.  Somebody is talking but I do not understand.  And then the pressure returns…like a tsunami.  I am afraid of pushing, but I have to. I cannot keep this pressure inside.  I push and scream and push….and  when I feel a burning sensation, a sudden surge of panic hits me.  Then I remember they say that when you feel the fire ring, it means the end is in sight.  There is no turning back anymore.  I have to push now.  I gather all my strength and push again, screaming as my pelvis turns into fire and my baby slips out like a bullet.  Everything changes suddenly.  The pressure is gone and I can only feel a numb pain.  They put something long and slippery in my arms and I look down.  It’s a wet baby.   It is six in the morning and dawn is breaking.

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The baby is at my breast but I cannot look at her.  I feel nothing.  I just want this pain to end.

Looking back:

The first few months after birth is a roller coaster for any mother. The fatigue of labor, sleepless nights and challenges of breastfeeding made me wonder if I really wanted this baby.  But this baby ignored my inner voice and kept holding on to me as if I was her only safety, her only love.  I started watching her.  How she shut her eyes like seashells at night, her trembling lips while sucking, her wrinkled little hands intertwined with mine.  Little by little and day by day, my fear of not being capable of loving her crumbled like dried leaves.

Anna&Lila

For my first labor I really wanted a natural home birth but ended up having a hospital birth with an epidural.  For my second I wanted an epidural and ended up with a natural birth.

I am proud of how I managed the pain this time.  I am truly happy that I had the chance to experience this intense journey of the women’s innate strength.

If I had a third baby, I would certainly like to practice hypnosis more, as I know it is the way to a more manageable, less painful and more conscious natural birth.

The day after that night, Sophie came to see me.  “I wanted to give you the opportunity to experience just how strong you can be” she told me.

Eighteen months have passed since that day.  I’d like to tell all women out there that it does not matter how their births turn out in the end.  Each of us should look in the mirror and congratulate herself for the mere fact of having gone through this. And then you should congratulate yourself again.  And again. We should carry on for a whole day and keep on doing it for years to come.

We all have to treasure the magic experience of birth, the struggle and the fear and the excitement of labor.  What an incredible powerful event to witness. The beginning of life. Such a miracle and mystery…


More about Anna Chieppa

Anna Chieppa is a freelance writer who has been living in Luxembourg for two years.  She used to live in Barcelona and it took her a year to get over the shock of the weather.


Would you like to tell us your birth story?  Click here!


More about Luxmama

DSC_0538As mother of two, Certified International Maternity Institute Baby Planner Consultant and Maternity & Child Sleep Consultant student, Luxmama provides personalised baby planning consultation services (maternity coaching) for future/new parents & parents-to-be – setting them up for success, so they can sail into their new lives with confidence!  Also on offer is a variety of social and educational events through the Luxmama Club designed so you can make the most of becoming and being a new parent in the modern world today.

A joy I have never known…

pregnant in luxembourg

Early cuddles…

We had a cup of tea with Shamala Hinrichsen to find out more about her journey during the birth of her first baby, little Jan (now 1).

Luxmama:  What preparation have you done for the birth of your baby?

Shamala (Sham):  I took antenatal classes with the Wellbaby Clinic and I also did hypnobirthing classes by HypnoBirthing.lu.

Luxmama:  In which hospital did you give birth and what was your impression of the facilities and the help from staff?

Sham:  I gave birth at the Maternité G.-D. Charlotte at the Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg.  The staff were very good and I had a brilliant birthing process. The hospital is rather old, hence things are rather run down and the rooms are small but I had a birthing room all to myself the entire time and did not have to go back and forth.

Luxmama:  Did you have any issue to communicate with the staff in the hospital?

Sham:   Not really.  (Shamala speaks English, German, Tamil, Malay, French and a little Cantonese!)  But I did find it a bother that there is no coherence on what is ‘correct’ by all the staff – each one says something different and under the duress of hormones that is enough to drive one nuts!

Luxmama:  What type of birth did you have in mind and why did you choose that?

Sham:   I envisioned a pain killer free natural birth.  Simply to keep it simple.

Luxmama:  Did you feel anxious about birth and did you try any methods to reduce your anxiety?

Sham:   HypnoBirthing classes really really helped and I still use the methods I learned until today.

Luxmama:  How did your labour start?

Sham:   I was on a conference call to China, and I felt the first waves of Jan wanting to come out!

Luxmama:  That’s hilarious! What did you do to stay comfortable?

Sham:   I worked for half a day, then had friends over for tea and later for dinner! I stayed comfortable by getting everyone to join my labour!

Luxmama:   Great story!  What happened then?

Sham:  I had a great great time and I would not do anything differently. I spent a lovely time with Carl, my husband and dear friends who came over with food. I spent a quiet night with the waves on my own so that Carl could get some rest and then headed over to the hospital.

The midwife that I remember most was Nathalie who was just a pillar of support – working with me to avoid painkillers and just keeping me comfortable and encouraging me on.  Carl was just phenomenal remembering the exercises from HypnoBirthing.

Also we had a playlist called “Plautze Bear’s Birth” and I kept listening to all the songs I had played for Jan all the while.  It took 21 hours, but Jan arrived happily eventually!

I was not really upset when at the 20th hour of labour, my doctor discovered that the top of my cervix would not dilate (an anatomical anomaly) and while I had dilated 9 cm below, I would not be able to birth Jan vaginally.  I had really tried and as much as at that time given all the pain, I wished I had known about my cervix earlier, on hindsight, I am glad that Carl and I had the chance to go through what we did for Jan.

Luxmama:  And did you experience love at first sight when your baby was in your arms finally?

Sham:   Both Carl and I were in tears the moment we heard him. It was magical and I will never forget it!  We called out to Jan and whispered his name in his ear…

Luxmama:  What was your breastfeeding experience like?

Sham:   I must say that while the Gods of labour had forsaken me, the Gods of breastfeeding stayed close to my side.  Jan nursed within the first 30 minutes and nursed all night!!!  In fact, trying to wean him off now at 12 months is the problem!!!!

All I can say is, go with the flow – your baby and you will thrive – whether you breastfeed, whether you do something else – just do what feels right instead of what everyone says is right.

Luxmama:  Was there anything you forgot to pack in your hospital suitcase and what would you say are the top 5 items to remember to pack?

Sham:  Music, a book to read, moisturizer, slippers and a towel.  I actually did not bring along disposable underwear that fit!  But the hospital was happy to provide!

Luxmama:  How long after birth did it take before you “recovered”

Sham:   Sometimes I feel as if I am still recovering (chuckle).  But since I had surgery, I would say it took about six weeks before I felt somewhat okay.

Luxmama:  What would you do differently next time?

Sham:   I know now that I cannot give birth vaginally, so will be an altogether different experience.

Luxmama   What is your top tips for first time mamas giving birth her in Luxembourg?

Sham:

  1. Become friends with other moms and moms-to-be
  2. Have faith that you are giving birth in a nation with the highest per capita expenditure on healthcare – so you have access to everything
  3. Be informed on what to expect
  4. File your paperwork correctly

Luxmama:  What did you learn or experience that you never expected?

Sham:  A joy I have never known.  I have been born as a parent now. And also the amazing group that I now belong to – parents!


About Shamala:

Shamala is a Malaysian of Indian descent and a geneticist by training who is now being outsmarted daily by a one-year old. She published her collection of short stories in 2012 and a series of bilingual books in 2014 along with her husband.  She is currently working on her novel. However motherhood is a grand excuse to not do anything else!

Like many among us, she came to Luxembourg almost three years ago for work reasons.

You can check out her work here:

Elephant’s Breath – a collection of short stories

Carl and Sham love Marzipan  (Carl and Sham are best friends – Book 1)book pic

Carl and Sham visit Britta and Matze  (Carl and Sham are best friends – Book 2)

Carl and Sham go to Luxembourg  (Carl and Sham are best friends – Book 3)


Would you like to tell us your birth story? Click here!


More about Luxmama

DSC_0538As mother of two, Certified International Maternity Institute Baby Planner Consultant and Maternity & Child Sleep Consultant student, Luxmama provides personalised baby planning consultation services (maternity coaching) for future/new parents & parents-to-be – setting them up for success, so they can sail into their new lives with confidence!  Also on offer is a variety of social and educational events through the Luxmama Club designed so you can make the most of becoming and being a new parent in the modern world today.