Many people hear the words holistic parenting and think of glowing, impossibly healthy families who are far stricter with their choices than they are with their kids. I want to challenge this perception. For me, holistic parenting is literally about raising your children with careful consideration to their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. It is also about making the best choices that you can possibly make without getting hung up on the things that you can’t manage. Don’t aim for perfection, I’ll tell you now that it doesn’t exist. Instead, aim to be the best that you can be.
Nowadays with social media forming such an integral part of our culture, everyone seems intent on projecting their best side. Ultimately, many women are feeling overwhelmed with motherhood, simply because everyone else seems to be making it look so easy. Sam and I didn’t write The Natural Baby because we are perfect and flawless examples of motherhood, we wrote it because we are passionate about helping other mothers tackle the difficulties in an intuitive way. We found natural methods and complementary therapies to be hugely beneficial when raising our own children and coping with our pregnancies and wanted to share some of our little tips with others. We wanted to share stories, insight and experience and to cheer other parents on from the sidelines as they embark on one of the most exciting journeys possible. We are both so enthusiastic and passionate about natural birth, holistic parenting and complementary therapy that it has formed the basis of our professional lives as well as helping us through our own parenting journeys.
So, before I go any further I’d like to let you in on a few home truths. I can humbly admit that I have contributed to the vast number of nappies in landfill. When my daughter, Jasmine, was born we couldn’t afford to buy reusable nappies and wraps and we were living in a very tiny flat with no means of drying them. It was a choice I made, something had to give. Although next time, I fully intend on using washable nappies. It’ll be much more manageable now that I’m living in a house with plenty of drying room (and a tumble dryer) and have more financial stability as well as a supportive husband to help out with the chores. Instead of washing nappies I spent my time breastfeeding, puréeing vegetables and interacting with my child. I don’t regret making that choice. I also stopped breastfeeding at four months when the mastitis made me seriously ill (I wish I had known Sam back then to help me out with some home remedies!). I took to breastfeeding without any help or support and enjoyed it immensely, I knew it was the best possible start for my daughter but I also knew when it was time to stop and knew not to beat myself up about not being able to continue. I also knew that I was fortunate to have those few months of being able to feed her myself, as many women are unable to feed their own babies.
Now this may seem like a peculiar way to introduce myself as the author of a book on natural parenting, but it feels so important to me that I reassure and encourage you. You need to know right now that there is no perfect parent and that striving for false unreachable ideals will purely make you feel exhausted, inadequate and ultimately lousy as you admit defeat.
I’m not here to tell you what to do but more to guide, encourage and share with you the insight, knowledge and experience that I have picked up along the way.
As for my parenting journey and how I came to not only use the holistic approach through pregnancy and the baby years but also professionally. Here is my story:
When I was a child I was raised in a house where lavender oil was used to treat headaches, Arnica cream was used for burns and once in France when I had an ear infection so bad that it pushed me over the edge of delirium, my parents managed to find a homeopathic pharmacy and used Belladonna to treat it. Yes, my parents were products of the swinging sixties and remain proud hippies to this day.
I picked up a few yoga poses and the basic concept of meditation on a yoga retreat at the age of nine where my Dad was performing as a musician. By the time I had reached high school my Mum’s yoga books had migrated to the well-stocked bookshelves in my room.
Aromatherapy got me through exam stress, Bach Flower Remedies were administered for my driving test and I was sent off to University with my very own bottle of that magical calming liquid. In fact, a glossy book with full colour pictures on Kundalini yoga was one of my very first purchases with my student loan and I’ll never forget the look on the University nurse’s face when I told her I didn’t drink, didn’t smoke and practised yoga for an hour a day. (Though I’m afraid that this saintly level of healthiness did eventually slip!)
When I became pregnant at 19, there was no question that I would do anything but what was best for my child. That meant leaving my University degree despite protests from my lecturers, it also meant moving 600 miles away so I could be back near my family again, as well as re-evaluating what I ate and considering that unborn child before everything else. Eating properly seemed logically simple, as did stopping caffeine and of course alcohol. I had been practising yoga before I got pregnant and was overjoyed to discover there was a local class for expectant mothers. I was looking for a way to keep my body supple and flexible through pregnancy and was hoping for some benefits for the birth too. I didn’t expect what actually happened. I met a group of remarkable women and their partners, one particular couple have become lifelong friends. I also met our inspirational teacher, Marilyn, who taught us all about natural birthing techniques. My labour was under six hours, I had no pain relief, not even gas and air and each moment was blissfully joyous. Jasmine was almost 8lbs 13 when she was born, so it wasn’t even as if she was a little one!
I gave birth on my hands and knees and followed my instincts to guide me through the whole birthing process. My midwife was amazed and begged me to tell her what my secret was. She had never known such a speedy and uncomplicated first birth. I put it down to all the preparation and healthy choices I had made and educating myself in the ways of natural birthing and holistic pregnancy choices. I read, I listened, I absorbed everything and with professionals such as Marilyn to guide me, I was soon equipped with the right knowledge and insight to see me smoothly through an utterly exhilarating birthing experience.
I knew that I wanted to encourage and support other women in achieving the birth that they hoped for. I considered midwifery and becoming a doula, but realised that with my own daughter it would be hard to work such unpredictable hours. I became a single mother before my daughter was two.
When my daughter was old enough to attend nursery, I went back to college and studied a number of complementary therapies. Eventually, setting up my own massage therapy business and working with private clients as well as residents in old people’s homes and young people with learning difficulties. The work was incredibly rewarding. I have also practised massage therapy backstage at a few live rock concerts with some household names, which didn’t have the same level of job satisfaction somehow.
Eventually, I trained in pregnancy massage and went on to teach classes for pregnant women in children’s centres; my classes covered yoga, breathing exercises, relaxation and birthing techniques. It felt so right. Finally, I was able to pass on my knowledge and share my passion. Unfortunately, debilitating migraines meant that I couldn’t commit to the regular hours and had to give it up. While I was sorting my health out I wrote a few articles for magazines on natural pregnancy, parenting and health. Before I knew it I was writing for all sorts of publications and still enjoying the freedom of being around for my daughter. Writing has been the biggest part of who I am since I was very young, so carving a career from it was a dream come true. Although my profession shifted from being a complementary health practitioner to being a writer, my passion for massage, yoga, healthy eating and empowering women on their birthing journeys has never faltered.
When Sam approached me to help her write a book on holistic parenting I was overjoyed. I feel like I have such a lot to contribute. Like I said before, I’m by no means a perfect parent, but I am a passionate one and I really think that makes all the difference.
This was taken from my book ‘The Natural Book: A gentle guide to conception, pregnancy, birth & beyond‘ which was co-authored by Samantha Quinn of Mumma Love Organics and was published by Green Books in February 2017.
Freelance writer, author and poet