Switching Off and Being a “Normal Mum”

Twice in just a few days I have been in situations where it is probably best to switch off my campaign head and shut up, be a “normal mum”, whatever that might mean. The first of these was the first of two Natal Hypnotherapy workshops that hubby and I are attending in preparation for this birth and I didn’t do so well. The second was my aquanatal class today. I did better.

I’ve always found it hard to know when to shut up and keep my opinions to myself and have probably pushed a fair few people away because of it in the course of my life. When my passions are raised they tend to spill out of me, but I’ve worked hard to get it under control and generally I think I do a better job now than ever before.

When it comes to birth, it’s a bigger challenge than most issues I’ve felt passionate about in my life. It’s such an intimate topic, birth is the single most significant physical act that a woman embarks upon and also the one fraught with the highest emotional investment too. I know that birth can be amazing and I know that all women deserve excellent maternity care. I know that there are fundamental, systemic problems with NHS maternity services that prevent the majority of women from having the births they should have. I hate seeing women being trampled on and abused by their care providers and it makes me angry and deeply saddened that I can even use the word “abused” there and know it to be no overstatement or falsehood.

Last Friday at the Natal Hypnotherapy workshop, I had to tell myself not to go to it expecting that I would know everything already and to accept any new knowledge or tools presented to me. At one point, having answered every question about hormones and birthing positions that we were asked, I actually apologised and made an effort to keep my mouth shut to give one of the others a chance to answer something. I felt a bit like Hermione Granger.

One of the other ladies on the course is also planning a VBAC and I couldn’t stop myself from making suggestions about which interventions she might wish to think more about. I don’t think I came on too strong there, but over lunch discussion turned to placentas (yes, over lunch) and I went and mentioned the fact that we’re planning a lotus birth. I think the others were mostly just intrigued, until I went a step too far and mentioned consuming the placenta as another option. I suspect I came away from lunch looking like a very weird hippy.

This afternoon was my aquanatal class, which I go to for the exercise and “me” time. After the class we sit in the café for a chat and the first time I went it was just me and the two midwives who run the class. We had a fantastic chat and I told them about what I do and which groups I’m involved in. They are lovely ladies, very keen on what they do, which is helping women keep fit and healthy in pregnancy and they have their gripes with the NHS, and so no longer work within it. However, I do suspect that they don’t see quite the same problems that I do.

Today there were others present, one lady due in a month or so and another who had a home birth a few months ago, another lady due early next year. I was very grateful for the home birthing mum’s presence, as she was able to say some of the things I would have loved to say, but in a much more palatable way than I can sometimes be guilty of. She was a normal, non-campaigning mum, a mum who only breastfed her eldest for a few months (compared to my 2.5 years) and who told us that her home birth “bloody hurt” and that she had a third degree tear and had to have a spinal afterwards while being stitched up. She was absolutely supportive of home birth and said she would do it again if she ever has another baby, but she definitely wasn’t ever going to come across as the dreaded hippy-type or militant birth campaigner. Like me.

For the most part I just nodded in agreement with her. When the nearly-due lady asked if it was possible to hire a midwife privately, as hers is so rubbish, I was able to espouse the virtues of independent midwifery and I also mentioned doulas. I think I managed to toe the line I find so difficult, that of switching off my campaigning head and just being a normal mum, talking to another normal mum and hopefully pointing her gently in a sensible direction that will help make a positive birth attainable. Maybe next week she’ll be telling us that she’s booked a home birth and hired a doula. Maybe even an IM. I hope so, for her sake.

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7 thoughts on “Switching Off and Being a “Normal Mum”

  1. Caroline says:

    I think, you need to be kinder to yourself! You are a Spirited Mama, *please stay that way*, because people like you make good things happen.

    Nobody has ever died from having their feathers ruffled and their views challenged.

    And what’s ‘normal’, anyway?

    Love your posts. So insightful and honest.

    Keep writing. X

  2. Holly says:

    Aww thanks Caroline. Nothing would ever stop me being “Spirited”, but I do think there is a time and place for it. I don’t want to be the crazy angry lady who drives people away from aquanatal classes with her wacky ideas 😉

  3. Joanne says:

    Oh Holly, I was laughing so much at the “I felt like Hermione Granger” comment. I too find keeping my gob shut really very difficult. Just wanted to say that I SO know where you’re coming from!

  4. Susan Merrick says:

    Finally got round to checking out your blog! Holly thank god there are plenty of us hermione grangers our there! I was actually referred to as Monica from friends by my hubby and he all but held my arm down in the vbac clinic and birth prep classes. My friend and I also tealused that we had to stop talking in our pregnabcy yoga classes as the others actually wanted to stretch and relax!

    I totally get the ‘want to be a ‘normal’ mama’, but I’m not sure it is possible. Am trying to shut my birth/woman activist up for periods at the moment so that I can focus on my children and husband….but it is really hard! She is me- but I just need to not neglect the family at the same time!

    Much love
    Susan x

    • Holly says:

      LOL! Yes, when we did NHS ante-natal classes first time around, hubby was petrified of what I might say and was practically holding my hand down the entire time! The stand out moment for me was when the midwife was talking about pethidine and when she asked if we knew anything about it I shouted out “It’s an opiate, much like heroin” and a ripple of shock went around the 30 or so people there! I honestly think most of them had no idea that’s what pethidine is.

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