Birth, Freebirth, Homebirth, Women

What are you inviting a midwife for?

Okay, I’ve got some questions. When a woman is planning a birth that is the complete opposite of the standard all-intervention hospital birth, she is asked a million questions. “Why would you want to give birth at home? Who will cut the cord? Who will catch the baby? How will you know if there is something wrong? What if something terrible happens?”. Having a homebirth is already seen as a crazy choice, so freebirth is clearly bonkers. So when a woman plans a homebirth she often plans to call a midwife because that is the done thing and it answers lots of the common question (seen above), but I have some different questions.

Giving birth at home IS the biological norm. Women in the UK only started giving birth in hospitals in the 1950’s – that’s only 70 years ago, and despite its popularity it has not made birth safer. For the millions of years before that women gave birth at home, or wherever they found themselves at the time. We are mammals and, just like other mammals, humans need to feel safe, warm, undisturbed and unobserved. The very nature of the medical profession is to observe, looking for problems, and to observe is to disturb.

The societal norm these days is to see your GP when you discover you are pregnant and then attend a series of medical appointments for various measurements and tests. Nobody really asks questions of the women who are engaging with the maternity system fully and planning to give birth in hospital. Does anyone tell women that this is optional? No. Pregnancy is not an illness, so why is the standard path a medical one? The majority of women will follow this path, either because they haven’t been told that it’s optional, or because society says that is what she SHOULD be doing, so to please everyone around her she goes. She smiles and nods and agrees to all of the measurements and tests so that she doesn’t come across as being awkward. But what is she gaining from this path? Nobody asks.

Some women will question the number of appointments or decline the “extra” things (it’s all extra really,  because doing nothing would be the baseline). Even these women are challenged on their decisions, either by medical staff or family, friends or partners. They feel they have to justify declining unnecessary things that don’t bring them any benefits, and each time they try to justify it they are met with coercion. Nobody asks her what she actually wants from her pregnancy, what she needs or how she would like to honour her own milestones. Even when they are being selective about which parts of the system they want to engage in, they hesitate to push for what they truly want in case it gets someone’s back up. These are the women who, when asked if they think they might call a midwife, say that they will wait until “the very last minute” or, better yet, hope that the midwife doesn’t make it in time. So my question to you, wonderful women, is this: if your hope is that they miss the birth, what are you inviting a midwife for?

If this is something you have thought about, you’ve likely kept it to yourself. Well I’m here to tell you that you are among MANY women who have told us the very same thing (usually in a one-to-one session when their partner isn’t there and nobody else can hear them). When women say this we rejoice because we know that she is beginning to voice her ideal birth and she’s starting to question the societal pressures that encouraged her to medicalise her pregnancy from the start. Starting from your ideal birth is key. Think about it. Voice it. Plan for it. Hoping that your midwife will get stuck in traffic is not the same as planning to be undisturbed during labour.


So lets dig deep into the question: 

We often ask women to picture their ideal birth and use this as a baseline, adding things in only if it feels right. Doing it this way round, instead of looking at the standard medical pathway and trying to fit your wants and needs into that template, is much more likely to produce a genuine plan that reflects how you want to give birth. For many in society a midwife is a pillar of birth, so it’s automatically assumed that there will be one present wherever a woman gives birth. I encourage you to challenge this idea and pick it apart until it makes sense. A midwife is a medically trained individual. Birth is not a medical event, so it doesn’t make perfect sense despite the association in our heads. There are things that a midwife can bring that someone else couldn’t, like gas and air for example, or other medication that you don’t have at home. Here are some of the answers we hear when we ask women this question, and things to consider when weighing up the risks and benefits.

“To make sure everything is okay”

You are getting continuous information from your baby and you would be the first to know if something was wrong. If you are able to listen to and act upon your intuition, you will know if something is wrong and you’ll know what you want to do about it. How do you want her to check if everything is okay? There are lots of standard measurements midwives tend to want to take when they are present at a birth, including your blood pressure, your baby’s heart rate, your temperature, cervical dilation etc. (it’s a long list!). Lots of the women who give this answer have also said that they don’t want any intervention, so they would decline these checks anyway. So it’s worth thinking about whether you would accept or decline any/all of the checks a midwife would want to do, how much stock you put in those measurements, and what you would do if they contradicted what your intuition was telling you.

“In case something goes wrong”

What does “something going wrong” mean to you? This is different for each woman. There are lots of things that are labelled as “things going wrong” that are actually just a normal part of labour and birth that, given enough time, would resolve themselves. Meeting your basic needs is necessary for birth to go smoothly, being undisturbed is one of those needs. If you’re worried about things going wrong, it’s worth figuring out what that looks like for you and how to avoid it.

“In case of emergencies”

There are only a handful of true birth emergencies and they are very rare. It would be easy to think otherwise if you look at the homebirth transfer rates, but remember that the majority of transfers are due to things that are not emergencies, such as length of labour, labour stalling, “baby getting stuck”, getting tired… all of which are either the normal rhythm of labour or would just require more time and the woman’s basic needs being met. If a midwife is at a birth and a true birth emergency occurs, she would call an ambulance. You have this power too, and as stated above you would know if you needed emergency care.

“To do the paperwork afterwards”

This is a less frequent answer because if a woman is saying this she has already ruled out all of the ‘just in case’ reasons and this is purely a practical thing. You can call a midwife after you’ve given birth to your baby and your placenta and ask them to come and do the paperwork. The paperwork is often presented as a complicated thing that can only be done by a midwife, but that’s untrue. You can notify of the birth yourself if you’d prefer by filling in a form and emailing it to the relevant place (we have some info on this if you’d like it).

“To do some/all newborn checks on my baby”

Again, this is an afterwards situation. You can ask them to come over just for this reason and it’s all optional. You will be observing your baby closer than anyone else on the planet, you know them better than anyone else too, so again, you would know if you needed to get them checked over and you always have access to A&E should they need emergency care.

“To bring pain relief”

Very practical. Often when this is the answer it’s because the woman has experienced a painful birth in the past (usually in hospital) and is expecting to need pain relief again. The sensations of labour feel very different when your basic needs are met, and women who give birth undisturbed don’t need medication as their body is producing endorphins at the right rate. Being free to move and make noise and be however you feel is pain relief in itself. There are also lots of natural pain relievers that you can access without having to compromise on who you have in your birth space. Questions to think about: How can you minimise the need for medical pain relief? How can you make sure your basic needs are being met? What are your alternative methods of pain relief? Can you source it from elsewhere? If you need her to bring it, what can you do to protect your birth space once she has arrived?

“I want her to be in a different room and only come in if I need her”

Okay. This answer is the one that is the most telling. What you’re really saying is that you don’t want her there, but you don’t want to say that out loud. Or there is something you want her to bring or do before/after she stays in another room. Firstly, figure out which one of those it is for you. If it’s the former, that’s something to dig deeper into – Who are you trying to appease? What are you scared of if you plan a freebirth? What would you gain from her being in another room? What would be different if she wasn’t there at all?

If it is the latter, then go through the reasons that you DO want her there and make sure that it’s you that is benefitting from it, not someone else. In what situation would you want her to come in? What would you want her to do in the “if I need her” situations? Again, this will be different for each woman. This will help you to write an assertive and clear birth plan for the midwife who does attend.

 “So that they don’t refer me to social services”

We hear this one quite often from women who have engaged with the system as little as they feel is possible. They are scared that if they say no to the care they are offered they will get bad care, but the truth is that if you’re scared of that then you’re already receiving bad care. Referrals to social services for declining optional services do happen in Manchester, we’re not going to lie to you and say that they don’t. These referrals are used as a threat, and often they work. Agreeing to something under the threat of a referral means that your consent was not freely given and is therefore not valid. There is no magic formula to avoid being referred to social services for your birth choices, despite the fact that your birth choices are not grounds for a referral. But you could do everything that is asked of you, and then decline one thing and have the same thing happen. So it’s about knowing your rights, doing what you think is best for you, and recognising that you are doing nothing wrong when you decline elements or all of what the (completely optional) maternity system has to offer.


Take what you want from the system, leave the rest

Now that you’ve pictured your ideal birth, and questioned the societal norms of inviting the hospital into your birth space, you might have some answers. Here is the thing – whatever your answer is is the right one for you. The maternity system is an opt-in system. Scrutinising it doesn’t have to be an outright rejection. The way that it is presented is as a system that you must engage in as a standard and then only say no to things that you really, really don’t want (but even then you might be pushed into it anyway). If you start with a baseline of not engaging, doing nothing and enjoying your pregnancy as a normal part of life, then you can see the system clearly and engage if and when you wish to. This is how we treat all other medical systems. We go when we feel unwell, or when we have toothache. We don’t go every few weeks looking for problems. We also don’t live our lives with a paramedic in the next room, just in case we choke on our food, because if we did we probably would choke just because we’re thinking about choking.

If you answer the above questions and have a long list of reasons why you want a midwife to attend your birth, that’s wonderful – you can now write a really clear birth plan for her so she knows what you need. If you answer the questions and decide that having a midwife present wouldn’t benefit you, also great – you can plan your ideal birth knowing what you actually want, and remember that you don’t have to tell people that’s your plan if you’re worried about their reaction. It’s your information to share or not.

If you’ve got more questions, or you want to talk through any of the things that have come up for you whilst reading this (even if those feelings are anger or defensiveness) you’re welcome to come along to our monthly freebirth group or book in a one-to-one holding space session to chat with us.

You get to choose how much to engage in the maternity system. There is no right or wrong answer if it feels right to you. This is not midwife-hating, or telling women what to do, the point of this post is to encourage you to question the standard path and to make sure that the path you are currently on is bringing you joy and confidence. If it isn’t, it’s okay (and never too late) to change it.


Maternal Mental Health Week

This is a big week for those of us in the birth world. There are so many posts flying around about how important it is, but they seem empty to me, because they don’t address the heart of the matter, which is that almost every level of society tortures mothers. 

Women and girls are not supported to recognise healthy relationships, to assert our boundaries, and to listen to and act on our intuition. We are taught to ignore red flags in relationships and to overcome our discomfort for the sake of other people’s comfort.

Then when we get pregnant (however we do so, against a backdrop of “don’t get pregnant, it’ll ruin your life”, “having a baby is irresponsible and selfish” and “having a baby is the most important and fulfilling thing you can ever do”) women are subjected to a barrage of unwanted attention.

Suddenly our bodies and choices are up for discussion, even more than before. There have never been more opinions involved in mothering than there is today.

In the space of nine or ten months we’re expected to learn to be assertive (but not hostile), intuitive (but sensible), a natural (but with the help of experts) and to do everything possible to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby (according to other people’s definitions and standards of health).

We are divided into nuclear families and are expected to do everything alone, and there is no one to help because everyone is divided into nuclear families and are busy doing everything themselves.

Most women are healthy and capable enough to give birth spontaneously and without medical intervention, and most want to, but most don’t.
The maternity system is not solely responsible for this, as it mirrors a society in which regressive ideas about women flourish. It does fuel those ideas though, and should be held accountable for the damage it causes by doing this.

The bar for men is so low it’s a tavern in Hades. (This is the name of a Facebook group, if you want to see examples, or share your own.) And I would argue that the bar drops even lower when men become dads, while the bar for women rises up higher than ever.

If we really want to help women we need to change the structure of society.
Maybe this is why we pretend that postnatal depression strikes like lightning, indiscriminately and out of nowhere. It’s more comfortable than recognising the storm from which the lightning comes. But maybe it’s time to stop saying more palatable things, to make people more comfortable.

If we want to support maternal mental health call out abuses of power wherever you find them. Pretending they don’t exist, or associating commonality with normality, gives abuse and abusers more power.

To help new mums, let’s support pregnant women to use their autonomy in every aspect of their lives. Change the conversation and stop equating pregnancy with a series of medical appointments. Ask her about how she feels. Tell her she looks healthy. Complain about tv shows which use pregnancy as a plot device, or depicts birth as dramatic, complicated and painful. If she asks you what to do, try turning it back and asking her what she wants to do.
Do whatever you can to centre her in her own experience. We all know how much it sucks to feel like we’re on a conveyor belt. When that’s normalised so is powerlessness.

If we want to help pregnant women let’s help girls by ending toxic positivity. Let’s stop putting pressure on girls to be happy, nice, kind, and “lady-like”. Instead let’s support girls to be defiant, to be loud, to move, to get messy, to get dirty, to make mistakes, to be shy, to be unsure, to dislike things.
Let’s welcome their first periods. How her menarche is received by those around her is directly correlated to how she goes on to feel about her first pregnancy.


(If you, like me, like cartoons, there’s a lovely episode of Central Park about menarche – S2E11 “The PAIGE-riarchy!” on Disney+. Spoiler: her parents go too far for her liking regarding celebrating her first period. But it’s a welcome disruption from the dominant narrative of first periods being inherently embarrassing, and her family listen to her and give her what she says she needs.)

If there is a new mum in your midst and you want to help but don’t know how, you can tell her about our services, from the Three Step Rewind, to breastfeeding support, to at home postnatal support, you can do so knowing that she needn’t pay a penny. Let’s normalise the postnatal period requiring emotional and practical support for everyone, not just those in big nearby families and the well-off.

If you are obstructed by shame from giving the words and deeds of support that you want to, you deserve space and support yourself. Shame is a barrier to connection, with ourselves and others.
We don’t want anyone to feel ashamed. We don’t want you to feel shame around your body, or your relationship to it, or your birth, or your mothering, or your mental health, or your choices, or your lack of them.

You can talk to us about anything you’ve been through or will go through, via a Holding Space session, or our three month With Woman support package. You might have had your baby decades ago. You don’t need to be pregnant or ever planning to be in order to reach out (but you can be). Wherever you are in life and however you’re feeling, we can bring an extra layer of support to your situation. We have funding to make this possible, so please get in touch.

Birth, Homebirth

How to plan your birth during a midwife shortage

 During covid times it became standard practice to cancel homebirth services due to staffing levels. There wasn’t much logic behind this at the time given that this funnelled many healthy women into hospital, but it was accepted by many. This seems to have continued, with women being told weeks before their due date that there are staff shortages and there might not be a midwife available when she goes into labour. Or that she can only have a home birth during the day time Monday to Friday. This is simply unacceptable and has the desired effect of putting women off planning a homebirth for fear of the unknown. For women choosing homebirth because it is the only place they can meet all of their basic needs for birth, it is a HUGE compromise to leave your home during labour, so don’t be persuaded to do so by staffing levels or uncertainty.


  1. Stop hoping, start planning.

    Hoping for a homebirth is pointless. It means that you are not putting anything in place to make it happen, but you’re relying on external factors to make it happen, but those external factors want you to give birth in hospital because logistically it’s easier for them. So hoping will not be enough. If giving birth at home is important to you for any reason, then plan it.
  2. Don’t wait for permission.

    Lots of women are told by midwives that they can discuss their birth place at 36 or even 38 weeks. Don’t wait for them to bring it up – just tell them. This gives them plenty of time to put staff in place for around your guess date.
  3. Get really comfortable with the reasons you are choosing to give birth at home

    Those reasons don’t change based on staffing levels. You don’t have to explain these reasons to anyone else, but it’s important to remind yourself of these reasons often, particularly at times where your options seem to be being limited. Does the fact that there is no midwife available change the reasons you want to give birth at home? It’s also worth considering what giving birth in hospital would be like with a shortage of staff – where would you rather be?
  4. Learn and practise the broken record trick.

    If you decide that you do want a midwife present at your homebirth, you call them when the time comes and they tell you that nobody is available, you can repeat a basic script: “I’m in labour and I’d like a midwife to come out to me. I won’t be coming into the hospital.”
  5. Plan for a freebirth.

    Plan for there not being a midwife available when you go into labour. What does that look like for you? What support can you put in place? Does this actually change anything for you? What did you actually want a midwife for and how can you fill that gap in other ways? What are your fears? For many, the idea of having a midwife at their birth is just a given (as in, without any thought) because it’s just the done thing, so they have no idea what they actually want from a midwife. For others, they want a midwife present “just in case”, presumably just in case a true medical emergency arises which is very unlikely, and in such a scenario a midwife would call an ambulance. You also have the power to call an ambulance. If you remember that birth is a normal bodily function, just like your other bodily functions, then the idea of doing it in your private space, without any strangers makes a lot of sense. Once you’re okay with this as an option then your birth plans are no longer at the mercy of medical professionals – the uncertainty suddenly disappears.


How can we support you?

If you want to talk to us about planning your homebirth with or without a midwife, or air out any fears that come up for you at the thought of freebirthing, you can book a holding space session online with us here.

If you’d like to connect with other women who have given birth without a midwife, either intentionally or because there wasn’t one available, feel free to come along to our community groups which you can find here.

Don’t wait for permission to book a birth pool if you’re thinking of a home water birth, our booking deadline is 30 weeks. Find out more here.

Early pregnancy, Loss, Women

The 12 week “rule” and the underlying harm it causes

Women in the UK and further afield, whether they have had their own babies or not, will have heard that 12 weeks is when you are officially (societally anyway) “allowed to tell people” about your pregnancy. It is so ingrained! We can see this from the frequently asked questions on Google of women asking permission to share their own life changing news with loved ones. I would like to delve into why this “rule” persists so deeply.

ANSWER: Information about your own body is yours to do whatever you wish with – this includes keeping it to yourself when you want to, but it also includes sharing it with those you trust whenever you want to! There are no rules.

Why 12 weeks?

Women are shamed into silence during the first trimester of pregnancy to make other people more comfortable because we live in a society that A. medicalises pregnancy and birth from conception and B. can’t talk about death. 

According to Healthline the rate of miscarriage in known pregnancies is 10% – 15%. Of that 15%, 80% of those miscarriages happen in the first trimester. So the theory is that because there is a higher chance of a baby dying, the mother should keep it to herself. Who does that benefit? There are two scenarios for the first trimester, the first and most likely is that the woman goes into her second trimester with a healthy baby still growing and developing, and the second is that the baby dies. Neither of these scenarios calls for women to be silent and deal with their feelings alone.

It is no coincidence that 12 weeks is “usually” when a woman will have her first ultrasound scan. This is placed on a pedestal (or a medistal, if you will) as being the solid way to “make sure everything is okay” before you share your news with anyone. What does that say to women about their intuition? It completely undermines it. It tells women that it doesn’t matter that they feel absolutely fine, and intuitively know that their baby is well. It says the only thing that matters is what they can measure. This sets women up for their entire pregnancy and birth being medicalised. Each time she starts to trust in her intuition, she’ll be encouraged by friends, family, partner, medical staff, to go for an ultrasound “just in case she’s wrong”. If women are being told that the only way to make their pregnancy “real” is to go to that scan and get a freaky print-out so that you can tell people, then it becomes the only option.

The 12 weeks “rule” also gives the impression that if your baby dies before 12 weeks, it doesn’t really count and this is massively damaging. The idea of “at least you won’t have to tell everyone the bad news” also cuts women off from receiving love and support from those who would give it if they knew. The gestation at which a woman loses a baby doesn’t change how it feels for her.


Death is a part of life

I don’t say this flippantly. Death is hard. It’s raw, heartbreaking, jolting. Death is normal, but that doesn’t make it easy. Death is something that we all experience, in one form or another, many times in life. When a family member dies, it is socially acceptable to be openly sad and to grieve in your own time, and maybe invite others to be with you during that time in the form of a funeral or a wake. We all have ways of dealing with grief, but the most difficult thing to have to do is hide it. Miscarriage is fairly common – in fact, most of you will know someone who has had a miscarriage, but you may not be aware of it. You might have experienced one yourself, and dealt with it alone. Why are we, as a society, encouraging women to deal with this type of death behind closed doors when everyone claims to care so very much about the babies? I suppose that’s it though, isn’t it? This is about the mother, and that’s why they don’t want to hear it.


Who does it benefit when women feel like they have to keep their pregnancy (and potential loss) a secret?

If a woman loses her baby in the first trimester, who does she turn to? Those closest to her didn’t even know she was pregnant in the first place, so how can they know what support she needs? The truth is that society can’t talk about death, so they would rather not deal with it. The death of a baby is something that is used in the medicalisation of birth to scare women into agreeing to things they don’t believe are necessary. Perhaps if, as a society, we understood and talked about death more, this coercion tactic wouldn’t be so effective. When a woman is being told that she must be induced or her baby might die, medical staff are implying that THEY care more about the life of her baby than she does, but when a woman is experiencing a loss and she goes to medical staff for support – that support is non-existent. The medical system wants women to opt-in to all of the appointments, scans and tests so that they don’t get sued, and the best way to get women to engage in the system is the make them feel isolated from the moment they realise they are pregnant.


What has this got to do with medicalising pregnancy, birth and loss?

Most women will have their pregnancy confirmed by peeing on a stick – a pregnancy test. The key word here is test. If we’ve learnt anything from working with women for so long, it’s that a lot of weight is given to things you can measure. If you’ve been told that you shouldn’t tell anyone about your pregnancy until you’re 12 weeks, then the only place you can really go with your thoughts, fears and excitement is the GP and/or to an antenatal clinic, successfully initiating you into the medical system to measure your normal bodily function. There is no alternative presented at that point other than the medical system.


What are the alternatives?

There is no obligation to engage with the medical system in any way if you don’t want to. Pregnancy does not have to be marked by a series of medical appointments, scans and tests. You don’t have to keep it to yourself until you’re checked over by a medical professional. You are pregnant, not sick. You can mark your pregnancy in so many other ways, ways that strengthen your intuition instead of second-guessing, and build up your confidence instead of knocking it down. You can trust your intuition to know that you are pregnant rather than peeing on a stick, and if you’re not 100% sure then you will soon know just by doing nothing. You can tell those trusted people in your life whenever you want to. You can draw pictures of what you think your baby looks like. Your entire pregnancy can be guided by your intuition and confidence, as opposed to sitting for hours waiting for medical appointments and coming out feeling deflated and scared.


What if my baby does die?

If your baby dies, you deserve to be held, heard and loved. You will be the first to know because your intuition will be strong and you’ll be used to listening to it. Your body is wise and knows exactly what to do next. You can allow your body to work in its own time, without being rushed. You can stay home in your nest, alone if you prefer or surrounded by those that you love and feel safe with. You will know if you need medical assistance because your intuition will tell you. For women who have not told anyone they were pregnant “just in case” are left with very few options in this scenario, because the only people who do know she is pregnant are within the medical system. This often leads to women not being supported emotionally during or after a loss, but rather just treated medically. If you are hesitating on whether or not you want to tell people that you are pregnant during the first 12 weeks “just in case”, it’s worth thinking about who you would want to be there for you if your baby did die. Whether someone loses a baby before 12 weeks or 40 weeks, it is a loss, it is real and however she feels about it is valid.


We need to let women know that it’s okay to share their excitement, it’s okay to get attached to their baby, and it’s okay to grieve openly if their baby does die. If you are in your first trimester and you’d like somewhere to share all of your feelings, fears and excitement – have a look at our first trimester support plan.

If you have suffered a loss in the past, or are currently miscarrying, you can get in touch with us for support by emailing us a


5 reasons why we can’t get enough of Catherine Cawood

I don’t know about you but all three of us have been completely obsessed with Happy Valley. The whole series is done so incredibly well: three seasons of drama, diving into heavy topics such as drugs, trafficking, rape and murder. It’s a tough watch for sure, but our absolute favourite part of Happy Valley is Sarah Lancashire’s character Catherine Cawood.

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t finished watching it yet, stop what you are doing, binge watch it and then come back because I don’t want to give anything away!

Catherine’s character is so well written and perfectly executed! Here are the top 5 things we love about her:

1. Her assertiveness

Catherine is not afraid to put her boundaries in place, and she does it so damn well! Assertiveness is not an easy skill to learn, but we could all take a few tips from the way Catherine asserts her own boundaries with colleagues, strangers and (the hardest one of all) her own family. She is confident in what information she wants to share with others, and what information she wants to keep to herself – and she communicates this SO well.

2. Her strength

Losing her daughter, who took her own life after being abused and raped by Tommy Lee Royce, understandably completely broke Catherine. Her loss clearly weighs heavy on her every single day, but the strength she finds to use her anger and grief to change the world is immense. We love how strong Catherine is, whatever she is facing. Her anger is magnificent and we love to see it portrayed so well.

3. Her sass and humour

Each episode is packed with heavy topics, but it never fails to make you laugh when Catherine gets sassy with someone who is getting on her nerves. Her quick wit and hilarious insults (thinking in particular of “wankertron”) never get old.

4. Her intuition

Her strong intuition and ability to follow it is a great trait for a police officer, but she clearly uses this skill every day for both her personal choices and her professional ones. This is again something we could all take from Catherine’s character. Trust your gut! And when people around you aren’t listening, use that assertiveness to either make yourself heard or put your boundaries in place (preferably with them on the other side of it).

5. Her vulnerability

My absolute favourite thing about Catherine’s character is the fact that she is human. She is both incredibly strong and assertive, whilst also being vulnerable and emotional. I LOVE LOVE LOVE to see this. Her character is all of these things at once, and being vulnerable does not cancel out her strength, it adds to it.

“She’s a woman, she’s blunt, she’s savage, she’s a hero but isn’t untouchable. She is driven by her grief and anger and is intent on using those to effect change. She’s Northern, she’s relatable and I bloody aspire to be that awesome!”

– Sarah’s response to “What did you love about Catherine?”, which sums it up perfectly!

The lessons I have taken from Catherine Cawood are that it’s okay to put boundaries in place, even if it hurts people’s feelings – they don’t necessarily have to understand, but someone who deserves to be in your life will respect your boundaries no matter what. Trusting your intuition is not always easy, but it will never lead you wrong. Being emotionally vulnerable does not make you any less strong or assertive – nobody said being strong and assertive was easy, it’s okay to find it difficult.

Oh, and I learnt lots of new insults!

The character was based on a police officer called Lisa Farrand who was the Police Advisor for the series, which is what made it so realistic. We imagine Lisa is a total badass with all of the amazing qualities listed above! Thank you Lisa, and thank you Sarah Lancashire for doing such an amazing job of portraying this character.

National Days, Women

National Storytelling Week 2023

The Witches Knew – A Faery’s Tail of Birth and Re-memberance.

Here is a beautiful short story written by one of our amazing volunteers who is so full of wisdom and magic – thank you Becky for writing this story for us to share!

Round and round like a spiral into the ground she goes, planting roots and scattering seeds. This space, this space, this sacred space, without time, without pressure, the oxytocin waves of pleasure. There’s nothing to fear here, said the little girl lost in me, I’m planting my roots in the ground like a tree. As she looked up the room glowed with wisdom, the air felt full, full of all of those who had come before and all those who were to follow. All the ancestors; there to hold that space, that space, that sacred space. So back within the journey called, to be disturbed would make the fool, as this is where the story starts of the little minds and their little hearts. No one else’s work for sure than the body that grew and the tiny soul that chose it.

The water, the water, the deep warm water, a comfort beyond the known. There’s no pain here, said that little girl again. What a wondrous, wondrous thing to be, a woman in labour birthing free. Inside the body calls, the body calls, deeper and deeper than anything before. But it’s dark in there, says the little girl again, why yes because you are to bring in the light! So down she goes… What’s happening out there is not hers to know for she seeks the peace to go deep; to retrieve the soul who chose her to keep.

The air tingles with excitement, up she spirals again… Oh my it’s the day… Gosh, how bizarre, well there’s no room here for the magic we need! So she takes these hours as a space just to breathe. At the onset of night here she goes once again, round and round, spiralling, deep into the ground. But this time feels different, she’s journeyed this space, now nothing else matters but why she’s come to this place. This place so deep, so deeply within, within her body, within the earth, within her void…here she goes again. As roots trickle down, they find themselves firmly in her musty soil, within our Mother. 

For without these roots she cannot know, the strength and flexibility needed to grow. For growth is how the story changes and humanity’s destiny re-arranges. This is where Mother is born, from Mother, from this space, this space, this beautiful, sacred space.

Last fragments of the mind disperse as she reaches this primal moment, she roars and of course, there she is, she is heard, what beauty, what magic, what truth here does flow. The magic of life, the journey of all, to retrieve that new soul takes everything… everything…everything… Just for a moment the world stops, Mother takes a breath, she breathes through her now, this thread, connecting Earth to her and her to them. For this moment, this is where faeries are born, the creation of all that is magic, this life giving, life changing moment. 

So you might see why they would burn us at the stake, why now they just separate us, push us till we break. But we’re changing the world, making new choices, empowering ourselves, raising our voices. So let’s honour the portal we have in our wombs, from Maiden to Crone, let us tend to our wounds. As all those around us, before us, to come will be grateful for all that we change and overcome.

– A short story by Becky Saunders


Art by a Woman, Entry One: EMBRACING ANGER IN LABOUR

You may have met Chloe, a member of our community and a treasured volunteer, one of our groups. You may not know that she is an artist, and she has kindly offered to share some of her art with us here.



You can find Chloe’s art on her instagram.

We would love to see more of her art online and on walls, so look out for a collaboration in the near future.

Bum-first babies are not being difficult or awkward, they are simply comfortable. This doesn't need to be "fixed".
Birth, Homebirth

Bum-first babies are wonderful!

Key points:

  1. Breech is normal and not something that needs to be fixed
  2. Birth works best, and is most predictable, when left well alone
  3. The statistics women are told about breech birth are all based on the hospital environment
Babies in breech positions are not being difficult or problematic - they are comfortable. This doesn't need fixing.

Women engaging in NHS care are sometimes being told the position of their baby every time they have a scan, and focus is regularly being put on the position from as early as 33 weeks. Despite the fact that the entire function of labour is to move your baby down and into the best position for them, this information is being sought way before labour without any thought to how it might impact a woman’s confidence – or have they actually put a LOT of thought into that and that’s WHY they do it? The same seems to be true for “low-lying placentas”. Women are being told at their very first ultrasound that their placenta is “low-lying”, which means it is within 2cm of your cervix, but this isn’t the same as placenta praevia which can be one of the very few true birth emergencies. According to the NHS, placenta praevia affects 1 in 200 pregnancies, which is 0.5%. But who knows what they actually include in that statistic if they’re also scaring women with “low-lying” placentas that are not and will not become an issue.

I got off on a bit of a tangent there (that didn’t take long, did it?) but there are so many similarities between the “concerns” that come up towards the end of pregnancy that it’s hard to talk about one without referencing others. Anyway, back to breech. Let’s just think for a moment about the space your baby has to occupy when they are still inside your body. They are pretty snug in there, and they are likely to move around a lot in order to stretch out different parts of their body in different ways. Apparently, most people change positions in their sleep 10 to 40 times each night, and for 50-70% of people their instinctive posture is flat on their back, but that leaves a significant number of people (up to half in some studies) who feel more comfortable, instinctively, in a different position. There is no normal, or right, or “optimal”. Breech has been used as a tool to scare women, break down their confidence and ultimately medicalise their birth.

Birth needs very basic things for it to go smoothly. The woman, like any other mammal, needs to feel safe, warm, undisturbed and unobserved. She doesn’t need to understand the mechanisms that are taking place within her body, much like she does not need to know the technicalities of an orgasm for her to experience one, and she doesn’t need to know what position her baby is in. Birth is safest when these basic needs are met, in any situation, so when we remove these basic needs (by going into a hospital for example) we are making birth less predictable. Why would it make sense to ignore these basic needs when there is a concern about the baby or the mother? The basic needs are not a cherry-on-top, if all else is well kind of thing, they are the very foundation of birth going smoothly.

There are lots of statistics about breech births, and they are often used to scare women into a scheduled caesarean (major abdominal surgery) purely because healthcare providers are scared. The studies that produced these statistics were carried out in hospitals, where women’s basic needs were not being met and they were surrounded by fearful care providers. So what does that actually tell us? Not much, except that interfering with birth is dangerous. I would be much more convinced by the data if it was comparing outcomes of mothers and babies (not just physical but emotional) who gave birth in hospital or at home with medical staff present, versus those who had freebirths. That would give a true picture of the impact of pathologising a baby’s position.

Okay, so let’s just talk about the way women are treated in the system when they have a baby who is bum-down. Firstly, she is told that this is a problem that needs to be fixed, either by attempting to forcibly move her baby the “right way up” by applying immense pressure to her bump, or by “admitting defeat” and booking a caesarean section at 38 weeks (before her body has chance to go into labour naturally).

External cephalic version (ECV) is a procedure that is designed to “fix” a breech presentation. This procedure can take up to 2 hours including monitoring and carries a risk of premature rupture of the membranes, placental abruption, preterm labour, foetal distress and vaginal bleeding, all of which would lead to more interventions. But don’t worry, one clinic reassures us by stating; “ECV is typically performed near an operating room in case an emergency c-section is needed.”, so if they cause an emergency at least they can solve it quickly. Women often endure this ECV procedure in the hope that they will then be supported to give birth vaginally, but the truth is that the fear of care providers will have a huge impact on the way they treat a woman during labour, and you can bet that her basic needs will not be met.

What can you do to avoid the position of your baby being a barrier to the birth you want? Don’t give that information away. When asked if you would like to have your belly palpated or measured, consider what information they are looking for and if it would be helpful for you (and them) to have it. When going for a scan recognise that they WILL see which way up your baby is and that regardless of how many weeks pregnant you are, this information might be used to scare you. What is the purpose of that scan? What are you getting from it? Could you get what you want in a different way? If you’ve already been told that your baby is in a “difficult position”, what are you doing to protect yourself from further fear mongering? How can you reground yourself and build your confidence back up?

A few ideas:

1. Surround yourself with women who believe that birth is normal, whatever way round your baby is, and have complete trust in you and your intuition

2. Practice saying no to things that do not serve you – the more you shut out the external voices, the easier it will be to listen to your intuition which will keep you and your baby safe

3. Come along to one of our groups and speak to other women who might have been in a similar position to you, or might have birthed a baby in a breech position completely unassisted

4. Speak to us about how you can navigate the system, or step away from it


Useful resources:

Hands off that breech! | AIMS

Coalition for Breech Birth | Facebook

Breech Without Borders | Facebook

Breech Birth UK


Show Yourself

“Show yourself” is the climax of Elsa’s journey. Throughout her life she has waited for someone else to give her answers but at this point she recognises that she’s been waiting for herself, she’s her own goddess and fully accepts herself for who she is. She sets her doubts aside, lets her fears go and steps into her power. She embraces all that she is in a wonderful empowering moment. This is the ultimate in self love.

We all experience resistance to accept who we are, and knowing that who we are, is enough. Changing a belief that you have held for a long time, a belief that you have been socialised to believe, one that you carry in your physical being, is difficult. We all want to be accepted and feel we have to show up in a specific way to be loved and accepted. We filter our experiences to give people what we think they want to know so that we are not avoided. We feel like we are doing the right thing, but does the right thing make you feel free? Trying to control what others think and what you think to a certain extent, is exhausting. This struggle & conflict comes from the judgement you make of your experience not the actual experience itself. Failure, guilt, shame, whatever it may be. Feeling the feeling is not the problem, it’s what we make it mean about ourselves. Our inner narrative. The pain comes from not accepting what is, not being able to speak your truth. The more we speak our truth, through personal stories, we provide the space and opportunity for other women to do the same. We heal and others heal around us.

I am guilty of this. I have a story that I don’t share outside of a very few close friends. It is taboo. It is personal. I don’t share it, to protect other people; to prevent them from feeling uncomfortable. Despite the fact “every inch of me is trembling but not from the cold”, I want to tell my story. In a world that makes it difficult for women to speak out, it could give another woman the strength that she needs. So here goes;

I’m Sarah and on 13th December 2019 I lost a baby. I was around 8 weeks pregnant and excited. It was too early to know the sex of my baby but my instinct tells me she was a girl. My instinct also told me that she was dead, but I wanted it confirmed. They confirmed, I had experienced a miscarriage with an internal scan (transvaginal ultrasound scan). There were 4 health professionals trying to figure it out while I lay numb, staring at a ceiling full of bright lights. Then there was the clinical room I was put in with a box of tissues, a hospital bed and more bright lights, before being asked to leave. There was no follow up, no explanation, no support, no signposting, no offerings of any kind.

I’d had a miscarriage. What kind of word is that? The term miscarriage is comprised of two words: mis, meaning “mistakenly, wrongly or badly” and -carriage, a “means of conveyance”. I hadn’t made a mistake or done anything wrong had I? People also used the term “spontaneous abortion”. An abortion is a wilful act and I did not wish for this. I had lost my baby, my baby had died.

I wish that I hadn’t needed that confirmation, I wish I had trusted myself, I wish I had declined the internal scan. I didn’t want a robot poking around in my baby’s home. What if she was trying to hold on and my decision caused her so much fear that it led to the end of her life?

Then there was blood. It was only a bit, until it wasn’t, and then it was a lot, “a river full of memory”. There was a clot. The clot was baby shaped. It was just lying on the toilet roll. I’m sitting on the toilet, phone out of reach, tears rolling down my face, staring at my lifeless baby on a piece of toilet roll. Can I take a picture? Would I ever look at the picture? Could I ever show anyone the picture? Could I hang it on the wall with the family photos? But that’s all I’ve got of my baby. Still to this day, I wish it was decent toilet roll.

The blood was a continuous reminder of what was happening. Walking around, acting like everything was ok but I was actually losing my baby. A human that I was growing, I had bonded with, I had already imagined a life including her. Looking for sanitary towels in the supermarket, struggling to see my options through my tears even though the lights were brighter than the sun, trying to understand how much I’m going to bleed, what would work best. Why are there so many options? I’d know who to ask if we openly spoke about this. Why does no one talk about their baby dying?

You tell so few people that you are pregnant before 12 weeks (who made this a thing!), so no one even knows! No one seems to care. I don’t want to start a conversation, “I was pregnant”. What if they mishear and congratulate me, what if they don’t know what to say, what if the “was” confuses them, what if, what if, what if! And all the sorrys, they just don’t quite cut it.

My mind is a jumble of questions. I want answers that no one can give me. Am I being dramatic? What if I can’t get pregnant again? Why couldn’t I keep my baby safe? What is happening in my body? Did I do something to cause this? Could I have prevented this? Do I say I have 2 or 3 children? Do people even class an 8 week old foetus as a baby? Is the information I am giving a few select people too much or controversial? The questions are endless, they eat you up during the day, they eat you up at night, they take over!

And I should be grateful, I have two children already. I am grateful for my children, so grateful, more than I have the words for, but I can’t be grateful for this. I can be grateful and hate this. And while we’re on other children, when the hell do you grieve when you have other children around?

Even when you don’t carry your baby to term, there is a postpartum period. Mine wasn’t honoured in the way a postpartum period should be. Why does it not get honoured? Why are women not nurtured through this stage? Why is no one holding space for me? I’m responsible for just getting on with it, not asking for the help I so desperately wanted and needed, not asking for the physical and emotional space I needed but the offers never came.

So, I began to live my life on autopilot. Pushing these memories and emotions to the back of my mind so I can be present in my life, present for my children, yet spontaneously bursting into tears at random things. The emotions wash over me in the strangest places and at the strangest times. The shame that I did something wrong. I really understood the pain of the women that came before me and will come after me.

I’m also carrying huge guilt that I haven’t honoured my baby. How do you remember a baby that you lost? There seems to be so many suggestions that did not resonate with me at all; With pictures. The only picture I have is of the tiny baby shaped clot on the shitty toilet tissue! I can’t put that on display. With baby clothes that I hadn’t yet bought or my baby had never worn. With an empty memory box. I’m so angry with myself that I threw the pregnancy test away. I have memories but nothing tangible. Plant a tree? I’m well known for killing all plant specimens I acquire. I can’t be responsible for killing the memory of my baby. I don’t want that responsibility. Visit a special place. Oh how I wished I could climb inside my baby’s home and just be. As Pink says, “Could you beam me up? Give me a minute. I don’t know what I’d say in it. Probably just stare, happy just to be there holdin’ your face”. (Yes, Pink’s song, “beam me up”, is about baby loss and is epic, although I’m obsessed, so probably a little biased). Speaking her name would make this all so real. Light a candle. I know this is a known and popular way to remember people that have died, making it scary to voice my feelings around this, but they are my feelings, and I don’t want the memory of my baby to burn out and fade away.

It was on the second anniversary of my baby’s death that I found the answer. “I’ve never felt so certain” about anything. A doula course with a big focus on baby loss. A course allowing me to gain wisdom to support women in a similar position. A way to honour my baby. To be a pair of non-judgmental ears for other women, to see them, to hear them. To nourish another woman’s heart and soul while they heal themselves. “I’m here for a reason. Could this be the reason I was born”

Different societies and cultures shape our understanding of fear. They teach us when to fear and how much to fear but it can be unnecessary and mean that we avoid doing things that would be beneficial to us and others. Sharing your story gives you the power to own it. If women do not say what they want, what they desire, how they feel, the world will fill in the gaps and create what they think women want and feel. Personal stories help us make sense of the struggles that we face, they grip people emotionally, they give people the feeling they are part of something bigger, they have power; the power to shape our lives and lives of those listening. “Step into your power…..You have secrets, too, But you don’t have to hide”

Don’t be me. Don’t carry on in silence. “I have always been a fortress, cold secrets deep inside. You have secrets too, but you don’t have to hide” Talk to us, talk to someone who can hold space for you both physically and emotionally. Honour your postpartum period. Find a way that feels right for you to honour your baby. Don’t speak to make others comfortable, speak your truth and your tribe will hear you. Be authentic, be open, be vulnerable, be self-aware, and connect from your heart with intention.

“I’m no longer trembling. Show yourself, I’m dying to meet you. Show yourself, it’s your turn”. I invite you to show yourself. Your true self. Be the woman you need, be the gift that other women need. Tell the story you need to hear. Empower yourself and the women around you. We would love to hear your story either publicly or privately. We are here for everything you have going on; you matter to us. Please get in touch if we can support you in any way. 

Birth, Homebirth, Pool Hire

Why is the deadline 30 weeks?

We recently made some changes to our pool hire service, and you might be wondering why. So here is a brief explanation of why we have decided to enforce a 30 week booking deadline. We know that not everyone will agree with our approach, and we’re okay with that – these changes have been based on our observations and what we have learnt from women over the past few years of running the service. We will continue to learn as time goes on and things may change again in the future, but for now here is our stance and why:
We started running this pool hire service back in 2020 and during that time we have learnt a lot. We included free support sessions within our hire because we recognised that so many of the pools were coming back unused because women were being coerced out of their home birth by the maternity system, and those women weren’t getting emotional support or accurate information from their midwives. We continued to book women in who were approaching us late on in their pregnancy, but we learnt quickly that women who are waiting until a certain point in their pregnancy to be ‘signed off’ or ‘given permission’ by a medical professional were also the ones who would accept that ‘permission’ being taken away again.
Sometimes women would take us up on the support session near the end of their pregnancy, around 34 weeks when suddenly “risks” started cropping up (like growth scans), and we were the first people to tell her that she gets to choose, that all of the appointments, measurements, examinations and procedures are optional, that she doesn’t need permission to give birth at home. It is heartbreaking to see that realisation dawn on her face when she is so far down the line that it feel impossible for her to do anything about it now.
Women who were looking for external reassurance from appointments, inaccurate measurements and scans, and permission were not wholeheartedly planning a home birth. They were hoping for one, but that hope was balancing on a jenga tower that could be knocked over at any moment by a medical professional. A medical professional who works within a system that doesn’t understand normal birth or the basic needs of a woman in labour. A system that builds its policies on fear of litigation rather than what women actually want or need. What we found was that women who were hoping for a home birth very rarely had one.
We understand why this is the current norm – we are brought up to believe that others know our body better than we do, and that we need “experts” to be able to give birth safely because it is a dangerous and unpredictable medical event. That’s why so many women do turn to midwives or doctors for external reassurance. We understand how hard it is to question that cycle or and it’s even harder to break it. It can be scary to take radical responsibility for our decisions, particularly when something is presented as a health issue/medical event. The truth is that birth is a normal bodily function, just like sex or having a poo, birth is incredibly predictable when left alone and we ARE the experts on our own bodies. 
Home is safe. It’s where we perform all of our other bodily functions. It is where the only bacteria around is the stuff we’re in contact with every day and are therefore used to. It is where we get to choose who comes through the door, and where we are free to move around and be ourselves. It’s also proven to be safe for birth through studies (and the existence of so many generations before us). Biologically it makes perfect sense – we are mammals, and other mammals find a safe, dark spot where they will not be disturbed or observed. Women need these basic things too, and none of these needs are met within a medical setting. Giving birth at home is the biological norm and is always an option.

You do not need someone’s permission, or for someone to write it in your notes, or to be ‘signed off’ to plan a home birth. It is your human right, and your birthright.

Our organisation is rooted in women’s rights and bodily autonomy. The maternity system does not respect these things. We will no longer nod along and stay quiet when a woman is walking through or into a system that is set up to fail her. The reason we no longer take bookings after 30 weeks is because we want to make it clear that women do not need to wait until after this point to start planning something that they know feels right for them. We want women to recognise that they can do whatever works for them, without checking with a midwife or asking for permission. This autonomy and critical thinking is necessary for having a good birth, because if a woman is deciding to engage with the maternity system (which is also something we assume is necessary but isn’t) then she is likely to have to assert herself at many points in her pregnancy, labour and birth. She is likely to be told that she “needs to” or “has to” do things that she’s not comfortable with (which is a lie, she never has to). She is likely to be coerced with emotive language instead of genuine evidence. She is likely to be told that she is “not allowed” a home birth because she is too “high risk” based on inaccurate information. 
We don’t write this lightly, and it is no way an attempt to scare you or place any blame on you. The dependence on the maternity system is something that is deeply ingrained and socially accepted, it’s not the fault of the woman who engages in it, the fault lies with the system itself. We feel it is our responsibility to be honest about the system and the way it treats women. We know that this doesn’t make us very popular (particularly with midwives) and can often feel confronting or upsetting for women who are still in that relationship with the system. But we hope that our reminder that women are completely capable, incredibly wise and are their own experts will plant a seed. We hope that women hear that they deserve to be treated with respect, rather than as a faulty piece of birthing equipment, that they deserve to feel strong and wise, rather than unsure and deflated, and that they absolutely don’t need anyones permission to give birth wherever they damn well want to.
I’m sorry that we are unable to offer you a birth pool after 30 weeks, but we hope that you are able to find one.

We are hopeful that this deadline will encourage women to question the care that they are and have been receiving that made her feel like she was “high risk” and had to wait for permission. Questioning this as early as possible (before or) during pregnancy is what will lead women to navigate or step out of the system in a way that works for them.