Happy International Women’s Day!

Happy International Women’s Day!

Every year the 8th March is celebrated as International Women’s Day. It is a collective world wide effort to honour and celebrate the lives of women, both past, present and future.

Read more: Happy International Women’s Day!

The theme for IWD this year is Embrace Equity, yes you read that right EQUITY (not Equality) Slight change of spelling and change of meaning.

So what’s the difference?

Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. So, what if everyone gets a bike as a form of transport. But what if one person doesn’t have any legs, is that bike any good to them? No!

Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome. So instead of a bike, the person with no legs would get some other mode of transport that suits their situation.

Inequity affects many people, but most commonly historically it has marginalized communities such as women, people of colour, disabled people, the economically disadvantaged, and those from the LGBTQ+ community.

The goal of equity is to change systemic and structural barriers that get in the way of people’s ability to thrive. (1)

“You can do some rather extraordinary things if that’s what you really believe.”

– Toni Morrison

This blog post is also to introduce you to the work of The Nest and signpost to some other women’s support organisations in the Exeter and Devon area.

The Nest Southwest is a community interest company based in Exeter, Devon, set up to support women and girls through the major life transitions of menstruation, pregnancy, birth and menopause. We offer social, emotional and informational support through a variety of women’s peer support groups, menstrual wellbeing workshops, webinars, social media presence and a hire service to reduce landfill waste while saving money. We are passionate about creating community by opening spaces that foster non-judgement, build peer support networks, and grow respect for self, others and the planet.

We currently offer:

Other Exeter women’s support groups…

Whatever you choose to do with your time we hope you will take a moment after reading this blog to reflect on the world you live in, and if there are any actions you can make to increase gender equity in your home, and your community. Big changes are often made up of little actions taken consistently over a long period of time, and to create a world where gender equity is a reality, the changes need to first start inside ourselves and our beliefs.

“Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.”

Anne Sexton 

Comments? Please drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you…

(1) Definition taken from: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/EquityEquality

Addressing Health Inequalities for Women of Colour

Women’s Well-Being Day in Exeter

In the UK women of colour and from diverse cultural backgrounds experience higher mortality in childbirth and generally worse menstrual health conditions.
Last month The Nest Southwest CIC organised and ran a Women’s Well-Being Day in Exeter to explore the reasons for this inequality and to focus on community and individual responses. The event was open to women of colour, women from diverse cultural backgrounds and allies who would like to be part of creating a positive change. This blog is an outline of the event and a summary of our findings.

Continue reading “Addressing Health Inequalities for Women of Colour”

Grief Tending

Grief Tending in Community for anyone affected by baby loss

Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground.

Oscar Wilde

It is hard to put words to the extent that the loss of a child, a pregnancy or hope of conception can reach. Sometimes it can feel like the world we thought we knew is unravelling after a loose thread has been  pulled and snagged the whole cloth. Grief can be unreasonable, savage and wild. This page is about our approach to grief and the community events we offer.

Continue reading “Grief Tending”

Become a Nest Menopause Friend

Become a Nest Menopause Friend

Women are slowly opening up about their menstrual cycles and menopause. By sharing our own experience with friends and family, we all contribute to normalising what has been for decades, and in even for centuries, a taboo or at least an inappropriate topic for a conversation. It is reassuring to see the growing coverage about menstruation and menopause in the mainstream media, and it offers us an opportunity to become courageous and to join in with the discussion, to exchange stories with the circle of peers.

Continue reading “Become a Nest Menopause Friend”

Community Day

Community Day

Guest Blogger – Yasmeen Louis

On April 4th, The Nest Southwest CIC hosted a Community Day to celebrate our successes with tea and cake. Choosing Sylvania Community Hall as our venue, the day allowed members from all three sections of our organisation to come together – Menopause, Menstruation, Pregnancy & Birth. And what a day it was.

Continue reading “Community Day”

Grief, and what do we do with it?

Grief, and what do we do with it?

Grief is a collection of feelings we feel for a variety of reasons, most commonly understood to be something we feel when people we love pass away. But it’s one of the most complicated of emotions, and not limited to losing a loved one. It is not linear and does not follow an easy straight pathway back ‘to normal.’ Grief is also an initiation, as we are forever changed by the experience. 

We are living in a time of loss for so many things. We open the doorway to grief and see how wide ranging it can be, and how often we are afraid of even opening the door to peek through because of what we might find. And although grief is unique to you and your situation, when we come together we can feel compassion with others which helps alleviate feelings of loneliness, and can ease anxiety and depression.

Fertility grief

Here at The Nest we support women, birthing people and menstruators through the major life transitions of menstruation, pregnancy, birth and menopause. Grief can be encountered around many of these corners, and is something that is not often shared but is very common when we start talking about fertility. 

Grief can come at many stages in the fertility journey, for example through:

  • Infertility
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
  • Neonatal loss
  • Termination of pregnancy for social or financial reasons
  • Termination for medical reasons
  • Divorce / separation
  • Fertility treatment loss
  • Perimenopause 
  • Menopause
  • Pregnancy after loss
  • Or any other grief related to the wide field of fertility… all is welcome

Grief tending in community

What do we do when the weight of sorrow lies heavy in our heart? How do we deal with it? Grief tending in community is a four hour event to give attention to our grief within a supportive group. It is a journey for connection with self, and others who also feel deeply and widely. 

Humans are a social species. We are born to live in connection with other people, not just for the good times, but also for the difficult ones. Grief tending in community offers an opportunity to build a ‘village’ even if only for the day, which can bear witness and hold each other’s strong feelings. It can help to:

  • Feel lighter
  • Build connection to other people
  • Give emotional release
  • Ease anxiety
  • Soothe the nervous system
  • Open to healing
  • Connect with life

Our next Grief Tending in Community event is coming up on Wednesday 6th April in Exeter. Please register your interest now:

Grief tending in community is a space to share some of those feelings within a like-minded group. We meet in person with a supportive team who hold the space for sorrow and have experience of supporting others in this way.

We recognise that grief is not an isolated event, but is affected by your unique personality, your family situation, your culture, language, spirituality and community. We welcome all genders.

Grief tending is about creating a non-judgmental and respectful experience to process some of our feelings while being witnessed and witnessing others. For too many of us grief is hidden behind closed doors, sometimes through fear or in an attempt to try and protect others from the depth of our pain.

Grief tending cannot take away what happened to you, but it can offer an opportunity to learn to live alongside the feelings.

Grief tending in community is not the first place to come if you are recently bereaved, or if your mental health is unstable. Please seek advice from your health care professional if you are in any doubt. 

Neither does grief tending in community replace professional therapy, but can work very well alongside 1-2-1 work.

Grief tending is a good way to feel feelings, especially if you have felt stuck for a while, feel numb and don’t know what you feel. When coming to an event we advise that you find support for yourself both before and afterward. This could be a check in with a good friend or family member who can listen, or with a trained therapist or counsellor.

Ready to book?

Register your interest to be the first to know when booking opens for our event on 6th April 2022.

photo of a flock of flying birds

Got more questions? Get in touch…

Experience Exeter’s Menopause Café


Guest blog by Barbara Wheatley   

Exeter’s Menopause Café has well and truly launched.

Contributing to a nationwide drive, it’s every first Friday of the month, so it’s easy to remember. And it was so good the first time in October that I booked again for the second meet, and I’m already booked for the third meet – it’s literally that infectious.

So who amongst the menopausal ‘us’ doesn’t want to chat in confidence, in a safe, friendly environment, over coffee, share views and stories, and create new ones? In steps The Nest Southwest CIC (which stands for Community Interest Company) to provide just that. Courtesy of The Glorious Art House Café run by the unbelievably cheerful Rosie, she  knew she always wanted to host such meetings.

The Glorious Art House Cafe

How clever a name is The Nest which was set up to encompass the whole process from menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth to motherhood in their offering, through to the other ‘M’- Menopause. These are all milestones in the reproductive life cycle with which The Nest anticipated we might need help in our lives.

There’s so much more noise now about the menopause. We do really need to pause. We are in midlife, but menopause has been given a bad name for too long. Women have not known during that time what’s hit them. They still don’t. But they know more. At least the conversation has started, from documentaries to news items, (The Menopause Café Exeter Launch was filmed in part by BBC Spotlight), specialist doctors, to GPs. Word is getting out and round. The conversations are happening, choices and decisions are thankfully more informed, and we are being celebrated. We’re filling in the gaps and it’s causing quite a buzz.

Exeter Menopause Café in action

We should campaign to re-name the menopause to something a bit more user-friendly. There are needless to say a few contenders but I personally like the sound of Second Spring , as it is a second chance at life, a rebirth. Whatever it’s called, it’s being reframed. It has to be. With the menopause, so much feeds into it, and comes out of it. We will now hopefully get a lot more out of it. Finally we are less than just a label and more a force to be reckoned with.

Exeter couldn’t have picked a nicer, quirkier, inspired setting for its monthly morning meets to lift our spirits. The Glorious Art House Café really is glorious; two floors of a wonderful historic building with original features that have been so brightly furnished, updated and decorated, you’d consider yourself on holiday, so welcoming is the atmosphere. You won’t be surprised to learn it really is an arthouse. 

We are all beautiful

At that time of the morning it’s a perfectly fashioned coffee and cake to settle down with, quirky crockery and tableware to boot. The menopause meeting takes place on the first floor to ensure the safety and confidentiality of the menopausal (and non-menopausal) café customers. Half way through, it’s almost a game of musical chairs to encourage more getting to know one another by shuffling around, even enlarging a chatty group and of course a chance to grab another hot drink. 

It’s a chance to support local businesses and independents, (as many of the attendees here are) each other and fellow mid-lifers. There have been waiting lists both times so far, and it’s easy to see why this catches on.  There’s the desired 14 of us max at the moment. We are here with a common cause. We have our own personal narratives, we become a voice, a menopause community. Initially as strangers we are friends we haven’t made yet. Friends come with friends, and make new ones. You might come in alone, but you are never alone. You don’t walk out alone. And soon the faces become familiar and might well form a core, conversations can veer off topic, just as they should, when you realise you have more in common than you thought.  

carrot cake and hot drink

See, we can ‘google’ all we like the classic symptoms of peri-and menopause, the ones most talked about, the loudest ones and even post-menopause as we are all at different stages of this midlife. But the quieter symptoms, they are the most exciting ones to talk about. We all end up laughing.

A Menopausal Café -goer from the inaugural meet in Perth, Scotland, originally told The Guardian newspaper, “Now I know I’m not alone. I’m not going mad.”

One Exeter attendee most recently said “I enjoyed it SO much. The whole meet was so uplifting and inspiring; you provided a space where I could thrive, in a way I haven’t been able to for so long – I came alive.”  

Guest blog written by Barbara Wheatley. A former PR from London, with a BA in International Marketing, now living in Devon, writing flash fiction and creative non-fiction. Barbara is passionate about language and the written word, reading, writing, philosophising while researching and reviewing. Her work has appeared on Paragraph Planet and regularly on Friday Flash Fiction. She is a member of the SW Writer’s Register and proud to recently become a LITRO magazine contributor with her first ever 2000 word book review. She loves to take good photos, is into colour, music, all things pre-loved and is an advocate of mental wellbeing.

The Nest Southwest hosts the Exeter Menopause Café on the first Friday of the month at The Glorious Art House Café, on Fore Street, Exeter. 10am to 12 noon. All genders and all ages welcome. Entry by donation. Booking essential as space is limited. Book HERE now.

Watch our video about wellbeing in pregnancy

Pregnancy Wellbeing free video

Pregnancy and becoming a parent is a rite of passage, meaning that it is a life threshold once crossed you are forever changed. And in the busy-ness of preparing for the practicalities of having a new baby in the house we can forget how to prepare for mental wellbeing and health. This hour-long webinar was recorded as part of The Nest autumn webinar series and is available here for you to view for free.

Wellbeing in Pregnancy webinar with Talkworks

In the webinar you’ll hear Becky and Rebecca reference the booklet that was sent to all webinar participants after the call. You can access this document below, feel free to print out and fill in to help you and your pregnancy:

The Nest Southwest CIC runs a weekly pregnancy and beyond wellbeing group called Nesters. They meet every Tuesday from 7.30pm, alternating between meeting online on Zoom and in person in Exeter at The Beacon Community Centre. Nesters is supported by a facilitator and by our PPSN volunteers (perianal peer support network) who are local mums who have been trained to offer support to new mums. If you are pregnant we welcome you to come along and find out more. Booking is via our events page HERE

November at The Nest

November at The Nest

Here at The Nest Southwest we are getting pretty excited about our monthly planner! What do you think?

As well as our regular weekly pregnancy groups and yoga classes we are also hosting some exciting yoga workshops – one specifically for menstruation, and one specifically for menopause. So wherever you are on the spectrum of life – if you are a menstruator we’ve got something for you.

We are also launching our winter program of pregnancy, birth and parenting live webinar sessions. So, if you or someone you know is pregnant, come along and learn more as well as meeting other local people preparing for a positive birth experience in the interactive Q&A sessions.

Menstruation events

Sunday evenings 8-9pm on zoom is our weekly Yin Yoga to unwind session hosted by Chloe. A beautiful way to end a week and set intentions for the new one about to begin. Suitable for everyone, whether you are menstruating or not but we thought we’d put it up the top of this long list of yummy offerings!

Later in November Chloe is offering a menstruation specific yoga workshop. Whether you are trying to conceive or are interested in living more in harmony with your menstrual cycle, this yoga workshop is for you. We will explore each of the four stages of our cycle and discover how we may wish to adapt our yoga practice to suit each of the stages – enabling us to work with the fluctuations and changes our body goes through each month, rather than fighting against them. Discover why the exact same yoga practice can seem impossible some weeks, but easy others and learn more about yourself, your body and your unique cycle in this two-hour workshop. There will be time for questions and conversation, as well as guided meditation, breathwork, yang yoga, yin yoga and deep relaxation. It will be a time to tune in and embrace the wonders of the female cycle. Everyone is welcome. If you are not currently menstruating, you are able to use the same tools around the moon cycle. Beginners to yoga are also very welcome.

Menopause events

Yin Yoga to unwind on Sunday evening is also very nourishing is you are peri-menopausal or menopausal.

Exeter Menopause Café. Our monthly group on the first Friday is fully booked for November and bookings are now open for December. Due to it’s popularity, and by request we have decided to offer a Menopause Café in the evening on Friday 12th November! This is a launch event as we try out what it’s like to gather together in the evening with a glass of something or warm drink of choice in the beautiful surroundings of The Glorious Art House Café on Fore Street, Exeter. This is an open meeting for people of all genders to come and chat about all things perimenopause and menopause related. It is aimed at breaking down the taboo around menopause, increasing awareness of the impact of the menopause on those experiencing it, their family, friends and their colleagues, and reflecting on the ‘third stage of life’.

Essential ground rules:
*Non-judgemental – people might have different views to you and that’s ok.
*Respect – ourselves, each other and the space.
*Open hearted – trust that everyone is doing the best they can.
*You don’t have to share personal stories but you might need to be prepared to listen.
*Confidential – what’s shared in the café stays in the café (except your own stories that you’re free to do what you like with of course!).

This month we are also launching a special yoga workshop specifically for the menopause transition. Join Virginia for this 2 hour ONLINE session which will include time for information sharing and discussion as well as gentle (accessible for all) Yoga movement and breath work and deep relaxation.
Virginia is a former nurse and now a Yoga and Ayurveda therapist who is fully post menopausal and loving it!

Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond

Our wonderful welcoming weekly Nesters Pregnancy & Beyond group is a place for pregnant mums and birthing people to come together and chat about all things pregnancy, birth and early parenting. It’s hosted by Jodie and runs weekly, alternating between in-person at The Beacon Centre in Exeter, and on Zoom. Once you’ve had your baby we welcome you to continue to come to the group during your ‘fourth trimester’ which is up until around the 3 month mark postnatally. All ethnicities welcome. We are LBT+ friendly. and welcome non-binary parents along with pregnant mums. We chat, drink tea and eat cake! We also have various craft activities or short talks about subjects relevant to the group.

The group is supported by the Pregnancy Peer Supporter Network, a group of volunteers who have lived experience of birthing in the pandemic` and are trained to support birthing people. They are not medically trained, and cannot give advice nor tell you what to do but offer a listening ear and can help you explore your options to find the best choice for you.

Every Wednesday evening join us for a relaxing yoga session designed around you and your baby. This is hosted by Nancy, who is a physiotherapist and a yoga teacher with a specialist interest in women’s health. As a mother herself, Nancy has first had experience at understanding the changes a women goes through on their pregnancy journey. She will guide you through techniques on grounding and connecting with baby, breathing and visualisation, gentle movement, and deep relaxation. No yoga experience or specialist equipment is necessary , just bring yourself and bump (or baby) a blanket and plenty of pillows.

And of course, Yin Yoga to unwind on Sunday evening is also very nourishing is you are pregnant or with a baby.

This Autumn The Nest is launching it’s series of pregnancy, birth and early parenting webinars to provide access to quality information about the transition to parenthood. And we are kicking it off with a wellbeing Pregnancy Webinar will be facilitated by practitioners from Talkworks who are experienced in working with perinatal mental health and wellbeing.

We know that pregnancy and the transition into parenthood can be challenging. This webinar will give you strategies to help to promote and managing wellbeing in pregnancy and beyond, including; bonding with your bump, the importance of self-care, identifying and managing negative thoughts and worry, managing relationships, improving communication and thinking ahead to parenthood. We will also give an overview of how Talkworks may be able to support you further to promote wellbeing in pregnancy and beyond.

We welcome anyone who is pregnant, has recently given birth or supporting someone else who is.

From left to Right, Nancy, Jodie and Hazel The Nest Southwest co-directors.

Thanks to everyone who has been a part of building our little Nest community over the past two years, it has been an honour and a pleasure to work with you and share some of your stories. We look forward to meeting more people and being part of this exciting project as it grows to support women, girls and menstruators across Devon during the transitions of menstruation, pregnancy, birth and menopause.

Our vision is to live in a world where women and girls feel empowered and fulfilled at each stage of their life. We want to be part of creating a cohesive society where these rites of passage are honoured as gateways of personal development as well as biological milestones.

Our mission is to provide emotional & educational support, improving well-being & self-esteem to enable peer mentoring and increased wellbeing. We support women and girls through menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth, to post-menopause.

We believe in intersectional feminism by promoting gender justice and racial justice. We are anti-racist and pro-trans rights. We believe in equality for all women and girls everywhere.

We offer compassionate peer support, and providing a safe, nurturing environment to explore emotional & physical literacy as we traverse these gateways. There is no right or wrong way to go through these gateways, they are as individual as we are. But we don’t have to do it alone.

Read more about us, our mission and our events on the website: thenestsw.org