I have been practicing yoga since 1998, midwifery since 2005, motherhood since 2007 and massage since 2010. During all of these years of learning, teaching and observation, it became clear to me that women (especially in rural and regional areas) had very limited access to birth education that combined all of my loves – midwifery (especially teaching birth anatomy and physiology), yoga and massage. So I went about creating a program that included them all in an effort to decrease women’s fears about birth and create more positive birth experiences.
The program that I have developed (the Chill Mama Active & Mindful Birth Workshop) is short – 3 hours, currently held on a Sunday afternoon, with the aim of being affordable, and accessible to rural and regional women so that they don’t have to travel far to access it. The workshop is for women only, to provide an intimate and relaxing environment where questions can be raised and fears can be released. The workshop does not tell women everything they need to know about birth and beyond (after all, it only goes for 3 hours!), but sits as a practical adjunct to hospital based antenatal education and also alongside other education such as Hypnobirth, Calmbirth and SheBirths programs, as well as education provided by other healthcare providers such as doctors, midwives and doulas.
So what happens during a Chill Mama Active & Mindful Birth workshop?
- We participate in a prenatal yoga and meditation session to learn to recognise and practice activation of the parasympathetic nervous system – the rest and digest aspect of our nervous system that needs to be activated in order for labour and birth to proceed in a physiologically normal way. In the Wagga workshops, the yoga component is taught by Jenny Storrier, yoga teacher and Doula from Down to Earth Birth. Having Jenny present at the Wagga workshop enables the women present to get to know her and then have a contact point to access for yoga or doula work after the workshop is over. I teach the entire workshop in Albury.
- We learn about the progression of normal labour, exploring both anatomical (the pelvis) and physiological (the hormones) aspects. It is my firm belief that if women understand how normal labour physiology works and how we can best support that expression of physiology, women and their support people will be able to work together to make the best informed choices for their care during birth along with their healthcare providers.
- We practice yoga inspired Active Birth positions to understand how to best help baby to move through the pelvis during labour and minimise pain.
- We explore Rebozo, an ancient Mexican technique that can be used for comfort during pregnancy and labour.
The terminology used and ideas explored throughout the workshop are cognisant of the fact that the majority of women living in rural and regional areas will birth in a hospital with care providers they may have never met before. Also acknowledged is that, although counter to the World Health Organization which advocates for a caesarean section rate of 10-15%, the average Australian caesarean section rate is approximately 30%, so based on these figures, potentially 1 in 3 participants will give birth via caesarean section. It is my hope that with the techniques explored and practiced in this workshop and beyond, that women who participate in the workshop will be more likely to experience a normal, physiological birth and for those women who require intervention, that their experience of birth will be positive. I also acknowledge the researched benefit for women to have access to a known care provider (midwife or doula), providing continuity of care during pregnancy, labour and in the postnatal period, to further enable normal birth physiology, despite this being a rare offering in rural and regional areas currently.
So far, the feedback from participants has been very positive with workshops being held in Albury and Wagga Wagga and participants also coming from outlying towns such as Temora, Leeton, Gundagai, Mount Beauty, and Wangaratta. Over time, I would like to roll the workshop out across other regional areas to enable more women to have access to this education, using the same model as Wagga – having a yoga teacher (who ideally is also a midwife or doula) teach the yoga component of the workshop, to provide that local contact point, with me teaching the rest of the workshop. Wangaratta, you are my next point of call…
Oh yes, and there’s afternoon tea – I forgot to mention that. Here’s a recipe for Jaffa Bliss Balls that sometimes feature during the workshop to fend off the 3.30itis:
- 1 cups of dates (soaked for 10-15 mins in boiling water)
- 1 cup of nuts (I like hazelnuts and almonds)
- 1/3 cup cacao powder
- 1/3 cup coconut oil
- 1/2 cup coconut
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 5-10 drops DoTerra Wild Orange oil (depending on how orangy you want it)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (or a scraped vanilla pod if you’re feeling fancy)
- LSA meal and cacao nibs (mixed) (approx 2 tbsp of each) for rolling and coating the bliss balls
Blitz all the dry ingredients in the food processor until fairly fine. Drain the dates leaving some of the liquid behind (about 2-3 tbsp), add to the food processor with the wild orange oil, coconut oil and vanilla. Blitz until it all comes together. Roll tablespoon amounts of the mixture into balls, then roll the balls to coat in the LSA and cacao nib mixture. Set in the fridge for a couple of hours and enjoy.
By Amy Vaccaro,
15th January, 2018.