This weekend sees women come together to talk about all things birth. The Red Tent Festival offers women a unique chance to share their stories and get in touch with latest birth techniques and philosophies. Jenny Blythe is a birth worker who will be running a workshop called Viva La Vagina along with screening The Big Stretch 2.
‘It started when I had my three kids. It was the amazement and pride in myself, the wow factor when you first give birth and then the motivation that you want to tell women about birth, especially first-timers, that it’s a lot bigger than you think!’ Jenny told Echonetdaily.
So how does she get the message through to women who are birthing for the first time, considering lack of experience tends to make the first-time mother naively unaware of the pain that awaits?
‘You can never get it completely through, but if you actually do it without being dramatic about it for the women that are going for the pain-free experience, you might want to call it pain free. Most women do call it painful – my awareness is on body preparation and you get the mental confidence to know that you can do it.’
Jenny believes that women need to be more focused on their individual experiences and not to measure themselves against the choices of others.
‘There is so much emotion around birth. We can end up measuring women up against each other around what is a good birth, and really nobody ever knows. You need to have the resolve and resilience to ride it…
‘I think it is important for women to focus on what they want and visualise that; if they don’t end up getting it, at least they know they did everything they could to get it out, then they could feel they have no regrets.’
Jenny runs regular groups supporting women and their partners to actively engage in the birth process.
‘I take them through a whole lot of experiential exercises that I have created over the years and involve the partners. I model it for them and keep it fun and light because I believe taking skills on board in a relaxed way you integrate it more. The whole approach is about simple effective touch and communication, and a variety of particular skills that women practise so that you can go to your pelvis and help facilitate your own birth, able to give other people feedback about what is going. One of the things that happens with pain is that we stop breathing and retreat – that is a survival mechanism for serious injury which is important in that context, but during birth you need to be present.’
Breath is key for Jenny.
‘I actually get people to do breath in a really relaxed fashion so they can feel breath going to anywhere in the body, with touch guidance – it’s not just a theory, they actually get to experience it. You get right into the middle of the pain; it is like you are in the eye of a cyclone. It’s a still place, things blur out for a second or two…
‘My other biggest motivation is about celebrating the body – that’s what this Viva La Vagina workshop is about: it’s about honouring the body and we all have stories.’
Women need to find what is right for them. Jenny believes that socially there is still a lot of pressure: ‘I think there is an expectation in our culture of women to have a perfect birth of a perfect child… it’s almost like it was in the fifties’.
Jenny believes that it’s not just women but their partners who need to be more informed around birth. With regional maternity hospitals closing, it’s important for the partners to know how to deliver a child, in case of a ‘car’ birth.
‘Lots of women are told you need to drive more than three hours to the nearest hospital… and some of them go into labour three weeks early. Heaps of them end up being stuck on the highway out of range and having to deal with it. That’s why I am so big on the birth preparation. None of these women who go to these bigger centres even get a handout to say this is what you need to do… it’s quite easy but easy to panic if you don’t know what to do.’
Jenny will also be screening The Big Stretch sequel, a film shot with Alieta Belle.
‘It’s basically a celebration of natural birth and honouring the innate intelligence of parents and babies. This one is 13 chapters of what challenges they had and what it was and how they processed it. They were all women having home births… we try to unromanticise it, most of the time it’s a birth, it hurts and it’s amazing. It’s not necessarily romantic.’
Jenny will be conducting her Viva La Vagina workshop and screening her film at the Red Tent Festival on Saturday. Films will be available on DVD.
Echonetdaily’s video reporter Sharon Shostak will be following the event. Watch out for her report next week.