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Accepting Fully Who We Are

Our Birth Doula training is very comprehensive and includes not only Optimal Pelvic Positioning and “The Four Principles,” but also ways in which to enhance character development.  One of the ways we do this is by having our students complete the BirthWorks Doula Journal Workbook in which one of the exercises is to write responses to insightful quotations.  Here is an inspiring one we would like to share with you that is pertinent not only to doula work but to life itself.

 Quotation:

“The more we become ourselves, the more we change”. – Carl Rogers

This quotation speaks of accepting fully who we are.  In a society that tells us how to act, think, look and feel this can be incredibly difficult.  Many seemingly subtle experiences create a culture of how and who we should think, feel and be – a parent reassuring a child that, “That didn’t hurt” when they fell off their bike (it might not have hurt the parent but the child sure is hurt).  An Aunt insisting, “Come on and give me a hug, you’re not shy” – though the child is feeling shy in that moment. Teenagers are told who they should “like”; until recently this person must have been a member of the opposite sex.  If someone likes long floral skirts they may be seen as old fashioned, or hippy – everyone seems to have forgotten that floral skirts have gone in and out of fashion many times over the years.  As adults society has all sorts of messages – you should own your own home; you may only have one sexual partner – a dog and two kids is a complete family unit; you should be saving for retirement etc etc.

 

In this barrage of repression many people find it hard to find themselves.  It takes a lot of work to dig through perceived ideas and false personalities to find their true self.  It may even take decades of work through therapy, meditation, restorative practice and life crises.  It’s worth the journey though  for once we have found this true self we have found real freedom and real liberation.  Unshackled we are able to live in movement, flowing with the tide of life, able to shift and change with our current situation or environment.  We are free to live completely in the “Now” because we understand that we are merely consciousness flowing through a series of present moments.

 

Such acceptance is of huge benefit to us in our practice of being a doula as it allows one to be flexible and resilient.  It let’s us accept that other people are complete individuals and we are able to differentiate ourselves from them (differentiation being the ability to hold on to ourselves, our values and our opinions while accepting that there is room for more than one valid opinion and remaining connected whilst dealing with the anxiety that comes from these differences in opinion). We realize that though we may be doing things we may not be comfortable with for our own selves, it may be the best way to meet the birthing mother’s needs at that time.  It allows us to lend ourselves to our clients though they may not always heed our advice and may make decisions that we personally would not make.  It allows us to be gentle and compassionate in all our dealings with our birthing couple and with the entire birthing team.

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“The Baby Comes Out the Back” – Birth Story

by Krista Haggerty, BWI Trainee

I was 40 weeks and 6 days pregnant when I woke at 6am to my waters breaking.  It was a small trickle, but I knew today would be the day we would meet our third child.  I woke my husband, text my doula, and called my midwife.  Since this would be a VBAC, I had to deliver at a different hospital than where most women delivered at my practice, and it was almost a 40 minute drive.  My last labor was under 4 hours, so we wanted to be ready to go as soon as the contractions picked up.

I started having irregular contractions, but since they weren’t painful I figured we had some time.  We called my mother-in-law to come stay with our other two children.  Around 7am, I felt like contractions were becoming regular.  I called out when they began and ended and my husband timed them as I showered and got dressed, then helped my mother-in-law get settled with the kids.  When I asked him what the interval was, he said close to 3 minutes apart!  I called the midwife to let her know, and we left the house just after 8.

I played my birth playlist in the car to help me relax, and my husband and I smiled and chatted during the drive.  It was a beautiful morning, and we were happy to finally have our baby!  The contractions were getting more intense to the point that I was vocalizing through them.  They were coming closer together, but since they still were not too painful I thought we had plenty of time before things would “get serious”.

When we were about ten minutes from the hospital, I had a contraction that ended with me feeling the first twinges of pushing.  I text my doula quickly before another contraction hit me, telling her to leave ASAP.  I also told my husband, “it’s not an emergency yet, but maybe you should probably drive a little faster.”  He was very calm as he started passing cars, reminding me to breathe and telling me we were almost there.

We reached the hospital around 8:40.  By this time I was having contractions right on top of each other, and could barely move to get out of the car and into a wheelchair.  The urge to push was becoming much more intense.  My husband left the car right in front of the main entrance and jogged me through the front doors.  We flew through the hallways (with me yelling quite loudly most of the way!) until we reached the maternity door, and waited to be buzzed in.  I may have yelled “let me in!” in between contractions.  Once the doors opened, my midwife and nurses were rushing towards us, directing my husband to our delivery room.  As the birth team helped me get up from the chair, my husband jokingly said “she’s your problem now!”

I got on the bed and lay on my side, still vocalizing loudly and pushing with the contractions.  I asked for the lights to be turned off and welcomed the soothing dusk of the darkened room after our ride through the bright hallways.  My midwife checked me and told me I was only at 8 cm, so I needed to stop pushing.  I was annoyed, this made me 3 for 3 births where I was pushing too soon and risking a swollen cervix.  My doula wasn’t there yet, so the midwife and nurse talked me through the contractions, reminding me to slow my breathing and cheering me on.  My husband caught on and joined in, letting me know he was nearby.

After what felt like a long time (is there any time longer than trying not to push when everything inside you is screaming to push?), I suddenly felt the baby’s head drop down and I said “is that the head?  My midwife helped me get to a hands and knees position, and raised the top of the bed so I could be upright and lean against the bed.  My husband stood near me at the top of the bed and let me grip his hands, and I stabilized myself against him as I followed my body’s cues to push.  I wasn’t really hearing anyone in the room, but in my head I heard something I had learned last year:  “the baby comes out the back”.

Last August, I attended a BirthWorks Childbirth Educator Workshop.  The phrase “the baby comes out the back” was new to me, and was used several times over the weekend.  I had a difficult time understanding exactly what it meant.  It wasn’t until I saw a visual of a 9 month pregnant woman with a view into her womb; the baby was angled not straight down or slightly towards the front as I’d always imagined, but towards the back of her body.  It suddenly clicked!  The baby comes out the BACK!

Fast forward to a little more than a year later, and that was the mantra running through my head as I worked with my baby.  I rested in between contractions, knowing I was close to the end.  I pushed and breathed towards the back, and then felt baby’s head:  the ring of fire!  I slowed down and took a moment to breathe.  When I pushed in the next contraction, my baby was born!  It was only 30 minutes since we had arrived at the hospital, and I pushed for less than ten minutes.  It was my fastest birth, and my first that was intervention free.  I waited impatiently as they got ready to move me so I could hold my baby, and for my husband to tell me the gender since I was facing away.

It took a moment for my husband to announce in shock, “It’s a GIRL!”  There was a wonderful feeling of joy in the room, everyone was smiling and laughing.  It was a beautiful way to welcome our daughter to the world.

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Accepting Fully Who We Are

Our Birth Doula training is very comprehensive and includes not only Optimal Pelvic
Positioning and “The Four Principles,” but also ways in which to enhance character
development. One of the ways we do this is by having our students complete the
BirthWorks Doula Journal Workbook in which one of the exercises is to write responses
to insightful quotations. Here is an inspiring one we would like to share with you that is
pertinent not only to doula work but to life itself.

Quotation:
“The more we become ourselves, the more we change”. – Carl Rogers

This quotation speaks of accepting fully who we are. In a society that tells us how to
act, think, look and feel this can be incredibly difficult. Many seemingly subtle
experiences create a culture of how and who we should think, feel and be – a parent
reassuring a child that, “That didn’t hurt” when they fell off their bike (it might not have
hurt the parent but the child sure is hurt). An Aunt insisting, “Come on and give me a
hug, you’re not shy” – though the child is feeling shy in that moment. Teenagers are told
who they should “like”; until recently this person must have been a member of the
opposite sex. If someone likes long floral skirts they may be seen as old fashioned, or
hippy – everyone seems to have forgotten that floral skirts have gone in and out of
fashion many times over the years. As adults society has all sorts of messages – you
should own your own home; you may only have one sexual partner – a dog and two kids
is a complete family unit; you should be saving for retirement etc etc.

In this barrage of repression many people find it hard to find themselves. It takes a lot
of work to dig through perceived ideas and false personalities to find their true self. It
may even take decades of work through therapy, meditation, restorative practice and life
crises. It’s worth the journey though for once we have found this true self we have
found real freedom and real liberation. Unshackled we are able to live in movement,
flowing with the tide of life, able to shift and change with our current situation or environment. We are free to live completely in the “Now” because we understand that
we are merely consciousness flowing through a series of present moments.

Such acceptance is of huge benefit to us in our practice of being a doula as it allows
one to be flexible and resilient. It let’s us accept that other people are complete
individuals and we are able to differentiate ourselves from them (differentiation being the
ability to hold on to ourselves, our values and our opinions while accepting that there is
room for more than one valid opinion and remaining connected whilst dealing with the
anxiety that comes from these differences in opinion). We realize that though we may
be doing things we may not be comfortable with for our own selves, it may be the best
way to meet the birthing mother’s needs at that time. It allows us to lend ourselves to
our clients though they may not always heed our advice and may make decisions that
we personally would not make. It allows us to be gentle and compassionate in all our
dealings with our birthing couple and with the entire birthing team.

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Birthing in the Spirit

 

She labored in the water, feeling her body becoming lighter as her abdomen tightened in another contraction.  Her partner looked at her saying, “Are you okay?” with a thumbs up to encourage her.  She smiled back at him looking relaxed in the water.  But inside she felt huge.  Her mind was whirling as she felt the power connecting her to all the women who have given birth before her. She was not alone. This power was sustaining her through strong, hard, contractions.  She thought to herself, “If they could do it, so can I.”

Birth is sacred.  What can be more sacred than the formless taking form through the human body.  This is something we may often forget, getting preoccupied with all the other concerns in birth.  For those attending births, the process may become routine and lose the wonder and awe of what has just happened.

Experience of the Body – Birth is an integrated experience of the mind, body, and spirit.  We know it is an experience of the body because we can see the body, feel the body, and hear the body.  We see the abdomen growing a woman as her fetus approaches full gestation.  A pregnant woman can feel her baby kicking inside.  These are tangible  experiences.

Experience of the mind – Birth is an experience of the mind, and even though we can’t see the mind, we believe it exists because of all the thoughts and emotions that surface during pregnancy, labor, and birth.

Experience of the spirit – When it comes to the spirit, there is more ambiguity because the spirit means different things to different people.  But the energy driving the passage of a soul taking birth must come from somewhere, and this remains one of the mysteries of life.

I believe love and spirit are synonymous with each other and that they cannot be separated.  Love is in spirit and spirit is in love.  From the time of conception to the end of our lives, the body serves as an instrument of the spirit.  The more the body can be viewed as a vehicle through which the spirit works, the more smooth the process of birth is likely to be.  At birth, a part of the body has now become separate from it and a baby is born with his own personality, inclinations, and tendencies.  This process can be likened to a flower.  The flower can be viewed as a vehicle for the fragrance so that it can be expressed.  This fragrance brings us joy.  In the same way, the body can be seen as a vehicle for the spirit bringing joy.  The sweet fragrance could not be enjoyed if it weren’t for the flower.  The spirit could not be enjoyed if it weren’t for the existence of the body.  Just as fragrance is in the flower, so the spirit is in the body.  Both the flower and the body are material and can be seen.  Both the fragrance and the spirit are nonmaterial and cannot be seen.

When a woman in labor views her body as a “vehicle” through which the spirit can flow, she is more likely to surrender to the forces of labor, welcoming contractions as they become stronger and more intense.  She feels more confident and has less fear.  She is more in touch with her instinctive nature and follows its guidance.  Focusing on the awe and wonder in the power of such birth-forces can bring a woman inner strength that will serve her well as she progresses into the unknown of labor.

 

“Birthing in the spirit is the birthing of our ancestors.  Before birth in the western world became mechanized and dehumanized, women and men honored the sacred ability of women to create and bring forth life.  Birthing in the spirit is reconnecting with those natural, primal beginnings.  More than just relaxing and letting go, birthing in the spirit is moving through the portal of birth to the transcendent place that birthing takes women;  the place of connectedness to every being and to the earth.  It is feeling life itself pulsing through your veins with the simultaneous power of a volcano and the peaceful silence of snowfall.  It is losing yourself entirely and only then knowing the core of who you really are.  Birthing in the spirit is what women do when we are honored, cared for compassionately, and deeply trusting of our bodies’ ancient wisdom moving us to that sacred space.  Birthing in the spirit is the ritual of motherhood;  it is through the intensity of the experience of birth that women find the power and the compassion to give all of themselves, and then to give more, to their babies.  It is in that place that we become mothers.”                                                           Jacque Shannon-McNulty

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Yes! Type 2 Diabetes is Reversible!

 

BirthWorks is a comprehensive program that works to improve birth and health for the whole person. We address many issues that help keep a woman in the perinatal period healthy so she has a better chances of growing  a healthy baby, having a transformative birth,  and being of sound mind, body, and spirit during the early years of parenting. Here, we are addressing the national/global concerns of obesity and Type 2 diabetes brought on by a diet high in fats and highly processed foods that bear little resemblance to the whole foods that they came from.  This is adversely impacting the health of both mother and babies and the process of birth today.

Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes have become major health issues in the USA and most countries around the world.  They are a large health cost to the global population and are also contributing to complications for pregnant and birthing women.  We used to think that once a person has Type 2 Diabetes, he/she has it for life.  The good news is that the latest research shows this is not necessarily true.  Type 2 Diabetes can be reversed with a lifestyle program of eating a whole foods plant based diet, regular exercise, and managing stress.  It can also prevent development of diabetes in the many people who have prediabetes or have had gestational diabetes.

Normally, the pancreas secretes insulin which allows us to store and use glucose (sugar) from the food we eat.  In type 2 diabetes, the problem starts when our cells become resistant to the insulin and do not allow glucose to be transported into the cells of muscle, liver, brain, and other organs for energy, metabolism, storage, and overall function.

Exciting new research!  Decrease your fat intake.

Research has now shown that the main culprit is the fats that are deposited in the cells of muscle, liver, and other vital organs which  interfere with the transport of glucose into the cells.  Like a lock and key mechanism, insulin attaching to the receptors on the outside of the cell, acts as a key to facilitate the glucose coming from the blood into the cell.

When fats are deposited into cells, they inhibit the effect of insulin which is to facilitate the uptake of glucose from the blood into the cell.  Inside the cell, glucose is used to produce energy and carry out  other functions of the cell depending on the organ or tissue that these cells are within.

If there is an inadequate supply of glucose in the cell, there will not be enough energy or power for the cell and organ that the cell is a part of, to do its job.  If the cell is in a muscle, it will not be able to move or contract the muscle it is a part of.  If the cell is in the brain and does not get enough glucose, you have impaired cerebral function and can eventually go into a coma.

The solution is to start with the root cause of the disease which is to prevent or remove fat buildup in cells  Where are the fats coming from?  They are coming from a variety of sources and include any added fats or oils to your foods.  Examples are salad dressings containing fat, saturated fats in baked goods, pastries and butter and margarines in recipes, fats added to foods or foods cooked in fat such as French fries and chicken nuggets, and especially any deep fat fried foods.  To avoid oils, I saute my vegetables in water or vegetable stock and it works just fine!

The most effective way to improve or reverse your diabetes, is to decide now to begin eating a Whole Foods Plant Based Diet.  All a person with prediabetes or Type 2 Diabetes has to do, is to eat only whole plant foods that are minimally processed and avoid all fats and oils which are mostly highly processed.  You can get all the fats that you need by eating whole foods such as corn, seeds and nuts (especially flax seed meal and chia seeds), instead of processed corn oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, etc. Since the body is always trying to heal itself, you will be surprised how quickly you will see results.

However, if you are on medications, especially insulin for diabetes, work closely with your doctor to adjust medicines according to what your blood sugars are running and also blood pressure meds to keep your blood pressure and blood sugar from going too low from these lifestyle changes in combination with medications.  Also speak to your doctor about supplementing with Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin D to prevent deficiencies of these vitamins on a plant-based diet.

Here is a picture of a lunch served at the recent conference I attended in Washington DC called the ICNM (International Committee of Nutritional Medicine).  Start now eating more fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts being sure you have a rainbow plate of many colors.  It is delicious and you will begin feeling healthier and having more energy.  If pregnant, your baby will also be having the best start in life.

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Balance in Birth and Life

As a Libra, balance has always been an important concept for me.  As I have worked in birth for so many years, the concept of balance becomes even more important. There is a very fine line of balance in the body, physiologically, as when our temperature is even one degree higher than normal, we feel ill.   The body is always adjusting and being in balance keeps us healthy. When the body is too hot, it will sweat to regulate temperature.  When the body is cold, the pores on our skin close to keep in heat.  We can feel unbalanced in life when stresses become too great. Our bodies crave balance, and balance keeps us healthy.

The other important consideration with balance is realizing how connected every part of our body is.  When one part is out of balance, the whole body feels it.  Remember the hand relaxation exercise I wrote about in another blog?  Besides being a great exercise for women in labor, it also teaches us something else.  If you squeeze both hands very tightly and hold them that way for 30 seconds, you will have time to follow where the tension is moving in your body.  The tightening will slowly spread throughout the body, becoming more subtle the further it is from your hand, but gradually, you will be aware of it.  This means that tightening the hand will have an effect on the muscles of the pelvic floor.  Therefore, the more relaxed her hands are, the more relaxed is her pelvic floor musculature.

It is very important to have all aspects of the pelvis with its muscles and ligaments, balanced in birth.  For example, if the baby’s head is not positioned directly in the middle of the cervix, it will take longer for the cervix to dilate.   If a ligament is tight on one side, the baby may not be able to descend. If a woman is very fearful of contractions, her body may be in a fight/flight mode of survival trying to protect her with a guarding energy that creates an imbalance in her body.

You may be familiar with the exercises taught to birthing women to release their pelvic floor i.e the Sidelying Release and Forward Leaning Inversion (also called “Belly over the table”) originated by Dr. Carole Phillips.  It is important that the Sidelying Release is carried out lying on both sides so the entire pelvis experiences a release.

But just knowing and doing these pelvic floor exercises is not enough.  We must think in terms of the entire system because every part of our body is connected.  For example, how is a woman in labor breathing?  Are her breaths short and fast or long, deep, and more relaxing?  The more relaxed she is, the better her progress in labor especially if she is upright and moving around.  Then her entire body is moving in synchrony with the rhythm of her labor and she is sensing a balance that feels peaceful.  Even though strong contractions are coming and going, she is in her instinctive, primal brain that knows everything is okay and she is in the “zone” moving with her labor and guided by her body wisdom that already knows how to give birth.

And sometimes, doing all of these things still results in a baby not descending for one reason or another such as a tight short cord, but a woman who feels balanced in her life and in her labor,  still knows she did the best she could, is thankful for interventions that help birth her baby, and feels grateful for the experience.

Balance is very connected to peace and contentment. So many people say, “I want peace,” as they feel their lives are in pieces.   Helping women in birth to find peace automatically results in a feeling of balance and in that moment their breath is slower, their body is in synchrony, and  all is well.