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I am so chuffed that we have been asked to author a series of antenatal and baby blogs for the guys at JoJo, not least because as a mum of 5 I am a frequent visitor of their Bury St Edmunds store. Our micro scooter is the current favourite thing with my 3 year old!
For this first post, they have asked me to tell you a little bit about us – WOW where do I start? It’s so easy to do the cliché thing of how we began, why our antenatal classes benefit you in pregnancy and hopefully in labour too, why baby massage is so beneficial …. But I wanted to give you a bit more of an insight into us and what makes us tick.
We really are a team of mums! Around 130 mums teaching across the UK, 4 in Australia, 1 in Egypt and soon in Cyprus and Singapore too. And a further 3 co-ordinating the training and day to day media – myself (mum to 4 daughters and 1 very boisterous son), Sian Gilmartin (mum to Raffi and Logan) and Karen Homes (mum to Joshua).
I guess you’d say Daisy is my 6th baby, as it was originally (although has evolved a lot along the way) my brainchild and actually evolved from quite a challenging time in my life, as so many good things often do!
It was 1999 and I had two very young children and was at the other side of a difficult divorce, and to help pick myself up (and despite holding down the very corporate day job), I decided to enrol to study holistic therapies at our local University College. I didn’t realise then that by 2004 I would be remarried and have just given birth to my 4th daughter (just 18 months after my 3rd) and be about to launch my own holistic business, having become totally passionate about anatomy and the benefits of positive touch.
The Need to relax
Daisy began very much as ‘pampering and relaxation for new mums’ – I’d been inspired both by my love of massage, my realisation that a normal corporate job didn’t work with 4 children and also a tricky bout of PND making me realise just how much new mummies need human contact.
“A mother suffering with PND also experiences a shift in brain activity with massage. Massage encourages increase in alpha brain waves known for their relaxing, calming qualities.” http://www.naturaltherapypages.co.uk/article/Massage_for_Postnatal_Depression (2013).
By taking massage into new mums’ homes, I hoped to make pampering accessible even when baby was tiny and help them boost their own happy hormones and feel more normal in their skin!
Within a few month though, services had begun to evolve, as I was encouraged on a doula training course to undertake pregnancy yoga and baby yoga training and then hypnosis for birth. The more I studied and the more mummies I worked with (I was now seeing around 150 weekly), the more I realised that massage, movement and relaxation deserve to sit together – all sharing very similar benefits but when combined, WOW the results were quite astounding.
I loved the idea of utilising a range of pregnancy specific movements that were one step on from the passive movement we sometimes use when working on a massage client …. Movements so subtle, so rhythmic that the participant barely needs to think about them (after all, that’s what needs to happen in labour … the movements just need to play out). To my mind, evolving pregnancy massage and relaxation into a sequence of relaxed movements was almost identical to the nurturing process we go through when we take a tiny baby and use gentle first-stroke massage and then guided movements (baby yoga) to help them discover their own bodies and their own movement capabilities. By using touch and movement, we help babies wire the synapse in the brain to enable them to move – my belief is that using touch and movement in pregnancy, we can help pregnant mums rediscover the ancient part of the brain which knows how to birth but which has become suppressed with time, poor posture and media hype!
“…. women are completely out of touch with their own instinctive ability to give birth ….” (Balaska, 1991)
To move is to relax …. To relax is to release
To my mind you cannot achieve relaxation without movement (the process of opening and closing the jaw to induce relaxation of the jaw bone and, perhaps somewhat surprisingly for those who don’t have an anatomy background, achieve relaxation in the pelvic floor is just one example).
Hypnosis sitting alongside movement also makes perfect sense to me, as the repetitive nature of certain movement sequences is just so relaxing (rotate to dilate for example). Think about just how relaxing it is to rock in a rocking chair!
In addition the rise and fall of breath work seems to perfectly mirror, match and reinforce the rise and fall of the uterus in labour and the rise and fall of our bodies through certain movement sequences. When used together, we create a ‘labour dance’ and what Lazy Daisy believes is a way of really understanding the rhythm of labour and to learn how to ride that rhythm.
Author of Birth and Beyond Yehudi Gordan believes ‘there is far more encouragement for mothers to move with the rhythm of labour using breath and harnessing the force of gravity for birth’. He suggests this can ‘reduce discomfort, lift spirits and encourage progress’ (Gordan, 2002)
The birth of Daisy Birthing and Daisy Baby
By 2009 I was no longer teaching separate yoga and hypnosis classes or offering separate treatments, but rather combined these disciplines to create our own programme – Daisy Birthing. Daisy Birthing was accredited by FEDANT in 2009 and the rest I guess you would say is history …. As a private practise pregnancy and baby organisation, we really did bloom through pregnancy and blossom into birth and now see around 2500 mummies to be (or expectant couples) every week through our network of licensed peer supporters and mentors.
Of course for Lazy Daisy the need to develop a peer based and relaxation based support network to nurture new mums (and to really promote the amazing benefits of using positive touch with babies, whilst helping them relax) was still paramount too, and I was so pleased to be able to also work on a similar fusion of movement, relaxation, massage and breathing for mummies and babies ‘Daisy Baby’.
“Relaxation is one of the most selfish things one can do for one’s self and one of the most nurturing things someone else can promote” Virginia Collins http://www.childbirthexperience.ca/article06_relaxation.html 2006
Our latest project has been carrying forward the benefits of relaxation and stretching into a programme for tots and pre-schoolers – this has been so much fun and really allowed us to let our imaginations run riot but all the time with a very serious intention as we work to support the Early Years Foundation Stages and improve focus, concentration, balance, self-awareness and promote ‘friendliness’.
The Story Now
4 years on and I have been so fortunate to work with amazing professionals and to have added hugely skilled people to the Daisy team (both training team and teachers in the field), including midwives, physiotherapists, doulas and clinical hypnotherapists. Thanks to FEDANT and IPTI approving our training, an extremely hard working training and post training mentor team and some very passionate mums who share my original vision for peer support and holistic tools for labour and for parenting, Lazy Daisy now have a network of teachers equally passionate about the benefits of movement and relaxation …..
I have been fortunate enough to travel to the other side of the world training women passionate about supporting others during pregnancy, in our holistic programme. In February this year, I travelled children in tow, and worked with an amazing group of Daisy Trainees in Sydney Australia.
I have met fascinating birth professionals, inspirational birthing couples and some incredible writers and some familiar faces too such as ITV’s investigative journalist Cherry Healey, who came along to our 2011 Teachers reunion.
I love logging onto our teachers forum to not only read the positive stories of natural births but also to see the teachers working together to share positive stories of induced labour, or positive stories of VBAC and also to consider how Daisy classes can be equally valuable preparation for a mummy working towards a section.
The Importance of Choice
Ours is certainly not the only antenatal or baby education out there. There should most definitely be choice and different styles will appeal to different parents – we are not for everyone, nor do we claim to be the best. But we do very much state loud and proud we are passionate about what we do, passionate about birth confidence and passionate that all parents should feel empowered to do things ‘their way’.
We aim to provide a tool kit of natural tools and a local network of support and I think we work really well for:-
- Mummies who learn well through ‘doing’ (we move to improve)
- Mummies who like a holistic approach and are keen to explore the inbuilt tools their body has
- Mummies keen to learn breathing techniques or understand ‘active birth’
- Mummies who just need to chill out or who have back ache or swollen ankles and want a weekly course to help gently stretch, revive and feel good in their pregnancy body!
- Parents keen to attend a couples based workshop together, focused on movement and birth supporter tools (such as massage for labour) …. No embarrassing ice breakers I promise!
- New parents keen to understand their new arrival a little better and learn tips to settle and soothe using massage, white noise and tools such as holds or even swaddling
- Parents keen to enjoy baby massage or baby yoga but in a setting which understands little ones don’t like to lay still for long!
- Bouncy babies who want a really fun movement based class to enjoy with their grown up!
If you would like to find out more about classes (or teaching in your community) with Lazy Daisy please visit www.thelazydaisychain.co.uk
Gordan Yehudi (2002) Birth and Beyond, London: Vermillion
Balaskas J (1991) New Active Birth, London: Thorsons