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Pain and Pleasure – Flip Sides of the Same Coin

What would your life be like if you knew only day but not night.
Or what if you only knew hot, and not cold? Or what if you
knew only sadness, and not happiness. What if there were only male and not female? Being
born into the world means being born into duality. Duality simply means that our
understanding of one word is determined to a large extent by its opposite. An interesting
duality is pain vs pleasure. We wouldn’t know pleasure without pain. Pain and pleasure are flip
sides of the same coin. To know one, is to know the other. This is a life principle.

Being fearful of labor pain results in many women numbing themselves to the
experience of birth. They are so fearful that they don’t even want to use the word
“contraction” preferring “surges” or “waves.” But the uterus is one amazing muscle whose
power can bring us closer to who we really are. The uterus is a magnificent muscle that knows
how to expand from the size of a fist, to encompass a full grown baby. It has two layers of
muscle fibers, the vertical outer layer and the horizontal inner layer. During contractions, the
upper layer of fibers of the uterus contract becoming a little shorter and thicker with each
contraction so that by the end of the first stage of labor, they are bunched up at the top of the
uterus and ready to push the baby out. The lower, thinner fibers of the inside layer draw up
and back, thinning and dilating the cervix. During labor, the power felt by a woman is greater
than she can imagine and can take her by surprise. She realizes she is much more than she
thinks she is. Nature has orchestrated this coordinated effort to birth a baby so well that we
can trust this innate wisdom with which all women are born.

As BirthWorks doula student Tara Thompson from VA wrote, “It’s common for us as birth
workers to not emphasize the fact that childbirth is often painful and difficult work. Reframing
the words we choose to describe it and being sensitive to not embellishing the hard aspects of

birth is common, and for good reason because focusing on a perceived negative is not always
helpful.
With that being said, I think women appreciate honesty and acknowledging that it will
be hard work and will be uncomfortable and painful at times. However, this is a GOOD thing
(and what makes our jobs as doulas important)! We need strong and intense contractions to
bring a baby down. We cannot have pleasure without pain.”

There is a saying that “Pain is the interval between two pleasures.” In conception, the pleasure
of intercourse/orgasm is followed by pregnancy and the hard work of labor, but then the new
mother looks into her baby’s eyes and is transformed for she has now become a mother.

Thompson goes on to acknowledge this principle of life by saying, “There is often a break
between contractions. Between conception and birth, there will be labor. Many aspects of life
have this pattern of pain between pleasure. To be able to enjoy the pleasures of life, there
needs to be the hard work (pain).”

Yes, having a baby is hard work but the baby is also a miracle. In fact, a woman who chooses to
feel her labor, experiences a power within she didn’t know was there and leads her to say at the
end, “If I can do this, I can do anything!” This is empowerment – supreme pleasure and
satisfaction. Understanding the role that duality plays in our lives, is what helps us to move
forward in life, becoming stronger and more confident human beings.

And during this holiday season, we can give thanks to the universe for the gift of love that has
been given to all human beings, but especially to women in birth who feel the work of labor,
regardless of birthing vaginally or by cesarean. Birth is love and love is the gift.

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What is Birthpedia and How is it Changing the World of Birth?

A qualified resource where the worlds of hospital, birth center, and homebirth co-exist? A place
where parents’ choices are respected, where information isn’t condemning, but enlightening? A
resource like that simply didn’t exist… until now.

In this post, you will learn how Birthpedia is changing the way information about birth is being
presented and why future parents and birth professionals should know about it.
What a wonderful world it would be if every mother felt empowered during her pregnancy and
believed in her ability to give birth. But information for pregnancy and birth are now found in a
world of excessive data, obsession with social media, and self-diagnosis thanks to Google. The
upcoming generations of parents are found here, and they are lost. Between horror stories of their
mothers and the latest forum board on BabyCenter, parents are feeling anything but educated,
empowered, and prepared for the journey of parenthood. Confusion, debate, opinion, and fear
dominate their circles of influence. There has to be a better way. A midwife/OB can only stretch
themselves so thin. A doula can only have so many clients. And childbirth educators can only
reach those who take their classes.

Birthpedia is a subscription-based app and website that provides quick, current, and
qualified information to expectant families, delivered in short videos by birth professionals.
Birthpedia’s mission is to provide this information in a judgment-free space, helping expectant
families and parents of newborns make educated and informed decisions.
We believe that providing information in a collaborative way helps families feel supported and
equips them with essential knowledge—which empowers them to make informed decisions
within their experiences.
The app and website are organized into three main sections: ASK, SHARE, and DO.

The ASK Area:
Consists of five color-coded categories: Conception, Pregnancy, Labor & Delivery, Postpartum,
and Newborn Care. A search bar allows for search on any topic or question, or by category. Each
question will be answered in a 1–3 minute video by a birth professional. The database of
questions will hold over 1000 videos from over 100 birth professionals called “contributors.”
Contributors include midwives, obstetricians, doulas, childbirth educators, massage therapists,
chiropractors, fertility specialists, anesthesiologists, aroma therapists, herbalists, and more.
Answers to questions are based on the most current information in each category and speak to
the pregnant family—regardless of where they choose to give birth.

The SHARE Area:

Users will find a variety of shared stories. These stories are inspirational: stories of birth,
fertility, and adoption. The videos share positive and redemptive real-life experiences. Sharing
these stories will inspire new parents to believe in themselves and their natural, instinctual, and
God-given abilities. They will encourage couples struggling with infertility, going through a
grueling adoption process, or preparing for a VBAC.

The DO Area:
Users will find a wide variety of instructional videos, such as prenatal and postpartum exercises,
prenatal yoga, labor positions, breastfeeding, babywearing, changing a diaper, nutritional food
prep, and more! These videos will encourage users to be more active and provide up-to-date
visuals to help guide them.

WHO is Birthpedia for?
First and foremost, future and expecting parents. Birthpedia offers three different subscriptions;
24 hours, monthly, or six months.
Birthpedia also serves to be an excellent reference resource for current birth professionals. Birth
Professionals can sign up for a Lifetime Membership and grow with this incredible resource for
the lifetime of their career!
Birthpedia aims to be a socially responsible company that strives to invest in improving the
global birth landscape for better birth outcomes.
At Birthpedia, we believe…
● every newborn baby deserves the right to their best birth.
● informed parents create better birth experiences for all involved.
● birth is a primal human function and should not be treated like a disease
● every woman giving birth has a right to respectful maternal care
● every woman has the freedom to choose how she wants to give birth without
condemnation.

You are invited to join the journey toward better birth with Birthpedia! Birthpedia can be found
online at www.birthpedia.net, Instagram @Birthpedia, and Facebook/Birthpedia. For a limited
time up until January 2020, all of the content is FREE as the Birthpedia database continues to
grow!

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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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Birth Testimonial

by Erika Sanchez   Written January 4, 2019

My husband and I attended the Birth Works (birthing class) at Beach Cities this past October. It was taught by Janell Bartzatt.

This was our 3rd baby. The first two were healthy, hospital births. We had taken a birthing class at the hospital 7 years ago with our first child and almost didn’t sign up for this one. But because it was our first out-of-hospital birth, we decided it would probably be a good idea. I think we both felt pretty knowledgeable already on birth! But we both learned more from this class than we had through reading dozens of books and living through two deliveries!

Janell’s class not only covers a kind of what to expect, physically. But it also went through what to expect, emotionally. I left the class with such a clear understanding of what baby is going through during that labor, how I can help assist, and how to manage my pain. My husband felt more involved too. He had a better understanding of what he could do to help me through it.

We talked about fears and concerns we may have and how to move them to a place of control. Knowledge is power. So many of my fears were just from not knowing.

I left the class feeling empowered and that I could do this! It is so natural and not scary. Janell’s understanding on the topic made the class fun- it was a safe place to ask questions and to find real answers.

My daughter was born at Beach Cities 11 days ago on Christmas Eve morning. To say it was the perfect birth is an understatement. It was really everything I had wanted it to be. I really owe so much of that to Janell and this class. I was able to talk to myself to relax and breathe. My husband knew counter pressure points to help with the pain when it got really intense. Labor wasn’t happening to me- I was 100% in control. I was 100% present and it was amazing!

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The Media

by Tara Thompson,  Doula Student   BWI

I truly believe the media as a whole does a grave disservice to mothers-to-be when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth. The majority of what we see on television inaccurately portrays birth in ways that leave women feeling fearful and having unrealistic expectations of their upcoming birth. It also misleads society which effects how women are treated in pregnancy and in childbirth. Overall, normal physiological birth in its rawness is very rarely even seen in the media. I believe this has impacted medical treatment in ways that have led to more interventions, as most providers have likely never seen normal birth and have a difficult time applying the lack of familiarity to their practice. Ignorance can lead to fear of the unknown.
Growing up, I loved watching The Learning Channel “TLC” and their shows that I thought depicted real life. They had shows such as “The Baby Story” or “Maternity Ward”. Many of the episodes portrayed birth as painful and I almost always felt as if it was an emergency in need of medical interventions.  This was my first glimpse into birth, and like me, it was likely many other’s first view into “real life” birth.  It was scary!  Fortunately, I have grown to learn, through education and personal experience, that birth is not often an emergency in need of such interventions, but I often wonder how many people still believe these older shows to be a true depiction of childbirth.  How many people lack trust in their body’s and in women.  The introduction and opening credits to the show says it all.  Here is an episode of Maternity Ward:  http://vimeo.com/12675921

An older movie, The Blue Lagoon, was able to allow viewers an opportunity to see an uninterrupted birth being acted out.  Because the plot of the movie was how a boy and a girl would behave naturally without any influence from society, it was able to show that birth could happen naturally.  The film came with its harsh criticism, and or course, it was acting.  I did appreciate the idea of the human capability of giving birth uninterrupted.

The Business of Being Born made huge strides in showing the world what birth could look like.  It was a great way for mass media to reach a larger crowd on the effects of society and medical intervention on birth and its consequences.  It allowed natural birth to have the spotlight without ignoring that emergencies can happen (though not with every birth) and that modern medicine can play a positive role in birth (when it is needed and necessary).  I had already given birth to my first son before I saw this film, but I am not exaggerating by saying it was this film, paired with my instincts that changed my perception on birth.  I gave little thought to the effects of something as simple as hearing a machine beep during labor to having pitocin.  I didn’t think of the impacts of lacking skin-to-skin immediately after birth, even if my gut was telling me I wanted it.  This film put the science and facts behind what has always been instinctual to mothers.  These include being private in labor, limiting stimulation of the frontal lobe, avoiding unnecessary interventions and encouraging the body’s natural hormones to foster labor, coping with labor, and the mother/baby bond that also affects breastfeeding.  While the Business of Being Born was impactful in many ways and arguably showed birth more truthfully, the audience tended to be those who already agreed with the message.  Here is a clip from Monty Python that was used in the film:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arCITMfxvEc.

I find that as a doula, I encourage women to look within for information on childbirth.  Birth is instinctive!  While the media may or may not get childbirth right, it is never beneficial to ignore one’s natural instincts and adhere to what we see on TV.  Trust your body, respect your body and listen to your body.  Most of preparing for childbirth is relearning what we already knew all along, but perhaps the media has led us astray from that.