From left to right, Julia Wilkinson, Julie Edlin & KeiShana Coursey
Opti-mum aims to improve the experience of the childbirth continuum for women and her whanau.
As women who have a body of knowledge that potentially positively supports others (improving health and wellness), it is our responsibility and privilege to share this work. We care deeply about the quality of life for other human beings and childbirth is a momentous occasion, one that is remembered by women for her remaining days. Her rite of passage forms a story that is handed down generations. Part of her story is in the hands of her care providers who have the power to hold her in heart and guide her in mind, through sharing of knowledge and advocating her subsequent decisions.
We wish to create a learning space for women to connect body and mind - therefore facilitating health & wellness for an optimal pregnancy, birth & parenting journey.
As a teenager twenty five years ago, sweating profusely on a yoga mat, with a distorted view of my body following a childhood drenched in gymnastics, I realised that Lycra and puberty didn’t mix well. In the wake of a suffocating esteem, I traversed down many avenues of personal growth including a myriad of alternative retreats and therapies.
Finding myself pregnant whilst living in Australia, I had been sent a treasure box of books bursting with positive birth stories and philosophy strongly grounded in normal birth. This was the match that lit the fire still burning in my belly. I came home to New Zealand to birth my two babies who are now tall and incredible, and became an active member of Homebirth Association, attending and organising birth conferences as well as supporting friends and family in their birth experiences. Babes in arms I was soaking up all that was on offer in the area of Women’s Health.
With a zeal and zest for the footprint we place upon the planet, especially after experiencing firsthand the consumer frenzy that is thrust upon new parents, my husband and I designed a range of cloth nappies in a time where there weren’t any New Zealand made. We worked with councils nationwide to raise the profile of using sustainable baby products and became advocates for baby wearing and attachment parenting. I relished the connection with women. They would share their childbirth journey stories and I was often struck by their fear, and the trauma that ensued, noting the stark contrast of those who were calm and confident.
During this time of early parenting and developing a new business, I trained in massage therapy, Humanistic Neuro-Linguistic Psychology (HNLP), Hypnotherapy, Life Coaching, Adult Education and remain a Master Practitioner. Over the years of clinical practice where I often worked with women in their childbirth journey, I was most excited by seeing the change from fear to excitement, from resistance to surrender, from pain to joy and I wanted more. From this place I dreamed of facilitating groups of women in their graceful birth experience.
We sold our business and I took an enormous leap of faith, returning to school to complete a Bachelor of Midwifery. I initially worked with women in the community alongside a practice of incredible midwives www.ratamidwives.co.nz - who birth predominately at home or in birthing units and transitioned to working in the hospital providing tertiary midwifery care. It is in these settings where my midwifery colleagues and I see the irrefutable need for early pregnancy, quality education that offers women the knowledge they are far more than they ever thought possible. I left the hospital midway through 2018 to work full time as an Opti-mum facilitator and Coach and feel extraordinary privilege to be offering this midwifery work in the community. I see this as trauma prevention and primary health care facilitation.
As a passionate yogini’ and committed lifetime learner, I completed a 20 year dream to train as a yoga teacher (at Contemporary Teacher Training in Auckland, New Zealand), so am often found on my yoga mat, teaching at Flow Hot Yoga in Christchurch or in 1:1 yoga sessions with my clients.
Over the years I have been surprised and delighted to reveal the depths of the learning available through an ongoing commitment to practising yoga, breath work, meditation and mindfulness; all of which have profoundly transformed the quality of my life and those I live in relationship with.
I am deeply humbled to be working with families who are willing to be gently guided through an extraordinary, yet ordinary life transition.
I am originally from the UK, but chose New Zealand as my home after meeting my, now husband, many moons ago in Israel while we were both traveling the world. I accompanied him back here to his homeland were we married, laid down roots and brought up our three children. One of my three children was born in England and the other two here in New Zealand. I have been fortunate to have experienced two quite different models of international maternity care.
I have always been drawn to women’s health and wellbeing. During my world travels as a young woman I often found myself connecting with groups of local women. I would spend time absorbing their shared wisdom about how they birthed their babies and looked after their health. It was fascinating to me and it is these experiences, along with my own childbirth stories that led me to pursue midwifery.
I am a New Zealand registered midwife and completed my midwifery degree here in New Zealand. Like KeiShana, I also began my midwifery career working with www.ratamidwives.co.nz as part of a team of wonderful midwives mostly working alongside women and their partners choosing to birth either at home or within a Primary unit setting. When being on call became a challenge for my family, I transitioned into working as a core midwife at the hospital. I now coach, facilitate and teach full time.
Previous to becoming a midwife, my passion for women’s health lead me to study various forms of natural therapies. These included aromatherapy and massage which I still teach and use today. I am a huge advocate of natural health and wellness. I am also a perpetual student and love to constantly occupy my mind with study and new growth. I am currently midway through my studies to become a Life Coach.
My personal practice of mindfulness has made such a difference in all areas of my life. I find I am continually studying and finding new ways to improve this practice. Mindfulness arms me with important tools for all aspects of my life as a mother, wife, midwife, friend, educator and health practitioner.
My philosophy is grounded in the belief that childbirth is a natural life event. I believe in the importance of informed choice so that women can make decisions regarding their pregnancy and birth based on sound evidence. When fully informed and provided with access to good information and support, for most women the natural and physiological process of childbirth can be intervention free. For both mother and father becoming parents is a life changing and sacred transition. I have been privileged to have been at many births and I am always astounded by the beauty of this rite of passage. As a midwife, I understand that being armed with excellent knowledge and information from early on in a woman’s pregnancy can have a real impact on her birth story.
BE (hons) Civil & MEM
I'm ambitious and goal focused by nature. Left unchecked these usually positive traits leave me burnt out and dissatisfied. At 26 I had completed a Bachelors with Honours in Civil Engineering, a Master’s in Engineering Management, a Pilates Certification, a Yoga Certification, and numerous Myofascial Release Certifications.
I had experienced the corporate world burn out working full time as a structural engineer. I had experienced the hippie side of life teaching Yoga and Pilates full time. I had even successfully combined the two to create what I believed was the optimal balance. Then at 27 I found myself embarking on my next full on career, becoming a Mum.
After having my son I gained a whole new realisation of how powerful my body was and how important the people and stories we choose to surround ourselves with at this time are. As a movement teacher I was blessed to be surrounded by experienced women who shared their positive and empowering birth stories with me from day dot. It was through these women I found KeiShana and Julie who became my midwives and teachers. My husband and I completed the Opti-mum course early on in my pregnancy which truly set us up for the beautiful Homebirth we didn’t yet realise we wanted.
The solid anatomical understanding I had from years of yoga, pilates and fascial release training enabled me to continue to move well throughout my pregnancy. Balancing my pelvic muscles and ligaments to support optimum foetal positioning and pelvic opening for birth became a big focus for me in later pregnancy and I believe played a big role in creating an easeful birth.
Talking with the women I met on my Plunket courses I noticed that my positive birth experience seemed to be the exception rather than the rule. This felt backwards to me, we are designed to do this, why were my friends so disempowered and traumatized by birth? I realised the mindfulness and empowerment I gained through the Opti-mum journey was key to a positive birth experience. A conversation with KeiShana later here I am, excited and humbled to be a part of this movement.
Lorna Davies (Co-founder and now previous Director of Opti-mum) has moved on to engage with other family and work commitments. We wish her all the very best and honour her co-creation in this unique programme: a mindful approach to the childbirth continuum.