Giving birth is something that a woman will remember for the rest of her life, it is therefore imperative that she feels safe, supported, confident and well informed in her birthing journey.
In time gone by, birth took place at home, with the birthing lady being surrounded by other experienced women rather than medical staff. Traditionally, the room was dimly lit and quiet in order to allow the labourer to feel more relaxed and focused. As generations went on however, things began to change; birth became a more medicalized event and became something that happened TO women rather than something they DID. Although we can certainly thank the advancement of medicine and education for saving the lives of many mothers and babies, the over medicalization of this natural process has arguably led to increased and unwarranted intervention in labour and birth, leaving many birthing women feeling like they have lost control of this very personal experience.
The Circular spoke to Donegal entrepreneur; Anne Doherty Quinn who has her own business ‘Simply Birth Donegal’.
Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to speak to us Anne. Can you tell us about your inspiration for setting up Simply Birth and the services you provide?
My inspiration for the business came from my own experience of pregnancy and childbirth. Like many expectant mothers, I had heard my fair share of horror stories and as a result I had my own ‘birth baggage’ as I like to call it and was quite afraid of what was to come. I then began to practice hypnobirthing techniques and went from being afraid of anything to do with birth, to looking forward to my own labour. I went on to have three very positive experiences, in hospital.
It was this personal experience that inspired me to set up my business. We initially just provided Hypnobirthing workshops but the business has evolved and we now provide pregnancy yoga, Mum and baby yoga and I have recently trained in baby wearing.
We also run ‘Bump and Baby meet-ups’ which I’d like to think provide support and connection for mums and mums-to-be. I’m a firm believer in the saying “It takes a village to raise a child,” I think we learn more by mums supporting mums than we do from any book. Today’s mothers often feel socially isolated despite the accessibility of smartphones and social media, and it is that connection that the meet-ups provide. I think it’s important to note that you don’t just wake up and know how to be a mum, it’s a gradual learned skill and it is perfectly normal if we don’t know what we are doing straight away.
You have chosen a unique logo for Simply Birth; can you explain the reasoning behind it?
I really wanted to have elephants in our logo because I love the way elephants give birth. When a mother elephant is in labour, she is surrounded in a circle by other female elephants. The female elephants face away from her. They form a circle around her to give her support and make her feel safe and they turn away so as to give her privacy. These are much like the conditions we as women need to birth, we need support, we need to feel safe and we need privacy.
When you speak of hypnobirthing, is it related to hypnosis?
Hypnobirthing does not involve being hypnotized – I think the word ‘hypno’ puts a lot of people off and leaves them with misconceptions as to what hypnobirthing actually is. It is really to do with the mindset towards birth. Hypnobirthing is not some new craze, it’s actually moving back to the way things were before it all got so medicalized, it’s changing the perception that birth is something that happens to us rather than something we do. Antenatal classes usually focus solely on what’s happening in the body (the pain and ways to cope with it), whereas hypnobirthing looks at the mind-body connection and how what’s happening in the mind can have a massive impact on how your body reacts to labour. It’s a lot like sports psychology – just as athletes need to prepare mentally as well as physically to improve their performance, so too it’s a massive benefit for women if they prepare both mentally and physically for labour and I’d go as far as to say for impending motherhood too. The tools we learn with hypnobirthing aren’t just for birth, but are something we carry forward with us for the challenges of motherhood too.
Is hypnobirthing aimed at those who are hoping for a ‘natural’ birth?
No, it’s a common misconception that hypnobirthing is just for one type of birth. When we think of hypnobirthing we might imagine incense burning and a hippie atmosphere but this is not the case, it’s for all types of birth.
In fact, the skills you learn through hypnobirthing become even more valuable and important if you know that you are going to have a more medicalized birth. For instance, if you know that you’re going to be induced or that you are going to have an elective caesarian for whatever reason, even if by choice, you can use the toolkit that you have acquired through practicing hypnobirthing. Even if your birth is medicalized, you still have choices; you still can have some of your birth preferences implemented. You don’t have to hand your birth over to anyone.
It’s not about the type of birth you have, it’s about the feelings you have about it afterwards – did you feel respected and listened to? Did you feel empowered rather than traumatized? Birth doesn’t necessarily have to be straightforward to feel that you’ve had a positive experience.
Hospitals can have a very clinical and hostile environment in some cases and so homebirths are now making a comeback in the Dublin area for some women who qualify for this type of birth. Are homebirths an option in your area of Donegal/Sligo?
There is no option but hospital here, we have no midwife led care and no homebirth options presently. Hospital protocols differ from hospital to hospital so it’s important to know that if you are coming under pressure to have your labour induced. For example, women routinely have their labour induced at 40+10 in Donegal or Sligo, whereas a woman in a Dublin hospital can often routinely get to 40+12 or 42 weeks before the same conversation takes place. 42 weeks is full term but in the northwest we usually don’t even get to this point. Caesarian section rates for first time mothers are high here, for example in 2018, 41.8% of first time mothers in Letterkenny University Hospital gave birth via C-section and 41.6% in Sligo University Hospital. (Is it arguable that the two are related?)
It’s important to know that birth doesn’t neatly fit into time frames, but the system needs it to.
Have you any tips for new mums that might help them in adjusting to motherhood?
I find that we put ourselves under a lot of pressure to be the perfect mum right from the start but it is perfectly normal if you don’t know what you are doing straight away. It takes time to find your own rhythm and to tune out the background noise; you need to know that your way is ok.
I also feel that mothers often need to be listened to rather than be given advice. New mums should know that it’s okay to ask for help, in fact there is strength in asking for help. You can’t pour from an empty cup and as I’ve said before, it takes a village!
Talking to other mums face to face is a great way to feel connected. This is where our ‘Bump and Baby’ meetups are particularly helpful. Breaking down barriers and having honest conversations about motherhood and the reality of the highs and lows that come with it is the way forward.
Meet Ups are a great way to feel connected, especially in the age of social media and the added pressures and isolation that brings with it.
Simply Birth Donegal have several exciting and helpful upcoming dates for mums and mums-to-be and they are as follows;
- Paint Your Bump Day for the Nationwide Maternal Mental Health Awareness Campaign, Donegal Town on April 30th from 7-9pm
- ‘Positive and Prepared’ Hypnobirthing Workshops:
- Letterkenny – May 25th
- Donegal Town – June 23rd
- Monthly Bump and Baby meetups, pregnancy yoga and mum and baby yoga.
Many thanks to the amazing Anne Doherty Quinn for so kindly chatting with us.