28 Jan

Book Review: The Hypnobirthing Book, by Katharine Graves

Hypnobirthing is something I think I understand, without ever having read much about it. As a general topic, the background theory of pain and fear was one of the first truly “birthy” things I learned about; and this book offers a clear explanation of how that works, as well as the impact of language on a birthing mother’s state of mind. The whole thing is mind-blowingly logical, and Katharine Graves sets out the case beautifully.

I enjoy the writing style, which is, for me, the ideal combination of gentle and no-nonsense. I particularly like the author’s suggestion that if something she suggests seems wrong or sits uncomfortably, to research it and then, if you still want to, reject it: a good strategy for informed decision-making.

The Hypnobirthing Book covers the physiology of birth, the importance of the birth environment, and strategies for getting into a helpful mental and emotional place to cope with the experience of birth. These include many practical things such as relaxation scripts, as well as some strong advice about a woman’s rights during childbirth. As such it is quite an all-encompassing read and I would recommend it to anyone supporting women during birth or teaching parents-to-be about birth, as well as to pregnant women themselves.

As with most largely sensible books about birth, there is the usual dip into alternative therapy, which if it worked would be called therapy. If you have a skeptical nature, just skip this bit, as the rest of the book is superbly useful: clear, direct, and comprehensive.

18 Jan

The Long Run

Our local NCT branches (Wokingham and Reading) are raising money to pay for training a group of Breastfeeding Peer Supporters. These are mothers trained in listening skills and basic breastfeeding knowledge, who can then support other new mothers at drop-in groups and clinics. It costs quite a lot but the return to the local community is great.

I’ve been convinced to have a go at running the Reading Half Marathon, to raise some money towards it. Having never run further than 7.5 miles, the thought is pretty scary. I’m collecting motivation points here: JustGiving Page

14 Jan



I once worked in an office full of women, where there was always someone pregnant or on maternity leave. “Doing nct” was considered a rite of passage, an essential part of preparation for parenthood. So when I finally did become pregnant ten years ago, I signed up for my course and waited quite impatiently for it to start. I’m a sceptical type, and went in with some reservations, but the warm, knowledgeable, down to earth teacher really won me over and opened my eyes to a possible experience of childbirth quite different from my expectations at that point.

Although I didn’t form long term friendships with my antenatal group, they were an amazing source of support and company during the first few months. I got involved with the local branch when I spotted an advert in the newsletter asking people to train as breastfeeding counsellors. “Sure,” I thought. “I know all about breastfeeding.” Three years of training later I had a solid network of friends I made through the training: fellow trainees, local antenatal teachers, and other branch volunteers. I had also learned how little I knew about breastfeeding.

When I started the training I thought that Breastfeeding Counsellors just had a voluntary role supporting mothers, and when I found out we were expected to facilitate antenatal sessions as well, I was horrified. I don’t really speak in public, and I’m not great with strangers. At the end of my training I went out to run my first session, copious notes in hand, and at the end of it the group gave me a round of applause! I had so much fun, came home on a high, and looked forward to the next one, and the next one, and the many hundreds after that.

NCT gave me more choices in birth and parenting, and then unexpectedly gave me a new career as a BFC. I love working with parents both antenatally and postnatally, and I now have other roles supporting my colleagues, as well as related work outside NCT that would never have been possible if I’d stayed in that office. Sometimes I get downhearted when NCT gets bad press, because I know how hard practitioners work to meet the hugely diverse needs of the parents who come to our courses. And then I carry on doing the work I love, supporting every parent in the situation they are in, as our mission statement says.