Closing the Bones,

Yesterday I was blessed to attend an advanced Closing the Bones workshop. I attended the first level a couple of years ago – about a year after Bryn had died and during a period where I was trying to get pregnant without success. It was a profound, healing experience and one I will write about in due course.

I was keen to go to this one, even though I had said no more courses for a while, because Rocio , and amazing woman from Ecuador, who had trained the teachers from the first level, was taking this course.  Having given this massage a couple of times as part of a bigger postpartum ceremony for friends I was interested to learn more.

I am 33 weeks pregnant so I wasn’t totally sure how it would work or how I would feel about the process, plus I was suffering form some pains around my pubic area which wasn’t making me feel very great about moving a lot.

It was a huge group of us a mixture of doulas and bodywork therapists. From the first chat about how important it was for us to take this knowledge we would be learning and share it around I could feel a fire growing inside of me. The Manta or rebozo is a very important part of the whole ceremony (or massage if that is a word you feel more comfortable with), Mine has a very special history anyway, I love it very much.

So using a manta/rebozo (there is a slight difference in what the shawl is used for a rebozo refers to a shawl fro warmth, the Manta is the one used for working with pregnant and postpartum women) The whole body can be massaged – in large areas, the breast area, ribs, pelvis. Either in a standing, sitting or even lying position. The rhythmic movement of using the rebozo sends the giver into as much as a relaxed, trance like state as it does to the receiver. Rocio describes it as a dance between the two, with the giver tuning in to how the receiver wants to move, faster, slower, stronger or more gentle movements.

After the first practice you could feel the energy in the room change, a wonderful calming, nurturing atmosphere, lots of sighs as tensions and stress was released and the revelation that such simple seeming movements could create such a strong, relaxing feeling. The first training had concentrated just around the abdomen and pelvis, but as Rocio explained the body works as a whole and the breasts and arms are as important once baby has arrived.  She got us to massage our breasts and it spared a long conversation about how we don’t touch our breasts much, if at all in this part of the world. It was strange for us to thin about this area. But Rocio explained about energy, how not having a relationship with the breasts, being emotionally detached can cause blocks of energy in this area, the area we want to use to produce milk to feed our babies. And this energy bloc could also cause a physical blockage and at times like engorgement or needing to ensure a strong supply of milk it is important to bring energy and movement to this area. I suddenly felt nervous – were we going to be massaging each others breasts? I wasn’t sure I was altogether comfortable with this idea and waited wit bated breath to see where we were going. But no, using the Manta we gave a nurturing massage and movement to the breasts. For me , having had a fairly volatile relationship with my breasts while Bryn was alive, very much concentrating on how much (or often how little ) milk I was managing to express, I can only imagine how much blocked energy I had. I thought back about the only two experiences I had of massaging this area, once was to increase milk supply and it was a very much gritted teeth massage, repeating ‘come on, come on, make more milk, damn you’ in my head and under my breath. Not at all a nurturing massage, and even the massage described in breastfeeding literature for increasing supply is very prescriptive with an aim in mind rather tan creating a warming, nurtured, relaxing environment. The other time I did any form of touching my breasts was as part of a breast exam to check for possible lumps. Again a not very positive process.

I could really feel an energy and feeling of coming alive in my breasts, my thoughts about them changed and I started to realise ow much care they needed, especially approacing a time where they would become the most important thing in my baby’s’ life.

We moved on to massaging the arms and the legs using the rebozo, some more moves on the abdomen. Once the basic abdominal moves were incorporated plus the wrapping section it would create the most nurturing and physically and emotionally healing massage I’ve come across.

That evening I was excited to find that I had no pubic pain and was just wallowing in relaxing hormones. This morning, although having aching arms, I feel so much stronger in my back and pelvis, I feel more together in my head, calmer and with a steady train of thought rather than feeling ‘spacey’ and muddled.

I am looking forward to practicing today on my son and my partner, and then hoping that I can practice on two friends who have recently had babies. This is definitely something every woman should have (even if you had your babies several years ago) but definitely should be part of every woman’s postpartum experience. Difficult though, I realise ,when we live in a society that seems to encourage women to pride themselves on how quickly they can get back into ‘normal’ life and to get their pre-pregnancy figures back. after the birth of their baby.  A society that holds self-care of very little importance (in fact as an article I once read discussed how similar self-care was with selfish – thus creating the thoughts that the less self-care you did the better person you are).

Much of the massage is about moving the lymph, much about closing the hips, and much about bringing energy back to the woman. I could sit and write and write about the physical benefits, te emotional benefits, the energetic benefits of this massage but I think that until you have actually experienced it for yourself it’s very hard to understand.

This pregnancy I am planning my postpartum time as carefully as I am planning my birthing time and top of the list will be to arrange an appointment with someone who can nourish me with a Closing the Bones ceremony.

 

Mark Harris workshop and a Nurturing TIme

Yesterday I attended a workshop run by Mark Harris, Midwife and author. I’ve been following Mark on social media, podcasts and the radio for a while. At first I was horrified by the thought of a male midwife, but as I listened to him more I was really interested by what he had to say. I was also interested in his course Birthing4Blokes. Recently I have been thinking how little support our partners get with regards to birth, and it was from listening to Mark over the last few months that made me realise how much we expect of them. To come into a birthing room with little or no support for their journey.

The birth of our first son ended in a pretty traumatic, actually very traumatic, instrumental birth. And it did have an impact on our relationship. I talked to my partner about Mark and suggested he get his book, Men, Love and Birth. Which he did. It had an impact almost straight away and he emailed and phoned Mark. And although not my story to tell, I suddenly saw a more relaxed, stronger person in my partner with regards to the birth of our third baby.

So when the opportunity came to attend a workshop locally with Mark I decided to take the leap.

I chose to drive myself this time, usually me attending cpd days involves the whole family but I thought I needed a challenge. It was certainly that with thick fog making driving difficult and bringing me very much out of my comfort zone. But I made it intact and without getting lost.

The day was lovely, there is something very special being surrounded by birth workers, several who I knew, a couple I had read or heard about online and meeting new ones.

This pregnancy has of course not been as sunshine and roses as my first although much easier than my second. Working with Birth Art, meditation and creativity has helped me uncover some of the fears travelling with me during this pregnancy and once uncovered of course the ability to be proactive and work through them. The environment I was in yesterday gave me the confidence to openly talk about a couple of my main fears and get support and tips to work on and ways to prepare for my home birth. The knowledge that these fears would be taken seriously and that help I would get would be given in a way to help me come to conclusions and see ways forward was what I wanted and got in bucket loads.

So that coupled with hearing Mark talk so passionately about birth, the amygdala dance, the primal force of birthing. Laughing hard and having some time to reflect and ponder was a huge refreshing, nurturing, and soul nourishing time. I am left, albeit exhausted; feeling like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, feeling that I have moved forward past what has been a fairly bleak, sad and scary last few weeks.

I am feeling confident, excited and eager to see how (and when) my birth journey unfolds.

I am cosying up by the fire today on this cold March day having some well deserved rest, letting this cold finally run its course and reconnecting with my son, and dipping into Mark’s book.

To trust your body you need to know and understand your bod

This morning I woke up and creaked and groaned out of bed. I’d had m la in but was paying the price! I don’t think there was a part of me that didn’t ache or hurt.

Whilst doing my stretches I was pondering how very different things are now I am not only conscious of what I need to do to fix my stiff, aching muscles but also understanding why they are hurting in the first place and being able to make a few simple changes to prevent their recurrence.

with pregnancy it seems that just one day of lack of movement or misalignment can instantly cause issues, pre pregnancy it did take a while for issues to manifest. although I am pleased to say that i am finding stretches to restore movement do work quickly as well.

I also love the fact that these stretches do not just need to be done as a programme – I don’t need to necessarily lay aside a portion of time to be able to do them, but find that it can be easy to incorporate them in m daily life – calf stretches whilst on the phone or preparing meals, lunges whilst folding and putting away washing, twists when washing up (particularly useful when you have no choice but to stand sideways – it can be handy to know how to do it in an effective manner), squatting preparation getting up and down onto a chair or birthing ball. and my particular favourite psoas stretch before getting out of bed.

By considering how I can incorporate various Restorative exercises into my daily life it means they get done – no running out of time or using the excuse ‘there are just not enough hours in the day’ and this works great for me as I often find the day can flow along pretty fast and before I realise it is bed time. It also means I do more of the exercises each day – if i have made time to do a row of exercises i can still add more during the day rather than undoing all my good work by getting back into the old bad habits of posture and body use.

It also works out so much cheaper – as someone who used to regularly go to a chiropractor to ‘get fixed’ only to find a week or so later the old aches and pains creeping back in – I can now work on my alignment myself and not only get rid of the pain but can strengthen my body so that it can work at it’s optimum.

It also makes me feel much better – rather than feeling fat, old and pregnant and getting really down about it i can get some stretches done, get the blood flowing, practice some belly dance moves and feel lighter, younger and agile again.

another plus point as the title of this blog post suggests – so often we are told we need to trust our bodies to give birth – this can be hard to do especially if they don’t seem to be able to cope with pregnancy – but if we can cultivate an understanding of what it is we are doing to create pain in our bodies and have the resources to fix and prevent them it gives us a greater belief and trust in what our bodies are capable of doing.

I fit in a couple of these exercises each week as part of my Dancing for Birth classes as well as discussing movement and lifestyle habits and how this can impact on pregnancy health, labour and birth. being able to pass this knowledge on is all art of the fun!

How Birth Art is helping unlock my emotions

I started a 100 Day Challenge at the beginning of the year and over the last month my Goal has changed drastically. I now find myself 1/3 of the way through this pregnancy and hitting an all time emotional low and the realisation that maybe I need to stop trying to give to other people and perhaps instead working on extreme self care is more important.

 

This pregnancy has already opened a huge creative side and I have been painting labyrinths, creating affirmation flags, making clay goddesses, painting, colouring in, dancing and even took part in a 1 month creative challenge.

As well I have been running Dancing for Birth Classes.

The realisation that I needed to gift myself extreme self care has been a difficult one. It feels utterly selfish but also like I am giving up when it comes to my business.

I can list what I really would like – one of those being the support of an older woman tribe but as that is not readily available, nor is the opportunity of going away on a retreat I have been looking at what I can create for myself – so finding all the resources I have got together to give to other women.

I am amazed and staggered to find out what tools I have available for myself. The last couple of days have been a wallow, I find with my depression I need to hit rock bottom and sit there for a while before I have the strength and energy to climb back out.

This morning I spent some time in my sanctuary I have created in our spare room. I have done a meditation/yoga practice, chanted and drummed, given myself a card reading, burnt incense, and played some relaxing music while I painted.

Allowing myself to dive into Birth Art over the months has been really interesting but today I really felt the benefits as it unlocked some really deep fears left over from my previous pregnancy, hospital birth and death of my son.  Fears that if not allowed the freedom to be and be examined and overcome could potentially have a negative effect on my upcoming birth.

So this mornings practice has left me feeling reflective and relaxed and feeling incredibly calm. It’s made me realise the importance of ‘practicing what I preach’ but more importantly the huge benefits practices such as Birth Art and mediation can achieve.

Pregnancy – OUCH!

This week I have been feeling some pain and niggles in my symphysis pubis. Not something I have experienced before (except in my first pregnancy when I climbed over a fence and felt a bit of a twinge) but this is quite regular. Bit of a pain in more ways than the actual ouch of walking really. Especially as I am much ore aware of my body this pregnancy and making efforts to keep myself aligned.

Yesterday when I couldn’t skip with my son through town and he said ‘oh it’s because of the baby weight’ that I have been determined to solve why I am having these issues.

I am doing a lot of sitting  even though it is on the floor and I’m changing position a lot it i still a lot of being sedentary. And I have foudn that I am sitting in more of a ‘W’ position which links with a weak core and tucked pelvis and comes hand in hand with a rounded bak (I have been having my laptop too low so yep round my back to see the screen and type.

I noticed that when I got out and walking I would be fine again but then driving or sitting back to hurting. I am doing a couple of online challenges which involve lots of computer, writing and crafting which is why I am more still than I usually am.

Symphisis Pubis Disorder (SPD) happens during pregnancy because the ligaments at the joint at the front of your pelvis loosen ready for birth. If the muscles around your pelvis, hips and gluteals are not strong enough to hold the pelvis in place or as you’ve read above you are not thinking of your alignment and posture during everyday tasks, the joints in your pelvis move and become unstable  causing pain.  I’ve seen it get very bad and even end up with the woman needing bedrest. So the best thing is prevention  so good alignment and exercises that can help keep the hips, gluteals and pelvis strong (a lot of belly dance moves come into this category) but if you’ve got to the point of some pain there are still things that can be done.

So I’ve been doing a lot of the calf stretches and monster walking I described on the previous post (Pregnancy Alignment and Why it Matters)

But also working on my hips strength so some balancing on one foot, wrapping a rebozo around my pelvis at night has helped too.  But still not 100% so I did some searching and found this awesome video which I thought I would share  I just quickly ran through the exercises and it has improved things already  so I will be writing down the exercises and getting to work on them several times during the day.

6 Exercises for SPD (Pelvic Pain)Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction – otherwise known as pelvic pain during or after or regardless of pregnancy. SPD can be super painful but is treatable! These exercises work wonders. (Excuse my set – I am away at the moment.)

Posted by Holy Shift: Learn to Move Better with Lauren Ohayon on Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Pregnancy Alignment and why it matters

I have spent the whole summer in my Vibram Five Fingers, which has taken me a while to achieve because even though I have never worn high heels my alignment is very poor, getting a lot better  I certainly am much more aware of how I hold  body – to the extent that my knee and back ache has eased off considerabl and now happens at times rather than a daily occurrence.

P1040097    12219605_10153700229633745_7766016859177476688_n

 

In November I wore my wellies to the local fireworks display. This also involved a lot of standing in one place and I really felt it by the end of the night. My 14 week bump felt like a 30 week one, my back was sore, my knees ached, my feet ached. I hadn’t hurt this much in a longtime.  You can see my wellies don’t have a huge heel  but it’s enough to displace my knees, hips and back and cause me lots of discomfort. Luckily I had plenty of exercises to do to help get myself back together.

Since getting rid of the sofa (or at least one of them the other one is mainly a den for our son. We sit on the floor so there’s lots of getting up and down – practicing this without using my hands to push myself up or lower myself. Lots of position changes and propping myself up with bolsters and half domes. But I have also noticed why I have been getting twinges down the left side of my abdomen, which has been concerning me – I guess with becoming more aware of my body I notice things more. Whilst sitting I tend to collapse over to the right so cramping up my right side and over stretch m left which can lead to these twinges so am busy working on that as well.

Keeping  fit and strong in pregnancy – is important  because being out of alignment can cause issues for your baby to get into an optimal position to move and descend into the pelvis and through the birth canal, and also on your own birthing experience. If you have weaknesses or have over tight muscles it can impact on how well you can move or hold various positions during labour and birth and also slow down your recovery afterwards – even if you are having a planned cesarean the fitter and stronger you are will mean that you will recover faster and cope with the operation better.

I am working really hard to improve and work on my health and fitness  during this pregnancy.(and by fitness I mean easing muscle tensions, strengthening weak muscles, and keeping plenty of movement rather than just exercise into my daily habits) A lot of the time this is just me berating myself for not haing done enough – but I am working on switching that around to creating as much movement in my day as possible. So as well as getting up and moving every 30 minutes if I am writing or doing admin, bending and stretching more whilst cleaning  it is also incorporating exercises certainly into my morning routine and trying to remember to include them in the evening as well.

Lots of dance as well – the belly dance moves work so well at moving the pelvis and unknotting muscles and after a rather stress filled morning this week I can vouch that it is a great stress reliever too.

We don’t always get out for a walk everyday  certainly harder now the clocks have changed and the nights are drawing in, but I am happy with 3 times a week.

Here are some of the things that are part of my morning routine.

 

12246902_10153705117503745_7362280871098472905_n Calf stretch  – one of the most important stretches!

 

 

 

 

 

12241500_10153705116813745_6022279123675826718_n Monster walk – strengthening the muscles around the pelvis, will help stabilise the pelvis prevent any pelic girdle issues

 

 

 

 

12196213_10153705118473745_2507777972913561482_n Balancing on the wobble cushion

 

 

 

 

12246806_10153705177268745_1042185569842318337_n Stretching the inside of the legs

 

 

 

 

12366200_10153777019993745_5486055409046995049_nThis was a challenge from Nutritious Movements’ Advent upper body challenge  it was exciting to discover I could do this – although not yet got the confidence or strength to do a full handstand I am enjoying doing this everday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

946112_10153808556488745_7625140499007738288_nWe hadn’t gone out for a walk for a while and I am also really keen to get over my fear of walking barefoot over different terrains = backgarden is feeling a bit easy. I am noticing my real aversion to the thought of walking barefoot in different areas so thought I’d challenge myself to walking up the garden barefoot in January! Naturally I urged my son to come along who did it but thought it was the craziest idea he had heard of! (It was freezing)

 

 

 

 

 

I haven’t worked out an ending to this blogpost so leaving it here.

What have you found useful for getting yourself and your children some movemement in each day – particularly as we are in the middle of a wet winter? Come and share your thoughts and discoveries on our Nature and Nurture Natter group.

7 Ways to include healthy movement as part of your birth preparation

P1040944One of the big things I am learning these days is the difference between exercise and movement, I’m reading a whole book on it at the moment and it’s incredibly interesting and eye-opening. (click here to see more about Move your DNA  Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement – this takes you to an affiliate link)

The essence of it is that there is a big difference between movement and exercise, exercise is  a small quantity of time each week or day that you put aside for fitness purpose  and movement is what you do (or don’t do) during the rest of your time. What is important is that if you are fairly sedentary during your day and then do the same or similar movements as your exercise you become ‘movement deficient’.  This is because you are only using specific movements, specific joints and other joints and muscles are never used. This can lead to imbalances in loading to your muscles, joints and ligaments and create overall weaknesses or tightnesses in your body.

If you can create a life style that involves lots of different types of movement then this will result in a stronger, flexible, healthier body. (there is a lot more to it but for need I have tried my best to describe it as simply as possible – the book is well worth the read)

So I have decided to look at ways that I can include more movement into my daily life, this is relevant to anyone with a body but I feel, of particular importance to those of us who are preparing for the strenuous activity of birth.

1) Vary your sitting patterns.

Rather than just sit on a couch or chair, vary how and where you sit. (If you are sitting on a chair it is important to make sure you untuck your pelvis so you are not sitting on your coccyx – (I will cover this in a future post).

So try sitting on the floor – and a fun part of this is you can wriggle all you like – remember when you were told when you were little to ‘sit still, don’t wriggle’? Well it is important to move into different positions, sit on different surfaces. This means you are using different muscles, resting different muscles and stretching different muscles.

See how many ways you can sit – cross-legged, kneeling, supported squat, legs out in front, one leg in front…… use cushions, bolsters, rugs etc to support yourself or make it more comfy as needed. Getting tired? sit back on your couch but take a different position. Or sit on a birthing ball or see what else you can find to sit on.

If you get tired of sitting then stand for a while, you can also incorporate some stretching in here as well. (side note if you are at a ob where you are sitting for a long time it may be worth your while having a look at standing work stations and seeing how you can incorporate one)

Floor-Sitting1

 

2) Stretch, bend and twist

Most of our work surfaces, cupboards, drawers, storage is at a convenient waist height. Meaning we don’t do a lot of bending or stretching or even twisting regularly. As we are essentially still in need of the same sort of movements as our ancestors who gathered food from various heights it is useful to try and include bending and twisting and stretching as much as possible. So find all those things that you use everyday and put them at different heights, in lower cupboards, on higher shelves. And then find different ways of getting down or up to those levels – squatting, bending from the waist or stepping up on things or stretching, even climbing up onto another surface to get there.

Same with cleaning, ironing, folding laundry, preparing food – experiment – if you normally stand to do a task can you do it sitting? If you normally stand on something to get those cobwebs can you stretch up instead.

 

3) Carrying

Being creatures of habit we tend to carry a handbag on the same shoulder all the time or always use a backpack, maybe if you carry your baby you always use the same carry or on the same side. Have a switch around, not only will this give your usual carrying muscles a rest it will work out those less used ones. How many different ways can you carry a bag – different shoulder, on your back, on your front, in your arms…. if you carry your baby in a sling how about some in arms carrying for a while, or a hip carry instead of a back carry, or left hip instead of right hip. (This will mean your baby also gets to use different muscles than usual).

Maybe even use a different type of bag, or can you put things in your pockets and swing your arms as you walk (it’s amazing how restrictive it can be to always have a bag by your side or your hands in your pockets)

Carrying relates to how you carry your arms too – if they are usually folded across our body or in your pockets get them out allow them to swing as you walk.

 

4) Walk every day

Don’t think of walking as exercise but as an essential part of your movement. We are designed to walk several miles in a day collecting food, so find a way to include more walking in your day – even small things such as getting up and walking to a printer more times, or making two journeys instead of one (give those carrying muscles a different work out), or parking further away from a shop or getting off a bus one stop earlier can start to make significant differences.

And walk on different terrains. Get off the beaten track, walking uneven surfaces helps with balance and your vestibular system. Help strengthen different muscles and joints. And walk at different speeds, shake things up a little.

On an emotional level getting out walking in nature can help calm your mind, process thoughts, help you connect with the world.

 

5) Dance every day

Put some music on and move, groove and shake your thang baby!

Dancing raises oxytocin levels helping you to feel happier and calmer, builds stamina and strength but also encourages you to move in ways you otherwise wouldn’t normally do.

Dancing that involves moving those hips is great birth preparation and many women instinctively move and sway during labour and birth so a great all round birth preparation.

 

4) Play at the playground

Admittedly this might be a little easier if you already have children, but worth bearing in mind. Playgrounds give so much opportunity to hang, swing, climb, spin, balance…. it’s a shame not to make use of the equipment if you can. And it does make playground outings much more fun I’m finding.

 

5) Create more movement at home

Rather than walking around on your flat surfaces at home why not make more of an indoor obstacle course. Put cushions on the floor to walk on to work on your balance and ankle mobility and strength. Use a belt or piece of rope along the floor to make a balance beam. Make stepping stones out of cushions, yoga blocks, even pieces of paper – just to get you thinking of stepping and jumping rather than just walking. You could even put a small stool in your room and use that to walk over to give you a something different to think about and do.

We have collected lots of stones and put them in a shallow tray and use them to stand on and move around with our feet to get the muscles in the feet working.  Stretch up and touch the door frames as you walk through each door, or bend down and touch the floor, or alternate.  Or get a chin up bar that you can attach in your door way and swing as you go through the door – or have it low so you have to duck under it.

 

It can be hard to start new habits so just pick one thing at a time, be respectful of our body and don’t overdo things and most of all have fun. Any little extra movement you can include in your day will have benefit.

 

 

 

Preparing actively for birth

Active Birth is a phrase that I first heard in my first pregnancy. That pregnancy when I researched, and read avidly all I could about birth. In fact I made sure I knew about how to have a painless birth before I even let myself get pregnant – the image of a screaming sweating woman I had seen in a reproductive film when I was in primary school etched on my mind.

I joined a pregnancy yoga class, mainly in order to see if I got on with the woman running it as she was also running hypnobirthing classes which I wanted to attend.

It was there really i hard about active birth, how you needed to change positions a lot during birth to help with contractions, to help the baby descend and even to combat pain! Wow! I went to the classes from about 16 weeks when I had no bump) to the week before I gave birth (which was 38 weeks- the day my maternity leave started)

I practiced all the moves regularly each day and listened to my hypnobirthing cd and prepared for my hme birth, ignoring and not reading anything about hospital births as I wasn’t having one of those (yep was I in for a shock).

What I didn’t really think about was how I moved and sat and lived during the day when I wasn’t doing my pregnancy yoga moves. I had various part time jobs and they all involved being fairly sedentary (admin assistant, Meals on Wheels delivery driver, massage therapist and mucking out horses – so I could push heavy loads!)

So it was a shock when my contractions started that all the feeling was in my back and blimey was it uncomfortable. I couldn’t visualise the blue lace of my belly rising and falling with contractions it was all in my back. I was very confused. But I worked hard with my dilation rotations and breathing and was able to make the pain a niggling background noise.

Well to cut a long story short I ended up being transferred to hospital and having first a try at vacum extraction and then a forceps delivery. It was traumatic, I hadn’t any preparation for this and the pain and the indignity and having so many people rushing around. And recovery was long, really, walking was so tiring and my poor bits took a longtime to heal as I was so bruised inside.

It took 4 years of reading and thinking and researching to realise firstly what went wrong and secondly what I could have done to prevent this. First the most exciting discover was Spinning Babies and rebozo techniques – ways to turn a baby during labour (and even exercises to do during pregnancy to PREVENT) malposition.

Also on this path was thinking about mindset of preparing fro birth and not being set on one particular outcome but being prepared for whatever direction the birthing journey took – I think I have written about that before with my second pregnancy there’s a little about it here)

While I was teaching antenatal classes I came across a blog post on squatting (read it here), squatting is not something that these particular classes advocates, and so this was a very interesting piece to read. It really got me thinking about how we view what our bodies can and can’t do and how imposing restrictions can at times be less than helpful. Well it started a long learning process on looking at how we use our bodies and how they are designed to be used and how being sedentary seriously impacts on our overall health.

It’s started me thinking about how single classes are just part of how we should be preparing for birth. Learning about the stages of labour, breathing techniques, different positions to be in for birth are brilliant and so useful in a world where birth tends to be hidden away so much, we are not learning about it from seeing it anymore.  But it doesn’t matter how much of these exercises we do, whether it is pregnancy specific yoga, pilates etc what is essential is thinking about how we move and use our bodies for the rest of the time.

Sitting on chairs can cause tucking of the pelvis which can cause back issues, weakened pelvic muscles and pelvic floor issues for example – so can you make small changes and sit on the floor, have a standing work station or meet friends and go for a walk instead of sitting for a coffee.

Walking itself can be changed to offer some extra benefits – so rather than just walking on level surfaces can you walk on more uneven terrain – this will help with balance as well as cardiac work! If you have children just follow them – they choose excellent paths.

Stretching and bending – can you have items you use on a regular basis at different heights so you can practice bending down, (getting some squatting preparation practice in) or stretching to reach – one thing I tried last time we went out blackberry picking was to get blackberries from different parts of the bush rather than the easy to get at ones.

Sitting on the floor – when you are watching tv or playing with the kids or even on our phone can you try out a variety of different ways to sit – you can use bolsters and cushions to help here if needed. As you move and hold yourself differently you keep our body moving and stretching so no cramping. I find this one hard the ‘stop wriggling’ rules from childhood are hard to break. Maybe you can make a game out of it with your children – who can find different ways to sit and can teh other person sit like that too? Or here are some ideas:

Floor-Sitting1

These changes don’t seem a lot but as with changing any habit it can be hard to get motivated and keep going. But adding lots more movement into your life will really help when it comes down to birthing and recovery post partum, and will benefit you for years to come after that.

International Babywearing Week Thoughts

International Babywearing week quietly passed me by, for the first time in 5 years I haven’t organised anything or been invited to an event to celebrate. This year I have been having mixed thoughts about my role as a sling librarian and babywearing consultant. And my thoughts have flowed onmy own journey from new mum to where I am today, qualified babywearing consultant and sling library owner.

Using a sling was a complete ‘no brainer’ for me when I found myself pregnant with my first. Why wouldn’t I want to keep my baby close and secure? At the time I found a sling shop and hunted through to find an affordable and pretty long wrap (I am not sure what made me decide on that style  I think the idea of the skill of wrapping a long piece of material around to secure my baby to me really appealed to me) However, once it arrived and i stood holding this enormously long piece of material I had serious doubts! Luckily a friend who had recently had a baby showed me her Kari-Me and showed me how to use it, I bought one and we spent many a happy evening putting a toy monkey in it.

august 08 126Once my little one arrived it always became a bit of a trial and error as to whether the sling was comfy or not, whether it held him securely enough. I never really understood why it worked one day and not the other. As he got bigger I became the proud owner of a beautiful lilac mei tai, which became our most favourite and much used sling. I also got a ring sling which I loved but was always so tricky to use and he often ‘fell’ out the bottom of it. But carrying him was something I loved. I never really got the hang of back carrying when he was small  it seemed a terrifying idea and I loved having him so close to me on the front  and he was a keen breastfeeder so always needed access to a boob!

When my little one was about a year or so I was excited to see a course to train as a babywearng consultant. I love training and learning new skills and I thought this was a great opportunity to really learn the skills involved in learning to use a wrap. By this time I had also made contact with some people in the next town, Colchester and we had made a start at setting up Ipswich and Colchester sling library (now dissolved and not anything to do with the Ipswich and Colchester sling library that is now up and running) however by the time I went on the course I found myself the sole owner of the sling library as the other two people had moved away. So at the course I turned up with a suitcase full of slings I didn’t really know how to use and I believe my first babywearing demo doll, Jack. It was on this course I met people in the industry, several who have become a very respected friend. The two and a half days of training was pretty mind blowing  not just learning the skills but also learning so much about the developmental needs of babies. And I left the course really wanting to take this info to other parents and help them gain confidence and learn the skills of using slings.

For a while I was the only sling library in the area but due to some home life issues and not being able to be so active in the community I found myself one of 2 and now one of 3.

Over the years I have taken two more courses, really expanding my skills, not just in using slings, but in learning how to communicate in a gentle manner, to lose any judgments I may have had and how to breakdown and troubleshoot problems.

The sling library and consults and workshops have never really amounted to more than an extremely expensive hobby (the library has never covered the costs of my training and all slings have been bought out of my own pocket – and no I daren’t add up how much this is!) This year has been giving the sling library and my consultant services the last chance to see if they really are worth me spending so much time and effort in running them. And I am still up in the air – I may only hire out 1 or 2 slings a month, sometimes none, I always spend much of the time giving people valuable assistance in using their slings or working out which sling would work for them, and then realising I have made nothing out of it – which is very difficult as a self employed home educator – my time really is valuable and much as I love to see smiles on faces I can’t afford to work for free. I have had some lovely support from other antenatal service providers, helping me with finding a free venue – so at least I am not paying to give people information and support which has happened a lot over the past. And for recommending me and sending people my way. My beautiful stash of library slings are very dear to me – and each one has a story. I have made many ‘mummy friends’ giving consultations and was touched to hear I inspired someone in another town to set up their own library. I have had the pleasure of watching tiny babies grow into beautiful children. And I admit I watch with envy as other consultants make a living or at least have a busy and thriving business.

So this International Babywearing week has been a time of thinking, reminiscing and fact facing. I am still not read to make a Final Decision, on how I progress with the library and the consultation service – but what it has shown me is what a long way I have come, and what a valuable journey it has been – not financially  but in personal growth, friendships, networking and quietly but steadily spreading the joy of carrying babies in slings.

Healthy Feet, healthy body, healthy mind

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Once your baby is too old for the wonderful classes of baby yoga, sensory and massage there is still a need to be aware of, and assist them in developing their proprioception, vestibular system and cognitive function. In fact as they become experienced at walking and moving it is also important to focus on healthy foot development as well, which includes buying appropriate ‘foot friendly’ shoes.

What are proprioception and vestibular and cognitive function and why are they important?

Proprioception is the awareness of our body in space (no not on a trip to the moon!) but just knowing which way up we are and where our limbs are in relation to the rest of our body and the ground. Proprioceptors are located in muscles, tendons and joints and so moving, balancing, being barefoot and walking on different terrains all help to develop them.

Vestibular system helps us with our balance.

Cognitive functions encompass reasoning, memory, attention and language.

By allowing your child lots of times to be barefoot, and especially being barefoot on different surfaces (and this includes outside) it will really help with all areas of their development.

The best way to do this is to be aware of the shoes your child is wearing and making sure they get plenty of safe barefoot time and also keep their feet mobile and flexible and strong.

As they learn more about the world around them and how they fit into this world it helps their balance, confidence in moving over different obstacles and cognitive function.

Children don’t keep still much (you don’t need me to tell you that!) and a study has shown that for adults things such as climbing trees and walking over different terrains actually improves their cognitive function whereas sitting still or static exercise such as yoga does not have any effect on cognitive function.

So what this is telling us is that moving that includes balance and moving is helping their brain to develop. Children instinctively know this but it is almost an instant reaction for us to tell them to ‘keep still’, ‘stop wriggling’, ‘’pay attention’. Finding ways for children to get this type of movement will greatly help their cognitive development.

There are 33 joints in each foot, 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments in each foot and 100,000-200,000 exteroceptors in the sole of each foot. All these are affected by wearing shoes which tend to stop the foot from functioning how it should. Thick soles stop the soles of the feet being in touch with the ground stop the muscles of the feet becoming strong. A lot of the foot injuries we see are actually a result of weak foot muscles rather than over use of muscles. The best way to strengthen these muscles is to get barefoot and do simple exercises regularly if you need to restore foot health.

Have a look at this wonderful video of my son climbing barefoot and see how much the foot and toes bend and flex during climbing and imagine how little they move whilst wearing shoes.

 

 

80% of the population suffer back pain due to a problem starting in the foot and the majority of back, hip. Knee and ankle pain in people in their 20’s can be traced back to poor shoe fitting as children.

Foot health problems are caused by ill fitting shoes, poor gait pattern and poor alignment. And Alignment and gait pattern can be affected by the shoes you wear.

Look at this interesting video of a toddler and how his gait pattern changes when wearing soft soled shoes and typical hard soled toddler shoes. The whole way of walking changes and the difference in his stability is quite eye opening.

So what makes a foot friendly shoe? The general term for these is ‘barefoot shoe’. They are ones with a soft, flexible sole, wide toe box, no heel and attach to the foot securely (rather than say a flip flop)

The surfaces we tend to walk on our hard and flat and so deprive our feet and bodies of ‘movement nutrition’ being able to feel different textures, different terrains that help keep our bodies working to their optimum and boosting circulation.

It’s not always safe to be barefoot everywhere – especially on hard cement surfaces. So creating sensory paths at home are a great way to get this variety of terrains and textures in a safe environment. And great for the whole family to do as well.

There are several Barefoot Parks cropping up that are an outdoor sensory path trail taking you u through and over and along a wide variety of obstacles and terrains (I particularly love the idea of the muddy crossing!)

Having suffered from back and knee pain from an early age , which I am gradually seeing as relating not only to the shoes I wore (even though they were mostly Clarkes – supportive thick soled, ankle supporting shoes!), and many of the activities I did as a child (so lots of curled up reading books and also riding ponies , and a lot of running on a poorly aligned body) I am really keen to help parents support healthy foot development in their children and in the words of Katy Bowman “ Changing the paradigm from ‘the-stiffer-and-stronger-a-shoe, -the-more-it-supports-your-foot’ to ‘the-stronger-the-muscles-in-your-foot, the-better-it-supports-your-body”

As well as running 4 week courses aimed at adults, Whole Body Foot, helping them to restore the strength and flexibility in their feet through stretches and ideas to take bring more movement into their daily lives; I also have found a way to impart this information to children and their parents in a workshop called Foot Sense, where we play lots of games with our feet rather than your hands, learn Fun Foot Facts and walk the ever popular Sensory Path.