Gemma Nealon

Company: Positive Birth Scotland

Owner, Midwife & Therapist

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Diana:

 

I am be joined by the amazing, wonderful Gemma from Positive Birth, and I am actually so excited I've been truly inspired by all these live events that I've been doing. I have been so inspired by the amazing women that I have been talking to doing these lives over the last week or so. We all need positivity in our lives while all this craziness is going on, so it's just like ugh, it's so good to talk to women who are positive, and it's great.

 

Hey, my girl, how you doing?

 

Gemma:                     

 

I'm good. We never met. I'm really pleased to meet you.

 

Diana:                        

 

I – can I tell you, so many of my clients have been to you, have sung your praises. I've got one in particular who I have in the front of my mind who is like, “Oh, my God, she changed my life.”

 

Gemma:                     

 

That's amazing! Thank you.

 

Diana:                        

 

Oh, while I haven't met you in person, there will be copious amounts of gin consumed after all this craziness as a group of all my people who've done the live because I'm finding so many positive businesswomen in Edinburgh and it's just inspiring the [02:06].

 

Gemma:                     

 

Yes, totally. I totally agree, and do you know, it's all about the women running their own businesses. I always say once the money's in the hands of the women, we're helpers, so we're going to change the world.

 

Diana:                        

 

Totally, and it's like – and when we're working – before the pandemic struck, I really felt like I was working away in my own little borough sort of thing, just doing me sort of thing. You get so busy as a business owner and you don't poke your head up out of your hole sort of thing to look around and see what everybody's doing, and it's been so good, this lockdown, seeing and meeting all these amazing women that I've heard so much about from my clients and from afar.

 

Gemma:                     

 

Totally.

 

Diana:                        

 

Hey, girl, you're doing what I like to do. You're [02:56] you're out there living it for the mums. Yay, hi. [03:01]. I'm sorry about all the craziness that we had, misticks.

 

Gemma:                      Don't worry.

 

Diana:                         [03:07] I'm having – I swapped networks, telephone networks, and so many of my text messages have just gone off into the ether so [03:16].

 

Gemma:                      Well, we're here. I'm here, so that [03:18].

 

Diana:                         What I've been doing with all my wonderful women is for my viewers, for people who are listening to this, that sort of thing, is loving to hear about who are you, what do you do, and how did you start doing this? How did you get into this? We all have a very similar story of inspiration, and I find it's so great to hear about how you found this and how you got into it.

 

Gemma:                      That is such a long story.

 

Diana:                         I know! It always is for all of us, isn't it?

 

Gemma:                      I should work on this story.

 

Diana:                         Go for it.

 

Gemma:                      I'm a midwife, and I have created my own science-based hypno-birthing and birthing preparation course.

 

Diana:                         Love it.

 

Gemma:                      I'm also a trauma therapist, so I'm co-founder for Trauma Scotland, so I work with a lot of people with birth trauma or perinatal trauma and from that, that's [04:16] arms and legs because I now treat people from all walks of life with trauma.

 

                                    How did I get here? I actually originally went to art college. Do you know what I studied, Diana?

 

Diana:                         Oh, I'm [04:29].

 

Gemma:                      Photography.

 

Diana:                         So you know your F-stops then, girl.

 

Gemma:                      I've forgotten all of it. I studied photography. I went to art college. I went to Edinburgh College of Art to do generic foundation and I ended up doing photography and whilst I loved going to art college – and it taught me so much. I think a lot of my creative thinking in my business, I'm being able to look at – the box comes from – you'll know exactly what I mean. It's that creativity that being an artist gives you. Whilst I deeply loved it and boy, was it fun, art college, I very quickly knew that wasn't my path. I always had this feeling it was something else. Since I was a teenager, I've spent a lot of time in Asia because my dad lives in Malaysia, so all my summers were spent in Asia. Laterally from my [05:23], I used to go off for six weeks just traveling around southeast Asia by myself, which was crazy when I was so young.

 

                                    Anyway, that led me to this more holistic way of thinking and I studied about meditation. I started training when I was about – I think after my first summer in art college, we'd get these ridiculous three-month holidays, and I'd just go to Asia and started studying Thai massage, different kinds of healings. I then actually became a massage therapist and providing different healing modalities, which was amazing.

                                   

                                    Anyway, I'm going to try to whistle-stop tour this a little bit. Ultimately, that's what I did but there was just this feeling that there was something else. I got pigeon-holed as a pregnancy massage therapist, but there was this disconnect with people coming to me and pregnant. You probably see this because you probably get people looking in pregnancy for their newborn photography thing. Then you see them afterwards and you see how it's gone. People'll be really [06:21] the birth but then they're coming back to you for the postnatal massage, a lot of them traumatized. I was just like what is –

 

Diana:                         [06:28] different woman, isn't it?

 

Gemma:                      Totally, and it made me so sad; what's happening here? I had this real belief that childbirth could be straightforward. I was just like what is happening? What are you doing in there and then coming out [06:42]. That's what made me become a midwife, really. That's what drove and really that's probably what drives what I do now. I became a midwife; then I had my babies. I've been very lucky; I've had two very beautiful home births but also as a midwife, I know things didn't all go to plan. I basically set up – I trained in natal hypnotherapy. I'm an NLP practitioner. I felt [07:05] –

 

Diana:                         I'm an NLP practitioner!

 

Gemma:                      Are you?

 

Diana:                         I'm actually a qualified life coach. I've been through – yeah, I've done all that psychology stuff as well because I [07:13].

 

Gemma:                      Wow, NLP is –

 

Diana:                         You look at everything in a different way. Ah, I love it.

 

Gemma:                      NLP's is like the Matrix, isn't it? You see things in a [07:24]. I would recommend anyone who's watching look into NLP [07:28] NLP. It's totally amazing. Basically from that, I created my own Edinburgh Birth Preparation [Force], and it's really science-based but also bringing in everything I've learned in Asia, using different breathing techniques, and everything like that. That's where I'm at and even my – everything I learned in art college, funnily enough, I bring in that creativity into, I think, what I do. I'm [07:51] learn in Asia and through the mediation, but I'm also real research science-y, so that's where I'm at.

 

Diana:                         [07:57] so many good conversations over gin.

 

Gemma:                      Yeah, amazing, I know. I love this. I love – I've been really aware of you because you've got such an amazing reputation, but our paths have just never really crossed, but I've been aware of you because I know your name and the main work that you do. Then you meet with me and you're like – you've got all these other things as well. That's so cool.

 

Diana:                         It sounds like in a way we've had a very similar journey, which it's been – people – I find that I'm meeting a lot of businesswomen who are supporting our mums, and it's never just a straight journey. It's a – and because of that, we've got loads of diverse experience, and it sounds like what you've got. You've got lots of different ways of looking at the same box we're all looking at and seeing what's different and what's connecting and seeing the whole picture. One thing that I've heard from a lot of my clients that've been to you, that you really see underneath everything, which is fantastic. That's how you got into it. Tell us – if I was a client coming to see you, what are the different practices? What are the terms that you give yourself in which you support people? What's your vehicle?

 

Gemma:                      What do you mean, how do I teach them?

 

Diana:                         Yeah, so your services, how do you define your services?

 

Gemma:                      Yes, so if you're pregnant, probably the main thing – your bread and butter that I want people to come on is my hypno-birthing birthing recreation program which is a really amalgamation of everything that – all my experience because I learned that hypno-birthing for a lot of people I've seen is not enough, actually, and we need really detailed birth preparation. Also it's about – I'm teaching people what to do when the buzzer goes off as well as increase their chance of a natural birth or whatever they want. I use my NLP techniques. I'm using meditation, a lot of psycho-education, understanding the mind/body connection, really teaching my clients life skills about how we can control ourselves and feel calm [10:23] control ourselves because we can't actually –

 

                                    There's two worlds. There's the outer world and there's the inner world. The outer world we can influence. We have [10:31] control of. The inner world, we can actually take utter ownership and [10:39] and a lot of people say when you give birth, you have to let go of control. I don't believe that at all. We need to let go of our expectation of how the birth needs to go but more than ever, we need to understand how to control our inner compass and feel calm and in control. At the fundamentals of it, I'm teaching them tools for the day to come and control but there's lots of the belief change, as well, that needs to happen. You'll know a lot about that from NLP, and going into it, our beliefs about childbirth are palpably fear-based in general in our society and the stories that we say to us about when we give birth and how it can be awful and painful and horrific and all these kind of things basically tend to play out [11:27].

 

Diana:                         Yeah, prophesies, totally.

 

Gemma:                      Totally, and if we're pumped full of adrenaline when we turn – we've not even given birth yet, but we're pumped full of adrenaline  fighting a predator because of what we believe about birth were fed [11:41] outside. We're kind of starting to be choreographed what the new messages are. I do a lot – go into a lot – I'm a neuroscience geek, so we go a lot into neuroscience. I have a lot of clients who are medics, who are scientists, and I am very – there's no fancy language or talking about unicorns coming out of a vagina or anything like that. Funnily enough, that hasn't happened unless it's in jest, but it's very, very scientific and balanced.

 

                                    Actually, do you know what my ulterior motive really is? I mean, it's – I really believe that peace on earth start with birth. If we have traumatized parents – you know. It [12:35].

 

Diana:                         Bad reactions to situations like babies crying, mums going within themselves, husband starts making bad decisions because of those initial reactions. It's a snowball effect. [12:50].

 

Gemma:                      I can only imagine that you're amazing at reading people and you'll come in and just seeing the – you could see one mum whose baby's crying who's totally triggered and traumatized, another one who's really calm and laid back, and so much could have come from –

 

Diana:                         She'll come back hopefully. Good old [13:10].

 

Gemma:                      I'm back.

 

Diana:                         The internet, I tell you, sorry.

 

Gemma:                      I can move rooms. Am I okay?

 

Diana:                         You're okay. You've come back, yes.

 

Gemma:                      Okay, I really believe it all starts with birth and if every single mother and partner could feel really powered and calm and in control and even – it changes – our belief changes everybody's [13:34] mother. Do I feel like a failure because of how I give birth? Do I feel proud and empowered? Do I feel in tune with my instinct, or am I doubting myself? Sometimes you go on Google all the time or whatever. I really think it all starts with birth.

 

                                    My ulterior motive is really to create world peace but also a lot of the tools to use them in motherhood and life in general. Funnily enough, it's just – everything I learned, meditating in temples in [14:00] it's all of the things. They're actually life tools, so a lot of my studying – the same way you've done NLP, I – a lot of things that I put in my course aren't just from the birth world. It's [14:12].

 

Diana:                         It's so true. If you've got a mum who feels out of control in her birth – and especially in that time that we're going through, I'm seeing a massive rise in anxiety, through the roof. I can see it a million miles away. It's like I – if you've got a mum who's very anxious, unsure, unconfident in her ability, she's going to be tensing like crazy and the oxytocin is not going to be able to flow. When we see a woman who's given natural birth and the oxytocin fix – it can make you feel drunk, and so it's all there but it doesn't come if you're so tight. If you're coming back with a traumatic experience from birth, you wonder where that disconnect between mum and baby comes in. It starts right from the get-go. You're not going to touch something that makes you hurt sort of thing or brings you stress. It's like, taking that breath and relaxing into it and being mindful.

 

                                    We spoke about this the other day with – on another live where it's like being in tune with yourself. I just love everything you're saying. You're so on my wavelength and I love it. I usually ask my people on my lives if I – if you were speaking to me as a mum who was pregnant, a new mum to be, what are the three hot tips that you would give me to help me make this a better experience than what it probably would've been?

 

Gemma:                      I would say to really understand and value how important this day is and that you need to actually take responsibility and put the work in and truly invest time and money actually in this really important day in the same way that you do a wedding day. This day will stay with you forever. That's why I – through my work with Birth Trauma Scotland, I treat people with birth trauma 20 years later, and it reached their whole life. This day is so, so important. Reading a book or doing a quick course online is not enough, I find in general. That's why I don't just teach hypno-birthing. There's birth preparation. As part of what I do, you get to attend birth [16:47] classes. You get a big manual which I've just printed. I've worked on it for two years; it's like the Bible of birth.

 

                                    I find there's not enough. You wouldn't sign up for a marathon and just turn up on the day and hope for the best. You would train, so my first bit is prepare for it like you would a marathon or your wedding day. Really, really prioritize your birth and say to yourself, what kind of birth do I want? How do I want to feel? What actions am I taking every day to make that happen? Really think about what I'm consuming. Am I consuming “One Born Every Minute” and all these horror stories or what am I actually doing? My first bit would be to really take action and really value your birth.

 

                                    The second thing within that, you need really, really powerful tools to help you let go of your fear and to let calm drench over. You have to have that because the most dangerous thing that can happen in childbirth is for you to be scared. That actually [17:53] complications because you're going to be flooded full of adrenaline and let's face it:  what mammal is going to birth their babies while being hunted by a lion? She's going to suck the baby up, stop the whole process.

 

Diana:                         That is [18:07]. That is a thing to have a woman basically hold on to the baby.

 

Gemma:                      It happens all the time. Contractions start. Before you know it, you're on oxytocin drip because your contractions went wide. Lots of people feel – we have this awful term, failure to progress. That's a whole different conversation, but we feel like it's our bodies. I work with a lot of people through birth trauma. You feel like their bodies have let them down. I'm like no, your body tried to keep you safe. Your body – you were not loved, supported, and cared for, and you didn't feel safe enough to birth your baby. Your body was protecting yourself.

 

                                    The thing is that as humans, we can have imagined fear. You want to make sure that you've reduced your fear in pregnancy and got amazing tools to stay calm. I think prepare; make sure you have got rid of all your fear and dug deep. You're really honest what you're freaking out about, because that will come and bite you at your darkest hour. Know that you've got tools to stay calm and controlled.

 

                                    Last but not least, I would say have a really good support team around you. Take the pressure off you; it's not just about you. You need a birth partner who is on board. My workshops are probably quite different because if I was going to train anyone, I'd train the birth partners actually because I really [19:21] –

 

Diana:                         [19:21] women.

 

Gemma:                      We're doing enough work. We're bloody well birthing a baby out our vagina. [19:33] could be doing that relaxing and breathing in the corner. Our birth partners need to be creating the right environment, keeping away the adrenaline, being our gatekeeper. They also need to know how to regulate our calm. They need to be calm and in control themselves. I teach birthing and breathing techniques to the birth partner because I know that if our surroundings, everyone around us – nonverbal communication is [19:58] communication, and if they're all stressed themselves, the message to us who are birthing is they need – if we've seen a predator, they become a predator, too. I better stop birthing, so really get your support team, making sure your birth partner is invested. It's okay if your birth partner – if your birth partner's not the right person, get someone else.

 

Diana:                         Oh, my God, I totally agree with you! My husband, whenever he's worried, he rubs. He'll just rub us. I'm so glad I had a C-section because he would've rubbed me to death.

 

Gemma:                      [20:33] rubbed away your [20:35].

 

Diana:                         Oh, my God, and it's like, if I had – was going to do a natural birth, it would've been investing in his training on how to support me to make this happen. I do, on my BubHub part of my website, a section there where I actually talk to the dads about earning bonus points. It's things like [20:55] –

 

Gemma:                      Oh, I love that.

 

Diana:                         The last four weeks of mum's pregnancy, you need to cuddle the heck out of her. Love her up. Get that oxytocin going because that's to relax her, and as oxytocin is already in her body, it's going to help the relaxing come in and have for a calmer birth. I love that tip of getting the dads involved –

 

Gemma:                      Bring in the dads.

 

Diana:                         – and invested in the day just as much as you are as the woman because you are not – you shouldn't have to do this on your own. Also, let's be frank:  sometimes they're not the best birthing partners, and that's okay.

 

Gemma:                      That is okay.

 

Diana:                         That's okay. It might be our girlfriends, our mums [21:42].

 

Gemma:                      Yeah, totally.

 

Diana:                         It's whatever gets you safely, happy, content and that baby health, happy, and content into the world. I love this.

 

Gemma:                      Do you know what's the most important? There are many environmental factors that I share in my workshop that we need to get perfect, but do you know the most important one is to feel loved, completely, deeply loved and cared for.

 

Diana:                         [22:06] love.

 

Gemma:                      Love, because if you feel loved –

 

Diana:                         [22:12] just a myth.

 

Gemma:                      [22:15] because then we're producing oxytocin and endorphins. The environment we need to give birth is the environment that we fall asleep in, that we make love in, that we do all these calm and relaxed things and ultimately we feel loved. We feel safe.

 

Diana:                         Exactly. God [22:32].

 

Gemma:                      I love that you do that. You should come on my page and give the dads some hot tips. I love that.

 

Diana:                         Oh, I've got really cheeky ones, too.

 

Gemma:                      I always, at the end of my workshop, we go through – at the end, we basically go through and the birth partners write all the things that they know now how to support the mums, and the mums write a list of all the things they want [22:55] and I always add on, buy a push present.

 

Diana:                         Thank you! [23:01] –

 

Gemma:                      Diana, [23:03].

 

Diana:                         Yeah, it could be I'm buying you a massage so when baby's ten weeks old, you're going to go have a massage.

 

Gemma:                      Totally.

 

Diana:                         It's the little things. It's like, I really love talking to my mums when they're pregnant. Secretly, that's why I get my clients in for a maternity session at 35 weeks and to say bring along dad because I want to help set you up for the best birth that I possibly can and guide you towards. It's like, you're so right about investing in this – that day as much as you would, say, your wedding or something like that. It's like, get a Douala Get somebody that's going to support you that nine months. Get the yoga. Get the hypno-birthing going. Hypno-birthing, I've heard so many women say it's changed their lives. It's so much better, what I've seen, and I'd love to hear your take on this as well. If you are one of those people who have meditated before getting pregnant, you have that [24:08] control or that [24:10] mental activity. Hypno-birthing works so much better for women who have had that mental discipline beforehand.

 

                                    Women who think they can just tune into it or listen to one tape the week before birth or something like that, it's not going to – it still makes an impact; don't get me wrong. It still makes an impact, but man oh, man, if you could ten-x that, if you could [24:38] and imagine just how much more you could've gotten from that.

 

Gemma:                      It's just like training for the marathon. Doing any training's going to be better than none, and I think that comes back to my first point. That really saddens me is I see people saying oh, I hate the [24:56] course, it's too expensive, but then spending a thousand pounds on a pram, and I think that's not their fault. We have a society that doesn't value that. For example, for me, Diana, do you know what I regret? I regret not getting a newborn photo shoot. I didn't do it.

 

Diana:                         Oh, my [25:12] I hear that.

 

Gemma:                      No, it really does. I didn't value it enough at that time and now it actually saddens me when I see your photographs. I'm like I don't have them of my baby. People, please, book in and prioritize it because your babies are only – and it's the same thing. It's like, this time is too, too important and you're not going to, in 20 years, look back and go all right, I really regret not getting the latest version of the pram, but you are going to regret not having those pictures of your baby. You are going to regret not investing in your birth. What are you going to show me?

 

Diana:                         [25:59]. Can I tell you, she turns blooming nine this Sunday, nine years old. I look at this and I'm like oh, God, she used to [26:11].

 

Gemma:                      Me looking at that makes me feel sad because I'm like, I wouldn't have that. Also, the other thing is partners, particularly if your partner's male, they're really rubbish. This is a whole – at taking photographs.

 

Diana:                         They're all rubbish.

 

Gemma:                      I'm not with my parents – my children's dad anymore. However, if you look back, it looked like they didn't have a mother and it's this beautiful documentary about him as a father and what [26:41]. There's none of me. [26:45] Diana can do it for ebooks. She'll do it for you. It makes me sad when I see that picture in a way. I haven't had that picture. It all goes back to what we value and what we don't. I really do think that I – a newborn shoot or also, I love the fact that you do maternity shoots because again, what's that's doing is it's giving the message that pregnancy and gestation is sacred and it should be something – it's making her feel special, as she should do, and that's setting the tone for how it should be. It's acknowledged and it's being acknowledged as if it's a rite of passage and doing something like having a photo shoot in pregnancy is making it like a rite of passage.

 

                                    I think what we're both saying here is actually – it sounds really bad but if you're able, throw money at it. I know how [27:33] to chiropractor. I'll just get my pelvis checked. I was going to yoga. I was doing all of these things. I didn't do photography, which I really regret. I literally invest in it because I got the secondhand pram, got a secondhand slings, because that wasn't as important to me. I can think of one mum. She's actually due [27:52], and she didn't have that much money. She was like, “We're getting secondhand everything. We're not spending any money, and all I want to do is spend money on my birth because it's the most important thing. I'll remember it forever.”

 

Diana:                         Absolutely, it's like, I – when somebody comes and has a photo with me, if they have – if their baby screams the entire time, poops all over everything, and it wasn't a nice experience, then every time they look at that image, they're going to think of that experience. Every time somebody comes into their house and goes, “Aw, that's a beautiful baby,” that mum is going to turn around and go, “Yeah, but he screamed the whole blooming way through and shat all over the place.” It's not going to be that positive experience. The experience is so important to me and like you say, that rite of passage. I have so many mums say to me, “I don't feel pretty,” when we're talking about maternity sessions. I'm like, because everybody's conditioned in this society to think of their pregnancy body as one person - “Oh, I don't look pretty,” rather than, “How great is my baby? I'm here with my baby.” Imagine if – I had a wonderful birth experience, and I can't – when I hear mums talk about – I hate to say it – almost the butchery that happens and the negative experience that they have, I'm just like, it breaks my heart. One of the most important days in my life that I brought the most amazing human being I know – I'm biased because she's mine – into this world who every day just astonished me. I couldn't imagine starting that relationship in a negative way.

 

Gemma:                      And sadly, Diana, one in three women leave hospital traumatized. That is not acceptable. That is not because childbirth is dangerous and horrific. It's because let's be honest:  all the fear in our system actually is very hard to navigate. That's why you don't want to be that one in three. It's not your fault if you are but sadly, that's the level – I do a whole package because I know the [30:39] I was ready for everything so that I wasn't in that statistic, and it makes me so sad, the effects. I'm sure you see it because you work with people – you see people post-natally, and it affects them for the rest of their life til the day they die. You remember your birth.

 

Diana:                         Rest of your life, and it's like, you want to look back at that experience. Sure, pain, but in a positive way, you want to look back at it as a joyful occasion. There is a lot of work leading up to it, and I love businesses like you. You have made such a difference to so many of my clients who needed help on the other side but also who started with you beforehand and have gone through that whole life cycle because with you, they felt supported and cradled through the whole process. I think you really hit it on the nail of the head with the tips, which is investing in that day as much as you would for, say, a wedding or something like that. Like you say, you're never going to remember the pram that you had. Who gives a damn? You're going to sell it eventually. There's a few things you'll keep like your favorite outfit that they grew out of or something like that, but there's very little possessions or the functional things that you need as a mother that you're going to treasure. You're going to treasure the memories and the things that help you remember way, way more than some nappy bag. Who cares?

 

Diana:                         You know, from working with birth trauma every week and photographs are – I mean, I know this because my background, as you know, is in photography, which is so cool that we've both got an NLP background. Those photographs, they're really important from a trauma point of view. If they're not there, it's very hard for people to say those first photographs, either they weren't taken or I remember – like you said when you see that photograph, how unhappy I was and I think the ritual actually of taking those photographs, therefore particularly after a traumatic birth, and going yourself and honoring it in those newborn pictures is actually really healing.

 

Diana:                         Oh, God, yeah. I've had so many [33:10] text me at 2 in the morning, and it's been two years after I photographed their babies saying, “We've had a pretty tough day today, and I'm sitting here at 2 in the morning feeding, as you do, and I'm looking back at these – I'm looking at the picture on my wall and that picture today helped me get through today.”

 

Gemma:                      I don't doubt it.

 

Diana:                         When I wake up to those messages in the morning, it's like, oh, my God, that's so [33:44].

 

Gemma:                      Diana, it's like you're not just a – what you're doing is so much more than that visual thing. I really see the value in the rite of passage of it and honoring it and remembering it and the sacredness and all of that and then when – the birth preparation is so much more and so far-reaching. We have a society that says as well a healthy baby's all that matters, which isn't true. That message makes us feel like –