The woman with the golden vagina

All births are special but some are ground breaking and the women that strive for a different type of care deserve recognition for the work they have done to change the status quo in our maternity system.

T is one of these women. When I first me her through a mutual friend 5 years ago she was 6 months pregnant with her first child. T is clever, passionate and strong. I was dismayed to hear she had a long hard birth ending in a emergency c/s and upset to hear she had been let down by her doula and hadn't received the care she needed. Fast forward 4 years and T and her partner D approached me to talk about having my support as a birth doula for their upcoming VBAC.

Over the past 5 years I have supported other women to plan their births after a c/s. Some women opted for a planned gentle c/s, others went for home birth. All of these women felt dismayed with their lack of choice for a place to birth. There were two options available in our area, consultant led care (for vaginal or c/s) on the Consultant led unit(CLU) with no access to active birth equipment or water pool OR home birth.

Many of these women exclaimed their frustration that because of their high risk status they were denied access to the sparking new MLU (Midwife led unit), which opened in 2016, it boasts birth pools, mood lighting, active birth pads and beanbags and a 10 minute transfer to the CLU. It became a running joke in the Carmarthen positive birth group that only women with 'a golden vagina' got to birth in the MLU. As well as women planning VBAC's, women with high BMI, advanced age and existing medical conditions were also denied access.

The mothers that chose to home birth were frustrated that the narrow choice led them to birth in very rural area with potential transfer times of 40- 90 minutes. Many times I had conversations with Midwifes and Supervisors of Midwives expressing these concerns. In the summer of 2017 with a change of management which brought along positivity about normal birth for ALL women it felt as if the tide was turning.

After several discussions with T about having a home water birth she kept coming back to her real desire which was to birth in the MLU. This was partly to do with the transfer time being around 45 minutes and that there home was down a long woodland track and small so didn't have space for a birth pool. In September at 38 weeks we arranged a meeting with L (the Clinical led Midwife) S (Clinical risk Midwife) and P (T's consultant). We had a lengthy discussion about the risks of VBAC in the MLU including the non avalibility of Continual fetal monitoring, the transfer time and also that T's labour would be expected to progress at 1cm per 2 hours. At Plan was written and it was agreed the T and D were to have their VBAC in the MLU, THE FIRST TIME EVER

It felt momentous to me and I heard a collective sigh of relief from the potential women this would effect in the future. I'd like to recognise T's bravery in this meeting she wasn't put off or wobbled by the detailed explanations of possible risks and there consequences. She remained steadfast in her believe that her body could birth her baby.

I received the call from T on a clear starry October eve. T was 41 plus 2, surges were strong and every 2 minutes. I traveled to their home full of hope knowing this birth had the possibility to be both healing and transformative. T was on her hands and knees in their lounge, I worked with her quietly, massaging her lower back, and holding a hot water bottle on her back. The surges took her full concentration, there was a lovely purple line indicating that dilation had started!

We phoned the MLU and started the process of getting the truck ready, we made a dark quiet nest in the back where T could stay in labour land and I could maintain contact with her. The first part of the journey was a bumpy 15 minute ride through forestry tracks, hanging on for dear life this was extreme doulaing! T walked from the truck to the antenatal ward, they took one look at T and suggested we go straight to the CLU as the MLU wasn't staffed and the Midwives believed birth  was imminent. T's noises hadn't changed to the expelling noises but we went to the CLU to be assessed. This was a disappointment as we hadn't expected this. On assessment T was 3 cm ( I really believe that the journey and being taken to the CLU had closed some of the opening that had happened).

T and D reconciled themselves to being in this room for a while, we were told that T had 4 hours to get to 4cm so we could go the MLU. That seemed really achieveable we made a nest on the floor with with blankets sheets and pillows, pushed the bed to the side and focused on oxytocin promoting activities. At 7 am we had a visit from the E the manager of the MLU who had just come on shift, the pool was filling the MLU was ready when we were- PURE JOY!!

T again astounded me as she walked the 5 minute journey to the MLU through crowded corridors and downstairs. Roaring with each surge she was primal! We got to the MLU and E had set up a lovely space, there was no pressure for vaginal examinations and the babies heartbeat was monitored very discreetly. At 12 co clock after 6 hours of wonderful, powerful, painful total focus taking surges T asked for a VE. Me and D waited for the results quietly (as T didn't want to know straight awy) E held up 9 fingers 9cm ,9cm!!!!!!! T you are fucking amazing!!!!The joy and elation filled the room, we all cried. I felt T an D's doubts dissipate 'Her body works… she CAN birth this baby'

The next few hours T was racked by the strength of her body fully opening and getting ready to meet her baby. The involuntary urges that over take birthing mothers became clearer and clears. T came out of the pool and walked and squatted following her body at first then following instructions from E. Unfortunately T's baby had two non reasurring heartbeat readings and alongside this and the length of the second stage E suggested we transfer to CLU. We were gutted, but it all happened very quickly and T and D were soon prepared for theratre, c/s and assisted delivery were discussed a whirlwind of medical people we could see her babies head, he was so close.

The next part I wasn't there for as our hospital only allows one person in theatre but T said after emotionally she had given up, she was knackered. The Midwife told we afterwards T's baby had been OP (back to back) and has his head tilted to one side, the doctors has used forceps and with T pushing aswell her baby had been born vaginally. Not the gentle MLU VBAC T and D had planned but a MLU labour and a chance at a normal birth.

As with all births that didn't go to plan T has some regrets, that she didn't dig deeper and find the strength to push her baby out herself. My belief is it was more to do with time limits placed on her and I remind her that by working with the Doctor she did birth her baby and just as importantly her choices for MLU birth were important and will be life changing for 1000's of other women.

If you would like to plan a VBAC in Glangwilli MLU (or anyother MLU!) heres some steps you can take to achieve it

  • Read the RCOG VBAC paper

  • Join the VBAC UK fb group for support

  • Attend a local Positive birth meetings

  • Arange a meeting with the clinical lead/ risk mw (some areas have specialist VBAC clinics) as your MW about how to do this

  • Write a birth plan ask for what you want and plan for all eventualities

  • Attend a birth prep class or hynobirthing

  • Hire a doula, evidence shows doulas have a massive effect on reducing the likelihood of you needing a c/s

Here's what T had to say about her experience

We wanted to birth in the MLU as it offers more facilities than our home such as running water, inside toilet, birthing pools and 10 min transfer time. When i was initially assessed it was assumed i would have consultant led care in the CLU, I smiled sweetly and said thats my decision and I'm planning a home birth with possible transfer. We had already met with Staci about this birth which helped by arming us with knowledge of procedure and medical language. I cooperated fully with the consultant but resolutely insisted we didn't want to birth in the CLU unless it was an emergency.

Staci's support was amazing, she is totally non judgmental and very knowledgable but i think she was more surprised than me that they agreed to let me in the MLU! Once we got in the MLU our birth experience totally chilled, the pool, the dim lights, the midwife all eased me immensely. Staci's presence was very gentle, she really empowered us and also made us laugh which is really important. Each time i have dealt with the doctors at my births i have felt disempowered and not listened to. My transfer to the CLU made me feel as though I couldn't do it, they insisted i lie on my back, feet up, they even had the radio on, so insensitive. Staci was a brilliant buffer between me and them.

My husband was dubious about having Staci as our doula as she is my friend and we were let down by a doula friend at our first birth. She supported us all as a family and he really appreciated her efforts and being included in all decisions, she totally won him over! Staci laid out our options clearly and enabled us to take control of our own birth, her input was vital but subtle, and very thoughtful. I can't recommend Staci's doula services enough.

It makes me sad that I had interventions at the end and my recovery was impeded by that but my memories of the labour will always be of being in the pool in the MLU and eating homemade chocolate! To deal with the other stuff, such as surges in the lift and random members of the public staring at me, I just apply a sense of humour!

Jedi Mind Tricks for easier birth

Would you believe me, if I told you that the mind is so powerful, it can increase muscle strength in your body by as much as 13.5% without you having to move your little finger!?

Much to learn you still have!

-Yoda, Star Wars

An exercise psychologist from Ohio, compared people who went to the gym, with people who visualised themselves weight training.

The results?

The people who went to the gym gained 30% in muscle mass, but more interestingly, the group that did nothing but imagine completing the task, gained as much as 13.5% muscle mass.

Actually growing muscle with your mind!

No sci-fi!

from russia with love

This phenomenon came to light during the 1980's winter Olympics.

Russians had been dominating sports for years, leaving other countries (particularly team USA who were arch rivals of the Russian team) scratching their heads and wondering how the heck they were pulling this off!?

It turns out the Russian's were literally winning lying down. Spending a big chunk of their time practicing visualisation, imagining themselves performing their chosen sport successfully.

Seeing it, feeling it, expecting it.

In a study which formally exposed this phenomenon to the world of sports, participants were grouped into 4 categories.

Those who did only physical training, some that did a little visualisation, others doing half and half, and finally participants that combined 75% visualisation, with only 25% actual practice.

Incredibly, the group that had the biggest achievements followed this 75/25 rule. The more visualisation practiced, the better the participants did at their particular sport.

At the time of the study, the Russian's won double the amount of medals at the Olympics than their rivals, team USA. 

"You will find only what you bring in".

- Yoda, Star Wars


visualisation in birth

Could visualisation be the secret Jedi skill that makes the difference between women who love to give birth, and do so easily, and those who do not?

There's certainly a correlation!

Your imagination has probably already switched onto a preferred birth for you and your baby. Or at the very least, you might be aware of the ways in which you DO NOT want to give birth.

The brain is extremely black and white in it's function, it will focus on preparing you for the negative, or indeed the positive, but what it will NOT prepare you for is anything in between.

There are no grey areas in the grey matter. 

Our human brains, although incredibly powerful systems, are also quite straight forward. Whatever you focus on, your brain will come to expect.  Focus on nothing and giving everything up to chance, and that's exactly what it will deliver.

This means that you need to intentionally DECIDE on the outcomes you prefer for your baby's birth.

"Do, or do not, there is no try."

-Yoda, Star Wars

Listening to horror stories, watching difficult births on television and reading about things that have gone wrong for others, can act as a signal to the brain to prepare for the same situation.

Your brain is obsessed with keeping you alive, and as such will get ready to begin survival tactics, namely the fight, flight, freeze response. When you panic, your body responds by diverting oxygenated blood AWAY from the muscles you use during labour. Starving birthing muscles of much needed oxygenated blood is like trying to run marathon in full's just not sustainable, and your body will quickly become fatigued.

Conversely, if you focus on visualising, dreaming, imagining, reading and watching calm, relaxed and controlled birthing experiences, your brain will instruct the rest of your body to expect that this is the reality of birth for you.

Your body will turn the tap on full for the release of happy hormones such as Oxytocin....which just happen to be 200 times more effective at pain relief than morphine!


"In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way"

-Yoda, Star Wars

Any negative thoughts you have about birth are just that, thoughts. Thoughts are easily replaced with new ones. If you simply decide.

Birthing with ease and control IS a reality for so many. However, our survival focused brains respond stronger to horror stories (just look at the front pages to any newspapers). We need to give our brains the alternative perspective, if we are going to replace a lifetime of negative associations to birth being horrific. Your subconscious is ready to be programmed to an alternative channel. It's up to us to flip the switch.

"You must unlearn, what you have learnt"

- Yoda, Star Wars


the birth of your dreams

What are YOUR birthing wishes and dreams. What is it that you truly desire?

Do you feel you have a right to the birth you want?

If the answer is 'Heck, yeah!' then.....


Just 5 minutes of daily visualisation, is all that could be between you and the birth you want.


  • Where do you want to give birth?
  • How long do you want your labour to be?
  • What physical sensations will you experience?
  • Who will be in the room with you?
  • Imagine the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and tactile experiences, and recreate these in your mind.

Set The Scene

Many people will write a birth plan, however I would implore you to write down your birth story - of the birth you want. Be the script writer, story teller, film maker and set the scene.

Note in minute detail what happens for you in your story. A first person account, as if you were writing a fiction novel.

When you're done, read it through at least once a week....and when you get the birth of your dreams, come back at your story and prepare to be shocked at how similar they are!

Are you prepared to unleash the power that visualisation has to offer you.

What do you have to lose?


"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars, to change the world"

- Harriet Tubman




about the author

Christine is an Hypnobirthing Practitioner, Occupational Therapist and Mind-Body connection nut, and is based at Nurture Centre, Carmarthen.
She's a mother of two hypno-babies, born at home overlooking the sea...and wants women everywhere to be able to experience the incredible power of birthing babies with complete control and without fear.
You can find out more about Christine and the courses available at Nurture Centre by clicking here.