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Ways of Being – Human Values Help Us Get Our Wishes Done!

Ever feel that despite a well-intentioned to-do list, you’re not getting where you want to be?  Instead of pressuring ourselves, we can choose self-compassion. In moments, just being versus doing helps.... taking a minute to realign with why we have an intention to-do, gives access to more subtle ways of being, which reframes our next steps and gets the “doing done” often in better, more efficient ways! To “do” this, human-values help frame our daily intentions and actions... if we take time to envision from a place of clarity  why and where we want to go, our focused energy allows more easeful accomplishment because we feel clearly what “to do” next! For example, the human value of unity - creates connected harmony within ourselves (mind-body-spirit) and expansion as we interact with each other. If we want to get something “done” with others, coming from this place can only help.
Framing intentions for 2021 -- within a wider value-based context -- allows us to BE in this new world in more effective ways. Understanding how our own “ways of being” influence  how we approach our daily “doing,” not only connects us to ourselves in a holistic deeper way, but also enhances synergistic interactions with energetic harmony between birthworkers and parents, doulas, medical staff, families with their new babies, and each other.
2020 revealed to us the importance of these connections within ourselves, with each other, as well as between humans globally. BirthWorks approach is always holistic - we often hear from our community that human-values in practice encourages new ways of being that allow the best outcomes for birth. We ask birthing parents to believe in the history of birth and themselves - to hold trust and faith in their instinctive knowledge of how to give birth. And we frequently hear how  this understanding of human-values has impacted people positively…. personally, professionally over time in their lives.  So stepping into 2021… if you’re tired of “doing” or want to feel differently, choose focusing on  a positive value, pause and consider, and then embody it as you put it into action.

In BirthWorks, our hope for 2021 is our intention to continue being values-based, helping us to connect and experience unity within and together, and from there, co-create expansion so our “to-dos” make a difference. We envision education and service to parents through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, that brings compassionate, confident human beings into the world. We hope together our values-based choosing helps us get more to-dos in the world accomplished.
We are deeply grateful to our students, educators, doulas, mentors, trainers, Board, Advisors, and partners, who brought their inner light to BirthWorks in the past thru 2020.  Our 2021 New Years’ Wish for each of you is to find ways to just BE. Relax and enjoy this feeling of connecting to yourself and others, and access ways of being that
help you reach your 2021 possibilities. 


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The Gift of Birth is Love Itself

Light and love are inherent in many holidays, especially this time of year.  We love to see light and we feel peace when we feel loved. One characteristic of love is attraction. Newborn babies are full of love – oxytocin is the hormone of love and what helps a woman’s uterus contract to birth her baby. Therefore, levels in the mother and baby are very high at the moment of birth. The gift of birth is love itself.

Newborn babies fill us with awe and wonder. We want to be near to hold and touch them. New parents wonder “Where did you come from?” when looking into their babies’ eyes. This remains a mystery. Did you know a baby’s eyes at birth are about the same size they will be as an adult?  One mother said, “I looked into my baby’s eyes and saw the universe!” Women’s lives are transformed when they become mothers. This is because of love’s transforming potential.

The holidays are also a time of giving.  What are the most special gifts to give our babies, children, parents and each other?  What if we have only positive thoughts and words, seeing what is good, hearing what is good, touching what is good, tasting what is good… so all newborn babies absorb those energies and feel safe. A mother and her newborn are a dyad – they are so connected that what mom feels is felt by her baby and vice versa. Parent/baby skin-to-skin contact sets off a cascade of hormones in both of them. These hormones help lay down pathways in the baby’s limbic brain which impact them for life. Respecting the primal period – from conception to the end of the first year of life – is essential for our health as an adult and it all begins at birth.

The practice of human values of love and giving is the foundation The BirthWorks Experience which is empowering and transforming. Birth in a holistic sense means that the more joy and love we feel for each other, the more the baby feels it in the womb and after birth. In BirthWorks, we establish a deeper awareness of key connections between babies and parents. We do this by holding parents in awe of the gift of birth and nature’s perfect design.  For example, the process of having the smell of amniotic fluid in the womb is similar to colostrum’s smell, which helps the baby find life-giving food at the breast at birth. Breastfeeding establishes an emotional language which later leads to speech – all so perfectly designed for our miraculous growth and development.  In The BirthWorks Experience, we encourage trusting how the universe put all this together, helping every baby have the most positive experience for a good start in life.

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BirthWorks Reborn

The birthing of my career as a childbirth educator and doula began over 18 years ago, on a cold fall evening as I pushed out my VBAC baby into the bed he was conceived in, surrounded in peace and love and welcomed earth side by his parents, grandmother, and loving midwives. There is something so otherworldly and generational when a baby’s first introduction to human life involves dim lights, hushed voices, warm hands, and landing safely on mother’s soft breast. How I wish all babies were introduced to this world in such a manner. Not all of my six children were born in a gentle way, but because of my knowledge and inner knowing of the BirthWorks philosophy, my children were all consciously
welcomed in awareness and peace.

Life has brought me great surprises through raising children, navigating a divorce, and entering the life of single motherhood. And though I have had to take other jobs to provide an income for my growing family, always my heart has been with birth work… my life’s passion to witness and hold space for the women who birth themselves as they birth their babies. I have found that the choices I made in life to raise my children often coincide with how they were birthed… in love and peace and with a lot of wide open space for them to feel safe to explore who they are.

Recently, as I was attending a therapy session to release some past trauma and difficult feelings that I was holding onto, I was led into visualizations that reminded me so much of the work we do in our BirthWorks childbirth classes that it bought me back in time in my body to a workshop many years ago while attending training with Cathy Daub. Cathy was helping me release and deal with the grief from the separation from my daughter after her traumatic cesarean birth a few years before. The three day separation from her had caused significant trauma and guilt that I had not yet dealt with. It was crucial to release this in order to move forward in my path as a childbirth educator and doula. When Cathy led me through the guided visualizations to help my body create a new memory, I was holding my baby in my arms as soon as she was born. This is the memory my body has of her birth now. And I was changed from the inside out.

As I sat through the therapy this past week releasing feelings of grief and hurt, my body instantly reminded me of my experience during that childbirth training so many years before. And I knew in that moment where my next step was… that I belong with birthing women. One of the most amazing things about BirthWorks has been the inner knowing and trusting of my own intuition that it has instilled in me. How easy it is to forget who we are and what we are all about in the busyness and chaotic pace of life. And how easy is it that in a moment our body can remember and teleport us back to a time that has been imprinted into our cells.

The world is in the middle of a tumultuous and uncertain time. Yet, life continues on and babies will be born. And so it is a deep honor and with gratitude that I step back into the path of serving birthing women and their families and accept my calling alongside the women who have paved the way before me.  I am BirthWorks reborn!

Blessed be.

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Fear In Labor

by Cathy Daub, BWI President


A few weeks ago when I was seeking donations for the silent auction at our recent Celebrating Birth event, I walked into a store. The woman at the counter was about seven months pregnant with her first baby. We started talking about her plans for giving birth. As I was leaving, I mentioned, “Just remember to keep moving in labor as much as you can.” She looked back at me with tears and a quivering voice saying, “I’m so afraid of labor.” I was only in her store for about eight minutes.

I remember that my due date for my first child fell on the date of the Boston snow storm in 1978 that shut down the entire city of Boston for three days. No traffic could move on the roads so if I went into labor, I wouldn’t be able to travel. I would have to walk a number of blocks to a hospital nearby and enter as a walk-in. To further complicate matters, my daughter was breech. In spite of all of this, I don’t remember being afraid of labor. I had confidence that I could handle whatever happened. My body ended up being wise by going into labor three weeks later.

What has changed since then? Back then, a cesarean was still considered an emergency procedure. The epidural and induction rates were much lower but the rates of episiotomy were much higher. Today episiotomy rates are much lower and epidural and induction rates are much higher. Of greater concern, however, is a changing societal belief that a cesarean is safer, easier, and more convenient than a vaginal birth. Some women opt for cesareans to avoid possible damage to their pelvic floor musculature.

Birth has become an industry that is governed more by economic, financial, and legal incentives, rather than true medical reasons. For example, what would be the reason for administering an epidural to a woman fully dilated and with the baby’s head crowning? I was with a woman in labor walking the hallways of the hospital with her. Not many women are walking the halls in labor. But then as the contractions began to become stronger, she requested an epidural and the nurses weren’t surprised – in fact they were expecting it. With many hospitals today having 90% epidural rates, the medical team may have seen few if any women laboring and birthing normally without medical procedures or obstetric drugs.

In BirthWorks we empower women by reminding them that they were born with the knowledge about how to give birth and that birth is instinctive. What is instinctive doesn’t need to be learned. Rather, we help them to have more trust and faith in their body knowledge that already knows how to give birth. This is a unique approach and one that decreases fear and increases confidence. If you want to help empower women in birth, become a part of the solution by joining our childbirth educator and/or doula programs. Become a respected childbirth educator and/or doula in your community and help pregnant women become more confident about their ability to give birth.

I have recently been hired to teach childbirth preparation classes at our local hospital where there are about 5,000 births a year. Their rates of cesareans, epidurals, and inductions are very high. They currently have two childbirth preparation classes, one that is two hours in length and the other that is four hours in length. I am bringing in an eight week (16 hour) course. It is in the proposal stages now and will take some months but when I begin, I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Fear In Birth

Fear in Birth by Katie Immel

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
The light switch for our main bathroom is housed outside the door. This bathroom has no window. Clearly, this setup was designed by an evil prankster (or maybe just someone without kids). The children of the house have, on numerous occasions, found sheer joy in flipping the switch when someone is in the shower behind the closed door, leaving the poor shower dweller in utter blackness. If the shower dweller is under the age of 14, this event is often accompanied by shrieks of indignation from within the bathroom confines, and angry demands to turn the light back on RIGHT NOW. After a few good giggles, the culprit usually turns the light back on, knowing that it won’t take long for a parent or the victim sibling to inflict some undesirable consequences.

Children are afraid of the dark, and a lot of adults aren’t terribly fond of it either. When I asked my 6-year-old about this curious fact recently, her only comment was “it’s creepy.”

But when you really think about it, there is nothing about the dark that can hurt you. If we really analyze it, it seems to me that it’s not so much the darkness itself that is frightening, but rather the way that it hides potential danger that can harm us. In darkness, I have no idea what to expect. I don’t know how to find my way. I don’t know how far in front of me the wall is, or what else is in my path that I might crash into. I don’t know whether I’m going to accidentally step on the cat, or reach out and grab ahold of the cactus, or step on a Lego helicopter. In darkness, I am paralyzed, because any move that I make holds the potential for harm to me or someone else.

We are not afraid of the dark. What we really fear is the unknown.

I don’t know that this philosophical analysis of her actual fear versus her perceived or described fear would mean anything to my daughter. I don’t know that she would even care. All she knows is that when it’s dark, it feels creepy. And she is afraid.

Many childbearing mothers find themselves in this same situation. In the same way that darkness stops us in our tracks because of the unknown, mothers fear the unknowns in childbirth.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that consistently surrounds childbirth with fear. As a result, when a newly expecting mother begins to search for information, she may run into “horror” stories of their own births from well-intentioned friends or family and Hollywood and media portrayals such as One Born Every Minute (link to, which portray “normal” birth as a bed-ridden, dangerous medical event in which mothers have very little input on what happens. Add to this a care provider who does not trust birth, is terrified of a lawsuit, focuses on pathology rather than physiology, and provides her with every potential harmful outcome, and the level of fear skyrockets. If nothing changes, when labor arrives, along with it arrives an environment with unfamiliar sounds and people, bright lights, stimulation, questions, needles and monitors, and the result is a mother completely paralyzed by fear. The sum total of all these influences is a big, ugly mess.

So what can we do about this? How can we empower mothers, help them conquer their fear and restore joy in the journey of bringing new life into the world? It is not an easy task; you may feel like a lone voice in the wilderness, calling mothers to trust their bodies, believe in their inner strength and in the process of birth in the midst of a chorus crying danger and fear. But the first step is simple: turn on the light! Help her break out of the unknown into a place of knowledge by providing solid information on all the things she needs to know: ways to care for her body and nourish her growing baby, the processes the body takes as it prepares for and begins labor, the process of labor, both physical and emotional, what she may need and expect from those surrounding her during her labor, what to expect right at birth and after, and resources for the journey. In addition to this critical information, parents also need tools to help them set healthy boundaries, ask thoughtful questions and take responsibility for the choices that are made, engage in respectful dialog and evaluate whether a complication warrants extra outside measures. With the right information and tools at her disposal, the darkness will begin to dissipate and that paralyzing fear of the unknown will begin to subside. Then, it becomes possible for her to face labor and birth with confidence and joy, trusting herself, her body and those around her. What a wonderful way to begin motherhood! The mother who labors in an environment of confidence, safety and security, who is surrounded by people attentive to her needs, who trusts herself, her baby and the process of birth, who is consistently given respect, encouragement, information and choices, will emerge from her child’s birth transformed, regardless of anything that may happen outside of her control. This is the kind of birth I dream about for every mother, the kind that I define as a success – one in which the veil of fear has been pulled back and the truth of its joy revealed – a birth that she has owned, in which she is left feeling empowered, joyous and loved. For as long as I am able, I will continue to do my part in making this kind of birth a reality for every mother that I can reach.

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Not So Safe

By Mali Schwartz, BirthWorks International Board of Director-Secretary

I was 23 when I had my first child, my first and only son. He was born in the summer of 1975, at the very height of the natural childbirth movement. I remember being diligent about going to my Lamaze classes, accompanied by my husband. I really enjoyed the nurse who gave the training; she was very personable, and I felt that she really cared about each individual class member.
This training helped me in certain ways. I went into early labor in the late evening, around 9:00p.m. My water breaking alerted me to the fact that something would happen momentarily. Remembering that I had to count the amount of time that passed in between each and every contraction, I walked the hallway near our bedroom, pacing back and fourth and feeling increasingly sensitive to the pain.
Finally I roused my husband from his deep sleep and we rushed to the hospital, getting there at midnight-a bewitching hour. As my contractions grew closer together, I practiced my breathing exercises, my husband coaching me at all times. I was interrupted by a medical intern who insisted that he had to do an internal in the middle of a contraction. That’s when I lost it big time.
The minute he started poking around, I couldn’t handle the intensity of the sensation, and I instinctively reached my arm out and gave him a strong punch in his stomach. He was quite taken aback, but at that point in time, I truly didn’t care about social conformity’s. My husband apologized for me, and the intern made a quick exit.
I felt violated by this procedure and had a very strong negative reaction. I didn’t feel like abiding by the rules, and reacted from a different part of my psyche-a part I wasn’t even aware that I had. This was standard procedure of this hospital and could potentially create sensations in the mother of feeling exposed, when most mammals, including human beings, yearn for privacy and seclusion.
I guess the internal examination was the last straw for me. Being hooked up to a monitor, unable to move around, staring at the glaring white walls that reflected the harsh florescent lighting and finally my feelings of vulnerability were stretched to the limit. Looking back on this experience and knowing what I know now about birthing, it was not the ideal enviroment to encourage feelings of being safe and protected.
Although I have never attended a home birth, the idea of a women laboring in an enviroment that she is so familiar in, surrounded by the people she loves, having the lights turned down low, is the type of scene that lets the woman open to the sensations of birthing her baby. She is able to access the part of the brain that is responsible for our emotions, sensations and feelings, called the limbic system. According to Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova, a mid-wife and pioneer of Conscious Birth in Russia, “limbic imprinting happens in the part of the brain which is not directly connected with the cortex. …That memory lives in the body throughout the rest of our life whether we know it or not.”
While the woman is giving birth, the limbic part of the brain is reactivated and is extremely sensitive to stimuli from outside sources. And the baby also is imprinted, based on the type of birth he or she experiences. While most of us would not contemplate the idea of giving birth outside in nature, Elena created a film “Birth As We Know It” featuring 11 natural births-several including women who birthed their babies in warm shallow lagoons, part of the black sea.
According to Dr. Michel Odent, Elena’s film prompts us to re-examine basic features of human nature. “Her film explains why millions of women all over the world dream of giving birth in the sea among dolphins.” Elena’s role as a midwife is to help women eliminate their own birth trauma. She feels that a woman may give birth the way she, herself, was born.
According to a 1995 study by Dr. William Emerson, a pioneer of prenatal psychology, 95 percent of all births in the United States are considered traumatic, 50 percent rated as “severely” traumatic. In expressing her personally deep and beautiful healing experience in helping women and their babies experience being birthed in Love, Elena states, “Healing of one’s birth trauma allows one to enjoy the delicious, juicy experience of comfortably owning a body, being fully engaged in life and loving it.”
She goes on to then say “by reprogramming our limbic imprint and transmuting our suffering and helplessness during birth into the love and joy of being born on this planet, we can regain our authentic power, clear the pain of our ancestors from our system and set the stage for our children to step into their lives as peaceful, empowered guardians of Earth.”