Leiden Interview about mindful birth

Hey guys this Simona from Year in a Life and today I am interviewing Marie Hobbs-Vijendran.


Marie is a communication adviser, facilitator, author and mother. 

See the full interview video below!


S: Marie, thank you for having me here. 

M: Thank you for being here! 


S: Will you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

M:  Now I am from the UK, I moved here from Cambridge that will be about 9 years ago, with two young children. Chiara was 2 Leo was nearly 4. 


S: How was that transition with you children? 

M: It's both an exciting adventure, but what I realised is that I needed to start acknowledging the challenge of it, if you like. It's been wonderful to meet people from so many different background, but at the same time, when you uplift, it's a question of rerooting somewhere else. That's again has been another example of why for me mindfulness as a parent has really helped. I am so glad I have built up my own meditation technique. 


S: I really like this room. 

M: This is where I practice, every month I run a course, this course is a bit different, with mindfulness. It's both a birth preparation course, can be considered normal, I talk all about the physiology of labor, I use lots of visualisations. 

With mindfulness with learn, that emotions come, and emotions can also leave. And they can be in away visitors, so that we can even recognise that this is normal and that we don't need to attach to our emotions. So that when we're in moments of challenge, we can more easily be kind to ourselves. 


S: I think that pain bring up a lot of emotions. That's just something I guess you help people cope with. 

M: Yeah, we can have challenging thoughts, we can have challenging emotions and challenging sensations. And in labor sometimes all of that can come together. In my course we learn, how to be a little bit more objective about our experience. 


S: What are the most common fears or thought or emotions that you face when you talk about birth with woman? 

M: So many woman have concerns, anxieties or even fears about birth. And that's so normal and understandable. And yet unless we can talk about that and help people settle in some way with the idea that it doesn't need to be scary, then on the day of labor, their bodies will probably not be able to do whatever it knows best. 

You see there's this syndrome that's coined by an obstetrician  Grantly Dick-Read, called the fear tension pain syndrome. Put really simply, the uterus has two layers to it. And it's actually only the outer layer that wants to tens up, and contract. The inner layer, concentrated down by the cervix, that needs to relax in order to open to enable the baby to pass out. So what can happen, is that those two muscle layers can lock, and stick to each other, and that will only slow down labor. 


S: Here in the Netherlands, you go to the hospital (if you choose hospital birth) when you're having quite frequent contractions. So could that be something that put your anxiety levels up to just go and rush out of your house?

M: Hospitals isn't your environment, is where we go when we're conditioned to there being something wrong with us. When you're in labour there's nothing wrong with you. It can change your state when you go into an environment where it feels like other people are in charge. Birth practitioners will recognise that their test is primarily observational. They're just gonna come in, and out observe you for the most part. There doesn’t need to be any reason to throw you off. You having a sense of staying, not so much in control (because we can't control birth) but just trust. This sense of deep trust that your body knows what it's doing. Your birth partner, coming on the course with you learning and experiencing all the techniques with you and they can be this mindful presence for you on the day. They're gonna help you establishing your calm environment when you get to the hospital room. Is the two of you together, learning to cope with changes on the way. 


S: When I meet expats and they hear about 'home birth' it's a little bit of a scary thing. Would that be something you would encourage people to do, and what do you think about home birthing, do you think it's a good approach? 

M: It's tough for people to arrive here, because the Netherlands has a culture of home birth that people are not so use to. Having said that, home birth is a growing movement anyways in many countries around the world.

I think there are wonderful advantages to staying at home. It's the place where we're most likely to be relaxed. However if staying at home for you raises concerns then maybe it's not such a great idea. 

Let go of other people's judgement let go of the judgement upon ourselves that we should do things in a certain way. And believe that if we can prepare to be able to make decisions in the moment we can be guided by our instincts better. 


S: So it's not a decision you think people should make way ahead of time, then really stick to it, but you think it should be something that is morphing as the pregnancy goes ahead?

M: I see a lot of couples who on the day are able to embrace the idea of staying at home and sometimes even if they felt like they would some point transition to the hospital, they decide that they're open of actually having the baby at home. 

We talk about having a birth plan, and in so many cases we actually can't plan for birth, so we can end up in an environment that we didn't expect to be in. And it can also be that some people would actually prefer to stay at home, and that's not possible. We want that mum, to feel comfortable with the decision that is taken in the moment. 


S: So what I am getting is that one of the core values of Mindfulness is that you're emotions are almost unshakable during labor. Am I getting that right? Correct me if I am wrong. 

M: It's about kind of opening to this kind of calm place in the background that you can access through this objectivity, this ability to come to a calm space within rather then attaching to the challenging emotions that can arise. Accessing a place that can otherwise get crowded out. You know, that we get caught up with, and don't notice that, hey, actually with my own breath I can come to self calming. That's also where self compassion comes in. This sort of ability to show kindness towards ourselves. So many times in life we're quite critical. That's not where we want to be in labor. It's this quieter place that speaks deep wisdom if you like, that ultimately our body is quite capable of giving birth. 


S: When I was pregnant my daughter and I went to the midwife she said to me: You're not sick you're pregnant. And that was such an eyeopening thing. I specifically choose for home birth I believed that my body can do it. 

M: Not everybody has that self believe. So the more that we can build that. I do notice that some woman shift. It's this journey, it's not a switch, but day by day coming to the sense that we can trust. Trust that the uterus it's this powerful muscle that does its work on its own. Like we trust the heart beating. It's wonderful to see when woman can grow in that self believe. 


S: Marie, I hear you saying lots of times mentioning the partner. Can mums come alone or do they always come with their partners. 

M: Some mums come on their own for whatever reason. Having said that most of the time mum comes with her partner because I believe, this is really quite critical to the way that couples prepare together. It is often dad, dad is concerned about how to be of support on the day. You know it's a big unknown for dad, you know how can they be useful. So what we do during the course, is we build up towards the idea that there a numerous ways of to be at assistance, and yet the thread if you like is just being present. Most often mums don't really need or want to talk much during labor, so it's so much about being present. Using touch, whispering, warm words. Developing the ability to bond and really be there for each other. 


S: Thank you so much for being so generous with you knowledge and time. Oh thank you for the opportunity it's been great to just chat. 


S: Do you have three tips that you would give to expecting mums?


M: The first message that I would give which I would say is the core message for everybody: Use the time in between contractions. By that I mean, stay focused, because actually in between contractions there's actually a gap, sometimes it's more space then other times. Stay hydrated, visit the bathroom, perhaps nibble on a healthy snack of some sort. Above all use the time to calm the mind. Because it's so easy to go back to the last contraction which was horrible, or toward 'I don't want to do that again'. Actually you're not in the moment of a contraction. 


Second thing I would suggest, practice your ability to regroup. What I was talking about, a practice in everyday life. So the next time you're late for a meeting, regroup, notice the challenging emotions and breathe. Realise that actually people understand, these things happen to everybody. 


The last thing I would suggest, is practicing with the deeper sense of calm. Just five minutes a day, by pressing the pause button on life. To calm and sit, lie down and be with the body, out of the head. We spend so much time in the head. 

Just come down into the body and be comfortable being there! Your baby will enjoy it too. 


S: So is that something that with practice you can build up to think about nothing? Almost... 

M: I believe the practice helps. Thoughts will always come, you know, but it's the question of how we relate to those thought and just let them be thoughts. 


S: Is there any visualisation that can help that? Or imagining something specifically? 

M: Yeah, you can create your own, but often the idea is that it can be like clouds in the sky that can notice that they're there but actually they can drift off. You are always able to be observational, just noticing the passage of thought. 


S: Almost like an outside viewer of your thoughts. 

M: Yeah! Just let them pass. You should try it!


I hope you enjoyed this interview with Marie. If you have any questions please leave them in the comments and Marie would love to come back and answer those! 


Talk soon! 

x Simona 

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