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Value of BirthWorks – Why I Chose to Cross-Certify as a Birth Doula & Postpartum Doula

My inspiration to be part of BirthWorks started with my childbirth educator workshop in 2005 and the amazing mentoring afterward to support my BirthWorks-certification.  At that time in my life, I was earning a Masters degree, but honestly felt I did more work for BirthWorks certification, and work that was more valuable!  The depth of evidence-based support for BirthWorks childbirth education approach, in addition to the deep personal work, which asked me to consider my knowledge, motivation and strengths and then taught me to humbly step back and trust — the power of birth, of my clients and of life — was so useful. I was exceptionally proud to finish my BirthWorks exam, after all the amazing knowledge and insight from the very large BirthWorks Childbirth Educator manual soaked in!

Given the option years later to cross-certify as both a BirthWorks Birth Doula and a BirthWorks Postpartum Doula felt like an obvious next step and felt right. I did not need another certification — I earned doula certification long ago through another organization [at that time BirthWorks doula programs were not yet launched]. I knew there was something valuable to gain for myself – professionally and personally, and thought it would be easy to cross-certify with BirthWorks.

I was also hoping for a bit of the magical BirthWorks inspiration that I experienced in the past, and seemed to be missing for me in my career and life at times since. Going through BirthWorks cross-certification programs, I have been happily surprised by the additional depth and breadth of knowledge and tools I gained. I understand more and more, going through step-by-step, the value of BirthWorks programs.  They empower me… to be myself, trust myself and serve in the best way possible…. by deeply listening to clients’ or others’ needs, encouraging women to birth where they feel safest, helping them to work through emotions, past grief at times, and hopes for their pregnancies, labor choices, birth outcomes, so they can easeful bond, breastfeed and embody being the most peaceful, aware parents as possible.  

BirthWorks training and mentoring is always is built on the “outer work” like other birth training organizations – evidence-based research that we read, write and reflect on, to understand the labor/birth process and how to best support the time after birth.  AND…the unique distinction of BirthWorks is the “inner work” needed to complete our programs…. As a BirthWorks student we go within to clarify our own views, emotions, belief systems and often find ourselves learning and growing deeply from what we find. BirthWorks connects you to your own inner knowing and inner strength, not just as a birth worker but as a person.

Today, in conversation with one of BirthWorks Birth Doula students, she said that all evidence/information parents and professionals want is available to them easily on the internet, any time they want it… but that what we learn in BirthWorks is invaluable! We discussed that the uniqueness of BirthWorks is empowering parents and mothers-to-be to listen deeply to their own needs.  As BirthWorks professionals, we learn to do this in a unique way… one that allows us a pause, an “opportunity to marvel at the power and beauty of a woman in labor” and gives us the humble awareness to mindfully tune in to our whole beings as we approach our lives and our work

When we, as birth workers, stand witness to mothers, to babies, to births, we often experience that being in the space of love, truth, peace, right action and non-violence leads to the best birth outcomes, happiest mothers and healthiest babies. In BirthWorks, we deeply understand that the universal truth is that women already know how to give birth, and as BirthWork professionals, we embody the qualities and values that allow parents to connect to this depth of knowing within themselves.  I am grateful to cross-certify as a Doula, because I feel I am better both as a person and as a professional having experienced again a deeper understanding of why BirthWorks.

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* If you are a birth professional, who is interested in cross-certifying in BirthWorks International programs, please reach us: info@birthworks.org. A lot of your prior training work and professional work since is likely to count toward your BirthWorks certification.

 

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Book review: Hold Your Prem by Jill Bergman with Dr. Nils Bergman

This book on best practices for premature baby (prem) care is invaluable. It will be exceptionally useful to empower parents of a prem AND as a resource for birth professionals. The Bergmans share best practices to meet prems’ needs that recreate as closely as possible the experience in the womb. This is quite profound, but in typical Western hospitals [dealing with liabilities (and fears) around prem care] is not always a priority. Prems being with mom, with skin-to-skin contact is best because it makes the biggest difference in terms of neuroscience (baby’s brain development) which wires babies’ nervous systems for health.

This book gives clarity on how to meet these deep needs and how we can change the landscape to prioritize prems’ needs – especially during the exceptionally significant early seconds, minutes, hours and days after a prem is born. This book is the premise for Kangaroula training offered next weekend by BirthWorks!  If you want to learn more, please register now or when it is offered again in 2021.

When certain things are not in place for the mother-prem connection, it is at the cost of stress on baby’s autonomic nervous system (ANS) and brain development.  What “the baby expects biologically” does not happen if the prem spends most of the time in an incubator (or crib), and being in this state of stress or shock, especially for a prem, wires their brains to not relax and expect stress, with costs for exceptionally important development in the first few months of their lives and longer.

“Skin-to-skin contact provides the biologically expected stimulation to wire the brain in the best way possible… The brain is stimulated by sensations. The sensations from the mother are good and reassuring. They make the brain develop… This brain-wiring depends on the mother’s presence.” (p.11)  Babies have certain sensory needs (feel of skin, smell of mother, hearing her voice and heartbeat, see her face and tasting breast milk) which if they are in place help babies relax (so they breathe, eat and sleep better).  But if a prem is not with mom, they go into “shock” when trying to regulate their own body temperature (and more) and their nervous system is stressed (fight-and-flight).  There are steep costs for a prem to be in a negative stress state, when their brain is not fully developed, lungs are not ready for breathing air, sight and hearing are highly sensitive, and skin is fragile (p.12). 

For parents, this book will empower you, so if your baby is a prem, you can take care of yourself, and understand what is happening in the hospital to advocate for your baby. [For parents of term babies, so much information is relevant to your babies’ care and needs as well.]  As parents of a prem, you will understand how normal it is to experience a multitude of emotions (such as… very confusing, scary, worry, fear, uncertainty plus joy, hope, love and also more positive ones too).  It provides information and insight into certain areas – how to read signs from your baby, technology used, problems prems might face in the NICUs, the value of skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding (with tons of tips), neuroscience (brain development), how you can best ask for help, and taking your prem home to parent them. You can use this book to “lessen the stress” and “help you and your prem cope better” (p.9) but more than that… you will understand what is going on (what your baby is telling you, even what good reasons there are for wires and tubes on your baby) and how the key thing that can help your baby is YOU! – your presence, your touch and your love. (You can hold your baby with the wires attached, if you ask.)

For professionals, you may find academic validation that much of what you intuitively do (outside of managing technology as needed) when working with prems is already in-line with best meeting their needs. You may understand parents of prems better, and thus how to work best with them to make positive changes for ideal care for their prem. As a childbirth educator or doula, the book clarifies the ultimate best baby care… because understanding and meeting a prem’s needs best is the most extreme way we can give the absolute best care to any baby, and deeply understanding the experience of parents of prems frames the support that is also best for any new parent.  

This book emphasizes the importance of the shared journey… starting with the mother/baby connection, and the cooperative teamwork of parents and providers together.  This matters a lot! – in the context of neuroscience, honoring parents speaking for their baby, and embracing that “mom + milk” are the key ingredients in building the prem’s health. The book also states that in NICU prem care there are some areas of controversy where academic “evidence is insufficient or absent” (pp.v), which reinforces the vital bond between mother and baby, and the need to find the best balance of mother-care and technological care. The conversation with prem parents and health professionals is key to improve prem care now and in the future.

Hold Your Prem helps us choose to care for term infants and prems with deep knowledge and awareness, in conscious ways that minimize trauma (which sadly is unintentionally created in some hospital/NICU-care models). The Bergmans empower parents and providers through detailed understanding and steps to allow the best nurture science, skin-to-skin contact, positive breastfeeding support and mother-baby bonding, so together we co-create a “nurture care” model to minimize stress, maximize babies’ comfort to meet their deep developmental needs in the early moments of their precious lives, enhance bonding, and align intention to create healthy babies and brain integration, so prems’ nervous systems are balanced and well, which can give prems the opportunity to live healthier lives and effectively connect socially in the future.

If you’re inspired to learn more and to learn how to advocate for prems in your work, consider joining BirthWorks for Kangaroula future trainings, now offered virtually.

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Book Review: Nobody Told Me About That – The First Six Weeks

Nobody Told Me About That – The First Six Weeks
by Ginger Breedlove

Book review by Cristin Tighe, BWI Program Director & CCE(BWI)

What a valuable read – this is the most comprehensive book about the postpartum time I’ve picked up. It’s focus on the first six weeks is key! As a mother of first a daughter and then twin boys, and as a postpartum doula, I have experienced the challenging personal reality of going through the early weeks with newborn(s) and have professionally supported varied clients through it!  The first six weeks or so with a baby is also the most precious time.  Having the option while pregnant to understand what to expect after the baby is born very comprehensively and clearly is a true gift – as it empowers parents, so they can enjoy this time more.

For parents-to-be, the first four chapters are like gold. They focus on what is normal (can eliminate much worry!), how to make safe and empowered sleep decisions, and feeding realities (including breastfeeding benefits and tips for success).  Understanding certain key things is exceptionally helpful – like it’s normal that a baby may have a cone-shaped head, acne or other skin changes, cross eyes or make funny sounds when sleeping.  It’s also so valuable to know what to expect day-by-early day about when a baby will poop, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, as well as the truth about how tending to a newborn after birth is often an emotional roller coaster but certain things can minimize that.

For mom, considerations and choosing before baby comes about early day visitors (and tips on how to manage them sweetly!), about how to prioritize mom’s sleep needs and shift the schedule as baby’s sleep and eating needs vary over the first weeks, will also assure her needs are met.  The 36-page chapter on breastfeeding is a lot… but if this is read before the baby comes, parents should feel very empowered on almost every key consideration for breastfeeding (and can skip other books and online resources as prep).

Other key chapters can definitely help parents, and without a doubt do provide valuable insight for birth work professionals and medical providers.  They include: in-depth information for fathers/partners, on postpartum depression (“the #1 complication of pregnancy”), returning to intimacy and to work, dealing with challenges (inequity/racism, unexpected interventions, mother and infant mortality, trauma, grief), as well as fun ideas on practicing mindfulness and getting a pet accustomed to a new baby.  Additional key topic chapters offer deep insight from women of color, LGBT* families, and real from-the-heart stories sharing the experience of what it’s like up to the first six weeks+ AND how moms can find their voice through this magical, demanding experience.

Do note this book is like a mini-encyclopedia, and often has repetition – so if you’re pregnant or a partner anticipating your new child – good to purchase it now.  (This book is so important for those in the US (or with a similar model) of more medicalized birth options and minimal support for after-baby care — which is often very little advice to no advice/hands-on preparation followed by mostly no professional support at home for weeks.  Even in countries, like Belgium, where you have in-home midwives visit every other day for a few weeks to check baby and mom, affordable pediatrician visits earlier than six weeks, and optional free childcare support, this book is invaluable.

Overall, this book empowers and deeply enlightens… of all the birth-related books on my bookshelf… this is a keeper! I will refer to it again and again for clients’ needs and do encourage both new parents and professionals to purchase it now.

 

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BirthWorks Birth Prep!

This virtual experience is a fantastic way to prep for birth now from home!!
What a brilliant gift to give yourself or to give to new parents you know!

The BirthWorks Experience helps every woman find her own best way to birth. First-time parents (as well as parents having another child) will love our engaging, interactive format of evidence-based and emotional childbirth preparation which highlights:

…understanding ways to labor that can minimize interventions

…how human-values practice increases confidence and decreases fear in birth

…understanding Four Principles of Optimal Pelvic Positioning to shorten and ease labor and birth

energy, relaxation, affirmation, primal health and more!

What is unique about BirthWorks innovative and experiential approach? 

In two short virtual Zoom sessions, parents experience a balanced, non-judgemental approach to childbirth preparation including:

  • Experiential energy work to empower and transform
  • The most gentle, amazing relaxation exercise!
  • Chance to identify beliefs about birth
  • Creating powerful affirmations to overcome and release fears
  • Knowing how to position your pelvis for an easier birth
  • Birth anticipations and expectations
  • How hormones work to your advantage and “Adrenaline Language”
  • Non-pharmacological comfort measures and the HPA axis
  • Exercises to relax the pelvic floor before and during labor
  • Understanding Primal Health – the importance of mother/baby skin-to-skin contact on brain development
  • Mother-Daughter Relationships
  • Common Sense Nutrition

If this resonates with you, join our August Birth Prep or sign up for fall BirthWorks Birth Preps now offered monthly! Questions? Please reach info@birthworks.org

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Reflections From A Mom With Multiples

Taking care of one baby is a lot of work.  New moms often say they were busy all day but don’t exactly remember what they did!  Just imagine taking care of newborn twins or triplets!  I am a BirthWorks Mentor and one of my students, Sienna Morrow, who is in the BirthWorks Postpartum Doula Program sent a response to the question below that brought me to tears as it made me remember my own experience with my twins.

Question:  When is a baby considered to be premature?  List five main concerns a new mother with multiples might have in the first few months at home and how you would address them.

She wrote:

  • A baby is considered premature if born before 37 weeks.
  • A mother with multiples might be concerned with getting adequate sleep, breastfeeding two babies (tandem), creating a routine that works for both babies, bonding with each baby, and having enough support.
  • I would encourage the mother to tune into the babies and create a routine that works for all of them together by helping her process how things go throughout the days and areas where she is struggling.
  • I would help her connect to groups of moms of multiples in her area and give her time to have conversations with her partner about how they can support one another.
  • I would address any breastfeeding concerns that she has and build up her confidence with praise and words of wisdom.
  • I would also help her explore her own resources and discover things she can do to build a support network in her current situation.”

I, myself, gave birth to my twin boys at 38 weeks and 6 days so they were not premies. I breastfed my boys 21 of 24 hours the first day, and then it was like 16 hours a day until we all learned to tandem feed. I felt stuck in my primal brain for weeks, almost like having no awareness of being human most of the time.  As I reflect back on the experience, I am laughing, remembering some of my chimpanzee robotic-like thoughts that were running through my head during that time:

  • Feed next baby, get other one, feed other….fall down and sleep…are they both safe? …zzz…wake up! Baby must eat…
  • I starving, ravenous, soooo thirsty, give me water
  • Bladder bursting, need to pee
  • Need shower, crusty, smelly, sweaty, sticky
  • Where is Annalissa? (That’s my daughter who just turned four.  This thought would come with adrenaline as I was falling asleep feeding some baby boy – not sure who it was half the time, didn’t care, trusted my husband who rotated them.

These thoughts just repeated over and over, like the film “Groundhog Day”, until around four months.  Then, I woke up, like from a dream, checked we were all alive and when we were, I sighed deeply.

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Human Dignity – How BirthWorks Philosophy Empowers & Enlightens

posted by Cristin Tighe, CCE (BWI)

 

Being pregnant teaches us things that ease the transition to caring for a newborn.  For example – thinking about another human being (with every bite we eat!), not sleeping through nights, and not being in control during birth – help prepare us emotionally to mother.  If additionally, we have BirthWorks philosophy as a framework, then we are strongly braced, equipped and prepared to be amazing mothers.  Women with information and autonomy to decide, whose emotions and beliefs are honored, feel safe and secure.  We recognize our value in the process, have self-awareness and can grow (however it goes) … because we come to birth lifting ourselves, which also opens the loving possibility for our children.

BirthWorks philosophy and its values give us confidence to believe in our strength as women.  (This is so needed in the face of an often patriarchal, liability-first ideology that views pregnancy as risk, where we often need to advocate for ourselves even to our own health care providers.)  BirthWorks says birth is instinctive and through integration of body-mind-spirit, we find the inner knowing to trust our own bodies.  It guides us to know that we should look inward to be fine.  To me, the wisdom of BirthWorks comes partly from a deep inspiration underlying it – faith in Human Values.

These intentions – Truth, Right Action, Peace, Love and Non-Violence – helps us believe in ourselves as women and so carry us over our fears.  At the essence of human dignity is being valued, and through the process of BirthWorks with our dignity being honored, we experience knowing, integration, power and flow.  This values gracefully, powerfully uplift us, so we keep lifting ourselves.  Then we are able to lift the next generation, from the moment of birth and as they grow.

The BirthWorks philosophy gives us a clear path to transition to motherhood. . . in an empowering, transformational way.  The intention to try to work and live a value-based life is infinitely rewarding.  For me, in all I do – as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, yoga teacher, doula trainer, friend, neighbor, Girl Scout leader and more – I hold values strongly.  I believe that we instinctively know what is right; that knowing our own bodies and minds, and letting our spirit guide us, gives infinite opportunities to heal, gain awareness and create positive vibrations.  Prioritizing values like those that are part of BirthWorks allows stillness and peace within, creating space for clarity and our authenticity.  When we have that, we can choose our truth and actions in our world.  BirthWorks gives us our dignity, connects us to our children in beautiful ways, and ultimately creates a world where the values of human dignity bring to the surface more and more.