The Myth of A Natural Birth

canada-goose-216003_1280As I counsellor I do some voluntary work for a Birth Trauma Association. My job consists of giving email advice to new mums on how to deal with the consequences of traumatic birth experience, helping them to find a counsellor etc. More often than not I help mothers to start processing the birth experience itself– confirming that what happened was, indeed, quite traumatic and it is hardly surprising that a new mother is presently feeling low, anxious or depressed.
I am talking here of a physical trauma – something went wrong, there were complications, medical support was inadequate, baby or mother’s life was in danger and so on. What is surprising, though, that very often I get emails from mothers who have delivered healthy babies and are feeling physically ok, yet emotionally they are in a complete turmoil. I am not talking about post-natal depression, which may be caused by hormones, lack of sleep, complete change of lifestyle etc. These are the cases when emotional distress is caused by a wide gap between mother’s expectation of birth and an actual birth experience.
More often than not, these women had an idealized picture of birth – completely “natural”, almost pain free, no medication or drugs involved. Which is a fantastic idea in itself and it is great when birth goes as planned. Unfortunately, it is not often the case. Thousands of things can go and do go wrong and medical help is required. As a result, instead of feeling exhilarated and proud after giving birth to a healthy baby, new mothers feel like failures. This feeling of inadequacy and failure can sometimes develop into depression.
In their antenatal groups expectant mothers are commonly given a picture of a “natural” birth as an only “right” option, making it sound easy and achievable for everyone. Birth is, indeed, a natural process, but it is also quite natural for it to go wrong. Many women through the history have died in the process and it is still happening in many countries today. Advocating the “natural” birth as an only option should always include mentioning the risks associated with it. Expectant mothers should be offered different options and the choice should be theirs, depending on the circumstances, health risks etc. Rather than bullying women into one “right” way of giving birth, antenatal groups should be explaining pluses and minuses of various options and providing women with information. What works for one mother could be completely wrong for another and there is no need to make a failure from what should be a celebration.
Having met plenty of women who have opted for a natural birth, I have yet to meet a person who has asked to see a “natural dentist

Getting Into Shape After Having A Baby

happy selfGETTING INTO SHAPE AFTER HAVING A BABY

One of the most common problems facing new mums is losing weight after having a baby. I can remember discussing various diets with my girlfriends and looking forward to recovering my pre-baby body. I also remember really struggling with being on a diet and not quite succeeding. My friend’s experiences are quite similar to mine. So why do diets so often don’t work? I did not get my answers until quite a few years later when I was seeing clients as a counsellor and having counselling myself.

If you are looking after a lively toddler (or two!), you might be craving food because you are tired, not because you are hungry. Before starting on yet another diet, which is likely to make you even more exhausted, it is worth asking yourself a few simple questions: Why am I reaching for food now? Am I tired? Sleepy? Just need some comfort? There are many other ways of fulfilling these needs rather than food.

Losing weight isn’t easy – otherwise, why would overweight people continue to put up with prejudice, disapproval and feelings of guilt and shame?
In fact, almost one in four adults in England is classified as obese.
There is no genetic explanation why some people are unable to regulate their food intake. Research indicates that the answer may lie in our emotional relationship with food.
It may not be real hunger that pushes us to reach for second helpings, but actually a response to an emotional need elsewhere, which is nothing to do with food.
Well known weight loss companies have for many years successfully used group counselling techniques to help people lose weight.
In my practice, I work with clients on resolving emotional blocks that prevent them from achieving their perfect weight.
During sessions we first find out what the client’s relationship with food really is. What does he or she feel just before reaching for food? And what about after? What do they say to themselves when they overeat?
Next, we explore what being overweight means to my client. We experiment with my clients seeing themselves thin and imagining how their life is going to change as the result.
We discuss the role food played in a family of origin – what messages were given by parents about eating or not eating? What cultural attitudes to food were predominant? How were overweight people regarded?

If you would like to lose weight, start noticing when you overeat – do you reach for biscuits when you are tired? Upset? Anxious? Is there anything you can do to deal with your emotional discomfort instead of eating? Paying attention to and resolving a psychological issue is a way to loose weight for good, much more effective than a crush diet (which is likely to make you even more stressed and irritable).

Taking supplements might also help you lose weight after pregnancy. Certain food cravings indicate that your body is lacking vitamins or minerals. For instance, if you can’t live without peanut butter, it means that your vitamin B intake is insufficient. Taking a supplement instead of dipping into the jar will greatly improve your waistline!
Craving cheese is often a sign of Calcium and Phosphorus deficiency. Try taking a supplement or eating more broccoli – it is high in calcium and phosphorus and has a lot less calories than cheese.
If you need comfort food when you are stressed – give Omega 3 a try and make sure you take it for at least a month. Essential Fatty Acids improve brain functioning and might make you feel calmer and clear the brain fog.

Quite often food cravings are not a sign of a particular vitamin shortage, but just indicate that you need rest. One client complained that she was a chocolate addict and could not get rid of the habit. A born perfectionist, she could never take a break and relax, so the chocolate for her became a substitute for a good rest.

Research indicates that overweight people, who try, but don’t manage to loose weight, often don’t have clear motivation. So when you decide to loose some weight, first ask yourself – how thin would you like to be? What does being thin means for you? Do you know your ideal weight and have a clear plan of how to reach it? Otherwise, your weight loss program will become just another exercise in self-criticism and low self-esteem.

Don’t blame yourself for an occasional chocolate or second helpings. Internal criticism is not likely to stop you eating too much, but will definitely make you feel bad and as a result – more comfort eating! Pay attention to your feelings and look after yourself, then you will not only achieve your perfect weight, but also learn to live in harmony with your body.

Anna Storey at www.annastorey-counselling.com

THE MYTH OF A “NATURAL BIRTH”

WMC:sea
As I counsellor I do some voluntary work for a Birth Trauma Association. My job consists of giving email advice to new mums on how to deal with the consequences of traumatic birth experience, helping them to find a counsellor etc. More often than not I help mothers to start processing the birth experience itself– confirming that what happened was, indeed, quite traumatic and it is hardly surprising that a new mother is feeling low, anxious or depressed.
I am talking here of a physical trauma – something went wrong, there were complications, medical support was inadequate, baby or mother’s life was in danger and so on. What is surprising, though, that very often I get emails from mothers who have delivered healthy babies and are feeling physically ok, yet emotionally they are in a complete turmoil. I am not talking here about post-natal depression, which may be caused by hormones, lack of sleep, complete change of lifestyle etc. These are the cases when emotional distress is caused by a wide gap between mother’s expectation of birth and an actual birth experience.
More often than not, these women had an idealized picture of birth – completely “natural”, almost pain free, no medication or drugs involved. Which is a fantastic idea in itself and it is great when birth goes as planned. Unfortunately, it is not often the case. Thousands of things can go and do go wrong and medical help is required. As a result, instead of feeling exhilarated and proud after giving birth to a healthy baby, new mothers feel like failures. This feeling of inadequacy and failure can sometimes develop into depression.
In their antenatal groups expectant mothers are commonly given a picture of a “natural” birth as an only “right” option, making it sound easy and achievable for everyone. Birth is, indeed, a natural process, but it is also quite natural for it to go wrong. Many women through the history have died in the process and it is still happening in many countries today. Advocating the “natural” birth as an only option should always include mentioning the risks associated with it. Expectant mothers should be offered different options and the choice should be theirs, depending on the circumstances, health risks etc. Rather than bullying women into one “right” way of giving birth, antenatal groups should be explaining pluses and minuses of various options and providing women with information. What works for one mother could be completely wrong for another and there is no need to make a failure from what should be a celebration.
Having met plenty of women who have opted for a natural birth, I have yet to meet a person who has asked to see a “natural dentist”…

Is your behaviour Obsessive-Compulsive?

OCDWhen I used to work with mothers suffering with post-natal depression, one of the common features of my clients was an overwhelming drive to be perfect – perfect mother, perfect home maker, perfect wife etc. Such client would be unable to stop and sit down until the house was absolutely tidy, which, considering small children, almost never happened. There was always more ironing to do, more bathrooms to clean, more toys to tidy. One client ended up ironing until 3 o’clock at night when she realized that something is not right and decided to seek help. Compulsive neatness, desire to control everything and to be perfect are common feature of the Obsessive-Compulsive Personality disorder.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder. The ‘Obsessive’ part of OCD is characterized by persistent thoughts that cause the sufferer distress and from which there is little relief. There is usually a feeling that if compulsive behavior (for example tidying) will stop, something really dreadful is going to happen.
These thoughts and feelings then lead to compulsive actions, which have to be performed again and again. These actions or rituals can involve checking, washing, cleaning, (there can be an overwhelming fear of germs and contamination) touching objects a number of times, counting “magic” numbers or performing certain rituals. Even getting out of the house becomes a lengthy ritual, as all the lights have to be checked, things tidied up, shoes lined up together etc etc.
OCD sufferer has an overwhelming desire to control everything around him or her, so endless checks are performed to make sure things are under control.
Someone with OCD often has a compulsive desire to be perfect in everything. I have seen many mums whose children were always perfectly dressed, who baked the best muffins and whose houses were impeccable. Yet they were often too exhausted to play with their children or do something fun together. People in this situation put enormous pressure on their children and their families, but most of all on themselves. The result is usually exhaustion and often depression, when a person can’t be perfect anymore and just gives up.
So what can you do if you find yourself engaging in some OCD behavior? I will talk about it in my next post.

What is Transactional Analysis and how it can help?

PND Transactional Analysis was founded by Eric Berne, who sought to demystify psychotherapy and developed concepts, language and methods which were understandable to everyone.
Transactional Analysis believes that we are all living according to our script – a life plan, that is formed at about the age of 6 under the influence of the authority figures.
From this early age we see the world through the prism of our life script and either ignore the facts that don’t fit in or notice only the matching episodes.
Obviously, our “script vision” does not allow us to see all the variety of choices that life has to offer. As a result, we keep moving in circles, sometimes wondering why same things keep happening to us again and again.
For example, the person with a “Work Hard” script, will keep working overtime despite the signs of deteriorating health. The thought of stopping and having a holiday would not even occur to him. Or the woman with Don’t be important script message might marry several times to the men who make her feel unimportant, therefore reinforcing her script beliefs.

Having a baby is a highly emotional time for anyone. When we are tired and under stress, that is the time when our Script directives become most powerful.
For example, somebody with a “Be Perfect” script type may feel that his or her perfect world is blown to pieces with the arrival of a little baby and nothing will ever be perfect again.
On the other hand, a person with a “Work Hard” script theme will understand motherhood as yet another hard task, that has to be worked on, and just get on with it.
If a mother grew up in a household where loud expression of emotions was taboo, she might find dealing with a colicky baby overwhelming. She might experience a sense of total helplessness, feelings of guilt or anger, or even get seriously depressed.

So how can Transactional Analysis help?
TA believes that our scripts can be changed and that we can live the life we choose, not the one we were programmed to live. After acknowledging your script beliefs you can then challenge them and replace them with the new ones.

Here is how it worked for some of my previous clients:

My first client, Laura, was a mother of 2, 5 year old and 1 year old twins. A successful business woman in the past, Laura was getting depressed staying at home with small children and relying on her husband to earn a living. Her husband was very supportive of her going back into business again, but she was torn between the desire to be a “perfect mother” and re-claim her “former life”. In a course of several sessions we explored Laura’s feelings about working and her feelings about being a mother, which revealed complicated relationship between her “inner child” and “inner parent”. What we achieved was Laura’s new ability to rid herself of adopted feelings and prejudices, which did not belong to her, and discover the feelings and desires of her own. With that new skill acquired Laura was able to build a new life, which included her children and her work, the way she wanted it, not the way she was “meant” to live.

Maria, mother of a three months old baby, felt overwhelmed by motherhood and new responsibilities. Always a perfectionist, she took her baby crying as a sign that she was not a good enough mother and was getting more and more depressed. Together we worked at detecting Maria’s inner critical voice and changing it to a voice of support and encouragement. Maria then learned to enjoy being a mum, rather than trying to Be a Perfect Mother.