Hollie de Cruz and Suzy Ashworth are not your average vagina whisperers. If you’ve ever seen a fictionalised birth on TV or in a movie, it’s often a lot of hot-faced huffing and screaming on a bed. The Calm Birth School Birth helps women clear their head of the hype and have a calmer birth with less panic and more peace. We spoke to Hollie, co-founder of The Calm Birth School, just as she was getting her family ready for Christmas.Read the interview and watch a video with Hollie and Suzy below.
Tell me in your own words about being a creative mum.
For me being a creative mum has been about finding my voice, identity and passion. I’ve worked in creative industry as a production designer for over ten years, but it’s only since becoming a mum that I’ve had the courage to follow paths I believe in. I think having a child makes you appreciate a very beautiful simplicity – watching them do what they want to do, and acting on impulse and instinct is inspiring. They are “creating” all the time, simply by doing what they believe in.
Who makes up your family?
It’s me and my husband, and our four year old son, Oscar.
What is your creative outlet?
My creative outlet is The Calm Birth School – the world’s first online hypnobirthing school, helping women all over the world create calm, positive and empowering birth experiences. With a creative professional background, it’s been great to build something from scratch, both in concept and design. My business partner Suzy worked in media and marketing before having her children, and it’s been great to plough our creative juices into our very own project, especially as it’s something we believe in so wholeheartedly.
How and when did you come to start it?
When I found out I was pregnant back in 2010 I was terrified about giving birth. Hypnobirthing changed that for me and it meant I went from crapping my pants to being able to birth Oscar in the most profound and connected way. It was the most calm, euphoric and intimate experience of my life and afterwards I couldn’t believe all women weren’t birthing this way. I left my job at a London design agency and trained to become a hypnobirthing teacher in 2011, setting up London Hypnobirthing. I’ve been teaching group and private classes in London since then, and recently co-founded The Calm Birth School with my business partner Suzy. Our vision is to normalise hypnobirthing (because let’s face it – it sounds weird and new-age) and to make it accessible to women all over the world, who either don’t have time or money to attend another antenatal class, or don’t have a practitioner near them. Suzy is a gutsy, passionate woman, and I knew joining forces would mean we could create something solid, unique and very exciting. It works because we’re not vagina-whispering hippies. We’re real women, real mums, real wives, friends, sisters and so on, and that’s what we try to communicate in our work. Transparency is at the heart of what we do.
What does it mean to you and how does it make you feel?
It means an enormous amount to me and it puts fire in my belly. I’m not interested in doing an average job. I’m interested in changing something. I truly believe that in ten years’ time all women will be birthing this way, and I want to be fundamental in that movement. Working with women and couples is a privilege. Seeing their journey from uncertainty and fear, to calmness and confidence is a very special thing. And of course waking up to a text or email from a woman who’s just had a really positive birth and wants to tell me all about it, makes me feel absolutely on top of the world. When a baby is born, so is a mother, and I think we tend to overlook that in Western society. It’s such an impactful time in a woman’s life and I believe every woman deserves to be nurtured, educated and empowered on her path.
What the hardest part about it is – is it managing the kids or something else?
The hardest part – without a doubt – is trying to achieve a work/life balance. Launching and running a business is hard. It’s tiring. It’s nerve-wracking at times. When it’s your own business, you’re constantly thinking of ways to make it better and it can be hard to switch off. I don’t want the business to be anything less than amazing but I have to be boundaried with my time. So on Fridays for instance, I hang out with Oscar all day. No phone calls, no emails. I love being his mum and I try not to get caught up in feeling guilty. I want to be a strong role model for him. I want him to see me pursuing what I believe in and not shying away from going for it. Doing something I love makes me a stronger, happier mother.
Who is your mumspo?
For a start, every single woman I work with: women who are taking ownership of their births. Fellow birth ninjas who believe in empowering and supporting these women towards positive birth experiences: Ina May Gaskin, Janet Balaskas, Milli Hill. Strong women who aren’t afraid to challenge society’s views and share their vision and passion, even in male-dominated industries: Oprah Winfrey, Camila Batmanghelidjh, Jane Campion. And funny women. Caitlin Moran, Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham. I am inspired by funny, intelligent, kick-ass women.
How do you get creative for Christmas?
I subscribe to a magazine called Oh Comely which gives me a lot of creative inspiration. For the second year running they have organised a Christmas surprise swap, where readers are paired up with a stranger and send each other a box of inspiring treats. This year I got a really old artist’s pencil. Stuff like that makes me happy. I also did a modern calligraphy course this year, so I’ll be putting that to good use when I wrap presents this week. I’d love to say I make quinoa playdough and stained-glass bunting with Oscar, but I’d be lying. He’s a very active kid and he’s more into light-sabering than fingerpainting, so it normally involves a bit of bribery. Gingerbread men and some popcorn garlands we made to go on the tree were well-received, for obvious reasons.
All photos by Philippa James.