DIY Birthing Workshop

Being pregnant in Melbourne, you’re not short of birthing workshops to support you through your birth preparation. However, they’re not cheap and they’re aimed at people pregnant with one baby, hoping for ‘normal’ birth experiences. We’re on a bit of a budget, expecting twins and have been repeatedly told by that this will be a ‘medicalised’ birth, with all the interventions you can think of and a high chance of cesarean.

I was still yearning for some time with my partner to prepare, connect, meditate, share our fears and make some birth art inspired by the few birthing books which have resonated. So last weekend, we enjoyed our own agenda and timings, in our homely venue (and with our own catering!)

I’m sharing our process here, so that you can create your own birthing workshop if you want to. I do believe those run professionally are invaluable, but last weekend showed that it is possible to Do It Yourself.

How to… Create a DIY Birthing Workshop

1. Setting the scene

Diarise it: We set aside a Saturday in our diaries in advance. We treated it like we were attending a ‘real’ event, so noone could cancel or double book.

Getting on the same page: The night before, we discussed our aims for the day. This was integral, to be aware of each others expectations. For example, he wanted to start by going for brunch, I wanted to end by going for dinner; I wanted strict timings, he wanted activities to be as long or short as needed. I had read a few books and spoken to a few people about workshops they’d attended, so I had a million suggestions for activities. It was good to narrow these down into ones that resonated for both of us, and ones that met our aims.

Our shared aim was: To confirm birth plan, discuss fears and gather tools for our Birthing Toolbox

Prep work: We individually brainstormed fears as they entered our head in the 24 hours previous and brought these with us.

2. The programme

  • Brunch in a cafe nearby
  • Acceptance meditation: Discuss what came up for us in the meditation, adding any tools, reminders or affirmations to our toolbox
  • Birth art: from Birthing from Within (Pam England)
  • Fears: Share, discuss. We went through each fear explaining its origin, how likely we think it is to actually happen and what we would do if it happened.
  • Break: walk in the sun, purchase afternoon snack
  • Lunch: Leftovers at home
  • Pain meditation: From Mind the Bump app
  • Birth Plan: We followed a template and filled it in separately on white boards, then came together to discuss and finalise
  • Stressful situations: Inspired by Wellness Plans we do in my mental health job, we divided a page into 3 columns
  • You know I’m getting stressed when…
  • When I’m stressed, it helps to…
  • When I’m stressed, I like to hear… 
  • IMG_6321
  • This has become a reference point for us to use in those anticipated stressful times ahead (he even got it out the next day when I was stressed and said ‘I’ll cook!’).
  • Confirm Tools for Toolbox: Affirmations, meditations, reminder points- add to birth plan
  • Swim: We’re lucky enough to have a pool in our apartment block!
  • Dinner: At a new restaurant down the road using a voucher we’d been kindly gifted, followed by a non-birth related film and ice cream on the sofa.IMG_6250

3. The result

How I felt: Heard, connected, at peace, reassured, ready(!).

How he felt: “Together, calm, ready.”

And these feelings have remained since. Of course it doesn’t mean the fears don’t exist or the toolbox is shut not to be revisited until ‘D* day’, it’s an ongoing process. (D* for Delivery)

If you’d like to create your own birth workshop, keep asking yourselves what’s important for you to cover. Our programme came from what we as individuals wanted to explore, in ways that resonate for us (meditation, art, food!). Yours might look very different depending on your needs and exploration preferences.

 

Creating Space

It’s been a while since I last updated this website and I feel compelled to write why. Whilst writing this, I wondered whether I was making an excuse for the lack of recent blog posts, or, an explanation of future down-time. Either way, I’d like to share why it has been, and might continue to be, a little quiet on here:

I have been creating space.

Creating Wellbeing has always been about creating space. Firstly, I was driven to create a space for people to share their wellbeing stories, journeys and tools; a space I felt was so lacking in my own recovery journey. But in creating a space for others, whilst working full-time, I made no space for me. I was exhausted.

Arriving in Melbourne I knew I needed to a different tack: I was determined to turn it into my full-time job. Despite meeting all the right people, doing extensive research to conclude Melbourne is perfect for what I was offering – I kept putting it off. Blogging, flogging, pitching and furiously networking had become activities that made my heart sink rather than sing. I was exhausted at the thought.

So I reluctantly buried the 500 newly printed CWB business cards, paused the blog and found myself a job. Whilst I feel I have landed the mental health job of my dreams, I have to look deeply at my own recovery to support others with theirs. I am forced to create space for my own healing, and this is what I’ve been doing.

I began by creating space in my calendar, then environment and eventually, my mind.

It wasn’t easy at first, and a part of me still felt I’d deserted my Creating Wellbeing dream. Now I’ve come to realise that Creating Wellbeing is me, so I have pursue what Creating Wellbeing for me. Recently, it’s looked liked this:

  • I say No to some social engagements
  • I say Yes to spontaneous suggestions
  • I turn my phone off
  • I walk along the sand barefoot
  • I feel my body supported by the salt of the ocean
  • Inspired by Naomi Liddell I now block out Wednesday evenings for #MidweekMeTim
  • I meditate with the help of Headspace Ap
  • I plan little at weekends and spend lots of quality time with my partne
  • I stretch if it feels good, at home or at a local yoga studio, always practicing with Ahymsa (non-violence to body and mind)
  • I cycle as slow as I can back from work, watching the water move on the Yarra
  • I read books from the library
  • I go to the movies
  • I make simple cushion covers, rejoicing in the history and colour of the fabrics
  • I put my face in the sun
  • I look at nature blossom and change in the Botanic Gardens

So if this is what Creating Wellbeing is for me, what does Creating Wellbeing mean for the wider community for which it was originally intended? Well, I have faith this will evolve naturally, and I think it’s already started to. Mid-last year, very organically, a small Creating Wellbeing Melbourne group formed. I kept meeting people who passionately promote wellbeing and creativity in the community but needed a space to concentrate on their own creativity and wellbeing. A small group of us share the creation of that space and meet on a bi-monthly basis at one of our homes. It truly is co-created, with each of us taking a turn to organise and facilitate a session. And it is the opposite of exhausting. It’s exhilarating.

What’s Creating Wellbeing for you? The Creating Wellbeing FaceBook Group is also a space for you, me and the wider world to share thoughts and ideas and attend events together. And whilst blogging still doesn’t come naturally to me, I enjoy posting about #CreatingWellbeing to instagram.  I hope to see you there.

Creating Space and Wellbeing

How I have been Creating Wellbeing.

Musings on marriage, a wedding and Bridespeople

After a special month in India full of silence, song, mindfulness, creativity, good food and generous people, I felt more than ready for the move to Melbourne.

But within the first five minutes of coming through the departure gates, two very unexpected events happened:

The first is that my partner of 6 years and friend of much longer, Dan, asked me to marry him; and the second, is that I said ’Yes’!

These were unexpected events, because I never felt I needed to mark our already very committed and long-term relationship with marriage and Dan knew this. Unlike many proposals from the love of your life, Dan’s was met with a lot of swearing whilst I grappled with an internal dialogue formed of old beliefs and thoughts: ‘Marriage is soooooo institutionalised.’ ‘But I’m a feminist!’ ‘I won’t get married until all countries legalise same-sex marriage!’ ‘Weddings are too extravagant!’

Knowing there was some trouble with the Management Committee up top (my mind), Dan refrained from going down on one knee and simply said ‘Don’t think, just feel.’ Using the tools I’d gathered on my path to wellness, I removed myself from those thoughts and got in touch with my heart. And my heart was feeling to leap in the air and shout ‘Yes!’

Whilst all the mental chatter may be subject of an interesting sociological debate, I realised I wasn’t saying Yes to an institution nor to being owned by a man nor to an extravagant wedding; I was saying Yes to Dan and to our supportive and loving relationship. In that, I was saying Yes to life and Yes to happiness.IMG_5616

We have been engaged for 6 months. Now, of course, the question of a Wedding has become subject of more musing and exploration.

Weddings

I was lucky enough last year to attended 6 weddings (including one ‘uncivil’ partnership). All were beautiful and unique celebrations of love and union. Never thinking I would be having one myself, I observed each with great intrigue and learnt a lot about the concept and celebration of marriage.

I learnt that a Wedding is a special occasion celebrating the love and commitment of two people. I saw that a wedding (usually) lasts a day and a marriage lasts a loving lifetime. The most important thing then, is what the wedding is celebrating. Whilst we will try to find a way to involve everyone we love in the occasion we celebrate our marriage (our ‘wedding’), we acknowledge it may not be geographically or financially realistic for all to attend (wherever, whenever, whatever it may be). I would hope then that the wedding is not the only opportunity for loved ones to contribute to our lives as a married couple and individuals.

Although we don’t know how, where or what this wedding of ours will be, Dan has asked three friends to be his Best Man and Ushers, which got me thinking about my equivalent.

To B or not to B…Bridespeople

From my year of learning at very diverse celebrations of love, I observed the Bridesmaid’s role is to support the Bride in the run-up to the wedding and on the day itself. I am truly blessed and beyond lucky to have a number of individuals (female and male) who, I feel, can and will support me not just before and during the occasion we celebrate our marriage but throughout the rest of my life.

I am therefore asking all of those people (along with those I am yet to contact or even meet): To be, and/or not to be my Bridespeople. Because to me, being or not being my Bridesmaid/man is the same thing; having a title is unimportant. What is important is that we continue our mutually supportive relationship free from expectation or obligation. In simply being who they are to me, they are doing what I feel Bridesmaids do.

I may ask for their help in the run-up to the wedding or on the day, or, they may request to play a specific role. Either way, I hope we both know how much strength they give me across the seas and stars without needing official roles.

 

Doing something today for tomorrow

If ever you need convincing to do something today which might change the world tomorrow, watch this and be inspired by what Billie Jean King did – not only for tennis, women’s sports but all equal rights:

Inspirational Billie Jean King

Inspirational Billie Jean King (Image thehairpin.com)

http://www.acmi.net.au/lp_battle_sexes.aspx

It may go against the (current) grain,
you may be the only one (today),
it may feel uncomfortable (now)
and it may result in more immediate losses than gains
but if are victim or witness of even the slightest inequality –
stand up and do something about it.
For yourself, for now; for the next generation and for the future.

Mother India

Thank you, Mother India, for not only keeping me safe always but for providing me with the most helpful strangers, hosts with the warmest hearts and nourishing food for thought and fuel… Thank you for teaching me more about myself, yourselves, humankind, spirituality, song and silence…I now know wherever I go, however long for, you’ll love, respect, teach and protect me.

In my last blog I had decided to move to Melbourne for reasons of Love and Wellness. But not without paying a visit to my spiritual homeland on the way.

(It’s unfortunate that Eat, pray, love is taken, as it is would be an accurate title for this trip).

“Same same, but different”

Volunteering for 5 months in India 3 years ago was a significant turning point in my journey to wellbeing. I have been back each year since to be with the powerful people, enriching environment and exciting experiences this fascinating country provides.

I expected no less from my pre-migration month there, yet I was more nervous than ever. Whilst I was visiting many of the same people and places, one thing was different. India wasn’t my final destination this time (Australia was) and an imminent return was not possible. I’d made my decision to move to Melbourne, not Mumbai. Previous trips had been full of promises to ‘come back soon’ or find a way to ‘stay longer’. The only thing I was promising this time was friendship. Would my connection with the people and places remain even without anything ‘to offer’?

With the help of silence, singing, meditation and spiritual guidance provided by my good friends in my first destination of Kerala I soon realised I was in the best country and company to sit openly and honestly with these unfamiliar feelings and questions. I embraced the trip as a new and unique experience but was met with the same overwhelming warmth and kindness as I always have been, and learnt even more about generosity, kindness, love and faith.

Silence, singing and sunsets

Silence, singing and sunsets

“Get ready! Mother Mary is coming!”

No matter how much they had, everyone I came into contact with (which is always going to be a lot in India!) was generous with their time, spirit and possessions. I was never short of a host or guide, even in places I’d never visited.

I was lucky enough to end my trip in Delhi during Diwali where I was welcomed into the home and celebrations of a delightful family, none of whom I’d ever met, and was unexpectedly showered with love, money and sweets. In contrast, I had landed in Kerala during a Catholic festival. During which, a statue of Mother Mary from the local church is taken to each catholic house in the village for prayer and food.  I was invited to spend two days of the festival in a village just seven short hours away by train. (A whole book could be written about that journey, but suffice to say when I am next on a busy train I will endeavour to share my seat, sandwiches and tea with all those around me.) During the compulsory post-lunch nap I heard the phone ring. I was surprised to find I wasn’t dreaming when I heard the family shout up to me “Get ready! Mother Mary is coming!”

Sure enough she was there within minutes, carried and followed by the rest of the village for a few hours of prayers said out loud in very fast Malayalam.  Purely because I was “Ek foreigner, hein” I was given pride of place next to the village Father and two Sisters for the evening meal. Having observed quite a solemn session of prayer and devotion in front of Mother Mary’s statues, I welcomed the light-hearted nature of conversation provided by my trinity of holy company. They were intrigued by where I was from and what each member of my family were called. I couldn’t help but smile when one Sister asked lightly in this context, “Do you know Jesus Christ?” as if He happened to reside in my hometown or be a fifth cousin twice removed.

A visit from Mother Mary

A visit from Mother Mary

Food is love: “Eat. Take Rest” 

Food is love

Food is love

I am proud to say I am probably the only tourist to put on weight in India. I am always grateful to leave feeling stronger, not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually. Everyone I met simply wanted me to “Eat” their food and “Take rest” in their beds. Although this combination made me anxious for historical mental health reasons, I soon learnt that this was another manifestation of their generosity, kindness and, at base, love.

India’s attitude towards food and weight is one of the many things Westerners can learn from to create an equally happy and healthy culture. There, being slim is seen as a weakness. I saw it as a compliment when a friend remarked at the end of my trip, “You’re very not weak now.” The Western translation of “You’ve put on weight” doesn’t lend itself to be met with such delight.

I feel we also underestimate the power of rest in the West. We have a lot of downtime, fun and relaxation but is it true rest? Next time you’re ‘relaxing’ have a look at how much sensory input you have around you. Are you listening to music? Is the TV on in the back ground? Are you surfing the web from your mobile device? Why not try simply lying in a cool room in silence, without your phone or iPad. All my hosts would do this at some point in the day and I certainly felt a lot better for following suit.

Gratitude

At the end of my trip I was not only full of food, rest and love, I was brimming with gratitude.

Thank you, Mother India, for not only keeping me safe but for providing me with the most helpful strangers, hosts with the warmest hearts and nourishing food for thought and fuel.

Thank you for teaching me more about myself, yourselves, humankind, spirituality, song and silence. Thank you for your challenges and acceptance and of course the soulful sunsets.

This child is now ready to fly the nest, more than Melbourne-ready, with peace, joy and love in my heart as well as even more tools for creating wellbeing in my backpack.

I now know wherever I go, however long for, you’ll love, respect, teach and protect me. And I will endeavour to do the same with any Ek Foreigners I meet along the way.

Worldwide Wellbeing : Moving to Melbourne

I’ve always struggled with decisions, but recently, my indecisiveness took on a new challenge when I had to decide between the two loves of my life: my partner and my project.

My partner, Dan, was recently relocated to Melbourne on a 2-year contract and I couldn’t decide whether to join him or stay in the UK to pursue Creating Wellbeing. I was also worried that either decision would take me away from my connection with India.

I sought advice from friends, family, CWB colleagues and even a life coach; all listened openly. Most reassured me that I would know what to do as soon as I went on my planned two-week holiday to visit Dan in-situ. Arriving in the sunny, cosmopolitan city in winter, greeted by the love of my life, I was still crippled by indecision. I spent a lot of the time thinking and talking The Decision to death.

It wasn’t until the last day when I went to a mediation class that I stopped thinking and started feeling. At the end of this meditation we all picked a card from a pack of words and mine, phenomenally, was ‘Wellness (or for me, Wellbeing) : a feeling or state of mind which emanates outwards like love. In fact, Wellness is love.’

Wellness

I realised I wasn’t actually faced with a dichotomous decision at all. My partner and my project are not mutually exclusive; Dan is Love and Love is (creating) Wellbeing.  Personal relationships and wellbeing are pivotal to the success of any project.  I have been so driven by my belief that CWB is what the UK needs to respond to the mental health of the nation that I have been ignoring my own heart, often to the detriment of my own wellbeing. If it is a dichotomous decision – then I can have both my relationship and my project!

As soon as I realised this, I acknowledged some incredible leads that had been emerging in Melbourne.  From all the thinking and talking about The Decision I’d been blind to the potential venues I’d been visiting, the similar projects I’d come across, all the people offering to help set CWB up if I do decide to go there.

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Photos: A meditation room off the busiest street in Melbourne and a craft class I stumbled across.

And as for the irresistible India – I hope to visit before I leave for Aus’ and maintain my relationship at distance, with my heart (and the internet).

Through this experience, I’ve discovered that any decision made with love can only be met with love.  Quite phenomenally, a Creating Wellbeing UK committee has naturally formed with people committed to continuing the project while I’m in Australia for a few years. I look forward to seeing how it evolves with the hearts and minds of these creative, intelligent and loving people.

I’ve also coincidentally met someone working for a large happiness organisation in the UK who is also moving to Melbourne to be with their partner who wants to set up something similar over there.

The world of wellbeing is a small place full of love, if you stop and allow yourself to feel it.

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Photos: More wellbeing ‘signs’ chalked up around Melbs; my creation at the craft class.