Thursday, July 24, 2014

What do you know?

"Once upon a time, doctors (and midwives!) relied on women for information about the fetus. Today women consult their doctors to find out what's happening inside of them..." (Origins, Annie Murphy Paul

A small study at Johns Hopkins found that among well educated women, those that had "a feeling" about the sex of their baby were right 77% of the time. 

Is our technology in pregnancy and birth disconnecting mothers from their intuition or embodied wisdom? 

Another study I read about a year ago (and searched everywhere for, but cannot find!) talked about "embodied wisdom".  Their conclusion was that when women's embodied wisdom was honored (meaning they were listened to more than talked at and asked more instead of directed more) they had better birth outcomes.  Just one more piece in the wide breadth of evidence (and common sense) that suggests that mother's health (mentally and emotionally as well as physically) plays a role in the health of the baby. 

Why is it so surprising to us that women know things?  We need to each ask ourselves why we are so slow to believe in ourselves?  Something we've been told by our family, our culture, our religion, our insecurity or fear?  

I think it's wonderful that we have more tools at our disposal than we used to: ultrasounds can help us locate a placenta that is dangerously covering a cervix, surgical procedures can help us to save the lives of about 10% of birthing women who actually need them.  Some people report that use of ultrasounds helps them to feel more connected to their baby, but aren't there other ways?  Ways we could feel connected by relying on inside information instead of outside information? 

But when we know statistics like our maternal mortality rates have been increasing steadily for the last 20 years (as birth has continued to become more routinely medical in the US), we have to ask ourselves what's not working.  

Could it be that instead of using, we are overusing technology and it is causing a disconnect from something vital? Like the LIFE magazine photos that revealed our first real glimpse at the fetus, but somehow left the mother out, has our understanding of pregnancy and birth mostly revolved around bringing a baby here alive with mother as merely vessel?

What would our maternal care look like if we instead focused our care of pregnant women on encouragement and coaching?  If we taught and empowered women towards holistic health (emotionally, spiritually, physically) instead of making them pass tests? Are we using technology as an empowering tool or is oppressing us?

*Want to sign up for an Empowered Mama Breakthrough Session?  Click here.*

*Curious about Holistic Pregnancy, Birth and New Mama Coaching?  Click here to find out more.*

Questions? Send me a message!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Let's Get Real.

It's not black and white. 

I think there are some women who shy away from words like "empowered", "holistic", "setting an intention", or "spiritual birth".  Birth art, yoga and meditation seem so far from practical or useful they just dismiss them all together.  Can you relate?

Growing up in a church that focused a lot on rules and dissenters, on obvious sin and how we are all lacking (rather than the beautiful grace, amazing relief and soft foundation that is the love of God), I can understand.

We have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  I was told as a child that I really had to fear these things- I might just end up totally lost and confused!  This is so far from the truth.

But it's not just us Christians that can shy away from spiritual language like this.  In the west we have a strong belief in what we consider "cold hard, empirical facts".  And while, it's true, studying things in this way can be helpful, it's not the only answer to the large, beautiful mysteries of life.  It cannot answer everything.  This kind of thinking can make things like "empowered" or "setting an intention" sound like froofy, ethereal nonsense.

And they can be.

But they can also be useful, practical tools.  There was a time when the notion of art therapy (what I studied in school) sounded like weird hippie-touchy-feely stuff.  We now use it in all kinds of therapeutical modalities, with all kinds of populations.

Let's Get Real. 

It doesn't get much more real or raw than the birth of a human.  Truly.  It couldn't be less froofy or ethereal.  It's bloody, gritty, often loud and unpredictable.  In this capacity, suddenly there is a need for the less tangible and tactile things like "empowered", "holistic", or using intuition.  When connecting with this primal and crazy wild thing, we are almost required to use language such as "setting an intention" because there just are no good words

It doesn't have to be new-agey or weird to have an empowered birth, it's mostly about believing you are capable of amazing things and not accepting treatment that implies otherwise. It's about honoring this unique and powerful season of life, giving it the respect it deserves. 

spiritual birth can mean whatever spirit means to you.  The end. 

Setting an intention is a lot like setting a goal, only the goal is of a personal, intimate, intuitive kind. It means making conscious choices instead of just accepting whatever comes your way.  

Creating a "holistic pregnancy"is about finding health during pregnancy in more than just medically-measured ways; finding health that exists on a deeper and larger level (that includes those measurable things) for the sake of your (and your children's) long term well-being. 

Doesn't that sound valuable and worth investing in?   

*Want to sign up for an Empowered Mama Breakthrough Session?  Click here.*

*Curious about Holistic Pregnancy, Birth and New Mama Coaching?  Click here to find out more.*

Questions? Send me a message!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Things I did during pregnancy that made my postpartum joyful.

Postpartum is an often under-served time of life.  If you have an OB as your care provider, they often see breastfeeding as a pediatric issue.  The pediatricians often see breastfeeding as an obstetrical issue.  Moms may see a lactation consultant once in the hospital, and then are left on their own to contend with this new full time job.  Not only that, but you all know, this time of life is sensitive for mom's long term reproductive health, mother-baby bonding, the baby developing their trust in their care providers, Mama developing her instincts as a mother, and mother and child developing their (hopefully) long breastfeeding relationship.  

There is A LOT going on.  And unfortunately, too many mamas get help preparing for birth but not preparing for postpartum.  

Let me offer some of the things I did while still pregnant that really set me up to have the joyful postpartum I have so far (6 weeks in).

1.  Prenatal YogaI felt strong and open for birth, and confident my recovery would be straightforward.  It helped me develop the ability to use my breath effectively and with specific direction, as well as have a strong pelvic floor. 

2. Eating Fermented Foods: My digestion was fantastic (never a problem), my
metabolism functioning well, and my chances of having a positive GBS result were very low. I also was able to pass on that healthy gut flora to Fiona through the birth canal and breastmilk!

3. Stocking the freezer: But not with just anything!  Certain foods can help a postpartum mama heal well.  My freezer had mostly  homemade organic bone broths. The minerals and nutrients from homemade broths are fantastic. And the warm, easily digested broths are great for warming a postpartum mama and baby. They're soothing, heating, and reheat well. Guinness stew and chicken noodle were my staples for several days postpartum. They helped me feel strong. 

4. Replaced our blender: I had at least one green smoothie a day for the first three weeks. Replenishing iron with leafy greens in an easy to digest and quick to make (even for a visit friend who isn't good in the kitchen!). Full of whatever fruits or veggies you get in there. Helps revive strength. 

5. I re-read Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding, the Nursing Mother's Herbal, and Natural Health After Birth.  I wanted all that into to reference easily in my mind should I need it. I found that very useful postpartum. 

6. Changing to a homebirth. This isn't right for everyone. But it was 100% the right choice for us. My midwife spent so much time with me, confirming my confidence in myself, my health and the process. She understood and didn't judge any of my choices. She read me my scriptures and quotes during labor and the closest I got to a cervical exam was when she asked me if I wanted to check myself and see if I could feel Fiona's head. 

7. A full apothecary. I made sure I had extra yoni bath, raw honey, magnesium, raspberry leaf infusion and Valerian root handy.

8. Napping: I am not a great napper, so getting in the habit during pregnancy has helped me to nap with Fiona postpartum. 

9. Visualizing and Meditating:  Visualizing birth is so important in feeling prepared, meditation can be key to teaching your body to relax on command and to focus during pregnancy and postpartum on positive truths. 

10. Hired a doula. Even doulas need to be doula-ed!  She helped us to change our birth plans entirely at 33 weeks and to find the right midwife for us.  She has been an essential part of our birth journey for sure, and during pregnancy, if my three hour visit with our midwife wasn't enough of a vent session for me, I would call her!

I really think how you treat yourself during pregnancy (and allow others to treat you) has an influence on how your birth goes, how your postpartum is and the long term health of you and baby. The most current research in the area of birth psychology and neonatal neurobiology says that we are imprinted with things in the womb:  like mamas stress or lack of it. It's super important to care for yourself - not that we can control all circumstances- but that we train ourselves to respond well to stress : taking time for ourselves, eating well,  prayer, moving, thinking about pure and good things, spending time in the company of loved ones and people who accept and encourage us, being choosy about what we watch/listen to. 

Practicing what we want to be in place in the future- sewing I to the future by making choices in line with what we want/hope for now!

Questions? Send me a message!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Two Years Ago, Mother's Day

It was almost two years ago (the weekend after Mother's Day) that we lost our first pregnancy, just a few months after our elopement.  I was about 13 weeks into that pregnancy, though according to the very crass physician's assistant at the emergency room, the baby probably hadn't had a heartbeat for several weeks.  If you'd like to read the whole story, click here.  If you'd like to know what practical things I felt like I learned form the experience, click here to read that blog post

I had a pretty intense miscarriage, in that I labored for about 24 hours, the last half of which was contractions 2 minutes apart. I spent most of the time in the tub.  Having given birth to our Rainbow Baby (you can read Fiona's birth story here), I would say that the first half of my labor was almost identical to my miscarriage, except for the larger belly and much more joyful atmosphere.  

But the other thing I have observed is that I really experienced a postpartum period after that miscarriage, a lot of things were similar to my experience the past few weeks.  (I'm not just passed six weeks postpartum). 

It's important to honor all mamas experiences, to honor each pregnancy how you feel it needs to be honored.  It's vitally important to honor the postpartum for each mama, and whatever length it may be for her: a few weeks or a year.  As a community of women, we need to meet the real needs of the mamas in our lives, before and after birth.  I know not many of you share your miscarriages openly with others, but let me encourage you to find at least one or two people to share with, so that you can be attended to postpartum.  And believe me when I say there is a postpartum period! 

One of the reasons I love starting work with mamas early in pregnancy or even before conception is that I could be available should they lose their child.  I can be a resource to them through a miscarriage and postpartum.  I always encourages mamas that hire me later in pregnancy as well to make sure we're working together at least one month postpartum, because they will want to have that relationship continue, to feel they have an objective person to not only suggest herbs/food/remedies, but to hear their birth story for the 15th time (and how differently they feel about it each time), and to listen without judgement to their feelings of isolation, joy, loss, fear, and victory.  

My miscarriage postpartum involved what you would expect: bleeding, crying, grieving.  It also involved exhaustion, the need to be comforted by friends, my sister, my mom, and to eat comfort food.  To talk about the birth story, to express feelings of disappointment, despair, even guilt (for losing the baby).  

Did you tell people about your Angel Babies?  Did you get help postpartum?  Have you helped another mama through a miscarriage?  What was most comforting to you?

Questions? Send me a message!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Birth Archetypes

Let's face it, we love self-quizzes don't we??  Who hasn't read a cheesy magazine or a self-help book with some quiz promising to offer us insight into who we are and why we do what we do?  

I really believe that God designed us to be exploratory - both inwardly and outwardly.  Jesus often spoke of guarding our hearts and taking captive every thought.  He spoke to each person and healed each person differently, depending on their individual heart and need.  We are unique individuals, with common human dilemmas, and we are designed to delve deeper in order to grow. 

So what are archetypes and what do they have to do with growing? 

The term "archetype" has its origins in ancient Greek. The root words are archein, which means "original or old"; andtypos, which means "pattern, model or type". The combined meaning is an "original pattern" of which all other similar persons, objects, or concepts are derived, copied, modeled, or emulated. 

The psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung, used the concept of archetype in his theory of the human psyche. He believed that universal, mythic characters—archetypes—reside within the collective unconscious of people the world over. Archetypes represent fundamental human motifs of our experience as we evolved; consequentially, they evoke deep emotions. 

Birth Archetypes

Sometimes identifying with someone else's story, or with an archetype, can help us see something in ourselves we weren't necessarily able to see before. We tend to make choices from where we are rather than where we'd like to be. In relationship to motherhood, it can help us crystallize what we need for our pregnancy, labor, or postpartum.  Of course, self- awareness only gets us so far.  Knowing what we need and a) finding ways to get it or b) being able to receive it, are all very different things. 

But every journey needs a beginning! 

I've created these six Birth Archetypes, based on my work with mamas as a social worker, doula and mentor/coach to help you identify where you are in your journey, help you find and release some patterns that maybe aren't working for you, and discover what the next step is for you towards empowering your Mama Spirit.  

Ready?  Let's find you….

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Because women should empower other women….

If you send a new client to me, I'd like to gift you!

Just make sure the Mama you are honoring passes your name along to me and I'll send you your rebate or ask what you'd like from the shop!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

These are a few of my favorite things…..

Helloooo Mamas!  The last time I wrote was to share my birth story with you.  If you missed it, you can read it here.

Today I wanted to share with you just a few of my favorite postpartum things.  There are many.  

In fact, a lot of the work I do with mamas, both as a doula and as a Holistic Pregnancy and Birth Mentor is to help prepare for a joyful postpartum.  It's a whole section of my program really!  Some mamas want to focus more on it than others, but everyone needs to pay attention to it.  It can be so easy to fall into the trap of preparing for birth - this enormous grand finale to pregnancy and rite of passage into motherhood - and neglect to prepare for postpartum.  Big mistake!  That's like preparing for the wedding but not the marriage!  

This is by no means an in-depth list of things I think Mamas need most postpartum, and the truth is what every mama needs will vary, just as each birth will vary.  One of my main reasons for working with mamas is to help them discover what it is they need, as individuals, as women, and as mothers, so that they can prepare and also claim it for themselves.  It's important to have someone to listen to each pain and desire of your heart to help you find what you need during postpartum.  Which can last anywhere from a few weeks to a year - depending on your definition, your birth experience, your health and your circumstances!  

Here were some of my favorites:

  • Wool backed nursing pads. They're water proof, super comfortable, durable, and of course n
    ice to the planet (and your skin!).  I got mine from my favorite cloth shop here.
  • Valerian Root Tincture.  Tinctures can be expensive, so I made this myself.  It's very easy!  It takes about 5 minutes of prep and 6 weeks of steeping time.  This herb, though not friendly to everyone, is an incredibly soothing tonic for me.  I find it calms my nerves in small doses and helps me sleep in large ones.  I have taken a dose before "bed" almost every night postpartum and several days I've taken it to soothe my nerves enough to nap with Fiona.  It is also useful in soothing muscle spasms and helping the heart function optimally. 
  • A good water bottle.  I needed this in labor and postpartum, so I could keep it constantly filled (or rather, my postpartum doula did!) while breastfeeding.  It doesn't spill so I can keep it in my bed or in the co-sleeper next to our bed. 
  • A postpartum doula.
     I cannot stress enough how important this was for me.  If you have a mother/sister/friend that you have a very close relationship with and can move in with you for several weeks, maybe you don't need this.  But even with those relationships sometimes it can be nice to have someone you're paying to help you.  You need ALOT postpartum, especially if birth was particularly difficult, or you had a surgical birth, and it can feel like you're a burden on those around you.  Hiring a postpartum doula (to: hold baby and let you nap/shower, feed you, feed your spouse, vacuum, do laundry, clean bathroom/kitchen, help breastfeed, give you a hug, tell you how awesome you are, listen to your birth story over and over again, make sure you have clean sheets etc etc etc) that is not related to you can be a huge relief. Find one here.  (This was ours.)
  • Sitz bath herbs.  I sell these in my shop.  They can be incredibly healing for cesarean scars and perineal tears, and also for your mood.  We brought Fiona into mine for her first bath a week after she was born.  Find mine here. 
  • Arnica.  Get the oil (I sell it as Yoni Oil in my shop) and/or the homeopathic remedy.  Taking it orally can help with muscle aches/bruising/trauma.  Using the oil externally helps with the same thing.  I used some arnica/st. john's wort oil on my achey muscles (which were all of them!) and also on my yoni once I stopped using raw honey on my tear. 
  • Raw Honey.  You'll love it to sweeten your mother's milk or happy womb tea, and it feels amazing on a perineal tear.  Not to mention the amazing healing powers it has on a wound like that!
  • Belly Binding: I just used my Moby baby wrap around my waist, but boy did it make a difference.  Helped to reduce that sort of wobbly, open feeling in my belly.  It felt incredibly comforting and it also has the benefits of helping the uterus and organs return to their proper place!
  • Magnesium.  This may be my favorite postpartum tool.  Drinking magnesium (I bought the "Calm" powdered magnesium citrate drink) has several benefits: it helps keep your magnesium at a good level (something many of us are deficient in), it helps to calm you/soothe your nerves, and best of all… it helps you poop!  Forget those harsh stool softeners!  Pooping after birth is scary, everyone will tell you that! I drank extra magnesium and kombucha which not only helped to soothe my nerves after the adrenalin rush of birth and the first 48 hours, but it also helped soften everything in my intestines so that pooping postpartum for me, even with a small tear, was really no big deal at all.  I highly recommend it!!
I have so many more, but so little space (bone broth, a stocked freezer, green smoothies, placenta pills, kombucha or water kefir, a resident diaper changer, funny movies/tv shows, good swaddle blankets, ice packs, cabbage leaves, a co sleeper or some version of one, Brest friend nursing pillow, lanolin or nipple butter, coconut water, dark chocolate, happy womb tea, beer…)

I'd love to hear some of your favorites!  What helped you postpartum??

Other things I've written about postpartum:
Six Tips for The Postpartum Mama : Modern Alternative Mama Guest Post

Want some more help discovering your unique holistic pregnancy and birth journey?  Sign up for a *complementary* Breakthrough Empowered Mama Session with me!  

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