Set within rural Gloucestershire, by the jewel of Cotswolds (Penwick) lies Sheepscombe. Within Sheepscombe, lies a gorgeous little cottage called Forest View. It was there I stayed for a 48 hour retreat. It was there I found some peace.
Living in London, it's hard to switch off. Having said that, I don't think that was the main reason why I booked the retreat though. What i wanted was a little holiday, a babymoon, whilst I'm big and bumpy. During my first pregnancy my husband and I went to Paris. This was disastrous as a) the patisseries were shut on Sunday and b) there was just far too much walking involved. I suffered from pelvic girdle pain during both pregnancies, so I'm not a big fan of a lot of walking (especially with someone who's used to marching and is a whole foot taller than me). For this pregnancy, I wanted to just get away, with minimal activities and with great pregnancy friendly food. Well, this ticked all the boxes.
Eliza was the main source of contact. She emailed through a questionnaire and dealt with all queries suitably. Payment was completed via bank transfer and the tone of the emails were friendly yet professional. I have to admit that prior to arriving there, I didn't know what the retreat would be like... Having said that, it was in keeping with my views on birth, but I know some of my friends may have been less comfortable.
I arrived at Stroud and was greeted by Heather. Heather is Eliza's mother in law, and they run the retreat together. Heather has been involved in childbirth for many years, having had 6 children and being an NCT teacher for many years. I think she was also a midwife for some time (although now I'm not 100percent sure). Heather put my luggage in her car boot and zipped us to Sheepscombe, which was 10-15 minutes away. Being a Londoner, I absolutely love the English countryside and was gazing in wonder at the teeny tiny villages and sprawling green valleys. Heather was a great guide and pointed out lots of things on the way.
I ws the first of the 3 guests to arrive, so I sat in the gorgeous living room and waited with a cup of tea. When the other 2 guests arrived, we made our introductions.
You're well aware that you will be spending the next 48 hours with these ladies, so you make sure you say are slightly guarded at first. We soon loosened up, and we were talking about quite intimate details, things you may not even discuss with your friends after many years. The dynamics were great as we were such a mix: different backgrounds, different experiences and different personalities. We had a first, second and third time mum, which I think was great. I don't think I would have enjoyed being at a retreat with just first time Mothers (as a second time mother) as the worries you have are so different.
The retreat was essentially a mix of hypnosis, activities (walk, massage and yoga) and great food. Like, mind-blowing great food suitable for pregnancy.
I know a lot of you will see this, and think: "woah, not that third age nonsense". Maybe it is. I don't know. Just so you know, I'm not an anti vaxxer and I don't really believe in homeopathy (judgement still out on arnica). What i take from hypnosis, and how Heather describes it (she reads from some text with background music, her voice is sooo soothing) is we are reaching in to relax, and throw away your worries.
It's like a calm bare necessities (Heather didn't say that, that's me) . Without any singing.
I opened my mind and allowed myself to listen to the cues. My body relaxed. I inhaled when she said to inhale, and exhaled when she told me to exhale (to start us off). During my first session, I'm fairly sure I drifted off. During the second session, I couldn't quite drift off as I was distracted by a child (the cook's child was brought in throughout the day so she could nurse him). During the final session I really entered the zone too. When you enter the zone, you really realise how much tension and stress you hold onto in normal life. What I also noticed was that my baby always kicked at the beginning of hypnosis. Maybe it's from the extra oxygen I'm breathing in, or from the relaxed state. I'm going yo take it as a good sign though, that my body is actually reacting to the hypnosis.
As all three of us had pelvic girdle pain, we were in good company as we knew we could set the pace for a nice slow walk. It was a bit embarassing to be overtaken by an 80 year old, but I think Heather is just astonishingly fit, and hats off to her. We left the cottage, walked through Sheepscombe primary school (a teeny school with just 2 classes), up through a small patch of woods and onwards to the Laurie Lee cricket ground. The view here was phenomenonal, and we could see the lush green valley from the e peak. At the cricket ground, we stopped off for a quick snack. Heather had brought a thermos of fresh homemade juice with over 7 types of fruit and veg in as well as hot water if any of us fancied some tea. They also had an amazing spelt peach scone that the cook (I'm so sorry I can't remember her name, but I love her cooking) had made for us, and it was still warm as it was unwrapped from the tea towel. It felt gloriously rustic, and much nicer than the usual tupperware /plastic forest we seem to have with our normal picnics.
After our quick snack, Eliza brought out a book. It was "Cider with rosie" by Laurie Lee; he had written it based on his childhood in that area, so it was very apt. She read out a passage where Laurie Lee describes sleeping in bed with his mother and how glorious that was. It was really moving.
After that, we skirted down Sheepscombe Woods. Much as I love Hampstead heath, the Heath doesn't compare as 2e didn't see anyone else the entire time. It's such a magical place. We also saw lots of bluebell bulbs (or whatever they're called, when bluebells have finished opening up). I could imagine in my mind how stunning thr place would be with a sea of purple, and that made it even more calming. When we entered the woods, Eliza suggested that we walked through in silence so we could have some time to contemplate. I was a bit cheeky and kept taking photos instead of contemplating, but that didn't detract from the experience for me.