A midwife who launched two online courses to help prepare mums-to-be for childbirth ended up supporting thousands of women worldwide when the pandemic hit – with some of her videos being viewed up to a million times.
Remembering how daunted she felt when she had her first baby at 19, mum-of-four Beth Kitt, 32, launched two affordable online courses for prospective mums – one preparing them for the birth and the second helping them through the first six months to the point of considering weaning.
But when Beth, of Longlevens, Gloucestershire, who still works flexible hours for the NHS, launched The Bump to Baby Chapter (TBTBC) in 2019, charging £34 for each course, she had no idea a global pandemic would soon follow and cause her business to boom.
Beth, who lives with her children, Ayva 12, Oscar, 10, Nancy, five, and Delphi, two, and her salesman partner Rob Holden, 30, said: “I’ve now helped more than 10,000 women across the globe to find the support and guidance they needed when they were having a baby.
“There was little or no other support for them because of the pandemic.”
Always insisting her courses should be affordable to make them accessible to everyone, Beth identifies hugely with mums-to-be who are worried about what lies ahead.
She said: “I was a young mum myself.
“I was 19 when I had Avya and I remember shopping in Gloucester with my mum and getting upset. I thought everyone was staring at me because they knew I knew nothing about having a baby.
“So, my two courses tell you everything I wish I had known back then.”
She added: “The course that prepares you for the birth helps to stack the odds in your favour, because if you have a more realistic idea of what to expect, the less things that may happen will surprise or scare you.”
Knowing from her experience as a midwife how fear and adrenaline can slow the birthing process down and make it more traumatic, she designed the first course to make things less scary.
It includes techniques to help mums stay calm through labour and includes lots of advice about pain relief.
Then, the second course addresses the ‘New You’ mums becomes once the baby has arrived.
Covering everything from dealing with colic to physiotherapy for mums who had a vaginal birth, it includes advice from a clinical psychologist to help women cope with the transition to being a mother and post-natal depression if and when it occurs.
Beth said: “Not everyone can get to ante natal classes.”
She added: “Also, for some mums-to-be, just the thought of joining a new group makes them feel anxious.
“These are both reasons why I launched the online courses.
“Then the pandemic meant pregnant women were told to stay at home, so all the classes which can offer support were cancelled and, for some women, the number of appointments with their community midwives were cut back, too.”
So, Beth’s online classes soon came into their own, offering a place where women all over the world could find the support and guidance they needed from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
She even allowed her local hospital to offer her classes to mums-to-be who were registered to give birth in the labour ward there, realising that the courses – as they have been designed by her, a midwife – helped women there, too, especially if their birthing plan became challenging.
She said: “I work on a consultant-led unit, which means we see a lot of women who have had to abandon their birth plan and I noticed how that made so many of them feel they had failed.”
She added: “I feel my classes offer something that gives a more balanced and more realistic view of giving birth and hoped that by taking part in them, these women wouldn’t feel badly about what had happened.
“I was inspired by one woman who came onto the ward who had to have a hormone drip. She was amazing, as she stayed determined to have a positive birth experience.
“We got out the yoga mats and the birthing ball and burned essential oils and she even delivered her baby without pain relief, which is unheard of. She just nailed it.”
She added: “I’m not saying that not having pain relief is the goal, I’m just saying that even when the birth itself wasn’t what she had imagined or hoped for, she stayed positive. She was able to feel proud of herself and the way she gave birth.”
Beth, who met her partner when they were both working at TGI Fridays in Cheltenham in their early twenties, says having a “naff” experience giving birth to her third child, Nancy, was also a trigger for her to launch the classes.
“Nancy was born six weeks premature, which I had not experienced before, so I spent the whole birth worrying she would need to go onto the special baby unit with me and worrying about who’d look after my older children,” she said.
She added: “The birth itself was not ideal. I lost a lot of blood and felt deflated by the whole experience.
“I had no coping strategies around having a premature baby and just felt myself spiralling, which made it a long birth too.”
One thing she learned was how to alter language to manage women’s expectations by, for example, changing ‘birth plan’ to ‘birth preferences’ to reduce the feeling of failure if they change.
But the most special thing about her courses is that they are run by midwives, who have witnessed childbirth in all shapes and forms.
Inspired by her own midwife called Asher to leave her job as a waitress and follow her into the profession when she was pregnant with Ayva, Beth said: “I was having a lot of hospital appointments, because there was a concern about the baby not moving enough.
“I met this midwife during one of those visits and she just looked at me and asked, ‘Is everything OK?’ This allowed me to admit that I felt overwhelmed and was struggling.”
She added: “She had a huge impact on my pregnancy and I thought she was inspirational in the way she let me know it was OK to feel how I felt.”
In fact, she was so inspired that she and Rob quit their restaurant jobs and moved to Cardiff with Ayva, who was then a toddler, so that Beth could train as a midwife.
She took a year out of the three-year course as maternity leave when Oscar was born and praises Rob for his support – putting his own career on hold, so that she could follow her dreams and train.
“He is always telling me how proud he is of me and it’s true that I have always been driven,” she said.
She added: “I am all about girl power and empowering women.”
It now gives her great satisfaction to hear that the women who have completed her courses have formed strong bonds, too – setting up their own WhatsApp groups, where they swap stories and advice.
“It was very hard for women who gave birth during the pandemic,” said Beth.
“The hardest thing without a doubt was that while the fathers or partners were allowed to be present at the birth, they were not allowed onto the wards.
“This meant that many missed out on those first days of bonding with their new baby.”
She added: “And for the mums, the big worry was who would support them as they recovered from the birth when their partners weren’t allowed to be with them.
“If you’ve had a C-section, you can’t sit up in bed and twist to the side to reach a glass of water. It really was a difficult time to have a baby.”
Insisting her core message is that there is no one way to have a baby and no ‘one size fits all,’ Beth is now planning to add a third course to her repertoire.
It will cover everything a woman needs to know once a pregnancy test has shown a positive result up to the birth.
And she hopes The Bump To Baby Chapter, which also offers in-person courses now, will become “the go to place” for everything to do with pregnancy, birth and having a baby.
She said: “Helping Mums in pregnancy, birth and motherhood is something that has woven itself through my life.”
She added: “My first baby was born in 2009 and, since then, I have either been giving birth, studying to be a midwife, working on the delivery suite at the Gloucester Royal Hospital or building The Bump to Baby Chapter business.
“Supporting women through pregnancy and birth is something I have thought about every single day for over a decade, making it a massive part of my own life.”
For more information about The Bump To Baby Chapter online courses and info visit: www.thebumptobabychapter.co.uk For further information about Chui Photography see www.chuiphotography.co.uk