Calmbirth… those two terms are a contradiction, right?
A joyful birthing experience. What does that even mean?
A wonderful, positive birth story. Is that even possible…?
I’d love to share my Calmbirth story with you.
Forever will I be grateful for a lass I met about half way through my journey of trying to conceive. We were studying together for a short time and she was well in to her first pregnancy. A fellow class mate asked her how she was feeling about the birth, more specifically, was she frightened? Well, I tell you, the manner in which she responded, so calmly, and the fact that she was actually excited about the birth and looking forward to it is something I will never forget. That’s when I first heard about Calmbirth®. She had recently completed a course and I vowed, when my time came, I would look into this apparent Calmbirth® too! It was definitely a case of “I want what she’s got!” We never kept in touch so I have no idea of her birthing story, but I certainly believe she set me up beautifully for mine.
At long last I fell pregnant and then a whole new journey began. I was blessed with an incredible pregnancy, bub and my body were very kind to me, but if you’ve read my story you’ll know that I was terrified about the prospect of birth. I quote: “just how exactly does something that big fit out of there???!!!” Yes, I knew it was ‘natural’ and had been taking place for however many hundreds of thousands of years, yet I still could not comprehend it.
So I looked into this ‘Calmbirth®’ and discovered there were a number of facilitators in my local area.
What is Calmbirth®?
“Imagine a calm and joyful beginning to your baby’s life. It is possible. Calmbirth® is a simple yet effective childbirth education program which acknowledges the amazing ability of a mother’s body to work as one with her unborn child to give birth. Calmbirth® empowers the mother and her partner to experience birth with wonder and joy.
Most of us get our impressions of childbirth from Hollywood movies or the horror stories of family and friends, and while the outcome is usually good, the journey to get there seems long and dramatic. And hurts – a lot!
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
More and more Australian couples are signing up to learn Calmbirth® – a series of relaxation techniques designed to allow them to take control of their experience and make it something to look forward to, rather than fear.
Birth is a natural process which should be experienced fearlessly, calmly and with confidence. Calmbirth® teaches pregnant mothers, fathers or birthing companions the skills to accomplish such an experience. Calmbirth® encourages mothers to surrender to the process of their labour and birth no matter how it unfolds. If, for some reason intervention is needed couples can use the skills learnt in the Calmbirth® classes to meet any challenge they encounter calmly and without fear.”
Sounds pretty awesome right? There was a significant financial outlay but remember I was doing everything within my power to learn as much as I could and to set myself and bub up for the best possible birth. Honestly, I am so glad we spent the money. To think that, should I have shied away due to the cost, that my birthing experiences could have been completely different… well, it’s unthinkable really. If you were to ask me what I believed were my top two keys to an amazing birth, they would be Calmbirth® and the Epi-No. Without a doubt.
Further on I provide more information on the Calmbirth® program and how it works, but allow me to share with you a little of my experience.
It all started with hubby and I making our way down a long country driveway when I see a ‘tent’ appear. A huge tent. A Mongolian yurt to be exact. “What on earth is that!?” I blurt out. My husband says quite slowly and calmly: “That, I believe, is where our course is taking place…” Well you could’ve knocked me over, and I’m pretty sure I asked him to turn around and go home! He had already met our Calmbirth® facilitator previously in something along the lines of a ‘Beer & Bubs’ information night she had held for blokes soon to become Dads. And he had warned me that she was kind-of ‘hippy’ (in all honesty she really wasn’t, but he thought so enough that he wasn’t surprised by the yurt!) I don’t know of another Calmbirth® class that takes place within a yurt but I tell you what, it sure beats a boring meeting room, a hospital, or someone’s lounge room! It really was so quirky and beautifully laid out and she’d gone to great lengths to ensure that pregnant mummas were as comfortable as possible.
Then the learning began. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to hear birthing spoken of in such a positive, natural way. To learn about the intricacies of the woman’s body, it’s incredible design, and how even bub knows what to do – those aspects really stood out to me and really helped me when the time came. We received a great resource which covers such topics as ‘The Power of Beliefs, Thoughts and Emotions’, ‘The Inner Resources’, ‘The Stages of Labour’ and ‘Birth Intentions’. For my second birth, I again referred back to this resource. I didn’t feel the need to do a refresher course, which are available, as I’d had such a great experience first-time around and was in no way apprehensive, but the book was wonderful to look through again. We were also given a CD with meditations/visualisations and, as foreign as this concept was to me, I took it very seriously. Remember, anything that I could control, I did. So I sat in the bathtub, listening to the recordings, visualising the birthing process and myself ‘opening up’… kooky perhaps, but it sure paid off!
I believe that my amazing birthing experiences resulted largely from being both intentional and informed… two things that every expectant woman can be. I can’t recommend Calmbirth® enough and am so thankful for the path on which they placed me. I’m certain that, initially, both my husband and I thought that throughout my first labour I would be panicked, scared, worried that I couldn’t do it and afraid of the ‘pain’. I had visions of myself gauging my fingernails into him screaming: “What have you done to me???!!!” But, as you know, it was the exact opposite. Even when, as I lay there in hospital having contractions that I was barely aware of, we heard the lady birthing next door scream: “Get this thing out of meeeee!!!”… even through that, I remained calm and focused (and hearing their bub make it’s first cry only moments later was pretty incredible!) My husband is the first to admit: “If I hadn’t have seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed it was possible!”
Below is an extract from the thank you email I sent to our facilitator containing the birth story of our firstborn:
“So even though I had high hopes for Calmbirth, my labour was even better than I possibly could have hoped for! For days, every new midwife that came into my room talked about it, word had obviously spread! Even the pediatrician had heard about it! I’d done other preparation as well including using a tool called the ‘Epi-No’ and as a result had no tearing, I could have gone home that afternoon! The midwives couldn’t believe it when, after my skin-to-skin time with bub and a shower, I’d gone for a wander out of the birthing suite to orientate myself and let them know we were ready to have him weighed etc and go to our room… apparently they’re not used to women who’ve just had a baby coming to find them! The use of drugs never even crossed my mind during the birth and I haven’t even had a panadol since!
So I just wanted to share that with you! It was everything I’d hoped it would be and even better… I’d read so many real-life stories in the Calmbirth book about women who dilated so quickly and I was determined to be one of them – and it just happened!
It really was amazing and I’d do it again in a heartbeat! Not once did it cross my mind that this was too hard or that I couldn’t do it or that I hated my husband lol or anything like that! I still can’t believe it!
Thank you for your class – it must’ve helped me incredibly. Coming in, I’d heard so many horror stories and as a girl had grown up fearful of the labouring experience and was determined to change my outlook… even so, leading up to the day it was still such an ‘unknown’, what was it going to be like? Well, all of a sudden I found myself on the ‘other side’ oh so easily, and now life begins as a family!
So thank you again, you offer a remarkable and liberating ‘service’ I’ll be telling everyone about!”
The birthing journey is a very special time in a woman’s life. Whatever path your birth takes, your ability to make decisions that are right for you and your baby depend on you being an active participant.
Should you be interested in knowing more, I’ve obtained the following information from the website of Julie Clarke, a Calmbirth® facilitator.
What is Calmbirth?
Calmbirth is an antenatal education program developed to assist couples aiming for a natural birth. It’s based on the belief that severe pain is not a natural accompaniment to labour and if a woman is both mentally and physically prepared, her birth experience can be rewarding, comfortable and empowering.
Peter Jackson, founder of Calmbirth in Australia, says the techniques are based on the work of the late English obstetrician Grantly Dick-Reid (author of Childbirth Without Fear 1956), the pioneer of natural childbirth.
In his research, Dr Dick-Reid observed that some women were frightened of birth and had difficulty coping with labour and birth, whereas other women who were not frightened or were better prepared and had an understanding of what was happening, coped quite well.
“Calmbirth promotes the use of the subconscious resources of deep relaxation which centre around the normal physiological relaxation responses within the body,” says Mr Jackson. Calmbirth is not the Australian version of hypnobirthing. Hypnobirthing teaches couples self hypnosis methods while Calmbirth is a number of special relaxation techniques (and education).
How does Calmbirth work?
Calmbirth teaches you how to enter a totally relaxed state, similar to when you daydream or become absorbed in a good book or movie. It is then used in the last few weeks or months of pregnancy and particularly throughout labour and the birthing process. The techniques can also be used any time calm focus is required when caring for your newborn.
The program, usually taught over a number of days or a weekend, encourages an understanding of how the female body works to deliver a baby and the way fear can impede labour. Couples also learn how to use tools of relaxation, visualisation, positive imagery and light-touch massage to help prepare for labour and during labour itself.
The program is led by a registered Calmbirth practitioner and taught through classes, CDs and books.
“People leave the classes with a greater understanding of the birth process, confidence in their own ability to work with the birth process and excitement about their approaching birth,” says Mr Jackson. After completing the program, the couple then practise regularly, at home, right up until the labour.
The aim of the Calmbirth techniques is to have the labouring woman alert but deeply relaxed. It is this ability to relax that enables the pelvic muscles to open and allow the baby to birth more comfortably and easily. “Anyone can do it,” says Calmbirth practitioner Julie Clarke.
Calmbirth is totally safe, she adds. “Being calm and relaxed cannot possibly do any harm. It reduces adrenaline – triggered by fear – in the mother’s system, which helps to maintain the normal labouring hormone oxytocin and keeps the labour progressing well.” It also reduces stress which keeps the maternal blood pressure normal.
Calm breathing maintains good levels of oxygen to both the mother’s and the baby’s system, and, by relying on their own inner resources, the women are less likely to need medication which increases the baby’s health and wellbeing after the birth. The baby is then likely to respond with strong reflexes and commence breastfeeding without delay or problems.
The language of labour
Language can really influence a woman’s perception of their experience both before and during the labour. The word “contractions” when spoken to a pregnant woman can be frightening and immediately thought of as “pain”.
Calmbirth couples are taught to think of contractions as “surges” or “waves” and to interpret birthing sensations as pressure, stretching or numbness rather than associate the feelings with pain.
“Attitude makes an enormous difference to our experiences and if we go into birth with very negative expectations, taken from horror stories, movies we’ve seen, articles we’ve read etc it will certainly influence the outcome,” says Ms Clarke. “What is thought psychologically will influence the physical bodily reactions – such as the release of hormones – and will influence the labour.”
Visualising also helps the woman imagine her growing baby and the impending birth and during labour imagining the contractions as waves coming into shore, or the dilation of the cervix as an opening flower are common themes.
So, is Calmbirth for you?
Calmbirthing is suitable for all pregnant women – from first-time mums to mothers having their second or subsequent babies – and their partners who would like to have a positive birth experience, in a calm, relaxed way free of fear and stress.
Ms Clarke, who has witnessed many “calmbirths”, says the women are serene and relaxed when using the technique. “Many are amazed at how focussed and self-directed they are,” she says. “Their partners often comment, after the birth, on how focussed her breathing was during the “waves”, too.”
Calmbirth uses the logic that preparing for a wonderful birth experience can help achieve it, although no amount of preparation can guarantee a perfect labour or the need for no medical intervention.
“It helps couples see labour as a natural process, something that a woman’s body is designed to achieve, not simply an ordeal which must be suffered as a means to an end,” says Sydney lawyer Claire Whitehead, who learned Calmbirth for the birth of her first child. “And it’s not about making women think they have failed if things do not go to plan.”
“Birth isn’t something we suffer, but something we actively do and exalt in.” Sheila Kitzinger
The partner’s role
While the labouring woman is intently focused on her breathing, the partner is aware to minimise distractions and any disturbance that might alter her focus and is supportive of her wishes.
“Underpinning the Calmbirth course is the philosophy of encouraging, supporting and guiding family bonding between a couple as they prepare for the birth of their baby”, says Ms Clarke. “It focuses on the role of the value of each parent, the importance of mothers and equally important fathers in the life of their unborn and newborn baby. Relaxation, joy, hope, courage, determination and togetherness create good strong and loving relationships. In a nutshell, that’s what Calmbirth is all about.”
I mentioned the EPI-NO earlier which is a birthing preparation tool I absolutely rave about. This device has the power to change your entire birthing experience, for the better. I say without a doubt that I am certain the use of the EPI-NO played a vital role in the incredible birthing experience I enjoyed with my firstborn, and of course also my second natural & pain-free birth. I beg you not to miss this article on the EPI-NO!
My birth without fear post is also a nice follow-up to this one, be sure to check it out!
Before commenting please stop & think: is it kind, caring, positive & beneficial? Please remember that on the other side of this screen, be it the author or your fellow readers, that we are all humans with our own stories: needs, hopes, experiences, opinions &, most importantly, feelings. This is a respectful & safe place. I, the author, am not a medical professional. I offer simply my personal experiences & information gleaned in the sincere hope that it may be of use to another. This does not mean that I am ‘right’, whatever that means, but it did work for me. I reserve the right to remove any comments I deem unnecessary, inappropriate or negative. Thanks for being here. xx