This week has been spent mostly working on a case study assignment for an NCT Yoga for Pregnancy training module that I have been taking with the University of Worcester. This aim of this has been to enhance my Pregnancy Yoga classes as well as improve my own yoga practice. The NCT Yoga for Pregnancy classes I teach each Thursday evening in Ash, Surrey, comprise a mixture of first-time mothers and those who already have one or more children. Having run these sessions for 7 years now many of the second-timers attended when they were pregnant first time round as well (and one has even been 3 times now…you know who you are!)
My curiosity was roused by these women who were on their second pregnancies. Getting to a class at 7.30pm in the evening could often prove challenging and I wanted to know why they came and what these sessions offered them. Talking to them about their experiences and reflecting on the part I played in their pregnancies and birth gave me a great insight into this group of pregnant women and an excellent focus for my case study assignment.
So what did I discover? Well, first and foremost (almost without exception) was the desire, and need, to do something for themselves and a time to focus on their new baby. The evidence is that women expecting their second baby spend significantly less time preparing for, and thinking about, this pregnancy. For many of the women I spoke to this was the only chance they had each week to focus on their current pregnancy and to have some ‘time out’ to connect with their baby and prepare for birth. With first pregnancies every waking hour is seemingly spent charting the progress of a baby’s development and making plans for their arrival. First time round women read books and magazines, attend classes, go ‘baby’ shopping, surf the internet, join online forums and listen to hypnotherapy CDs. But it is evident that once you have a child already everything changes. Time is precious and current children take priority. Sometimes it is only when women find time to join something like my Yoga for Pregnancy classes that they finally stop and contemplate this new life growing inside. For that reason alone the sessions I run offer an invaluable oasis in their busy lives. A time for reflection.
And there is more…this time childbirth is not ‘the unknown’ that they were perhaps so fearful of with their first babies. Although a few of the women in my sessions have had planned caesareans first time round, most have experienced labour and have either given birth vaginally (often after facing challenges during labour) or had emergency caesarean births. For these women a common theme is a desire to have ‘a more positive experience’ this time. They want to remain in control, use their breathing more effectively and to approach labour with a calm confidence that perhaps eluded them previously. During the classes I encourage everyone to think about working with the intensity of labour and birth and we explore movement, breathing, positions, visualisations and affirmations to enhance their experience. Yoga poses build strength and stamina and long relaxations aid good sleep – creating a sense of calm and building confidence. Women suggested that the classes either built their sense of trust and belief in their ability to give birth, or – for those who had positive first births – reminded them of what they already knew.
The best thing of all has been the stories these women tell after they have had their babies. The vast majority of them have the positive birth that they have longed for. They have enjoyed the time spent in classes and are then able to use what they have learned when the time comes to have their babies. Now I know that second labours are often more straightforward than first labours. But I believe that women having a second or subsequent baby have been overlooked and it gives me enormous satisfaction to know that I can play a small part in changing that. It is both fulfilling and a privilege to work with these women at such a special time in their lives. So if you are expecting your second, third, fourth, fifth baby – do try to find something that will give you the opportunity to focus on this baby and prepare for their arrival. I know it’s hard – but it is so valuable and you will be so pleased that you did.