This week has seen the start of the countdown to my first Paris homebirth!
Renata is now 38 weeks pregnant and due to give birth to her baby girl anytime soon!
I have attended plenty of homebirths in London, but this will be my first in Paris so I’m super excited!!
Being ‘on-call’ for a birth is a funny old way of life and always requires some slight lifestyle changes, since you are always acutely aware that you may be called to a birth at any minute!
First and foremost - I have to go easy on the Pop! I’ve been to a couple of birthday parties this week and so I’ve had to be mega conscious to reign it in after the first Aperol Spritz!
I am also super conscious at this time to look after myself really well: I know that I will need to be entirely physically and emotionally available to support Renata fully whenever she goes into labour, so I’m especially mindful to take good care of my own mind, body and soul around this time too.
Surrendering to the unknown
The thing about labour and birth is that you simply do not – and CANNOT – know anything about how or when it’s going to roll out. You cannot predict what time, what day it will happen, where you will be, what you will be doing…
If I had a penny for every time a pregnant woman, or indeed her partner, mother, grandmother, sister, best friend, or even next-door neighbour asked me ‘What time do you think the baby would be born?!’ oh what a rich women I would be!!
This ever-present state of uncertainty is something you simply adapt and get used to with increasing experience as a Doula or Midwife - but perhaps even more importantly as an ‘expectant parent.’ And if you don’t manage to adapt at least a little you will almost certainly go bonkers!
The modern world has become increasingly and unprecedentedly certain and ‘controllable.’ We are now able to fine-tune almost every aspect of our existence; information is instantly accessible, and astonishingly precise. We plan our lives, our itineraries, our holidays to the finest detail – and indeed months in advance! We know the exact time our train will arrive – to the minute (and are accustomed to people going completely bezerk at any sniff that it will be more than a few minutes late). And thanks to social media we are now able to know exactly what friends, acquaintances, and even business all over the planet are doing -and thinking - at every given minute.
In this sense, the unique realm of birth is perhaps one of the few - and only -remaining aspects of our postmodern existence where we must re-acclimatise and re-tune our brains to a state of uncertainty and ‘uncontrollability.’
In fact, this capacity to ultimately relinquish control and ‘let go,’ during pregnancy and birth - from a hypnobirthing and physiological birth perspective - is seen as CRUCIAL to the efficient and comfortable progression of labour and birth itself. It is in this state of ‘let go,’ that we renounce anxiety and intention and are able to let the mind be quiet. When the grip of the rational and reactive mind releases its grip, the intuitive wisdom of the women’s body is then given space to do what it knows exquisitely, and precisely, to do…
The myth of the due date
Our concept of time is equally antagonised during pregnancy and birth.
The much anticipated birth of their precious babe presents soon-to-be parents with a vague no-mans land between what we know as the ‘full term,’ being 37 weeks pregnant, when the baby is deemed to be physiologically ‘fully cooked,’ (for instance we know that the various components of foetal lung development is generally optimised by 37 weeks) and the women’s ‘due date,’ which is variously 40 weeks in the UK (and US) and 41 weeks in France.
In this unfamiliar sea of uncertainty the possibility of a ‘due date’ first appeals wonderfully to our postmodern desire to pin things down to a precise timetable. Then at some point we learn that less than 5% of women actually give birth on their ‘due date,’ so in fact there is nothing certain about the due date at all - except for the fact that this date is both wildly imprecise and uncertain.
For this reason most hypnobirthing and other ‘mindful’ birthing schools thus recommend that you detach from this idea of a due date altogether and refer rather to a vague period of time in which the baby might make an appearance.
The idea of going ‘past’ the due date can be a particular cause for unrest.
Again this is where mindfulness and hypnobirthing techniques come in useful; loosening our grip, and our tendency to anticipate and become inpatient when things don’t go according to ‘plan.’ Instead we place our faith in the inherent perfection of the natural course of things. “Baby will come when baby is ready” is a popular hypnobirthing affirmation, and one of my own personal faves, beautifully reflecting the sense that your baby too has a say in the process of his or her own coming into existence!
Inflate your own oxygen mask first
As a Doula you give A LOT to the women you are working with so it’s super important to be in good shape and sound mind yourself, especially coming up to a birth. The negative effects of adrenaline in the birth-space are well known and my intention is to what I can to enter a women’s sacred birth space with a calm and positive mind and presence.
Labour is – of course - a huge emotional, physical and indeed spiritual journey, so in order to be able to give yourself over completely to that women’s needs, it’s important that you are well topped up yourself!
As the analogy goes: it’s important to first secure your own oxygen mask before you attempt to help others to inflate theirs.
Since I am now working full time in my Doula/Hypnobirthing role in Paris I have been doing a combination of daily meditation/mindfulness and Yoga practises, as well as daily mantras and affirmations – both with my clients and privately on my own – so thankfully my mind and body feel in a good, strong and positive place for bringing good vibrations into the birth-space. OMMMMMMMMMmmmmmm.
When all the elements align
Despite my aforementioned willingness to acquiescence to the unknown powers of pregnancy and birth - I sometimes still find it slightly irresistible to engage a little in some guesswork on baby’s vital statistics – and its fun!
This will be Renata’s second baby; her first baby Natasha shot out into the birthpool with a splash at 38 weeks! So Renata had already given birth to Natasha by this time in her previous pregnancy. However Renata and her partner Fred instinctively feel that this babe-in-waiting will make a slightly more calm and less to speedy entrance to the world! Fred initially predicted the 24th, since this is the date of January’s full moon, but has since changed his mind to the 22nd! And Renata is still swaying towards the fact that it will be the 24th.
There are many who believe in the force of the full moon to affect women’s bodies - both in relation to pregnancy and menstruation (is it a coincidence that the lunar month is exactly equivalent to most woman’s menstrual ‘month’?). This thinking tends to oscillate around the fact that the moon’s gravitation pull has an influence on the tides and so may equally have an influence on the water content of the woman’s body and inside the uterus. The jury is still out, although here has been some large, historical, research studies to investigate this lunar phenomenon…but that is a whole other blog for whole other day!
The other element in this mystical process is that my good friend Bea will be making her way to Paris – with her film camera and equipment - on the Eurostar from London on Sunday 24th around midday! SO we are all hoping that she will arrive in time to be able to film Renata’s homebirth!
I believe hugely in the influence of the mind on the body when it comes to labour and birth so if on some level Renata is has set her mind on waiting for the Moon (and the Bea!) then maybe her body will heed her thoughts! Who knows!
We will have to just wait and see, and as I frequently say: it’s all in the hands of the gods (or goddesses)!
Until then I’ll be taking it easy on the Aperol spritz and staying firmly glued to my phone day and night!