Love For The Mama chats to The Double Mama aka Siobhan Miller
Its funny how your paths cross with others isn't it? I 'e' met Siobhan Miller through the forms of Youtube, email and Instagram. How does that work? Well let me tell you...
I am very happy to be doing this blog piece today and my wonderful guest is Siobhan founder of the The Positive Birth Company aka @the_double_mama. Siobhan delivers hypnobirthing courses in Devon, London and now Birmingham. This lovely lady contacted me to spread the love about her course that is taking place in September in Harborne (Birmingham). I was happy to do so but I wanted to go further and do an interview with her because I have my own journey with hynobirthing and I felt this was the perfect time to tell it.
Below are two videos of me telling you a little bit about my birthing experience and attitude towards hypnobirthing and how that changed over time. FYI I am PRO hypnobirthing now and I would recommend any expecting mother to sign up to a course because I wish I had with my first pregnancy. You can find the interview below.
I first found Siobhan through Youtube (however I didn't know she was her or ran a business called TPBC). When I eventually got into IG, I started following her (again didn't connect the dots), then the lovely lady contacted me to spread the word about her upcoming course in Birmingham (still didn't connect anything because clearly there is block of cheese between my two ears). It was only when Siobhan forwarded me a clip of her doing a breathing exercise (the same one I watched and used) that I could use for the interview, I was like OMG - the penny finally dropped. I was never going to be Einstein was I?
I have Siobhan to thank for making my second birthing experience a positive one. I am sorry for the odd tear I show in the video. Its only when you do something like this and face the story do you realise how the whole journey of pregnancy and motherhood is truly an emotional and powerful one.
(In the video, I should have said suturing rather than stitching, surge/wave rather than contraction and I now refer to labour as birthing)
1. How did you find out about Hypnobirthing or why did you go on the course?
With my first baby I was induced and it was a lengthy 2 day affair. I had been hoping for a natural birth but was naive and uninformed. I thought when I was offered an induction / told I was going to be induced (!!) at 40 weeks + 10 days that would mean I would get to meet my baby soon and the wait would be over. I had no idea that induction increased the risk of requiring an epidural, interventions, assisted delivery and c-section. I had no idea that an induction increased the risk of my baby experiencing distress. Had I known I would have declined the induction and been a little more patient, opting to wait.
However I went along with it and one thing led to another. I had the pessary, then my waters were broken, then I was put on the drip. 36 hours later, having not eaten or slept, I had an epidural. My son was finally born the next morning by forceps delivery in theatre by which point I was delirious with exhaustion. I have little recollection of the moment he was born and was unable to hold him at first.
I was then moved to a postnatal ward and my partner was sent home. It was the early hours of Friday morning and I had not slept since Tuesday night - or eaten since Wednesday morning. I was weak, exhausted and frightened. It was not the best start to motherhood but unfortunately I just got caught up in the way things are done in hospitals, without realising I had rights and choices!
7 years later when pregnant with my second baby I knew things could be different. I had seen and read enough online to believe birth could be amazing and I had heard lots of people rave about hypnobirthing classes so decided to give them a go. What I learnt on that course changed everything for me.
From that point I decided to plan for a home birth and my partner and I practiced our relaxation techniques each evening in the lead up to birth. It was such a magical time and I remember it so fondly. We felt so calm and confident and connected. Above all else, we felt excited for labour to begin and looked forward to the experience and meeting our baby!
I went into labour on a Thursday around 3pm. I gave birth 2 hours and 19 minutes later on all fours on the sofa, under the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree. I felt euphoric! The happiest I have been! I felt like some kind of superwoman. It was amazing.
I had no interventions, no pain relief - not even gas and air! Nothing! A totally natural, wonderful, empowering and healing birth. And the impact it had on me in the postnatal period was so profound. For the 6 weeks that followed I existed in such a happy magical love bubble. I felt full of love for my baby, for myself and for my family. It was such a beautiful time. I felt so calm and happy.
In the summer that followed I completed my psychology masters that I had been working on and decided to train to become a hypnobirthing teacher. My career up until that point had been in digital marketing but even before falling pregnant I knew I wanted to do something else. I wanted to work with people and do something more rewarding. Becoming a hypnobirthing teacher felt like the perfect thing for me to do because hypnobirthing essentially is the psychology of birth.
I completed my training with Katharine Graves in 2015 and have been teaching ever since. I now run group classes monthly in London and Devon and as of September will be teaching in Birmingham. I have also launched the Positive Birth Retreat - the UK’s first luxury babymoon combined with the full hypnobirthing course. More recently I qualified as a placenta encapsulation specialist with IPEN which is exciting!
I had my third son in 2016 and again practiced my relaxation techniques ahead of the birth and used them in labour. His birth was so calm and peaceful it was almost uneventful! Apart from the small fact that I birthed an entirely new human into the world of course ;) I finally got my water birth (3rd time lucky!) and it really was a beautiful, gentle birth. Again no interventions, no pain relief. I didn’t even think of needing any! I had complete trust in my body and really enjoyed the amazing feeling of giving birth.
2. Why do you think some couples are not sold on the idea to go on the course when they are expecting their FIRST baby.
I’m yet to meet someone who didn’t do hypnobirthing with their first and still believed afterwards that it wasn’t necessary. So many second time mums come to me regretting that they didn’t do it with their first. I share their feelings! 11 years ago when I was pregnant with my first I hadn’t heard about hypnobirthing at all. Had I done, things might have gone very different.
I get so excited when first time mums come on the course because I know they are going to have an amazing experience from the start and that makes me so happy! You don’t have to go through a bad time of it with your first like some sort of twisted right of passage to then later get a good experience ‘because your body knows what it’s doing second time round’. YOUR BODY KNOWS WHAT IT’S DOING FIRST TIME ROUND! Your body is perfectly designed and it’s perfectly possible to have an amazing birth experience with your first and avoid experiencing any trauma at all. I’ve taught enough first time mums now to know this is true.
I think the reasons first time mums might not opt for hypnobirthing vary. Some women think it’s an unnecessary expense but then afterwards feel like actually they could have done with knowing a bit more and having some tools to help them. A lot of women choose NCT because it’s well established and gives them the opportunity to meet a big group of women locally who are all due at the same time. Then there’s a lot of women (and men) who hear the term ‘hypnobirthing’ and are put off thinking it’s not for them. There are a lot of negative associations with the word and people worry they will be hypnotised or that the course will involve doing strange things or that it’s something a bit airy fairy for hippies! All of which is untrue. I tell people if they’ve got a baby in their uterus then hypnobirthing is for them! You don’t need to subscribe to any particular school of thought for it to ‘work’. Hypnobirthing is a logical, evidence-based approach to birth. It’s about understanding your body, how it works and what you can do to make labour more efficient and comfortable and then learning techniques you can use to relax, after understanding why being relaxed is so important. You’ll also learn about induction, interventions, caesarean sections and how you can make those positive experiences. You’ll also learn about the various stages of labour and what to expect. We discuss everything from what to look out for if your waters break to your options around the delivery of the placenta so you are fully informed. It’s a completely comprehensive antenatal course and I believe it’s the single best thing first time mums can do in their pregnancy.
3. Why do you think it’s so important to try and have a positive birthing experience?
I think a woman’s birth experience stays with her for the rest of her life. There are far too many women left feeling traumatised after having given birth. It’s sad and unnecessary. I’ve met elderly women who still get upset recalling their births. The impact of the birth experience cannot be overlooked in my opinion! It’s such a defining moment in a woman’s life and marks her transition to motherhood. A positive and empowering experience is something that will stay with a woman for the rest of her life reminding her that she is strong and capable, even at times when she might feel she is not.
Besides there being long term / lifelong benefits to having a positive birth experience, there are also more immediate ones. Women who have a positive birth experience are less likely to experience Postnatal Depression. A positive birth experience doesn’t have to mean a totally natural water birth either! You can have an unplanned cesarean birth and it be a positive experience! What matters is that the woman was fully informed and made decisions that felt right for her and her baby and most importantly that her wishes were respected. Understanding your options and rights in birth is so important and empowering. Having practical tools you can use to ensure you feel calm and confident when you meet your baby are invaluable.
Finally a positive birth experience is not just for Mums. There are benefits for baby and birth partners! A baby benefits from being born calmly and gently without unnecessary intervention and being met by a mother who feels calm and confident. Then birth partners - they can feel just as traumatised by birth when it’s not a positive experience. So many birth partners report feeling useless and powerless as they sat on the sidelines watching labour unfold. It doesn’t have to be this way!! In hypnobirthing, birth partners are recognised as playing a vitally important role and birth is seen as a real team effort. On a hypnobirthing course birth partners are equipped with tools and techniques they can use to best support mum. A confident and empowered birth partner who can protect the space, advocate for the mum and support her on a practical and emotional level can help make the birth experience a wonderful one.
4. If intervention is needed, can a mother still use what they have learnt in your class to create a positive birthing experience.
Absolutely!! This is a big misconception about hypnobirthing; that it is just for natural straightforward births. This is not the case! In fact I’d go as far as saying that when things are more complicated, it’s even more important to be properly informed, know your options and rights and have tools at your disposal that will help you feel calm and relaxed.
You can use the tools you learn on a hypnobirthing course wherever and however you choose to give birth. If you decide to have an epidural and an assisted delivery or even a cesarean section then you may well feel anxious. That’s totally understandable. Having ways to calm yourself and be in a relaxed state of mind will be key at these potentially stressful times. Hypnobirthing techniques will help you do this so whatever happens you will be able to have a positive and empowering experience and meet your baby feeling calm and confident.
What’s also worth mentioning is that the hypnobirthing techniques I teach are really life skills and can be used well beyond birth at any stressful or anxious period in your life. Calm breathing to slow your heart rate, guided meditations, knowing how to properly relax and knowing what questions to ask to ensure you’re informed and able to navigate tricky situations are skills for life. Knowing it’s ok to challenge the status quo and feeling empowered to trust your own instincts are important life lessons.
5. Why is it important that your hypnobirthing partner whoever that may be is very much involved in this life changing moment?
Team work makes the dream work! Giving birth really is a team effort. When a woman is in established labour she might not be in a position to advocate for herself which means she in a vulnerable position. Having a birth partner she trusts, who is by her side and on her side is imperative!
A birth partner might be a husband or a mother, a friend or a doula. It doesn’t really matter who the birth partner is as long as they are someone who understands mum’s wishes for birth and has the confidence to step up if need be and ensure her wishes are respected. A birth partner who can protect the space and act as a gatekeeper will make a huge difference, enabling labour to progress to efficiently and comfortably. A birth partner who has come on a hypnobirthing course and has practical tools they can use to help Mum relax throughout will not only be such a great support but can also feel very proud of the role they have played in the birth.
Women need to feel safe and relaxed for labour to progress efficiently. A familiar and calming environment and the presence of someone familiar really helps with this.
6. I’ve heard that NOT listening to negative birthing stories of others is really important before your due date. What top 3 tips would you give to an expecting mother?
Yes! Definitely AVOID negative birth stories. They will only make you feel fearful is which will do you no good. Not only because feeling scared and anxious aren’t particularly enjoyable emotions to experience in the lead up to birth but from a physiological point of view, adrenaline (which we produce when scared and anxious) inhibits the production of oxytocin (the hormone you need for labour to begin and continue efficiently) meaning fear will make your labour less likely to begin in the first place or could cause your labour to stall. We know that the muscles of the uterus work most efficiently and comfortably when a woman is relaxed.
So my top 3 tips would be
1. POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT. By this I mean actively trying to reprogram your subconscious to feel positive about birth as opposed to frightened. A common way of achieving this is through positive reinforcement. So seek out positive birth stories and read them, watch positive birth videos online, listen to positive affirmations and use positive affirmation cards around your house so that even if you’re not consciously reading them, you are seeing positive messages all the time and building a new association in your brain between birth and it being safe and feeling good.
2. BREATHING. Find a breathing technique that works for you and master it. Aim to practice it each evening before you fall asleep. You might even find it helps you sleep better! Thus delivering benefits immediately. Practice this breathing technique so that it becomes second nature and then use it labour, each time you experience a surge (contraction).
3. BIRTH PREFERENCES. Draw up your birth preferences with your birth partner. Think about a few scenarios and outline your preferences for each. Once they are down on paper, go forth planning for the birth you want but know that you have given the alternatives due thought and recorded your preferences should a situation arise where you might need to change plan.
7. How has becoming a Hypnobirthing Teacher changed your life?
I believe I have found my calling! I’m finally doing something I love and believe in. Running your own business can be hard going and I work more hours each week than I ever have done before but it’s true when people say it doesn’t feel like work when you love what you’re doing.
I left my career in digital marketing in 2013 in search of something more rewarding. I embarked on a psychology masters the same year with the intention of working with adults in a therapeutic capacity of some sort. It wasn’t until my own amazing birth experience in 2014 that it all fell into place and I realised that being a hypnobirthing teacher was the perfect job for me.
I love teaching, I love the feedback I get afterwards and then when I get that text message from a new Mum or Dad to tell me their baby has arrived and it was the most wonderful thing they had ever experienced I cry with joy. To be part of people’s lives at this incredibly special time is such a huge honour and I feel really blessed (although roll my eyes at that word!!) and so very lucky to be doing something I feel so passionate about.
Then there is the behind-the-scenes stuff that happens when you’re running your own business. I don’t love all of it. It’s hard going being a one-woman band. I want to grow and be able to outsource stuff or bring people on board to help me but at the moment it’s just me and there’s always so much I want to do. That’s tricky and overwhelming at times. But ultimately I feel proud of my little business. I’ve grown it over 18 months and in that time I’ve had another baby (!) and financially supported my family, so I think it’s going pretty well all things considered.
You can find information on Siobhan's courses at www.thepositivebirthcompany.co.uk/courses
The youtube clip that I found that helped me through my second birth is below: