Mama’s Instinct: on being a holistic pregnancy coach

After being told by teachers that she was lazy and stupid (she was dyslexic) Bex Hough went on to complete a master’s in education. She is now working as a holistic pregnancy coach. She discusses work, and her secret fear of failing as a parent…

Bex Hough, 36, is a holistic pregnancy coach and early years expert based in Kent, Medway and London. She’s the founder of Mama’s Instinct, which aims to empower women on their maternal journeys, with courses to support the entire family. She lives with her partner Lee and their children: Louis, nearly three, Vincent (Vinnie) 16 months.

“I’ve been working with families and children from the age of eight years old. I used to work with my mum, who was a nursery assistant, in the holidays when she was covering holiday or staff sickness so I got a lot of life experience early on; I was also the eldest of three children.

I later qualified and became a nursery practitioner and then crèche manager. I then moved into training staff. And in 2011, I relocated back to Kent after taking redundancy and this is where I worked more intensely with families as a nanny whilst completing my Master’s. I worked with foster careers, provided consultancy for parents under a number of topics including attachment, ASD and Forest School training.

In 2013, I became pregnant with my first child and at 33; this baby was very much loved and long awaited. I had put my career first and developed a strong foundation by getting the qualifications I wanted so that I could be the best mama possible to my child.

I knew I wanted a home birth and also believed birth to be very natural and not needing to be medically driven. Our ancestors have done this for about 500,000 years and we would not be here if it was something that threatened our existence.

On holistic pregnancy

I started looking into hypnobirthing and eventually chose Dany Griffiths – the creative director and co-founder of The Wise Hippo – to help with my birth. Dany understood my learning requirement and also changed the delivery method to suit my learning style.

Training to be a holistic pregnancy coach

I qualified with my master’s in education four weeks before my son was born, and it seemed right to go sideways and start to work with parent antenatal. So, in June 2014, when my son was just eight months old, I trained to be a Wise Hippo Instructor. I also trained to be a breastfeeding peer supporter at the same time.

While working with my case study couple, I discovered I was expecting my second child. This was just magical and I continued to share my journey alongside other pregnant clients. I had my second child in April 2015 and continued to work with private clients.

All my life experience and skills to date have made this such an easy, natural transition. I attract educated mothers-to-be who have chosen to have children in their late 20s to late 40s. It’s a very conscious decision and like myself, they want the best for themselves, partner, baby and pregnancy.

On being dyslexic

My resilience is one of my strongest dispositions and what makes me so in tune with my emotional intelligence. I was told I would never obtain a level three qualification and my secondary school teachers called me ‘thick’, ‘lazy’ and ‘stupid’. I was one of the smallest children in my peer group and was bullied for not developing physically through puberty as the others had in my year. This only made me stronger and more determined.

I got four Ds, three Es and an F in my GCSEs and should not have gotten a place on the Level 3 BTEC National Diploma in Childhood Studies, but they put me on a six week trial and I shone over and above the A* GCSE students. I had a natural talent, life experience and the ability to work and understand the misunderstood, small people. I got ‘outstanding’ placement reports.

I was lucky that college was the making of me. I studied and did my HNC, HND and degree the hard way whilst working, but this meant I could apply the study to real life and reflect along the way.

I think my dyslexia has made me a control freak in some ways but in a good way, and the Wise Hippo has helped me to accept the things that I cannot change. As a mother, life is not easy and I have to accept I do my best and to be gentle on myself as it’s totally different to being a loving nanny.

I do worry that clients will see grammatical errors in my emails, website and written communications as my clients have been teachers, university lecturers, doctors, solicitors, accountants and midwives but I honestly know they are attracted to me for my personality and my ‘lioness, take no prisoners, kind and caring’ approach to life.

I absolutely love the role I have carved out for myself. After working with clients, I leave on the biggest high. When working with babies and mothers in the different ways that I do, the love and happiness is catching. Mums produce more oxytocin by being around other mums, eating cake and sharing motherhood. You can even smell the oxytocin in the air.

As a consultant, I will go into nurseries, family homes, look at the holistic picture, listen to what is going on, observe and problem solve, suggest solutions and even make a tailor made training programme and action plan if it is required.

As a pregnancy coach, I will work with the family unit to work out what is best for them and also focus on what they feel is important. I always signpost evidence based research and other professionals if a circumstance is outside of my expertise.

My family life

My partner, Lee, is a stay at home dad. He works as a private tutor a few hours a week and has other hobbies, but he loves spending time with his boys which is great as these are the crucial years (the brain does the most developmentally in the first five years of life).

I also still breastfeed, so my work hours fit in and around family life and developing my business. We really do have the best of both worlds. I have always had the higher earning potential so it does not make sense to follow the traditional western roles as that does not work for our family unit.

For a positive pregnancy and birth experience…

It’s crucial that the mother can say that she was fully informed and able to make decisions that were right for her and her family on the day. That the medical professionals respect their wishes and that the birth partners can support and provide what is felt necessary in labour to keep the mama feeling safe, secure and happy in pregnancy, birth and beyond.

Your mind creates your world so mind-set is so important in the preparation, no matter how many children you may have already. Feeling empowered to make choices and listened to by everyone working with the family is vital.

No matter what stage you are in your journey, having tools to prepare emotionally, physically and physiologically is so important. It’s really not about the belongings and material possessions; a baby does not really need much more than love and affection, food and drink, shelter and to feel safe and secure. Invest in your future and your tools for life to help you tackle anything thrown at you, so you are calm, relaxed, confident and feel in control.

The couples (first, second, third time parents) grow so much through the birthing programme and their birth outcome improves by 100% with 100% of couples reporting that they had the right birth on the day because of the tools they had been taught. They had done other antenatal programmes before which did not help them in labour, so they completed The Wise Hippo programme to be more emotionally prepared also.

I attract first time couples who wish to start as early as possible so that they can practice and become unconsciously competent at using the tools and techniques, so that ‘they don’t know that they know’, it just seems easy and this then applies to their pregnancy journey, birth and parenthood.

Dany Griffiths, co-founder of the Wise Hippo, says: “Confident parents raise confident children”. As a successful adult with a successful career, many of my clients are looking for solutions so that they can problem solve and understand the new role that they are going into. That way, they can be successful parents.

I will let you into a secret, I have a natural born ability to raise children, care and educate them and have done so in many situations and this has led to me having an amazing successful career that has got me to where I am today. But my biggest fear was being unsuccessful as a parent and not being able to understand my children or even worse, my children not loving or respecting me and the choices I had made for them. I did not want to fail as a parent. I did not want to produce damaged children because of the choices I made.

In my career, I was always given the children who were misunderstood due to behaviour problems or being more demanding of time or energy. The children with parents who seemed anxious and had very high expectations were perceived to be hard work. I used to listen and understand, be firm but fair and give the upmost respectful to the child and parent.

It was not until I became a parent I fully understood why some of the mothers seemed traumatised that they were leaving their three-month-old babies after a maternity experience that left them feeling like powerless failures, that birth just ‘happened’ and they just got what life gave them.

These were highly skilled professionals who were successful in their jobs, could afford the full-time private day nursery fees and returned to work early, as they could not cope with not being successful. They felt more in control at work knowing their children were being cared for by professionals who loved and cared for their children like a second mother.

In 1999, when I was working in a nursery, which on a daily would have 21 babies aged between 3-12 months, I learnt the biggest lessons in life. How to listen to babies and communicate with them, as they did not have language and were 100% reliant on how we responded to their cries, giggles, body language and development. This was the most humbling experience, as these parents implicitly trusted me to care, nurture and love their children so that they would grow and flourish in their absence.”