In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.
In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.

Less and less is done.
Until non-action is achieved.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

The world is ruled by letting things take their course.
It cannot be ruled by interfering.

Tao Te Ching

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Book Review - When Survivors Give Birth by Penny Simkin and Phyllis Klaus

Hi Everyone,

Today I'll look at a the book: When Survivors Give Birth: Understanding and Healing the Effects of Early Sexual Abuse on Childbearing Women, written by Penny Simkin and Phyllis Klaus, it gives a sensitive, factual account of the experiences of many women who are survivors of childhood abuse and have gone on to become childbearing women. The style of the book is unassuming and friendly, yet gives pertinent information as to the wideranging effects of this situation on individuals, the babies they are carrying/birthing, and society as a whole.

Simkin and Klaus reinforce that mid-wives and practitioners need to be sensitive of these issues, yet keep clear that they are not counsellors, and the most effective route for all concerned is usually to refer their clients onto a professional, trained in dealing with survivors of this form of abuse.

The book identifies the necessity of those offering assistance during pregnancy and birth to develop a network of referrals to professionals trained to provide care for women who've been sexually abused if they are experiencing difficulties with it. Women who've been sexually abused can find control to be a very big issue. Birth professionals/support people need to clearly understand and behave in a way that is clear that the mother has the power. They need to be guided by the mother's wishes with regard to not only talking with her about her past experiences, but in all regards as she prepares for and gives birth to their child.

There are specific strategies offered throughout the book to aid in promoting a peaceful, empowered birth for the mother, and less anxiety related complications, largely related to separating the birth experience/pain from the initial trauma/abuse.

There is statistically a heightened risk for adult survivors of child sexual abuse developing postpartum depression (25%) which reinforces the value of reading quality books such as these. When Survivors Give Birth is relatively easy to find, but Amazon is the only outlet I have found who post to Australia.

Healing to Maximise the Birthing Experience offers more on this topic.

Cynthia Marston.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Psychology Today Article - Where are the Happy Babies? Written by Darcia Naravez

Hi Everyone,

I was reading another blog and came across an interesting article

Where Are the Happy Babies?
Have we forgotten what babies need from (ALL OF) us?

Written for Pychology Today by Darcia Narvaez, Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Collaborative for Ethical Education at the University of Notre Dame, it raises some very interesting points. Primarily it asks us, as a society, whether we are making every effort to provide parents with the opportunity to care for and enjoy their children, not just physically but emotionally and spiritually?

Informal community groups appear to be on the decline in many areas, so a deliberate focus on creating community appears to be ever more necessary nowadays.

This effort toward community will promote the feeling of wellbeing a happily attached child and their well supported parent/caregivers can experience.

Definately an article worth reading and an ideal worth working towards.

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

Friday, September 2, 2011

Healing to Maximise the Birthing Experience

Hi Everyone,

Sorry its been so long between posts. I've been extremely busy with the business of parenting and homeschooling my 3, 6 and 15 year old children and reading up on lots of fascinating birthing stuff!

The reading I've been doing specifically relates to the impact life experiences have on the mother's feeling of wellness and comfort before, during and directly after the birthing process. I have been looking in particular at birth experiences for survivors of childhood trauma and abuse, and anxiety felt by women going into second and subsequent births who have had a negative experience in the past.

Literature on these issues is relatively sparse, but I have come across a couple of sites of interest such as a doula support site which has sections for women in their childbirthing year who are survivors of abuse and professionals working in the field.
This site appealed to me for it's accessibility and non-patronising compassion for the women it's designed to assist.

The most practical/relevant book I found was written by Penny Simkin (childbirth educator, doula and author with over 30 years of experience in working with pregnancy and birth). When Survivors Give Birth: Understanding and Healing the Effects of Adult Survivors of Early Childhood Sexual Abuse on Childbearing Women is available on her (linked) website, at Book Depository and Amazon.

There are numerous complications for those survivors of childhood abuse who have not viewed and healed from their experiences of powerlessness and trauma. These issues may involve trust in medical personnel during examinations etc, lack of support/experience in setting healthy boundaries in the birthing process, a pervasive feeling of shame around their bodies and acute discomfort in discussing common symptoms of pregnancy (such as vaginal thrush, haemorrhoid's etc) with careworkers, and discomfort with the concept of breastfeeding and physical closeness.

I am aware that these issues are not limited to adult survivors, and of course all survivors of childhood trauma don't experience these symptoms, but the literature is clear that they are of heightened concern in these circumstances.

Another contributing factor to anxiety during labour that I've come across regularly in literature and interpersonally is a prior negative experience in giving birth and birth 'horror stories' told by other women which frighten expecting mothers (see my post on Birth Trauma Groups).

I know personally that after my first, highly medicalised birthgiving experience, I felt extreme trepidation when I thought about becoming pregnant again. The way I worked through my fears was by using rebirthing to relax and desensitise myself to the negative impact of my memories (psychological and cellular).

Eventually, with the help of a skilled rebirther/breathworker, I was able to embrace the experience of the birth and see the beauty in birthing the amazing baby I had delivered.
It seems incredible that something as simple as breathwork healed me and prepared me for a calm, relaxed birthing experience with my next child, yet this is what happened. My second child was born in an environment that I chose, with music, water and refreshingly free of unnecessary medical intervention (see My Waterbirth Story for Jay's birth). In short, I learned to trust my own ability to deliver my baby in the way women have been doing for thousands of years.

There are many ways to heal from these experiences, I chose rebirthing because I have seen it work many times as a client and a practitioner. Also because the nature of this therapy allows for the healing of our own birth experiences if that's what we need to do. This can have a direct physcal and emotional impact on how we birth our own children.
Danae Brooks makes this point in her book Nature Birth p105.....

Professor Elizabeth Fehr (researcher/psychiatrist at the Institute of Natal Therapy in New York, early 1970's) believed that once an area of obstruction had been pinpointed, the obstruction could be released. By using what she called 'Natal Therapy' (Rebirthing) to help people recall their birth experiences, she herself could see the area in which they became 'stuck' or obstructed during labour and delivery.......... If the rebirthing is done under affectionate relaxed circumstances, the adult is also freed from having continually to act out his/her birth traumas, because this time there is no anaesthetic, no instruments, no interference, but a loving welcome.
Writing this post, I am reminded once again why it is so important that as a society we acknowledge the impact of individual experiences of women during times of pregnancy, birth and early days after baby is born and support mothers and babies wherever we can.

Talk Soon,

Monday, June 20, 2011

Book Review - Alfie Kohn Unconditional Parenting

Hi Everyone,

Today I am reviewing Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting.

Kohn has written over 12 books and many articles including
Punished by Rewards and Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community. He has been a long time advocate for limiting standardized testing and empowering children in their relationships by treating them with respect through loving, authentic interactions.

Unconditional Parenting was the first of Kohn's books that I read and I freely admit that it turned my assumptions around children and parenting upside down.

Kohn proposes that rewards and praise are a way to manipulate children to comply to our agenda for them.

My interpretation of Kohn's message in this book is that with love, we traditionally assume that offering praise will cause a child to
do the right thing. However, Kohn believes that children are naturally pre-disposed to make healthy choices (most of the time) if we trust them and deal honestly with them in a manner appropriate to their age.

For example, if a child paints a picture of a building, rather than give a value judgement such as
'wow, what a great picture' (whether the child has invested a lot of effort or very little). Instead, we could share a genuine appreciation for the work such as....'I like how this building contrasts with the sky', or simply hang up the painting and allow the child to draw his/her own conclusions about their work.

An experience I had at our local playground shortly after I read Unconditional Parenting gave me an amusing reminder of the concept of
overpraising to the degree that children cease to rely on their own perceptions of the world. The mother of a toddler was pushing her child on the baby swing and each time the child swung back she would say 'good swinging'...I almost felt like patting this loving mother on the back and chiming in 'good pushing' as she was doing all the work, and I know I have done similar things with good intentions many times.

This experience allowed me a really clear picture of how we as parents can train our children to require positive feedback to feel that they're doing an okay job, rather than being self-referencing and secure as individuals.

Another important facet of this book is that children flourish when they are secure in the
knowledge that they are loved unconditionally. Kohn alleges that while we assume that because we feel unconditional love for our children, they will automatically know this as the truth, this is not always the case. Unless we relate our enduring love to our children verbally and with our actions, they may assume we only love them as long as they meet our approval.

This surprised me, and I wasn't convinced at first. However, since I have been employing the statement
'I love you and will always love you no matter what....and now let's look at what happened' at the beginning of each significant discussion, I am experiencing an incredible shift in the energy of my interactions with our children. Immediately the child knows they are safe in my love, and need not be on the defensive, allowing issues to be resolved much more quickly and satisfactorily.

I will add here that unconditional parenting does
not mean allowing children to do whatever they wish, whenever they wish. It does not mean allowing our children to disrespect others or run the household. It means not withdrawing our love and approval in an effort to change their behaviour, but working for a respectful exchange of wishes which are resolved in a win/win capacity for all parties.

Personally I really enjoyed reading
Unconditional Parenting, even though it challenged a few paradigms for me and gave me a bit of a jolt initially :) I believe that by following it's basic principles, I now enjoy a much more relaxed and enriching relationship with my family and feel extremely grateful for this.

Talk Soon Cynthia x

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Parenting Article "I Want It Now!"

Hi Everyone,

Following is a parenting article I found thought provoking, so I'm sharing it with you :)

Written by Scott Noelle, it proposes that while we often demand immediate action and acquiescence of our children, we don't always employ a lot of patience ourselves. Interesting reading which encourages us as parents to think about the choices we make in our interactions with children....

The inner process of creating requires two things: asking and receiving.

People often fail to get in a receiving mode because of its paradoxical nature. To receive what you want, you must be free not to have it. The longer you're willing to wait, the sooner it will come.

If your child is complaining about not having what s/he wants right now, s/he's stuck in the asking mode. Ironically, parents often exacerbate the problem by saying or thinking essentially the same thing: "I want the complaining to stop NOW!"

To help your child get in a receiving mode, model it: get in your own receiving mode about your child's receiving mode! :) How? Simply imagine your child happily anticipating the fulfillment of his or her desire.

As you deliberately enjoy that vision (even if your child is still complaining), you become the change you wish to see.

And when you demonstrate the receiving mode often, your child will eventually fall into it with you — naturally and willingly.

By Scott Noelle

Scott Noelle is a father of two, parenting coach, and the author of The Daily Groove: How to Enjoy Parenting... Unconditionally! Through his website,, Scott offers a variety of inspiring and practical resources for leading-edge parents.

Copyright (c) by Scott Noelle. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted With Permission.

And for more on conscious post I will review Alfie Kohn's book Unconditional Parenting.

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Find A Doula

Hi Everyone,

I want to mention an interesting doula website called find a

The site philosophy states that:

If a woman can birth with confidence and know that she has been given choice throughout her pregnancy and birth, she can have a better birth experience.

That’s why one Sydney doula set out to establish this website. Lucy Perry wanted to give Australian women lots of choice when it came to choosing the right doula for their family.

This site is completely independent and its services are entirely free.

The site features recommended books, videos, articles, and a range of other resources. Well worth a look if you're pregnant, planning on becoming pregnant or a doula yourself.

Talk Soon Cynthia x

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reader Birth Story - Megan

Hi Everyone,
Today Megan, mother of three is sharing her experience of being pregnant with and birthing Isla.....

I was diagnosed with whooping cough when I was about 6 months pregnant. I was sick for a long time. That was truly awful!

I'm sure that is what bounced my baby into a transverse position....non stop coughing! I spent a lot of time doing yoga as I recovered and trying to get baby to shift but she wouldn't! My doctor told me that a C-section was necessary for me to survive the birth when I was 36 weeks.

I begged the universe to help me out as I was terrified of surgery. I went in to labour the day my final "deciding" scan was due (38wks). But I never went to the scan.....I just walked and walked and walked for over 10 hrs then presented to my wonderful midwives and they had to do a simple "twist" of Isla (which _did_ hurt!) but she was born a minute or so later, perfectly healthy and me untorn and totally fine. We were both home within 1.5 hrs. :)

I am soooo glad I trusted myself. And I will truly love Marie and Jenny (my mids) forever.


Thanks for sharing Megan, Cynthia xx