Podcast| Episode 2, A Spiritual Awakening in Manhattan by Jonni Pollard and Carla di Mattina

Welcome back and Happy New Year from all of us here at She Births®.

I hope you have had (or are still having) a wonderful rest with your loved ones.

We have so many exciting things in store this year and hope you can journey with us as we launch our app and new courses in Byron Bay, the workplace program and so much more.

The She Births® Show Podcast is going really well so far and folks are loving it! You can still enter the draw to win a 3 month supply of WaterWipes (thanks to our fantastic sponsors) by reviewing the podcast here*. By using the code SHEBIRTHS20 you also receive 20% off your WaterWipes when you shop online too.

Today’s podcast was an absolute pleasure to create (warning: we all end up in tears…like all good birth stories.) What can a spiritual teacher and physical therapist possibly learn about birth in preparation, and also from their birth experience? A lot it seems 😉

Jonni Pollard and Carla di Mattina describe their birth as the most spiritual, divine and connected moment of their lives. Join us for their birth story and discover what it’s like to walk the streets of the East Village, 9cm dilated, post 30 hours of labour.

xx Nadine

*The She Births® Show is available for you to download from your favourite podcast app such as iTunes, Google Play or Spotify.


Podcast| Launch Season 1, Episode 2

A Spiritual Awakening in Manhattan by Jonni Pollard and Carla di Mattina

“It’s really everything. It’s the defining moment of our existence and the beauty and preciousness of our life. And to have experienced it that way on our terms, was everything. We were elevated in a way that will be with us forever.”

When you prepare for birth as a team something truly magnificent can occur.

Listening to Jonni Pollard and wife Carla di Mattina’s tell the birth story of daughter Saffira Devi is to bear witness to this.

As the couple tell Nadine in this episode of the She Births® Show podcast, Saffira Devi was born in July in New York City following months of intensive and deliberate birth preparations that impacted both Jonni and Carla in an unprecedented way.

It was a journey they began, travelled and ended as a joyous and loving team. “If you and your partner have a solid understanding of each other’s needs before the birth then you are in good stead FOR the birth, says Carla. “Because during that time when it was hard, Jonni could give me just one look, and I knew I could do it.”

Conscious choice
Jonni, a meditation teacher and Carla a physiotherapist are what Nadine described as respective masters of the body and mind.

While the couple committed to a shared vision for an empowering birth, as individuals they imagined taking different paths to get there. At least in the beginning.
Jonni was familiar with the She Births method and excited by the idea of a home birth, but initially a hospital birth felt right for Carla.

“Hospital was familiar to me, my mum had birthed all five of us in a hospital, it’s what I had seen on TV and was all I ever knew of birth. I felt safest there – doing what everybody was doing,” says Carla. “We started with a hospital in New York and read Ina May Gaskin’s ‘Guide to Childbirth’ and that was a game changer for me. Nobody ever told me that birth could be enjoyable or that there was a huge spiritual element that can happen through it.” “At our next hospital appointment, I asked smarter questions and the answers I got didn’t satisfy what I needed to hear. And that began the journey of huh, what could an alternative birth look like that wasn’t in a hospital?”

Knowledge: Learning online with She Births®

And so began their She Births® journey with the couple enrolling in the Online Program.
Both Carla and Jonni say the course exceeded their expectations – steering them on the right course for birth, but also towards a closer connection as a couple.

“The education I got as the role of the man in this course was incredible,” says Jonni. “I was empowered to be the doula for a large part of it and this was such a revelation – and the impact that’s had and the role it had on my parenting and on my relationship with Carla.”

Carla agrees: “It was so important for me to be able to surrender to Jonni in that role – I don’t think I could have done it without you being the way you were. It’s so important for us as women to allow the man to be what he needs to be if he’s going to step into that role.”

Taking responsibility

The couple say they honoured the first lesson of the She Births method: taking full responsibility for the birth experience.

“As a physiotherapist I considered myself an expert in the body so I could have easily decided not to educate myself about the birth process, says Carla. “But it was whole set of new learnings for me! So anyone who thinks that they understand the body, we don’t understand the body for birth! You think that birth happens ‘to you’ and that you don’t have to connect because your body does it.” Carla describes the midwife showing her and Jonni the anatomy of labour and the way the pelvis and cervix expand as mind-blowing.

While Jonni says he was in awe of Carla during the learning process. “Not only did she embrace the responsibility she unleashed a power that even she didn’t know she had. The power that brought her into the work was what a woman can do and where she can go to access this power. It’s everything. It’s like the universe. Accessing the universe to be a conduit to bring this being into the world. The single most impactful spiritual experience of our lives.”


At the same time, the couple were mindful of the significance of letting go.
“Giving birth was the greatest connection spiritually that I have ever had in a moment and the greatest sense of growth that I have ever had in a moment… Now I understand that I belong to something so much bigger. That there was something working with me in the birth that was bigger than me to help me give birth,” says Carla.
For Jonni, the birth experience was a tangible representation of “surrendering to the force of nature and if you resist that comes into pain and if you resist that it turns into suffering. “

The labour begins

Jonni and Carla were assisted by a doula in their home birth but they began the first stages of labour alone.

“The duration really does mess with your head, “says Carla. “The doula could see that I was still resisting and not fully surrendering. So she showed us a couple of things and then said, I am just going to go! And I thought REALLY all this time has passed 18 hours had passed and going through and diligently doing the work but she left – she left that means that nothing is happening!”

After 26 hours Carla recalls sitting in the shower on her fit ball feeling really despondent.

“At that point I looked at Jonni and said, ‘I have to tell you something. I want to have an elective c-section! I didn’t mean it but it was like that last little bit of fear needed to be wrung out,” says Carla. “Jonni didn’t look at me or make any expression. He just looked at me and said, ‘Okay whatever you want at this point we will do.’ I just needed to voice it, it was there in me and I once I voiced it, then on we went.”

Jonni says supporting Carla through the process was “like a rite of passage”

“Carla had a lot of anxiety building up around the uncertainty of homebirth. So once the labour came in she was surrendering through a lot of fear. You could see her facing all of things she was fearing until she arrived at this deep place of surrender,” says Jonni.

“It wasn’t elegant it was wild, cathartic, very clunky, emotional process that she really went inwards to deal with. And the courage and the persistence and the power that she went into, I really witnessed that.”

Jonni’s ready acceptance and support of her emotional journey of her labour was transformative for Carla. “Jonni held me accountable to who I really am. And in the throngs of labour I feel like you can really doubt that… Jonni believed in me so much. Every time it would bring me to tears. He seems convinced I can do it, when I doubted myself, and holding me accountable to what I really did know but doubted was a game changer,” says Carla.

Intensity – things move forward quickly

Carla continued to labour for 36 hours.
“Every physical emotional cultural pursuit of my life culminated in those 36 hours of birth,” says Carla. “It wasn’t all beautiful and like “ah baby is out and everything is sweet!” Carla describes a particularly “hairy” point right before Saffira’s arrival where the doula checked in at about 24-hour mark, and said “You’re still in early labour”
“That felt like shit! I was like, really? And then her jaw drops and she said, ‘Oh my god, I never really share but you are 7cms and I just opened you to 9cm so we are having this baby soon! So things happened very quickly there,” says Carla.

As the contractions increased, Carla says she found squatting effective and empowering. “Big deep strides felt right. I thought I went down like a powerhouse – but apparently that was not what it looked like!”

Jonni describes Carla’s limbs at this point resembling jelly – “She could barely step by herself. I was lifting her and our doula was helping her taking her steps. But when she went down for a squat, she came alive; the energy and power she had in the squat was extraordinary. She went from this super floppy thing to a super power conductor of energy.”

When it came time to push Carla says the experience was “foreign to everything I knew how to do.” But she was equally overwhelmed by her reserves of power after such an intense and long labouring process.

“That excess power was more than I thought I was capable of. I found myself totally open and surrendering and I realised I had so much more in me” says Carla.

Not long after this, Carla’s midwife turned to her and said, “Carla I need this baby out in 10 minutes or we go to the hospital.”

Carla describes this as a turning point – the last moment of surrender. “When I heard it there was no fear, I just felt acceptance and, in that split, second, I thought – we can’t go to hospital, we have to do this now! Until that point, I felt so reliant on the tribe helping me – but then I knew nobody else can do this bit now, I actually have to do it. Nobody else can do it,” says Carla.

“I remember looking around for help and realising that the only person that could help me was me and the baby. I remember talking to the baby and saying, ‘You have to come out now, you’ve got to work with me to come out now, you’ve got to help me, please! And that felt like such a salvation to have someone to work with. And that next one we pushed her out in that contraction – just boom!”

“We were finally meeting her”

“Saffira just slid onto the living room floor and it was the most beautiful magnificent thing I have ever witnessed in my life. It was just everything,” says Jonni.
“Carla lay down on her back and rested on the doula’s knees. I was anticipating her coming out all green or blue or yellow or alien-like, but she came out gleaming … Looking at her I immediately fell in love. I started crying and was overwhelmed and that we were finally meeting her.”

Carla describes lying resting and taking a full few minutes to “come back into her body” before being ready to take Saffira into her arms. “She looked at me and nodded and Saffira lay on Carla’s chest and we all burst into tears … There was this big sacred goddess-like energy in the room, it was pouring out of the doors and the windows and her arrival was such a blessing,” says Jonni.

“I realised that what we experienced was the most important thing for us humans to understand, how we come into the world and the force that’s behind that … We were elevated in a way that will be with us forever.”

Show Notes

  1. Guide to Childbirth, Ina May Gaskin – https://inamay.com/
  2. The Golden Sequence, Jonni Pollard – http://www.jonnipollard.com/thegoldensequence/ https://www.instagram.com/jonnipollard/
  3. 1 giant mind app – www.1giantmind.com/
  4. Carla di Mattina – https://carladimattina.com/about/



Partnership with WaterWipes
She Births® began as a simple community program 10 years ago in Bondi Beach and today we are the internationally recognised scientifically verified birth education course. The relationship we develop with our families spans the entire perinatal period – from fertility to pregnancy, birth and into early parenting – and the majority of couples that study with us maintain deep and long lasting connections. Our community is made up of connected parents, conscious workplaces and dedicated health professionals who engage highly in their choices. They want the best and the purest for themselves and their families.
For this reason, our brand and the select brands we endorse hold great value to our dedicated client base. We regard our partnerships as a further extension of our community. We believe Waterwipes and She Births® share a value system. We are both dedicated to providing best-in-class support to new parents and work in the best interest of each child. We both see the importance of scientific research, and our investment in this is a source of great pride. We encourage you to read how a dad wanted a better product for his daughter and WaterWipes was born. https://www2.waterwipes.com/au/why-waterwipes-are-the-worlds-purest-baby-wipes/

blog c story

Don’t be afraid: Self-care and preparation from a c-section mama

After attending the Shebirths course and following the recommendations to a tee, first-time mama, Charlene was shocked to discover her follow her doctor’s advice to follow through with a c-section delivery for her large-headed baby.

She and her husband had felt they’d done everything to prepare for a vaginal birth, she felt disappointed and took some time to accept this new path.

By researching, reading everything she could about other women’s c-section experience, as well as checking in with SheBirths mentor, she eventually found her way.

And sure enough, Charlene and her husband welcomed their son in a clam and empowering way – as a united family.  

Here are Charlene’s tips she wanted to share with fellow expectant first-time mamas, who are weighing up the c-section option.

You can read her full birth story here.


Preparing for your c-section

The obstetrician or midwife will advise when to stop eating and drinking but make sure you drink plenty of clear fluids up until the cut off period – this will help with plumping your veins for the pre-surgery blood test as well as insertion of the cannula.

  1. Purchase several pairs of disposable mesh underwear, the New Beginnings brand is great and as you won’t want  want anything tight around your abdomen post-surgery.
  2. Pack nighties/baggy dresses – you may be too sore to dress yourself in pants during your hospital stay, as lifting your legs up will be challenging.
  3. Pack outfits that don’t have seams or anything that could rub against your incision e.g. stretchy leggings or yoga pants (as opposed to jeans).
  4. Pack slippers or Ugg boots that don’t require you to bend and pull them up e.g. slip on shoes.
  5. Your pubic region will be shaved for the surgery – you may feel more comfortable doing this yourself, otherwise the surgical team will do this in theatre.

Making yourself comfortable during your c-section birth

Ask for the cannula to be inserted near the back of your wrist instead of the back of your hand to allow more free motion of your hand and wrist to hold bub (this was a suggestion by our anaesthetist).

  1. For the spinal block, relax your whole body weight into the person in front of you, don’t tense any muscles. The local anaesthetic will sting and the sensation spreads across your lower back, but you won’t feel the spinal block at all. Ask if your partner can be in the room with you for support.
  2. Ask if it’s possible for only the arm with the cannula to be outstretched on the surgery table. It feels less confronting/exposed than having both arms outstretched.
  3. Horsey breaths help with countering the pressure during surgery.
  4. Stay connected with your baby by visualising that you’re on a rocky boat journey to an island. The rocking symbolises the pressure and pulling sensation during surgery. Imagine the waters are choppy, and you’re lying in a boat floating towards the island where you’ll meet your baby for the first time.
  5. Different obstetricians will use different dressings – mine used a clear, waterproof dressing that stayed intact until my 6 week postpartum checkup, which was when it was removed. It was great because it kept my wound dry and clean.


Throughout the first  24 hours post op, expect to be interrupted every 2-3 hours for constant monitoring by the midwives. They will take your blood pressure and temperature, and ask how your pain is. If you are not using morphine via your IV drip, they will bring your pain medication when it’s due. These checkups can be challenging when you are trying to sleep!

  1. Take advantage of the catheter (up to first 12 hours post-surgery depending on time of birth) by drinking plenty of fluids, even if you’re not thirsty. It helps with flushing out the medication.
  2. You will be given cuffs to wear around your legs post-op. These inflate and compress to encourage blood flow and prevent clots in your legs before you take your first walk. Your first walk will be painful and very challenging, but try to get up and take a few steps, even if it’s a few shuffles as this will help with circulation and recovery.
  3. Stay in your hospital gown or dress in a nightie/baggy dress while the catheter is still in use so that it doesn’t need to be threaded through pant legs.
  4. Have a towel nearby for the night sweats. You may experience intense night sweats for the first few nights after birth as the medication wears off, combined with the release of hormones.
  5. Make sure you are warm immediately after showering, as shivering is very painful after a C section, as is laughing, coughing and sneezing.
  6. If your shower products are located on the floor, buy a plastic shelf/stool to raise them to a higher level. I used a bath toy scooper which has a suction holder that I stuck to the shower screen.
  7. Apply pressure to your wound when you laugh, cough or sneeze.
  8. Use a belly band or wear compression recovery shorts as soon as you can handle having something around your abdomen. This will help with preventing the feeling that your insides are going to fall out.

The journey home

Make sure you  have a towel ready in the car for the ride home to roll/fold up as padding for the part of the seatbelt that sits across your hips. Have your partner/driver slow down around speed humps, potholes and driveways as it can hurt to ride over these.

  1. Keep your compression socks on for 2 weeks postpartum, until the swelling goes away.
  2. Discuss with your partner that they may need to contribute more towards physical labour while your body recovers post-op. Ask family and friends to help with physical things around the house when they visit – housework, lifting things, etc. Ask them to help with caring for your baby as well, e.g. changing, bathing, settling as these are physically demanding tasks that may put a strain on your recovering body.
  3. Avoid twisting your torso if you’re picking up bub. Buy a “reacher” claw or have an extremely long pair of tongs with you at all times – in the first couple of weeks after a C section, you can’t reach or bend for anything as your wound will be too sore. I used mine to reach for things whilst breastfeeding, I used it to pick things up off the floor, and to help dress myself eg. pulling pants up.

The She Births® Show Podcast goes live with Dr Sarah Buckley

Finally, here it is!
The She Births Show Podcast.

We’ve created it as a place that will inspire your birth, evolve your parenting and help you live a life you love. Nadine, hosts a collection of conversations with special guests about better births, a philosophy of connected parenting and conscious, healthy living. Season 1 is supported by WaterWipes, the world’s’ purest baby wipes and they’ve a 20% discount for our community.

What better way to begin than with the amazing Dr Sarah Buckley. So many of you have read her essays and books and explored her site.

Sarah was practically destined to be an authority on birth. She’s the daughter of an obstetrician and the granddaughter of a GP who’d travel around New Zealand on horseback to attend women in labour.

As Sarah told me it was her own birth, the first of four, that provided the real impetus for her career passion: studying the connection between hormones and a woman’s birth experience.

We have put together an depth article below to help you follow along and learn more. I hope you enjoy our deep dive conversation.

Please subscribe to our podcast channel through iTunes, Google Play, Spotify or your favourite app and leave us a review.

Xxx Nadine


Podcast| Launch Season 1, Episode 1

Dr Sarah Buckley: Celebrating the hormonal blueprint for birth

The baby love bubble

“My interest in hormones was triggered by the fact that my own brain changed so much, even after the first few hours of labour,” says Sarah.

“I was so bonded to my baby and felt it was such a pleasure to be with my baby. I felt so changed by experience and I thought, that’s not something I had learnt or read about and I was so changed and thought that’s not something I had learnt or read about. I wanted to understand more – so that’s where I started.”

Sarah went on to have four babies and told me that each birth experience more profound than the next – especially in the postpartum period.

“Especially after my 4th baby when I had the most amazing birthing experience. It was almost impossible to believe the experience could be so good.”

“With every baby I had more time resting at home. And with my fourth baby I stayed in bed, in my pajamas for ten days … The home was calmer, everyone was infected with the baby love bubble. There’s definitely some pheromonal kind of gravity to the experience.”

Helping our intellectual minds trust the sacredness of birth

The scientific explanation for the baby love bubble boils down to one magical hormone, called oxytocin. For an optimum physiological birth experience, Sarah says we must try our best not to disturb the natural hormonal processes.

“The circumstances of birthing are important. It’s essential that mothers feel private, safe and unobserved for the oxytocin process to run with efficiency,” says Sarah.

Honouring the ancient rituals of birth

As Sarah explains, the vast majority of birth has always happened in the wild, so the labouring female needs to be feel safe. Women are also in an altered state in labour – they are very alert and on the lookout for danger.

“Any female birthing is vulnerable because they can’t revert to fight of flight. She needs to know she is in the safest place,” says Sarah.

“This response happens from the middle layer of the brain. Sometimes you go to hospital because you think it’s safe in an intellectual sense, but when you go there your body acts as though it’s not safe because the stress hormones kick in just as they are designed to do.”

Rules of birth: What every pregnant woman needs to know

Unless we have attended births before we have our own, it’s very hard to understand or process the experience. This lack of innate knowledge can also contribute to our vulnerability as pregnant and birthing mothers.

With that in mind Sarah says there are three ‘rules’ around birth that have been true since the dawn of time

1. Birth is designed to work

There is a reason for every stage of labour. And each stage is designed to maximise the ease and efficiency for mother and baby – including the pushing stage.

2. Birth is designed to be as safe as possible for baby and mother.

“The baby comes out through the strong contractions of labour, and the strong contractions of labour are a fundamental fact that every baby has a relative hypoxi, lack of oxygen in labour, and so there are in-built safety factors to protect baby,” says Sarah.

3. Birth is designed to maximise pleasure and reward systems

“There’s a hormonal explanation for why when they meet each other after birth, the mother looks at the baby and goes: ‘this is the most rewarding thing in the world and I will do everything I can to look after this baby’. It’s meant to be like the best first date ever. Mother nature’s superb design.”

What happens to your hormones (and this natural process) when you are induced?

Even before labour starts there is a lot going on in our bodies to ensure the processes, innate to the ‘rules’ in the list above, can be activated.

As Sarah explains the mother’s uterus increases the number of receptors to oxytocin – we produce it naturally in labour from the brain to the uterus.

“When the oxytocin reaches the uterus it finds the receptors, like a key into a lock, and sends a signal to say “contract”. In labour oxytocin levels go up somewhat and that makes labour a bit more receptive. So if you are induced this gets in the way of an efficiency because it impacts her receptors.”

Inducing labour before all the prep is complete is a bit like getting to your wedding early and expecting all things to be the same. And it’s not. Even an hour earlier than your body is ready can impact your experience of the hormonal blueprint.

What about c-section mothers and babies?

Sarah explains that baby’s in labour get extreme levels of adrenaline – the same level in adults would result in a stroke!

But it works as the baby’s protective system and ensures the blood supply protects the baby’s brain cells so they can adjust to life outside the womb. It clears baby’s lung fluid, helps baby to switch on heat producing systems, switching the baby’s brain on.

“C-section baby’s miss this adrenaline surge. Which often means they can have breathing difficulties, be groggy or have low blood sugar because they’ve missed the hormonal transition,” says Sarah.

“There have been studies that show that women who can wait for labour to start before having a c-section, their baby’s will have a better outcome.”

How can we offset any hormonal gaps created by birth interventions?

Some interventions are necessary and even optimal in birth. So while we need to allow the hormones to orchestrate the birth and bonding process, Sarah says there are backup systems we can access.

“We have a window of opportunity to maximize the effects of mother’s natures best shot. And if we miss it we can make it up. Skin to skin contact is the best method we know. It activates the hormonal processes in both mother and baby and triggers the sucking reflex for the breastfeeding baby,” says Sarah.

Birth, breastfeeding, attachment and beyond

Birth, breastfeeding and attachment are all part of one important system that’s connected to oxytocin production.

“If we risk the birth we do risk messing around with this hormonal blueprint which means this system can be disrupted,” says Sarah.

“That is not to say that if you’re induced or have an epidural or a c-section that you won’t or can’t bond with your baby,” says Sarah. “But this hormonal blueprint is mother nature’s best start. It’s a program that rewards us and motivates us to give the care that every baby needs.”

Music Stronger Together by The Kahn Brothers
Supported by WaterWipes. Receive your discount here www.shop.waterwipes.com.au SHEBIRTHS20.

Show Notes
1. Hormonal physiology of childbearing report. https://sarahbuckley.com/hormonal-physiology-of-childbearing-report/

2. Epidurals: Risks and concerns for mother and baby https://sarahbuckley.com/httpsarahbuckley-comblogepiduralrisks-faqpt1/

3. Evidence for skin-to-skin care after a c-section https://evidencebasedbirth.com/the-evidence-for-skin-to-skin-care-after-a-cesarean/

4.Website www.sarahbuckley.com

5. Free Ecstatic Birth Ebook https://sarahbuckley.com/newsletter/



Partnership with WaterWipes
She Births® began as a simple community program 10 years ago in Bondi Beach and today we are the internationally recognised scientifically verified birth education course. The relationship we develop with our families spans the entire perinatal period – from fertility to pregnancy, birth and into early parenting – and the majority of couples that study with us maintain deep and long lasting connections. Our community is made up of connected parents, conscious workplaces and dedicated health professionals who engage highly in their choices. They want the best and the purest for themselves and their families.
For this reason, our brand and the select brands we endorse hold great value to our dedicated client base. We regard our partnerships as a further extension of our community. We believe Waterwipes and She Births® share a value system. We are both dedicated to providing best-in-class support to new parents and work in the best interest of each child. We both see the importance of scientific research, and our investment in this is a source of great pride. We encourage you to read how a dad wanted a better product for his daughter and WaterWipes was born. https://www2.waterwipes.com/au/why-waterwipes-are-the-worlds-purest-baby-wipes/

Blog| She Births® the past 10 years, the present and the future by Nadine

I can’t quite believe it has been 10 years since She Births® began. That first Sunday was a simple cup of tea and a ‘birthing chat’ in my lounge room with two very dear friends, who went on to birth their little girl in a room of love and who also became my first goddaughter.


Today, well you know what we do and who we are and what I stand for. My vision and my amazing team. There have been big challenges along the way but there is much to celebrate and even more to be grateful for.


I am humbled by how much we have achieved just this last year with the HCF Trial, new Online Program, Podcast, new app, new community forums, new staff…all the while teaching & supporting hundreds of families around the world. We have been supported by so many of you to be here today. Thank you. Every one of you is special in this sacred community. Particularly because you are the early adopters and change makers. The believers and the leaders. You think outside the box, like us, and won’t be told what your birth or life is going to be like by external forces.


So as we grow, with your help, know that you also allow more families awaken to their innate power. To have better births – more enriching, empowering and loving transitions into family life. And awakening to that power continues to ripple into so many other areas of life and brings a transformation around the globe.


2019 is going to bring more change and growth as we expand into new places and start to shift the conversation about birth in the workplace and also in the developing world. I hope we can continue to awaken the true spirit of birth for many years to come and I hope that birth continues to be seen as a sacred teacher She is.


Birth has taught me so much over the years. About the power of love and the power of stillness, the power of connection and support, the power of surrender and letting go and most of all, the power of faith.


I hope you join us in person or in spirit this Wednesday at our Christmas celebration as we make a toast in gratitude to the power of birthing, the power of woman and Nature.


Xxx Nadine


Photo credit: Kath McLean Bright Photography www.brightphotography.com.au

Birth Stories - Anna Kooiman 2

Blog | In conversation with Anna Kooiman and Dr Jan Dudley

It’s been amazing to watch the evolution of She Births® over the years and see how couples have spread the word and as a result expansion happened organically. When we create something great – it takes on a life of its own and spreads into places far beyond imagined!

When I began teaching prenatal yoga and attending births as a doula here in Bondi Beach, about 90% of mums were giving birth in public hospitals and primarily birth centres. The other 10% were either giving birth at home or in a private hospital. This is the community that started and founded She Births®.

Now, She Births® is delivered to almost the exact same demographic that we see in the Australian population as a whole. Approximately 70 % give birth in a public hospital and 30% in a private hospital and 1% give birth at home. These figures are now close to ours, however, about 4-5% of She Births® families choose to give birth at home, and maybe this will increase too with the new Royal Hospital for Women home birth program.

I love that we have expanded and that in any She Births® course there will always be a cross section of people who are making different choices. Our families choose to birth in different environments, and hopefully, most importantly, where the woman feels most safe.  I think we all learn from one another through sharing a course and specifically learning to drop any judgement about others choices. This is integral to our She Births® philosophy and I believe essential to being a happy parent.

Even in our mothers’ groups we continue to learn about differences. For even though we say our Soul Mama Circles are for like-minded women, of course, everybody is unique and brings their own voice and experience to discussions.

My vision for She Births® has always been to reach every single woman on the planet, to provide her with an education in whatever way she needs, and impart some of the She Births® wisdom – help reconnect her to our innate strength and wisdom and realign with a trust in nature.

Today’s video is a sit down with the wonderful and inspiring Anna Kooiman who has worked many years at Fox News in New York before coming to Australia to give birth to little Brookes.  Anna had a natural posterior labour and delivery – which is amazing – because of the first-time mums who do have a c-section, over 70% are delivered posterior. We know it is not an easy feat!


Nadine Richardson, Anna Kooiman and Dr Jan Dudley in conversation.

We were joined by Anna’s Obstetrician, Dr Jan Dudley, who has over 30 years’ experience catching babies in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. Jan is well-loved by many of our families, and talks about birth as an ancient art, the power of woman and the importance of surrender, as well as preparation.  

For me our video chat is all about choice and creating a team around you that you trust. Getting education, no matter where you are birthing, is absolutely critical.

I hope you enjoy

Xxx Nadine

Birth Stories - Anna Kooiman

Anna Kooiman and Dr Jan Dudley


Blog| An inspiring and necessary documentary on the birth system in Australia – Birth Time

On the back of Home Birth awareness week we spoke to from the team at Birth Time

Three long time friends of She Births®; fellow doula and birth photographer Jerusha Sutton  (who even came to a Weekend Course with her partner after many years of birth support), extraordinary independent midwife Jo Hunter and actress Zoe Naylor, who you also know from our She Births® Show are making an important film that I believe all of us who care about humanity and healing our planet need to watch and share.

Birth Time  knows, as do I, just how important it is that ‘the way a woman feels about her birth, and the way she was treated during her birth, will effect the way she lives the rest of her life.’ Birth effects everyone. The experience is so significant that we cannot even fully comprehend how impactful it can be. Plus, the choices and care available for women here in Australia are better than in many, but still far from perfect.

With interventions, depression and PTSD rates on the rise this dynamic team have been researching, interviewing, shooting and getting up at all hours of the night for the last 2 years to try and share with us solutions. I am super excited to watch the film, especially the interviews with Indigenous mums.

Have a look at the Birth Time page here, watch the trailers and consider donating so they can get the film finished! Or join me at fellow birth educator, Rhea Dempsey’s talk on Monday 12th November in Newtown. No one can talk as in-depth about the perception of pain and it’s management and meaning as Rhea!

What is Birth time?

Birth Time started as three women wanting to come together to make a documentary exploring the question, “What would it take for women to emerge from their births feeling physically well and emotionally safe”, but it has now grown from a documentary in the making, to more of a movement. We are hosting live events, such as our evening with the incredible Rhea Dempsey on the 12th November at Leadbelly in Newtown, and our Feminism and Human Rights in Childbirth night we hosted earlier in the year- the recording of which is available through our website. 

What inspired you to make this documentary?

Three of us came together through, of course, a birth. Zoe Naylor (actor, entrepreneur, speaker) hired Jo Hunter (privately practicing midwife) and Jerusha Sutton (birth videographer/photographer/doula) to support and capture the homebirth of her second baby back in 2016. Through that transformative birth not only was her son, Beau, born, but so too was Birth Time. We have since taken on a fourth member to our team, Olympian Selina Scoble. Selina works behind the scenes and is a productive energy we couldn’t do without.

Our inspiration came from a collective knowledge that the way a woman feels about her birth, and the way she was treated during her birth, will effect the way she lives the rest of her life. Given that interventions, PTSD and postnatal depression are on the rise, we wanted to look at where were were going wrong, and more-so, where we can make things much more right.

Who is it for?

Birth Time is not limited to any particular audience. Given that a woman’s birth will impact the rest of her life- it will impact the lives of her partner and family as well. And families feed out into broader families and communities and when you look at it that way you see that this involves everyone. Everyone is born.

What have you learnt about women and birth on this journey?

We’ve learnt that regardless of cultural background, socio-economic status or location, women want the same things. They want to choose where they give birth, to feel respected in their choices, and to be supported by the people they choose to have present throughout their birthing journeys. Women want continuity of midwifery care, regardless of their risk status, and some women need an obstetrician as well .

What do you want to achieve?

We want to achieve real change in maternity care for women in this country. In an ideal world we would assist in creating systemic change that would give all women a known midwife, and where midwifery care is the first port of call for pregnant women. We hope to inspire women to start taking their power back when it comes to birthing choices. To trust themselves as the masters of their own bodies and babies.

What have you gained and learnt from spending time with Indigenous community – or what can we learn from them?

Our hearts have been blown open by spending time with aboriginal communities. Their stories have hit us in the gut in ways no others have. We’ve learned that these women often endure the cruelest of treatment and circumstances whilst bringing their babies into the world, and yet so often they come through it with a fiery determination to make things better for their sisters and their daughters. Through the Birthing on Country project , indigenous women and their families are reclaiming their ceremony, ritual and ancient wisdom.  Community, country and tradition is everything to them. We can all learn something from that.

From your perspective, how important is birth education?

Birth education is especially important, particularly given the lay of the land in maternity care today. We believe it is incredibly important for women to educate themselves not only about their bodies and their babies, but also about the system. With the rates of birth trauma and postnatal depression on the rise, education is a very important step in taking back our power to be able to make informed, educated decisions.

Blog| Watch, Listen or Read and we’d love to hear from you

We are coming up to our 10-year anniversary. 10 years creating a beautiful community of people from all walks of life, joined together on the journey of birth and parenthood.

I would love to know where you are within the cycle of parenting, what your interests are and then how often you would like to receive news from us at The Birthing Institute.

We’d love it if you could add your preferences in our quick 30 second survey.

Today’s blog is a selection that you can WATCH, LISTEN or READ.

WATCH: If you are keen to know more about the WHY behind She Births® (like what ‘She’ really means) and explore what is essential to being a better birth worker, watch this tear-jerker of an interview I did with Doula, Nathalie Solis.

HeartSpeak with Nadine Richardson from Nathalie Solis Pérez on Vimeo.

LISTEN: If you are keen to know more about the birth trauma debate and how we might help to prevent it – tune into an interview I gave with Shevonne Hunt at Kinderling Radio on Conversations here.

READ: Positive birth stories keep rolling in from families as a result of the negativity portrayed in SBS Birth Wars, which is a pretty cool community response. It’s actually been hard to keep up with them all so please bare with us. Here is a great story written by She Births® mum, Emma Canavan.

I hope you are enjoying Spring (or Autumn in the north)!
love, Nadine xxx

P.S. Please share our e-news far and wide! You’ll find us on Facebook and Instagram!

Blog| SBS Birth Wars, the behind the scenes…

Did you tune into BIRTH WARS on The Feed last Tuesday night? Catch up here on SBS Viceland and be prepared to have some of those birth buttons pressed 😉 You will also you get to see how She Births® is considered to be at the ‘forefront’ of the positive birthing movement.

I will try make my comments super quick today because I want to give space to the wonderful She Births® families who participated in the documentary. Aoife and Tom with baby Fionn and Kayla and Richard with baby Hunter were both in touch after the show to say they were disappointed in the way their stories had been told. Our community as a whole has been surprised that SBS seemed to edit towards such a negative bias.

There were some pretty crazy edits I have to agree, and a lot of what I said was used in a different context. For example, when I say everyone has an opinion about birth – it was in regards to pregnant mums being harrassed by the public about ‘how birth is meant to be and what birth is really like’ etc. Which can be a dangerous thing when you are pregnant and susceptible to influence – lost in a sea of ignorance, negativity, projections and fear.

In regards to informed consent. It’s important to be clear that there are two very different types. One occurs during the birth itself, say prior to a caregiver suggesting an episiotomy and the other is a long list of potential risks that may occur and is given to mum during pregnancy, almost like a disclaimer, so that you can make a so called informed choice between attempting a vaginal or electing a c-s delivery. Both two very different contexts that were getting a bit jumbled in the doco.

I believe VERY strongly in the former – and will talk more about this on Kinderling radio in regards to birth trauma on Wednesday 2nd October. But, I am quite reluctant to promote the latter because of the inappropriate way it is so often done. I do not believe in keeping secrets or having taboos around birth. I do not believe we should silence our negative or our positive stories. However, to give a list of the many potential things that could go wrong is not helpful for a majority, unless, you can also provide preventative education and empowerment skills for the poor mum that has just been overwhelmed by absolute terror.

For a lot of us it can feel like there is already enough negativity being shared in the general media and thus for a lot of us we are aware of so many things that can go wrong. To give information without preventative resources and guidance I believe is unethical.

That is why this week on our Private She Births® Facebook Forum page I will be joined by Lyz Evans, director of Women in Focus Physiotherapy  , who has just completed a 3 year research program tracking and measuring over 200 women with perineal and pelvic floor damage. Both Lyz and I believe that preparation is critical to preventing damage. Along with a revision of all the She Births® preventative measures we teach: pelvic floor assessments, perineal massage, patience and avoiding induction, water immersion during labour or birth, optimal positioning for the mother and our specific breathing techniques for second stage we will dive even deeper into this topic.

Prof. Dietz’ interpretation of data is definitely important to consider but in my experience the argument and data put forward by Prof. Dahlen was more convincing. At the end of the day however it seems like the She Births® data both in the public trials and in our own data collections prove that it is possible to have both an increasing normal birth rate (above 80% as the Govt suggests) while we also also reduce the rate of perineal trauma.

Here are the two very triumphant birth stories from our couples plus a comment from the amazing mum, Kate, who included her VBA2C story in the SBS doco. It is interesting that one birth story included informed consent and the use of forceps and one experienced a factioning within the hospital system, perhaps representative of the birth wars. Let’s just stay away from wars in general I say…and start to have more open and explorative conversations!

This is what the mums and dads had to say….


“I just wanted to pop over and give my two cents also. I was also interviewed for the segment shown last night, and everything I said was turned around and manipulated. They made it sound as though my VBA2C was traumatic. They put a lot of emphasis on the unfortunate emergency caesarian and really drove home how serious and urgent the matter was. While this is true, they failed to mention that the birth was also the most empowering and healing experience of my life. The trauma I discussed was from my first two unnecessary and ill-informed caesareans. They also edited specific sentences to make me sound quite irrational “her heart rate dropped…there was no emergency” – they edited out the part in the middle that mentioned that we waited 2.5 hours for surgery so… “it wasn’t an emergency”.

I’m so sad they’ve used my story of triumph and a message that trauma often comes from the way you’re treated rather than things that happen to make women even more fearful of birth. Also, there was no mention of any the risks associated with cesareans including increased risk of hysterectomy, increased risk of blood clots, increased risk of deep adhesions. I’m so sorry to hear that other stories were misrepresented as well.”

Kayla and Richard’s Birth story

How did you prepare for birth?

Richard and I read all the books you could think of. We researched any and every website we could get our hands on. We then completed our weekend course with our inspiring instructor Radha. (thanks to HCF*) 

Before attending this class I can openly and honestly say that I was absolutely terrified of going into labour. It was something that my anxiety wouldn’t let me shake and it was becoming a very big issue not only for myself but also my husband as when we spoke about things I couldn’t keep my head straight and I would panic and shut down.

During the course the amount of information I received was above and beyond expectations. I have attended so many different courses and by far was this course the only one that I sat absolutely glued onto what was being said. Not once did my mind ever wonder off and wish I was somewhere else. Instead I was so focused and wanted to continue to listen.

Radha was such a beautiful, absolutely beautiful soul who made this class just that so much better. Her honesty and her enthusiasm really fit well into our learning. She made us feel so comfortable and never once did any question be judged or was anyone afraid to ask anything (and I do mean anything).

I felt more than ready to bring this beautiful baby into the world with the help and guidance from Richard and every single thing we have taken away from our course. I would recommend this course a thousand times over to anyone.

How did your birth go?

My contractions started Saturday 18th of August and had stopped and started continuously until I went into full labor on the Wednesday night ( 22nd my due date) and Hunter was born Friday 24th August at 12:07pm.

We had a vaginal birth after a 42 and a half hour labor. We arrived to the hospital when I was unable to continue at home on Thursday. We got there at 1pm. I was only 4cm but they told me they needed to continue to check my baby boy’s heart as they were concerned.

We then heard nothing. By 730pm  I was given a shot of morphine then eventually I was offered to have gas by 11pm. They checked me again and I was only 5cm I was completely and utterly exhausted and in so much pain. Richard and I were left alone and unknowing as to what was actually happening for the majority of the birth.

My contractions were just over a minute apart and would last for 40-60 seconds. By Friday morning, while I was in the bath, the doctors tried to force me to have an epidural. I had already refused this many times, even though it was in my notes that I have a contraindication. I am unable to have one due to the risks with my intracranial hypertension.

Thankfully Richard was able to stand up to them. I was asked to leave the bath as I needed to be checked. This is when we found out I was only 7cm. By this point I had begged them for some help something/anything to help as I knew my body was giving up. I was then eventually given the drip to increase my contractions.

I was told very bluntly not to push if I felt the urge and then we were left alone again. Richard stood by my side begging me not to push until I was physically unable to hold on anymore.  I had started to push my baby out while only 7cm, this obviously caused some tearing internally and externally but within just 12 contractions Hunter was born.

It was then we found out he had actually had a stress poop on Thursday afternoon. This was only found out as the midwives were having a conversation about it while I was being stitched up. I also overheard as the nurses did a handover that I had fragmented membranes so I needed to be monitored continuously afterwards.

It was an experience that could have been managed a lot better, although having Richard by my side, I would not have been able to do what I did without his support and he wouldn’t have been able to support me without the knowledge we had learnt from the course. Richard was able to keep me grounded and we knew what stages of labour I was in during the whole process, which helped us make our decisions and kept us in control when we could be. As horrible as it was, it was still my labor and it was as natural as it could be for me.

What was the most challenging part of the birth?

Besides the whole thing hahaha – I would have to say the limited support and contact we had from the hospital. As much as I adore my husband and he honestly never left my side, it would have been a little easier on him if we had more of a support system. We were left alone for the majority of my labour which was a very daunting experience for the both of us.

What most helped you through the birth experience?

My husband and his knowledge from what we learnt in the She Births® course.

He kept me grounded and calm when I could be. He was able to reassure me the entire labor and kept me up to date with what was actually happening – I was honestly in and out of it due to complete exhaustion.

What surprised you?

The fact that they had my file, knowing the risks I had for an epidural and still they just pushed and pushed me for one and wouldn’t listen to us and what we wanted. I’m so grateful Richard was able to stand up to them.

I’m also surprised that after that many hours I was still actually able to push him out. Must have been all that good oxytocin.

What has been the best post birth care for you?

Having the support from my husband. Again I couldn’t do life without him

Describe your birth experience in 3 words:  

Horrendously Traumatic

Painful yet Doable

Totally worth it

* HCF is conducting a trial of She Births® with their members and offering the weekend course for free – click here for more information















Aoife’s Birth story

When was your birth?

I gave birth on the 18/8/18, a very auspicious date apparently. We plan on buying some lottery tickets and rubbing them on Fionn’s head

I was 9 days overdue, I had always felt that I would go quite a bit over as my mother had been almost two weeks late with me and my sister was 2 weeks late with both her children. I was very keen to avoid an induction and discussed this with my obstetrician so we agreed that if I had not spontaneously gone into labour by the 20th I would have an induction. I was happy with this arrangement as it is a fine balance between avoiding intervention and acknowledging the risks with going over 42 weeks gestation. It also gave me a deadline to work towards and I work best with a deadline in all aspects of life!

By the 17th I was really determined to get this show on the road, that morning I visited an acupuncturist in the hope of inducing labour. Afterwards I wanted to keep the energy going so I walked down to the beach and spent a long time listening to the pounding waves using a visualisation about the sea.

When I went home I decided to try some nipple stimulation. This is going to sound completely bonkers but I had read a small study where they had stimulated participants nipples using TENS machines to induce labour, although it was a very small study, only 21 participants, of the 21 participants 15 of them successfully induced labour. I liked those odds and using a TENS seemed preferable to tugging at my nipples for 3 hours!  

By late afternoon contractions were starting to become stronger and more regular. That night, the 3 of us (including the dog) went for a walk along Manly beach. We sat and listened to the waves until we got too cold. It was a very special time as we knew this would be our last evening as a trio.

I went to bed to try to get some rest but by 2am it was getting too intense to stay in bed. I got up and laboured on my own for a while, my husband joined me a short while later to support me.

By 5am we had contacted the hospital who suggested we come in. In retrospect I wish I had stayed a bit longer but as we didn’t really have a frame of reference we thought I was a good bit further along than I actually was. I think my poor husband was worried that he would be delivering his child on the spit bridge. Oh if only we knew then that we could have driven to the Sunshine Coast by the time this baby would arrive!

How did you prepare for birth? 

From the outset my obstetrician advised that staying active and healthy was one of the best things I could do to help my chances of having a natural birth. Prior to getting pregnant I was pretty active so under her guidance I continued attending crossfit and surfing until my 7th month of pregnancy, by which time it was really awkward to lift a barbell over my bump and even with my modified surfing position paddling was proving too inefficient to actually catch any waves.

I completed She Births® early on in my pregnancy as I wanted to give myself & my husband, Tom, as much time as possible to implement all the skills we learned during the course.

My main motivation for doing She Births® was I was really terrified about the idea of giving birth. I knew that I wanted to avoid having caesarean as my sister had quite a difficult recovery from hers, but I had know idea what I could do to help avoid this. I came to She Births® looking to help me physically prepare for this but surprisingly it was the mental/psychological aspects of the course that probably helped me the most.

She Births® really opened my eyes to a whole host of other resources that I hadn’t been aware of. After the course I started doing prenatal yoga twice a week with another She Births® Educator, Radha. I was never into yoga before so I was really surprised how much I enjoyed it. Radha is an amazing teacher and her classes were much more than just yoga, she encouraged the second and third time Mums to share their birth stories with the class, she peppered the classes with nuggets of birthing and parenting wisdom, the classes really helped cement all the skills that I had learnt during the She Births® course.

One of the other mums at yoga introduced me to a hypnobirthing podcast called ‘Surge of the Sea’ that she had found helpful in her previous birth. I used the resources on the She Births® members website and listened to the visualisation pretty regularly from about 27 weeks on.

The She Births® suggested reading list contained a lot of great books but it wasn’t until I was on maternity leave that I really had the time to start reading. One of the books that I found most helpful was ‘Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth’, the book contained dozens of stories of women who had given birth at her birthing centre. It was very affirming to read all these positive stories about real women who had given birth, this really helped get me in the right frame of mind about my upcoming birth.

Once I was a over 32 weeks I started to drink raspberry leaf tea and taking evening primrose oil, from 36 weeks we started perineal massage, unfortunately for my poor husband it was not the sexy thing he had envisioned….

How did the birth happen?

I will start off by saying that if someone had told me a few months ago how the birth would unfold I would have been pretty scared about what was in store for me, but by the time I came to birthing my baby I really felt that I had developed so much mental resilience that I could really just let go, go with the flow and find the beauty in that moment.

As previously mentioned we had left for the hospital at 5am that morning. I had laboured beautifully with the assistance of my husband for most of that time however as the day turned into evening things were starting to stall, by about 8.30pm it became apparent that we needed some assistance. My baby’s heart rate was decelerating during contractions and my contractions were slowing down. My obstetrician advised that we should think about a forceps delivery. I asked her if she thought a caesarean would be safer for my baby and I, but she was very confident that she could deliver him safely without injury to me and she wanted to give me the best chance of a natural birth for any subsequent babies I might have.

I was taken down to surgery, given a spinal block and Fionn was delivered with the assistance of forceps at 21.21 on the 18/08/18

Possibly part of the reason I had needed forceps was that Fionn’s cord was very short, this meant that when he was born they couldn’t put him on my chest until his cord had been cut. When he was delivered the team realised that he had passed meconium in utero, probably a few days previous as he was quite stained, because of this the paediatrician recommended that he be taken to the special care nursery to be checked out.

This is probably all sounding very traumatic for anyone reading but I can assure you that it was anything but, I felt so confident in the skills of the care team I knew that everything was going to be ok.

Seeing Fionn for the first time was the most amazing feeling, he was the most beautiful thing I ever laid eyes on. I am still in awe about how strong and all-consuming the maternal instinct is, the second I laid eyes on Fionn I was head over heels in love.

My obstetrician is pretty nifty with the old bbq thongs, Fionn didn’t have any bruising and while I did have a tear it healed well. Within two days of the birth I was sitting cross legged on my bed nursing Fionn.

Who supported you?

My husband Tom was my Daddy Doula. He was absolutely fantastic. He kept me calm and helped soothe me with massage. He was my cheerleader when I needed encouragement. I have never felt closer or more in love with my husband than on that day.

What was the most challenging part?

Every few hours the midwives needed to trace the babies heart rate for 20 minutes uninterrupted. Unfortunately, the foetal monitor was a bit flaky and it didn’t pick up the babies heart rate if I moved so I had to lie on the bed and stay very still. I found this quite uncomfortable and frustrating as every time the monitor dropped out they would need a further 20-minute trace. Somebody seriously needs to make better foetal monitors!

What most helped you the most?

I used the whole gamut of She Births® tools during my labour. i used a tens machine throughout my labour, I started with it on quite a low setting and gradually ramped it up, this was particularly helpful when I had to stay still on the bed for the trace. In the birthing suite there was a lovely large bath and a double head shower, I love water and found labouring in these really helped me.

This may sound odd but when the contractions became more intense I started scratching my head quite vigorously. It was an instinctive response to the contractions, I’m sure it must have looked like I had nits! I found that it was a great distraction as it is an intense sensation and it creates a lot of noise in your head, so it really helped take my focus away from the contractions. My husband Tom took on the duty of chief head scratcher once I got towards the later stages of labour.

I also found myself vocalising, not in a screechy way but in a long low sound, I joke with my husband that I sounded like the ‘Whale Rider’ sound track.

What surprised you?

How little I cared about being completely naked and in some pretty awful position in front of complete strangers. I had been a bit nervous about feeling embarrassed to be naked but within about half an hour of being in the birthing suite I gave zero f**** about it!

What has been the best post birth care for you?

I was very glad that the hospital had a standard stay of 4 nights post-birth it meant that I had access to great advice and support during that very intense first few days. By the time I was being discharged I felt reasonably confident with breastfeeding and caring for my baby, I think I would have struggled had I been discharged earlier as neither Tom nor I have much experience with babies and neither of us have family close by to help out.

Describe your birth experience in 3 words: 

Empowering, loving, joyful


Blog| Nadine’s return to the motherland India

I just arrived home from a couple of weeks travelling around Tamil Nadu, the east coast state above Kerala in India. If you follow me on my instagram @nadine_shebirths you will have seen some photos of my trip. We thought it important to share more on what this trip means to me and why travelling is such an enriching part of my life. I hope you enjoy and would love to hear from you. What holidays have restored you? What do you do to reconnect with your soul?

Return to the motherland India

India is by far one of the most complex and extraordinary countries I have been to. She is quite challenging to travel around due to her size and language barriers…but not as hard as China perhaps. She is exotic and beautiful and it seems like everywhere I look there is a picture just waiting to be taken. India also has, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful women in the world. The whole country seems to flow in a state of absurd looking yet seamless chaos that makes one fear to step across a main road and requires a deep sense of trust to navigate pathways filled with dogs, cows and trash. She is steeped in the customs of numerous traditions and religions that provide no reason or logic to our western minds and currently my clothes smell like sandalwood and jasmine…which I wish could stay imbued within the fibres forever!

My trepidation in taking a holiday, having been there a few times already was knowing that India is never just a holiday. It is of course goodbye to vegetables and salads and hello to carbs and chilli. It is always wise to carry one’s own toilet paper roll and probiotics and remember that you will be melting in the heat of full body coverage outfits every moment of every day. However, if you are open to the inner journey, India always turns out to give you so much more and everything you need…although a little scary to step into from our clean, controlled and very organised reality here, She always delivers.

It is hard to write about a mystical journey though – one that happens not only via the body but also in the mind and heart and touches the soul, so I will try to convey a few pieces from my recent journey that might inspire you in your life and reflections or even take you on a journey back to the land of ancient wisdom and source of Vedic spiritual knowledge.

Of course, I highly recommend ALL travelling – I mean always – like whenever you get the chance, no matter how old your kids are or what budget you are working with. Looking back on my childhood and Leroy’s too so many of our favourite and funny adventures and memories come from travelling across Australia and around the globe – especially into the remote, naturally pristine and developing countries – Tonga and Africa come to mind and of course India too. Although travelling with children in the third world is tricky with food and germs etc it is also by far the BEST way to be given access to a different culture.

I have always believed that if we raise a child in a village and expose them to the globe then we give them the best education in life. I have always been happy to live in a simpler way here in Bondi, in order to experience new places and have also taken Leroy out of school many times to travel abroad.

My passion and my dharma has always been to live a spiritual life, in the everyday world. My fascination with the soul and the inner journey began at 16. And my drive to help others and make the world a better place even earlier, as early as I can remember. Somehow working with birth, parenting and yoga has been the perfect alignment of these two callings. And my trip to India this year brought an even deeper connection to that unified soul purpose – it has reaffirmed that I am not alone in my longings – that other spiritual teachers also see the purpose of life as serving others, making the world a better place and integrating the spiritual into our daily life and work.

The great highlight of my trip was visiting the ‘human unity’ city of Auroville  . I also spent a week in the ashram of Sakthi Amma. Both spaces are founded in spirituality yet differ greatly. They both focus on the Divine Mother as ‘God’ or the centre of their prayers yet their paths of connection are quite different.

Sunday pot luck with some of the founders of Auroville

Amma’s ashram  is Hindu in its practices so we spent our days in temples, participating in puja (fire ceremony) and abishakam (washing ceremony). This allowed for a space of reverence and brought a sense of humility too. It forced me to drop the mind and fall into my heart. I have participated in a number of puja’s over the years but I had no awareness of the power that a temple or mantra could evoke – the effects, without even understanding, was subtle yet profound.

There were about 20 western devotees at Amma’s ashram from the US, Canada and Australia. You may have heard of Amma through musician Ben Lee who got married there  . The golden temple at Sri Puram welcomed and fed hundreds, sometimes thousands of Indians each day. Amma has provided amazing resources to the extremely poor rural families of Tamil Nadu. They have built schools, research centres, initiated rubbish clean ups and tree planting programs called @green.sakthi  There are nursing colleges, and a hospital built by the Foundation.

The main teaching that I took away was to make all of life a puja, a prayer – a time filled with presence – movements filled with grace and gratitude to the divine. It was also very much about being in action and helping others – being of service, or seva. I spent time talking with one of the doctors there who are currently building an Ayurvedic wellness centre and inquired into the maternity unit within the hospital a d started to get a gauge on what experiences the families are having now in India. I hope to return next year and help out in some way with birth education – but more on how this works in another blog soon!

Amma’s Ashram

Auroville on the other hand has no particular practices or techniques. It’s core principle is for all people of all religions and backgrounds to come together as one group – to demonstrate human connection and harmony in a new community built from the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. This place blew my mind. Firstly to have two spiritual masters work together and support each others teachings and vision is extraordinary – both for the common goal of healing, inspiring and building a new type of humanity in love of the divine mother.

The Matrimandir – golden temple of the Divine Mother – sits beside a Banyan tree over 100 years old which is the very centre or heart of the Aurovillian town. There is an amazing story about this tree too that you may hear from ‘B’, formerly known as Bill, on the guided tour. They are both surrounded by gardens and petal rooms, smaller spaces for meditation. You are asked not to bow down or pray or even meditate using a technique…just invited to simply be in these areas.

Matramandir in Auroville

Being inside the main chamber of the Matrimandir is an amazing experience. The whole internal space is pure white, even the carpet. The staircase spirals as if floating into space, apparently unsuspended. I felt scared that I would fall or a star trek alien would come down and pick us up at one point. Once inside the upper chamber a ray of sunlight is drawn down into a large crystal ball that fills the room of 40+ people with light as we sit in complete silence.

Like at Amma’s I was blown away by the power of design and architecture and communities built with a specific purpose and intention. They held such a strong energy of their own, even when the founders are no longer there. The energy was more powerful than techniques and allowed me to simply fall into presence and I was moved me to tears often. I honestly wish I could bring a Matrimandir back here to Bondi or help organise an Auroville festival (akin to Woodford) and take us all over there.

The 12 petal rooms are each named gratitude, peace etc…all qualities of the heart and the gardens have the flowers chosen by The Mother evoke these qualities too. She gave over 400 flowers spiritual meanings. The essence of the Auroville teachings for me was that we must not only transcend via meditation but we have to integrate into our daily lives and achieve self perfection. The Integral Yoga Sri Aurobindo spoke of seemed to me to be the most wise on the planet – reminding us that yoga takes place not only in the body but must also occur in the mind, heart, psychic and spiritual being too.

The gardens of the Matramandir

Travel alone carries me into a joyous state of living – a state of flow and spontaneity. Taking guidance from within, one moment at a time, and letting go of effort is what India asks of us, in her own unique way. It is so utterly refreshing. Not knowing who I was going to meet each day, what or where I would eat is such an exciting and liberating way to live – but to know you are in a like minded conscious community is also so deeply nurturing. If you are looking to be swept up into the divine Mothers’ energy and live a little more in the mystery then I highly recommend visiting Auroville and Sri Narayani Peedam.

“Birth, parenting and yoga for me are my spiritual practices. They are about seeing and connecting to the divine in all things. Finding the extraordinary beauty within the ordinary and everyday lives that we lead.

If we just pause for a moment and take time to really look at the magical symmetry and beauty of a flower or ponder the amazing orchestration of functions taking place within our bodies, or between the planets and their subtle yet perfect angles, that keep us alive and in balance, one cannot deny the power of a mystical supreme intelligence and be filled by awe and wonder.

If we look at the journey of humanity and our history one can also not deny the great power of Nature and her evolutionary force to make things better and better all the time, and maybe hear the calling to join her forces for good on the planet.

To reignite my spiritual connection I have found it is essential for me to step away and fill up, to refresh and restore through travel in more remote and unique parts of the world, away from the control and habits that slowly build up in my every day. By returning to India I find that I can let all things fall back into their natural order and my life flows again just like the great river Ganga or the chaotic traffic breathing and weaving down dusty roads on a hot sweaty summer day.”

Xxx Nadine



Happy Daddy Doula Day 2018

We are so excited to share this wonderful story and thank you to all those She Births® mama’s who nominated their partners.

The 2018 winner of the Daddy Doula Aware goes to Oggi Yusuf. His partner Marje was so proud to share their story. This is a powerful one of complete support and belief in her ability to birth the way they wanted. We congratulate you Oggi!

Birth Story of Mavi and Daddy Doula 2018 Oggi Yusuf , by Marije Kleverlaan

When was your birth?
Mavi was born on 1st May 2018

Was it your first?

Yes it was my first birth, and Oggi’s second. He has a 10 year old daughter and being a second timer definitely
helped!. He was just so calm and knew what to do and how to support me being a first time mum.

How did you prepare for birth?

We did the She Births® course in March this year. Even though Oggi had experience, we loved the course and learned so many new things, to be able to support me having a birth as natural as possible.
Before She Births® I was not yet thinking about the birth and how the last part of my pregnancy would be. The weekend with Nadine, really shaped my wishes and dreams for my birth and also what to do before the baby would come. As I am 40, the hospital wants you to birth at maximum 40 weeks, so I wanted to try everything natural possible to bring on labour. We tried it all!

Oggi did not only cook every evening since I was 6 months pregnant, but made the eggplant parmigiana 2 times!! In massive portions, so spent hours in the kitchen looking after me and bubba. He cooked curries, made breakfast every day, and everything gluten and sugarfree of course! He gave pressure point massive, took me for walks and kept me sane generally :).

I also did the prenatal yoga classes with Nadine, that helped me connect with the little one and really communicate about birth and how we were going to do this together, the three of us.

How did you bring your baby into the world?

As I am 40, I was going to be induced at 40 weeks and 3 weeks before then, we tried to do everything we could to bring on labour naturally.
At 39+6 it was time to report to hospital and once again Oggi cooked food to ensure that I had fresh food to eat in the hospital instead of the terrible hospital food, he also carried the super heavy bag momma packed, into the hospital. Not knowing he would be doing this 2 more times! I had packed a rose quartz lamp, crystals, diffuser, healthy food, coconuts etc. And with a few “babe what did you pack it’s sooooo heavy” comments, he took the bag everywhere! Settled in hospital with cervidil.. both excited that we would meet baby soon…nothing. Tried to do the Foley’s catheter.. did not work. I was a little anxious of what was to happen next and when they said c-section, I got really emotional and Oggi was calm and collected and happy to do whatever I wanted to do and whatever felt right to me. So back home we went.

We were leaving home on Monday, enjoying our last Sunday night together, as we were definitely coming home with a baby, imagine the feeling of coming home… no baby!

On Thursday, we had to report back to hospital for another attempt at induction and once again, here Oggi prepared a spicy curry and carried our three heavy bags back into hospital to carry them back out 2 hours later as I did not want to get a c section. Once again, I felt so supported by him in my decision to do what I thought was best for me and for the baby. The hospital told us to come back on Monday so we enjoyed another last weekend alone together, and when we went to hospital on Monday afternoon, he did say “I am not coming home without a baby again”.
The catheter worked, and I had eggplant parmigiana once again for dinner, and again our room was set up with crystals, essential oils and music, as Oggi had carefully prepared 3 playlists. Momo (our baby’s nickname in the belly) up, Momo down and Momo Classical chants (on request from me). Midwives and doctors kept commenting on how nice the music was!

Tuesday morning, the catheter worked and I was taken to a delivery suite, waiting for Oggi to come back as today would be the day! We set up the delivery suite again, dimmed the lights, some nice essential oils and the music playing all day. They had to break my waters and give me syntocinon and Oggi stayed super calm and was just there. He is always the calmest person, which helps as I can be quite emotional, and he listens to what I asked. Which was the best, as I was clear on what I wanted (room is too hot, room is too cold, massage my back there, no don’t touch me, run the shower water on that part of my back, no not there, door open, door closed, water, no water) and without comment he just did what I needed whilst making jokes all the time. He let me squeeze his shoulder HARD, as the doctors kept putting me back on the bed and contractions were so much harder laying down, and was just being funny and saying that I promised him he could buy a new mountain bike, hoping that I would say yes as I was on gas! No tricking this momma! The doctors kept wanting to intervene and my doula as well as Oggi kept saying that I could do it, and I felt so confident knowing they had my back. And I truly believed that I could, because they told me I could.

The most magical moment and literal support was when my doula told me to stand up and when I was standing, I was leaning on Oggi a contraction came and in that one contraction I was able to push properly for the first time and there she was… our little girl Mavi. He wanted to catch her which unfortunately was impossible as I was still standing and leaning on him, but he did get to cut the cord!

Who supported you throughout the birth?
Oggi and my doula Lizzy Criner. Best team ever! Because of them we did end up bringing her into the world naturally!

What was the most challenging part of the birth?
From my first appointment in hospital they were telling me that I had to be induced, because of my age, which was not what I wanted to do. So with every appointment, and getting closer to the day, being “pushed” into induction. The emotional journey of getting to a point where I could accept this, was challenging. Then when we finally got there and the induction did not work, and they wanted to do a c-section straight away, we went home and spent Anzac day at home, and I wrote all of my feelings in my journal, I really
had to journal, and speak to Oggi as well as my doula, I cried all my tears and decided we would tell the hospital we wanted to have more time and wait. Of course when you decide to do that, they inform you that the risk of stillbirth is increasing etc., so it is being ok with the pressure building from the medical team vs knowing your body and believing it will do the right thing. With the support of Oggi and Lizzy, I knew that my decision of waiting a few more days was the right one. And it was… at least my cervix had opened by that time.

What most helped you through the birth experience?
My birthing team! They kept believing in me, talking to me, keeping me calm and just being there, knowing exactly what to do. I have never felt so supported!

Was there anything that surprised you on the day?
I know women are strong and amazing, but that my body could handle the “forced” contractions and that I was able to birth her naturally! Medical team could not believe it either, as usually women on syntocinon will end up with epidural and further intervention, the fact that we had gas only, was a surprise to them.

What has been the best post birth care for you?
Since then, he has been looking after us by cooking every night, keeping me calm in the first few weeks whilst I was learning to breastfeed. As he has done this before, he is just so calm and knows what to do and how to support me being a first time mum. I am sure there are times that I am too careful in his opinion, or cranky, or emotional, but he gives me all the space I need to figure out how to be a mum and how to look after myself and the baby, I could not ask for better support.

Describe your birth experience in 3 words:
empowering, love and trust

Marije – Thank you Oggi, we love you x




Working Dads we celebrate you!

As it is Fathers Day we wanted to say how encourage the conversations that are happening in Australia at the moment around supporting working Dads.

The transition to the role of Dad is one that is taken for granted. We forget that often after a few days off work they leave the family and head back to the office (or place of work). Their emotional needs as new Dads aren’t really considered and this continues the imbalance in society with regard to parental care of children. ‘One of the most effective ways we can make an impact that matters in achieving gender equity, is through the support we give to parents and individuals with caring responsibilities.’ Gilbert + Tobin.

Parents at Work held a discussion at the exhibition #Aussiedads this week which lead to some really interesting perspectives by actual working Dads. They looked at the support available and encouraged parental leave to be taken by dads.

Dr Vijay Roach, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, received a huge applause from the crowd after saying “Be a father and allow men to be fathers, because it’s an opportunity. It’s our right. To parent our children, to feel that love, to make that contribution. Parenting is not just about women, it’s about men too. Society will be better off if we as men are given that opportunity.”

Some key reasons to encourage Dads to take parental leave are:
– Dads do not have as much opportunity to bond with their children and experience the work-life balance squeeze, particularly in the home.
– Women are most likely to take a career break and/or return to work part-time, leading to less opportunity to upskill or get promoted, less pay and less superannuation.
– Organisations miss out on the value that a well-balanced, newly upskilled Dad brings to an organisation, as well as women in leadership positions.
– Children miss out on a true reflection of gender equality due to the long-held beliefs and ideals around women and men’s roles in the home and workplace.

Emma Walsh Founder and Chief Executive Officer Parents at Work wrapped up the discussion by saying “It isn’t just about policy change, it’s about an underground movement from all of us, having these conversations. So the next time you meet a dad who is expecting a baby- ask them WHEN are they taking parental leave. Not IF. When.”

We’d love to hear from you, our She Births® Dads!

  1. Did being prepared and then involved in the birth of your child help you feel more connected to your partner and your child?
  2. Did it he give you a better start to parenthood?
  3. Did it help you be a more connected Dad and enjoy your parental leave more?

Please send us an email as we would love to know x

*As you know at She Births® we support marriage equality and respect the rights of all people regardless of sex, religion, age, gender, ability and lifestyle choice. And we recognise that it’s not always a ‘dad’ that helps mum through birth. Although we have named these awards the ‘Daddy Doula Awards’ please don’t let this discourage you from nominating your birth support partner. Birth is women’s business let’s be honest, so for most blokes it is a big ask to get the courage and the skills up to be actively involved on the day. And for this we say a big THANK YOU!