This Sunday marks a unique Mother’s Day in an environment which encourages families to keep their distance and avoid social contact – the antithesis of the day’s intended purpose. This time can be taken as an opportunity to be even more mindful of making an effort to show you care through the simple outlet of exchanging stories this Mother’s Day.

StoryTerrace, a company that matches everyday people with professional ghost-writers so that they can document their life stories in the form of full-length biographies, has commissioned nationally representative research which reveals just how little we actually know about the women who raised us:

·         Nearly half (46%) of people in the UK say that their mothers have made life-changing sacrifices to provide them with life-changing opportunities

·         Over one third (37%) of people in the UK learn more about their mothers from discovering pictures and family possessions from the past, overhearing conversations, or speaking with other family members, rather than directly from our mothers themselves

·         3 in 10 (30%) Brits say that despite truly admiring what their mothers have achieved, they have minimal understanding as to how they got there

·         17% of Brits have not spoken to their mum in the past month

·         Almost 1 in 4 (23%) people in the UK say that, despite their mothers being the most important people in their life, they give them the least amount of time

·         Over one third (37%) of people in the UK do not know anything about their mother before they became a parent

It is clear that many people hold great admiration for their mothers and their efforts to provide as many opportunities for their families as possible. However, it is a great shame that a large proportion of us are so out of touch with who our mothers really are, and as a result are likely missing out on the chance to develop deeper relationships with those closest to us, and to learn invaluable life lessons and advice from those who came before us. 

In response to this this research, StoryTerrace is keen to encourage everyone over Mother’s Day to spend more time with their mothers, dig a little deeper and ask them about their most treasured memories and experiences that define their life-stories. 

StoryTerrace aims to highlight mothers who are also innovators, revolutionists and stride-makers, whose life stories have remained buried within families – until now. One such woman is Janet Balaskas, who utilised her own pregnancy experience to improve birthing rights for women everywhere by destigmatizing natural birth and advocating for a woman’s right to choose how they give birth. She is a true pioneer of women’s birthing rights across the world and made significant contributions to the advancement of birthing practices for women everywhere.

The Founder of the Active Birth Movement and one of the first natural birth pioneers in the UK

Janet was born in South Africa; her father was Harold Hanson, one of Nelson Mandela’s top defence attorneys in the Rivonia trial. As a teenager, she once served Mandela tea and biscuits at her father’s house. As an adult she came to live in the UK, but when she had her first child, Janet already knew instinctively that she didn’t want the medicalised birth that she saw on offer in England.

She returned to South Africa to give birth in a small clinic. However, right at the end, the doctor performed an unnecessary intervention without Janet asking, leaving her feeling betrayed and out of control of the situation. This event planted a seed in her mind that would eventually lead to the Active Birth Movement: she trained to be an antenatal teacher, introducing yoga-based exercises in her classes. This was the beginning of pregnancy yoga, which is today a worldwide phenomenon.

Years later, in the late 1970s/early 1980s, Janet met her second husband, Arthur, who introduced her to yoga and shared her interest in natural birth. Together they made a film and wrote a book called Newlife , which found a publisher and gained a lot of publicity. Janet organised and spoke at two huge conferences in Wembley. In 1982, she officially founded the Active Birth Movement, and published the Active Birth Manifesto, which laid out the research evidence in favour of remaining active in labour and birth. The movement quickly gathered momentum and, on 4th April, Janet organised the now-famous Birthrights Rally on Hampstead Heath, demanding the restoration of support for active births, together with famous childbirth author Sheila Kitzinger and organisations such as the Association for Improvements in Maternity Services, Radical Midwives and the NCT.

Driven by the success of the rally, Janet organised the first International Conference on Active Birth later in 1982. Speakers included some famous names from the field, such as Sheila Kitzinger, R.D. Laing, Michel Odent and Yehudi Gordon. Her second book, Active Birth, followed in 1983, and in 1986 she opened the Active Birth Centre in North London, which to this day runs classes, workshops and training in pregnancy yoga and natural birth. In 1989, Janet co-wrote The Encyclopedia of Pregnancy and Birth with Yehudi Gordon. Around this time she also became very interested in water birth, and published a book on the subject. Since the book’s release, 80% of NHS hospitals in the UK have been supplied with birth pools.

Now, Janet has written many books on pregnancy and birth which have been translated into 11 languages, and remains very active in the field. She is one of the true pioneers of natural birth and her influence continues to spread internationally.

Rutger Bruining, CEO and Founder of StoryTerrace, comments on the importance of sharing experiences and memories with your mother and the advantages of documenting life stories for future generations:

“As we approach Mother’s Day on Sunday, thousands of people across the nation will be preparing to visit or call their mothers and will be looking to make the most of being around the ones they love. We are clearly a nation of people that have the utmost respect for our mothers – however, three in ten of us have little to no understanding of the work our mothers put in to provide for us, or what she accomplished before we were born. Especially with the health crisis at hand, many of us are concerned for our parents’ wellbeing. Sharing stories and expressing interest can be one of the most therapeutic ways for us to show our support for our mothers in this difficult time.

It’s stories like that of Janet Balaskas that document a mother’s journey to from personal discovery to innovation. We want to encourage everyone to reach out to their mums and to listen to their tales and memories. By documenting and recording the stories of your mother’s life, not only can you preserve their legacy, but you can achieve a better understanding of the person that you are in the world today through who you come from.”

About StoryTerrace

StoryTerrace is a company which connects everyday people with professional ghost-writers, meaning that everyone can have their life story, or the life stories of their loved ones, documented in a professionally curated autobiography, biography or series of memoirs. They have a network of 600 professional writers worldwide, many of whom are critically acclaimed, and provide a range of packages to suit each individual life story.