Breath

How to let go of your dreams (in order to manifest them)


Birthing naturally

Birthing naturally

You know those times in life when you have a dream, a vision of something you really want to do, have or be, but however hard you try it just won’t work how you imagined it would?

It’s not easy to walk away and trust that life knows what it’s doing is it?

Sometimes however it’s the only way.

Maybe your timing wasn’t right, or maybe what you think you want and what’s for your highest good are two different things!

It’s usually only when we look back, with the benefit of hindsight, we realise and understand this.

Soren Kierkegaard said (this quote has profoundly affected my life):

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Talking about ways to bring new life into our days, takes me back to my quarter of a century in midwifery …

Natural birth

How was your birth?

No, not the birth of your children. YOUR birth.

Was it fast, slow, early, late, complicated, painful – or gentle and unhurried?

Do you even know? Have you ever asked?

I was born at home, which I see as a great gift. My mum may not agree, as she was alone for the whole labour – the midwife only deigned to arrive at the last minute.

From what mum’s told me, the labour was uncomplicated and drug-free. The only part that was a particular ‘problem’, was when the midwife finally came and proceeded to instruct mum not to push, as she hadn’t quite got her equipment ready!

Ridiculous woman. It’s just not something you can forcibly stop, once the baby’s ready. Having said that, entering the strange confines of a hospital whilst in labour can halt progress, but that’s another story …

I do wonder if mum did attempt to resist that forceful expulsive urge. She was only 26 years old, with no-one to support her (my dad was working away). In which case, it’s feasible I got frustrated, as the strength of muscle contractions would’ve been forcing me further down, despite mum holding back.

What has this got to do with anything you may ask? In a previous post I discussed the importance of breathing, and said I’d share this with you.

During our Holistic Life Coach training, we were encouraged to discover more about our birth story. It seems possible for messages to be processed by the brain during the process, which can subconsciously affect our life.

So I can postulate that my fear of being buried alive, and importantly my ‘fear of drowning’ that wasn’t overcome after the white water rafting incident, could have originated from being ‘forced’ to stay longer in the birth canal than necessary, at a crucial point, and feeling suffocated.

It sounds far-fetched, but who knows what information could be hard-wired in our brains?

I’m also aware of being prone to impatience. I figure being held back like that, could be one of the reasons! However, mum’s story is she told the midwife in no uncertain terms she was pushing whether she liked it or not.

I could also picture the fact that my birth was a fairly rapid one, with no obstructions. And I was early! Well, only a week or two, which isn’t exactly ‘early’, in fact it’s well within the parameters of ‘normal’. But I didn’t hang around.  Once I was ready I was coming out!

Mine was a ‘good’ birth. How often is birth in the twenty-first century as gentle, physiological and ‘normal’ as this I wonder?

The 4 Ps – Power, passenger, passage, psyche

During labour, there’s four major factors affecting progress:

1/ The Power is around the strength of the contractions, how well nourished is the mother, how well rested is she? What position is she in – lying flat on her back in bed is unlikely to assist the power of labour, though lying on her side if she’s exhausted could. Changing position frequently can also help. Standing up and walking around helps enormously.

2/ The Passenger of course relates to the baby as she/he descends the birth canal – or not! There is an ‘ideal’ position of course, head down and flexed (chin on chest), ‘left occipital anterior’. Or in layman’s terms, on the left side and looking down. In this position the fetus is optimally placed to negotiate the twists and turns of the pelvis. Other positions may birth vaginally, but could cause more challenge.

3/ The Passage relates to the anatomy of the mother’s pelvis. There’s a number of shapes and sizes, the measurements of which drifted out of my head as swiftly as I read them, like most anatomy and physiology! Suffice it to say, some dimensions work well and others not at all.

4/ The PSYCHE – such a vital P, and one that’s not always acknowledged in the production line assembly of birth in a modern, ‘keep to budget, get them through quickly’ labour ward. In a planned home birth the psyche is calm and in control, in a noisy labour ward such as those seen on dramatic TV programmes, adrenaline kicks in and can halt contractions in an instant, leading to a cascade of unnecessary interventions.

Little can be done about the woman’s anatomy, but the other three can be helped to progress in a variety of ways that can literally shift the process from ‘stuck’ to ‘smooth’.

Breathing, as always in life, is crucial.

One of the (sadly many) practices I found extremely distasteful in professionally ‘managed’ childbirth, was encouraging women to take a big breath, hold it, and push forcibly as long as possible until her face was beetroot red and she soon became exhausted.

What also happened during this process is that the oxygen supply to the fetus was interrupted.

When the woman is ‘allowed’ to adopt a position conducive to giving birth, and follows the spontaneous nature of breathing and automatic expulsive efforts, the baby is more often than not born gently and with as little trauma to either party.

No force, letting go and allowing nature to take her course.

Listen, learn, change your mindset and let go 

You have a dream.

You’ve hit a brick wall.

You’ve worked hard to push through the barriers that have been presented to you. But they’re not giving.

It can be frustrating. But continuing in the same direction regardless of the obstacles can be foolish.

Like the obstructed birth, it may happen eventually but at what cost in terms of trauma?

Consider what you can change that may lead to a different outcome? Maybe you can look at the dream differently? Or move the timescales you’ve put upon yourself?

Start to consider a change to your mindset …

Or is it time to let go?

If things aren’t moving, then don’t keep forcing it. Because when that happens, when you force against nature, you’re much more likely to encounter an obstructed labour!

Wait a while. Let go of expectation. Be open to possible changes of direction and opportunities that weren’t originally around.

“Don’t push it, don’t force it
Let it happen naturally
It will surely happen
If it was meant to be” ~ Leon Haywood

Your dreams

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of following your dreams. When it worked well, what was different to the times when it didn’t?

As always, if you want to consider a coach to support you to birth your dreams, do get in touch.

An inspiring way to reduce everyday stress


Finding the balance

Finding the balance

It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.”~Hans Selye

The word ‘stress’ derives from the Latin stringere (to draw tight), and can be defined as “A situation where demands on a person exceed that person’s resources or ability to cope.” (Stress Management Society)

It’s not possible to avoid ‘being’ stressed, however it is possible to change the way we deal with it, and therefore the emotions we ‘feel’ in response.

What ways have you discovered that work for you?

There’s a myriad of self-help possibilities out there to choose from, I’m not going to list them all or provide a panacea for all possibilities!

What I hope to provide is one inspiring strategy you can easily use to form an automatic response, reducing the adverse affects of hormones produced.

It’s a tool I share with coaching clients and they find it enormously beneficial – when used regularly.

What is stress?

There’s three main types of stress.  Routine (happens most days at work and general life), sudden (usually negative and unexpected) change, and traumatic stress (accidents, death of a loved one for example).

Our bodies are programmed to respond to them all in similar ways, though people react and cope differently, depending on their individual life experience and knowledge of helpful ways of dealing with the situations they face.

The flight or fight response is the body’s way of ensuring we’re alerted to potential threats to our safety. Facing a perceived dangerous situation, your heart rate and breathing quicken, muscles tense, your brain uses more oxygen and increases activity.

All functions aimed at survival, and in the short term the body’s automatic response can even boost the immune system. The surge in adrenaline production provides us with the energy to react promptly, which can be life saving.

However, if this state is encountered too frequently, or for prolonged periods of time, it results in an imbalance contributing to ill-health.

Work-related stress

It’s encouraging that the Health and Safety Executive’s latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey (UK) show the total number of cases of stress in 2010/11 were significantly lower than in 2001/02 – 400,000 out of a total of 1,152,000 for all work-related illnesses. They also found the number of new cases of work-related stress had reduced to 211,000 from 233,000 in 2009/10, though that change isn’t statistically significant.

The industries reporting the highest rates of work-related stress were health, social work, education and public administration, whilst the occupations reporting the highest rates of work-related stress were health and social service managers, teachers and social welfare associate professionals.

Findings from the ninth annual NHS staff survey (2012) revealed 30% of NHS staff reported they’d experienced job-related stress in 2011 – a rise from 29% in 2010 –  while among ambulance staff, the figure hit 34%.

Breath is Life

Cheerleading pushing

Cheerleading pushing
(photo from Natural Mama NZ)

One of my bug-bears from quarter of a century as a midwife, was ‘directed (I call it ‘cheerleading’) pushing’ in the second stage of labour. You’ll have seen it on the TV many times.

The midwife or doctor gets the woman (who’s usually lying on her back or in a semi-sitting position) to bring up her legs, put her chin on her chest, breath in deeply and then push with all her might until her face is beetroot red and she is exhausted.

More likely than not, during each expulsive contraction, she’ll be coerced into repeating this process as many times as possible. It’s called the ‘Valsalva Maneuver‘.

The knock-on effects of this have been widely documented and shown to cause maternal and fetal distress – and in my case midwife distress whenever I had the misfortune to witness it (memories of the birth of my first child spring to mind – maybe I have a form of post traumatic stress disorder?) It also increases the risk of the tissues around the birth canal tearing.

I read a book shortly after I qualified in November 1988, called ‘episiotomy and the second stage of labour‘, by Sheila Kitzinger, that transformed my practice. She promoted a much calmer approach, whereby the birthing woman allowed her body to lead her, to avoid forcing the baby to descend until it was in the right place, and for the breath to be used to welcome life rather than to force it out and increase the stress.

An inspiring way to reduce everyday stress

Our normal reaction to a stressful event is to hold our breath.

Notice this happening next time something happens you deem as stressful. Then our breath quickens, and in reaction so does our heart-rate. If we need to run away from that tiger (!), or more likely the car beeping it’s horn because we’re texting while we’re walking across the road – then great. Good response!

But if we don’t need that surge of adrenaline and the associated increase of breathing and pulse – STOP IT!

If you can, walk away from the situation causing the challenge.

Then BREATHE.

Not quickly, but consciously, deeply and slowly.

Dr Libby, author of ‘The Rushing Woman’s Syndrome‘, shares in great detail the potential adverse effects on our bodies of adrenaline, and promotes breathing in whilst saying inwardly “I calm my body“, breathing out “I smile“.

Go further than this and breathe in through your nose for a count of seven, hold the breath for a count of one, breathe out through your mouth for a count of seven, and hold it for a count of one. When you breathe in, use all of your lungs. Begin with your abdomen, not your chest, and feel it expanding. If it’s appropriate (depending on where you are at the time), place your hand on your stomach to feel it rise, the chest will be the last to fill and empty. Repeat this breathing a number of times until you feel your self relaxing.

How inspiring

There’s two definitions of ‘Inspire’.

One is to ‘fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative’; the other is ‘to breathe in (air); inhale’.

Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” ~Etty Hillesum

Oh, and something that inspired me when researching this post is that studies have shown dark chocolate reduces stress hormones such as cortisol and other fight-flight hormones, and cocoa is rich in antioxidants! Hurrah! I can continue with my 75% cocoa or above chocolate fix each day.

Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you.”  ~John De Paola

Find a fact sheet on ways to deal with stress from National Institute for Mental Health here.

What ways have you discovered to help you manage stressful situations?