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We received an email from a woman who is pregnant with her second child. Here is her story and my response as Trustee to Common Knowledge Trust and The Pink Kit (now known as Birthing Better online birthing classes). Often these short emails end up with long conversations. Women want to break down their whole birth experience. We always have gaps and questions.

‘We have been in the Middle East for 2 1/2 years now, my husband is working for the Royal Air Force. I first heard of the pink kit or rather the website birthingbetter.com after reading Kathy Fray’s book “Oh Baby”.

I read the book when I was pregnant with our first son who was also born in … by caesarean section.

He had been breech all along so I had been gearing myself up for the probability of having a c-section especially since I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived in … or what the hospitals were like. Sure enough the hospital where we are located is fairly basic and although they deliver a LOT of babies in this small muslim community they tend to stick to what is considered the “safe” option of delivery especially for expat women as they wouldn’t want to have any complications trying to deliver a breech baby.

In fact, out of the few western expat women who have delivered at the hospital only 2 out of 5 have had natural births. Caesarean seems to be the delivery of choice. Anyway, I want to try for a VBAC but I’m very nervous as my husband cannot be with me (due to the Muslim religious restrictions and shared labour facilities) and there is no such thing as midwives here in fact from speaking to a woman who has delivered naturally at this hospital she had a cleaning lady that she didn’t know holding her hand through contractions due to the lack of doctors and nurses available.

I am not even sure of what pain relief options are available but know that epidural is not common practice as all caesareans are done under general anesthetic. For that reason, I am really hoping I can avoid a c-section again and would feel more confident about doing this on my own (and probably without any pain relief) if I really understood what is going on with my body during the labour and the birthing process.

With my son, I did go into labour and got to about 2cm dilated before the operation but I barely experienced any real contractions to know what to expect this time around. Then, of course, I have the added worry that goes with VBAC and the fact that most doctors would rather just keep giving you c-sections to be on the safe side…. even though by the time I deliver it will have been 2 years and 3 months since my last delivery. I am hoping that is where the pink kit can come in and help me. I am almost 27 weeks pregnant now and have read that these skills are ideally best practiced from 24 weeks onwards so I hope we can sort something out soon so I can get started!

Thanks again …

Here’s my response:

‘There are several things I’d like to discuss with you about The PKP and your situation. Also, feel free to continue our correspondence.

There’s no order of importance in the following but all will help you get clearer.

  1. Preparing for childbirth (even if you are going to have a c/s) will give you the satisfaction and connection you are looking for. This is the strength of the PK skills.
  2. There are three types of birth stories.
  1. Time frame: ‘I went into labour at 6 pm, my water broke at 11pm, I pushed for 2 hours and gave birth at 3 am.’
  2. What happened to me: ‘I had to have a c/s. There was no one there to help me. I’ll be given a general anesthetic.
  3. The physical story: ‘I had back labour, I pushed for 2 hours with progress, I vomited all through labour’.

The PK can’t change the Time Frame stories and can’t even change the What happened to me but we can impact the physical story and develop skills that help us deal with the other two stories which mean that PK birth stories sound more like this

‘They made me lie in bed with a foetal monitor. I just used my Directed Breathing, went around the Pelvic Clock and made certain I stay ‘open and I felt great about myself”.

So the PK is what you can do for yourself.

  1. Your husband might not be able to be with you but together you can prepare using the PK.
  2. Women always have to prepare for birthing on their own. No one else is doing the birth and if you got lost in the desert you would have to do it. On the other hand, ask a woman friend if they let another woman come …and she has to learn the ‘role of birth coach’ in the resources.
  3. Prepare for birth even if you end up with a c/s. Your body isn’t preparing for a c/s, your head is. Enjoy preparing and prepare as though you were going to birth on your own. Get serious and learn skills. You’ll feel more empowered when you face whatever situation you’ll face. It’s like driving somewhere. It suddenly snows, cars are skidding and you have to continue. The more skills you have the better you’ll fare. You can’t change the situation, you can change you to become skilled within whatever situation you are faced.
  4. The PK skills came from situations like yours and what we could do for ourselves.

As you learn the skills, infuse your mind and body with them all the time during the next 13 weeks. Live them inside you as you go about your business and see yourself over and over again going through a labour (with lots of pain during contractions) using one or more of the skills with and without another to help by another person.

Then see yourself delivering your baby vaginally (whether this happens or not) and ask yourself ‘have I done enough of the internal work?’ If not, do more.

Our human mind has a gift of projection into the future and remembering the past. We can re-do the past … not always ‘what happened’ but how we responded to what happened. We can see ourselves doing things in the future even though when the future arrives it may prove to be very different.

For example, if you have a general (anesthetic) with another c/s then you won’t be conscious. This ‘disconnect’ can make women feel very disconnected from birth so we learned to replay the birth with being connected even if we had to imagine it.

Our mind does not distinguish between ‘real’ and ‘imagined’. We know this from watching a horror film. We know it’s not real but our body responds as though it is. We (whoever the ‘I’ is) have a great deal of control over our minds (whatever that is).

The PK comes from thousands of women and men who sorted out how to have the very best birth possible in whatever situation they find themselves and then to fill in the gaps afterward by re-playing it better.

Here are two recent emails. First from a man who just had his first baby with a woman who had two other children. She was SO resistant to doing the PK even though she had two terrible births.

‘I’ve got a first draft of the birth story for our son. This is the quickie report. She did a little bit of reading, watching and listening (to the CD). I went through almost all of it. With the skills I had from the PK, we had a wonderful birth. I feel that it could have been even better, but it went very smoothly, so there really isn’t anything to complain about. Got to the hospital on Jan 5 a bit after 9:30am, her water broke at 10:10 and I was catching my son at 11:23am. We both agree that had you and I not met (*on a train) and we (mostly me) not had the PK skills the birth would have been very different and much the same as her first two births. I had to play a bit more of a director then a coach, but we worked well.

Warmth and love,

PS: we did not fail. We didn’t get all we could have, but what we did was wonderful.’

This second short note says it in a different way.

‘I am really interested in the Pink Kit. When I was pregnant with my first child, my midwife borrowed me a copy to read through. I did a little bit of it, but not enough. However, I did use one technique that most definitely I think prevented me from having any intervention. I went onto have a beautiful, completely natural birth with no intervention and I would like to know more and do more for subsequent pregnancies’.

Two things in common … DO the work. The more skilled you know you are, the more you can imagine using those skills in any type of birth you have, the more you re-play and re-play the moment by moment doing of the activity of giving birth (working with your baby’s efforts) the better and more fulfilled you’ll feel.