Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My Birth Story : Fiona Lynn Maurer

When talking with mamas - doula clients, friends, mentoring clients - I often ask to hear their feelings about their birth at several different points postpartum.  The birth story a mama will tell in the first 24 hours is very different from her story at one week, one month, one year.  This is not just because the physical memory of the pain fades, but also because our feelings about the events themselves change.  What seemed ok at the time in the throws of labor hormones may really upset you a few months later, or vice versa.  It's so important to honor all of those feelings, to be ok with your feelings about your birth changing over time.  I know it's important for me already. 

So our birth story begins when we found out I was pregnant last summer.  We were both sure we wanted a homebirth, and also knew we were moving halfway across the country to Minnesota (from Virginia), so we started looking and found Erika Urban, based in Mankato.  We met with her when we arrived, and had one prenatal appointment when we got to hear Fiona's heartbeat- such a relief after the miscarriage of my last pregnancy. (Read that story here.)

Soon after however, we found out that with my husband's new job, came awesome insurance that covered prenatal care 100% - including a midwifery practice that had recently started water births in Sioux Falls, about an hour away.  After much deliberation, we decided to switch from home care to this hospital based "birth center".  The midwives were great and the birth rooms and tubs seemed cozy, dim, and a space I could possibly birth.  However, the longer we received care there the less I felt like it was the place for us.  Though I had asked what they "required" for mamas who wanted water births and was told "nothing", the closer we got to the end of pregnancy the less that seemed to be true.  I would have been happy to sign waivers and just refuse testing I didn't want, but I started to get the sneaking suspicion that they just wouldn't put me in a water birth room, which they did have the power to do, if I was "non compliant."  I also became concerned about their NICU policies for "non compliant" moms.  

I felt that being a zero risk pregnancy I should really be allowed any birthing options I wanted, however, I was told since the water birth program was newer, they still had to comply with a lot of protocol to please the OBs and the hospital lawyers that they didn't really feel was necessary.  I hadn't wanted an ultrasound, the gestational diabetes screening, or the GBS testing.  And somehow, I had already conceded two of those things and the "failure" of the one hour GD test now risked me out of a water birth unless I agreed to take and pass the three hour test.  None of which I was comfortable with - I didn't want to ever put that sort of weird orange drink in my body again (which it clearly hadn't reacted well to) especially since it might come back positive again and I would still be in the same position I was.  I mostly felt that I wasn't being heard, that what was best and safest for me and Fiona was not as important as fulfilling hospital policy.  

I finally reached a breaking point one day in tears, sitting at lunch with my husband and doula.  I decided to sleep on it, perhaps calm my pregnant nerves and see if I felt better in the morning.  I woke up again in tears and my husband said "That's it!  We're finding a homebirth midwife."  I spent the next two days on the phone with my doula and with midwives all over the state trying to find someone who could take me at 33 weeks.  The midwife we had originally met with was booked up already, but we were blessed to get in contact with Rachel Knudson.  And she had availability.  Immediately on the phone I knew that she understood where I was coming from, why I was upset and was happy to talk with me at length about my feelings, my care, and where I was physically.  She came the following week for our first prenatal (all in our very own home - which is fantastic considering this was the coldest winter in Minnesota in 35 years!) 


For several weeks before labor I would have days/nights with a few hours of pre-labor surges.  Sometimes getting so intense we started to try to time them.  But I always knew it wasn't the main event - they didn't feel rhythmic or low like the miscarriage contractions had been.  So I waited.  Took lots of baths and naps. 

About 4 days past what we thought was my 40 week mark, I woke up at 4 am with what I knew was labor.  I made some breakfast, got in the tub, and texted our midwife and our doula Joey.  Around 5 I woke up Bryan to cancel his event for the day, ate another english muffin, and got back in the tub.  We called our doula and told her to come over, but told the midwife we probably had some time.  I got in the tub and this time surges didn't slow down at all, and my gut told me to call Rachel back and tell her to come.  Really glad I did!  

When Joey arrived around 8:30 I'm told, I was laboring in our tub still and contractions had been steadily about 4-5 minutes apart.  Within minutes of her arriving I could see Bryan visibly relax, stop pacing around the house and my surges picked up to two minutes apart.  When the midwife called to check in and say she was about 30 minutes away (her trip is about an hour and forty five minutes), I asked if we could set up the big tub and get in it - she said yes and Bryan started setting it up.  He and Joey tagged teamed being with me and setting up the tub in my office/guest room at the other end of the house. I was getting in just as Rachel arrived. 

The tub was set up in what we call "The preggo sanctuary"  - the guest room/my office at the opposite end of the apartment to the master bedroom and bath.  I had little notecards with scripture and quotes as well as my "birth-spiration" images on taped to the wall. 

Being in the tub was such a relief.  Moving freely with each surge, a little less pressure but still the benefit of gravity.  My doula and Bryan behind me, in front of me, surrounding me.  My midwife and the assistant midwife (who turned out to be the midwife we met with first!) sat quietly, nodding, encouraging every so often, taking Bryan or Joey's place when they needed to run to the bathroom or get a drink for themselves. I felt totally supported - by the water, and the voices, prayers and hands of the people around me. 

I don't know how long I labored in the tub before I hit transition, maybe an hour or two.  I just floated around, breathing, moaning,  I remember telling Bryan I was so glad we weren't in a hospital with nurses to interrupt me, and that if someone tried to put a fetal monitor on me I would "kick them in the balls".  Which was funny, but also probably true.  

 Transition came on with shakes, burps and tears.  Up until that point labor really felt just like my miscarriage had.  It seemed to go on forever, though I could feel her moving down.  It was during my three hour or so transition that Joey and Bryan really got their workouts.  I physically and emotionally hung on them pretty hard.  I remember looking at my birth art on the wall, and occasionally my consciousness would shift back from labor land and tune into the sound of my birth playlist (I'll share that below) or of the encouraging words from Bryan, Joey or Rachel.   

They read my scriptures and quotes, and prayed over me.  I remember hearing Bryan tearfully whisper in my ear how beautiful and strong I was, how much he loved me.  All these words echoed in my heart, I held onto them as each surge came and I started to feel exhausted.  

 I was hoping that as the pushing phase began I would feel a sense of relief, much like many of my clients had expressed.  But for me, this wasn't the case.  Pushing felt foreign.  Thirteen years of practicing and teaching yoga had trained me well to breath through uncomfortable sensations, but I was much less familiar with pushing into an uncomfortable sensation.  My cousin (who also had a home water birth) described it as "your body pushing, but you putting your subconscious push behind it."  I agree, it felt more like I would join the wave of pushing, of "throwing down" that my body was doing and when I did it became totally out of my control, totally beyond me.  

I pushed in the tub for about an hour (I'm told!) and I was beaching exhausted.  As she  moved downward she pressed on nerves giving me leg cramps I couldn't find a comfortable place to bear. I remember feeling that I just couldn't get her to move down any farther. I remember saying several times "It's all in my ass!  It feels like she's trying to exit through the wrong hole!"

 I was holding my perineum with one hand and holding onto Bryan/Joey with my left arm. Rachel pointed out that I looked just like one of my favorite birth images on the wall in front of me: 

She also suggested I check and see if I could feel Fiona's head.  When I could, about a finger digit length in everyone cheered (except me! lol).  Erika and Rachel suggested that since I was becoming tired, maybe it was a good time to try to labor on the toilet for awhile, get some more gravity.  "I don't want to!" I remember saying.  Erika encouraged me that Fiona was coming either way, but before we both got exhausted it might be best to use some other tools.  I knew they were right, and I knew as soon as I moved it was going to be more painful.  "I really and actually hate this" I said to Bryan surprised.  The first half of labor was totally bearable with moaning and breathing, the second half made me consider a new career.  I really was thinking "I'm gonna have to get a new job!"

I waddled to the bathroom with the aid of everyone, holding my right hand on my perineum.  I sat on the toilet, but it didn't feel low enough.  I just kept half standing and sitting back down.   I wanted to squat down lower but was afraid my legs couldn't hold me up with all of the shaking.  Rachel suggested I get on one knee, with one leg in a squat.  So I did, and rose up and down a few times with surges, bringing her down farther and farther. 

When Bryan started to tear up at the sight of her head, I thought it would be inspiring to move my hands and look down.  Unfortunately that tiny sliver that was emerging and was so encouraging to Bryan was so discouraging to me - I had seen enough baby heads emerge from yogis to know there was a lot  more baby head to go! 

"She's almost here!  Just think, you'll see her soon!" Everyone encouraged me.  To which I responded "I really don't give a shit as long as this is over!"  

I remember thinking at one point "I could just die here instead.  That's an option."  There was this moment for me where I really was face to face with the most intense pain of my life, with the limits of my body for sure;  but more significantly the limits of my beliefs about my body, the limits of my spirit, the limits of my whole human self.  It was after the birth, though I hated the second half of the process that I said to Bryan "There's no way you can do that, can hold your baby's head as it emerges, can reach the limits of yourself and go on, and not  feel like you can do anything.  Everything else is down hill from here!"

A few minutes later as her head as really emerging, and oh did I feel that ring of fire, let me tell you, I shouted "it's too dry or something!  It feels dry!"  Probably all those hours in the tub!  Someone grabbed olive oil and Rachel poured some on my perineum - "No the top!" I said and as she poured that soothing oil there, Fiona's big, 14.25cm head, skinny shoulders and body came pouring out in one push.  Rachel had been getting Bryan in position to catch her but didn't have time with her speedy entrance, so as I moved my hand and she caught her she shouted "Sorry Bryan!"

I remember sitting down, feeling stunned, saying I was too shaky to hold her.  But they must have given her to me to walk back to the bed (and there's a photo for proof lol).  I sat with the placenta in this bowl next to me and this stunned look on my face for quite awhile.

I stared at her, feeling like she was so unfamiliar  looking.  She felt familiar, but she looked nothing like I had imagined her. In fact, it took several days for her to look familiar.  I would say both of us were in a shock for a good 12-24 hours.  Trying to believe what had just happened.  I wasn't even convinced it was worth it for the first day.  Honestly!  She was born on a Friday and by Sunday I was overjoyed she was here.  My birth high lasted for the first almost two weeks straight - it was magical.  I was truly blessed to have my mom fly all the way from Philly and our doula come back for some postpartum hours; as well as a very attentive midwife.  

Bryan described it as "watching someone completely empty themselves, until there's nothing left but the baby to leave".  "A rite of passage he said, because the journey of pregnancy deserves a grand finale and the journey of motherhood deserves and needs an initiation ceremony that requires everything from you and leaves you feeling both unbelievably strong and unbelievably dependent on those around you." I feel like one of the amazing paradoxes of life is how spiritual growth occurs- that you can hate a  part of the process and truly love the whole journey all at the same time; that you can feel resistance to pain and bravely forge ahead all in one moment.  I might even suggest that some of the most valuable things in life arrive by some of the largest choices of sacrifice and pain, surrender to something greater.  At least, that was my experience! I wouldn't have had it any other way- it was impossible and perfect- the right choice for us. 

So that's the story of Fiona's arrival earth side!  Thanks for listening :) 

7 lbs 8 oz

More of birth-spiration images and quotes:

 "She believed she could, and so she did."

"But those who wait on the Lord (who expect, look for and hope in him) shall charge and renew their strength and power, they shall lift their wrings and mount up (close to God) as easels; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not grow faint or become tired" - Isaiah 40

"God is within her, she will not fall, God will help her at break of day." Psalm 46:5

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop and look fear in the face." - Eleanor Roosevelt

"He will rejoice over you with joy, He will rest in silent satisfaction, He will exult over you with singing." - Zephaniah 3

My Birth Playlist:

Nils Frahm "Screws"
Splendid Beauty: Classical Indian Flute & Violin, Music for Deep Relaxation
Chinmaya Dunster "Ragas Relax"


Hillsong "Soon"
Hillsong "Arise"
Hillsong "Oceans"
Selah "Great is Thy Faithfulness"
Chelsea Moon & The Franz Brothers "Trust & Obey"
Phil Wickham "It is Well With My Soul"
Daniel Martin Moore "It is Well With My Soul"
Over the Rhine "Favorite Time of Light"
Patty Griffin "Not Alone"
 Gillian Welch "I Made a Lovers Prayer"
Bob Dylan "Boots of Spanish Leather"
Ben Harper "Waiting on an Angel"
Matthew Perryman "Meghan's Song"
Liz Caroll "A Day and an Age"
Dr. N. Rajam "Raga Deshi"

Friday, March 14, 2014

What I mean by "empowered".

Language is so important: the words we use to describe things, to talk to others, to talk to ourselves.   They matter.  And sometimes what one word means to someone, can mean something totally different to someone else.  It's why I tried to discuss this with doula clients before birth.  Is there a phrase that really irks them?  Something that really encourages them?  If I say "you can do this!"  do I remind you of your nagging mother for example?  Maybe I want to leave that phrase out of my doula pep talks. 

There are a lot of phrases that get used in my work that may mean things to many different people.  "Natural birth" is a perfect example. To some it means having a birth that was their choice all along the way, to some it means any sort of vaginal birth, to some it means a vaginal birth without medication, and yet to others it means a truly undisturbed birth with zero intervention (beeping machines, or unwanted nurses for example).  And this is a term that gets used every day! 

I am about 40 weeks along in this pregnancy, hanging out in that limbo between birth and pregnancy; that space of waiting and wanting and surrendering.  Nervous, excited, feeling amazing and tired all at once.  The word "empowered" has been in my thoughts lately.  And it occurred to me that though I use it often, perhaps some women are hearing something different that what I hear in that word. 

When I say "empowered mamas" or "empowered birth"  what kind of images does this evoke?  Does this make you feel strong or inadequate?  Does "empowered" feel like an appropriate word for birth and motherhood?  Or does it sound cliche?  Does it sound too "feminist" for you or not enough?  Does it carry any real meaning for you at all?  Do you connect with it?  Or would you prefer a different word to describe the positive and affirming feelings around your birth experiences or the ones you hope for, or hope for others?  

So what do I mean when I say "empowered birth" or "empowered mama"?  

We often have a hard time with things that don't fit neatly into a category.  How can I be both empowered as a pregnant woman and also experience fear and nerves as I get closer to labor?  How can I have an empowered birth experience if I already know that it's going to be different than I had planned?

- I do not mean a birth that looks one particular way. 
- I do not mean experiencing no fear, nervousness or worry about outcomes, pain, or motherhood. 
- I do not mean running around fist in the air, defiant and determined to do whatever it is I feel like doing, regardless of circumstances.  

In fact, I mean just the opposite. 

When I say empowered, I mean honored and free through the beautiful strength of surrender.  

My definition of an Empowered Mama: 

I am strong.  I am wise enough to listen to the spirit, and listen to my body and trust.  I acknowledge when fears or worries arise regarding birth, pregnancy or motherhood, so that I can sort through which should inform my decisions and which should not.  I can decipher between the voices of God, the environment I am in , the care providers I have chosen, and my culture and choose which ones should have the most influence in my life and in my motherhood path.  I have a healthy respect for the magnitude of birth and motherhood, knowing that empowered does not mean in control;  in fact it often means being ok with making a conscious choice to surrender control.  

I seek out information that I need and that helps me to make the right choices for me, and I choose not to listen to information that does not support my mission. I surround myself with others that encourage me, pray with me, offer their hearts and help me to find my voice when I need it, without judgement.  I am able to admit when I feel I have made a mistake without believing that it changes who I am or who God is.  I am able to accept when circumstances are beyond my control, when I need help from others, and when I need to grieve a loss.  I am "empowered" through my willing choice to surrender, to create the right boundaries at the right time, and to offer and receive grace and forgiveness for myself and others, regardless of the situation.

My definition of Empowered Birth:

A birth setting that respects the needs of mothers as synonymous with the needs of the baby; where it is understood that mama and baby are an indivisible unit where things that affect mama will inevitably effect baby.  An environment, guarded humbly by care providers that listen to the mama before following a list of protocol.  A birth in which the psychological, spiritual and emotional needs of mothers and babies are seen as equally important as their physical needs.   A birth in which the choices that may or may not need to be made, are the mother's and the individuality of each mother and labor is honored. A birth that in no way treats mother like a mere vessel, and has no language diminishing mama's role in her birth, or her feelings around that birth experience - whether positive or negative. A birth in which mama emerges, feeling as though she is capable, wise, supported and loved deeply. 

If you were to define "Empowered Mama" or "Empowered Birth" how would you define it?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Getting Bigger.

Pregnancy is a time of expansion - physically, emotionally, spiritually. During this season of pregnancy I feel like I have been gifted with so much growth.

Things that pregnancy has given me:

The fine art of slow.  I move much slower.  I often feel like I'm wading through water.  And I love it.  I physically can't move any faster if I tried and it forces me to pause more often, to think slower.  I spend a lot more time sitting still, consciously breathing.  Gradually slowing the momentum of my thoughts or the momentum of my activity, so I begin to take captive my thoughts and set new intentions.  It's such a gift, especially for someone like me who is easily swept up into projects and errands until days whiz by.

A more intimate relationship to food. Pregnancy has been a catalyst to eat with even more intention.  If I eat too quickly at this point in pregnancy, I get too full and cause heartburn and discomfort.  I am required to eat slower, to chew, to taste. During my first trimester I never knew from day to day what might be acceptable to my stomach, and so I just waited.  I could pretty much count on crackers and Pellegrino as staples, but otherwise, I just waited to see.  The patience and awareness of my body's response to food has been very valuable.

Surrender.  The deeper into the pregnancy I am, the more surrender is involved.  Surrendering my illusion of control and gaining a deeper intimacy with God, surrendering my body to the process of growing my family, surrendering my will to the act of patience, surrendering my agenda to beauty of the unknown.  How much we gain through surrender.

Courage.  Not to power through, as I usually do, but the courage to rest in God's real freedom.  To let things take a course they need to take.  To be expectant of God to do great things in this season, despite or even because of discomfort.

Dependence.  Why do we value "independence" above so many things?  I think dependence is beautiful.  Dependence on God for strength, for peace, for joy.  I have also found a new dependence on my relationship with my husband.  He likes to say that pregnancy is such good husband training - it teaches you how to serve your wife in a new way that preps you for parenthood.  I like that.  On my side, I have had to learn how to need things that I can't provide for myself.  This may not be hard for some of you but, sister, it sure is hard for me!  But it has been a beautiful release, totally worthwhile.
 Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insightor understanding.In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. ~Proverbs 3

What has pregnancy taught you?  What new value have you found through your pregnancy?  What new insight?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I did what any other American woman would do - I went shopping.

In the last few weeks of my pregnancy here, something has been tugging at my heart.

Have you ever had that feeling?  The spirit just nudging you that you need to look at something, tend to something? I did what any other American woman would do - I went shopping.  Obviously this feeling that something wasn't quite ready was caused by something I needed to buy!  Of course, getting a few more baby things didn't really solve the problem, and I still felt agitated.

By Sunday morning I knew what it was, but didn't have the time to really do anything about it, and then, honestly, I put it off.  Till I found myself in a funky mood yesterday and unable to sleep this morning. So I made a decision to spend this morning drawing and writing about my miscarriage about two years ago.

Part of my heart was still holding onto the idea that Fiona may just disappear to heaven just like Baby Maurer did.  That at the end of this birth she may just not be here.  I didn't know that fear existed, but I sat down to sketch our angel baby journey and to journal about it, and that's what I discovered.

And I felt so grateful.

Because I felt in my spirit a release of control.  This is not my child any more than Baby Maurer was/is. They belong to God, and I have been blessed to carry two: one for a brief while and this one for almost ten months so far. All pregnancies are an honor to be a part of, regardless of how challenging, regardless of outcome. They are transformative pain, privileges to bear.

Here are some of my sketches to journey through this. I don't include these because they are great works of art, I hope to inspire you to spend some time sketching or doodling, especially if it's not something you usually do.

Art circumvents the conscious very verbal mind and can reveal things that surprise us!  We're much better (most of us!) at using our written and verbal language than we are at visually creating.  I think it's so important to try to get in touch with the spirit and the subconscious during this time, so that there is nothing that holds us back as we enter into the bigger and broader challenges of birth and motherhood. I can't tell you how relieved I felt after doing this.  My whole body felt less tired and sore.  It was like a breath of fresh air for my spirit!

You can read the story of my miscarriage here and some of the very practical things I learned here.

Did you draw any birth art while pregnant?  Did you journal?  Did you need to grieve something before you felt ready to birth?

(If you want to learn more about birth art and working with me,  click here. )

Thursday, February 20, 2014

ACOG, I am impressed!

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology put out a statement called "Obstetric Care Consensus No. 1: Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean Delivery" it is literally a game changer for birth in America, and I am rather impressed!  

But here are a few of my favorite conclusions!  (And remember this is coming directly form ACOG! )

1. Macrosomia is not a sufficient reason for a cesarean ("the big baby" pet peeve I have!)

2. Continuous labor support such as doulas reduces the rate of cesarean. 

3. Before 41 weeks induction should only occur if there is a medical indication to mom or baby. 

4. Fetal "decels" as you may have heard them referred to (decelerations of baby's heart rate) are a normal occurrence from cord compression during delivery and are not pathological. 

5. Adverse neonatal outcomes are not associated with length of second stage of labor (pushing).  Which basically means that mamas should be free to push how long and in what position is necessary without fear to outcome for baby or mama.  (There was a false belief for a long time that the baby would have a higher chance of cerebral palsy.)

6. Slow progress in the first stage of labor is not a reason for cesarean either.  Hallelujah!  They finally are dismissing Friedman's curve (a standard developed on a limited sample of women about 50 years ago that says women should dilate 1cm/hr).

What this means for American mamas is that they will potentially start having some more evidence based care and hopefully reduce our outrageous cesarean rate.  Some of these numbers in the chart above are rather disturbing (the rate of maternal mortality from cesareans and the rate of amniotic fluid embolism for sure).  

I did read somewhere that it takes 20 years for what is known to become standard practice.  I hope this isn't true in this case (though perhaps this is  our 20 year mark, since many care providers have actually known this for decades!)

Thanks ACOG for publicly declaring some vital information for mamas.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Birth is Sexy.

Are you familiar with the seven chakras?  These are really just centers of energy in the body. Often spoken of in yoga classes, because one of the goals of practicing yoga is to open up these energetic centers in the body, so that they are flowing freely and openly.  

Do you know that the second chakra, the sacral chakra, is the one most closely associated with birth?  It is, of course, the one most intimately connected to sexuality as well - though it may not seem obvious.   We know anatomically that birth and sex occur in the same are of the body, but for some reason, our culture has managed to separate the two psychologically. 

Could we see birth as the ultimate expression of our feminine sexuality?

Americans seem to have incorrectly identified breastfeeding as a sexual activity, and birth as a sterile one.  Neither of these are true, of course, and separating them that way causes a great deal of disconnect and disharmony - within our society and within ourselves.  

Have you wondered why there is no sexual component to birth as you may have experienced it (or those around you may have experienced it) especially in a hospital setting? Unless we consciously introduce it, which I have done before- as I have stood doula-guard at the door of a hospital room, curtain drawn, while a mama surged and swayed and made out with her husband.  What a beautiful focused mama she was, what a beautiful moment I felt privileged to protect.

After all, the same hormone responsible for orgasm is the same hormone responsible for labor (oxytocin- the love hormone).  Ina May has quipped that the same way we get the baby in is the same way get the baby out!   

But that is not the typical case for mamas.  Perhaps much more often in a homebirth setting, where it feels more intimate and sexual.  Where you are near your own bed (perhaps where you conceived this child!), in your own bathroom where you are used to being naked, and in your own home, where (thankfully!) nothing is sterile, cold, or clinical.  

But labor begins long before a woman moves to her birth place, long before she calls a midwife or wakes in the night with stronger surges.  It starts the moment she conceives, perhaps even the moment she decides to conceive, and so integrating sexuality into birth is always available from the very beginning. And it can come to any birth place, if you invite it. 

Why pay attention to it at all?  Because the more connected we are as whole bodies and whole selves, the more we will be able to be in touch with our embodied wisdom, and be free to give birth in the way that is best for us and for baby, best for health on all levels- emotional, physical, psychological, sociological, spiritual. 

If thinking of things in terms of chakras causes you to label it in a weird, sort-of "woo woo" kind of way, think of it physically: opening the hips, pelvic floor and sacrum is obviously ideal for birth (also ideal for great sex by the way).  Also, the chakras are actually just a spiritual way of describing the endocrine/glandular system in the body. 

The Second chakra, svadhisthana (sanskrit for sweetness) is associated with the element of water and the moon (no surprise there as women we know how the womb is affected by the moon!) and affects the sacrum, genitals, hips, knees and lower back.  If deficient we often experience an intense fear of change (rigid). If excessive we experience swinging back and forth between drastic emotions.  (too fluid!)

So, how can you open up the second chakra and get more connected with the sexuality of birth?  

1- Use the element of water.  

Have you had the experience during pregnancy of wanting to be in, near, or around water?  Have you wondered why some women love giving birth in water or at least laboring in water?  Have you had this experience yourself?  It helps us to feel more fluid, to move more easily, and water is strongly affected by the pull of the moon as it pulls the tides in and out.  

During this pregnancy I not only take a bath practically daily, but crave the energy and miss the salty smell of the ocean I lived by just a few months ago.  I can't imagine this delivery being anywhere but in the water either!  

So why not try some baths?  Add some herbs, oils, or mineral salts (this is wonderful postpartum as well!)

2 - Practice hip opening postures daily. 

Some of my favorites are malasana (squat), pigeon, bridge, child's pose.  These asanas are useful for opening up the hips, bringing a deeper awareness to the pelvic floor and also widen the pelvis.  Not to mention they alleviate lower back pain!

Did you have an experience of birth or pregnancy that was very sexual for you? Maybe an orgasmic birth or a change in sexuality during pregnancy?  How did it make you feel?  Have you thought about the connection between birth and sexuality?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Why do we sometimes make choices that don't align with what our hearts want?

(You can listen to this instead, on the free call Honoring the Mama: Nourishing Your Creative Mama Spirit.  It includes 5 of my favorite ideas for you to help you feel nourished and honored in pregnancy!)

I have worked with women in many capacities- first as a social worker, helping to reunify parents with children, then as a full time nanny for several years.  All of the birth and pregnancy stories I heard sparked such an interest that I pursued doula work and my yoga instructors certification so that I could teach prenatal yoga - which has been one of my many favorite experiences for sure.  I just love getting to be in a circle of women, sharing a common experience, helping them to tap into what I call the “mama spirit” (we’ll talk more about that in a minute), and sharing and witnessing their journey towards motherhood for the first time, or again!

It has been my own personal journey into motherhood that has really guided me to helping mamas on an even deeper level.  My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at the very end of the first trimester.  The loss I suffered was great, and sharing the experience my husband and I had with that loss on my blog was really the best way for me personally to truly experience, authentically grieve, and find a deeper joy and faith on the other side. 

I was so surprised to find that this was my most read blog post that year (it’s still in my top 5!).  It became very clear to me at the moment that many mamas-to-be really aren’t getting the genuine support they need for pregnancy and motherhood; that sharing stories carries so much value, and that mama’s  personal journeys aren’t being witnessed and honored in a way that provides them the platform they deserve to be amazing mothers!

I know that as a doula, the birth experience plays an enormous role in this, in how we think of motherhood, how we approach life.  But my experience in that first pregnancy, and also in this current one, has allowed me to understand on an even deeper level, that motherhood begins in pregnancy, and even before, and that the birth experience and the experience of early motherhood is really affected and shaped by the journey of conception and pregnancy. 

I think our culture sees pregnancy almost as a ‘time out’ from your normal life as a woman.  We can see evidence of this in our short maternity leave allowances, our lack of acceptance of breastfeeding mothers in work places and public places, and the fragility with which we often treat pregnant women (but not postpartum women!) 

In the beginning of this pregnancy, I really struggled with feeling like my body was betraying me.  I suffered from some really bad morning sickness, that I just couldn’t seem to ‘conquor’ and I felt like a failure.  My husband kept trying to remind me “you’re doing something sacred, something holy!” But man, it really did not feel like it.  I didn’t really believe him, honestly.  I felt like with my background and knowledge I should be able to fix whatever was going on. 

Looking back I really believe that my body was doing what it needed to do, in the season it needed to do it, and that it was actually adding to my life, not subtracting from it. I think if I hadn’t struggled so hard against the thing my body was doing, it might have been easier. 

but what about the fear and the pain?
I say look ‘em in the eye and say“You are not separate from me.” If you can come to terms with the idea that your fears and the physical intensity you are experiencing at birth are not warriors in a battle against you, but instead warriors within you, you can gain strength. There is an energy behind fear that is powerful when revealed."

I recall during my miscarriage labor: it was very painful, I was just sitting in the tub, trying to ‘get through it’.  When my oh-so-wise husband came in and said “you know, I think you’re really trying to power through this, so that you can really process what’s happening later on, but I think you need to realize what’s happening and let go.” I immediately burst into tears!  He was right!  I was trying to use my super strong will power to just get this done and over with so that I can move on, grieve, be my ‘normal’ self again.  In that moment, after crying and crying, the pain eased substantially.  We sang goodbye to our baby, and I was able to sleep for several hours.  

My struggle with the miscarriage and with morning sickness were so similar.  I wanted to just get it over and done with, and I see this experience for many women throughout their entire pregnancy, whether it’s challenging or not.  It’s all relative. But what I have learned is that pregnancy and postpartum don’t need to be a ‘time out’ or something we need to just get through.  They are, in fact, invaluable seasons of life that tap into areas of ourselves that otherwise might remain untapped!  

This is where the creative ‘Mama Spirit’ idea comes in. Part of the negative language we so often hear around pregnancy and motherhood is “the mama brain” or “preggo brain”.  This language frustrates me!  Even though, I admit, there are certain small, simple tasks that sometimes get overlooked or forgotten, I have also noticed that there’s a new juicy creative energy flowing in my life, and all I really needed to do was to pay attention to it! 

It has been during this pregnancy, when I stopped resisting and stepped into the flow of the mama spirit that I created some great new products for my shop that increased sales, I was able to create some new workshops to help birth workers and other yoga teachers that I so truly enjoyed, I tackled some projects and new ideas in my house and in my spiritual life that I really think would have gone neglected.  

But how do we move into that space?  How do we connect what our hearts want and what our heads know?  

My challenge has been, ever since I became a doula, to figure out how to help some mamas absorb the information they need.  I have struggled greatly with trying to understand why sometimes mamas make choices that seem to not be in alignment with their true desires.  Sometimes it’s only after birth that some mothers go back and ask questions. And how could I, as their doula or mentor help them bridge that gap?  What was missing?
What I realized is that as a pregnant woman, the last thing you really want (most of the time) is to have to look at cold hard factual information.  It doesn’t at all connect to the experience of pregnancy and birth.  What we really need as pregnant women is to feel nurtured and praised, and that this is a sacred mission, one that only I can do, and one that I am not only capable of doing, but doing well.  Reading the facts and figures about it, doesn’t really inspire much feeling of sacredness or holiness.  
This is actually a path to feeling empowered.  When we feel fulfilled to over flowing spiritually (and emotionally) we stop operating out of a deficit.  Operating from that place, can lead us to make decisions out of fear or hand over our power to someone else - like an expert ( a doctor, a midwife a doula, not that these people aren’t participants in our journey, but should they be the ones with all the power?  Sometimes we hand over the power to the experts without realizing it, and we shrink back from the challenge that lies ahead.)
 If we are fulfilled to overflowing,  instead we are free to embrace the unknowns, and we naturally seek out and are able to integrate the information we need to make our best choices. 
Tapping into that mama spirit gives me confidence that I will make the right intuitive choices at the right time for me and for baby. It gives me confidence that I can trust my body, that I can surrender to the process, that my choices are best.
What I believe: the path to empowering mamas begins with honoring their journey. If they are honored and their needs fulfilled, (celebrated, nurtured) they will feel empowered to make birth choices that are the best for them and their births will feel satisfying and they will have better physical outcomes because they will have better emotional and spiritual health. I believe this is how we find that empowerment, this is what is missing when what mamas want and what they choose don’t line up. 
I truly believe that each and every one of you deserves to have her pregnancy honored.  So that you are free to unleash that “Mama Spirit’ in yourself and have that creative juice flow more freely throughout other areas of your life - so that pregnancy and motherhood are no longer seen as “time out” from who you are as a woman but rather enhancements to who you are, helping you experience yourself and your life in an even fuller way, incorporating even more of who you are and who you were designed to be so that you are even more authentically you.

Want to listen to the rest of this?  It's part of my Free call: Honoring the Mama, Nourishing Your Creative Spirit.  I include 5 (well, really 6!) of my favorite easy ideas for you to help nourish your creative mama spirit.  You can download and listen any time you want!

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