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…
- 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.
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.
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.
“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.
Food is love: “Eat. Take Rest”
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
Photos: More wellbeing ‘signs’ chalked up around Melbs; my creation at the craft class.
My friend B is getting married this year.
Knowing how committed she and her fiancé already were to each other, I asked her why they felt the need to celebrate it in this traditional way. ‘Because I love Love,’ She said.
Over the years, I’ve become more bemused by the celebrations of marriage. I’ve observed it to be a lot of work and money for a very short-lived experience. Sometimes not even creating any form of wellbeing for the loving couple involved. I’d heard of post-wedding breakdowns when the bride feels bereft of organising the big day.
However, B’s hen-party certainly challenged these stereotypes. Something happened in that cottage in Kent when 40 women got together to celebrate B’s Love. I learnt how strong and powerful this Love thing is, and why you’d want to celebrate it with all your friends and family.
B’s bridesmaid Mimi is a creative and holistic practitioner, running meditation and visualisation workshops for cage fighters, rugby teams and Creating Wellbeing.
Amongst the usual hen-do activities, these 40 women branching three generations sat for two hours painting hearts.
There was a noticeably calm and positive energy in the house at this time. People were sharing how they hadn’t painted for years; how much they enjoyed the feel of the brush against the paper; how they were feeling so relaxed…
The process was fantastic, and you could see each heart was made with Love. Love for B, for her relationship, for ourselves and each other.
But when Mimi showed us what our work was going towards making a bigger heart on a large canvas, there was so much love in the room!
Basking in the positivity, happiness and wellbeing that was created by this activity and whole weekend I found myself agreeing with B; Why not, love Love?