I have always loved being in water. I started swimming pretty late, my family were not interested in swimming, but when I was 7 or so I joined the Girls Brigade and Captain insisted that we all learned to swim. Ironically she couldn't swim herself, but she felt it was important that inner city children who attended the Hackney branch of GB, London, in the 60's should have access to the local pool, but also know how to swim.
So there it was, swimming lessons every Tuesday evening, taught by her side kick Mrs East. I took to swimming straight away and learnt breast stroke in no time at all. Soon we were doing galas - not Olympic level standard, I might add, but we had fun and soon after we were taught how to dive. This was at The Hackney Baths. A very old (at the time Victorian Bathing house, based in Lower Clapton Road, in the borough of Hackney). They had two 25 meter swimming pools, turkish baths and somewhere local people who did not own their own bathrooms, could go and have a bath once a week. Yes it was back in the day!
Well, fast forward 30 years having my own children. One of the very first lesson I taught them was to swim. Almost as soon as I could get our daughter in the water, which was at about 4 weeks old. I would go for a swim and my mother would look after her, but once I felt confident to take her on my own, I would quickly put her in the pool and we would have a little play around.
Off course I was one of the first black women in the UK to use water in labour and
give birth in water. I hired a pool from The Active Birth Centre, we set it up in our front room. In labour I was in and out of the pool, (this was before there was restrictions on being 5 cm at least before entering a birthing pool). And being at home I was free to do what I wanted, which was to enter the pool. It was so comforting and was a where I felt completely safe. In the end I gave birth on the floor in our new bathroom. Still near water.
2 and half years later our first son was born in the pool, and 3 and half years after that the second son was also born in the pool, it was a great experience, they were so chilled and relaxed not like the drama that we are fed through the media about how we as women should birth.
I trained as a Active Birth Teacher after the birth of my daughter in 1989 and have been a advocate for female empowerment in the birth space every since.
As a doula I see so often how the power of water has a profound effect on the birthing woman. Being near water she is able to let go and relax and suddenly her waters break, 10 mins later she is pushing and birthing her beautiful baby.
So it makes sense for me to train as a Aqua natal teacher, to help women to let go and relax in the water, as a part of their preparation. debunking the myths that women were not designed to birth in water, but giving them permission to do exactly what they want. Women was not designed to give birth on a bed with several people watching. Research shows how being watched has a enormous effect on the labouring woman and can slow down the process entirely. I have witnessed this myself.
Women don't have to birth in the water, but the use of water helps her access her parasympathetic nervous system, helps her to release those endorphins and be flooded with the love hormone oxytocin to birth her beautiful bambino.
I trained with Birthlight to teach Aquanatal sessions in 2013 with Professor Francoise Freedman. I have found that when in a water medium, the women begin to access that sense of play and relaxation. There is lots of laughter, getting the oxytocin going. Helping them to access that play and to be fluid in this environment. After all we came from that wonderful protected space of water in-side the womb space, it so makes sense that using water is the perfect medium to help access trance-like and transcendent state of mind to birth her baby.
Also it is my goal to help women who are not so water aware and a little bit water phobic to learn basic skills to swim. We don't want to pass on our fears and phobias to our children, and what a better way to start breaking down those barriers than to come to the Aquanatal class before you have your baby.
This class not only offers, gentle fluid movements, to tone, release and relax in, water, but it also offers women an opportunity to re connect with their body and their pregnancy and to learn how to swim and feel buoyant and at ease in water.
We also sing nursery rhymes and talk about how to use the breath, in labour, how to move in labour and how to relax in labour. So be prepared to bring a song along to share.
"I have the best nights sleep after the aquanatal class"... Stefanija (April 2018)
The classes are held in 4-weekly blocks and can be booked through the website. They are not transferable for refundable.
These classes are not subsidised and need enough members to make it cost effective.
We are now taking bookings for May 2019. Please visit the website www.arlenedunkleywood.co.uk for details. Spaces for 10 women only. This group is of women only.